February 26, 2012

Ember Wednesday

Remember, this Wednesday is the first Ember Wednesday of the Church year!  See my post here for all the details on the ancient feasts of "Ember Days".  You won't want to miss this special opportunity to join the universal Church (because that's what "catholic" means, you know -- universal!) in prayer and fasting during Lent.

Many hands make light work!  Let's carry each other and the cross of Christ -- together!

February 21, 2012

Only the Fearless Can Be Great

Ever see the Disney cartoon movie "Ratatouille"?  In an early scene, the protagonist (a rat with a love of cooking) receives the following advice from his mentor, an enormously famous, successful, Parisian chef and restauranteur:

"Cooking is not for the faint of heart.  You must be imaginative, strong!  You must try things that may not work.  You must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from.  Your only limit is your soul.  What I say is true!  Anyone can cook.  But, only the fearless can be great!"

These now-familiar lines came drifting out of our family room as our children watched this movie the other day.  When I heard this passage again for the third or fourth time, it struck me that this advice also could apply to our prayer life.

How often have we cowered in prayer, sought refuge in bland platitudes, or merely mouthed memorized words?  How often have we allowed our minds to be distracted, to drift aimlessly, or to simply shrug and throw up our hands, baffled by what we perceived to be a lack of response to our (honestly) weak and lame attempts to communicate with the Almighty?

Be brave!  Be strong!  Be courageous!

Tell God your problems.  Tell Him the gory details.  Tell Him why you are frowning in frustration.  Tell Him your needs.  Tell Him your woes.  Complain to Him!

Tell Him the most amazing thing your kid said or did today.  Tell Him breathlessly how thrilled you are with your latest accomplishment at school or at work.  Tell Him how happy you are that the new puppy finally got potty-trained.  Rejoice with Him!

Tell Him you love Him.  Tell Him how much you want to thank Him for the many blessings you enjoy.  Tell Him He's the best dad ever.  Tell Him every breath you take and every move you make is done all for the glory of Him.  Praise Him!

Gush!  Moan!  Squeal!  Whine!  Clap!  Cheer!  Groan!  Grin!

And then be still and know that He is God.


Listen for His voice.

When Elijah journeyed into the wilderness, he did not hear the voice of the Lord in the violent wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire.  He heard God's voice in a nearly silent whisper (I Kings 19).  And Elijah was humble before it.

For you see, God doesn't need you to tell Him all about your life.  He doesn't need you to tell Him any of that.  He already knows your wants, your needs, your joys and sufferings.

But, He wants you to tell Him.  Just as an earthly parent listens with indulgent love to his child detailing a latest achievement, so too does God want you to love Him so much that He is the first person to whom you are dying to tell your latest triumph, tragedy, secret, or story.  He wants you to seek His input, His ear, His advice.  He wants you to talk to Him and consult with Him all day.  He wants you to love Him so much that every corner, every aspect of your life becomes filled with your desire to tell Him, to converse with Him, to listen to Him.

To know, love, and serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.

Prayer is not for the faint of heart.  You must be imaginative, strong!  You must try things that may not work.  You must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from.  Your only limit is your soul.  What I say is true!  Anyone can pray.  But, only the fearless can be great!

The one to Whom we sing, "How Great Thou Art!" is there.  He is there waiting.  For you.  Always.  Whether you approach Him boldly or timidly on any given day, go to Him.  Seek His presence.  Seek His counsel.  Demand His attention.

And be humble, gracious, and thankful in receiving it.

Then soon, before you know it, before even the end of Lent maybe, you will be great in prayer.  Great in the frequency of your contact with the Lord.  Great in your confidence and trust in Him.  Great in your example to your loved ones and children.  Great in your love for He Who has given it all to you.

Be brave!  Be strong!  Be courageous!

Be assured of God's love for you.  Now put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a great catch.

February 14, 2012

Happy Heart Day....!?

Is it just me, or did anyone else notice the plethora of Valentine's Day greetings this year which not only (once again) ignored the saintly origin of the holy day (from which we derive the word, "holiday"), but even excluded the saint's name altogether?  Instead, a graphic of a heart or even the actual word, "heart", was featured in the title greeting, thus rendering the salutation, "Happy Heart Day!", as in, "I [*heart*] NY!" or "I [*heart*] My Pekinese!"

Yes, my friends, here is yet another example of the secular commercialization of what was once a Christian holy day and now slowly has become a rabid excuse for excessive materialism.  Don't get me wrong -- I'm just as thrilled as the next girl to give and receive chocolates, flowers, and expressions of undying devotion from a loved one (...okay, just before Lent, especially the chocolates part).

But, amidst it all, I pause and marvel sadly at the subtle ability of the evil one to stuff our gaping maws with more unnecessary, worldly, marshmallow fluff, utterly diverting our attention from the real gift of love: Christ on the cross.  That's why Valentine died (all 14 of them -- see my other post today).  Not just for intense, but nonetheless limited, earthly love, whether passionate or filial, but for eternal love, so we may come to know, love, and serve Him in this world and be happy with Him forever in the next.

That's what St. Valentine's Day is all about, Charlie Brown.

So this year, if you are buying your sweetie a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers, consider also gifting him or her with a Spiritual Bouquet, your own personally crafted gift of prayer.  Plus, it's free!  Whether your Valentine is a friend, a spouse, your children, or another loved one, pray that you both may arrive someday at The Pearly Gates, ready to welcome each other in to the presence of God.

What a celebration of love that will be! 

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

While the Church recognizes 14 saintly martyrs named Valentine, the earliest known one was St. Valentinus, a 3rd century Catholic who refused to obey Emperor Claudius The Cruel's dictate to worship 12 gods.  Valentinus was arrested and imprisoned.  His jailer surreptitiously asked Valentinus to teach his blind daughter, Julia.  Valentinus taught her the beauty of God's creation, as well as how to pray.  Julia believed and humbly prayed for healing, which God granted in a flash of bright light.  On the eve of Valentinus's execution (February 14, 270 A.D.), he wrote Julia a note encouraging her always to stay close to God, and signed it, "From Your Valentine."

And that, in the immortal words of Paul Harvey, is the rest of the story!

February 11, 2012

Feast of St. Scholastica

Today is the feast of St. Scholastica.  I've always loved how she went over her brother, St. Benedict's, head to jump up the chain of command and get what she wanted!

Oh.  You're not familiar with that story?  Well!

St. Scholastica was the twin sister of St. Benedict, and both went on to found holy orders at Monte Cassino, Italy, within five miles of each other.  The two would meet at a farmhouse between their respective religious houses to discuss all things holy in life.  At what was to be their last meeting, Scholastica sensed she soon would be called home to God, and asked Benedict to stay in the farmhouse for the night, so the two could stay up throughout the evening continuing their discussions.

Benedict, being a good Rule-follower (having, um, written the actual monastic rule), refused to do so, as he did not want to violate his own rule and spend the night outside a monastery.  Greatly distressed, Scholastica prayed fervently to God.  Shortly thereafter, a violent storm arose outside, preventing Benedict and his humble entourage from leaving.

"Sister!" he exclaimed.  "What have you done!?"

Scholastic smiled.  "I asked you for a favor, and you refused.  I asked God and He granted it."

Three days later, back inside the walls of his own monastery, Benedict beheld the soul of his sister rising to heaven in the form of a dove.  He buried her within the sepulchre he had built for himself.

Here's a copy of our favorite book here at home, telling the whole tale in brilliant form (you can purchase it here - scroll down to the direct link to Amazon in the right sidebar):

So remember, it's God whom you should ask whenever you REALLY need a favor!  Enjoy!

February 9, 2012

Homeschool Support Groups

If you homeschool, I strongly urge you to join a local support group with a similar faith, style, and values to yours.  We definitely are not "group therapy" type of people, but I don't know what I would do without the contact, interaction, shared faith, play time, and sustenance of our homeschool group.  Our affinity is so strong that when our national entity disbanded, our local group (within one week!) took steps to form a new organization, a non-profit, and a bank account so we seamlessly could continue the support and activity of our educational faith family.

How truly grateful I am!

Really, where else can you take your eight year old daughter to a gathering of her shrieking, giggling peers (in this case, Little Flowers, which basically is like Catholic Girl Scouts, but is focused on our faith) and learn on the way home that one of the hot topics of their conversation was to determine on which day each girl goes to Adoration?  (They had almost the whole week covered!)

Find "your people" and mesh with them.  Sign up.  Show up.  Get involved.  Their children are the people you want your children to learn from, and vice versa.

May God bless the families of our homeschool group in the same measure as they have brought joy to ours!

Senator Rick Santorum IS Horton!

Dear Senator Santorum,

Ever read Horton Hears a Who! ?

I am Jo-Jo from Who-ville in Apartment J-12.

I am a Catholic homeschooling mother of six children, one of whom has special needs.

I am supporting your campaign now.

And I have a gift for you: your next ad.  It's going to be a home run, and here's why:

When you swept three states, I thought, "I'm going to pray a rosary tonight that Rick Santorum becomes our nominee."  Then I thought -- what if my tiny prayer puts Senator Santorum over the top?  What if my plea is the one to tip the scales for his success!?  Just as Horton the elephant fought for the Whos' right to exist on that small speck, Senator Santorum is fighting for the ignored middle-America.  And just as the Whos were ignored until they all made themselves heard (when "that one small extra 'Yopp!' put it over!"), we can and we WILL win your nomination by uniting conservatives ALL!

- The media are the Wickersham Brothers monkeys.
- Americans are the Whos of Who-ville fighting for their lives and livelihoods on that speck.
- Barack Obama is the eagle Vlad Vlad-i-koff (who tells us, "Quit your yapping!" and "I think you will fail.")
- And YOU, Senator, are Horton.

Save us, Senator Santorum!  We are prepared to sound our barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.  Lead us!  Save us!  Save our country from the fundamentally changed path
on which Barack Obama has placed us.  Repeal Obamacare!  Reform the culture of government dependency!  Revive inherent American resilience and individual exceptionalism!  Restore our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!

Be the Republican nominee, and approve this message!  :-)

Thank you, Senator, for your generous time, which I know with both your family and your campaign is at a premium.  May God continue to bless you for your valor, integrity, and perseverance.  Always be assured of our prayers!  (Our homeschool group was praying for Bella!)