Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Last night in the wee hours as I lay awake, Sean began to cry. Before I could attend to him, a quiet voice beside me hushed him. Michael's soothing,"ssshhh, you're OK," made his little world peaceful again. And it made me fall in love with my husband all over again. **sigh** it is the little things that make life grand.

I have had an earache for a few days now. I decided I needed to go to get it checked. My regular physician had nothing available and neither did his associates. So I dragged myself to a doc in the box. I knew I would have a long wait. But I did not expect the recommendations of the doctor. A younger man walked in. He did not even have the courtesy to introduce himself or shake my hand. He asked about my ear pain and any related symptoms. He then looked in my ears and briefly at my throat. After pressing on my sinus cavity and lymph nodes he proceeded to tell me that he needed blood work and an x-ray of my head to properly diagnose a sinus infection. First, all I came in to find out was if I had an ear infection. Second, he had already confirmed there was not one, only pressure behind my eardrum, probably from a sinus infection since I do have a post nasal drip. This is plausible because I am highly susceptible to sinus issues. I promptly told him I would not be having an x-ray nor blood work taken. He was quite taken aback that I would not go through with his orders. I asked what else could be done. He said I could have a cortisone shot and treat it like a cold. Then he promptly walked out without any further explanation. The nurse came in with the shot to the hip and a script for a decongestant that was never discussed by the doctor to me. I feel sorry for those people who do not have a family practitioner and those like me who couldn't get an appointment. These so called doctors need to learn bedside manner, courtesy and that the blanket effect is not always welcome or needed.

Christmas Eve is here. It caught up to me fast. I did not make half the posts about Advent that I had desired. My children are all excited. We will make cookies today, go to an evening Mass (I can't wait till they appreciate the midnight Mass), have a late feast and prepare for Santa. It is so wonderful to see them excited about visiting their cousins for a week and having dinner with the grandparents. They have been pretending with the manger scene. That reminds me that I have to make Jesus a birthday cake today.

So here is a bit on the Twelve Days of Christmas that few actually know. It is not as the Disney Channel proclaims, the twelve days leading up to Christmas. It begins on Christmas day and lasts into the new year.

This (Christmas) season lasts from Vespers of 24 December to 13 January (the Octave of the Epiphany) inclusive. As it's the celebration of Christ's Incarnation, the mood is of humble, grateful, joyous celebratration. The Feast of Christmas lasts 12 days ("The Twelve Days of Christmas"). The season lasts 19 days in terms of liturgical calculations. But Christmas as a spiritual season doesn't end truly until Candlemas on 2 February.

This, not Advent, is the true Christmas Season. As most people in secular or Protestantized countries are putting away "Christmas-y" things, and as shopping malls stop blaring "Here Comes Santa Claus," Catholics are just getting started. The cleaning and baking during penitential Advent pays off now, and the feasting and caroling begin!

The entire Christmas Cycle is a crescendo of Christ's manifesting Himself as God and King -- to the shepherds, to the Magi, at His Baptism, to Simeon and the prophetess, Anna (Luke 2). The days from the Feast of the Nativity to the Epiphany are known as "The Twelve Days of Christmas," with Christmas itself being the first day, and Twelfthnight -- 5 January -- being the last of the twelve days. Christmastide liturgically ends on 13 January, the Octave of the Epiphany and the Baptism of Christ (at which time the season of Time After Epiphany begins). But Christmas doesn't end spiritually -- i.e., the celebration of the events of Christ's life as a child don't end, and the great Christmas Cycle doesn't end -- until Candlemas on 2 February and the beginning of the Season of Septuagesima.

In this way, just as From Ash Wednesday on, we commemorate Christ in the desert for forty days, and just as after Easter we celebrate for forty days until the Ascension, after Christmas we celebrate the Child Jesus for forty days -- all through the season of Time After Epiphany -- until Candlemas. The schema of those Christ Child celebrations looks like this:


Christ is born
Feast of the Holy Innocents
Herod slaughters the baby boys in order to kill the Christ Child
The Circumcision (the Octave of Christmas)

Jesus follows the Law
Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus

After He is circumcised, He is named and becomes a part of the Holy Family
Twelfth Night

The Twelve Days of Christmas as a Feast come to an end
Feast of the Epiphany

Jesus reveals His divinity to the three Magi, and during His Baptism, and at the wedding at Cana Baptism of Our Lord/Octave of the Epiphany
Christmas liturgically ends with the Octave of the Epiphany.
Feast of the Holy Family

Jesus condescends to be subject to His parents
Feast of the Purification (Candlemas)

40 days after giving birth, Mary goes to the Temple to be purified and to "redeem" Jesus per the Old Testament Law of the firstborn. Christmas truly ends as a Season with Candlemas and the beginning of Septuagesima.

May all my readers and their families be blessed this last night of Advent as we prepare for the celebration of our Saviour's birth.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. (Isaiah 11:6)

The old joke about this passage is that the leopard might light down with the kid, but the kid won’t get much sleep. We chuckle at this because Isaiah gives us an image that goes against all our experience and expectations. Take note: the kingdom of God will not be how we expect it! Assumptions about natural friends and enemies are not true in the kingdom of God. What is the modern, urban equivalent of Isaiah’s pastoral image of lamb and wolf? Black and white folks breaking bread and worshipping together? A teenage delinquent and an older person sharing a cup of coffee? "The wolf shall be a guest of the lamb…"

Advent Action
Send a card to a friend or loved one who lost a family member during this year. Let them know you are praying from them and thinking of them this Christmas.

Lord, help me welcome You once again and make room for You in my daily life, that You may make Your home in my heart.

I haven't put up our large tree as of yet. We wanted to go to a tree farm to cut down one with the kids. The rainy weather detered us from getting one this past weekend with my parents. It has been a tradition with them since I was very small to cut down a tree. Sometimes it would be one from a farm, others a cedar from our land. Last year we bought a small artificial prelit tree because we were in a temporary apartment during December. The kids and I had lots of fun making a paper chain and dough ornaments for it. Now it sits on our hearth. The kids really enjoy looking at the lights. Pondering upon the tree I had to dig into the tradition behind it.

An interesting tradition, part history, part legend and very popular in Germany, claims that the Christmas tree dates back to the eighth century. This legend is based on a historical figure, St Boniface, and even a historical event, the destruction of Odin's oak. St Boniface (675-754) was the English Bishop Winfrid who went to Germany in the eighth century, to Hesse to be precise, to preach the Christian faith as a missionary from the Church of Rome. After a period of apparently successful Gospel preaching, Boniface went to Rome to confer with Pope Gregory II (715-731). After a long absence, he returned to Geismar, Germany, for Christmas 723, and felt personally offended on discovering that the Germans had reverted to their former idolatry of pagan divinities and were preparing to celebrate the winter solstice by sacrificing a young man under Odin's sacred oak tree. Fired by holy anger, as was Moses by the golden calf, Bishop Boniface took up an axe and dared to cut down the oak. This courageous, historically documented act meant the triumph of Christianity in Germany over the pagan divinities.

All this is historically documented. The rest belongs to the legend which tells how, at the first blow of the axe, a strong gust of wind instantly brought down 1he tree. The astounded Germans fearfully recognized the hand of God in this event and humbly asked Boniface how they should celebrate Christmas. The Bishop, the legend continues, pointed to a small fir tree that had miraculously remained upright and intact beside the debris and broken branches of the fallen oak. Boniface was familiar with the popular custom of taking an evergreen plant into the house in winter and asked everyone to take home a fir tree. This tree signifies peace, and as an evergreen it also symbolizes immortality; with its top pointing upwards, it additionally indicates heaven, the dwelling place of God.

A tradition among some families is to bless the tree before it is lit, preferably on Christmas eve as it is the beginning of the Christmas celebration.

Blessing of a Christmas Tree
Dear God, two thousand years ago, you brought your son,
Jesus into this world to teach us the power of love and sacrifice. As we raise this tree, we remember his birth and the meaning of his life for us. Bless this tree as a symbol of our celebration of Jesus' birth and our gratitude for his sacrifice. May the joy this tree brings and the gifts we place under it remind us of the many gifts you have given us. We ask your blessings upon our loved ones, this day and always. Amen.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Today is the feast day of the Blessed John of Vercelli (c. 1205-1283).

John was born near Vercelli in northwest Italy in the early 13th century. Little is known of his early life. He entered the Dominican Order in the 1240s and served in various leadership capacities over the years. Elected sixth master general of the Dominicans in 1264, he served for almost two decades.

Known for his tireless energy and his commitment to simplicity, John made personal visits—typically on foot—to almost all the Dominican houses, urging his fellow friars to strictly observe the rules and constitutions of the Order.

He was tapped by two popes for special tasks. Pope Gregory X enlisted the help of John and his fellow Dominicans in helping to pacify the States of Italy that were quarreling with one another. John was also called upon to draw up a framework for the Second Council of Lyons in 1274. It was at that council that he met Jerome of Ascoli (the man who would later become Pope Nicholas IV), then serving as minister general of the Franciscans. Some time later the two men were sent by Rome to mediate a dispute involving King Philip III of France. Once again, John was able to draw on his negotiating and peacemaking skills.

Following the Second Council of Lyons, Pope Gregory selected John to spread devotion to the name of Jesus. John took the task to heart, requiring that every Dominican church contain an altar of the Holy Name; groups were also formed to combat blasphemy and profanity.

Toward the end of his life John was offered the role of patriarch of Jerusalem, but declined. He remained Dominican master general until his death.

The need for peacemakers is certainly as keen today as in the 10th century! As followers of Jesus, John’s role falls to us. Each of us can do something to ease the tensions in our families, in the workplace, among people of different races and creeds.

Week 1: Monday
Many peoples shall come and say: "Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths." For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3)

Christ is the ultimate center of meaning in the universe. It is through Christ that all people will be led to the Father. How can we hope to achieve a world in which all will seek the path of God? Only when men and women are working to achieve the unity that Christ’s redemption promises us.

Advent Action
Perform an act of kindness for someone you do not know.

Lord, help me be at home with You, that I may listen to Your word and walk in Your way.

Manger/ Nativity Scene

The tradition of having a nativity scene or "crèche" was made popular by St. Francis of Assisi. It is a reproduction of the cave in Bethlehem with Mary, Joseph, the infant Jesus in a manger, shepherds, angels, and animals. Each night during Advent, children are encouraged to place in the manger one piece of straw for each good deed done that day by a family member. This Advent tradition combines the spirit of conversion and the coming of Jesus. There is a blessing ceremony provided by the Church in the Book of Blessings for the crèche.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Today is a special day. It is the feast day of St. Andrew, the first day of Advent and my birthday. We will begin our Jesse tree and open the first door on our calendar as well as light the first candle on our wreath.

I celebrated my birthday with friends on the 22. Once I get the picture scanned in I'll post more about the event.

Andrew was St. Peter’s brother, and was called with him. "As [Jesus] was walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is now called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him" (Matthew 4:18-20).

John the Evangelist presents Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptist. When Jesus walked by one day, John said, "Behold, the Lamb of God." Andrew and another disciple followed Jesus. "Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day" (John 1:38-39a).

Little else is said about Andrew in the Gospels. Before the multiplication of the loaves, it was Andrew who spoke up about the boy who had the barley loaves and fishes (see John 6:8-9). When the Gentiles went to see Jesus, they came to Philip, but Philip then had recourse to Andrew (see John 12:20-22).

Legend has it that Andrew preached the Good News in what is now modern Greece and Turkey and was crucified at Patras.

As in the case of all the apostles except Peter and John, the Gospels give us little about the holiness of Andrew. He was an apostle. That is enough. He was called personally by Jesus to proclaim the Good News, to heal with Jesus' power and to share his life and death. Holiness today is no different. It is a gift that includes a call to be concerned about the Kingdom, an outgoing attitude that wants nothing more than to share the riches of Christ with all people.

The word Advent is from the Latin adventus for "coming" and is associated with the four weeks of preparation for Christmas. Advent always contains four Sundays, beginning on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, (November 30) and continuing until December 24. It blends together a penitential spirit, very similar to Lent, a liturgical theme of preparation for the Second and Final Coming of the Lord, called the Parousia, and a joyful theme of getting ready for the Bethlehem event.

Since the 900s Advent has been considered the beginning of the Church year. This does not mean that Advent is the most important time of the year. Easter has always had this honor.
The traditional color of Advent is purple or violet which symbolizes the penitential spirit. Religious traditions associated with Advent express all these themes.

Prayer for the Advent Wreath

Lord, our God, we praise You for Your Son, Jesus Christ, for He is Emmanuel, the Hope of all people.He is the Wisdom that teaches and guides us.He is the Savior of us all.O Lord,let your blessing come upon us as we light the first (purple) candle of this wreath.May the wreath and its light be a sign of Christ’s promise of salvation.May He come quickly and not delay.We ask this in His holy name. Amen.


We light a candle today, a small dim light against a world that often seems forbidding and dark. But we light it because we are a people of hope, a people whose faith is marked by an expectation that we should always be ready for the coming of the Master. The joy and anticipation of this season is captured beautifully in the antiphons of hope from the monastic liturgies:
See! The ruler of the earth shall come, the Lord who will take from us the heavy burden of our exileThe Lord will come soon, will not delay. The Lord will make the darkest places bright.We must capture that urgency today in the small flame of our candle. We light the candle because we know that the coming of Christ is tied to our building of the kingdom. Lighting the flame, feeding the hungry, comforting the sick, reconciling the divided, praying for the repentant, greeting the lonely and forgotten – doing all these works hastens His coming.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Preparing for Advent

This week I am preparing for Advent. The first of the four Sundays of Advent begins on November 30. Many have forgotten that the time leading up to Christmas is a time of preparation for the coming of the Savior. It is a time of anticipated joy, like a mother preparing for the birth of a child. She is joyous, yet restrained, hesitant and humbled until the moment of birth arrives. There should be somber anticipation and restrained joy in each of us that grows each day until Christmas Day, Christ's birthday.

The entire Christmas Cycle is a crescendo of Christ's manifesting Himself as God and King -- to the shepherds, to the Magi, at His Baptism, to Simeon and the prophetess, Anna (Luke 2). The days from the Feast of the Nativity to the Epiphany are known as "The Twelve Days of Christmas," with Christmas itself being the first day, and Twelfthnight -- 5 January -- being the last of the twelve days. Christmastide liturgically ends on 13 January, the Octave of the Epiphany and the Baptism of Christ (at which time the season of Time After Epiphany begins). But Christmas doesn't end spiritually -- i.e., the celebration of the events of Christ's life as a child don't end, and the great Christmas Cycle doesn't end -- until Candlemas on 2 February and the beginning of the Season of Septuagesima.

This week I am looking for activities, novenas and recipes for the next four weeks and the weeks following Christmas day. We will count down to Christmas day with an Advent calendar, say evening prayers while lighting candles on an Advent wreath and cleaning the house again. I will be making the ornaments for our Jesse Tree as well.

The focus of Advent is preparation for the coming of the Lord -- both in commemoration of His Nativity and His coming again at the end of time. Though most Protestants -- and far too many Catholics -- see this time of year as a part of the "Christmas Season," it isn't; the Christmas season does not begin until the first Mass at Christmas Eve, and doesn't end liturgically until the Octave of the Epiphany on January 14. It goes on in the spiritual sense until Candlemas on February 2, when all celebrations of Christ's Childhood give way to Septuagesima and Lent. The mood of this season is one of somber spiritual preparation that increases in joy with each day, and the gaudy "Christmas" commercialism that surrounds it in the Western world should be overcome as much as possible. The singing of Christmas carols (which comes earlier and earlier each year), the talk of "Christmas" as a present reality, the decorated trees and the parties -- these things are "out of season" for Catholics; we should strive to keep the Seasons of Advent holy and penitential, always remembering, as they say, that "He is the reason for the Season." To sum up the similarities and differences between Advent and Lent as penitential seasons, there's this, by Fr. Lawrence Smith:
Advent is the time to make ready for Christ to live with us. Lent is the time to make us ready to die with Christ. Advent makes Lent possible. Lent makes salvation possible. Advent is the time when eternity approaches earth. Lent is the time when time reaches consummation in Christ's eternal Sacrifice to the Father. Advent leads to Christ's life in time on earth. Lent leads to Christ's eternal Life in Heaven. The Cross -- through the Mass, penance, and mortification -- is the bridge connecting Advent and Lent, Christ and His Church, man and God.Each of the Church's penitential seasons is a dying to the world with the goal of attaining new life in Christ.
Catholic apologist Jacob Michael wrote something very interesting about how secular America sees "Christmas" as beginning after Thanksgiving and ending on 25 December, and then makes "New Years Resolutions" at the beginning of the secular year:
...what Christians do (or should be doing!) during Advent and leading up to Christmas is a foreshadowing of what they will do during the days of their lives that lead up to the Second Coming; what non-Christians refuse to do during Advent, and put off until after Christmas, is precisely a foreshadowing of what they will experience at the Second Coming. We Christians are to prepare for the Coming of Christ before He actually comes -- and that Coming is symbolized and recalled at Christmas. Non-Christians miss this season of preparation, and then scramble for six days after the 25th to make their resolutions. By then, however, it's too late -- Christmas has come and gone, Our Lord has already made His visitation to the earth, and He has found them unprepared. This is precisely what will take place at the Second Coming, when those who have put off for their entire lives the necessary preparations will suddenly be scrambling to put their affairs in order. Unfortunately, by then it will have been too late, and there will be no time for repentance. The Second Coming will be less forgiving than the Incarnation. There will be no four-week warning period before the Second Coming, like we get during Advent. There will be no six-day period of grace after the Second Coming during which to make resolutions and self-examination, like the secular world does from Dec. 26 until Jan. 1.

So please, restore Advent and don't think "Christmas is here" until it truly comes. One way to help focus on the theme of preparation is to read the
parables of The Fig Tree, The Man Going on a Long Journey, The Faithful and Wicked Stewards, and The Ten Virgins in the 24th and 25th chapters of St. Matthew's Gospel. Another way to help you do this is to think of the Saint who embodies the spirit of this Season more than any other: the great St. John the Baptist. If you have an icon of him, venerate it especially now. Make special prayers to him and consider the message of this "voice of one crying in the desert": "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths." You will note that the readings of the second, third, and fourth Sundays of Advent focus on St. John, the earthly herald of Christ's coming whom St. Ephraem likened to the Star of Bethlehem, the Heavenly herald of His coming.

God's Blessings.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The evening of All Souls we lit candles for our grandparents and said a prayer for the departed. Grace was so sweet. She went back and spent a time looking at each picture. Then she very lovingly said "may you rest in peace." I wish I had been able to sneak a picture. It is a memory that I will cherish.

I love fall. The cool crispness to the air (which is so welcome in the deep south) and all the colors! I think it would be wonderful to have the leaves keep their autumn glory from spring through fall.

These are pictures of a wonderful hickory tree in our front yard. The oaks are catching up in color and the leaves will be knee deep pretty soon. My children are going to have lots of jumping to do.

When I was a little girl, I would spend hours going through my grandmother's set of Childcraft books and her encyclopedias. A few years ago I stumbled across some in a thrift store and had to bring them home. There was a poem in one that I felt was quite fitting for today.
A Vagabond Song
There is something in the Autumn
that is native to my blood---
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple
and the crimson keeping time.
The scarlet of the maples
can shake me like a cry
Of bugles goin by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters
like smoke upon the hills.
There is something in October
sets the gypsy blood astir,
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls
each vagabond by name.
Bliss Carman

Sunday, November 2, 2008

All Souls Day

O God, the Creater and Redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of thy servants and handmaids departed, the remission of all their sins; that through pious supplications they may obtain the pardon they have always desired. Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen

Today is the feast day of All Souls. It is a day to remember those loved ones who have passed on before us. A day to share their stories with our children. A day to pray for them.

Before my conversion to Catholocism, praying for the dead was something that my Protestant family did not do. But people I knew would say "God rest his soul", "May he rest in peace" and things along those lines. To me, even as a young child, I thought these things sounded like a prayer. I never quite understood the double standard that was applied here. The "we say these things but never pray for anyone after their death."

I find comfort in knowing that my prayers may aid others on their way to heaven. And also in asking those who have stepped into the next world to pray for me.

The following is an excerpt from

Today is a good day to not only remember the dead spiritually, but to tell your children about their ancestors. Bring out those old photo albums and family trees! Write down your family's stories for your children and grandchildren! Impress upon them the importance of their ancestors! Bring to their minds these words from Ecclesiasticus:

Ecclesiasticus 44:1-15 Let us now praise men of renown, and our fathers in their generation. The Lord hath wrought great glory through his magnificence from the beginning. Such as have borne rule in their dominions, men of great power, and endued with their wisdom, shewing forth in the prophets the dignity of prophets, And ruling over the present people, and by the strength of wisdom instructing the people in most holy words. Such as by their skill sought out musical tunes, and published canticles of the scriptures. Rich men in virtue, studying beautifulness: living at peace in their houses. All these have gained glory in their generations, and were praised in their days. They that were born of them have left a name behind them, that their praises might be related:

And there are some, of whom there is no memorial: who are perished, as if they had never been: and are become as if they had never been born, and their children with them. But these were men of mercy, whose godly deeds have not failed: Good things continue with their seed, Their posterity are a holy inheritance, and their seed hath stood in the covenants. And their children for their sakes remain for ever: their seed and their glory shall not be forsaken. Their bodies are buried in peace, and their name liveth unto generation and generation. Let the people shew forth their wisdom, and the Church declare their praise.

Celebrate your family, your history, your faith.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

All Saints Day

Father, All-Powerful and ever-living God,
today we rejoice in the holy men and women
of every time and place.
May their prayers bring us your forgiveness and love
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Christian Prayer: Liturgy of the Hours

Today we made pretzels in celebration of All Saints Day.

Grace is trying to get the hang of rolling out logs.

Sean just wants to eat the dough.

Gabriel thought eating an iced cookie was a much better idea.

We shaped them as an 8 or infinity symbol in remembrance of the saints.

The Number eight is clearly the new beginning, or a new cycle. The number 8 is made up of 7+1. Seven symbolizes that something is complete. The number one means a beginning.

The number 8 symbolizes the new life the Saints enjoy in the presence of God. The infinity sign is representative to me of eternal life.

I used a recipe from Sandy over at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking. It was very easy to follow.


Finally, I am posting picts of our scarecrow. Grace and Sean had a ball "helping" me stuff him.

We picked some great pumpkins on our rainy trip to the Grand Ol Pumpkin Patch. I think the kids had more fun running through the rain than picking out pumpkins.

Here is Jack, our happy pumpkin.

The kids, even the big ones, dressed up for Trick or Treating. The boys were cowboys and Grace was a princess of course. Michael got in on the act as Zorro.

Gabriel was very excited that his mommy was going to be a cowboy girl too.

I have to say I was disappointed in our street. No lights were on. We had to walk two streets over before we found anyone offering treats. The back street in our neighborhood was well decorated and had families sitting on their steps enjoying the night. Our kids had a great time. After Sean got his first piece of chocolate he was more content to stay in the wagon and eat his candy. Grace and Gabriel raced each other to ring the doorbells. It was really nice to see all the families out walking together.

After making it back to our home, we had several children knocking on our door. I made mummy dogs and hot chocolate for all. Along with ghost cookies and pumpkin cake. Our friends stopped by with some wine. We enjoyed our spirits and had a wonderful evening.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Feast Day of St. Jude

St. Jude, known as Thaddaeus, was a brother of St. James the Less, and a relative of Our Saviour. St. Jude was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus.

Ancient writers tell us that he preached the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Lybia. According to Eusebius, he returned to Jerusalem in the year 62, and assisted at the election of his brother, St. Simeon, as Bishop of Jerusalem.

He is an author of an epistle (letter) to the Churches of the East, particularly the Jewish converts, directed against the heresies of the Simonians, Nicolaites, and Gnostics. This Apostle is said to have suffered martyrdom in Armenia, which was then subject to Persia. The final conversion of the Armenian nation to Christianity did not take place until the third century of our era.

Jude was the one who asked Jesus at the Last Supper why He would not manifest Himself to the whole world after His resurrection. Little else is known of his life. Legend claims that he visited Beirut and Edessa; possibly martyred with St. Simon in Persia.

Jude is invoked in desperate situations because his New Testament letter stresses that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh, difficult circumstances, just as their forefathers had done before them. Therefore, he is the patron saint of desperate cases and his feast day is October 28. Saint Jude is not the same person as Judas Iscariot who betrayed Our Lord and despaired because of his great sin and lack of trust in God's mercy.

St. Jude's prayers have helped my family and I through a very desperate situation. (Details here) On his feastday I remember him with great gratitude.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hallowtide Celebration Links

Here are some great websites that offer history and traditions to add to your All Hallows' Eve celebrations.
History of "Hallowtide" or the "Days of the Dead". Includes the story of Jack o' the Lantern and links to classic literature for spooky stories to scare ... I mean share with your family.
Halloween history including why witches "fly" on brooms
Information on All Saints' Day
Customs for All Souls Day

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Halloween Redemption

In my search to bring a religious tone to the secularization of All Hallows Eve, I found this wonderful article by Page McKean Zyromski. I just had to share it with others. If anything it will add to your fountain of useless knowledge for those random trivia questions. Read on.....

How Halloween Can Be Redeemed
by Page McKean Zyromski

Halloween has grown into a major secular holiday in American culture. But for those who don’t value devotion to the saints, the Eve has become "hollow" instead of "hallow." The purpose behind it has been lost—like celebrating New Year’s Eve without a New Year’s Day. Take away the saints and our beliefs about the dignity and destiny of human beings, and the only thing left is pre-Christian superstition regarding the dead.

Among many Christians, there has been concern that things have gotten out of hand. After all, doesn’t Halloween glorify evil? Is it right to send our children out as devils and vampires, or is it better to emphasize the saints, whose nearly forgotten feast day is the reason for Halloween? Hallow is the same word for "holy" that we find in the Lord’s Prayer, and e’en is a contraction of "evening." The word Halloween itself is a shortened form of "All Hallows Eve," the day before All Saints Day. In this Update we’ll consider how Catholics can "redeem" Halloween. This holiday, properly understood and celebrated with all of its fun trappings, can be a way for us to deepen our understanding of our faith. The key to this understanding is close at hand for Catholics in our love of the communion of saints.

Martyr means ‘witness’

Until the ninth century the Church celebrated the popular feast of All Saints on May 13th, during the season of joy after the Resurrection. This is the light in which we see all the faithful who have died, especially those whose witness to Christ is an inspiration. In 835 the date was deliberately changed to November 1 to Christianize the existing pagan time for remembering the dead—to bring light to the darkness, and hope to the most basic of human fears.

Before canonization was ever thought of, before the New Testament books even took shape, the human desire to remember deceased loved ones surfaced. And these were no ordinary loved ones, these were brothers and sisters who had died in Christ, as witnesses to Christ. (The Greek word martyr simply means "witness.") Their death was victory, not defeat; celebration, not mourning.

The same way people gather today at the site of a tragedy on its anniversary to talk to each other and to reporters, the first Christians gathered on the anniversary of a martyr’s death to remember it the way they knew best: with the "breaking of the bread." They retold the stories to inspire each other at a time when faith meant persecution and more martyrdom. Not even death could break the unity in Jesus which Paul had named "the Body of Christ."

Anniversaries of local and well-known martyrs peppered the calendar. Then a pragmatic question arose: What honor should be given to martyrs whose names were unknown? Many Christians were thrown to the lions for witnessing to their faith, not all of them known to the community. By the mid-fourth century a feast of "All Martyrs" appeared on local calendars. As persecutions grew less frequent, the feast was extended to include non-martyr "witnesses," Christians whose lives were "the gospel in action," as St. Francis de Sales would later call the saints.

One vigil, two feasts

Meanwhile those who were not so saintly were also being remembered after death. The first Christians were heirs to the Jewish custom of praying for the dead and offering sacrifice for them as part of emerging Jewish belief in the resurrection of the dead.

Today’s Christians sometimes forget that by the time of Christ many Jews, especially the Pharisees, had a well-developed belief in the resurrection of the dead, which included trust that the prayer of the living could benefit the dead. It was with this understanding that, 160 years before Jesus was born, Judah the Maccabee prayed and offered sacrifice for dead comrades who had sinned: "For if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death" (2 Maccabees 12:44).

For the first 1,000 years of Christianity there was no collective memorial for All Souls. Relatives and loved ones were remembered at Mass on the anniversary of their death, or until they passed out of living memory. But by the seventh century monasteries were celebrating an annual Mass for all the deceased of their order, an idea which spread to the laity. About 1048, an influential abbot chose November 2 to commemorate All Souls because it was an obvious companion date and extension of the Feast of All Saints. Both days are reminders that all of us, living and dead, are united in a living communion with Christ and one another.

In effect, Halloween became one vigil for two feasts celebrated by the whole Church. In the 16th century at the time of the Reformation, most Protestants discarded both the doctrine of the communion of saints and the practice of praying for the dead. All Hallows Eve became "hollow" for them, the vigil of an empty feast day.

Redeeming Halloween

How can we keep the religious connection and curb pre-Christian trappings? Many parishes invite the kids to dress up for an All Saints procession at the vigil Mass. A boy wearing a crown and a velour bathrobe is St. Louis, the King of France. A girl with an armful of silk roses is the Little Flower. These cute processions are certainly a wonderful way for young Catholics to learn about the communion of saints.

But many kids are more likely to excitedly put on ghoulish makeup to get ready for parties or trick or treat. Their instincts are right: Skeletons and jack-o’-lanterns and shocking costumes are very much a part of All Hallows Eve. It’s the adults who shy away from eyeballing their own mortality.

The kids are right. Death is not cute. Halloween began with martyrs, after all, so strange makeup and skull masks are not out of line. Picture, if you will, an All Saints procession led by St. Thomas More with his head tucked under his arm. Next comes St. Lawrence, still attached to the skewer that couldn’t keep him from joking at the very moment he was being roasted alive. Kateri Tekakwitha is there, her face scarred by smallpox, the white man’s disease which decimated native American tribes.

Our tradition teems with stories of people who endured terrible things— but never let it interfere with an underlying joy and trust in God. (Of course, even the saints who weren’t martyred deserve our recognition and imitation!)

Lessons and limits

At Halloween we need to use discernment to separate the symbols, to protect our children from very real dangers, to cut through the customs that contradict our relationship with God, including occult practices (see box below).

At this time of year violent movies with Halloween settings flood television and video stores; warped personalities copy malicious acts "for fun"; young people experiment with the occult because of publicity given to witches and warlocks.

It’s precisely because Catholics do believe in the reality of evil that we promise to turn away from "Satan and all his works" in the baptismal rite. Here’s a chance for parents (and godparents) to make good on that promise: Be vigilant about television and video games, don’t give warped personalities the publicity they crave, choose carefully if and where your child will trick or treat.

Most of all, be free from fear. We who are in Christ have nothing to fear, and we should be ready with an answer to those who act as if the devil were the equal and opposite of God. There is no "equal and opposite" of God. Catholic tradition tells us that Satan is a created being, a fallen angel; if he had any "equal and opposite" it would be Michael the Archangel. Still, there would be no "equality" between Satan and any angel. Christ has conquered sin and Satan once and for all. All of us, saints and angels, people of faith living and dead, share in that victory. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church #391, 395.)

Separating the symbols

So how do we separate the symbols of Halloween? Do we stop serving cider and doughnuts because apples were sacred to the Roman goddess Pomona, and doughnuts were once set out as "food" for the souls of the dead (their circular shape indicating eternity)? Of course not. Our gratitude for God’s bounty eclipses all that.

What about trick or treat? In the Middle Ages there was a superstition that those who had died the previous year without being reconciled to you might rise to haunt you, appearing as will-o’-the-wisps or ghosts. The apparition jarred you so you would release them by prayer and forgiveness. You might also appease them with "soul cakes"—cookies, fried cakes, "treats"—so they wouldn’t do you any mischief with their "tricks." Soon those who were living began to use the occasion for reconciliation. To wipe the slate clean for the coming year, they came, masked and unrecognizable, and boldly bargained for treats.

The connection between trick or treat and forgiveness deserves to be reclaimed, don’t you think? While we wait for an imaginative catechist to draw up a format, we can allow our kids to enjoy the costumes, the goodies, the excitement of traipsing around after dark if we exercise prudence. Most communities now impose a curfew for trick or treat, and most parents select the houses of friends they know. Sometimes the PTA will sponsor a party. Avoiding costumes and decorations that glorify witches and devils goes without saying, but there’s no reason to fear skeletons, skulls or Thomas More with his head tucked under his arm. After all, can’t skulls and skeletons be healthy reminders of human mortality? Can’t witches and devils symbolize the evil Christ has overcome?

Pumpkins as well as halos

Jack-o’-lanterns have a special place for Catholics on Halloween when we’re able to tell the story. The saints in their costumes remind us of the great heights we can reach. Skeletons, skulls and trick or treaters remind us of our own mortality and the need to pray for the dead. Jack stands in between as a one-man morality play.

The folktale of "Jack o’ the Lantern" arrived with early Irish Catholic colonists in Maryland. It quickly grew in popularity because of the independent spirit admired in this country. Jack has the cleverness to outwit the devil himself, but it isn’t enough to get him into heaven (see box below). He must roam forever between heaven and earth, holding his pumpkin lantern high. (Originally the lantern was cut from a turnip; after the story crossed the ocean, colonists changed it to the colorful vegetable they found here, the pumpkin.)

As you carve your pumpkin (or roast the oiled seeds at 325 degrees for 25 minutes), tell others the tale behind jack-o’-lanterns. Talk about what it means to be a saint and why Jack didn’t make the grade. Don’t be afraid to point out the "moral of the story" (which is why it was told in the first place). Jack was so self-centered he never helped another human being. He was given a good set of brains, but he used this gift only for himself. He knew about faith and the power of the cross, but he used it like a piece of magic instead of as the way of Jesus (see Luke 9:23). The cross is indeed strong enough to vanquish the devil. But embracing the cross is what brings eternal life.

Halloween’s positive messages

Halloween and its back-to-back feast days mean more than talking about our favorite saints who lived in another time, another place. It’s also an opportunity to talk about what’s needed for holiness now (perhaps even martyrdom now, sad to say).

In addition we have a chance to face up to differences that still divide Catholics and Protestants, maybe even a chance to evangelize. "I the communion of saints," we say every Sunday in the Creed. How many of us know what this doctrine really means?

Do we "worship" or "adore" our beloved saints, as some non-Catholics think? Not at all. We honor them and learn from their example; adoration belongs to God alone. We ask the saints to pray for us the same way we might ask a good friend to pray. A favorite quotation about prayer begins, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name" (Matthew 18:20). The "two or three" aren’t necessarily limited to the living. It’s comforting to have friends always available to pray with you, a whole "cloud of witnesses," in fact! (see Hebrews 12:1).

Halloween also invites us to talk openly about death in a culture that labors mightily to deny it. Seventy-five percent of Americans do not have a valid will, much less a Living Will or an organ donor card. "If I die..." people say, instead of, "when I die." Do we think death is optional? Death is a fact of life. When St. Francis of Assisi lay dying he said, "Welcome, Sister Death," recognizing that death was just another creaturely thing in a world that would one day pass away.

Occasionally we must push the "pause" button in our busy lives to consider our own mortality with all its spiritual and practical consequences. The Church gives us two feasts and the whole month of November to do this.

Halloween is like our Mardi Gras before a very serious Lent. We should be able to laugh at the dark side and dress up in costumes and have parties. Let’s reclaim our heritage with all the story power, creativity and joyous good fun that we can. Let’s use it to help us become the saints we are each called to be.

Halloween is a victory celebration, after all!

Page McKean Zyromski is a free-lance writer and contributing editor of Catechist magazine who lives in Painesville, Ohio. Her forthcoming book on biblical prayer will be published by St. Anthony Messenger Press.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tomorrow, October 2, is the memorial day for Guardian Angels on the Catholic liturgical calendar. I had never really thought about my guardian angel other than acknowledging that I have one. As a convert, I have had to study up on (which I think everyone should reflect and remind themselves of the tradition and dogma of their religion often) traditions and such within the Catholic church. So today in hopes of finding a way to celebrate this day with my children I came across the following article which I will post at the end.

I had never contemplated exactly what entailed a guardian angel and pinpointed their roles in our lives. But after reading this I had to stop and mull it over. As I read, I felt a ...well not quite a hand on my shoulder, but a reassurance of sorts.

Our Guardian Angels
Fr. Joseph Ventura, C.P.

One of the most consoling doctrines of Scripture is that of the guardianship of angels; the doctrine which teaches that man in this world is guided and protected by invisible beings called angels.

1. Scripture openly teaches that among the angels there are those deputed by God to keep watch over men.

Thus (1) in the Psalms it is said: "He hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways."[1] These words, according to the common interpretation of the Fathers, refer to all just souls trusting in God. St. Bernard says: " Wonderful condescension! and truly great love! He has given His angels a charge over thee, to guard thee in all thy ways. What is man, O God, that Thou shouldst thus be mindful of him! What reverence, devotion, and confidence, should this word inspire in us!"

(2) Again, Christ Himself in the gospel charges us not to scandalize little ones, because "Their angels (that is, those who keep watch over them) always see the face of the Father."[2] St. Jerome commenting on these words says: "Great is the dignity of the human soul, since each one of them has from the very outset of his life an Angel deputed to safeguard him."

(3) Finally, the apostle openly declares that the angels are ministering spirits sent by God, to keep watch over men who are destined for heaven: "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?"[3] These words are commonly understood not only of the elect, but of all who are destined for salvation.

II. This doctrine, so clearly taught in Scripture, is also supported by solid reasons. These reasons flow from our relationship to God, for we are His children, members of Jesus Christ, and temples of the Holy Ghost. " Because we are His children," says Father Oliver, "He appoints to us as tutors the princes of His realm, who hold it an honor to have us in their charge. Because we are His members. He wills that those very spirits that minister unto Him be also at our side to render us their services. Because we are His temples in which He Himself dwells. He wills that Angels hover about us as they do about our churches, so that bowed down in worship before Him they may offer a perpetual homage to His glory, supplying for our neglect and making reparation for our irreverence."

Father Olier goes on to say that God wishes to unite intimately through the agency of His Angels the Church Triumphant and the Church Militant: "He sends this mysterious host of Angels in order that they may by uniting themselves to us and binding us to themselves form one body of the Church of heaven and the Church of earth."

III. Finally, this doctrine is the traditional and unanimous teaching of the Fathers. Among them there is no suggestion of doubt upon the subject. Thus Origen sets it down among the doctrines as to which there is no controversy in the Church, that some of the good Angels are God's ministers in promoting the salvation of men. St. Hilary calls it absolutely certain. St. Augustine uses the truth of this guardianship to prove that the duty of mutual love extends to all the intellectual creatures of God.

This doctrine has also been confirmed by the Church in the institution of a feast in honor of the Guardian Angels. In the prayer of this feast we say: " God, who in Thine unspeakable providence hast been pleased to give Thine holy angels charge over us, to keep us."

This feast, however, granted by Paul V (1608), had already been preceded by the Solemnity of St. Michael and of all the Angels instituted in the sixth century. It is celebrated in memory of an apparition of the Archangel Michael. More ancient however was the feast of St. Michael ascribed for 29 September.

In these festivities the angels were not only honored, but also invoked as our guardians and helpers. Thus in the prayer of the feast of St. Michael we say: "O God . . . mercifully grant that as Thy holy angels always do Thee service in heaven, so by Thy appointment, they may succor and defend us on earth." In the Church there has always been the persuasion that we are guarded and defended by the Holy Angels.

Thus that holy angels are deputed to keep watch over men in this world is not only certain, but also, according to many, of faith, on account of the institution of the feast of the Angel Guardians and the universal consent of the Church.

Thus far I have been considering the general doctrine that God deputes His angels to keep watch over men. Let us now go a step further, and consider the doctrine that there is an angel for each individual soul. Although not of faith, because it has not as yet been defined by the Church as an article of faith, nevertheless this doctrine is so universally received and with such solid foundation in Holy Scripture, as interpreted by the Fathers, that it cannot without great rashness be called in question. In fact to deny it might almost be termed erroneous.

(a) It is certain that each one of the faithful has his own angel guardian. This is intimated in the texts of Scripture above cited in the unanimous consent of the Fathers, and the common persuasion of the faithful. Let us hear St. Basil alone: "That there is an angel for each one of the faithful no one will contradict."
(b) The same is commonly asserted for sinners and for those not of the faith; for Christ died for all, even for those not of the faith, and merited for all the means of salvation; and one of these means, in the present dispensation, is the guardianship of angels: hence not only the faithful who are Just, but also sinners and those not of the faith, have each an angel guardian.

The Fathers are clear on this point. Thus Theodoret commenting on the words "Their angels always see the face of the Father,"[4] says: " Christ the Lord said that each man is under the care of an angel." And St. Chrysostom uses almost the same words: " This is a truth, that each man has an angel." And St. Augustine: " I esteem it, O my God, an inestimable benefit, that Thou hast granted me an angel to guide me from the moment of my birth to my death." Finally St. Jerome without any restriction declares: "Great is the dignity of the human soul, since each one of them has from the very outset of his life an Angel deputed to safeguard him."

In confirmation of this doctrine, the Fathers also give the words of the disciples in the Acts of the Apostles. When Peter stood at the gate and knocked, after his miraculous escape from prison, the disciples within could not credit the message of the portress that it was Peter himself, and they said: "IT IS HIS ANGEL" (12:15).

We have also in Christian hagiology many examples which confirm and illustrate this teaching. Thus we read of St. Paul of the Cross that he was often observed, on joining the company of his religious at recreation, to make a profound bow toward them with a joyous countenance that inspired devotion: the saint seeing that the religious were surprised, told them frankly that he did it chiefly out of respect for their angel guardians, who were with them. Of the Blessed Gemma of Luca we read that she saw her angel with her eyes, touched him with her hand as if he were a being of this world, remained talking with him as one friend would with another.

According to St. Thomas and most theologians, the angel assumes the office of guarding his client at the moment of birth: before this period, the infant is protected by the angel of the mother.[5] Again this guardianship continues through the entire life, at least in the sense that the angel guardian never entirely deserts his client, although he can be less devoted to him for a time, for his punishment. Properly speaking, it ceases in death, since at that instant ceases the time of probation.

And not individual men alone, but communities also are under the guardianship of angels.
1. The Doctors hold most probably that there is a special angel guardian for the Church, namely St. Michael.
(a) Indeed, from Scripture St. Michael appears to have been formerly in charge of the Synagogue, because he is called the prince of the Jewish people, and is said to have had special care of it; and as the Church has succeeded the Synagogue, St. Michael, most probably, has special care of the Church.
(b) The words which are used by the Church in the office of St. Michael at least insinuate that that Archangel is the special protector of the Church.

II. It is taught also with sufficient probability that there are special angel guardians over each kingdom and nation, nay over each community of moment, for example, particular churches, religious orders, dioceses. The reason is because those societies are as it were moral bodies which need special assistance. Hence God gave the people of Israel on their journey through the desert an angel as protector: " Behold I will send my angel, who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared."[6]

That other nations also have angel guardians is gathered from these and similar places: " But the prince of the kingdom of the Persians resisted me one and twenty days: and behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, and I remained there by the king of the Persians."[7]

Theodoret thus explains these words: "To the Archangels is given this office, that they be in charge of the nations, as B. Moses taught,[8] with whom B. Daniel also agrees, when he himself says the prince of the kingdom of the Persians and again a little later the prince of the Greeks; he calls Michael also the prince of Israel." The angel guardian performs many services for us.

With regard to the body (a) the angel guardian averts from us exterior evils, or if we have already fallen into them, he delivers us from them: "The angel that delivereth me from all evils ". . . " He hath given his angels charge over thee, to keep thee ". . .[9] (b) Sometimes also he helps us in secular business, especially when this conduces to salvation, as appears from the example of Tobias (12:3 etc.).

With regard to the soul, (a) the angel guardians hold the demons in check, lest they do us harm, or at least lest they tempt us too severely.[10]
(b) They suggest good thoughts, exciting us to good,[11] averting us also from evil, through their counsels and corrections.
(c) They offer to God our prayers or our good works, not indeed that God may know them, for of Himself He knows all things, but that they may add their prayers to ours, and so give greater efficacy to them. Thus the angel Raphael assured the elder Tobias that, while he prayed, he himself was offering those prayers to the Lord: "I offered thy prayers to the Lord" (12:12).
(d) Sometimes they inflict medicinal punishments; for this is a work of mercy, and conduces to salvation.[12] Vindictive punishments however are generally inflicted through the bad angels.
(e) Finally at the moment of death especially they help us against the last temptations, and the last attacks of the devil, and conduct our soul to heaven or to purgatory.

God deputes His holy angels to keep watch over us. This prompted the words of St. Bernard: "What respect, what thankfulness, what trust, ought this word work in thee! "We owe then to our guardian angels:
(a) Respect for their presence: indeed the angel guardian is always with us, and because he is a spirit pure and holy, we ought to avoid whatever could grieve him.
(b) Thankfulness and love for his kindness: for the angel guardian is for us as it were a benefactor, friend, and brother, and will be one day a partaker of the same inheritance in heaven; hence we ought to love him, think of him, and obey his inspirations.
(c) Trust in his safe-keeping: for our angel is powerful to succor us and at the same time most devoted to us; hence we ought to invoke him and fly to him in our doubts and difficulties, according to the same St. Bernard: "As often as the gloom of temptation threateneth thee, or the sharpness of tribulation hangeth over thee, call upon Him that keepeth thee, thy Shepherd, thy Refuge in times of trouble, call upon Him, and say: 'Lord, save us, we perish'."[13]

1 Psalm 90:11-12.
2 Matt. 18:20.
3 Heb. 1:14.
4 Matt. 18:10.
5 Cf. St. Thom., I, q. 113, a. 5.
6 Ex. 23:20.
7 Dan. 10:13.
8 Deut. 32:8. Cf. Zach. 1:12; Act. 16:9.
9 Gen. 48:16; Ps. 90: 11-12; cf. Tob. 6:8 etc.
10 Tob. 8:3.
11 Tob. 6:16.
12 II Kings 24:16.
13 Matt. 8:25.
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

"You have immense potential to love, to care, to create, to grow, to sacrifice, if you believe in yourself. It doesn't matter your age, or your color, or whether your parents loved you or not. Let that go, it belongs to the past; you belong to the now. It doesn't matter what you've been, the wrong you've done, the mistakes you made, the people you've hurt. You are forgiven. You are accepted. You're OK. Give yourself a new birth. Begin now. Today." ~author unknown

Fr. Fallon quoted this in a sermon a few weeks ago. I felt it needed to be shared.

Friday, September 19, 2008

"In order to attract us, the Lord grants us many graces that we believe can easily obtain Heaven for us. We do not know, however, that in order to grow, we need hard bread: the cross, humiliation, trials and denials." Padre Pio

"Always humble yourself lovingly before God and man, because God speaks to those who are truly humble of heart, and enriches them with His gifts." Padre Pio

"I want to be only a poor friar who prays - if God sees blemishes even in the angels, can you imagine what He sees in me!" Padre Pio

"Every Holy Mass, heard with devotion, produces in our souls marvelous effects, abundant spiritual and material graces which we, ourselves, do not know...It is easier for the earth to exist without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!" Padre Pio

"Faith guides even us and we follow its sure light on the way which conducts us to God and His homeland." Padre Pio

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tonight as I wander through blogs of friends and other crafty peoples, I have paid close attention to the music of each. From the acapella gospel of Allison Kraus to some '30's swing, each song echoed the sentiment of the page. Well except for the rap on one prim page. That was a little confusing....Then I pulled up my own page. Down by STP blares from the speakers and my head immediately starts nodding. I haven't been in the mood to finish anything today and I suddenly get this burst of energy from a song. I wonder if I would be more productive if I had an Ipod and made a soundtrack for everyhour of the day? Hmmm, sounds like an experiment that needs to be conducted. I don't think my DH would even notice if I snagged his Ipod. Now if I only knew how to work the darn thing......

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I love red transfer ware. I am not pattern specific. Although my maternal grandma's pink Willow serving platter by Royal China began my collection when I was in middle school. And as such it is my favorite piece.
I finally finished the painting in the dining room. The red just pops off of the blue. My DH presented me with four of these plates. Now if he would just finish the set.....
These are my new project to add to all the other projects I am working on. The woman I received them from gave up in the middle of priming. Lucky me. I have just the place and color for them.

Now on to the Boy and His Dog painting......

I have blocked out the images and refined proportions in acrylic and begun my first layers of oil. I had to stop at this point to let the canvas dry. Things were starting to get muddier than I had anticipated. Once I finish the lake I will let that dry and dive into the figures.

With the rain from Fay hitting today, I feel like fall is upon us even though it is August. I love autumn. The beautiful leaves falling. Pumpkins in pies, on porches and frothy Starbucks drinks. The wind blowing in the change. New jeans and old comfy ones. Smells of cinnamon and clove. Funny scarecrows all haphazard. I think I will have to add one to my porch. Maybe in a rocking chair......

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I found some 1" X 2"s left in the rafters of our garage from the previous owners and decided it was time to tackle the painting that had been sitting on my mind for the last two years.

You would think building a canvas would be a simple task. Things are never simple for me. I knew from the onset that the blade to my saw (handsaw mind you) was dull. But this did not deter me as I had set my mind to making this canvas on this night and damn anything that stood in my way. So I sawed away with more patience than this mother of three should have a 8 pm. Nearing the end of the hour of sawing I realized that I had made a mistake, I had reversed the 45 degree angles on one stretcher. So that meant cutting the parallel sides again to make them matching. Add 15 minutes. I then proceed to assemble the pieces. Power tools and L-brackets are wonderful inventions. After screwing everything together, I realized the screws were a fraction of an inch too long for the width of the wood. Off I go to find the rasp that I am quite certain is in one of the four toolboxes in the garage. Feeling satisfied with my completion of the frame after sanding for around twenty minutes, I go in search of my canvas. I searched every nook and cranny of my house to the point of awakening my 1 year old while digging through his closet. But alas, no canvas.

Fast forward to the following day. After laying awake all night fretting over exactly where in this small house I misplaced several yards of cotton duck, I decided I would find that canvas or it would be the end of me. After an hours search I came up with the fabric and set off to begin stretching. It should be noted that getting a taunt canvas is an ordeal in itself but with the help of 3 toddlers it is quite the adventure in patience. After removing my 1 year old for the umpteenth time, I was proud to set back and look at my masterpiece. Being lunchtime and the natives being restless I did not have the chance to make an appropriate inspection.

With nap time looming on the horizon I could barely contain myself at the idea of priming this monstrosity. It is 48"X30". My eldest and I set off to the garage while the other two took to their siestas. After laboriously applying two coats of gesso I stood back to view my work.......

That was when I noticed the perfect hour glass shape to my previous 24 hour labor of love. In my excitement I had forgotten to put a supporting bar in the center to prevent sagging. I was downtrodden and infuriated at the same time. I painstakingly pulled out every staple along one of the stretchers. Thank God I had decided to wait until after I finished the painting to trim the canvas extras. I fortunately had enough wood left over to make a support and knocked it into place. There was just enough canvas left for me to pull it taunt with pliers to staple back into place. I then proceeded to regesso the new area. If I was not a patient woman this project would have long been left behind.

Never object to an artist when they say their creation was a labor of love.

More to come on the saga of the boy and his dog painting.......

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"We revel in the changes in our marriage. No, I don't feel the same as when I married him — I love him more and I love him differently. The spark we had for each other in the beginning is now a comfortable, predictable, gentle glow. Things aren't what they used to be and I'm glad because we're better than we used to be, having weathered life shoulder-to-shoulder for 22 years."— Cathy, British Columbia, Canada

I came across this quote today and it intrigued me. I had never quite thought to put my feelings in words, but she hit the nail on the head for me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned. Holiness increases the capacity for conversion, for repentance, for willingness to start again and, especially, for reconciliation and forgiveness.--Pope Benedict XVI discussing the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas in his book, The Apostles

Thursday, April 3, 2008

As I stripped wallpaper today (did I mention I hate stripping wallpaper) I meandered over the last week in my mind. Realization was the word that kept coming to the forefront.

I think I have finally figured out what my job is as wife and mother. And I think I have found a way to balance it all with my own self needs and wants.

I have recognized that my husband leans on me more than I acknowledged.

I have decided I need to lower my voice with my children instead of raise it.

I have set a goal for the end of the next week, for the month and for the summer.

I have decided that a clean house is a good house. And I am going to make every attempt to keep it that way.

Maybe I do like stripping wallpaper. . . . it turns out to be pretty cathartic.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I have been thinking about miracles lately. More specifically the miracles in my own life. Seeing God's hand at work is awe inspiring to say the least.

Sitting here thinking about the miracle of childbirth brings tears to my eyes. Not at the memory of pain, because I have none that is horrific, but at the incomprehensible love and euphoria encapsulated in the moment of birth. The instant love for someone you know nothing about and the climax of nine months of self sacrifice. I can say that it is not the same with medication as it is without. I hope that all women have the courage to travel down a natural path and experience it for themselves. I think it would make them better women and definitely better mothers.

My most recent miracle has been seeing the fruits of prayer and prayer for intercession. When Michael accepted his new job, we had to move. With the market as it was we were afraid the sale wouldn't happen. We had a window of 3 months in which to sell and buy. This was nothing short of impossible.

My mother-in-law gave me a St. Joseph statue that I buried in our yard. I said a novena to St. Joseph, daily rosaries and of course my direct conversations with God. At the end of the three months we had a buyer. The day we were to put in an offer on a house here, our agent called and said the couple had backed out.

We were quite devastated. On top of not selling our house, we were also homeless in our new town. Michael slept on a friend's couch and I took our kids to stay with his family. He finally managed to get back into temporary housing after a month and we were together again.

My mother-in-law sat down with me one day and told me a story of their last house ordeal. They had been in the same boat we were, with the exception of actually having purchased a house. They were weeks away from not having the money to pay a double mortgage. Feeling that her situation was hopeless, she began asking St. Jude for intercession for the situation they were in. She began a novena. The day before the first double mortgage was due, their house sold.

Inspired by her story, I sought out info on St. Jude (I am still a novice at Catholicism) and we began our novenas. We had gone back to our house for the weekend to get clothing and clean up a bit. Sunday morning, the day after we finished our novenas, we received a call from our realtor on our way to mass. We had a buyer wanting to pay cash! I can't describe the relief I felt. The focus of the liturgy that morning was finding God in the wilderness of our lives. I cried, but not fully. I could not let myself go through the roller coaster of emotion that comes with having things snatched away. I didn't really breath that all encompassing sigh of relief until I had the keys in my hand and walked through the door to our new house. Even then for a few days, I was in a dream state. Terrified that I would wake up and our house would be taken away. But things all fell into place. Even the delivery of our possessions on a Saturday. God's hand was in everything. I learned so much in those six months about prayer, faith and trust, as well as a big dose of patience.

Miracles are around us everyday. If we sit back, let go and notice them we can find we are blessed with them in each moment. They are all kinds of different magnitudes but each in it's own is a miracle.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Pottery and Martins

I caught myself typing pottery instead of potty on a message board yesterday. I guess my subconscience is letting me know that it is feigning for some clay time. I wish I had access to that bit of quiet peace. Hearing the whir of the wheel along with the crinkle and crack of the clay as it slides between my fingers makes for a very soothing symphony. There is nothing like getting dirty. It is very satisfying.

As a teacher I did not have the time to pursue my own series of pots diligently. Hopefully in the next year I will be able to add a wheel to my studio and continue on where I left off. It is hard to pursue your own interests when you have 3 children 3, 2 and 8 months to chase after. By the time you have time for yourself all you want to do is sit and veg. Never once do I regret staying at home with them. I have tried letting them work with me, but they end up eating the clay. So we are going to wait a little longer before we dive in again.

The seeds the children and I planted in the egg cartons are starting to sprout. Gabriel is so excited. He keeps going to check to see if anything new has come up. I have come to realize that if half the seeds sprout that were planted I am going to have to give some away. Maybe I can give each child in our play group a pumpkin plant to grow a jack o' lantern from. I think that would be a fun thing. At least that is what I am planning on doing with ours. That is if the squirrels don't eat them first.

Yesterday, a flock of purple martins landed in our front yard. There were so many the ground looked black. The kids were very excited. They lifted up in unison and landed in the next yard. Then took flight. We ran from window to window in the house watching them. It is so refreshing to see the world through a child's eyes. It makes me remember that some of the best things in life are actually free.