Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday 2016

By hook or by crook, we made it to the seven o'clock morning Mass. Joseph has been in a phase for the last few months of wanting to dress "handsome," as he calls it. He chooses button-down Mass shirts almost daily. Today he wore a corduroy suit jacket and never took it off, or so much as unbuttoned it, including during his nap.

Dressing handsome

Ashes quite differ priest to priest: our pastor makes ashes the old-fashioned way by actually burning last year's palms, which happens to result in a light-colored ash. Apparently one can buy ashes from church supply companies, and whatever is used in those commercial ashes is made to be strongly black.


Thomas' first ashes
Our day was slightly more penitential than a normal Ash Wednesday because our heater wasn't yet replaced and the temperatures outdoors reached a high in the low 30s. But as of tonight: our new heater is humming! We are blessed.

Each Lent I try to make more and more simple in hopes that I can be successful and not a big, fat Lenten failure. As concerns the children, this year:
  • I am using the Lenten calendar for the children to mark off each day (click here). 
  • Also, each child has a little booklet of Corporal Works of Mercy and Spiritual Works of Mercy (click here). As we started today, my intention is to sit down several times (up to 14, I guess!) during Lent and talk through one work of mercy, including brainstorming ideas of how they as little children can perform that work of mercy. 
  • I hope, but make no promises, to get a salt dough crown of thorns baked in the next few days.
  • Lastly, I would like to have us try the holy habit of saying the Stations of the Cross. I was initially planning to print out Stations and tape them up on our walls at home, until I realized that we depart our parish morning program on Friday afternoons, so why not try to stay and say the Stations in the church itself? It will be quiet and empty, so our raucous crew shouldn't be disturbing anyone.

On Ash Wednesday itself, for various circumstances too wordy to describe, I was stuck supervising the children in one room together all afternoon. What I ended up doing was reading aloud the entirety of "The 13 Clocks" by James Thurber (1950), as recommended by the Read-Aloud Revival in its Best of List for 2015. The older children were so interested that they kept asking me to continue reading till we got through all 124 pages in one sitting!

"The 13 Clocks" is a modern fairy tale and comes across as dark, bizarre, and meandering. I hesitated to recommend the book because it is so dark that some parents might be bothered, but then I thought: traditional fairy tales--versus the Bowdlerized versions by Disney--are very dark, and traditional ones are the ones we read around here.

The way Thurber plays with language and invents words in this fairy tale is absolutely delectable to me! His writing reminds me of Jules Feiffer, Lewis Carrol, and Shel Silverstein. Reading this book aloud proved a tongue-twisting workout:
"The brambles and the thorns grew thick and thicker in a ticking thicket of bickering crickets. Farther along and stronger, bonged the gongs of a throng of frogs, green and vivid on their lily pads. From the sky came the crying of flies and the pilgrims leaped over a bleating sheep creeping knee-deep in a sleepy stream, in which swift and slippery snakes slid and slithered silkily, whispering sinful secrets." (p. 73)

The terrifying creature that will exact justice in the end is the 'Todal', which
"looks like a blob of glup . . . . It makes the sound like rabbits screaming, and smells of old, unopened rooms. . . . The Blob will glup him . . . . It's an agent of the devil, sent to punish evildoers for having done less evil than they should." (p.50)

The writing is so rich and interesting that I, as an adult and an English major who has read a great amount of fine literature in the English language, found this an outright delight, instead of just one more book I 'have' to read to the children. While the 3- and 4-year-olds mostly ignored the book being read aloud, as it went over their heads, the 7- and 9-year-olds hung on my every word.

The evil character in this fairy tale is very evil, the princess is a true victim who needs saving, and the good prince is very good. There is also a character fulfilling the role of a fairy godfather, of sorts. When reading fairy tales, I consider it a litmus test that good is good and evil is evil, and this book passes that test.

1 comment:

  1. Ooooh, I must look up this book. I like using Memoria Press Literature Study Guides with my children, and the books are all a bit older...I just love the way the language is used, and they are so fun and delightful to read.