Monday, December 2, 2013
Preparing a place in our main living room for a Christmas tree will be slightly more complicated this year due to my annual (but slightly belated) soap making chaos taking up half the room. The crafty clutter, though hard on the eyes, is easy on the nose ~ the scents of the essential oils beautifying the air. Soon the freshly minted bars will be mature enough for their relocation to obscure curing areas in the home, but for now they stand in opposition to any urgent decorating or tree importing schemes.
On a short furlough from high school seminary for a sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma Billie's, Peter stayed up well past his normal bedtime to hand the outdoor lights with Joseph. Their decorative enthusiasm, dampened slightly by the parental regulation not to climb upon the high roof in the rain after dark, netted many strings of lights strung, powered and illuminated before the official end of Thanksgiving and Peter's return to school.
As important as the external preparations for Christmas seem, the internal preparations are much more urgent. Advent, offered for our eternal benefit as a season of penitence, or repentance, should be a time to clear the ground a bit, making the soil of our souls more fertile for the Lord's coming. Along those lines, I stumbled upon a tremendous series of sermons for Advent Recollection at the Audio Sancto Sermon Series. I highly recommend making time to listen to the three sermons on silence, prayer, and the spiritual life. Amidst your bustling to-do lists and business of the season, give yourself the gift of time to prayerfully fortify your soul for the coming of our Savior.
Jesus is coming! Will we be ready?
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Someone recently quipped that Thanksgiving was 'all about abundance' and cited the number of pies Bridget bakes for the feast as exhibit A for the abundance argument. Truth be told, I bake quite a few pies for this celebration. I love pie. My mom always baked pies for my birthday cakes, but I digress.
The heart of our celebration today centers on 'giving' thanks...to Someone. Getting stuffed on seasonal delicacies and saturated with televised sporting entertainment may be the hallmarks of the day in many American families, but the true meaning still remains: We give Thanks to God for His abundant blessings.
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me . . . Mark then you who forget God, lest I rend and there be none to deliver. He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors me. To him who orders his way aright, I will show the salvation of God. ~Psalm 50:14-15, 22-23
What better place to thank God than in His holy house, the Church? The word Eucharist means thanksgiving, and by God's grace our family will begin this secular holiday within God's house, praising Him and receiving Him in holy Eucharist. The rest of the holiday is, as they say, gravy.
The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of justice, peace, and the joy that is given by the Holy Spirit. Whoever serves Christ in this way pleases God and wins the esteem of men. Let us, then, make it our aim to work for peace and to strengthen one another. ~Romans 14:17-19
I give my humble thanks to God:
- For the gift of life and faith given to me by my parents in cooperation with our Lord who gave His life to save me from my sins
- For the gift of eternal life offered through my baptism and renewed through frequent sacraments, especially Holy Communion and confession; for the Holy Catholic Church
- For the gift of our marriage, and my husband's infant baptism on the same day as my own
- For our children Zachary, Joseph, and Peter; for our other pregnancies and miscarriages
- For our parents, grandparents, siblings, families, Godparents, priests, and the Church Triumphant ~ the saints in heaven
- For our Godchildren, foster children, spiritual children and their families
- For our friends, prayer warriors, benefactors, students, teachers, readers, employees, contacts, Scouting and home schooling families,
- For the Fraternal Society of Saint Peter (FSSP), Benedictines, Carmelites, Passionists, Dominicans, for our Seattle Archdiocese, and our parishes
- For our health, home and daily sustenance
- For our freedom and for those who defend true freedom and the right to life for every human being
- For Truth
I offer thanksgiving to Almighty God for the many and varied resources so readily available to build up my faith and deepen my knowledge of the Truth:
The Holy Bible
Church Militant TV
Father Z's blog
Audio Sancto Sermon Series
The Holy See
Spiritual Food for Thought
Father Broom's podcasts
Father Jim Northrop's podcasts
Father Lappe's homilies
Father Hollowell's blog
Father MacRae's blog
The Radical Life
Divine Mercy: Saint Faustina's Diary
And lest I forget, there is one last thing to be especially thankful for on this day:
Monday, November 25, 2013
|Troop mates Caleb and Joseph await their Eagle Scout Boards of Review.|
On the other hand, Joseph's Eagle Scout Board of Review included escalating levels of anxiety and a drawn out suspense-filled wait in the hallway after the lengthy interview with an unfortunate precedence nagging his memory, "The last time I had to wait this long for an answer, it was 'No.'"
|Whatcom District's Eagle Coordinator gives board of review and public speaking pointers.|
|The community Eagle board panel passed Joseph; Mrs. Quinn was his troop witness, and Tim the proud papa.|
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
|Peter and Joseph prepare for a ride on Galbraith.|
Mountain biking, duck hunting, football viewing, and a pizza dinner were all part of the predictable plans for Peter on his second home weekend this fall. But the big (tiny) surprise rested in his arms as he welcomed a new foster sister, Angelina. Peter woke up early with lots of love to share and helped feed and bathe our little visitor at the crack of dawn. Of course early rising is part of Peter's normal routine at high school seminary, but nevertheless, his willingness to jump right in was heartwarming.
|'Angelina' rests in Peter's arms|
Joseph's role as the primary teen assistant around the house is relaxed on Peter's home weekends, so not only does he anxiously await opportunities for fun with his little brother once a month, but also gladly shares the chores and duties. Joseph, true to his easy going nature, joined Peter for a chanted evening prayer (praying the Psalms) one night, doing his best to follow the unfamiliar routine reverently.
|Peter feeds 'Angelina' breakfast.|
We celebrated another first for Peter as he moved up the ranks of altar servers at our local parish, accepting Father Altenhofen's invitation to serve as acolyte. Just as Zachary mentored Joseph a few years ago, Joseph trained Peter before vesting, and stood nearby in the role of cross bearer ready to assist if any situations arose. Peter handled his new liturgical role with poise and reverence, and took great care to perform his duties properly and not to draw attention to himself.
|Peter serves as acolyte at Sunday Mass, behind the scenes at E's baptism.|
|Peter serves first Mass as acolyte, assisting Father Joseph at the altar as Joseph looks on from the cross bearer seat.|
Returning to school Monday evening with a bag of clean laundry and a pile of books, Peter greeted his schoolmates and spent a few minutes in the game room before the bells rang for evening prayer. As many of the major (college) seminarians had not yet returned from home weekend, several of the high school students, Peter included, were able to pray vespers from within the Benedictine's choir. Joining the community's Liturgy of the Hours in the abbey church and feasting on home made piroshky (freshly prepared by the high school boys under Father Peter's tutelage) rounded out my monastery drop-off experience quite nicely. Peter's home weekends really are a blessing for all of us.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
After Mass on the Feast of Saint Charles Borromeo, we answered a call to take in a newborn whose parents cannot yet take care of her. Due to a strange 'coincidence,' it seems like Saint Charles himself was involved in this new foster placement, but I'll save the 'communion of saints' story for another day.
For privacy purposes, we shall call her Angelina on the blog. To answer the most common question: No, we don't know for how long she will be with us. It could be one week, one month or longer. The fostering process involves much mystery and many moving parts. Our prayers (and hopefully yours) go out for little Angelina and for her family at this time of separation and the various trials and tribulations accompanying such an unsettling occurrence.
|Within 24 hours of our new foster placement, our friends began showering gifts upon little Angelina.|
Speaking of St. Charles...
St. Charles Borromeo, St. Peter Canisius, St. Turibius of Mongrovejo and St. Robert Bellarmine are the only four people mentioned by name at the beginning of the Catechism of the Catholic Church; cited as responsible for the Council of Trent, which gave way to the modern day catechism. Have you ever looked at the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Inside, the teachings of the Church are clearly taught with Biblical citations throughout.
If your authority on what the Catholic Church teaches includes lapsed and/or poorly catechized Catholics or anti Catholics, there's a good chance you'll be pleasantly surprised when you discover what the Church actually teaches and why.
Recently, someone shared an interesting fact gleaned from a historical study of the reformation. Another asked in response, "I wonder if you will also study the counter-reformation?" If studying one side of the great divorce of the Church makes sense, doesn't studying both sides of the huge break seem appropriate? The documents from the Council of Trent make for some interesting reading:
St. Charles Borromeo was a key player and brave leader in the counter reformation, and quite an effective reformer within the Church. He's also a personal friend and a great and powerful intercessor, alive in heaven. My grade school and parish Church was named in his honor, and I consider him one of my finest teachers. Thank you, Saint Charles Borromeo; please pray for us!
RASH PRESUMPTION OF PREDESTINATION IS TO BE AVOIDED
No one, moreover, so long as he lives this mortal life, ought in regard to the sacred mystery of divine predestination, so far presume as to state with absolute certainty that he is among the number of the predestined, as if it were true that the one justified either cannot sin any more, or, if he does sin, that he ought to promise himself an assured repentance.
Friday, November 8, 2013
|Notre Dame; the Golden Dome|
About this time last year, my husband Tim arranged for a surprise return home for Zachary during Notre Dame's fall break. Although it would have been truly awesome to have a repeat performance this year, it wasn't in the cards, so Zac spent his break week on campus getting caught up on homework and sleep. His break from the normal university routine allowed for a few extra phone calls, which we enjoyed greatly.
Rival football fans, Grandma Billie and Grandpa Cliff visited Zachary at Notre Dame for the Oklahoma University game in October, and proudly sat in the OU section with a crowd of supporters bussed in from Chicago for the big event. Grandma's Sooners claimed victory, but Zachary's time with his grandparents included many other special moments that were less rivalry and more camaraderie. Taking a long tour of campus, attending daily Mass together at the Basilica, and eating out off campus were a few of the highlights. Grandpa's trusty camera bit the dust, and Zachary tends toward photographic minimalism, so unfortunately there are no images to share from their time together at ND.
|Autumn view from Zachary's dorm room in Knott Hall|
This year, Zachary joined a few extra curricular clubs, including the Notre Dame men's boxing team. Early season training focuses on conditioning and sound quite intense; Zachary reports icing up to five different injuries so far. Training with punches begins soon; please consider this a prayer request. All for a good cause, the boxing club season culminates with the fundraising event "Bengal Bouts" which supports missionary work in Bangladesh.
On the topic of sophomore year academics, Zachary reports that his philosophy class "Paradoxes" is his favorite. Second year German studies continue, and Zac's renowned theology professor, Father Daley, S.J., is both teacher of "Conversions" class and a coach for the boxing club.
|Zac's view from the stands at a ND hockey game|
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
|Peter picks up the flute and joins the high school seminary orchestra.|
Some things just feel right, even though difficult, painful, or requiring great sacrifice. Peter's attending high school seminary this year as an 8th grader is one of those things. Our family and home school just isn't the same without Peter here, and the past few months adjusting to his absence have been both trying and rewarding.
|Grandma Billie and Grandpa Cliff join Joseph, Peter and Father Peter, rector, after Sunday Mass.|
Given that Peter comes home for a few days' stay each month, and that his orthodontic appliances require the occasional visit home for business' sake, we enjoy his company fairly regularly despite the miles and international border that distance us. Peter uses a phone card and an old fashioned pay phone to call home every so often which offers the gift of instant communication that the one-week+ snail mail routine can't offer. The students do not have access to the internet, so all other modern forms of staying in touch are out.
|Peter, tour guide at Westminster Abbey, BC|
A few times each year, the high school seminarian host a performance for parents and families showcasing their orchestra and elocution programs. Combined with the show, parents are able to visit with the monks who teach the seminarians and receive important feedback about their son(s)' grades, behavior and adjustment to community life at the monastery.
|Peter performs on stage in an adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream.|
An added bonus to any visit to the monastery is the open invitation to join the community for chanted Liturgy of the Hours. Sounding bells from high above in the abbey's tower alert everyone when the time for prayer draws near. On our recent visit for Parents' Day festivities, Peter shared his prayer book with his Grandma Billie and Grandpa Cliff, who were visiting the abbey for the first time.
Showing us around the beautiful campus on a break between Mass and midday prayer, Peter shared his favorite viewpoint, hidden away behind the seminary. We also made a stop at the cemetery, to continue our All Souls Octave prayers for the holy souls in purgatory. The little cemetery saw many visitors that day on account of this special season of remembrance.
|Brothers reunited for the day|
|Father Peter, harpist, shares his instrument with a seminarian's siblings on Parents' Day.|