Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mortification and Loving your Enemies

Today I was up early (not as early as DH. I know this because he hit "snooze" instead of "off" at 4 AM. I love him.Truly). I digress. At 8:07 I was in one of my favorite seats here...
 Wearing my least favorite footwear and 3 layers of clothing.
Heading, again, across the river. My it was beautiful today. Sunny and frozen

I went again to The Vigil because it's what I feel so strongly called to do right now. I'm not sure what effect I have on those mothers choosing this death for their children but I know that someone has to be there. Today I was there and I witnessed and I learned some good things in the process.

Mortification - When I walked up, the man they call "cowboy" was on a roll. I have never seen him in person and, well, let's just say it was an experience. He wears several pro-life signs and holds a crucifix, all while spouting ( as one vigil member remarked, about 20% good stuff, about 30% questionable and about 50% vile). I would agree. When I walked up he was raging (and I say raging because he is shouting at the top of his lungs) about "now they let women read the gospel and that is complete B-S, there is no biblical basis for that." He later went on and on about how many Church leaders are abortionists.

The vigil manager there at the time is a dear man. He comes, every Saturday to witness. Instead of greeting him warmly I immediately went on the defensive and questioned the presence of this man who is clearly at odds with the 40 Days for Life credo of gentle witness (although there are a few that get loud, none as crass as this man). That's where I failed. Badly.

And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?
I am called, especially there, to bear hardships and proceed with a servant's heart. Isn't it funny how you think you're ready (I had my handwarmers and mittens) and something hits you in your blindspot? Isn't it sad how quickly I can be diverted from intended mission? Tim spoke with me about mortification and how "sometimes it's just putting up with annoying people or things that you face on a daily basis." Why is it easier to stand in the freezing cold than to silently bear a misguided man's effort to "educate". (I was instructed, by the way, that the man isn't to be argued with as he can get very mean. So, after my initial upset and eventual acceptance, I stood and prayed for him while he prayed in his way. His intentions are valid but somewhere along the line, he went over the edge).

Not that I blame him. How can you stand down there, day after day, and not have anger and despair? I think, like having kids, the key is excess ;0) Let me explain. When I first went on a Saturday and saw the mothers walking in with their teenage daughters (today there was one that looked to be as old as my #1...I'm guessing it was a birth control thing) or watching the college-aged women joking with the escorts as they left post-abortion, it was devestating to me. How can they be so callous? How can parents think this is the best thing for their children? How can this be happening in a free nation.

I've been going for several years now and today something changed. Perhaps it was the reflection of my strong reaction to "cowboy" that made me step back. Whatever it was, I was able, as never before, to give a smile and "good morning" to everyone entering and leaving the building. I realized, I think for the first time, that they are all God's children, like I am and we all deserve to be treated with respect. Sometimes that happens and sometimes it doesn't but it's necessary to begin on one side with love...may as well be mine. 

Fr. Humberto has a lovely reflection on today's Gospel, which works so nicely on this topic. Jesus asks us to be "perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect". It's unlikely, being human and not divine, that we will ever reach that level but nothing is impossible with God. We are all called to be saints and as Father rightly points out, we should begin with each moment of each day. Try to make right now as perfect as possible. It seems, to me, a much more manageable feat.

As we continue through Lent, let's all try to be more perfect, like our Heavenly Father. Coincidentally (ahem) the Morning Offering has some good things with which to begin. I know this may keep me busy for quite a while.

"The fast of Lent has no advantage to us unless it brings about our spiritual renewal. It is necessary while fasting to change our whole life and practice virtue. Turning away from all wickedness means keeping our tongue in check, restraining our anger, avoiding all gossip, lying and swearing. To abstain from these things – herein lies the true value of the fast."
— St. John Chrysostom

We are blessed!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Five on Friday

I'm looking back on a very busy day (and week) and giving thanks.


 Thank You, God, for every morning that I awake. I am grateful for all the possibilities of the new day. Help me to always see Your hand in everything, large and small.


Thank You, God, for these kids. Help me to remember that every crazy-not-listening-rude-behavior-naughty day has at least one start-the-morning-by-building-a-grotto-in-the-living-room-and-praying-like-angels equivalent. 
 I wasn't willing to give them any Blessed Mother statues (fragile) so they settled for St. Francis with extra animals.


 Thank You, God, for allowing my home parish to undergo even more renovations, effectively closing it for the weekdays of Lent. Our search for a new home during this important season has allowed us, in a few short days, to experience some amazing work by the Holy Spirit.


Thank You, God, for Stations of the Cross and all the hymns that accompany them. 
Take up thy cross, nor heed the shame,
Nor let thy foolish pride rebel;
Thy Lord for thee the cross endured,
And saved thy soul from death and hell.
 It is rare that I experience a more holy time in church than at this particular service. There is something about walking Christ's Passion along with Him that helps my heart see the depth of His love for us. Today, especially, thank You for the amazing young priest who cut across the aisle to say "goodbye" to us and "thank you for coming" and "please let me know if I can help homeschoolers in any way" and "I am a great supporter of homeschool". How did You know I needed some reassurance right about now?


Thank You, God, for fish fries and time with "Grammy". Our lives are becoming crowded with things and sometimes the people get pushed to "tomorrow". Help me to know that tomorrow is only a possibility, not a promise. Help me to remember what is most important today. Help me, also, to remember this wonderful feeling of "full" tomorrow and when it is absent, help me to offer my hunger for those who experience it on a daily basis.

 Because it's so beautiful and someone far away might miss it just a little.

Thank You, God, for tonight's sunset. For the end of a wonderful, if busy, day full of prayer, family and fun. Thank You for these and all the blessings you have bestowed on me.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What a good Lent!

I know I'm maturing, if not always as a person, then at least in my faith. I know that because when I have a day like yesterday...tears, struggle, disappointment, I think "what a great Lent I'm having!" I'm totally serious, too. Yesterday was a perfect time to stop, pray, beg forgiveness, pick up my cross and keep moving, following after Him who said to do just that.

My beautiful friend, Kellie, had a very similar day yesterday and wrote about it in the most insightful way. Read about it HERE. I will write more about her one day but for now, I am so blessed to have her as a friend. She is so wise for one so young in age (and so mature in faith, life, etc.) It is a great gift to walk with her.

Ultimately, my day ended in the right place. I could have probably gone to the gym and sweated out my demons while waiting for cello group to finish. Instead, I ran to my Mother and asked for more protection. She lived through so much joy and pain and did it in the most amazing way. Who better to look to as a guide? I am blessed to have finally realized this. Better late than never ;0) (yes, I was sitting in my car. the church was dark - what's up with's LENT - and it was very cold outside)

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that any one who fled to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins my Mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful; O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me, Amen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fr. Barron's Reflections

a snippet from today:

"The 17th-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal said that most of us spend our lives seeking diversions in a desperate attempt to avoid the hard and simple questions: who am I? What is the purpose of my life? What does God want of me?
We eat and drink, gamble and gossip, seek out the most banal entertainments, surrender to television and social media, attend party after party - all in order to avoid those questions."

Something to ponder. What is keeping me from confronting the "hard and simple" questions this Lent and what can I do to rid myself of that thing?

We are blessed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sounds of the Desert

So, here we are in Lent, one of the great metaphors for which is "the desert". I've been thinking about that a lot today, especially in regard to my individual journey. As a mother, there are times I do (and rightly should) bring my children along on my journey and times when my husband is with us as well. Sometimes, though, it's a solitary thing. Even if I can be selective about my companions on the journey (sometimes) I can't always shut out the whole world while I seek the desert of Lent. It is a struggle I face daily.

Pope Francis, in his Sunday homily...
"The desert is the place where you can hear the voice of God and the voice of the tempter. In the noise and confusion this cannot be done; we can only hear superficial rumors. Instead in the desert we can go deeper, where our destiny, life or death, is really played out. And how do we hear the voice of God? We hear it in His Word."

It's a "coincidence" (ahem) that I would come across this today since I have been very attuned since, say, 3 AM to the sounds in my world. My beloved, sweet muffin that he is, suffers from extreme nasal dryness. If you happen to have a spouse that is in the same fix, you know what I was doing at 3 AM...offering it up until the anxiety and anger started getting the better of me, at which time I switched on the sound machine, rolled over and prayed that I would fall asleep. I eventually did.

That brought us to 7 AM. Time to wake up and escort #1 to daily Mass. She was scheduled to serve today and, since there was a 2-hour-delay at school, I knew she would be the only one. She was up and ready to go by 7:15 so we headed out and she served well. It was good for me to be with her to hear the voice of God in His word. In today's Gospel we hear how Jesus teaches His followers to pray the "Our Father". One of the earliest prayers you learn, it is ripe with meaning. Our pastor did a great job with his homily, touching on the importance of "Thy will be done". So it is in the desert. We are here to grow closer to God and attempt, in our humanness, to follow His will. I love the sound of my littlest ones reciting "Thy will be done" while in my heart I pray that they find strength and comfort in that phrase throughout their lives.

After that came Catechesis for two of the littler ones. I love it because now, during the time they are there, Adoration is offered in the chapel next door. It is one of the times that I get to follow the pope's advice and go deeper in the desert to listen. In the midst of my prayer I smiled to myself when I heard a very distinctive sound...that of rosary beads being unfurled. How comforting to know I am in that place. While at my solitary prayer, a reminder that others are with me who support and share my journey.

Home to feed and teach and then back to the streets. I felt called to the vigil today and so I went. Driving over the bridge and seeing the river, about 80% frozen, I realized I was about as far from a desert as possible. I found a parking space and walked up to hear Deacon Dan and others singing the Divine Mercy chaplet. What a beautiful sound in such a dire place. We have begun reciting this at home as our evening family prayer and it is so beautiful. Simple and powerful. Easy enough for a child. How blessed we are to have such a tool.

Then, over the next hour, another sound. The clank of the doors opening and closing. Allowing women and their escorts in and out. Some to find information. Today, being Tuesday, many to rid themselves of their current difficulty, not realizing their anguish will only begin today. The sharp awareness of hearing the story of the shift manager who offered a young woman an alternative to save her baby only to be met with a short, bright, "too late". This must be a renewal of Jesus's agony in the garden. How it must hurt him to hear the callousness with which we view the gift of life.

Finally, the sound of my body. I decided to do a liquid fast for the first two meals today in offering for the unborn since I didn't think I would make it to the vigil. Having only water and coffee on board, the pain of the cold slowly overtook my extremities. By the time the deacon was finishing the last Station, my fingers were too painful to bend. My body calling out for relief. What a small pain compared to that of Him who was nailed up and died for us. Still, small as it was, it was offered for the women who sought the only solution they could see today. Offered that, when they realize their tragic mistake, they might turn with regret to Him who shows us all Divine Mercy.

Hearing His call through our desert of noise can sometimes be difficult. The dark one is always there to confound and muddle what we know to be true. So, one last thought from the Holy Father that might help you hear more clearly...

We are blessed.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Pillars of Lent

The devil is afraid of us when we pray and make sacrifices. He is also afraid when we are humble and good. He is especially afraid when we love Jesus very much. He runs away when we make the Sign of the Cross. - St. Anthony of the Desert

 If, you'd rather, Catholic Icing has a really catchy song... 

The Lent Song (to the tune of "Frere Jacques")
Prayer, Fasting, and Alms Giving,
We are meant, to repent,
40 Days of sacrifice,
Being super, extra nice,
This is Lent, This is Lent
Whatever way you choose, the basics are the same. Lent is about prayer, fasting and alms giving.

1. Prayer

Add a rosary, Divine Mercy chaplet, St. Michael the Archangel prayer, Guardian Angel prayer, Adoration etc., as many days as you remember. Make it part of your daily routine. Make it for someone else. Today our Pastor's homily was about praying for others who have hurt us or who cause us grief. Someone sprung to my mind immediately; someone who was in my life and left without notice or reason. I will pray for her and hope that whatever her life situation now, she will find peace. 

With prayer, seek repentance. Do this in your daily life...apologize when you are wrong; give people the benefit of the doubt; don't spend time thinking about why someone does something. Love. While you are loving others, love yourself enough to seek out the sacrament of reconciliation. We went while we were away and it was an amazing gift of grace to hear our usual struggles reflected in a different way. However you choose to, just do it. Regular confession gives us the grace we need to continue our journey.

2. Fasting

Fasting, of course, means limiting food. There is a wonderful new component of 40 days for life in which one may fast over a 24 hour period, in addition to prayer, to eliminate the scourge of abortion from our land. I join in this several times during the 40-day period and it is a gift. Knowing that my sacrifice is related directly to aiding a cause so dear to me as the pro-life movement.

Fasting can also take on other forms. We can fast from gossip, from anger, from despair, from judgment, from sloth...whatever separates us from God.
In our own day, fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning, and has taken on, in a culture characterized by the search for material well-being, a therapeutic value for the care of one’s body. Fasting certainly bring benefits to physical well-being, but for believers, it is, in the first place, a “therapy” to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God. [Pope Benedict XVI]. 

3. Alms Giving

From Catholic Online: Alms giving "is a sign of our care for those in need and an expression of our gratitude for all that God has given to us. Works of charity and the promotion of justice are integral elements of the Christian way of life we began when we were baptized."  

We have a wonderful neighbor who always remembers the kids on holidays with a card and a small bit of money. After receiving their Valentine cards, the older ones decided to put it in the offertory basket at Mass this morning (of course the little ones followed suit). It is good that we have the opportunity to take a gift given to us and share it with others. 

We also went to our first 40 Days vigil slot this week (we are trying to attend every Sunday). It was cold (although not as cold as it has been) and the kids weren't thrilled to be there. Still, we went and we saw some of our good friends and we prayed for those who need our prayer. DH did a wonderful job on the way home of reminding us why we stand in the snow and cold to pray for and witness to the cause for life. It is so important that alms giving, whenever possible, goes beyond just putting a check in a basket (which, of course, is also important). The physical act of doing something difficult reinforces it on a deeper level. I never want to go to the vigil but I am always blessed when I do.

Being grateful for what we are given and using it to help others is one of the greatest gifts of Lent. It allows us in some small way to repay the greatest gifts we have been given...our life and our salvation. 

Happy First Sunday of Lent!

We are blessed. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Our Snow Day

When you home school, you miss the fun of waking up early in the morning to hear your mom say "snow day, you can sleep in!". I don't think that's a big issue for our kids since they have a tendency to start late around here anyway. This week, however, we did have all of our activities cancelled so it gave us an opportunity to play "snow day".

What our Friday should have looked like:

9 AM - #1 to Little Flowers, others school and play
Noon - Pick up #1 from Little Flowers, home for lunch
1 PM - Head out to St. Vincent for classes
2 PM - Top 4 in class, mom explores the campus with Mr. G
3:30 PM - Begin the long journey home
4:45 PM - Arrive home to greet DH who has picked up the fish fry; sit down to dinner
6:15 PM - Dinner finished, hop in the car to head to Slovak Dance
7:00 PM - Slovak Dance, all kids
9:00 PM - Head home and off to bed

Yeah, Friday is turning into my least favorite day but at least we're together for most of it. It is a lot of driving and I was grateful for a week off (even though we were already off last week) to just stay home.

Yesterday happened to be the feast of Blesseds Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the three Fatima kids so we started with breakfast and listening to Saint of the Day. At the beginning of breakfast, Blondie pointed out that the Blessed Mother had a rainbow (doesn't show that well in the picture, sorry) so I figured we were on the right track.

Finishing breakfast, I thought about what we could do to take up the whole day. Going with my theme of starting something then having it develop, I assigned the two older kids to read up on the things we saw at the Charleston Museum and find a way to transmit that knowledge to the rest of us.

True to form, they decided to write a play. I haven't seen it yet (rehearsals are continuing and the director is under-the-weather) but I was impressed with the sea wall and confederate flag of which I caught a glimpse.

We took a break from play, and from play-writing, to start an art/science project. I am always grateful for my friend Kellie. She is so art-wise and crafty. I saw this post while we were at the beach and immediately ordered them with my phone. I was so grateful for the idea! This is an all-day project if ever there were one :0) Water beads are the coolest thing. One warning, follow the directions, don't just let your kids dump them in the water or you will end up with a roomful of beads. Excellent exercise in absorption and dessication though.

 After about an hour, on their journey to plump little water marbles

 They spent about 30 minutes making caviar-based recipes. Why is that? They have never seen or eaten caviar. I have to be a bit more selective with the cookbooks they view I suppose. LOL.
Each of them picked a color and then sorted 14 (that was #3's decision, I think it's actually 13) of that color into a bowl. This was to be used to keep track of their decade as we prayed the rosary that afternoon in honor of the feast day. The bowls are still sitting in the kitchen and, hopefully, will be used after lunch. It's not all perfect...

Finding myself with an abundance of time and little people (and a house that is already dirty) I immediately think about cooking. The perfect recipe for a Lenten Friday - Jimmy pierogi! 

 "Jimmy" for you non-VeggieTales people, is butternut squash. Boil him, mash him with some sour cream and nutmeg...yum.
 My filler and crimper. The filling was wet so it was kind of a mess (like prunes) but infinitely worth it (like prunes)

Fry them in brown butter and yum. I froze half the batch for Good Friday - the perfect meager meal!

While the water beads were puffing and the pierogi dough was resting, we found time in our day to watch the Story of Fatima, EWTN's Way of the Cross for Kids and pray the Divine Mercy before bed that night. It is my hope to keep them from all TV except EWTN (or religious videos) this Lent and it's working so far (the whole three days!). It's been difficult coming off the video-fest that was our trip but they know we're heading into the desert and they have been troopers (the older kids anyway. Yesterday little man said, "why we gotta watch EWTN?" so cute, that one). 

Wishing you all a happy, safe First Saturday of Lent. Let us all pray for those who find themselves in difficulty today, whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual and, don't forget, 40 days for life is still going on...the need for prayer and fasting continues, even in the cold. I am feeling guilty about staying home and grateful for the people who staff the vigil during this frigid weather. May God see their dedication and reward it.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

— Ephesians 6:12-13
We are blessed!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Unexpected Pilgrimage Lesson Number Two

If you missed the beginning, check out the last post. We were recently on a "normal vacation" and I'm reflecting on the many ways the Holy Spirit put things in our path to prepare us to enter Lent when we returned home.

Lent Lesson Number Two : Prepare, don't Plan

Today is an excellent example of this but that will come at another time. As for our trip, I made all the necessary preparations, a hotel room in which to land the first night, a house in which to stay, clothes/food/cleaning stuffs, books and videos (because, you know, we were on vacation). A side note on why I pack videos...the TVs at this house were immense 

and they all came equipped with XFINITY; 5 million channels.  Among those are the most vile porn channels I could imagine (no, I didn't watch...I don't really need to know. Scrolling through the channel guide was enough for me). So, we did watch some Nick Jr. every day but mostly we stuck with Fat Albert and Leave it to Beaver for family movie night which had us all laughing. LITB is so non-politically correct...nothing could be farther from "Modern Family" and that's just the way we like it!

Anyway, I made the preparations...the plans, not so much. We knew we were going to see friends and we were staying at the beach and would get into the city one day while we were there. Other than that, things were open. I'm finding, more and more, that's the way I like it. Somehow, without the expectation of sticking to a schedule, I can hear the stirrings more clearly and be more present to the family and happenings around me. So, we played it by ear and some wonderful things happened...

We saw our friends and enjoyed catching up and storing some happy times for another day...

We spent a lot of family time, indoors and out, which is sorely missing at home with schedules and work. What a blessing it was to just sit and chat and play with one another and with our favorite principal!

We even had a "Lundi Gras" celebration (since we were traveling on Tuesday). They got "faith and justice" and forgot "power" which, to me, is a bonus ;0)

Mostly, we tried to keep God at the center of each day. Whether it was remarking on the "gift of the sunset" or starting our car trips each day with a few decades of the rosary (or the whole thing if mom happened to get lost...oops), it was a fantastic time for DH and I to seek God first and model that behavior for the little ones.

So during this Lent, I'm making a few preparations (I did give something up) but also doing more to take advantage of every opportunity I have to avoid the rush and sit to pray and listen. Today was a wonderful example...too cold to go out and all activities canceled. It could be a game/TV day or it could be a day to make a few suggestions and give everyone lots of time and space to reflect. It's surprising to see what the Holy Spirit has in store.

Wishing you a fruitful First Friday of Lent. We are blessed!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lenten Lessons from our Unexpected Pilgrimage

Lately, we have gone on pilgrimage a lot. I admit that whenever we take a trip, I make sure to check Catholic Shrines to see what we can check out along the way. It is often a good way to break up the trip and it's always rewarding when we make the effort.

Our trip South held no such appeal. The site lists no shrines in WV or NC and only one in SC, not near our destination or route of travel. Fine, I thought, for once we can just take a 'normal' vacation like the rest of the world (well, the rest of the world who go to the beach when it's 40 degrees). Looking back, I realize how the journey itself was preparing us to enter the Lenten season. I will be reviewing these with the kids in the coming days; to reinforce the lessons. They are too good to miss :0)

Lesson Number One: Die to Self

Parents usually have a front-row seat to this one anyway but our journey South provided two very distinct opportunities to choose other-over-self. My husband passed with flying colors...I learned the lesson after-the-fact (but, that's OK too...I learned the lesson).

The first day we drove through 7 straight hours of spotty snowstorms, some blinding, to arrive at our hotel in Charlotte. It was not a pleasant drive for me because, sitting in the driver's seat, I had tiny man directly behind me, giving my kidneys hard-but-irregular blows with his feet. This is acceptable on a normal day but having the body aches that accompany the flu, it was merciless. I managed to suffer quietly the majority of the time and we made it safely to our nest.

Homewood Suites is our favorite hotel because, with the pullout couch, there are never more than two people per bed (unless that is their choice) and DH and I share the king, which is a huge treat since we don't have one at home. It is luxury that makes everyone involved happy and we look forward to our space. Alas, that would not be the case this night. This time, a little sick person wandered into our room about midnight and stayed there until morning. 
DH who was likely looking forward to spending some quiet time with his wife, instead had a little hot-bod as a buffer. By the middle of the night G's temp had shot through the roof and he was slightly delirious. Knowing I had driven all day, DH got the meds and rubbed his back for many hours while I pursued my much-needed sleep (I'm sick too, remember?). He is a keeper, that one. World-class dad.

The second opportunity grew out of beach combing the first night. There were an abundance of oyster shells on the shore which, to my delight, could only mean fresh, local (read inexpensive) oysters on the half-shell. You must know by now that they are my delight in life. Truly. A little horseradish and I could eat them by the dozen. I was looking so forward to Sunday. A day out to tour the city then the only dinner I wouldn't have to cook while we were away (I don't mind cooking but I don't really shuck oysters either).

Alas, little people sometimes intervene. The trip through the city was less-than-stellar on many counts. Tiny was still sick and the others were about as naughty as a bunch of little kids can be. I could have ignored it and gone to dinner but that is bad parenting...behavior comes at a price. So, our fish fry would be of the takeout variety. (See? I'm not that hard...they still got to eat.)

Except that you can't take out raw oysters...ever. If you sit down to eat and are immediately called away, they toss them. Can't take them off the premises. I offered to sign any waiver releasing them from responsibility when I contracted hepatitis or food poisoning. No dice.

So, I did what all selfish people do when their dreams are crushed. I threw a hissy fit. A small one. I didn't say "Why must my dreams be crushed by people under 4 feet tall? Why must I always forgo what I want to teach them a lesson?" Not out loud anyway. I simply told my husband to shush while I had my moment. Then I did. When we got home and were enjoying our very nice dinner, I apologized to everyone for choosing the self-centered response. See? I learn.

Dying to self is a difficult lesson. I, myself, am getting better at it only because I seem to have so many opportunities presented on my behalf. I am grateful for them because perhaps, when my children see them and the result, they can one day choose the better road.

I am blessed!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

This year's Valentines

If you've been following along for a while, you know that in 2013 we started a valentine-making-and-giving tradition. It didn't really occur to me until the week before we were heading out of state that, yes, the valentines were made and, no, we wouldn't be at our home parish to hand them out. Hmmm. As I've said, if you give the Holy Spirit anything at all to work with, you will be amazed with the abundance of blessing you receive.

So, we headed out with our Valentines (we sort of compiled a few things into one). It's not nearly the time-intensive result as the Love Jars from last year but, thankfully, I am also not laid up in a cast presently so, time is what it is and we do what we can. I think they turned out well and everyone participated so, ultimately, that's the point.

Next, find a church. We were on the beach outside of Charleston, SC and for whatever reason, it is REALLY difficult to find a parish with daily Mass, especially Saturday. I found one. You know the name, right? Holy Spirit Catholic Church. Hah. I know, right?

Still, despite the most excellent name, I had some reservations. If you don't have time to read the whole history, the parish was established in 1938 by 18 people as a mission church. Over time, however, it grew (good, really!) and now it is a 1,000 seat church for the families of the area and visitors from all over the United States and the world.

Oh, man. Really? I am on vacation from the giant church. Can I have a more intimate experience? Still, it was the only parish that had Mass that morning so, up and out we went.

Of course I didn't pay a lot of attention to where it was and when the gps told me nearly an hour on beach roads, that just added to the anxiety. The kids were happy to be on an adventure (because, you know, they've had a nutty mom their whole life) but it was enough time for me to want to just call it off. What would the people think? Why do we decide to do such odd things all the time? Why can't we just be normal?

Thankfully, DH, who (I think) now goes along to see how it all plays out, was very encouraging in my doubt. We pull up to the church, about 2 minutes late, and it is completely dark. Ug. DH goes to the door and there is clearly no Mass there. So, as we're driving out, we see another woman pulling in and we follow her. She gets out and I ask about Mass. "Oh, she says, daily Mass is held there..."

Sometimes I can hear the Holy Spirit laughing at me. It's ok. I know it's for my own good. I laughed too.

So, we scurry up the steps with our new friend and try to find the quietest place for Mr. G who, sick with the flu, is not that thrilled about any of it. Um, did I mention that it had 7 half pews on each side? Tiny, tiny church. We did our best and I offered up a lot of mortification for the next half hour. The homily was worth it all. The priest, who turned out to be the monsignor pastor, was an amazingly gifted speaker and put everything into Mark shows the depth of Jesus's love for his people; not willing to send them away unfed while Genesis reminds us that after Adam and Eve left Eden, God guarded the Tree of Life with a flaming sword. God knows us and he loves us anyway!

The tiny one had spent enough holy time when Communion was over so I headed outside for a short bit. DH told me the priest stopped and said, "oh, I hope they aren't's cold out there". We did come back in and he welcomed us warmly.

The outpouring of joy that came from the little ones passing out valentines was much like it usually is at our parish but to an even greater degree. We were travelers from a far-away place and we brought valentines to share! All the people there were so gracious and loving. It turned out that the pastor was one of 9 brothers and one sister (God bless her - she had 7 of her own!) and we spoke to him quite a while about the blessing of children and the future of the church. After three-days journey I was fed to bursting...the love of God shown to us from such a simple gesture was amazing. (and even heartbreaking when the priest told my little son that was his first Valentine in 25 years). Thank you, Holy Spirit for such concrete reinforcement.

Being "warm" for us, the kids immediately headed out to explore the grounds, including a beautiful outdoor path with Stations and a grotto to Our Lady and St. Joseph. I linked back up with my new friend who pointed the way to us at first - she was now walking her dog. We talked a bit and, just so I  wouldn't forget my favorite newest Valentine (even though I didn't do anything tangible like, duh, send a card), the Holy Spirit provided another nudge. When I asked her about her dog..."Oh," she said, "this is Toby" (Immediately I remembered and prayed for my sweet, sick, love of a godson....sweet T - which, being in South Carolina, should have come to me sooner!)

I guess this is a long story to say, if you feel called to show God's love to others but anxious at the same time, please follow the call. The Holy Spirit is waiting to bring your love to bear and multiply it tenfold (we had enough Valentines to give every person one...#3 said, "why did we do that since some of them live in the same place?" Of course, so that person can pass one along to someone else. Ripples, my friend. Evangelization can take place person-to-person and face-to-face not just via Twitter! I think we would all be surprised how far it would travel if we just started with one other person.)

I pray your Ash Wednesday is the beginning to a most fruitful Lent. We are blessed!
St. Joseph, Pray for Us!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Our Fifteen Minutes

Andy said everyone gets them so, here we are...

We are on the cover of a magazine. It is a homeschool journal so it isn't very widely read and any homeschool family is eligible to do it so it's not like it's some great prize we won. We are honored, of course, but aside from the kids' initial excitement of seeing themselves in print, it feels a little weird.

I know we're in no danger of becoming "famous" but there is something to it; it is palpable. People react to you in a certain way (positively or negatively but it's there, you are different.) I struggled a bit with writing the article because I wasn't sure I wanted to be "out there". You know, people see the article and think they know you and, even more so, can judge you from what they read on two pages. I did it because I was hoping our story might touch someone. As in many things we do that are "odd", I always hope the Holy Spirit will work with our successes and trials to make a difference to someone else. Any good that comes of our feeble attempt is His work.

I think I got my wish. Today in a parking lot a fellow mom came up and thanked me for the article and told me she very much appreciated some of the things I had said. A comment on Facebook (yes, I look...vanity) says, "This has just confirmed that this is what God is calling us to!"

Of course I know, for as many positive reviews there are, others will feel "less than" or will judge us unfairly. That wasn't my intention but it happens just the same. I certainly have days when I read an article about a family that looks like mine but does all sorts of amazing things. So, I will pray for all those who didn't find the article uplifting; that they may see God's wonderful work in their own lives.

Now I am happy to drift back into obscurity. I'm never sure how the moms pull it off who have famous blogs and a huge family and homeschool but I do know that will never be me. It's fine, of course, because that's my place and I'm happy. I love to work one-on-one with people who need help but I've never been the person who seeks fame. I leave that to Blondie ;0)

Oh, and just to make sure we stay humble, you might notice it says "8" questions when there are really only "7". It seems the proofreaders were all sick with the flu. Either which way, it is a great reminder to me that in my life, mistakes and graces are equally present. 

We are blessed.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

"And nothing would again be casual and small"

That line is from the poem I sing of a maiden by Rev. John Duffy, C.Ss.R. The poem was a favorite of Cardinal John O'Connor and I just learned about it and so many other beautiful, other-worldly things today. Yes, we were on a pilgrimage ;0)

After Mass this morning, #1 and I headed East. We ended up, about 4 hours later, in Maryland, just outside of D.C.  It happened to be the open house (see yesterday's post) for the Sisters of Life and, yes, it was worth an all-day trip to spend one hour in this community.

I'm not sure where I even found them but, since #1 is so intent on the vocation, I started looking at different orders. About 6 months ago, I found the Sisters of Life. Please go to their homepage (above) and check them out. If you can, please help them out. They are an amazing order and do wonderful work. Oh, the title of this post is engraved on the back side of the medal that they wear, the front bearing the image of Madonna of the streets.

I want to say more and will one day but I am sooo tired. I just thought I'd give you some homework and we will chat later ;0)

We are blessed.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

If You Are Clueless Like Me

Tomorrow, Sunday the 8th of February, a lot of the consecrated communities across the nation are holding open houses for the "World Day for Consecrated Life". It's a great opportunity to meet the members of each order and find out about what is special about their work. Here is the Pittsburgh link for activities but if you're in a different town, check it out. It is definitely nationwide!

We are blessed with so many consecrated religious who show us the path of simplicity and faith.