Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review: Of Bells and Cells

Upon reading a review of a new children's books entitled Of Bells . . . and Cells by M. Cristina Borges, I bought it for our children. (One can read the full review here.)

Our basket of holy reading

This book is a useful addition to a home full of Catholic children. It introduces them to religious vocations, as well as the history and details of all the major orders. Although a slim book, this is not a short story book to read in one sitting, but one to read a page or two at a time when the children are gathered.

The illustrations are beautiful and the text is orthodox. My 5-year-old can follow along with this book, but it is written with simple but elevated language and would be of interest to all ages of children and teens--and frankly adults too!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Catholic Summer Camp to Which to Aspire

We enjoy receiving the newsletter and the magazine ("From the Housetops") from the Saint Benedict Center in Massachusetts. We've visited the Center and attended Mass there while visiting some friends. Therefore, the kids have heard about the summer camp for boys and the one for girls and they're counting the years till they're old enough to attend (9 for boys, 12 for girls).

At the table over breakfast, I read two articles to the kids describing this last summer's camps and they are jumping-out-of-their-chairs excited, hoping someday to attend.
"Coming from a world of spiritual dehydration, the girls had the opportunity to drink in the graces. Each morning, after emerging from their cabins, the girls said morning prayers and ate breakfast. Then the campers divided into appropriate age groups for religion class, followed by Mass and the opportunity for Confession." 
Then would follow typical camp experiences: canoeing, kayaking, sailing, fishing volleyball, arts and crafts, buying candy at the trading post, singing, baton-twirling, sports, roasting marshmallows, movie nights, talent shows and hair-do contests--all led by the delightful, vivacious nuns (click here and here for photos)! The boys' list of activities led by the priests and monks was similarly typical of summer camps everywhere (click here for photos).

It made my heart feel so warm that our children are excited by this description, and that includes the daily prayers, catechism, Mass, and sacraments.

I informed the children that for visitors (non-SBC parishioners) to attend requires approval by a local parishioner that the children and family are wholesome, holy, and Catholics in good standing . . . so they should have motivation to keep up the good work on the road to piety and holiness! Heaven is often a distant theoretical place for kids (and adults), but the thought of not being good enough to go to summer camp is very real!

(Click here to see the archives of the Saint Benedict Center newsletters, "From the Center." Then click on Summer 2014 to download the PDF file to read the original articles about and see the great photos of camp.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Finding Sanctification in Our Own Fields

One of my goals is to read the daily meditation and prayers from "Divine Intimacy" each morning. This wonderful book follows the traditional liturgical calendar and has proven so edifying to me over the years when I've been faithful enough to be reading it.

For the last couple of weeks, the meditations have been on "the apostolate." We each have an apostolate. The apostolate of the parish priest is different from that of the mother or the father or the worker or the nun, but we each have an apostolate.

An excerpt from today's meditation spoke to me as a homeschooling mother (and I know this passage can be read through the lens of any apostle). I have included my thoughts in italics below.

331. Sanctification in the Apostolate
"It is the saints who are the most efficient apostles. Must we then be saints before devoting ourselves to the apostolate? Theoretically, this is the ideal, but in practice, it is impossible. To think that the formative years--those spent in the seminary or notiviate, for example--suffice to make us saints is a misconception."
Theoretically, the formation of childhood within a holy family will make us saints and the child will grow into a young man or woman entering marriage already a saint. But, in practice, this rarely occurs, I'd say especially so in the modern era of shattered families and worldly attachments.
"It is equally wrong to exempt ourselves from apostolic work, when charity or our duty imposes it on us, under the pretext that we have not yet arrived at sanctity. We must therefore conclude that when the period allotted exclusively to preparation is over, we must combine our own personal efforts toward sanctity with the exercise of the active apostolate."
How many times has a mother commented to me that she could not possibly homeschool her children--even though she says she wants to, even though she sees that the local school options are damaging to her children--because she "isn't patient,"--"they'd drive me crazy!" But any homeschooling mother will reply that she didn't start out patient either and is only somewhere on the road to saintly patience. Becoming patient takes day by day--often moment by moment--effort, much prayer, frequent Confession, and falling to one's knees before God. Habit begets virtue--or vice, depending on your habit! (May I also recommend "Humility of Heart" by Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo and "Patience and Humility" by Archbishop William Ullathorne [also available online].)
"In other worse, apostles must sanctify themselves in the apostolate and by means of it. "To sanctify yourself in view of and by means of the apostolate: these should be the marching orders of a diocesan priest . . . . We would be giving the lie to the Church, to the life of Jesus, and the lives of all the saints, if we said that the exterior apostolate is incompatible with personal sanctity." These words, spoken by the servant of God, Don Poppe, to priests, are equally true for all apostles, cleric or lay, religious or secular. Every apostle should be convinced that precisely in his own field of labor--and nowhere else--will he find all the graces necessary to sanctify himself, to attain intimate union with God." [bold mine]
 It is precisely the homeschooling mother's field of labor in her own home with her own children--and nowhere else--that she will find all the graces necessary to become a saint. She need not go to work outside the home, or feed meals to the homeless, or write a book, or convert thousands, even though all are worthy pursuits.
"When a person gives himself to the apostolate, not by his own choice, nor because of a natural attraction for activity, but solely in answer to a call from God, he can be certain that, since God has willed him to engage in the apostolate, and He also wills him to be a saint, that the apostolate will provide him with the means to become one. God cannot condemn to mediocrity one who, in order to do His will, and out of love for Him, is burdened with apostolic labors and responsibilities. "No, breathren," Don Poppe continues, "the active life is not a night in which the light of the ideal is extinguished. If so many apostoles have lost their light, you should not lose confidence, but humble yourslves profoundly ecause of your weakness, and then more abundant grace will surely bring you success. Do you know that difficulties and obstacles are sometimes transformed into helps under the wonderful action of grace, and may contribute greatly to good? 'Certus sum,' you can say with St. Paul: I am certain that no creature in the world has the power to draw me away from the road to sanctity." In the measure that an apostole is docile and faithful to grace, God will purify him, refine him, and sanctify him, precisely by means of his apostolic labors."
If we are called by God to homeschool our children (and most of us who live this life believe we are called to it), then we can be certain that God is providing us with the means to become a saint right here, right now, with all our limitations. Even if the babies keep coming, even if we haven't properly sat through a Mass in ten or fifteen years because we are walking with a loud baby, even if we can't go to silent Eucharistic adoration or week-long Ignatian retreats, even if we can't find hours to pray in a recollected way each day. Even if!

St. Frances of Rome wisely admonished, “It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife. And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping.”

All those beatitudes? Practice them in the company of and in reaction to our husband and children. All those corporal and spiritual works of mercy? Do those toward our husband and children. This is how we will become saints!



Monday, October 27, 2014

Like Mother, Like Daughter

This morning, Mary emerged from her bedroom grinning ear to ear. She told me proudly that she had dressed just like Mama today. She asked me to put her hair up in a pony tail like mine and even handed me one of my hair bands to use instead of one of hers. Her finishing touch was that she had donned her white tights so that her skin (a more pretty olive from the Italian side of the family) would look like mine (oh-so pale), which got a rolling laugh out of me!

And here I thought I was just dressed in a rather shabby way in my exercise clothes because I planned to workout.

Like mother, like daughter: she's cuter!
Having my daughter nearly six want to look just like me got me thinking of how she doesn't yet much copy her friends (and certainly not celebrities as she doesn't even know they exist). I was reminded of how much my husband and I valued a book we read years ago, "Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers."

I hope to hold on to this little one's admiration for as long as I can!

ECU's Four Season Chamber Music Festival

On Sunday evening, Chris took the two "bigs" to a Gaudium Musicae concert at our parish.

Our season begins with a touring ensemble from East Carolina University’s Four Season Chamber Music Festival, ECU Next Gen on the Road, featuring special guest Robert McDonald, a world-renowned pianist and recording artist.
A professor of music at The Juilliard School and The Curtis Institute of Music, McDonald is a frequent accompanist to distinguished musicians, including Isaac Stern and Midori. He joins ECU faculty and students plus select Charlotte-area student musicians for a performance of chamber music masterpieces.

Mary was enraptured by the music

The concert was two hours long, so at intermission Chris obtained permission for he and the children to move up to the loft for viewing, which would allow the children to move their bodies around.

Best friends, don't let them tell you otherwise

When Mary is listening to music most carefully, she lies down.

The flower she found for Daddy's lapel

When the children came home, John declared that the concert was "Excellent!" with two thumbs up.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

An "Angel Soft" Pillow

Some days life is just exceedingly busy with trying to do three days' worth of work every 24 hours. Some days there just isn't even enough time to take cute pictures and certainly not write blog posts.

And then some days, Mama and Daddy walk up the stairs to retire for the night only to find the precious five-year-old girl deeply asleep on the landing, on the floor, with a pack of toilet paper for a pillow.

Why? Who knows?


Friday, October 24, 2014

Chris' Birthday 2014

Cards upon waking, a gift that came later in that day's mail . . . 


. . . pumpkin waffles (an experimental recipe) for breakfast . . . 


. . . dinner out at a restaurant, and ice cream cake by request at home!



And thus begins our Family Birthday Season in which we will celebrate all six birthdays within five months, along with the gift-giving days of St. Nicholas' day, Christmas, Epiphany, our wedding anniversary, and St. Valentine's day!

The Good Man File

Recently I discovered that I can see all my previously-lost-in-a-list-of-thousands Draft Posts in Blogger. I can see only my Draft Posts. So, I read through the thirty of them, deleted most, and will be publishing a few that I think are worthwhile keeping out of the dustbin. ~KTL

This blog post was originally drafted on November 6, 2013--published today and very appropriately for my husband's birthday!
MiraVia annual fundraising banquet, 10/23/14

When I was a single woman very desirous of marrying, my aunt had to shore up my confidence that there really are still good men in the world. I didn't even know of a man who existed who would pay for my share of the dinner date (instead of going Dutch), so I was in despair that I could find a man who wanted a homeschooling, homemaking wife.

So, my aunt began the Good Man File. Any time she found a news article that exhibited a truly good man, she'd send me the clipping and I literally saved them in a file to inspire me that all was not lost.

Indeed, all was not lost and I met Chris in my late 20s.

Last night I was reminded of the Good Man File because I thought that I wish I were still adding to it, that I could tell currently single women (and teenage girls) some of the attributes that actually make a good husband. These are attributes way different than modern pop songs and TV shows and magazines would have us think.

Chris does something I never thought or of knew what would be important when I was a single lady hoping to find a husband: He goes to great lengths to accommodate me during the time when I'm uncomfortable leaving my nursing baby back at the house.

A phase that lasts, oh, say, a year and a half per baby. Until six months or so later when the phase begins anew with the next baby!

Last night when my husband inquired if I had an outfit ready to wear to a wedding next weekend, I said I did but I wasn't so happy with my blouse and just didn't have time to shop for another one. Immediately he suggested he drive us all to the mall (where I haven't shopped in probably six years--ha ha! that harrowing experience is a tale for another time!) and he would sit with them in the parking lot so I could shop without the baby but be no more than ten minutes away from him. (This marked, I think, the second time I've been apart from nine-month-old Joseph.)

He has suggested this accommodation so I could go to dental appointments or do any number of errands, baby after baby, for four babies now.

I doubt I have any single ladies reading this blog but, if I do, I suggest you file that away in your Good Man File!
No 22-month-old Joseph in tow!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ice Skating for the First Time

Well, it was the second time #1 went ice skating but the first time for children #2 and #3. They'd been asking to try it ever since #1 got to go ice skating at altar boy camp over the summer. Busy weeks mean a long wait, but today was the day. We met up with some friends who are big ice hockey players in order to show us the ropes.





























The children had an absolute blast! Two hours of wholesome hard exercise will result in tuckered-out children tonight. We went during public skate hours which started at two o'clock . . . well before the schools let out and the rink gets busy. The music was quiet in the background. The rink was nearly empty.

I noted that this is a sport that can be pursued as a family, accommodate all ages simultaneously, and can be performed with modest dress (as an amateur pastime, of course, not as a competitor--too bad times have changed). The rink is 2.5 miles from our home, used skates are cheap, and the monthly family membership costs less per month than one restaurant meal (for our family). These factors have this Mama's brain turning and whirling!

When we came home and warmed up with Mama's homemade hot cocoa, I asked the children, "Who would like to go ice skating again?"

A chorus of "Me, me, me!" rang out.

John said, "I'm going to say 'me' for every mile from here to China! That's how much I want to go back!"

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tithing

Recently I discovered that I can see all my previously-lost-in-a-list-of-thousands Draft Posts in Blogger. I can see only my Draft Posts. So, I read through the thirty of them, deleted most, and will be publishing a few that I think are worthwhile keeping out of the dustbin. ~KTL

The below was written almost three years ago, when our firstborn was five years old.

This morning while folding laundry, I was struck that God trying to get us to tithe our treasure (money), time, and talent is like trying to get a little kid to fold the socks.

But, let me back up a little to explain. Lately I have been making an effort to involve the children (and particularly John, who is almost five and quite capable) in the household chores I do. For example, after I have spent time meal planning, grocery shopping, half an hour cooking, and the kids wolf down the food in ten minutes, everyone scatters, leaving me to clean the kitchen for twenty to thirty minutes. I am coming to realize that this is bad for the formation of their characters and souls, so I am trying to keep the children with me, giving them little tasks to do, while I do the bulk of the work. Then we work as a family, they learn the joy of wholesome work, I have them supervised (so they're not doing mischief), and the job is done much faster. Still, the whole time I am doing the bulk of the kitchen cleaning, John might successfully clear his plate, put away some food ingredients, and wipe the table of crumbs--that's it. He's doing a small percentage of the job. Most of this effort remains an exercise for good in principle, and I don't expect to have super useful children for some years to come.

Getting back to this morning, I was folding a large load of laundry and I asked the children to please separate out the socks, then match them. John complained, resisted, claimed he couldn't do it, and was slow, and, meanwhile I folded all the other laundry and separated it into stacks by person.

I felt exasperated and thought to myself, 'Dear child! You are expending so much energy complaining about doing the socks which are, what?, 10% of the work here? Less than that?'

The idea of ten percent really jumped out at me and I thought of tithing.

How much do we, as children of God, complain and resist about giving ten percent to Him, from whom all blessings flow? How much are we grown adults like my preschool boy with his sometimes cheerful compliance but, all too commonly, his foot-dragging, excuses, or outright complaining? Looking at myself, I see a bit too much resemblance for comfort!

Time

What does it mean to give time to God?

Off the top of my head, he asks us to keep holy the Sabbath day. If we count just our waking hours on Sunday--and we keep the entire day holy--that's about 9% of our waking hours in a week. Do I fail to keep the day holy, and instead make it profane (unconsecrated, secular, common, vulgar) by grocery shopping, housekeeping, servile labor, or watching television or movies that are particularly not godly?

What about simply going to Mass? That's an hour on Sunday: a whole one half of one percent of all the hours in a week. Do I go every Sunday and holy day of obligation? Or skip out sometimes? Do I go with the intent of giving to God through worship? Or do I go hoping mainly to "be fed" and then complain when I "wasn't fed" (whether from poor liturgy, lack of cool entertainment, or from distractions of our own children)? Really? God sent his only Son for our salvation and re-presents His sacrifice in an unbloody manner, giving us Jesus' very Real Presence in the Eucharist for us to consume and I was not fed? I am literally fed with Jesus' very self!

And that reality doesn't take away that it can be hard to get up and go after a night awake with the baby, dressing all the children, knowing they will cause distractions, and not having a free hand to hold a missal to actually read the words in order to know what the lector is saying, whom I can't hear because I'm hushing my preschooler.

What about daily prayer at home? Do I come even close to praying to God (read: conversing with him, worshiping him, listening to him) 10% of our waking hours? I've never heard that we're asked to pray 10% of the time, but it's an interesting number to contemplate. (Actually, St. Paul in the Bible told us to "pray without ceasing"! 1 Thessalonians 5:17.)

I know that in our home, I have a prayer routine I would be doing ideally with the children. It seems so simple, yet I find it so difficult and I doubt I achieve one "perfect prayer day" per week. I've tried to keep it small:
  • my own morning prayers and reading a short meditation (5 minutes),
  • having the children make a Morning Offering (1 minute),
  • praying the Angelus at noon (5 minutes),
  • praying grace before all meals (30 seconds per meal = 1-1/2 minutes),
  • praying the Rosary as a family (at a fast, adult pace, it takes about 15 minutes to pray five decades, but we get through only two decades in 15 minutes right now), and
  • bedtime prayers (3 minutes).
A parent (even me!) might look at that and think, 'What are you doing to those poor children! You've got them praying all day! Do you even have time to have any fun in between all those prayers? You're not monks, you know!' And yet, that is about 30 minutes of prayer all day, which is 3% of the waking time in a day. Three measly percents. Giving 10% of waking time to prayer would be a radical hour and a half per day! Hey, that's time for daily Mass plus all the prayers we aim for now . . .

Talent

If one has a talent or skill, even if one worked hard to cooperate with grace to develop it, the talent came from God. Who is one to hoard it?

As St. Paul said, "Who confers distinction upon you? What do you possess that you have not received? But if you have received it, why are you boasting as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

If I have a skill, what is its purpose? What am I doing with it? Am I doing for others? Maybe for someone in my season of life, doing for others is mainly going to mean doing for the people within my family. It's no good for me to absent myself from my family for lengthy periods in order to go serve food to the homeless at a soup kitchen: that would be shirking the duties God did give me in order to pick up duties he did not give me.

Each person has different circumstances, so each person can give talent in different ways. I know my perspective best these days: Thinking as a homeschooling mom of little ones who are always around, one ministry mothers in my position can do is cook. Most churches have a ministry of providing meals to women who have just had babies, the sick and bedbound, and for funerals and the grieving family left behind. We homemakers are cooking anyway with children at our feet, so just make a double batch of the meal. We can drive it over to the family and leave the kids in the car, just dropping the meal at the door. Or ask our husbands to drive over the meal. This is a useful gift of talent that takes very little away from one's duties.

We can all search our own hearts for how to share the talents God has given us.

Treasure

There is a long tradition of tithing ten percent of our money to God. Also there is debate about whether it is a strict ten percent. Gross income? Net income? Respond to a radical Gospel call like certain saints and give most of our income away? Join a mendicant order in order to have no income at all?

Amidst all the debate is a one certain thing and that is resistance to donate away our income. Surely God didn't mean my actual money. Aren't I "donating to charity" when I give away my old stuff I don't want anymore to the Goodwill thrift store? I know: when I die, I'll give away some of my leftover, not-used-up assets to a nice charity, and that will be good.

God had a lot to say about Bible, which he gave to us in Holy Scriptures. A lot. And it's pretty uncomfortable to read with modern eyes.

This is an interesting list of Scripture (from a Protestant Bible, so double-check against Catholic sources) divided by monetary sub-topic. Chris and I really like Dave Ramsey's financial program and he says that there are more than 800 Scripture quotes about money.

I can recommend a book I recently read: "Happy Are You Poor: The Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom" by Fr. Thomas Dubay. Personally, I found it to be one of those "scary books." I began reading it probably a year ago and, when I could not come up with any arguments to counter the unceasing barage of Gospel teaching about money (paired with a long tradition of Church teaching and interpretation), I set down the book. I didn't want any more guilt in my heart and, apparently, I didn't want to make radical changes either. Recently I was able to pick up the book again and finish it.

But then I put it back on the shelf just to sit for a while. Away from me. I am a work in progress.