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Catholic Family Vignettes

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

Month

December 2010

Angels amongst us…

An Angel of the Lord stood near the altar of the temple, having a golden censer in his hand, and there was given to him much incense, and the smoke of the perfumes ascended before God.”  Offertory from the Mass of St. Michael, Archangel

She sat in the pew, leaning close to mom, taking in everything.

Rylee and Abigail (seated)

Nine years old, wearing her prettiest, newest dress and a lovely new hairbow with a Holy Family medal at its center, she watched with growing excitement as the candles were lit, one by one, high upon the altar…

Already, the scent of incense filled the air.  The twinkle of white lights upon evergreen boughs overhanging the creche were charming, their soft light illuminated the manger which would soon contain the most precious Gift of all…Jesus…Emmanuel…God With Us.

I looked down at her beaming face, wanting to say something that would impress the moment upon her young mind.  In a hushed voice I whispered:

“Abi, one day, when you are quite grown up, these will be your best Christmas memories.  You will remember the scent of incense.  The tinkle of bells.  The rising crescendo of the choir singing “Joy To The World.”  The sweet faced Saviour, nestled beneath the loving gaze of Heaven.  These will be your best and most beautiful memories…you’re making a memory now.  Hold onto it…”

She smiled.  And dropped to her knees for a quick prayer, eyes forward upon the altar…

I glanced away from her, for just a few moments, sharing a quick hug with her younger sister, cuddled up beneath her daddy’s big coat, trying to escape the chill of the not quite warm sanctuary.  Sacred Heart is such a lovely little parish church and we counted it a privilege that our dear priest was able to offer our traditional Latin Mass in such a gorgeous setting…indeed, it was the very church in which he had received his First Holy Communion and had first served the Mass.  Yes…we were blessed to be in that space, at that time for the exquisite liturgy of Midnight Mass.

In the hush and silence I heard a sudden *gasp* and turned to see Abigail clutching her chest…she was breathing in and out, rapidly, tears streaming down her flushed cheeks.  I panicked…an asthma attack, she’d been having a lot of difficulties lately, chest pain,etc….and I didn’t bring the rescue inhaler…

“Abi!  Are you alright?  Is it your chest?  What’s wrong sweetie?!”  I fear I was perhaps a bit louder than I intended, but her face looked so very odd…I’d never seen anything quite like it.

She kept shaking her head, no…no…no.   And then, in such a low, low whisper, shyly, never once taking her eyes from the altar she said:

“Oh, mom…don’t you see it?!  The angel!  I see him…he’s standing right there!  He’s moving, mom!  He’s real…he’s really there!  Oh…he’s so beautiful!  I’ve never seen anything so beautiful!” These words, spoken so low…she was pointing, I can’t quite describe well how it looked…almost as if she was worried that maybe she shouldn’t point…maybe she shouldn’t speak…but her face!  It was all light…and water…and joy…and a bit of fear…it was…radiant.

What do you say to a child who’s looking at an angel that you don’t see?  I looked at the altar…then I looked at her.

“Where, sweetie?  Where do you see him?” I asked her.

“He’s standing over there…on the steps of the altar.  He’s so beautiful!  He’s wearing a bright white robe and gold belt.  Now he’s kneeling.  He’s looking at me and smiling.  What should I do?!” she worriedly asked.

“Oh, sweetie…are you sure?” I was looking to see if maybe she was staring at a statue, but no…there were only small  statues on the altar.  The priest, deacons and altar servers hadn’t yet begun the procession…all of this was taking place just a few moments before the bells rang.  It was real.  I should have known by her face…by her actions…whatever was happening was real.  As a Catholic I certainly understand the reality of angels amongst us.  I know that each of us have our very own guardian.  I know that a few privileged souls have been able to see or experience these heavenly messengers…I’m embarrassed that my first reaction was incredulity…but then…JOY! Joy, joy, joy…because I knew…knew that it was real.

“Ask him to pray for us!  Ask him if he’ll pray for us now!” I whispered, awestruck and still so very taken by what was transpiring between my sweet child and this heavenly messenger.  She began whispering a few words…I couldn’t hear her, she later told me that she did as I requested and the angel never spoke but smiled and nodded.

The bells rang and we stood for the procession.  I quickly leaned over to her father and told him what was happening.  He flinched, startled, and turned quickly, his eyes scanned the altar, just as mine had, trying to see what she was seeing.  We were at the very front of the Church, with a complete and unobstructed view of the altar.   Just before the procession made it to the rail, she tugged my sleeve…I knelt beside her…she never once looked at me, but quickly said, so quietly and sweetly, “there’s another one, now…on the other side!  He looks almost the same…his hair is bright gold!  Mom…he’s kneeling now…he’s looking at you and smiling…”

An angel…smiled…at me.

I burst into tears.  Because I could see it.  Not like Abi…no…there were no special visions of beautiful angels in white robes and golden belts for me…no…it was in my head…this image of the beautiful face of a smiling angel.  How often has Father told us that our sanctuary is filled with them at every Mass?   I’ve always tried to imagine them, crowding low, bending toward the altar at the moment of the Consecration…  I think often of this quote:  “If the Angels could envy, they would envy us for Holy Communion.” – St. Pope Pius X.  How lovingly they must gather about us at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass…

Still transfixed upon the altar, my little girl continued her prayers.  She had never been so attentive.  She sang every response, every hymn.  I suddenly remembered that I had brought my camera to take a few photos of the girls beside the creche…I turned off the flash and quickly snapped a photo of the altar at that moment and one after Mass was over, so that I could ask Abigail to identify the exact spot where she had seen the angels.  Looking at the photo later, she pointed first to the top step on the Gospel side of the altar as the location of the first angel, and then the top step of the altar on the Epistle side as the location of the second.

Taken while Abi says two angels were present, one of each side of the top step of the altar
Taken after Mass...what a lovely high altar!

It seemed Mass was over so very quickly.  Abi and Rylee both flitted gaily down the aisle to hug Father and offer him a Christmas card and box of Daddy’s homemade candy.  She wanted to tell Father what had happened, but there were so many people crowded around.  So she waited…she waited while Father greeted old friends, prayed with a grieving family and finally, the church all but empty, she shyly approached him and said:  “Father…I saw angels on the altar…first there was just one…”

She waited for his response…he looked up at me and then down at her, surprise etched upon his face:

“Really?  Did it look like a statue that came to life?”

“No, Father…the statues are really small.  It was real…like you, but beautiful!”  (I had to chuckle…Father is a beautiful, holy priest of God, but we all got her point!)

“Well…what was it doing?  Did it smile at me?” he playfully questioned.

“Father, the angels were very, very close to you all through the Mass…but they smiled at me and mom,”  she shyly answered.

“I think she’s telling the truth Father,” I offered.  “If you had seen her face…I’ve never seen anything like it…”

He smiled, so sweetly.  “Well, you know the angels are all around us, all the time….ten thousand of them fill the sanctuary at the Consecration!  It will be glorious to discover one day, in Heaven, just what this night was all about.  And I have to tell you, once when I was very, very young, I once thought I saw an angel in this very same church…”

Abigail smiled, and skipped out into the cold, a swirl of snow rising from the walkway as we all made our way towards the car on that cold and oh-so-glorious Christmas morn…

Once in the car, she began to panic.  She’d not been well for the past few days, and now fear began to seize her, doubt entered to steal her joy.  “What does it mean, Mom, when you see an angel?  Am I alright?  Does this mean I’m going to die?”

Oh, poor, sweet girl!

“No, sweetheart!  Remember what Father said…just because you saw them, doesn’t mean that they weren’t always there!  You’ve had a very special night.  And these angels brought you “good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people…”  Your happiness was real.  Don’t let fear take that from you…”

Four sleepy children, nodded and dozed during the long drive home.  Six tired children, made their way up the stairs, off to dreamland to awake to Christmas joy.

I took joy with me, to the silence and stillness of my own room…a heartful.  I couldn’t stop thinking, of the goodness of our God who brings Heaven to Earth in the gift of His Son…and of the smiling faces of angels, who walk amongst us.

Blessings,

The woods are lovely, dark and deep…

Christmas.

A grace moment…

…and the perfect place to find a hidden joy…

Amidst the snow…

Among the trees…

In the company of angels, seen and unseen…

And shepherds…

We walked, silently through the candlelit path, children stopping now and then, noticing an illuminated animal track, and then a shepherd here…another there…finally a blaze of candles at the base of a hollowed tree…a natural grotto now home to the Holy Family…

We pause.  I sing a warbled and broken “Silent Night…”

We pray:

HAIL AND BLESSED be the hour and the moment in which the Son of God was born of the Most Pure Blessed Virgin Mary at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold: In that hour, vouchsafe, 0 my God, to hear my, prayer and grant my petitions, through the merits of Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Amen.  And snow…soft, large flakes falling in sudden profusion.  “Wow.  How ’bout that?”  Hubby looks up, in wonder, at the suddenness of this heavenly benediction.  It seems we’ve been showered with so many graces…so many blessings.  This moment, this memory is one of the best.

Merry Christmas…merry, merry Christmas!  May you know the joy of Emmanuel, God with us…may you be blessed now, and in the years to come…

Blessings,


A big thank you to Ann Voskamp for planting the seed which is now a memory.

Unwrapping Christmas…again

Hello, friends!  My apologies for such sporadic posting…’tis the season and I’ve been recovering from a nasty virus which has waylaid more than my writing! Meanwhile, here’s an article I wrote for Catholic Exchange last month, reposted here by request.  And, yes…it is autobiographical…that poor, sleeping princess was me…

Once upon a time there was a young woman seeking, always seeking the meaning of life.

For a long time, she thought she would find it in the bottom of a shopping bag. Or in a fancy restaurant. Or a beautifully decorated home.

She had married a wonderful man and had three beautiful daughters…still, she felt empty, and was constantly seeking to fill that void with something outside of herself. It never worked.

The coming Christmas Season only seemed to heighten this feeling, and so she worked feverishly, from the beginning of November, to fill the family home with the smells, sights and sounds of Christmas.

The artificial tree was assembled on November 1st and by the 5th was completely decorated. Each room was filled with images of Santa Claus and angels, jingle bells and reindeer…the entire home had become a reflection of the secularist view of the “holiday” season. There was a Nativity…in the corner of the living room on a small table and for the most part it was neglected. The Advent Wreath was placed on the dining room table, its candles only rarely lit, and by the time she realized that Advent had passed, she would notice that two of the candles had never even been lit. She just didn’t understand the necessity. There was so much to do to get ready for Christmas! Cookies to bake, shopping and wrapping. No time to pray, just time to work. Work, work, work. She sadly noticed that the Christmas tree and all the decorations had already gathered a layer of dust…things were beginning to look a bit worn, a bit shabby. It took all her energy to hold everything together for 60 days of festivity. The excitement had long ago vanished for her, but the show had to go on…

Christmas Day and the frenzy began. Midnight Mass had been skipped because the wrapping and baking wasn’t quite finished. She awoke the following morning, up hours before her girls to set up the video camera and placed herself, like the consummate actress she had become, in the appropriate location to experience her children’s joy. There was a flurry of excitement as mountains of gifts were unwrapped, pictures snapped, videos recorded…Mom and Dad both privately calculated with growing dismay just how much this “joy” would cost in the coming year.

By the New Year, the tree was down. The decorations were packed away and many of the toys and baubles had already lost their newness. The house, once again returned to the ordinary, seemed to reflect her heart. It was neat. It was tidy. Everything was where it should be…and yet something…something was horribly wrong.

SOMEONE, not SOMETHING, was missing…

She felt like a princess, kept prisoner in a very beautiful castle. Although she was surrounded by everything she loved and had everything she wanted, she one day realized that the castle was really a dungeon of her own making.

One day, the Prince of Peace came and kissed the poor, sleeping princess and awoke her from her slumber. He showed her a Manger. A Star. A Woman. He told her about a Promise and showed her the ultimate gift…the Wounds of Love’s making.

Her heart aflame, she disposed of her worldly approach to the Season of Wait. Her husband and children began to notice a subtle change. The prized Santa collection no longer dominated the mantel piece…the Nativity, empty and waiting for its special Guests, took center stage. The artificial tree was discarded in favor of a live tree, which would not be set up until just a very few days before the beginning…the BEGINNING of the Christmas Season, which is the Day, itself. The Advent Wreath was placed on the center of the coffee table, and after prayers, candle lighting and singing, it would be placed in a prominent window for the world passing by to see the Light…

She learned the O Antiphons and passed them onto her children. She and her husband filled shoes on the Feast of St. Nicholas. She baked Lussekatter and made a candle wreath for her little daughters on the Feast of St. Lucia. She, in an embrace of her family’s poverty, welcomed more and more children as precious gifts from God, and recognized the faces around the tree as more beautiful than any gift beneath it. The family eschewed a credit purchased Christmas, for a smaller, happier and paid for celebration. The family attended Mass on every possible day throughout the years, but most especially during the Season of Advent. And on Christmas Eve, in the hush and quiet of that Holy Night, the entire family journeyed to the Church, to hear the Sacred Liturgy and the Good News and…

“…good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
– Luke 2:10-12

The void had been filled. The emptiness replaced with fullness, with the peace that surpasses all understanding. She understands now, in a way that she could never understand before.

The Season is a gift to be unwrapped, slowly and patiently, savoring the Ultimate Gift that will be found…

…in the stillness and hush…

…of a humble manger, in the arms of a Mother, under the embrace of a Father…

…in the Gift of a Son…

Blessings,

Salt and light…

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

– Matthew 5:11-16

I must admit that I don’t really know what it is to be reviled by the world, nor have I experienced the reality of honest-to-goodness persecution.  This is probably the case for most of us…we skate through life, we have our sharp turns, bumps and occasional spills, but for the most part our scars are only superficial, easily bandaged and usually leave indelible marks of character upon our bodies and faces.  We are transformed by our trials and are usually able to provide a witness to faith and perseverance by our dogged persistence in the midst of adversity…albeit mild adversity.

No…revilement and persecution are rarely personal…attacks seem to come in the form of false perceptions of others and, more frequently, the sense that somehow one just doesn’t quite “fit in” in certain circumstances.  I feel this most often when I go to the mall…so I don’t go anymore.   There was a time when I was much more consumer than Catholic, when I was more at home in a shop than the sanctuary of the Church.  I blended in amongst the shoppers and perusers of goods.   I found my comfort amongst those like me, and felt a sense of belonging and unity of purpose with all those “beautiful people” who seem to be at home wherever they go.  That was such a long time ago…

Things have changed, and I’d say for the better.  When we venture out as a family, we are no longer “of the world…”  We obviously don’t fit in.   And it’s hard to pretend that you don’t see the raised eyebrows, or hear the whispers or notice the wagging fingers as they count:  1…2…3…4…5…6…children?!  When they ask “are they all yours?!”  my husband and I get a rather perverse pleasure in answering “No…there are three missing…”  It usually silences them, unless they persist in those silly questions which require our silly answers, and we usually just smile and move on.  We don’t go out often, but when we do we always call attention to ourselves, not by bad behavior…the children are perfect ladies and gentlemen…no…it’s the sheer size of our family.

Last night was just such a night.  After two really hard days of freezing temperatures, a limited budget and thereby limited sources of heat, no water due to frozen pipes because the house isn’t insulated nor warm enough, we were really stretched to the limit.  But it was payday and after many, many hours of work and determination, my husband and son were able to defrost the pipes and restore running water.  Every dish in the house was dirty.  The floors were unmopped.  No one had showered for two days and the toilets…well…let’s not talk about that.  Let’s just say we were jubilant…jubilant…when the water came on.  My dear husband decided to take the entire family out to dinner…an Asian buffet (if you have a lot of children, you know this is the most economical way to dine!)

Now…if you ever need a boost to your self-esteem, take a large family to a Chinese restaurant.  These beautiful people just can’t stay away from the children.  Waitress after waitress came to the table, counted the children, exclaimed over them and told us how blessed we are…yes…who would know more than those who have lived in a land where the sanctity of life is not respected, where procreation is mandated/limited by the government.  They are happy, always happy to see our children.  No sneers, no raised eyebrows, no nasty comments…just joyful praise and acceptance.

Oh, that those who live in the “land of the free and home of the brave” could be so accepting!  Alas, we rarely appreciate those things that come to us so easily, and so many throw away life and happiness, hand over fist…

As we left, the cashier, a lovely Chinese woman who appeared to be maybe in her late 50s or early 60s, once again complimented us on our large family.  She said, with a sad smile, that she, too was from a large family of 5 children…and though the words weren’t spoken…it seemed we all exchanged sad smiles in realization that the land of her birth, that formerly fruitful land…no longer exists.

It was then that I realized that our presence…our simply being there…was, in a small way, a fitting analogy of salt and light.  We give flavor to a tasteless world with this beautiful bouquet of children.  We are a city on a hill…conspicuous by our size, our presence, our witness to life.  I don’t mean to sound prideful…I’m by no means made holy by being the mother of many…our Lady only had One.   No…I simply mean that I understand that we needn’t preach loudly or forcefully.  Our lives, our presence can be salt and light for the rest of the world, if we are willing to risk being different.  I praise God that we, perhaps, brought even a sliver of joy to those women in that restaurant last night.  I praise God, too, for the poor perceptions that my “free” brothers and sisters may have, because they remind us of how we are “in the world, but not of it.” May God help us to preserve our flavor…may we always be ready to let our light shine, wherever we may be…

Blessings,

Happy Feast of St. Lucia!

It’s one of our favorite feast days…the Feast of St. Lucia.  For many years now, our little girls have relished the opportunity to rise early to the warm and comforting scent of baking cinnamon buns or Lussekatter.  Each has taken turns donning the “wreath of candles.”

This morning…was different.  Like last year, we didn’t quite celebrate the “light” coming in darkness…

A weekend storm and subzero wind chills put an unexpected damper on our celebration, but only temporarily.   I arose, in the pre-dawn hours to discover that the house was ridiculously cold.  We’ve been doing our best to cope with two kerosene heaters and a couple of electric heaters, and have, for the most part, been relatively comfortable.  But this was a whole different kind of cold…so cold, in fact that the water pipes were frozen solid.

I scrambled to light the heaters, checked on the children to make sure they were warm…and moved the heaters from room to room to warm the house.  By the time this feat was accomplished it was daybreak.  And I was cold.  Grumpy.  And in no mood to bake our traditional St. Lucia buns…

And then I heard them…little feet upon the stairs.  I saw the disappointment in Abigail’s eyes…the sunlight shining through the window, illuminated her sorrowful face, the cold kitchen and clearly revealed that the oven was not on, nor were there any buns rising on the countertop…

“Mom…did you forget?  Aren’t we going to celebrate?  The sun is already up…”

I tried to explain away the cold, expressing my exhaustion and frustration.  The sink full of unwashed dishes added to my irritation as I realized that not only could I not wash them…I couldn’t even wash my hands.  Or flush a toilet!

The “Gaudete” of yesterday was nowhere to be found.

Isn’t that the way it usually happens?  We take joy where it is most palatable, and by the means and dosages we prefer.  I have such difficulty in making it happen when the going gets tough…but looking into those big, blue eyes I realized I had to put my frustration away…and deal with what we had.

It’s times like these when I’m glad I love Little House on the Prairie…and Ma Ingall’s ingenuity.  I handed out large pans and bowls to the boys and asked them to fill them with clean snow from the many drifts surrounding the house.  And they learned a few principals of physics…the conversion of a solid to a liquid, and just how much snow one must gather to make a gallon of water…a whole lot more than they thought!

Meanwhile, I prepared the rolls and set them to rise on the now warm stovetop.  The kitchen tidied, the scent of baking rolls soon filled the air, and everything began to seem a little bit brighter, a little less cold…a little less frustrating.  My two pretty girls put on their candle wreaths and dresses.  When I suggested that they serve the family downstairs at the dining room table they balked.  They wanted to serve the family as they normally did…in bed.  I just couldn’t limp up the stairs one more time, and Dad was working from home, but the boys were only too happy to be served “abed.”  Candle holder in hand and a hot platter of rolls held aloft, they made their way upstairs, singing ” O Come, O Come Emmanuel…”

Dad and I shared a smile and waited our turn downstairs.  It was sweet…and though not quite the same as in years past, it was still lovely…made lovelier by the extra effort required…

So…it’s 7:00 p.m. and still no water.  And the house is still very cold.  But a couple dear friends dropped off several gallons of drinking water and the smell of chicken and dumplings has taken the place of St. Lucia buns.  My dear husband and sons are out purchasing a heated tape that should, God willing, put an end to our freezing pipe issues…

In the meantime, we praise God for what we have…and are thankful that in the midst of a real trial, we still took the time to see the “light…”  After all, that’s what the Feast of St. Lucia is all about…

Blessings,

She shall be saved…

Imagine this, if you can:

It’s been a challenging year.  Everyday seems harder for her than the one before.  The simplest tasks have become difficult and the day to day joys seem scarce.  She clings to her faith, though there are times she feels so very dry.  And homeschooling?  Well…there seems to be way too much “home” and not nearly enough “schooling.”   “She” is “everymom”:  pregnant, ill, over-scheduled or just struggling to make sense of the whys and wherefores of her daily life.  Regardless, the days’ work stretches before her endlessly.  She has allowed monotony to set in…and she  just doesn’t know how to shake it…

And then the Lord speaks to her.  He tells her a secret:

“You are saving a soul…”

He won’t tell her whose…He will only assure her that she must live as though every soul is at stake, and should she not persevere, the “one” could be lost.  He asks her if she knows her efforts will be rewarded with salvation of this single soul…will she be faithful to her call?  For the one?

Well, of course she will!  But who could it be?  She agonizes, surveying the lovely sea of faces around her.  Is it the youngest child, so sweet and innocent?  Or the oldest at home…so close to adulthood, so soon to be thrust into the world?  Perhaps it’s the misunderstood one…or the emotional one…or the one who seems to have no troubles at all…perhaps this child is hiding something?  Perhaps it’s one of the children who’ve already left home…that they may see the example of a family life lived in faith and love.  Maybe it’s a friend…one who needs encouragement, a mentor.

Maybe, maybe…it’s her spouse!  Surely, her heroic effort in living the sacrificial life of faith and/or homeschooling, will continue to spur him on in his own pursuit of holiness…of course…it just…might be him…

And so she perseveres.  Everyday, she takes another step and then another, and another…until she stands firmly in the shadow of the Cross and embraces it…

And when she does…the Lord in His infinite mercy and tenderness reveals to her that she has saved…

…herself.

Not because of her clean kitchen…or well decorated home…or perfect plans for perfect days…but by her desire to serve, to give fully, completely…

By laying down her life, taking up the Cross and moving forward when all she wants to do is retreat…she has pleased Him, and her willing sacrifice and selflessness was what was needed all along…

…for her salvation.

Yet she shall be saved through childbearing; if she continue in faith, and love, and sanctification, with sobriety.  Timothy 2:15

Blessings,

A ragged singer of carols…

It is a mere fact of English history that the idea of a Merry Christmas was maintained much more faithfully by the ragged carol singers than it was by the Merry Gentlemen to whom they sang their carols.  The Merry Gentlemen were disposed to become decidedly Dismal Gentlemen in the Puritan terror of the seventeenth century.  It was among the populace that Christmas was suppressed with difficulty; many of the political squires, and nearly all the merchant princes, lent their aid to suppress it.  Christmas had only survived so late as that by the loyalty and tenacity of peasants and other poor men.  And, if poor men could keep Christmas, surely we can keep Christmas as if we were poor men.

“ON THE CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS OF THE POOR” by G. K. Chesterton

Illustrated London News, December 29, 1917

We are bombarded by them…the sights, sounds and images of the New Christmas…the Christmas that was never meant to be.  It is the Christmas of the bow-wrapped Lexus, the spangle and sparkle of diamonds glinting in the teary eyes of the happy recipient…the glazed eyes of children, moving from package to package, only to exclaim:  Is that all?

This New Christmas was created by the gods of commerce.  Tradesmen and hawkers.  Those who line their pockets with the coins of those who have fallen for this lie:  joy can be purchased…and, may God have mercy, even financed.

But we know the truth, don’t we?  We’ve seen His star.  We know the wonder of Silent Night and Adeste Fideles, and yet…the world sings an alluring tune and begs us dance.  And in this dance, we risk becoming Dismal Ladies and Gentlemen…whirling and twirling to this new Pied Piper’s tune, victims of the New Christmas…casualties in the war against that which is holy…sacred.

In the midst of excess, of rush and stress, are the beautiful faces and voices of the poor…those beautiful “carolers” who sing of want and humility, hands outstretched in hope of comfort, in trust that we will hear their songs and not close the door…

The poor, as Christ reminds us, will always be with us.  Is this cruelty?  Does our Lord and God revel in their suffering, measure His greatness by their want?

No.  Not at all…for He came among us as one of them.  The poorest of the poor.  To show us a life lived with nobility and in loving sacrifice.  It is the poor who teach us the most…yet it is at the feet of the greedy mercenary, that we seem to take our lessons:

You can have it all…

You deserve the best…

You should spare no cost to have what you want…

More is the way to happiness…

Many, many years ago I was, unquestionably, a Dismal Lady.  I rejoice that our Lord released me from that bondage that I might be a ragged singer of carols.  Oh, the heart that is empty of wanting it all!  The heart than can finally rejoice in the best gifts for the beauty of the heart of the giver, never measuring the cost of what has been given…

I want to live the lessons of love, taught by a poor and shelter-less Family, who welcomed their first born Son, in the humility of a stable on that First Christmas.  I want to keep Christmas as the poor.  To remember:

Gifts are given from the heart, not the pocket book…

That true song wells up from the heart free of attachment to what the world perceives as happiness…

That the Manger, not the Christmas tree, is the source of Life, Love and Joy…

That Christmas isn’t a day…it’s a Season and a state of mind, heart and soul…

That we should strive for less, reserving the very best that we have for this Season…it should stand out, not in terms of what we get, but of what we’ve given…

That true poverty isn’t the same thing as thrift and economy, nor is it starvation and degradation…that it is the embrace of less is more.   That beauty and simplicity complement one another…

Doing without those things that others consider essential (heat, food, transporation, etc.) can be born joyfully, if one chooses and truly considers the source of all.  Everything…everything…everything…comes from the hand of God.  That all…all is a gift, even when it seems to be a deprivation.

Let there be no more Dismal Ladies and Gentlemen this Advent and Christmas Season.  May our world be filled with bands of merry and ragged singers of carols, singing a new song unto the Lord…

Blessings,

A couple of screws loose…

…and here they are!

Thank you so much for your prayers…recovering from what I hope will be my final surgery for some time.  Once again, there were so many little graces.  I was a bit frightened…inexplicably so.  Perhaps it was because this was the sixth time this year that I had to enter an operating room.  Or perhaps it was the harshness of the words “hardware removal” and the images conjured.  Either way, I was literally shaking as I entered the surgery center yesterday.   But the doubt and fear quickly faded when I met the nurse who would be with me throughout the procedure…remember my other nurses, Mary and Mercy?  Well this time I had…

Angel!

Yes…Angel.  It was such a consolation…as were the emails, prayers, a sweet ecard, and as I discovered today, the gift of a Mass.  Truly, our God is ever merciful.  We may not always have such beautifully tangible signs, but He is there, nonetheless…there in the faces, voices, prayers and kind acts from friends and family.

BTW…my oldest son asked if the surgeon would give me those screws.  Who knows what plans he has for them…but I’ll tell you this:  I’m sure hoping that I’m not receiving any titanium jewelry for Christmas!

Blessings,

Mangers and Nativities from Around the World…

The Holy Family Jubilee Museum is hosting an exhibition of Nativities and Mangers from around the world…and you’re invited!

MANGERS AT THE MUSEUM
The Jubilee Museum & Catholic Cultural Center invites you to
experience the joys of the Christmas Season by exploring our collection
of nativity sets. The center piece is the Life of Christ Fontanini Nativity
Set, which is the largest Fontanini collection in the world. The exhibit
continues through January 8.
Saturdays 11:00 a.m. or Monday through Friday by appointment only.
Call 614-361-7450 or 614-461-6204 to RSVP.
Suggested donation of $7.00 or canned goods and blankets for the “Christ Child”.

We were able to take a look at the beautiful collection at yesterday evening’s St. Nicholas Eve Party…here’s a sneak peek for your enjoyment, although the photos do not do the Fontanini Collection any justice:

 

Blessings,

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