Wednesday, November 30, 2016

For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.

That was from Matthew's Gospel this past Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent. The first Sunday is traditionally the week of Hope. We wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, despite not knowing which day that might be.

I got up early to attend Mass and go to the gym yesterday. I prayed a rosary before Mass and I was feeling happy when I returned home. Walking around the corner of my house, I saw my husband standing outside, waiting for me. When we greet people outside the door in our home, it's usually a bad sign.

"I have sad mom passed away early this morning." Smack. Indeed you do not know the day or the hour. What a huge shock and great sadness. For all of our ups and downs, this is the woman who raised my husband to be who he is and she, mother and grandmother, is gone. Wow.

So, we push on in hope and know that she is meeting God and her husband (after 30+ years) and our babies that went straight to heaven. It's difficult. We drove all day yesterday to reach her 91-year-old brother in New Jersey so we could deliver the news in person. He is the last of the 4 siblings. It was difficult. We spent half the day there today before driving home through the fog.

The Benjamin Franklin bridge...Philadelphia is out there somewhere.
We will regroup and head to Atlanta for the funeral on Monday then push up to Philadelphia for the burial on Wednesday. It is a grueling schedule. We will all be worn out, emotionally and physically by the time this has reached completion. Still, is there another way? Life isn't easy but neither is death. It's only what comes after that makes it all worth while. We can only teach our children to honor the dead by doing just that.

So, a picture from the obituary guest book. 
Classic Marge
Your prayers would be so welcome at this time. Thank you.

Advent...the only time besides Lent when a pilgrimage immediately after a pilgrimage makes total sense. 

We are blessed.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

God-centered life

We were at a different parish for Mass today. It was a much later time than we usually attend and I initially resisted. It was Ordinary Form Mass, but some parts were in Latin and the priest faced toward the crucifix and tabernacle (same direction as the people) for certain parts, like during the Consecration. I apologize for not knowing the proper, liturgical term or for having time to look it up right now. I think you get the idea and I'm trying valiantly to resist calling it "Latin Mass Light" since it wasn't Latin Mass. Moving on.

We decided to attend this Mass because several other homeschooling families attend there and had good things to say. After traveling through the South and seeing, for lack of a better word, more reverence during their Mass, we decided to try. I didn't fall in love immediately and I wasn't turned off. It was nice, it was holy, and it was a good start. It was familiar and the Latin sections were a great challenge to pay attention and not just go through the motions (really tempting sometimes after doing it for 40+ years).

Discussions of which Mass and where have to wait for another time. That's not the point of this post. This post is about making God the center of your life...always. Father spoke in his homily about not getting side tracked by money, politics, (add your own issue), and losing track of God. He told us spending time in service of the Saints and in good Catholic fellowship is well spent on our journey to heaven. Centering our life around Him is the right choice. As we stood chatting in the social area after Mass while the kids snacked and played together, it was clear that this was the right choice. The late Mass, the supportive friends, the time for was all about spending today as God's day. Keeping it holy. What a wonderful way to kick off Advent.

I was struck by the experience this morning because I was thinking about the post that would cover the next leg of our journey. We headed out of St. Louis (after Mass at St. Clement parish...another great experience of individuals welcoming and sharing with us) and drove south toward our night in Fayetteville, AR. We had an important stop before we crossed the state line, however - Joplin, MO.

Joplin, Missouri is a tiny (50,000 pop.) town in the far Southwest corner of the state. This is the birthplace of George Washington Carver, and the site of the George Washington Carver National Monument and visitors center. If you don't know about the man, take some time to read through the website...he had amazing gifts to share with others, despite the numerous hurdles that were present as a poor black in the South. He was an educator, a scientist, and a humanitarian. He was, above all, a Child of God.

You knew I'd get to linking it eventually ;0) I was expecting to see many things about his life and his work, which were abundant. What I didn't expect was the deep faith of a man who faced so many hardships and continued to persevere and work for others. He put God first and look how much good came from it!

Such humility. Amazing.

Yes, they did some work on Sunday. It was a lesson about crediting God first for all of your good work ;0)

The Jr. Park Rangers

Acknowledge Him!!! Wow. Even in the middle of rural Missouri, the message is clear. Look to God and He will give you direction. Wow. 

So, in the end, it's not just about picking the right church with the right priest in the right neighborhood. It's about giving God your best and remembering that He is the matter where you find yourself. I'm glad it's Advent; I have a lot of work to do. I'm grateful it's the week of Hope...I can't be dispirited!

We are blessed.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

St. Louis...pilgrimage

When you look up "pilgrimage" it states "religious journey" so, technically, visiting a Godparent is definitely part of that (flat pizza and frostys aren't really a religious experience though, lol). The rest of our time in the Gateway City to the West was spent walking through Holy Doors and meeting some wonderful children of God while experiencing His grace and mercy.

I spent early Saturday morning (I was up because, well, it's an hour later at home) searching for a Mass that was local. The Holy Door churches were a bit to early to make with the little people but, as always, the Holy Spirit had it well in hand.

The Oratory of Sts. Gregory and Augustine

I clicked this link because it was local, it said "Oratory", "Latin Mass" and the rector is a Benedictine. We didn't think there would be High Mass on Saturday but when we travel, we're ready for just about anything. It's fun to see where the Holy Spirit takes you!

Because I'm who I am, I don't always read completely. Looking now at the website, it makes sense that we went to the wrong place, although it didn't end up that way and it all came out for good regardless. The Latin Mass is currently sharing space from St. Anselm's so it's very confusing (in my defense). We eventually arrived at a church (St. Anselm) and attended Mass (not Latin, although the altar was set so that it could be used that way when necessary, which was a good teaching moment).

It was as confusing as it sounds but, like any other Mass, the miracle of the Eucharist was present and it was a grace-filled morning. The priest, we guess, was a missionary for much of his life since his accent started as Irish and ended up Indian. He also had many beautiful motions through the prayers that seemed they would have been perfect when he was saying Mass for those who did not share a common language. It was a good introduction for our pilgrimage...the Catholic Church is Universal but it doesn't always look the same.
The church was round and full of glass...simple and beautiful
I met a lovely older woman in the parking lot who thanked us for coming to Mass that morning. We talked a bit and together gave thanks, post-election, for the continued gift of so many varied opportunities for worship. She also gave me information that would bring us more grace that afternoon.

After Mass we headed over to the Carmelite Monastery to walk through the Holy Door and Adore for a while. This was the FIRST Carmel in the United States, founded in 1863! How amazing to worship in such a historic place.

Holy Door

When we were finishing up, a lovely older gentleman came up and asked if he could show me a picture. He told me of his journey to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families and he showed me a photo of a family with young children whom he remembered when seeing our family. I was really expecting to see a photo of our homeschool friends who were there but, no, it was another family. It was nice to see him rejoice in the presence of young people learning the faith. When I told him we were from Pennsylvania he answered, "well, then, that's why the Holy Spirit brought you here now!". Indeed.

We made one more quick trip before returning to rest with the tiny man who had developed a rather terrible cold during the trip out. It seems to be our habit...the trip starts with his fever and ends with mine :0( Gratefully, we were only sick a short time.

Our second Holy Door that day was the home of the Passionist Nuns of St. Louis. We have a great love for our Passionist Monastery at home and the kids had no idea there could be Passionist nuns (!) so it was a good mix of familiar and novel. For me, I don't think it's a coincidence that the Holy Spirit led me to all of these contemplative orders during our journey. God knows me and He knows my mind seeks solitude whenever possible :0)
Passionist Nuns - In full habit and professing our 5-fold Vows - Devotion to and grateful remembrance of the Passion, Chastity, Poverty, Obedience and Enclosure, we offer unceasing prayer and joyful penance in love and fidelity to the Church and the Holy Father 

St. Paul of the Cross, Pray for Us! 

After our rest and before heading to Ted Drewes and the party that evening, we sought out the special gift given us by the woman at Mass that morning. It seemed we were in St. Louis at the exact same time the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima was heading through on the tour of 100 Dioceses for 100 Years (ahem). We have had a family devotion to Our Lady of Fatima for quite a while, beginning with Armata Bianca when we only had a couple of kids ;0) I find such peace in the rosary, especially when we say it as a family. I know Our Lady guides us to her Son with a mother's love and care. What a great way to wrap up our stay in STL...visiting the Mother of the Word Incarnate. The statue was hosted by the parish at St. Gabriel the Archangel...two minutes from Ted Drewes ;0)

O Queen of the Rosary, Sweet Virgin of Fatima, who has deigned to appear in the land of Portugal, we beg you to watch over our dear homeland and assure its moral and spiritual revival.
Bring back peace to all the nations of the world so that all, our own nation in particular, may be happy to call you their Queen and the Queen of Peace. Amen.
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for our country.
Our Lady of Fatima, obtain for all humanity a lasting peace.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Our middle child (who celebrates his Feast Day today, btw, St. Clement, pray for us!) has a special deal with Godparents. His Godfather is my cousin Peter, a Catholic priest in Slovakia. Fr. Peter is the eldest of seven kids...we figured he would "get" the Godfather role. When we traveled to Europe a few years ago to visit, he told us about the role of Godparents in Slovakia. It is a very honored that equals parents in many ways, (we watched a wedding where the bride was escorted to the altar by her parents and Godparents) they have a much more prominent position than just an honorary title, as is often the case in the US.

#3's Godmother follows this tradition beautifully (which is somewhat surprising considering she is a mother-of-four living in the Midwest and has no Slovak blood, whatsoever...;0)) Every time we venture out on pilgrimage, their family is our first stop. It never fails to feel like a cherished homecoming.

This year "Miss Colleen" even came to greet us after we landed from 10 hours in the car. She introduced her Godson to St. Louis style pizza and they had a good time catching up. The next day we stopped for a "concrete", another St. Louis tradition, and headed to their home for an afternoon/evening of kids playing, parents talking, and a pre-birthday full of St. Louis stuff (much to the dismay of the older, non-STL-team-loving brother. lol).

God was plentiful in His reward as we stepped out in faith to choose these "plus parents" to help us guide this child. As he prepares for his First Penance and First Communion, I know that they have him squarely in their prayer-sights. How good is our God to give us this extra help? So good, all the time. We are blessed.

Love that Godmother ;0)
He was a huge fan of Imo's!(not my fav)

Quick concrete...they said it tasted like a Frosty. It does. Totally. (yes, we all shared one...we were going to a party...don't think we deprive our kids. Please)

Party time!

New St. Louis wear to grow on ;0)
More St. Louis to come...churches and God-happenings in part two.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Fall Retreat...2016

We're back in our nest, thanks to God, and beginning our slow recounting of the last 3600 miles across 14 states. I lost count how many churches and there were at least 4 museums...hard to give this trip a name. DH calls it the "red states tour" which is as good as any, since 13 of the 14 states were in fact "red". :0)

I'm catching up with the laundry but wanted to check in and say "thank you" to everyone who has been praying for our journey. The prayers were felt and the journey was amazing. Hopefully, with the long weekend, I can start getting some posts up...there are a few not-to-miss events. Given that we were traveling during the closing week of the Year of Mercy...what did we expect? God is so good...all the time

We are blessed.
Even with all the wonderful people and places we witnessed on our trip, I still missed my sunsets. Home is doubt.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

He danced!!!

We were totally ready for another just-before-the-show-walkoff but the little man did it. He danced! Well, you know, like a "4yo dragging a 2yo along danced" but he did it! It was a wonderful day...seeing all my babies (even the big ones) out there singing and dancing. I know that their grandfather and great-grandmother were smiling from above :0)

Dressed and ready

cheezin during rehearsal

Big girls first

then little girls

Paulie is the 2yo...SO sweet!

Beautiful group, beautiful day. We are blessed.

Saturday, November 5, 2016


I love my auntie,
I attempt to make stuffed cabbage for her feast day. I think it might actually turn out OK!

I love my firstborn, who also shares this feast day and for whom ground beef is, "uh, no",
these beauties will be roasted and pureed into some yummy soup.

I love my ethnic heritage,

I spent an entire day with flower, butter, cottage cheese, raisins and yeast until these lovely loaves emerged from the oven. They are on sale tomorrow at the Pitt Slovak festival - get there early!

I realize how quickly childhood passes,

I let her skip a class so we could make one more pass through the Holy Door and enjoy the beautiful day.

I am so blessed with things to love - surrounded by my family, my heritage, my loves. Wow. God is so very good.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

All You Holy Men and Women

Yay, we're finally to the actual feast of All Saints! I admit, even though the kids didn't dress up for Mass (they used was fun, actually), it has to be up there among my favorite holi(y)days. I think that is in no small part because it's an excellent antidote to the previous day's festivities. Yes, we go trick or treating because we have some dear friends from church that enjoy seeing the kids (as do auntie and grammy), but I am pleased that we've come to a good balance with everything.

Some of the last few days of activity...

Saturday - the local Halloween parade. Lots of candy, extra bonus of seeing certain godparents we love...
Post-parade, we head to the church next door for Trunk or Treat. We have gone to this for several years now and we love it. Each trunk is a different Bible story so the kids collect candy and review some of our favorite parts of the faith.
like Noah's

After TorT, dh took them to a friend's apartment building where they were having an in-house trick or treat for the older folks. What a wonderful concept. It was clear from a lot of the treats handed out that they had been worked on and thought about for some time. Corporal works of mercy...every day...even for Halloween ;0)


We headed to Mass, the 40 Days for Life vigil (still a few more days for you to go!), then home to finish the preparations. We've been having a Saints party for a few years as well and it's been such a blessing, especially when it falls before Halloween, to put our hearts and minds towards heaven...all while having fun and learning good things.

Some excellent Saints this year, as always!
Sorting the Rosary mysteries with St. Dominic and playing memory match with St. Theresa's joyful faces
Saints quiz with St. Ignatius of Loyola and, I'm told, someone forgot a bunch of the books for the Bible sort with St. Jerome. Mea maxima culpa. I was really tired...and if the Latin is incorrect, again, not my language. ;0)

Everyone loved bowling down the fallen angels with St. Michael !
 Of course, every party needs food and, of course, a Saints' party needs Saintly food...
I have found this to be one of the most instructive exercises about the Saints. St. Seraphim was a monk who lived in the wilderness and befriended a bear...St. Peter Chanel, a missionary who was clubbed to death by the locals. The fish aren't labeled because all the fishermen Saints wouldn't fit on the sign!

I couldn't find any Saint (Dorothy does have apples) who would cover the fruit bowl so, close enough. This year we had St. Sylvia instead of St. Isadore the farmer for the veggies.
The kids seemed to enjoy themselves again this year and it is wonderful to watch them interact with one another as they live out and learn their faith. What greater examples do we have in almost any aspect or situation of life (except fruit, apparently!) than the Saints? We can always turn to them for guidance!


After Mass and family Adoration, we somehow managed to fit in some classwork on Halloween (ok, probably as much as the other schools did) and then it was time to head out for the candy grab. I was grateful to dh for toning it down a bit this year. We went to a dear lady's home to visit...
stopped at a few houses on her street then covered our block and headed home. The kids got to hand out candy for a change and play on the porch to enjoy the evening. 

I had the added blessing of filling in for someone at Adoration last night. It seemed about the most perfect way I could usher out All Hallows' Eve and usher in All Saints Day. 

Wishing you a most blessed day, filled with the grace that comes only from above. It feels right to have the Saints' attention as we head into the last week before the elections. Never a bad thing to ask for heavenly intervention.

We are blessed.