Catholic Family Vignettes

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


November 2011

Our 2011 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…

BTW…last year a holy priest revealed to another Catholic blogger that this tradition has very old roots in the monasteries of Europe.  We were delighted to discover this…it certainly adds depth to the tradition!  For those of you who’ve been readers for many years, you know how this works…for those of you with questions, here’s what we do:

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 brought considerable laughter…once we ask the Holy Spirit to help us choose our slips, we do the “reveal” together.  Sweet Max!  For three years in a row, he’s the ox.  He wasn’t the slightest bit dismayed…he says he’s learning pretty well to be patient and to serve.  I agree!  Last year’s lamb is this year’s shepherd…she’s not exactly pleased.  She likes being little, but I think our Good God is asking my little one to grow up a bit.  We all have much to learn:  humility, obedience, docility…but what a wonderful season for those growing in virtue…

Here are the slips as they were drawn:


The Christmas Star: Daddy (everyone feels this was perfect for Dad…he’s so very steady and wise!)

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


The Angel: Abigail (she was very “proud” about this choice…we had to remind her what happened to the proud angels…she gave us a sheepish smile…)

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


Blessed Virgin: Mom (we all acknowledge that the one who chooses the “Mary slip” has a tough job ahead!  Mama Mary, help me to be a better mama!)

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


St. Joseph: Zachary (my good young man is such a natural leader…now for that humility and obedience part!)

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


The Shepherd: Rylee (Last year’s lamb is growing up…)

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

The Lamb:  Michael (Time for a little more obedience and trust, dear Michael!)

Virtues: Docility, innocence, obedience and trust.

The Ox: Maximilian (hmm…three years in a row, Max…working towards perfection!)

Virtues: Hardwork and diligence. Patience and sacrifice.

The Donkey: Joseph (Mom had this one for 4 straight years…this is Joseph’s second, time to bear those burdens, son!)

Virtues: Humility and docility. Patiently bears all burdens.

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


Remember this:  when you contemplate the bucolic beauty of raising poultry…

…there are more than a couple days and nights that require rain and storm gear, a flashlight and a good sense of humor when a couple hens decide to hide out in the garage.


Daybook…it’s cold!

Visit Peggy at The Simple Woman for more Daybook entries!

FOR TODAYNovember 18th, 2011

Outside my window: fading light as dusk approaches…blue sky, bare branches and blowing leaves, crisp and dried upon the lawn.  Free ranging chickens scrabbling for the last bits of green…

I am listening to:  the chatter of the children in conversation with one another, discussing hiking memories…discussions about gloves and hats and this evening’s outing…

I am wearing : blue jeans tucked into black leather boots, cream turtleneck and a fallish-colored sweater jacket.  And bangs…I cut my hair a few days ago…long layers and bangs for the first time in several years.  I like it…

Gratitude list:  late night Adoration with the children, hot coffee on a cold day, teens who still like to go places with Mom and Dad, the delighted eyes of a child contemplated an evening at the Zoo, children who complete chores quickly, a teen son who’s not afraid to send a couple rowdy children up to their rooms for a little quiet time, first quarter of college pretty much complete…all A’s so far…

From the kitchen: Lots of gluten free goodies.  I’m getting pretty good this.  I don’t like it, but I’m learning to live with and to find more than satisfactory substitutes for my favorites.  More on that in another post.  I think it’s time that someone was really, really honest about a few of the products out there.  I’ve been let down by more than a couple recipes and products.  As for this evening:  sandwiches.  Just a quick bite as we head out to the Columbus Zoo’s Wildlights display. 

I am thinking: that college work has been a lot easier to juggle than I thought it would be.  I’m taking 15 hours in the upcoming quarter…and I’ve discovered that Algebra is my favorite subject.  Philosophy?  Meh.  I’ll take a straight-up quadratic equation over a philosophical quandary any day.  Composition has been relatively pleasant, though I’ve been pretty well shocked over the regular use of text-isms in essays and responses.  Does no one write anymore?  Grammar and content are problematic, but the text-isms are irritating to the extreme…

I am creating: simplified plans for Advent.  No mania, just our traditional activities.  We just finished creating a stack of ATCs for Kimberlee’s annual trade.  It was a lot of fun…

Towards a real education: Weather units and beginning Latin. Algebra and Physics. US History and Composition…and for mom: Philosophy and Writing…with an ugly dose of Algebra to make it all worthwhile…certainly odd to teach Algebra and take it at the same time!

I am praying: for Matthew Wise, a young man who’s been in intensive care for quite a few weeks now, as well as a small child who will have brain surgery in December, and for a dear homeschooling mom who just had surgery for thyroid cancer and is recovering.  Would you join me in prayer?  Thanks!

In the garden: Shhhh…the garden is sleeping….

Around the house: a good deal more order, but a lot of laundry.  That will change after a weekend of marathon washing and drying.  Thank you, Lord, for my laundry room!

On keeping home: hoping to do a bit of sprucing up for Thanksgiving.  I would really like to paint a couple rooms, but I’m not sure that’s realistic.  We’ll see…

One of my favorite things:  Columbus Zoo’s Wildlights.  Can’t wait to go this evening…the kiddos are joyfully preparing as I type…

A few plans for the rest of the week: school work Monday thru Wednesday and then the long weekend off with Daddy.  I’m looking forward to completing a few crafts…

A picture thought I’m sharing:

Row 1:  Michael’s ATCs:  St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Patrick, St. Michael, St. Anthony, St. Francis

Row 2:  Maximilian’s ATCs:  Our Lady Of Guadalupe, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Nicholas, St. Francis, St. Pio

Row 3:  Mom’s ATCs:  Theotokos, St. Gabriel, St. Pio, St. Nicholas, Blessed Seelos

Row 4:  Abigail’s ATCs:  St. Margaret, St. Lucy, St. Rose, St. Bernadette, St. Mary Magdalene

Row 5:  Rylee’s ATCs:  St. Elizabeth Seton, St. Dominic, Blessed Mother Teresa, St. Joseph, St. Lucia


His gift…

His big, blue eyes filled with tears.

All day, he’d watched her.  She was so beautiful, so serene; her smile radiated warmth, love and joy.  Now she was in someone else’s arms.  Earlier in the afternoon he’d approached her, shyly, and then boldly asked:

“Mom…can I have her?”

“She” was a statue, a lovely statue of Our Lady of Grace.  Nearly a foot tall and a mere $4.00, she graced the table at the Christian Mother’s Bazaar, beaming her sweet smile at passers-by.  Max fell in love instantly.

I gazed into his beautiful eyes and whispered:  “Well, sweetie…it’s like this.  Payday is in two days.  I have no cash…”

He was heartbroken.  I thought for a moment and then offered the following:

“Okay…here’s what we’ll do.   If no one buys her by the end of the day, then I’ll ask if I can put your name on her, and when we have the money, we’ll purchase her.  Meanwhile, we’ll keep her here.   How’s that?”

He smiled.  And pulled a chair over to the table, watching over his statue, hoping against hope that no one would purchase her.  The day progressed, the table slowly emptied of its goods, the statue of Our Lady, hands outstretched, stood untouched in the center.

And then she came…

…a sweet little Franciscan nun, clad in a rough brown garment, bare toes peeking from beneath the hem, her soft veil falling below her belted waist and dangling rosary.  She lovingly fingered the statue, and with a sigh, moved down the table towards two framed images of the Blessed Mother of our Lord.

“Hello, Sister!  Can I help you?”  I inquired.

“Oh…no.  But, maybe, yes!  Would you be so kind as to add a little card to the two framed images of our Lady, as well as that beautiful statue?  Perhaps you could write on the card that the Sisters would very much like to have a statue of our Lady in our chapel, but we have no money.  And two of my Sisters have no images of our Lady in their rooms.   Perhaps one of your customers would like to make a donation…”

A sharp intake of breath from my good young man, still seated in vigil…

I glanced at him, offered him a brave and cheerful smile, and quickly grabbed the two images and the statue and began wrapping them for Sister.

“Sister…please take these items.  Our family wishes to gift them to you and the other Sisters…”   I nestled the three paper wrapped items into a shopping bag, and joyfully presented them to her, quite sure that this was exactly what our Lord wished.  It was a grace moment…

At first she refused, but after my insistence, she smiled broadly, asked me my name, promised prayers for our family and swiftly moved aside to show the other Sisters their gifts.

I turned, knelt and gazed into those tear-filled blue eyes of my young son…

“Are you okay?  I’m so sorry, Max.  I really felt that Jesus was asking us to give those things to the Sisters.  Can you forgive me for giving her the statue you wanted?”

He sighed and wiped his tears, “I don’t understand why you could just give the statue to her, but not to me…don’t you still have to pay for it?”

I sighed.  “Yes, Max…I do.  Though I’m pretty sure the Christian Mothers would just insist on making those items gifts for the Sisters, I want our family to bear that sweet burden and I’ll pay the Confraternity on Wednesday at the meeting.   You see, Max…the Sisters have a real need and we can help.  You really liked that statue didn’t you, but you didn’t “need” it, did you?  But what if that sweet Sister had seen you walking with that beautiful statue and had merely commented on her beauty?  Or what if she’d said she wished the convent had a statue like that…what would you have done?”

He beamed a big, beautiful smile through his tears and said, “I’d have given it to her…”

I smiled.  “Well guess what…you just did!   No one here but you and Sister wanted that statue.  I knew that you would give it to her, sweetie.  I knew you wouldn’t deny the Sisters that gift.  How do you feel now?”

“Really good.  I hope the Sisters are very happy…”  he said, and wiped away the last of his tears.

“They are, Max.  And they’re praying for us.  There’s no gift more precious than the one they’ve given to us!”

Yesterday, our family received an unexpected blessing in the midst of a crisis.  Max is quite sure that the power of those good Sisters’ prayers’ aided us in our time of need.

I’m quite sure he’s right…and I’m quite sure I’ll be looking for a very special statue of our Lady for someone’s Christmas!


Max and Abi…

It brings a mother great joy when her children truly enjoy one another’s company.

Max, age 11, and Abi, age 10, have long been good buddies…the two closest together in the family, yet most opposite in personality.  Abi is flamboyant and vivacious.  Max, reserved and a bit shy.  The only thing they share are their fiery tempers, often bickering like a couple of magpies.  Nonetheless, these petty differences don’t really seem to matter so much, and they frequently confide in one another.

Today, Max invited Abi to follow him to the woods.  My budding photographer loves to take pictures and wondered if Abi would come along with him.

He took these…they’re really quite good!

And then she took this one…her solitary brother, walking home.  Sweet.

These lazy, fall days are quickly concluding.  Soon the bitterness of winter will set in and these afternoon jaunts will have to be postponed.   What a blessing to have two young ones who want to preserve the days in pictures, as much as their mother wishes to with words…


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