March 21, 2012

Our Lady of Czestochowa

As a busy mother (yes, I know that's redundant), I'm always looking for quick ways to reconsecrate myself to Our Lord and Our Lady throughout the day.  Otherwise, it's going to be a quick trip to H-E-double-hockey sticks for me!

Here's a wonderful little prayer I encourage you to pray each day to Our Lady of Czestochowa (pronounced chess-ta-HOV-ah, with the penultimate syllable stressed), courtesy of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, PA:

Holy Mother of Czestochowa, Thou art full of grace, goodness, and mercy.  I consecrate to Thee all my thoughts, words, and actions, my soul and body.  I beseech Thy blessings and especially prayers for my salvation.  Today, I consecrate myself to Thee, Good Mother, totally, with body and soul, amid joy and sufferings, to obtain for myself and others Thy blessings on this earth and eternal life in Heaven.  Amen.

While you're at it, you can offer up this prayer not only for yourself and your family, but also for the cause for canonization of Blessed Pope John Paul II, a native Pole and strong devotee of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the patron saint of Poland.


March 19, 2012

It Ad Joseph (Go To Joseph!)

St. Patrick's Day was a high feast day around our house this weekend!  We practically painted the house and everything in it shamrock green!  Even one of our former parish's priests wore a stole bearing the colors of the Irish flag.  Do you know what those colors represent?  The green represents the Catholics, the orange represents the Protestants, and the white represents the hoped-for peace between them.

(....yeah, I know.  Keep praying!)

Today, of course, good St. Joseph is not to be ignored.  For all you Italians out there -- or just you humble daughters of the foster father of our Lord -- here are some crafty ideas for celebrating this important feast day from one of the usual suspects, Catholic Icing.

Additionally, we found a really lovely, simple, paper "St. Joseph's Altar", courtesy of Evann Duplantier, for your family to construct.  Evann also has a lovely page full of menu choices, where you may enjoy everything from inspirational photos of other St. Joseph's Day altars to a super easy (and yummy!) edible craft.

St. Joseph's Altars may be as humble or elaborate as you like, but I encourage you to enjoy this lively Italian tradition in your home.  From red wine to seafood to donuts, it's worth consecrating your edibles to the man who was the Provider for the Holy Family.

Our parish deacon reminded us last Christmas that, although St. Joseph figures prominently in Jesus's early life in the Bible, St. Joseph never says a word.  Not one syllable.  How many of us could be counted upon to hear the Lord, follow His instructions, trust in His ways, and serve Him as He wishes, without ever saying a word?

Not me.

Yet St. Joseph gives us all the perfect example of "silent strength."  If you want to raise up a mentor for your spouse, a hero for your sons, a good example for your fathers, or a model husband for your daughters, "it ad Joseph."  Go To Joseph!

And that's an order straight from the top:

Blessed "Pope John XXIII, who succeeded Pius XII in 1958, added some new feasts and made some other changes to the liturgical calendar, as well as amending some of the rubrics. In his 1962 edition of the Missal, he also deleted the word 'perfidis' (Latin: 'faithless') from the Good Friday prayer for the Jews, and added the name of St. Joseph to the Canon of the Mass. The second change was particularly significant, as many had considered the text of the Canon to be practically untouchable." (emphasis added)

Prior to Vatican II, Eucharistic Prayer I was the only Canon used by the Church.  And it hadn't been touched for over 1,000 years.

Tales by the camp fire from that Council have it that an elderly priest originally made the humble suggestion to add St. Joseph to the Mass.  He was scoffed at by Vatican hierarchy, only to be vindicated when Pope John XXIII approved the addition the very next day.

It Ad Joseph!  And enjoy!

March 18, 2012

To Veil or Not To Veil?

Ever since the corrected wording of the Mass was restored at Advent last year, the thought of wearing a veil has been in my heart.  But I agree w/ so many -- when you're unaccustomed to seeing it, the wearer can seem ostentatious.  Then I saw a woman (admittedly, older) one day wearing a black veil that was just a whisper, just barely there.  It was a traditional mantilla, shoulder-length, but the black lace was so sheer (almost like organza), with only some dainty lace edging, that my heart leapt and I thought, "Ah-ha!  There is the veil for me!"

I happened upon her in the church parking lot during the week, and explained my admiration.  "Please tell me," I smiled, "where did you get it?"  She smiled back gently.  "I made it."

My heart sank.  Selfishly, my smile faded a bit.  "Oh," I replied weakly, hoping to sound as if I thought that was lovely, but knowing instead that I sounded disappointed.

"I'd be glad to make you one!" she rushed to assure me with a delighted grin.  My hopes rose anew.

"Really!?" I asked.  Then inspiration struck.  "Ooo!  I make rosary bracelets!  I'll make you one!"

So now, we have exchanged sacramentals and I wear the veil at every Mass.

A dear friend, who recently decided to veil, noted that at her son's First Communion, the presiding priest complimented the children on how dressed up they were, and invited them to dress and comport themselves as well every time they received Jesus in the Eucharist, because it was just that special.  My veil helps me remember that importance, and now wearing it seems as natural as genuflecting.  J
ust as I would not wear my pajamas to Mass, my veil is a visible reminder to me that I am on holy ground, and so should garb myself appropriately.

The Bible calls a woman's hair her glory, and my veil reminds me that I should humble myself in every aspect before the Lord.  Since wearing it, I must also report that at least half a dozen women have approached me cordially to inquire about it and consider it themselves.

I'm not posting this to be a veil-pusher, but just to encourage anyone else who might be considering wearing a veil for Mass and in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.  Remember, you're not wearing it in submission to any man around you.  You're wearing it in submission to The Son of Man, The Creator Of The Universe.  How humbled we are in the presence of the Lord!, it's not a burka, for Pete's sake!  ;-D

March 16, 2012

St. Patrick's Day - Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients (bread):
3 c. flour
¾ tsp. salt
½ c. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
1/3 c. butter
1½ c. buttermilk
½ box raisins (optional)

Ingredients (glaze):
¼ c. 10x confectioners sugar
2-3 tbl. milk

§      Mix dry ingredients.  Cut in butter.  Add raisins and buttermilk.  Batter will be sticky.  Flour your hands and shape into a ball.  Knead 15 seconds on lightly floured surface.
§      Place on lightly greased baking sheet to flatten into  a 10” diameter disc.  Cut a deep cross in the top with a serated knife, saying, “God bless this family, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.”
§      Bake at 350o for 40-50 minutes.
§      Brush on glaze while warm.  Serve!

(from the “Building the Family Cookbook”, by Suzanne Fowler)

March 14, 2012

Happy Pi Day!

Today is Pi Day!  Celebrate the mathematical constant that is the ratio of a circle's circumference to it's diameter, approximately 3.14!  (The actual number goes on endlessly for infinity.)  Math proves the order of the universe God created.  Here's how we celebrated it, with chicken pot pie at dinner:

March 6, 2012

Rules for Our Home

Here's a little post for your refrigerator!  We formulated these rules based on the current state of lots of Lilliputians in the house.  ....believe me, sometimes the very first rule is the hardest!

May the Lord bless your home with His order and peace!


Rules for Our Home

1 - Always have a joyous grateful attitude, even when no one else is looking.  (Psalm 34:1)

2 - JOY:  Jesus first; Others next; Yourself last.  Wait your turn patiently and help others. (Mark 12:30-31)

3 - Always be honest and respectful.  Take good care of everything and everyone God has given us. (Luke 16:10, 2 Corinthians 8:21, I Timothy 3:4, Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:4)

4 - Always be kind in your words and actions.  Treat others as you would wish to be treated.  (Matthew 7:12)

5 - Always clean up your own mess. Play with one toy at a time and put things back where they belong.  (Numbers 1:50, Numbers 3:31, I Chronicles 9:29, John 2:19)

6 - Always wonder.  Explore, seek, and learn something new whenever you can.  (Luke 9:43)

7 - Always live a balanced life.  Think, learn, pray, work, play, and enjoy something every day.  (Eph. 5:10)

8 - Never raise a hand to hit nor throw things.  (Exodus 21:12)

9 - Never let the sun set on your wrath.  (Ephesians 4:26)

10 - Always say, “Goodnight, I love you!”

March 1, 2012

Blessings or Burdens?

"She felt he was a burden to her....We were a burden."
(Lee Harvey Oswald's brother, Robert Oswald, in 1993, commenting on their mother's attitude toward her children)

It was late at night and we were watching a t.v. special on the Kennedy assasination, with interviews and photos of the never-before-seen type.  On hearing Oswald's remark, my heart fell through my stomach like a cold fat rock plunging to the bottom of a murky pond.  Oh.  Oh.  Oh, how awful.  What an awful, awful, feeling to have from the person whose love for you is meant to be unconditional in this world.  The person who, as I remind my own children when pressing my case for hugging, tickling, or kissing privileges, helped God to make you.  The person whose title, "Mother," has inspired everything from epic poetry, to the naming of ships and airplanes, to the giddy grins of grown football players waving into the camera as they mouth, "Hi, Mom!" while dancing a jig in the end zone.

Oh.  How awful.

.....yet, do I convey that to my children?  That they are a burden to me?

One wouldn't think so.  We had hoped fervently for nine years to have children, before we finally woke up and adopted our first one.  Ready to begin a second arduous effort of paperwork and travel, we suddenly found ourselves pregnant with #2.  And then had four more successive bundles of joy thereafter.


Yet, in an entirely unscientific survey, I quizzed my friends as I brought my now mobile and rambunctious kids to soccer one particularly harrowing afternoon.  "Please tell me you yell at your kids," I implored as my munchkins merrily sprinted off and I took a deep breath into the cold wind.  The first mom nearly gasped and said, "Oh, my goodness!  Are you kidding me?  Thank you so much!  You, too!?  We had such a horrible day today!  I feel terrible!"

Another friend with ten children actually snorted with suppressed laughter and readily admitted, "Yes.  And anyone who tells you they don't is lying."

Since misery loves company, it was comforting to know I wasn't the only mother alive who had gone off like a grenade at her kids.  The greater comfort, however, was in how remorseful each of us immediately felt, how instinctively we knew our behavior diminished our roles as mothers, regardless of how justified we were in wanting to strangle the offending offspring.

A wise priest and former Navy chaplain once gave me two assignments as penance in my confession:  1).  find an outlet for my anger management (whether it was daily workouts like his former aircraft carrier commander or the silence of prayer time alone), and; 2). find a babysitter to enable me to get away from the kids for one hour a week (you know, like they say on the aspirin bottle -- "take two and keep away from children").

The merits or misdirection of "me time" is a post for another day, but in this instance the effects of my anger and desire for time alone needed to be addressed.

The Bible clearly says:

"Behold, children are a gift of the Lord!  The fruit of the womb is a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.  How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate."  (emphasis added) (Psalm 127:3-5)

"Children’s children are the crown of old men...." (Proverbs 17:6)

"For you formed my inward parts.  You knitted me together in my mother's womb.  I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."  (Psalm 139:13)

"When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world."  (John 16:21)

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, 'Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.' " (Matthew 18:1-3)

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven."  (Matthew 18:10)

 (....okay, do I need to keep quoting here?)

And yet, despite the Word of God, the world teaches us differently:
"I've got two daughters.  Nine years old and six years old.  I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals.  But if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby."  (Barack Obama, Town Hall Meeting, Johnstown, PA, March 29, 2008)

Which do I convey to my children?  That they are a punishment?  A burden?  Or a blessing?  Will my children look back on their childhood with wistful smiles and fond memories of warmth and love and laughter?  Or will they cringe and attempt to shake it off, suppressing memories of brusque impatience and yelling to get through the day, just glad they are past that as they try to move forward with their lives, beyond the ill effects of my influence on their early childhood?

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not suggesting I attempt never to yell at my kids again.  In a house with as much activity as ours, sometimes it's literally the only way to be heard.  And my husband is a huge advocate of the "ATM" method of discipline ("Ask 'em.  Tell 'em.  Make 'em."), which sometimes necessitates a raised eyebrow, a raised voice, and a raised hand pointing the way to the directed task.

But, the words of Lee Harvey Oswald's brother were heavy in my ears, his voice strong and steady as he nodded firmly, almost emotionless and matter-of-fact:

"I don't know at what age Mother verbalized the effect that she felt he [Lee Harvey Oswald] was a burden to her. But she certainly conveyed it to John and I at very early ages. We're talking seven, eight, nine, 10 years old. At what age Lee started gathering this, or sensing it, or hearing it and applying it to him, I don't know. But certainly by age three, he had the sense, 'I need to be someplace else.' Mother would be putting him with a nanny, or a babysitter, or in an orphan home with us, just to get us out of her hair. We were a burden."

Out of her hair?  Why?  What else did she need to go do instead?  What possibly could be more important than the formation of an innocent soul entrusted to your care?  We all have many other responsibilities, too, but as mothers we have first and foremost a primary priority: the raising of our children.

Do I consider my children to be a burden or a blessing?  Without question, I consider them a blessing!  But, is that what I show them day to day?  Do I hug, kiss, smile at, encourage, listen to patiently, pray with, and appreciate their presence in my life?  Or do I relegate their presence to another set of must/needs on my endless home and homeschool "To Do" lists each day -- snarling when we fall behind, growling when we fall short of perfection, and seething when they get side-tracked and fail to see the big picture of what we must accomplish that day?

I'm not Pollyanna and I don't envision successfully comporting myself with the practical perfection of Mary Poppins any time soon.  But, I am honest enough to recognize that I need to step back and regain some of the perspective I had as an individual in the Lord's presence before all The Wee Folk arrived.  In the words of Venerable Bede Jarrett, O.P., we have no abiding city here, but our actions will bear out our eternity.

And as mothers, we also are training (for good or for ill) other impressionable souls.

"But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." (Matthew 18:6)

"Preach the Gospel always.  When necessary, use words." (St. Francis of Assisi)

"Children Learn What They Live" (by Dorothy Law Nolte) 

Am I teaching my children, by my example, to be know-it-alls, love the things of this world, and be self-serving?  Or am I teaching them to know, love, and serve Him in this world and be happy with Him forever in the next?

A wise friend once said, "the years fly by, but each day is an eternity."  Maybe God sometimes lets our days seemingly drag out so that we have as much time as possible to mend our ways, to turn to Him, and to train our children to do so, too.  At this point in my life, I now know mothers whose children have pre-deceased them.  From miscarriages to suicidal teenagers to cancer-striken adults, "How tragic!" doesn't begin to describe the pain these mothers endure.  Any one of them would give her right arm for just one more day with her child.

Will I ever appreciate the presence of my own children as much?

I'm not touting impossible motherly perfection.  And it's going to take more than one well-meaning Lent to amend my short fuse, change my habit of sharp anger, grow in Godly patience (actually, 21 days, I'm told), and be the mother I want my children to have.

It's going to take one step at a time.  One small step at a time.  But, I'm going to start now.  Start today.  And start small.  You know -- a trip to the Perpetual Adoration Chapel, two aspirin, and a hope to at least attain mediumcalifragilisticexpialidocious.

I'll keep you posted in 21 days.

"There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep."  (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

A happy childhood lasts a lifetime!

Children Learn What They Live

by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D. - 1972
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.