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Catholic Family Vignettes

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

A glimpse of green…

We’ve been through trying times…times of sickness, surgery and worry…and yet, these times have brought us closer together in faith…given us hope…and shown us the beauty of true Christian charity.

I’ve been absent once again, dear friends. Living day by day, struggling to get to the next place and praising God for all the little graces in between. February is always such a brutal month in the life of this home educating mom. The gray sky, frigid temperatures and harsh winds seem to go on interminably and the shortest of months seems always the longest.

And then, without warning, it’s March. We hope anew. We watch and wonder, awed by the renewal and rejoice with friends, this month of Feasts…

I leave you with many pictures and few words until I can find more. A glimpse of green from the little bit of Ireland we tried to conjure as Spring approaches. Blessings to you…and prayers, too!

The Christmas Cactus that missed the date...
The Christmas Cactus that missed the date…
A pretty shamrock bun
A pretty shamrock bun
A shamrock ponytail for my little colleen...
A shamrock ponytail for my little colleen…
The lovely Maura, in her Irish-green kitchen...
The lovely Maura, in her Irish-green kitchen…
Saints Patrick and Joseph preside over the Feast...
Saints Patrick and Joseph preside over the Feast…
Happy Irish baby...
Happy Irish baby…
Leprechauns beware...this cake's for you!
Leprechauns beware…this cake’s for you!
Key Lime cupcakes!
Key Lime cupcakes!
The beautiful Theresa...baker extraordinaire!
The beautiful Theresa…baker extraordinaire!
Friends of the heart...
Friends of the heart…
Reading in me best Ireesh accent...
Reading in me best Ireesh accent…
Such a lovely lassie...
Such a lovely lassie…
Banger Puffs and Miniature Shepherd's Pie...mmmm...
Banger Puffs and Miniature Shepherd’s Pie…mmmm…
A not-so-traditional Irish Soda Bread...couldn't resist the currants!
A not-so-traditional Irish Soda Bread…couldn’t resist the currants!
Laughter is the best medicine...
Laughter is the best medicine…
What's St. Patrick's Day without Corned Beef, Cabbage and Potatoes?!
What’s St. Patrick’s Day without Corned Beef, Cabbage and Potatoes?!
Hungry guys...
Hungry guys…
Adorable...a rainbow baked in the middle!
Adorable…a rainbow baked in the middle!
Craft time with friends is "fun time!"
Craft time with friends is “fun time!”
Kiss Me, I'm Irish!
Kiss Me, I’m Irish!
Nifty Trinity magnet craft...
Nifty Trinity magnet craft…
Love these girlies...
Love these girlies…
Creative lassies...
Creative lassies…

I hope to see you in this space a bit more often…after months without a camera, I’m happy to be capturing our joys again!

Blessings,

Sheen-tastic!

Wow…I’m truly humbled.  For the past several months, with all the harried-worried-scattered and battered days we’ve had, I had pretty much ignored this space.  So I was quite surprised that anyone, even a dear friend, would consider my little blog worthy of any kind of award, least of all one tied to one of my all-time favorite saints, the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

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Now…I’m certainly not a recipient just yet…there’s still this whole voting thing, and I humbly submit to you a list of candidates who are far more worthy than I in the category of of Smartest Blog.  Check out the list at A Knotted Life, where the amazing Bonnie has assembled quite a selection of nominees and categories!  And vote…sure, I’d truly appreciate a vote, but I promise you there are lot of amazing bloggers in the running, and a few blogs I was unfamiliar with and am happy to have happened upon.  Thanks to my dear friend, Ana Maria, for her sweet endorsement!

Shattered Innocence

An article I wrote in 2008 for Catholic Exchange. Happily, all the negative comments associated with its original publication have been removed, since it was allocated a new link…

I was nine years old when the beauty and innocence of my childhood faded…

I had been outside, riding my bike, when I ran in to get a drink of water. My mother, who had been reading the local newspaper, was quietly weeping.

I asked her why she was crying. I looked over her shoulder to see what she had been reading and saw a picture of the sweetest little boy. He had the face and smile of a cherub, a head full of dark curls, and very large, brown eyes. I asked who he was. I don’t remember his name, but I’ll never forget his beautiful face. As I gazed into those eyes, my mother told me his parents had beaten him to death.

He was four years old.

Perhaps my mom shouldn’t have told me; raw with emotion and lost in her own pain, she had blurted the words without thinking. I wept for another child for the first time in my life. This little boy would never ride a bike or run in the park. It was incomprehensible to my young mind. Almost immediately, my lighthearted nature and joy evaporated. A true depression, a sadness that I couldn’t articulate for many months, enveloped me. I lost interest in day to day pleasures. I quit playing outside. Fear and anxiety dwelt closely in my heart. My world was no longer safe.

It took several months before I could pull myself out of that depression. Nine years old and no one really knew just how disturbed, how profoundly changed I was by the death of a child I had never known. I kept my secret for many years and only recently shared it with my mother as we were discussing the importance of maintaining purity and innocence in the life of a child…

Innocence.

A state of blessed “unknowingness” that is markedly different from ignorance. So many of our children are increasingly subjected to sights, sounds, and situations which may mar or altogether destroy their innocence. Most Catholic parents are vigilant keepers at the gates of the family castle, seeking to provide a refuge against the irreligiosity of the world and its seductive whispers. We set up filters on computers, block-out television channels or eliminate commercial programming completely, screen videos and literature, and make every effort to know as much as possible about our childrens’ friends. Additionally, some of us have chosen “the road less traveled”: educating our children at home to shelter them from the storm of secularism and accepting the monumental responsibility that is inherent in being the primary role model of the seven cardinal virtues.

And yet…we can still be bombarded from the most unlikely sources.

As a vehemently pro-life Catholic, I’m well aware of the challenges that exist in spreading the truth about the horrors of abortion and the industry of death. I’m proud of the men and women who have put their very freedom on the line to protect our littlest brothers and sisters. These gentle souls, by their prayers and sacrifices, and their peaceful protests continue to send a message that is counter to the hatred that is so rampant amongst the pro-death camp. Prayer is, and always will be, the most effective way to counter evil in this world.

Alas, there are those within our movement who have begun to despair, and in that despair have sought to win souls and save lives through “shock and awe.” Graphic depictions of aborted and mutilated children are paraded on banners, emblazoned on trucks and carried on placards. These are real babies, little boys and girls horribly mangled and nearly unrecognizable. How heinous and frightening the reality of abortion! Is it any wonder that not a few young women have changed their minds after viewing these images? Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests For Life shares the following observation:
“There is no single thing that I have seen more powerful to change people on abortion than simply showing them the pictures… When people see what abortion does to a baby, they are stung to the heart and their consciences are awakened.” Should not our reaction always be one of fright, disgust and extreme heart-wrenching sorrow? When working against the hardened hearts of adults who have hidden themselves from the reality of the violence of abortion, it would seem that these tactics are particularly effective.

But what if you were six years old…what would you think? Could your parents explain it away in a nice, tidy manner that would make it okay to display this dead child’s body? Can a death so horrible, delivered by the hands of those who should love, protect and nurture this life be explained that easily to one so young? Would you be surprised if this young child consequently had nightmares after seeing these images; contemplating and hearing the horrible reality? Would it be surprising if eventually, after years of viewing these images, the child ceased to weep or feel revulsion, having become desensitized after having seen them so often?

I’m simply not satisfied with the answer that seems to imply that “the end Virgen_de_guadalupe1justifies the means” when it comes to exposing young children to images of such extreme and graphic violence. Our young and innocent ones should never be asked to bear this adult burden of knowledge. Somehow, I can’t imagine our Lady carrying one of these banners…I imagine Her banner would hold the body of another Innocent Victim. One that doesn’t scandalize the innocence of childhood, but convicts the heart of the sinner with a message of everlasting peace, love and redemption.

As a nine year old, I gazed upon a lovely photo of a child who had been murdered. Not his beaten and bruised body. A beautiful photo of a living child. And I’m haunted by the image and the knowledge of the death of that very small boy.

I believe these images are necessary and can be a powerful tool when placed in the right hands, and used properly. But their efficacy is certainly far below that of prayerful and peaceful protest. As we are trying to to change the hearts of adults, these images should never be used in the presence of young children. No adult, no matter how well-intentioned in this very important fight has the right to scandalize the innocence of another parent’s children. We mustn’t make the fatal mistake of discounting the sensitivity of our little ones just because we understand, because the stakes are so high and because we’ve begun to believe that only by extreme action will we accomplish our goals.

Have we really entered a place where we believe that the bloody image of an aborted child has more power to convert than the image of our Lord crucified? What of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe? Did not our Lady appear in radiant splendor, beauty Her banner, to counter the horrors of human sacrifice?

Evil is rampant in our world. We would never take our children into the “dens of iniquity” to show them that evil exists. It is scandalous to expose young children to a graphic depiction of any despicable, sinful or perverse act… we must preserve and protect their innocence with the same vigilance that we have for the babies being lost to abortion.

Last week, the children and I participated in a peaceful protest outside an abortion clinic, taking our turn as prayerful witnesses for the sanctity of life. No sign holding, no passing out literature. Just prayer. Remembering this: “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words” – St. Francis of Assisi.

I am a Catholic parent…

The Holy Family...the model of perfection
The Holy Family…the model of perfection

Catholic parenting…how on earth does one do it, let alone define it?

In a perfect world one might say it’s “the loving and successful completion of child-rearing and instruction, put forth by two parents, to perfect one’s child in the areas of faith and morals as defined by the Catechism and Sacred Traditions of the Catholic Church.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect world, and at last check, there are no perfect parents or children residing upon it. Flawed humanity, with all its sins and vices, is raising the next generation, and that includes the next Catholic generation. Yet, in this country and others, amidst great challenges and persecutions, many Catholic parents are striving to impart a sense of the sacred, awake to the great beauty, majesty and richness of our Holy Faith and its spiritual and cultural significance.

Tertullian once said “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” thus giving rise to the notion that the Faith flourishes under seemingly impossible conditions. Today’s parents might be tempted to challenge that assertion, firm in the conviction that this crazy world and the people who live in it, put every possible obstacle in the way of the solemn charge to raise a holy people for the Kingdom of Heaven. It would seem that knowledge and desire, quite simply, aren’t enough.

Fear not! This task is not as formidable as it seems, for at the heart of it, is this promise from Sacred Scripture:

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Proverbs 22:6

“…And even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The key word here is, of course, “old.” And old can seem so very far away at the beginning of this Catholic parenting journey. The “way” is often obscured by the noise and distractions of this mad world, which pushes and shoves its way into home and heart. How does one do this? Is it even possible?

Perhaps you’re looking at that sweet baby, nestled in your arms, wondering how you will ever show him the “way he should go,” particularly when the “way” seems so treacherous and fraught with every danger. Would it comfort you to know that parents have been doing this since time out of mind? That our own dear Savior, as an infant, had to flee the murderous wrath of a king and that His Mother and Father faced poverty, persecution and uncertainty with courage and resolve?

Perhaps you’re surrounded by the needs of many little ones, overwhelmed with exhaustion as the work of parenting seems to stretch onward to infinity. Would it benefit you to remember that the most beautiful images of our Blessed Mother show Him in her arms, pressed closed to her breast, a reminder that this busy time is yet a time of sweet joys, too?

Perhaps you’re reflecting upon the rebellious teenager asleep upstairs; the one who stayed up far too late playing video games and who is alternately sullen and good-humored, depending upon his mood and yours. Would it comfort you to imagine that our dear Lady understands? That her precious Son was often misunderstood and even in the eyes of His parents at least once engaged in behavior they found perplexing, as He was “about His Father’s business?”

Perhaps you’re worried about your adult child, the one that quit attending Mass some time ago…the one whose life seems a scandal and a trial in the eyes of the world. You wonder how you managed to give so very little of your faith to this wayward one and lament that you’ve failed in your duties as a Catholic parent. Would it help to reflect upon the twelve Apostles, who ate, slept and worked in the presence of the Messiah and yet, following the Crucifixion, engaged in behavior that was anything but faithful? Frightened by the sights, sounds and emotions of their salvation being accomplished, they fled in fear…

Perhaps you feel you never really imparted the “way” at all; that your own faith has been such an ongoing work that you believe you’ve missed your only opportunity to give this gift only recently opened or perhaps simply re-examined. Would it avail you to remember that God rewards the laborer, not so much for the time worked as for the intention behind the effort?

It can seem such daunting work, this Catholic parenting “thing,” and I’ve walked every single one of the paths described above. I am mother of nine children with more than 30 years in the field; I’ve paced the floor with the wee ones, overawed by the beauty of new life and the sweet burden of nurturing it. I’ve been through the exhaustion of those early days when children come much faster than the income to feed and provide for them all. I’ve lamented the distant teenager, walking the delicate balance between strength and compassion, failing at times to provide either. I’ve wept in sorrow for the adult child whom, though home educated, catechized and confirmed, still struggles with issues of faith. And I’ve begged God’s forgiveness for the first decade of my parenting years…years of pseudo-faith; years when being a “good person” seemed enough to identify myself as a Christian mother.

There have been so many starts and stops along the way, as I embrace my role as a Catholic parent. I’ve learned the best judges of hypocrisy are one’s children – they know, as no others, whether mom truly lives and believes what she teaches. I’ve had to humbly submit to the scrutiny of a growing band of Inquisitors, living with the daily realization that it is whom and not what is in the home that truly makes it a domestic Church.

As a Catholic parent, I’ve learned I simply must impart more than just a “view from the pew” version of my faith. When I live my faith out loud, in my everyday choices, and embrace a view of life that is not only faithful, but faith-filled, I demonstrate so much more than my words will ever convey. Faith becomes real and virtue is magnified, because the hard choices are the ones in opposition to those that often seem the least demanding.

The hardest choice that I’ve ever made as a parent is to embrace the imperfections of my children and myself; to live with the realization that from all eternity God had chosen me to mother these particular children. I have to continually acknowledge my weakness so that He can be strong. I made a solemn vow, long ago, admitting my imperfection and inadequacies, but I promised that if He would just continue to point out the flaws within my children and me, I would faithfully work on those areas. I asked Him to remove my parental blind spot and to expose the spiritual, moral and physical dangers that I might overlook. I vowed that I would never shrink from my duties to address those areas, despite my fear, sorrow or embarrassment. He has always answered that prayer, and though I’ve not always been as faithful as I’d like to be, I’ve truly tried to hold up my end of the deal, persevering in the midst of sin and suffering, sure that each challenge and crisis has already been envisioned by He, who knows my strengths and weaknesses. He continues to prove Himself as faithful, as the perfect parent ever watchful over His child, always mindful of the end and the means.

It’s so easy to allow oneself to become weighed down with the awesome task of guarding the body and soul of one’s children. There is so much anxiety, when I contemplate the transitory and passing, I often miss the glorious moments and memories in the here and now. As I contemplate my 30 year journey as a Catholic parent, I don’t find myself wishing I had washed more dishes or folded more laundry; I lament the times I didn’t stop in the midst of the mundane to observe and participate in the wonder and beauty of life unfolding around me. I regret that brief period when I so narrowly defined my role that I nearly became a spectator, lost in the myriad activities and ideas that seem to reinforce what the world perceives to be “good enough” parenting.

“Good enough” parenting never really is. Catholic parenting, on the other hand, always strives to be. We may fall short a thousand times, but with the grace of Faith and the gift of the Sacraments, the remedy to all our failings is as close as one’s parish Church and as simple as the prayers uttered in faith and trust.

Blessings,

A merry band of carolers…

Who can outgive God?  Who among us can give gifts better than He, who gave the gift of salvation to us all, through the “fiat” of a humble Virgin, the cries of a wee babe, and the anguished suffering of a Son, well loved and sacrificed that we might live?

This Christmas, in the midst of fear and pain, our Lord gave…and gave…and gave…using the hands and hearts of friends and family, weaving a mantle of love that surrounded us so securely, so gently and lovingly, that we wondered at His generosity.  All things were attended to…the care of our children…the food on our table and in our cabinets and freezer…prayers and Masses…financial assistance and gifts…sweet, precious and personal gifts to each and everyone of us…but none so precious as the hearts of those who gave.

Yet, in the midst of this flood of Christian charity and friendship, the ultimate gift and sign of His blessing and benediction came in the simplest form:

Song.

carolers1

carolers2A merry band of carolers, on a snowy eve at sunset, came to us.  They sang of”Silent Night” and “Adeste Fidelis.”

carolers3Of “little towns” and mangers…of hope.

carolers4Of joy…

carolers5…and love.

carolers6We stood, tearfully, joyfully, bathed in the gift of song, awed and humbled at these tidings of great joy…

momdadcarolersHe will never be outdone in generosity…but it is His simplest and most beautiful gifts that are often overlooked.  It is the beauty of seeming ordinariness, exquisite in its simplicity, as the hands and hearts of His people come together to sing His praises…

You changed my sorrow into dancing,
You took away my clothes of sadness
and clothed me in happiness.
I will sing to You and not be silent.
Lord, my God, I will praise you forever.
Psalm 30:11-12

Blessings,

The cross before the Crib…

There’s a thin red line that tells a tale of a heart broken, now mended…of the God-given skill of a surgeon’s hands…of a long wait of nearly overwhelming proportion…of a second chance at life and health and family and friends grateful.

manger-crossThis Advent, we praise God for this cross…the cross that came before the Crib…the cross that gave Roger a heart that beats love of God and family…a cross that revealed the goodness and mercy of our Father as He attends to every suffering, every need.

Christmas came early to our home.  The gift of life, ever precious and ever new, is a gift we unwrapped eagerly…gratefully and joyfully…thankful to the Giver who is even greater than the gift.

Blessings,

Hearts and roses…

A few days ago, hubby and I took a little drive down the path to the woods.  One of the outdoor cats was missing and we were sure we’d find him hiding out in the beautiful park-like setting of our little private slice of paradise…

We walked…winding our way past downed limbs, hubby searching and calling for Tibby; I, pausing to snap photos of bare-branched trees, sunset and mushrooms…reaching out to find his strong hand, leaning upon him for assistance and enjoying the peace and intimacy of a winter’s eve walk…

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Contrast that lovely evening, with this:  Me, holding his hand, pierced and laden with plastic tubes, listening to the beep and hum of hospital equipment and the ominous words and tests that made up the balance of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception that ended with a diagnosis:  mild heart attack.

How can I begin to convey the heartrending moment when, as I was preparing a treat after Saturday morning’s Mass for a party we would attend that evening, my husband grabbed my arm and said, in deadly earnest:  “Please stop what your doing and take me to the hospital.  Now.”

There was no question, no quick “googling” of symptoms, no consultation.  The look on his face was such that I dropped an entire bag of pecans and the rolling pin into the utensil drawer, grabbed my coat, and mumbled a hurried/worried “I’ll be back in a little bit…” to my confused children.

No thoughts, just action.  Roger, mostly silent, sat in the passenger seat, a place he’s only sat but rarely in 31 years of marriage.  I sped, and was admonished to slow down more than once, towards the hospital, anxious and needy…praying an endless string of “Hail Marys” and “dear God help hims” all the way.  I could see his discomfort and tried to hide my own fears, asking all the while, “are you okay? What are you feeling now?”

We entered the hospital and in less than a minute I uttered those words that no wife ever wants nor should ever have to say:   “I think my husband is having a heart attack…”

And so he was.  But he had been so wise…listening to his body, gauging every nuance of the odd feelings he had felt at home following Mass and brunch.  He had been prompted by the admonition of another dear friend whose own wife had begged us to never, ever wait should either of us experience any of the symptoms her sweet husband underwent only two short months ago, having suffered for days before finally experiencing a nearly fatal massive heart attack.  Roger remembered Gary…and knew he had to seek help immediately.  Upon entering the hospital, his arm, jaw and chest pain intensified.  His original blood work and EKGs were relatively normal…it was only after arriving that the real crisis began.  Five separate “events,” each lasting just a few minutes, and increasing in intensity, set in motion a flurry of activity from medical staff.  Ultrasounds and chest xrays and admittance to the Cardiac Care Unit.  Medicated, he settled down and awaited a visit from our priest.  It seemed he’d dodged a full blown heart attack…

Father came…entertained and blessed, leaving a wake of peace as he exited the hospital with our oldest son.  We both settled down for the night…I, on the hard bench beside his bed…he, medicated and hooked up to a portable EKG.  Twenty minutes later, like breakers crashing upon the beach, the first “wave” arrived.  One agonizing, painful, crushing attack after another, until the tidal wave struck…a full-blown heart attack.  I watched him, our eyes locked…his, filled with agony and fear, mine frightened too…I couldn’t help him, only pray, pray, pray.  A team of nurses worked feverishly to get the IV drip to administer a rapid dose of nitro to stop the attack…it seemed it would never end.  As horrific as this experience was, the blessing of being in the hospital, surrounded by the best cardiac team imaginable, was and still is “as good as it gets…”

And then the bad news:  following his heart catheterization, we learned that Roger has extensive blockage and will require a quadruple bypass surgery on Thursday, the Feast of St. Lucy.  We beg your prayers and know that “God is in His Heaven and all is right with the world.”  He has so beautifully ordered every aspect of this crisis…the support that we’ve received from friends, family…all of Roger’s KMI coworkers is astounding.

Roger’s hospital room remains a place of joyful visits and a few private, tearful moments as we contemplate the work ahead.  To quote my precious husband:  “They’re going to crack open my chest…and take out my heart…”

And fix it.  Fix what is broken and make it whole, as God means for it to be.

There was a brief moment after hearing the news, that I begged God for mercy…for comfort…for some sense that this is right, that we’re where we need to be…that it will all be okay.

Tearfully looking out the window, I heard a small noise and saw a very tiny, lovely Vietnamese woman enter the room.  She smiled and said:  “I cleaned your room…you like?”

“Oh yes,”  I said, wiping a tear, “you did a lovely job.”

“I clean the windows for you?”  she smiled, approaching with a rag, and looked at my husband, sleeping off the sedation from his latest procedure.

“No…thank you…these fingerprints are from the children…I don’t mind seeing them…”  the words trailed as I thought about telling the children what was about to transpire.

She looked at Roger again…”He be alright.  You see.  He be out of here soon!”  She smiled the loveliest and truest smile…

Sadly and gravely I replied, “He’s having open heart surgery on Thursday…”

She left the room…and quickly returned, holding a long-stemmed wooden rose, that filled the room with perfume.  “This for you…not him.  He be alright…you look at this rose.  You be alright.  This for you…”

A rose.  Had it dropped from the sky, I couldn’t have possibly been less shocked, surprised and delighted by the confirmation.  She quickly twisted its stem into the shape of a heart…a heart that looks a lot like a human heart…and placed it on the table.

IMAG0691

She came back yesterday, with a hug and another rose…this time, placing one in the hands of my daughters, as well.  Yesterday evening I placed that second rose in the hands of my dear friend, Sandra…who has so lovingly and beautifully cared for my children (and her five!) for the past few days…she, too, is a gift straight from Heaven…

Hearts and roses two weeks before Christmas…another unexpected gift from the Lord, He who knows exactly what we need at every moment…

If you can spare a prayer tomorrow, we would be so very grateful…it’s going to be a long day…and a long road to recovery.  May God bless and reward you for your kindness.

“A sound heart is life to the body…”  Proverbs 14:30

The eve of the feast…

The turkey has been happily brining away all day, floating in the midst of allspice, peppercorns and ginger…waiting to be stuffed and slow roasted…all.  night.  long.

I truly enjoy this part of Thanksgiving.  The menu is made, the pantry and fridge stocked and the assembly begins the eve of the feast…bits and pieces that come together to make the memories that make a celebration…memories that replay every year, not much changed, but full of significance and the constancy that makes family tradition…

It’s waking to the scent of slow roasted turkey and stuffing (snitching a savory forkful, just to make sure it’s “okay”)…nibbling the little bits of fallen crust from the pumpkin and chocolate chess pies (waste not, want not)…laying the table for dinner amidst the soft glint of stainless and candlelight…

It’s the hustle-bustle of the dinner bell and the solemn hush of true thanksgiving, given in prayer to the Author of Life who gives the feast and pours His grace upon all assembled…

It’s the slow-lingering over gravy and casseroles…too much pie and plenty of coffee…conversation and laughter as we think and speak our blessings…

It’s the snoozy-drowsiness of the well-filled and satisfied…

It’s the remembering that many aren’t so well-filled…that the simplest pleasures, graces and blessings should never, ever be taken for granted…

It’s the memory of the importance of the family table…the many times we break bread together, give thanks and make those memories…one bite at a time…

Happy eve of the feast, dear friends…may you revel in the midst of family and friends…peace, joy and blessings to all!

Prayers? Thanks…

Certainly, there is nothing too small to present before the Throne of God…and while these two events are troubling, we praise Him for His goodness when it could be so much worse…

Last night, my son Michael was playing outside and suffered a fall…landing face-first upon a piece of rusted tin roof that had blown off one of the storage buildings.  He suffered a severe laceration on his nose and only narrowly avoided plastic surgery, but has six stitches and a tetanus shot just for good measure.  A large abrasion across his left cheek shows just how very lucky he is…the cut could have split the entire left side of his face, rather than just his nose…a happy occurrence to say the least.  We’re praying for healing and limited scarring…the doctor on call assured him he will make a very handsome priest, despite any scarring…sweet of him to acknowledge Michael in that way, as my good young man shared this very intense and personal call.

On a sadder note, our sweet kitty, Ozzie, is quite ill…we are on our way to an emergency visit with the vet.  And here is a caveat:  do not purchase Giant Eagle’s Paws Premium Indoor Cat Food (dry).  We fed three little abandoned kittens that we are fostering, as well as our two indoor cats and one outdoor cat.  Five of the six became horribly ill, but none so ill as Ozzie.  We will be paying a visit to Giant Eagle, writing their corporate office and are taking a sample to the vet’s office for testing.  We are praying he survives this and beg the intercession of St. Francis, and you, our dear friends…

Heavenly Father, please help us in our time of need. You have made us stewards of [Ozzie]. If it is Your will, please restore him/her to health and strength. I pray, too, for other animals in need. May they be treated with the care and respect deserving of all Your creation. Blessed are You, Lord God, and holy is Your name for ever and ever. Amen.  

UPDATE:  Wow…that’s about all I can say…WOW!  Ozzie’s visit to the vet revealed incredibly elevated white cells and a need for IV fluids and a slew of medications…he was truly, critically ill…things happening that I just won’t describe here…the vet could give us no real guarantees.  There was an actual moment of crisis last night…I held him in my arms and truly begged God for his healing and restoration of health.  Within an hour, he bounded from my arms and was racing about the room, finally curling up on my husband’s lap to sleep.  This morning he is completely well…eating, drinking and playing.  Thank you for your prayers!

My big guy Michael looks quite well, too…the swelling is diminishing and the sutures look neat and clean…I feel he’ll have little scarring, just a very scary memory…God be praised!

What a great way to approach Thanksgiving…

Blessings,

What life looks like right now…

Hi there…remember me?  I used to blog here…but then life crept in along the edges and everywhere in between and my writing fell by the wayside.  I found myself posting little snippets, here and there on Facebook, but just couldn’t manage to do much more than that.  I’ve since severed my ties with that particular form of social media…perhaps permanently…we’ll see.  I’ve received so many precious and supportive emails asking me to return to this space and I realize I truly, truly miss my little journal of sorts.  I’ve missed visiting my other blogging friends, and even the way I ordered my day to allow for writing and reading.  I’m working on finding order and perspective…keeping that delicate balance between what I’d like to do and what must be done…bathing the whole thing in prayer and a real desire to live joyfully in the now…

So here’s what life looks like right now.  Chickens and kittens.  Children and chores.  Fun, family and focus on home. Working out our salvation in fear and trembling…

and joy.

God bless you, dear friends.  I hope to see you here a lot more in the future!

Blessings,

We are pro-life…

Just seventeen…

Cheerleader, gymnast and aspiring writer. Contestant in an upcoming national teen beauty pageant. Honor student, blue ribbon artist and art director for the school yearbook. Scholarship applicant to a prestigious women’s college. Nursing home volunteer and much-loved only daughter…

Pregnant.

As she looked in the full-length mirror, she tried to imagine how this would all play out. Her parents would be furious, disappointed…would they even want her anymore? Her friends, incredulous…her reputation had been above reproach, now she was the ultimate hypocrite. How could she even do this? She looked at her thin, small frame and tried to imagine how she would be able to conceal a pregnancy, or at least wondered how long she could.

And so she did. For four months she said nothing to no one. Her boyfriend had begun to suspect, and questioned her continually, swearing that he would stand by her…that he truly loved her and would love their child. She just couldn’t process the information…his love wasn’t enough to penetrate the dark fog that had begun to gather around her.

She contemplated abortion. She knew other girls who had done it. Was it really all that bad? Just a quick trip to the local clinic and good as new. Yet, somehow, in the depths of her heart she knew there would never be a “good as new” with such a decision. She knew there was a tiny life growing within her and she must protect it. So she waited as long as she possibly could before she told.

The reactions were as expected. Her boyfriend was supportive and insisted that they marry as soon as possible. Her parents were devastated and prophesied the end of all her hopes and dreams. Her friends laughed and said “right…good joke…you, pregnant? I don’t believe it…” Her tearful insistence soon demonstrated just how serious the situation was. In her small high school, teachers with hurtful/helpful suggestions visited her daily. She was mortified. Her head was filled with a chorus of “abort it!” “give it up!” “keep it!” She knew this nameless “it” was her child, yet she felt like such a child herself…

Her mother, who had always been so very proud of her good girl, was in total crisis. She left home for a week to visit her own mother, looking for solace during the emotional storm that was raging within the household. When she returned, she asked her daughter if she wanted an abortion. The poor, beleaguered child said, “no…I can’t…please don’t make me.” Her mother, weeping as though her heart would break said “I just don’t know what to do…but I won’t make you if you don’t want it. Years ago, I was forced into a decision like this, told that it was medically necessary to terminate my pregnancy. You were twelve…you never knew and I’ve never gotten over it. We’ll figure this out…” This sad teenager looked into her mother’s sorrowful eyes, heartbroken at having never known the burden and loss that she had carried for so many years for the child that had been taken  and mourned ever since. Now there was another child, unborn and waiting…its fate resting in the hands of this mother and her child.

The poor, worried mother of this pregnant teenager looked in the phonebook for help. Planned Parenthood seemed the most obvious choice…the ad said they offer pregnancy counseling and this poor family needed help. So, on a cold, windy-rainy April day, mother and daughter went to Planned Parenthood for advice. Oh, the irony of such a name for such an organization! There was never any talk of parenthood, planned or otherwise. This frightened girl and her mother were barraged with effective and compassionate insistence that the pregnancy be terminated; there was no other choice that could possibly be considered. How would this young woman with such a promising future ever manage a child? How could her frail body even accommodate a full-term pregnancy? These fear tactics were powerfully persuasive and for a brief moment both mother and daughter wavered. The mother said “I thought this was Planned Parenthood…that you helped girls who were going to be parents. Don’t you have any literature or at least the name of an obstetrician that my daughter could see? We aren’t looking for an abortion.” How hard it must have been for her to say those words! Yet she did, and the embarrassed “counselor” rifled through the bottom drawer of her desk and pulled out a couple pamphlets on fetal development. The young girl rifled through the first one, and quickly turned to the incredibly detailed photograph of a fetus, four months gestation, just the age of the little one that was growing inside her. She was shocked as she looked at two hands…ten fingers and ten toes…large eyes and delicate features…she looked back at the woman sitting at the desk, who was now looking in the phonebook for an obstetrician’s phone number and realized, with horror, that this woman had only ever considered the death and never the life of her child. She looked at the little one in the photo and placed her hand on her swollen abdomen…she had been feeling the slightest little fluttering for several days now, wondering what they were, but that picture seemed to confirm that her baby was moving inside her and not only was this child alive, it was…

…a life. A life separate and yet dependent upon her, even now in all her fear and uncertainty. There was only one direction from here…

With the love, encouragement and support of two families, this young girl…this young couple…succeeded in spite of every obstacle. A beautiful little girl with bright red hair and enormous blue eyes was born to them, and became the light of their lives, a joy they had never planned but praised God for. This young couple learned how to be husband and wife, mother and father, and welcomed another eight planned and unplanned miracles into their lives, never ceasing to marvel at the beauty of each new life. Grandchildren followed, a gift from that first little one saved from the horrors of abortion, and now mother to four precious little girls of her own.

And then another test. One cold November day, a frightened twenty-two year old called home and with sorrow and many tears, told her mother she was pregnant. Her boyfriend, who had become involved with another woman, had told her to abort the child, and for a brief moment, this young mother thought perhaps she should. Oh, the heartbreak! But the “choice” was really no choice at all…it was life, presenting itself under the most difficult and challenging circumstances and yet waiting to be affirmed. This sweet girl, with the help of her mother, father and extended family chose that LIFE. The pregnancy became complicated and both mother and child were in danger, yet after an emergency delivery and an extended stay in the NICU, a sweet little boy was welcomed into the family. He lights up his mother’s life and every room as soon as he enters…

This is my story.

I was that frightened seventeen year old girl who knew so very little of life, yet in choosing it for my unborn child, was given so much more than I ever dreamed. Nine children. Five grandchildren. An adoring husband of thirty one years and the most amazing and supportive parents on both sides. I could never have predicted the life of love and grace that came from that difficult choice, but I’ve since learned that God presents the best gifts under the most trying circumstances. We’ve tried hard to show appropriate thanks for all He’s given us and have never wavered in our understanding that God Himself is the ultimate giver and advocate for life.

“Pro-life.” It’s more than just a slogan on a banner or bumper sticker. It is what we do and how we choose to live. It is the way we vote, the way we worship and the way we think. There will always be difficulties to overcome, but it is in the overcoming that we show the depth of our love and trust in the goodness of God and in the beauty of living.

Blessings,

***This is a post I’ve promised my Father in Heaven for many years…it took awhile to find the words but the time seemed so right and I humbly thank the lovely women in my family for allowing me to share their part in this story.  It has been posted exactly 31 years and 2 days after the birth of my first child…to the minute…published at 12:18 a.m., the time of her birth.   Thank you for reading…***

The waiting game…

Thank you, my friends, for your prayers and patience with this very unfaithful blogger…

As previously revealed, our Rylee has been experiencing some very troubling symptoms for the past few months, but it seems we have a diagnosis, at last, though what happens next is still unclear.

A couple of weeks ago, Rylee had an MRI to determine the possible cause of her extreme spinal curve. This MRI gave us a detailed picture of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. We waited anxiously, fearful that the orthopedic surgeons feeling that she had a spinal tumor or cyst would be confirmed. The good news: no tumors, no cysts. The bad news: the cervical portion of the MRI revealed that the lower portion of the cerebellum was pressing upon the spinal column, thus causing the troubling curve and most likely the other neurological symptoms that she’s been experiencing.  This condition is called Chiari Malformation, and in rare instances causes very painful and sometimes debilitating problems.  There is no cure, only treatment and long-term management.

The following day, Rylee had an appointment with a very inexperienced and unprofessional neurologist, who had very little information and not a whole lot of compassion for this little girl’s ongoing suffering. In her opinion, six months wasn’t so very long, though I reminded her that six months in the life of a nine-year old represents a significant percentage of the time she’s been on this earth. Needless to say, we will be looking for another neurologist with actual experience with this condition.   Nonetheless, we are so thankful for the wonderful information that we are receiving through support groups and other medical professionals, as we sift through a mountain of information.

Rylee has another appointment with her pediatric orthopedist on December 12th, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  She will most likely be fitted for a brace at that time, and we are praying that we will be on the path to address the neurological aspects of her condition and will have a more comprehensive treatment plan.  At present, she is receiving very little relief from her constant pain, despite medication, though she is as cheerful and good-natured as can be.  We had the great blessing of ten days of distraction with the grandparents, Caitlin, Harry and Ben; as well as her beloved Uncle Fell and Aunt Amy.  A lovely week of family and fun that lifted everyone’s spirits and reminds us just how precious family time is and the necessity of joyful playtime with the ones we love best.  As soon as our last guests left, Rylee’s complaints increased, and she told me that it was so much easier to bear the pain when she was having fun.  God bless my sweet girl…

Thank you for your continued prayers.  There’s a big part of me that just wants to crawl in a hole and not have to fight and scrap for the right doctor and the right treatment…it seems that it should just be available…alas, that is simply not the case.  I’m so thankful for the brief interlude with family, that let us put this aside for a little while, but it’s back to business now.   Our good God never places a burden upon us that is more than we can carry, and I’m so thankful for the faith that sustains this family at all times.  God bless you, my friends…never, ever take the health and wellness of your children for granted!

Blessings,

An oddly shaped cross…

…awaits my youngest girl. Nine year old Rylee Elizabeth has idiopathic scoliosis and will soon need to be fitted for a brace which she will wear 23.5 hours per day for the next several years. There is much concern, as we await the results of genetic testing which will determine the course of her condition and as we anticipate tomorrow’s MRI, which has been ordered to explore the possible causes of this unusual “curve” in one so young. Rylee has been experiencing intermittent hearing loss and migraines, as well as significant back pain for the past couple  months and has seen a variety of specialists. Her doctors are concerned that there may be some “anomaly” which may be attached to her spine and auditory nerves.

This is my baby…my youngest child and I’ve distanced myself as much as humanly possible from thinking about it for the past few weeks, and have even been oddly at peace. But today at Mass it all caved in on me and I found myself momentarily terrified. Wiping my tears, I had to remember what I told Rylee about the brace…how God sometimes gives us oddly shaped crosses…and that hers just might be in the shape of this brace.  Now I must embrace my own “oddly shaped cross…” which, I think in this case, is my dread fear of the unknown…fear that pain and suffering await my innocent child…fear of all those dark unspoken things that crowd into one’s mind in the still, quiet times.

Today we picked apples…and tomorrow Rylee will be sedated for an hour long MRI and I beg your prayers for her. We’re trying so hard to keep everything on a low stress, no stress level…laughing and joking about getting to sleep through a test, and giving her as much fun and relaxation as we’ve been able for the past couple of weeks.  Still…she’s nervous, yet totally unaware that her doctors are looking for anything other than the curve of her spine.

Jesus, mercy upon her! Holy Angels protect her! St. Therese…we beg your intercession.

Thank you for your prayers…

Happy Feast of St. Michael the Archangel!

I hope you won’t remind a repost for this feast day…and I hope you’ll only quickly read and then proceed to celebrate the day in a very special way…Happy Feast of St. Michael…Happy Michaelmas!

MICHAEL

A name which is battle cry, question and statement of faith:

Who is like God?

WHO is like God?

Who IS like God?

Who is LIKE God?

Who is like GOD?

St. Michael in Time of Peace, by G.K. Chesterton

Michael, Michael: Michael of the Morning,
Michael of the Army of the Lord,
Stiffen thou the hand upon the still sword, Michael,
Folded and shut upon the sheathed sword, Michael,
Under the fullness of the white robes falling,
Gird us with the secret of the sword.

When the world cracked because of a sneer in heaven,
Leaving out for all time a scar upon the sky,
Thou didst rise up against the Horror in the highest,
Dragging down the highest that looked down on the Most High:
Rending from the seventh heaven the hell of exaltation
Down the seven heavens till the dark seas burn:
Thou that in thunder threwest down the Dragon
Knowest in what silence the Serpent can return.

Down through the universe the vast night falling
(Michael, Michael: Michael of the Morning!)
Far down the universe the deep calms calling
(Michael, Michael: Michael of the Sword!)
Bid us not forget in the baths of all forgetfulness,
In the sigh long drawn from the frenzy and the fretfulness
In the huge holy sempiternal silence
In the beginning was the Word.

When from the deeps of dying God astounded
Angels and devils who do all but die
Seeing Him fallen where thou couldst not follow,
Seeing Him mounted where thou couldst not fly,
Hand on the hilt, thou hast halted all thy legions
Waiting the Tetelestai and the acclaim,
Swords that salute Him dead and everlasting
God beyond God and greater than His Name.

Round us and over us the cold thoughts creeping
(Michael, Michael: Michael of the battle-cry!)
Round us and under us the thronged world sleeping
(Michael, Michael: Michael of the Charge!)
Guard us the Word; the trysting and the trusting
Edge upon the honour and the blade unrusting
Fine as the hair and tauter than the harpstring
Ready as when it rang upon the targe.

He that giveth peace unto us; not as the world giveth:
He that giveth law unto us; not as the scribes:
Shall he be softened for the softening of the cities
Patient in usury; delicate in bribes?
They that come to quiet us, saying the sword is broken,
Break man with famine, fetter them with gold,
Sell them as sheep; and He shall know the selling
For He was more than murdered. He was sold.

Michael, Michael: Michael of the Mustering,
Michael of the marching on the mountains of the Lord,
Marshal the world and purge of rot and riot
Rule through the world till all the world be quiet:
Only establish when the world is broken
What is unbroken is the word.

A VERY HAPPY MICHAELMAS…MAY ST. MICHAEL GUARD AND PROTECT YOU AND YOURS!

Blessings,

P.S. A fantastic coloring page (click the image to enlarge and print) and my post on how our family observes Michaelmas…off to bake a bannock!

Of boys and Legos…again.

Ah, Legos…

Having once again sorted, stepped upon and screamed over the growing pile, I felt the need to reminisce…and smile over my musings two years ago:

Lego: from the Danish, LEg GOdt: play 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,

The Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary

From the archives…


September 12th marks the traditional Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary. Here are few lovely quotes and observations about our Lady’s Most Holy Name:

Pondering the Meaning of “Mary”

In Hebrew, the name Mary is Miryam. In Our Lady’s time, Aramaic was the spoken language, and the form of the name then in use was Mariam. Derived from the root, merur, the name signifies “bitterness.”

Miryam was the name of the sister of Moses; and the ancient rabbinical scholars perceiving in it a symbol of the slavery of the Israelites at the hands of the Egyptians, held that Miryam was given this name because she was born during the time of the oppression of her people. The Old Testament, chronicling as it does the “Time of Expectation” of the Redeemer, is filled with “types,” or foreshadowings of people and events which would be made manifest during the “Time of Redemption,” when. Christ walked the earth. Jesus Mary and Joseph, the Sacrament of Baptism, the Eucharist, the Sacrifice of Calvary, etc., are all foreshadowed in the Old Testament, but we view them there “through a glass darkly,” so to speak, under the guidance of the Catholic Church, which alone possesses the authority to interpret the sacred texts.

Miryam, the sister of Moses is a “type” of the Blessed Virgin. Miryam was a prophetess who sang a canticle of thanksgiving after the safe crossing of the Red Sea and the destruction of Pharaoh’s army; Mary prophesied in Her Magnificat that all generations would honor Her, and She sang of how God would topple the proud and raise the lowly. Miryam supported her brother, Moses, the liberator of his people; as the Co-Redemptrix who united Her sufferings to those of the One Mediator on Calvary, Mary labored alongside the Redeemer, the true Liberator of His people. Just as Jesus was the “antitype” [i.e., fulfillment] of Moses, so was Our Lady the “antitype” of Miryam, the fullest realization of the courageous woman standing beside, and laboring with, the one who comes to free captives.

Throughout the centuries, Saints and scholars have put forth different interpretations for the name “Mary.” A mixture of etymology and devotion has combined to produce an interesting array of meanings:

“Mary means enlightener, because She brought forth the Light of the world. In the Syriac tongue, Mary signifies Lady.” [St. Isidore of Seville +636]

“Let me say something concerning this name also, which is interpreted to mean Star of the sea, and admirably suits the Virgin Mother.” [St. Bernard +1153]

“Mary means Star of the sea, for as mariners are guided to port by the ocean star, so Christians attain to glory through Mary’s maternal intercession.” [St. Thomas Aquinas +1274]

“This most holy, sweet and worthy name was ’eminently fitted to so holy, sweet and worthy a virgin. For Mary means a bitter sea, star of the sea, the illuminated or illuminatrix. Mary is interpreted Lady. Mary is a bitter sea to the demons; to men She is the Star of the sea; to the Angels She is illuminatrix, and to all creatures She is Lady .” [St. Bonaventure +1274]

“God the Father gathered all the waters together and called them the seas or maria [Latin, seas]. He gathered all His grace together and called it Mary or Maria . . .This immense treasury is none other than Mary whom the Saints call the ‘treasury of the Lord.’ From Her fullness all men are made
rich;” [St. Louis de Montfort +1716]

The hallowed title, “Star of the Sea,” dates back to St. Jerome [+420]. It has been said that the great Doctor had originally used the phrase Stilla Maris to describe Mary as a “drop of the sea,” the sea being God. A copyist’s error, then, could have resulted in stilla [drop] being written down as stella [star]. Of course, the hallowed title, “Star of the Sea,” suits Our Lady perfectly:

” ‘And the Virgin’s name was Mary.’ Let us say a few things about this name, which can be interpreted to mean Star of the sea, an apt designation for the Virgin Mother. She is most beautifully likened to a star, for a star pours forth its light without losing anything of its nature. She gave us Her Son without losing anything of Her virginity. The glowing rays of a star take nothing away from its beauty. N either has the Son taken anything away from His Mother’s integrity.

“She is that noble star of Jacob, illuminating the whole world, penetrating from the highest heavens to the deepest depths of Hell. The warmth of Her brilliance shines in the minds of men, encouraging virtue, extinguishing vice. She is that glorious star lighting the way across this vast ocean of life, glowing with merits, guiding by example.

“When you find yourself tossed by the raging storms on this great sea of life, far from land, keep your eyes fixed on this Star to avoid disaster. When the winds of temptation or the rocks of tribulation threaten, look up to the Star, call upon Mary!” [St. Bernard, Second Homily on the Missus Est]

The interpretation “Lady” for Mary was also proposed by St. Jerome, based on the Aramaic word, mar, meaning “Lord”. This would render the meaning “Lady” in the regal or noble sense [as in “Lord and Lady.”] Catholic sensibility, however, recognizing in Mary the simple dignity of a Mother, as well as the grandeur of a Queen, did not hesitate to add an affectionate touch to this majestic title. Mary is not just “Lady;” She is “Madonna,” Notre Dame—–i.e., She is Our Lady. This aspect of Mary —–“Lady” or “Mistress”—–is close to Our Lord’s Heart. We read in the Scriptures how, for a time, the youthful Christ made Himself “subject” to Her and St. Joseph, an act of Divine condescension which caused St. Bernard to wonder:

“Which shall we admire first? The tremendous submission of the Son of God, or the tremendous God-given dignity of the Mother of God? Both are marvels: both amazing. When God obeys a woman, it is humility without precedent. When a woman commands her God, it is sublime beyond measure.” [First Homily on the Missus Est]

It is not difficult to see why these various interpretations of the name “Mary” should have been proposed and cherished, for they encapsulate many of our Marian doctrines and beliefs. “Bitter sea [mara = bitter; yam = sea],” for instance, in addition to the interpretation given by St. Bonaventure, also calls to mind Our Lady’s Seven Sorrows and the sword which “pierced” Her soul on Calvary, recalling the lamentation of the mother-in-law of Ruth, who had lost a husband and two sons: “Call me not Noemi, [that is, beautiful,] but call me Mara, [that is, bitter,] for the Almighty hath quite filled me with bitterness [Rt. 1: 20].” Maror are “bitter herbs,” such as are found on the seder plate at Passover.

The “Illuminated” points us to St. John’s apocalyptic image of the “Woman clothed with the Sun,” a dual image encompassing both the Catholic Church and Mary, the Mother and Image of the Church. In addition, the “Illuminated” has also been rendered as the “Enlightener” and, like St. Bernard, St. Aelred [+1167] combines this meaning with that of the Stella Maris in a powerful passage:

“Therefore a certain Star has risen for us today: Our Lady, Saint Mary. Her name means Star of the sea; no doubt the Star of this sea which is the world. Therefore, we ought to lift up our eyes to this Star that has appeared on earth today in order that She may lead us, in order that She may enlighten us, in order that She may show us these steps so that we shall know them, in order that She may help us so that we may be able to ascend. And therefore it is a beautiful thing that Mary is placed in this stairway of which we are speaking, there where we must begin to climb. As the Evangelist says, Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, so immediately at the very moment of our conversion She appears to us and receives us into Her care and enlightens us in Her light and accompanies us along this laborious path.” [Sermon 24, For the Nativity of Holy Mary]

There is another interpretation for the name “Mary” which is quite interesting in that it relates to the Church as well. This supposes the name to be derived from the Hebrew verb mara, meaning “to be fleshy or robust. In the East, such descriptions implying corpulence were used to indicate beauty and fecundity. Here, then, Our Lady’s name would indicate “The Beautiful One,” quite fitting for the Immaculate Conception. [Tota Pulchra Es, M aria!—–“You are all beautiful, Mary!”] The Psalms prophetically describe the Church in this manner, all alluding to the fruitfulness and spiritual gifts of the Holy Ghost:

“The mountain of God is a fat mountain. A curdled mountain, a fat mountain . . . A mountain in which God is well pleased to dwell.” [Ps. 67:16-17]

This image resonates with the prophecy of Isaias concerning the New Dispensation [and the Church], and with the words of Our Lord:

“And in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills, and all the nations shall flow unto it [Is. 2: 2] . . . You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a mountain cannot be hid.” [Mt. 5: 14]

It is here that the Psalms intersect with St. John’s Apocalyptic vision, to present the maternal function of the Church, a virginal maternity mirroring that of Our Lady, which begets new “brethren” of Christ, new sons and daughters of Mary [“the rest of Her seed,” as Catholics are called by St. John in his Apocalypse] and new children of God the Father:

“But as many as received Him, He gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in His name. Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” [Jn. 1: 12-13]

“The foundations thereof are in the holy mountains: The Lord loveth the gates of Sion above all the tabernacles of Jacob. Glorious things are said of Thee, O city of God . . . Shall not Sion say: This man and that man is born in Her? And the Highest Himself hath founded Her.” [Ps. 86: 1-3, 5]

The inspired texts prophesy that the Church will be “exalted”—–It shall be exalted above the hills, and all the nations shall flow unto it. So, too, will be the Mother of the Church, She who prophesied that “all generations shall call Me blessed.” Another proposed meaning for the Blessed Virgin’s name reflects this exaltation, the majesty of the Queen of Heaven. It derives from ancient Canaanite literature, where the word mrym [pronounced somewhat like Maryam] means “height” [sharing the same derivation as marom, the Hebrew word for “height”]. This would render Mary’s name as “Highness” or “The Exalted One.”

This fascinating—–and very, very Catholic—–desire to explore the meaning and depths of the holy name of “Mary” is not merely a pious pursuit, unrelated to any theological concerns. In the various interpretations set forth, a wealth of Marian doctrine is made manifest, not in the clinical language of theology , but in rich, colorful meditations on Our Lady’s name, and sacred truths are explored and taught in language easily comprehended and appreciated by all.

In his fine book, The Wondrous Childhood of the Most Holy Mother of God, St. John Eudes [+1680] offers meditations on seventeen interpretations of the name “Mary,” taken from the writings of “the Holy Fathers and by some celebrated Doctors. “Among these are “God born of my race,” [St. Ambrose] “Rain of the sea, falling at convenient time and season,” [St. Peter Canisius] “Myrrh of the Sea,” [St. Jerome] and “The hope of those who voyage on the stormy sea of this world.” [St. Epiphanius] It is quite clear—–from Scripture, Tradition and history—–that the Church owes so much to Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother “in the order of grace.” How does the gratitude and affection of Her spiritual children manifest itself in the beautiful Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, and what does this cherished name mean to those who love and venerate the Mother of God?

excerpt from September 2001 edition of Catholic Family News

Beneath the surface…

In the eyes of the casual observer and nearest neighbor, chaos and disorder seem to reign supreme. After all, there are way too many children for any family to manage and the house is just too small. The yard is messy, the grass is desperately in need of mowing and the weeds have begun to fill in all the edges and empty spaces. In the center of the yard is a large sandbox, unused, the remnants of a few broken toys remain nestled between the dandelions and the ant hill.

The large garden plot is the one glory of the property, surrounded by walls of corn…it is lush and verdant as a tropical rainforest, giving up its harvest in grateful appreciation for the care and nurturance it has received throughout the season. But…the flowers that surround the porch, so very beautiful in the early part of spring, are looking worse for wear; coleus and begonias have been trampled by the many barn cats that prowl the property.

On the front porch, there is a can filled with cigarette butts and the smell of tobacco hangs heavy in the air while the porch light still burns from the night before. In the past few weeks there have three police cars and an ambulance…surely that means something? Then there are the cars, two of them in varying states of disrepair, one missing its battery, the other an old Mercedes wagon, many years past its prime.

“Ah,” opines the observer/neighbor, “this family is a scandal. There is something seriously amiss here…just look at the state of things! I think perhaps I’ll leave a Christian tract in the mail to gently show them the error of their ways. After all, it is the charitable thing to do…”

Yet…if the neighbor were to look a little more closely, or perhaps gently inquire, the picture might alter considerably…

The neighbor would realize that the reason the yard is so unkempt is that the large commercial mower that the father of the family has used for many years to keep the yard so beautifully trimmed, is broken, the repairs so expensive that the he simply can’t justify denying the family its needs for his vanity regarding the yard. He’s a former landscape business owner and the state of the yard is an exercise in complete humility for him. The barn cats that trample the flowers are an inheritance from every cruel soul that has felt they were doing the creatures a kindness by depositing them in the country. This family, that strives so hard to provide for its own necessities, has found it difficult to get rid of them…they prowl about the property, ridding it of outdoor pests…there are no rabbits eating the produce…and they only beg an occasional bowl of food and scratch behind the ears…

And the sandbox…the empty sandbox. It is a source of sorrow, as mother and father watch the “too many children” grow up and away from such simple joys. There is always hope that a grandchild or two might one day make use of it, so it stands waiting for little children and their shovels…

And were the neighbor so bold to ask, he might discover that those cigarettes, the ambulance and police cars…were all evidence of the crisis that is currently being lived by another family…a family that is under the care and protection of these “chaotic” neighbors…a temporary charge, solemnly undertaken under the direction and request of a priest…and undertaken as an act of charity: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers that you do unto Me also…”

The old cars are a testimony of another sort. The battery of one, sacrificed to help these friends in need. And the poor, old Mercedes? Like the battery-less car, it was a donation from a friend and one that served the family for many years, and it still has many years left in it…yet the family never seems to have the funds to complete the necessary repairs…

But if the neighbor looks more closely and listens intently, he will hear the sounds of laughter and joy that emanate from the family. He will see that the family, despite its sorrows and trials, is close and loving…that the children are courteous, kind and obedient…the husband and wife work together, despite weariness, to imbue an appreciation for the simple joys of life. And were he to be invited in, he might notice that the house isn’t as cramped as he imagined…that the interior is cozy and cheerful, and the family itself is grateful for the comfort of their humble home. He might even notice that the children are clean and neatly attired, and that small niches of beauty are scattered about the dwelling.

Perhaps the neighbor would realize that his judgment was made based upon a surface evaluation and that his assumption that the family “just needs to be saved” is uncharitable to the extreme. Perhaps the neighbor might even pray for the family and acknowledge that the way of the cross isn’t pretty…the path is messy and even bloody. But it is the way of salvation and one that every true Christian is asked to travel.

Blessings,

A Graduation…home school style!

Zachary Deland Wasson, first-born son of Roger and Kimberly Wasson, graduated from Sacred Heart Academy on June 15th, 2012…which was, consequently, the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

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What a home school graduation looks like…at least around here:

There are lots of people…

Speeches…

A diploma…

More food than this very large crowd could eat…

A cake…

Embarassing and adorable photos…

Sibling love…and more cake!

A surprise rainbow…

Adults who aren’t afraid to embarass the graduate…or themselves, for that matter!

Lots of memories…

Congratulations, Zachary!  We’re so proud of you and it was a privilege sharing the journey with you…

Love,

Mom and Dad

 

Sacred Heart Strawberry Muffins

Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus!

This Feast Day is especially important to our family…after all, we are Sacred Heart Academy!  Fifteen years ago, we enthroned the Sacred Heart of Jesus in our home.  We have kept His image in a place of prominence.  Today, we remember His promises and ours.

Our mantle, dedicated to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus…

Today is also special as we acknowledge the graduation of our oldest son, Zachary.  As a graduate of Sacred Heart Academy, it seems only fitting to mark his graduation on this day.  On June 30th, will mark it again…with a magnificent BBQ and Luau…attended by a multitude of friends and family…

Meanwhile…

How about a Sacred Heart Muffin, to mark this day?  I worked around another muffin recipe of mine, adding a few things and taking away a few others, and this is what I came up with.  If the delicious aroma wafting from my kitchen is any indication, these muffins are sure fire winners!

After all…don’t strawberries remind you of the Sacred Heart of Jesus?  I’ve always thought so…

And fresh, chopped strawberries combined with Greek yogurt are a delightful combination…so why not in a muffin?

Did I mention that these are gluten free?  But you can easily substitute the GF flour with all purpose…

Here’s the recipe:

Sacred Heart Strawberry Muffins

Preheat oven to 375…grease or line muffin tins…yields 24

2 2/3 cups GF flour blend or all purpose flour (If you don’t have a GF blend, you may combine 1 1/3 cup brown rice flour, 1 1/3 sweet rice flour and 2 T. cornstarch)

1 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum (omit if using all purpose flour)

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 stick softened butter

8 oz. Greek yogurt (you can use vanilla…I prefer Greek!)

1/2 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups washed and chopped fresh strawberries

Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar

4 T milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Add yogurt, milk, softened butter, vanilla and egg.  Mix…add additional milk if necessary…batter will be thick.  Add strawberries.  Spoon into muffin tins and bake at 375 for about 18 minutes…

Say “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in You!” and enjoy…

Blessings,

Love Letter to My Dad…

Dad.

It was the word that I wanted to use the most, when I was six years old.  You see, my biological father wasn’t really a Dad…he’d never really been there for Mom or my brother and I.  He wasn’t a bad person.  He just wasn’t really a father.  But Mom was amazing.  She worked so hard, putting in long hours as a clerk in a department store, but she was never too tired to take us to the park, push us on the swings and answer endless questions.  Yet, there was one question that I, as the oldest had, and that was “why don’t I have a dad like the other kids at school?”  I remember telling a little girl on the playground that my dad was dead…it seemed the easiest explanation to give, when I couldn’t say “hey…over there by my Mom…that’s my Dad” and when I couldn’t really give a physical or mental description.  So very young, and yet I knew that something…someone…was missing.

Mom persevered.  She had one goal and that was to provide a father…a real father for her children and a loving, devoted husband for herself.  She knew she could be a good wife and she was an excellent mother.  She was and is still, so extraordinarily beautiful.  She never, ever lacked for attention.  But the first test for any potential suitor was his reaction to her children and his understanding that it was a “package deal.”  There were a few failures…not many, because mom was so very selective, wanting only the very best and most decent person in her life and the lives of her children. And then along came this handsome, incredibly tall, red-haired man.  Brilliant to the point of eccentricity…you wrote her the most eloquent, intellectual and odd letter requesting a date.  It revealed so much about you and instantly conveyed a level of respect that she hadn’t experienced, despite her extreme selectivity.
She accepted and thus began the journey that would give mom, my brother and I, the family that we all longed for.  She loved you because you loved us.  She saw in you this amazing man who would be an amazing father and that made her love you even more. I remember the first time I saw you…you were so tall, I was awed in your presence and I wanted nothing more than to show you that I was the best and smartest little girl, ever.  I brought you my report card…all A’s…and you smiled, and said in your deep, low voice “that’s very good…you are a very smart girl.” You’ve been telling me that, ever since, Dad…and I still work so hard to make you proud, because you’ve given me so much of who I am.  You were always my cheerleader and encourager, a tough disciplinarian, but honest and fair as few people on this earth are.  Your moral standards were so very high and yet neither my brother nor I felt that we would never measure up.  We always knew what to expect from you.  Faithful and consistent as a good father should be…that was and still is, you!

As I’ve grown older, I’ve often contemplated the miracle of how God built our little family.  Understanding that God the Father handpicked St. Joseph to be Jesus’ father, helped me to understand how He did the very same thing for me!  He picked the very best Dad, ever…and gave Mom the wisdom and virtue to discern the importance of honorable manliness, kindness, fidelity and all-around goodness.

I praise God for you, Dad…

I praise God for the love you give my Mom, which helped show me the kind of man I wanted in my life…my husband is so very like you.  I praise God for the way you loved me and my brother, always encouraging us to be good and honest and decent…we certainly didn’t have to be and often weren’t, but you gave us an excellent example to look upon and to emulate.  I praise God for your faith…the image of you kneeling to receive the Sacraments…kneeling to put tiny little crosses in the ground to recognize the victims of abortion…kneeling as a Knight and Soldier of Christ…kneeling in prayer.  I praise God for the way you can weep over the death of a kitten…laugh at the corny antics of grandchildren…express anger for injustice and insincerity…and still give praise for the good, the true, the beautiful. I praise God for the way you’ve opened your home to Grandma, in these latter years of her life, understanding what a tremendous outpouring of generosity this requires.

I praise God that you’re my Dad.

Happy Father’s Day to us all…it’s yet another holiday that has significance that is shared in our family and I thank you for being my Dad.

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