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Catholic Family Vignettes

A collage of literary snapshots from the life of a large traditional Catholic family

Month

November 2010

A sweet little book about a little star…

A few weeks ago, Anthony DeStefano sent our family his latest book, Little Star.  The children were so very happy, and quickly seized it as soon as it arrived.  For the past few days I’ve watched them…first it was a thorough perusal, comments about the pretty pictures and the little tuft of hair sported by Little Star.  Later after reading it, it was their sweet observations about Little Star and his sacrifice.  It never ceases to amaze me how even the littlest child understands this concept…it seems to confound so many adults.  To the little child, a life given in sacrifice seems to make perfect sense…At that time Jesus answered and said: I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to the little ones...Matthew 11:25

Little Star finds a way to take his littleness, his seeming insignificance, and translate it into something truly big…an act of love that is bigger and brighter than the love of those around him.  A sweet lesson for this Advent Season and a beautiful reminder for year round.  I won’t reveal much more…the illustrations are delightful and this sweet little tome would make a nice addition to your Christmas and Advent collection.  I know that my little “stars” are pleased to have it on our bookshelf!

Blessings,

Our 2010 Nativity Advent-ure…

For many, many years now our family has engaged in a lovely tradition.  I don’t think it’s an original concept, and I’m not really sure just where we picked it up.  We call it our Holy Advent-ure…

Here’s how it works (updated from a previous post):

Every year, for the past several years, our family has endeavored to emulate the virtues displayed by the various “characters” of the Nativity of our Lord.  Slips of paper containing the names and virtues of each are folded and placed in a hat.

This year’s selections have a few interesting “twists…”  Dad is a lamb?!  Mom…a shepherd?!  Don’t worry…no change of command taking place here, just the emulation of certain virtues that each of us need to cultivate!  We have a pleasant journey ahead, and much to learn this new Advent Season.

Here are the slips as they were drawn:

The Christmas Star:  Abigail  (my little “star” really wants to shine this Season!)

Virtues: Provide a steady light to guide the weary pilgrims. A source of guidance and illumination.

The Angel: Rylee (oh, is she happy!  She quickly dawned her angel costume!)

Virtues: Proclaims the “tidings of great joy”. A source of inspiration. Obedient to the will of God.

Blessed Virgin: Zachary (we all acknowledge that the one who chooses the “Mary slip” has a tough job ahead!)

Virtues: Meek, humble, modest and pure. Full and complete obedience to God. Holiness.

St. Joseph:  Meredith (yep…my faraway girl…until she has a family of her own, we’ll continue to draw a slip for her!)

Virtues: Humility, leadership and humble trust in God. Chastity and patience

The Shepherd: Mom  (Wow…I really need to work on the listening part…)

Virtues: Leadership. Listens to God. Kindness to the “lambs.” Goodness.

The Lambs (2): Michael and Dad (Dad has been bearing so many burdens lately…perhaps he gets a bit of a break?)

Virtues: Docility, innocence, obedience and trust.

The Ox: Maximilian (hmm…two years in a row, Max…is there a message here?)

Virtues: Hardwork and diligence. Patience and sacrifice.

The Donkey: Joseph (another tough character to emulate…and the slip that fell to me for 4 consecutive years…)

Virtues: Humility and docility. Patiently bears all burdens.

We’re on our way, journeying towards Bethlehem…we hope to meet you there!

Advent gift…

It’s tough to admit one’s insufficiency.

I preach a good sermon on trust in Divine Providence.  Through God’s good grace, I’ve not had much difficulty in understanding the necessity of deprivation…

Feast and famine…good health and infirmity.  Joy and sorrow…our Lord has graciously shared with this family a small portion of His cross, lovingly fitted for each shoulder.

We all must experience certain losses…by them, we die to self, and rise a new creation, trusting in the One who is the Giver of all good things…trusting, that of ourselves, we can do nothing…

are nothing.

And so…knowing this…trying hard to live and teach this…you would think that I would be okay with yet another deprivation.

But the Mass?

To be deprived of the Mass?

How does that glorify God?

For nearly a year now, our transportation situation has been difficult, to say the least.  We’ve literally had our wings clipped, unable to travel anywhere as a family.  We utilize two vehicles, both in various stages of demise, to attend Mass together.  Homeschool park and co-op days have been out of the question.  Trips for family functions, too.  Unless the destination is under 20 miles, hubby just doesn’t trust the truck and car to make it, without serious consequences.

But we’ve all been okay with that…

Until today.  You see…we’ve only had one prayer throughout all of these difficulties:

“Please, God.  Please allow us to make it to Mass…”

And God has been faithful, always faithful to that prayer.  Occasionally, one of the vehicles wouldn’t run, or we’d not have enough gas, but some of us, at least, would be able to attend, and those who did, prayed for those left behind.

We’ve alternated.  And it’s fostered such a desire in all of the children…oh, how they long to go!  The ones left behind, would never complain, but would spend the week planning what they’d wear, or making special cards for Father…all the time stating:  “This Sunday it’s my turn!”  It wasn’t that way every Sunday…just a few of them, the rest of the time, we’d take two vehicles and praise God for His mercy…

And I judged it all the good fruit of deprivation…

And then this weekend.  Hubby’s paycheck didn’t make it to the account.  Add to that, two extra days of work that he put in during the holiday weekend…two extra days which took two extra days gas to travel farther north than he usually does…and, well…that was gas for Mass.  Gas for both the truck and car…

Such sadness last night…”No one?  Really?  You mean no one can go?  Not even one of us?”

Not even one…

And so I prayed.

“How, Lord?  How does this glorify You?  How can not giving you praise and adoration be Your will?  How can not fulfilling our Sunday obligation be a good thing?  Can’t you hear our pleas?  Don’t you know that we want to go?  Can’t you see that we long for daily Mass, but can only make it Sunday?  But now…not even Sunday…”

Then, tearfully:  “And…it’s the first Sunday of Advent…”

And then…He showed me a woman.  Nestled under her covers, doing everything she could to pretend that she didn’t hear the alarm clock ring.  He showed me a few children, sleeping, no clothes laid out for the Sunday Mass, no alarm clock set…all over-tired from a weekend of fun and excitement.  A husband, tired from the days labor, whose heart just wasn’t in it…seems he never, ever really gets to sleep in…

This was us.  Many years ago.  We fulfilled our obligation…but that’s what we felt.  Obligation.  Something we had to do…and the inevitable sense of relief when we were “done…”

Oh, how far we’ve come!  And how beautifully God revealed that our longing, our desire glorifies Him so very much…He has showed us that we need the Mass as much as we do food, water and the air that we breathe…

He is glorified by our littleness.  By our deprivation.  By our hunger for Him…

So.  Today, our Holy Day of Obligation…this first day of Advent, was spent at home.  As I’ve said:  our wings are clipped…at least until Monday.  But we’ve made the best of it!   We arose early and I prepared an Advent breakfast feast:  Egg/Sausage/Potato/Cheese Casserole, Touch of Grace Biscuits (boy, we needed those!), Banana Nut bread with a delicious Vanilla Caramel frosting and a fragrant pot of Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea.

We read Scripture…

We prayed…

And we lit the first candle on the Advent Wreath, all singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel…”

Looking at the shining faces gathered round the table, bathed in candlelight and morning sun, my heart was full, and I thought…

…of those who would chose not to attend Mass today, with no good reason or whose hearts, like ours so long ago, are just not in it…

…of those, who like us, long to attend, and through no fault of their own, are unable…

And I thanked God for the gift of this increase in faith, and pray that He will continue to kindle within our hearts this love of the Holy Sacrifice…

The Mass is a gift.

Cherish it…

Advent blessings,

Unwrapping Christmas…

It’s been awhile since I’ve written in earnest…and two years since I’ve written for Catholic Exchange.  Here’s my latest article…I’m so very pleased that it was deemed worthy of the front page:

Unwrapping Christmas

Blessings,

A happy and blessed Thanksgiving to all!

Thanksgiving…and oh, so much for which to be thankful!  As we gather around the table, surrounded by the faces of family and friends, let us not forget those who are not so very fortunate.  Let us lift up in prayer, the homeless, the imprisoned, the sick and those fighting for our freedom in faraway lands…as we feast, let us humbly remember the Author of the feast and give thanks for all those things that, in this great land of freedom, come so very easily to us.  May you know joy on this day and every other…

Blessings,

Pumpkin cutie…

Preparation for our Thanksgiving feast has begun in earnest.  Having so much to do to prepare our home, I hadn’t really put much thought into a centerpiece for our table.

Google to the rescue!

We’re crafting a few of these:  toilet paper pumpkins.  “What on earth?!” you say?  I was intrigued, too, then amazed at the simplicity of this little craft.  Made, quite simply, with items all of you have readily available.  I utilized an outgrown shirt from one of my boys, a couple hastily cut felt “leaves” and wrapped a stick in a really nice variegated yarn.  The results:

With a few flowers and leaves, here and there, three or four of these pumpkin cuties should serve as a really homey centerpiece for the family table!

Blessings,

Of boys and Legos…

Lego: from the Danish, LEg GOdtplay well. Incidentally, the Latin translation of lego“I put together,” or “I gather.”

If you have boys, then you have, without doubt, purchased, “gathered”, and whilst, barefooted, stepped upon any number of these bold and bright building blocks.

And, if you have boys, you are probably well aware of the Lego creed:

I build, therefore I am…

For those of you who are not aware of the “rule of Lego,” I offer the following list to enlighten you:

#1.  Never, ever refer to Legos as mere “toys.”  As a young man reminded me today, they are “advanced building system blocks.”  Not…toys.  I stand corrected.

#2.  Never, ever refer to Duplos as Legos.  This is heresy, though both are manufactured and bear the same company logo, no self-respecting Lego builder would be caught dead playing with his sister’s Duplos.  At least, not in the presence of witnesses…

#3.  If, by chance, you happen to find a minutely small, seemingly insignificant piece and are tempted to throw it away, rest assured that the owner of said piece will within moments, describe in detail, the “lost” piece.  There is no such thing as an extra or unneeded Lego building block…

#4.  Lego sets?  HA!  No self-respecting Lego builder allows himself to be limited by a “set” or something as unnecessary as “directions.”  In the land of Lego, all parts are created equal, although some parts are more equal than others…

#5.  If you buy them, they will build weapons.  Tanks.  Helicopters and aircraft carriers.  And engage in non-bloody battles that will result in a shower of Legos and screams of agony as the builder realizes that his one of a kind creation is no more…and then he’ll build something even better…

#6. The most recent Lego catalog will be fought over by building enthusiasts of all ages, and the endless “hey, mom…did you see this?” litany will ring daily in your ears.  Until, of course, the catalog is, ahem, “accidentally” misplaced.

#7.  If you own a digital camera, you will soon notice a digital photo file labeled “Lego pics.”  These pics will be utilized to form a stop action video to be posted on Youtube, for other discerning Lego video enthusiasts…

#8.  Pink, purple and turquoise are not Lego colors…no matter what your little sister says…

#9.  You will never, ever convince the  young man, who has just discovered a homemade Lego “bomb” on his Imperial Cruiser, that this bomb ISN’T REAL! It’s called the Lego Honor System.  If an assailant manages to plant a “bomb” on your Imperial Cruiser, well, then…it’s been marked for destruction.  No matter what your mother says…

and, finally:

#10.  Legos are legos.  There are no substitutes…no matter what your mother, or the makers of Mega Blocks say…

Blessings,

Portrait of the artist and her mother…

She loves to color:

She loves to draw:

And I enjoy the view…

Blessings,

Daybook…it’s all good!

Visit Peggy at The Simple Woman for more Daybook entries!

FOR TODAYNovember 11, 2010

Outside my window: deep blue sky and bright sunshine.  A spring-like morning…soon to be 70 degrees.  Wonderful!

I am listening to: my three young ones engaged in a wrestling match on the couch.  Silly kids…

I am wearing : a smile.  Blue jeans and a very soft, very cozy j jill sweater.  Hair in a messy twist…

I am thankful for: a successful surgery on Tuesday.  Thank you so much for your prayers.  A couple days of pain, but everything is much better today, just moderate residual pain.  Praising God that this ordeal is past.  And I’m tremendously thankful for my precious mother-in-law who has, single-handedly, washed nearly every article of clothing in this house.  My mudroom is nearly empty!

I am reading: mostly blogs right now.    And crochet and knitting patterns…that’s about it.

From the kitchen: The coffee maker is broken, thank heavens for my Bialetti!  Nothing like espresso to add a little zip to your morning!  Not sure about dinner this evening…

I am thinking: about Advent.  How I love the quiet of that holy season.   There is so very little that is needed to prepare for the long wait…just patience.   My goal:  to keep the season quiet.  Peaceful.  Focused.  To avoid the trap that the manic preparation for Christmas sometimes entails.  I will endeavor to remember that Christmas is not a day, it is a season…

I am creating: I learned how to make granny squares!!  I’m so happy!!  I made a small table runner in fall colors for our Thanksgiving table…now I’m envisioning small afghans for my children…a lap blanket for Grandma.  Is there anything quicker than the granny square?!  I’m still knitting…made a lovely sweater for my God-daughter, Bonaventura.  Getting ready to teach a young woman how to knit in the round…she wants to make a Christmas stocking for her baby daughter…

On my iPod: preparing an Advent/Christmas playlist.  For Advent I highly recommend Gregorian Advent.

Towards a real education: oh, to get real again!  My down time has but a real damper on the spirits of the scholars.  We’re going to try to get back on track today, but I’m much more hopeful about next week.  Meanwhile, this video has been an amazing affirmation that homeschooling is still the best option for this family…this snippet is only 11 minutes long…I hope to watch the whole thing soon!


I am hoping and praying: for a family who just lost a sweet baby girl, for another family who is in transition and struggling to make the best choice for their family, for a lovely mom who’s fighting breast cancer…Lord, have mercy!

In the garden: shhhhh…the garden is sleeping…

Around the House: piles of clean, folded laundry to put away.  The delightful scent of an orange and clove candle, a list for our Thanksgiving Day meal….

On keeping home: things are a bit out of order.  I really don’t care…this has been such a hard year…little by little, I’m trying to let go of my expectations and just take things as they come.  Every day is a gift…should I complain to the Giver if I don’t like how it’s “wrapped?”  I don’t think so!

One of my favorite things: a sweet hubby who brings me espresso with lots of cream and peanut butter toast.  He’s so good to me…

A few plans for the rest of the week: healing.  Reading with my children.  Letting the days unfold…

A few picture thoughts I’m sharing: more than a few!  Here’s what’s been happening for the past few weeks:

pumpkin carving:


Trick or treating:


Saints on parade:


A Traditional Latin Rite baptism (our God-daughter, Bonaventura Sophia):



 

Blessings,

Scattered and distracted…

Well, friends…I’ve not been a very faithful blogger lately, now have I?

I finally managed to complete the last of a “series” – mostly out of guilt for having left you hanging for so long…I hope that you found it entertaining, but most of all, that you remain encouraged to pray for the Holy Souls.

But, I hope you’ll forgive me…I’ve been so distracted, so completely scattered in all things, of late.

After a painful kidney stone, an emergency surgery that did nothing to end the problem and now, a failed lithotripsy procedure, I’m up for surgery again for the third time in two weeks.   The whole process has been so very stressful and it seems that my writing well has run dry…if you can spare a prayer or two I would be most grateful!  This next procedure takes place on Tuesday, November 9th…

And thank you, for your faithfulness to my little slice of the blogosphere.  Somehow, in the midst of all my neglect, Catholic Family Vignettes reached and surpassed the 200,000 visitor mark.   It is all thanks to you, dear friends.  Your kind attention to my ramblings is so very precious to me.  There are times I wonder if I should perservere and then I receive several emails in the course of a week that encourage me to continue sharing these little snapshots of the ordinariness and extraordinariness of our day to day life…thank you for sharing how you’ve been blessed…I, too, have been blessed by you.

The next few weeks promise to be equally hectic.  Following Tuesday’s surgery, I’ll have about a three week respite and will then face what I hope will be my last surgery for a long, long time.  This one will be for the removal of two screws and should complete the healing and recuperation of my reconstructed left foot.  It’s been such a tough year.  Without a doubt.  I so long for lightness, for a bit of ease, to be able to share joyfully, frivolously.  I want to share the many blessings of the past couple of weeks, and will soon.  A delightful pictorial…pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating.  A gorgeous traditional Latin baptism.  The ordinary and the extraordinary.  I’m working hard to dispel the distractions, to reclaim all those scattered thoughts…I’m working towards healing and good health…may God grant it!

Thank you for continuing this journey with our family…there’s nothing quite like the adventures we undertake with good friends!

Blessings,

Ghost story…part IV

continued from part I, part II and part III

Daybreak…

Some  might say that the lightness of spirit that followed the house blessing was purely coincidental or that, perhaps, we were experiencing the power of suggestion.

As faithful Catholics, we understand the power of prayer and most especially, the healing that is conferred through Church-sanctioned blessings.  I can attest that the “heaviness” that had seemed to pervade the house both day and night, was gone.  But our visitor?

She remained.

We weren’t really (too) frightened and for the most part, she didn’t bother anyone.  It was my daughter, Meredith, who continued to see her.  At first, she tried to avoid looking in the places where she was most often present.  Meredith didn’t like seeing her, so for awhile she would try to only catch shadowy glimpses or would simply “perceive” that she, the ghostly visitor, was there.  Eventually, she decided that she had to look…had to see, rather than just catching a glimpse.  She would approach the stairs leading to her room and look right at her, and proceed up the stairs.  No communication, no approach.  Just an acknowledgment of her presence.

Still, the whole situation bothered me greatly.  And other family members, too.  My mother and father came for a visit and slept in Meredith’s room.  My mother angrily insisted that the young woman stop harassing her granddaughter…it was an unpleasant situation, but at the time moving was just not possible.  I continued to seek the counsel of our priest, who offered support to our daughter.

And we continued, just as Father prescribed, to pray and offer reparation.

A couple months later, household arrangements shifted.  The third family moved to Illinois and our family shifted rooms.  Meredith moved from the other side of the upstairs hall to our room, and we moved to the bedrooms in the back apartment…it was an odd arrangement, but put us closer together as a family.

And it cut down, dramatically, the number of times that Meredith would see the young woman…

Time marched on, and a few months later we found it necessary to look for another dwelling, as our friends prepared for the possibility of a job transfer and a new baby.   We found a lovely home in the country and prepared to moved.  All was well until a few days before our departure.  I had an unwelcome encounter with this “presence” and swore to my husband I never, ever wanted to experience anything like it again!

In our new home, we’ve never had a moment’s uneasiness.  Nothing.  All those negative events seemed to fade away, just as a bad dream does when daybreaks…

So.  Now you’ve read our ghost story.  And it’s November, the month dedicated to the Saints and the Holy Souls.  Please let this story serve as a reminder to pray for all the departed.  While we all love a good “ghost story”, we have an obligation as faithful Catholics to offer prayers for the repose of  those who have no one to pray for them.  During the Octave of All Soul’s Day it is possible to obtain a plenary indulgence for the Holy Souls in Purgatory if one simply visits a cemetery and offers a prayer.

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace…

Blessings,

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