Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Exert, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy power and come, and succour us by thy great might:  that by the assistance of thy grace, thy indulgent mercy may hasten what is delayed by our sins.
                       Collect from the Fourth Sunday of Advent

The Lord is merciful, and will come to dwell with the children of men, even though we are yet sinful.  The time of preparation is nearly complete, and yet we realize that we are not ready because we are not pure.  We need the assistance of God's grace to complete our journey to Christmas.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Conversion Story Part 11: Friends

Sometime in early October I reached a certainty that the Catholic Church was the one true church, that I must become a Catholic, that I was in a state of mortal sin, and that I needed that sacrament of Confession.  Because I was painfully shy, I could go no further on my own.  I simply didn't have it in me to approach a priest, explain my situation, and ask where to go from here.  So I started dropping oblique hints to people I knew were Catholic.  One person saw me at Mass and asked later if I was Catholic.  I expressed uncertainty, and he let it slide.  Another person was in a couple of classes with me, including choir, and we had a concert at the protestant church which I had attended off and on.  The building was labyrinthine, and I had never really learned my way around it, and as we were winding from one part of the building to another, I made a comment to that effect.  My friend asked if I belong to that particular denomination, and I replied "I don't know what I am anymore."

This friend made a point to come back and ask me about that comment after the concert was over, and we talked for hours.  He introduced me to a friend of his who was a transitional deacon at the time, who then instructed me in the Faith.  He also took me to a little chapel where the Extraordinary Form was celebrated (before the current Pope coined the term), which was an apostolate of the Fraternity of St. Peter.  Three months later, I was received into the Catholic Church (the Rite was that in use in 1962) and I went to Mass at that same church for the next several years, met my husband there, and was married in the same church.

That's the end of the story.  Based on a few comments from friends, I suspect that I have told it badly.  Some people seem to think this story shows my intelligence, that I was clever to figure out the truth.  Not so.  It is the story of grace, and it humbles me exceedingly that I took nine whole years to respond to the grace which is so abundantly present in every chapter of my story.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Conversion Story Part 10: Catechism

Having felt utterly lost and out of place at Mass, I decided to do something about it.  In the basement of the university library, I found a catechism by Fr. Hardon.  During the next week, (which was the first week of classes, so I had more than the usual amount of free time) I read it cover to cover.  I'm pretty sure my roommates thought I was nuts.  Incidentally, the catechism helped not in the least with knowing what responses to make at Mass.  However, I learned an enormous amount about the Catholic Faith.
 
I was more than ever convinced that there was nothing in the Catholic Faith that I could find an objection to.  Still searching for what it was that I, as a Protestant, was supposed to believe that was different from the Catholic Faith, I looked to the reformers.  I wanted to know if they had a compelling argument that would justify the break with the Catholic Church.  I read Luther and Calvin in their own words (in translation).  I found nothing compelling.  In Luther, I found a man lacking the humility to admit that those who criticized him were correct, and thus driven farther and farther from the truth.  Calvin just made me angry.  And so I failed to find anything that would justify remaining as I was, outside the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Conversion Story Part 9: Mass

When I went back to school in the fall, I decided that I was never going to be able to sort out my religious questions without going to Mass.  I looked up the Mass times offered at the chapel on campus, figured out how to get there, got in my car, and went.  I nearly chickened out.  I got to the driveway, panicked, and drove on by.  Then I thought a little more and figured that since I'd already come this far, I might as well go ahead and attend Mass.  I drove around the block and turned in to the parking lot on the second try.

I felt utterly lost.  I didn't know how to behave, didn't know the responses to make or where to find them, didn't know when to sit, stand, kneel ...  So I watched and copied the people around me.  When I genuflected for the first time upon leaving (I didn't know to genuflect when I arrived, but I saw people do so as they came into church and as they left) I nearly fell over.

At the same time, however, I knew I was in the right place.  The very first sermon I heard in a Catholic Church was on the Real Presence.  It lined up with what I thought I understood about the Catholic Faith.  While I nearly didn't go that first time, there was never any question about going back.  I went to Mass every Sunday after that.  For a while I continued to sing in a choir in a protestant church, so after Mass I would drive to another church and sing in the choir there.  And I was still carrying my homemade Rosary in my pocket.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Conversion Story Part 8: Scripture

I was already fairly familiar with Scripture.  That is one of the strengths of protestant denominations:  Scripture is taught and emphasized.  I knew the stories pretty well.  Sometime during that summer Catholicism became more than an academic question.  I knew that I was going to need to make a judgment about the truth of various claims about Christianity.  I was eventually going to need to make a decision.

I read the Bible.  I didn't read all of it, but I read a lot.  I read fast, sometimes a whole book in a single day.  I wanted to make sure I knew Scripture in order to make a good judgment about what other people wrote.  I also started keeping a running bibliographic record of what I read; I wanted to be able to show, if I had to explain my decision, that is was a researched, thought-out decision, not some romantic notion.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Conversion Story Part 7: Rosary

After reading about St. Thomas Aquinas, I became curious about something I had seen mentioned often in the Fr. Greeley novels I had been reading:  the rosary.  What is a rosary?  A google search quickly answered that question.  The rosary is a prayer, combining repetitive vocal prayers and meditating on the life of Christ.  It's also the Divine Office for the poor and uneducated; the 150 recitations of the "Hail Mary" correspond to the 150 psalms.

I was intrigued.  I wanted one.  But how to get one?  I could have easily ordered one online, but that would have necessitated the use of my credit card, and my parents at least had the ability to look at my bill (I doubt they ever really did; they're just not like that), and because I was still uncertain where all this was going, I didn't want to be answering any questions about what I bought from some Catholic company online.  I didn't know that there was a Catholic bookstore in town, or I'd have been there in a heartbeat.  I didn't even know such things existed.

My solution?  I found instructions to make a knotted rosary online (at Rosary Army).  I found the twine at Walmart and a crucifix at Hobby Lobby.  My first attempt was pretty sad looking.  My second attempt was much improved -- the knots were much closer together and uniformly spaced.  I carried it in my pocket all the time for the next several months, so it spent a lot of time as a tangled mess.  I even prayed it a few times, but not often, because I couldn't remember all the prayers.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Third Sunday of Advent

Bend thine ear, O Lord, we beseech thee, to our prayers; and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of thy visitation.
          Collect from the 3rd Sunday of Advent

Men have dwelt in the darkness of sin since Adam fell, but the day is coming, and is now at hand, when God Himself will come and bring a new light into the hearts and minds of men.  The Light of the World is near and is growing day by day; let us clear away the clutter in our minds and our hearts, so that His brightness may shine into every corner when He comes.

Conversion Story Part 6: Summer School

In the spring of my second year of college I changed my major, which necessitated a summer semester, which I did immediately.  I found summer school to be different from the regular school year.  There were fewer demands on my time, and I found myself with a fair amount of leisure time.  I was also taking a speech class that semester, which involved very open-ended assignments, like "Give a seven minute speech on any topic."  I hate open-ended assignments; I spend more time deciding on a topic than doing the assignment itself.  I found myself sitting in my dorm room at the beginning of the semester trying to think of a speech topic.  My eyes settled on my roommate's shelf of books, which included St. Thomas Aquinas on Ethics, and I remembered my professor saying that the writing of St. Thomas is a good summary of Catholic belief.

I checked about eight books out of the library on St. Thomas, and spent several days just reading.  When I was almost out of time, I finally settled down and wrote the speech.  I found nothing in the books I read on St. Thomas that I would have any difficulty believing.  I began to wonder, "What is it that I am supposed to believe that's so different from this?"

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Conversion Story Part 5: History Lesson

After I went off to college (almost a thousand miles away from my parents) I joined a local church choir.  This made sense, because I was studying music.  This went along swimmingly for a while, and then the choir director quit/was fired/I'm not exactly clear what happened but it seemed a little wonky.  I became friendly with the next choir director, who was a graduate student at the same university I was attending, but I didn't really like the way he ran things; he never practiced music more than a week in advance.  I felt that this was limiting what the choir could sing.  His response was that he picked the music after his weekly meeting with the pastor, at which she told him what the sermon would be about, and added that the sermon was the most important thing that happened at church on Sunday.  I vehemently disagreed with that, but didn't have a ready response as to what I thought was most important.  That got me thinking, "What is the most important thing?"

This second choir director didn't last long, and was fired for reasons even wonkier than the first, and I ended up thoroughly disgusted with the whole situation.  I started traveling a somewhat longer distance to a church where one of my professors was the music director.  He taught a Sunday School class on the history of the Church, going all the way back to the early Fathers.  Despite being a Calvinist, he painted a pretty clear picture.  It all made sense to me until we got to Luther, who seemed to me to be on the wrong side of his argument.  Probably the most important thing I took away from that class was a single statement:  "The writings of St. Thomas Aquinas are a good summary of what the Catholic Church still believes."

Sometime during this time I started wondering what exactly it means to be Catholic.  I discovered the Catholic encyclopedia at NewAdvent.org, and attempted to gain a picture of Catholicism by reading a whole lot of articles there.  Needless to say, it was a doomed attempt, and I got nowhere.

Friday, December 10, 2010

7Quick Takes (vol. 7)

I've been writing a series of posts about the story of my conversion to Catholicism.  They are written in bite size chunks, partly because that was the way it happened -- a little at a time --and partly because I have a short attention span.  If you are interested, you can read the beginning of the story here.

Because I'm in conversion mode, here are 7 reasons the Catholic Church is attractive:

1.  The Catholic Church is the only church which upholds the Gospel teaching on divorce and remarraige.  How can anyone claim to teach the Gospel faith who does not uphold something Christ made so abundantly clear?

2.  The Communion of the Saints.  Who wouldn't want all the holy men and women who have gone before us and who now stand before the throne of God to pray for them?

3.  The Catholic Church is not afraid of having things involved in prayer (pictures, rosaries, statues, chaplets, crucifixes) which is a great help to someone with a wandering mind (and a wiggling infant).

4.  In a similar vein:  Catholic churches are decorated with many things to look at, all of which are designed to draw the mind and heart to God.  I cannot imagine trying to entertain an infant in a whitewashed box.  My baby loves the statues.

5.  History makes it pretty clear that the Catholic Church is the only one which dates from the time of Christ.  All other Christian denominations point to a founder.  The Catholic Church points only to Christ and his Apostles.

6.  Confession.  We're all sinners.  Having a representative of Christ with the authority to forgive sins with the certainty of a Sacrament is pretty awesome.

7.  Diversity.  There is a place for everyone within the Catholic Church.  There are devotions, saints, and manuals of prayer to suit every type of personality and every level of education.  

7 Quick Takes hosted at Conversion Diary

Conversion Story Part 4: High school

In high school, all of my religious questions were shelved.  I was uncertain of my faith, uncertain of God, and enamored of science.  I had friends who were Catholic and I remember them talking about Confirmation classes, and Lent and fasting before Holy Communion.  I became peripherally aware of various Catholic practices.

Sometime around my high school graduation my mother introduced me to two different series of novels by Fr. Andrew Greeley.  Let me be very clear:  I do not recommend these.  Fr. Greeley has an agenda.  He's right about a great many things, and wrong about a few, and his novels have the potential to give scandal.  I saw this agenda and said, "Hello agenda.  I do not agree with you, agenda.  Goodbye, agenda," and went on my merry way.  So why do I mention these novels which I do not recommend?  They were, for me, a first glimpse into the Catholic world.  These novels were the first edges of the beginning of an answer to the question, "What does it mean to be Catholic?"

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Small Successes (Vol. 3)

1.  I am within about a half-hour's work of finishing all the Christmas ornaments I am making for Christmas gifts this year.  I should be able to finish them today.

2.  Baby and I made it through Mass yesterday without deciding that the back of a more than usually crowded church was a the perfect place for blowing raspberries.  When she gets started on the raspberries, there's very little I can do to stop it.  For someone who skipped her morning nap and then stayed awake all the way through Mass, she was astonishingly good and didn't fuss at all.

3.  Umm...  Well, my kitchen is a mess and the laundry is overflowing... but I made cookies!

Now to go take care of that kitchen and laundry.


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Conversion Story Part 3: Unity

The denomination of which I was a part has a particular love for the ideal of a unified Church.  I thought it ironic that someone thought it a good idea to found a new Christian denomination in order to contribute to the unity of the Church.  And then I kept thinking.  If the Church is already splintered into thousands of factions, then how could I best contribute to making those many factions closer to one.  Would it make sense to create a new faction, hoping that everyone else would join me?  But I can only control my own actions, and furthermore the creation of a new faction increases the disunity of the Church.  That would be the wrong direction.  However, if I were to join the largest denomination, then my joining would make that fraction of the Church larger, and therefore closer to one.  The largest Christian denomination is the Catholic Church.

I don't know when I began thinking along these lines.  I believe it was in my early teenage years, but it might have been earlier than that.  I had, as yet, no idea what the Catholic Church actually believes and teaches.  I did know that until the "reformation" all of Europe was Catholic, and that the Catholic Church was still the largest of the Christian Churches.  I also had no notion yet of the Catholic Church being the true Church, although realizing that it was the oldest, I was 90% of the way there.  This was the first time I was explicitly attracted to the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Conversion Story Part 2: Communion

Communion was also an issue to me as a child.  It was the custom of the church I attended that unbaptized children did not generally receive communion, except on Christmas.  It was clear to me that there was an issue of worthiness; the unbaptized had not been made worthy to partake of something so holy (the exception on Christmas makes no sense, but it actually served to heighten my perception).

The church I attended also always used the Gospel narrative of the last supper at the communion service, so I heard, often, the words of Jesus, "This is my Body.  This is my Blood."  While my family, and the church we attended, did not teach the doctrine Real Presence, I believed.  When God said, "Let there be light," there was light.  When God said, "Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such as may seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, which may have seed after its kind upon the earth," it was so.  Why, when God says of bread, "This is my Body," should that not be so at His word also?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Please Pray

For little Rose.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us.

Conversion Story Part 1: Confession

There are a great many episodes to the story of my conversion, so I will post the story here in small chunks.  That's the way it happed, so that's the way I'll tell the story.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was to be baptized at the age of twelve.  She had been told and understood that baptism washes away all the sins of one's whole life.  She did not understand, and never asked, why baptism should take place now, before the treacherous teenage years, before all the temptations of adulthood.  Why have all my sins washed away now, if it can only be done once, rather than wait until I am old and about to die?  But it was the custom of her church to baptize at the age of twelve, and so it was done.

That little girl was me.  I was a Protestant.  This was the first of many questions.  This was the beginning.

Monday, December 6, 2010

No Christmas Tree!

At least, not yet!
First, a disclaimer:  this is in no way a condemnation of those of you who do something different.  It is what works for us.

I have a short attention span.  If I celebrated Christmas from the day after Thanksgiving, as the retailers would have us do, I would be tired of Christmas before the day ever arrived (specifically about December 9 this year.  I have about 14 days of Christmas in me, so 12 days of Christmas are just about right). Consequently, I need Advent to be Advent, and not Christmas.   There are no Christmas decorations out in our house right now, and there will not be until December 17, when the waiting, empty stable will first make it's appearance. 

We will decorate the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.  We have an artificial tree, so there is no ordeal of picking out the perfect tree, bringing it home, setting it up, and watering it.  We just get it out, fluff, and decorate. If we used a real tree, then we would probably have to modify this routine.  The tree would probably be like the manger scene:  empty and waiting.

We have Advent decorations out right now.  There is an Advent wreath by the dinner table and a Jesse tree tapestry on the wall.  We don't watch TV and avoid listening to radio stations that play non-stop Christmas music.  Is this against the culture we live in?  Yes.  Does it take a monumental effort?  Not really.  We just let Advent be Advent and save Christmas for Christmas.

St. Nicholas Daybook

Today the Church Celebrates ...
St. Nicholas.  There will be some surprise chocolate coins after dinner tonight to commemorate the three bags of gold that St. Nicholas gave (according to legend) to save the three girls.

I am thinking ...
That I should go take a shower before my baby wakes up and I lose the opportunity.

We are praying ...
Vespers each evening as we light the advent wreath.  When the baby is older, this may have to be abbreviated or adjusted to suit her attention span, but for the moment, as long as mama is holding her, she's happy.  And she likes to look at the candles.

I am wearing ...
Pajamas.  Until I go shower.

I am creating ...
Ornaments for Christmas gifts.

I am reading ...
Not much lately, except for the Bible readings to go with our new Jesse Tree.  My husband, who didn't seem so sure about it when I started work on it, is now enjoying it.

I am going ...
to take a walk later.  I'm hoping it'll make me feel better.  I think I've been neglecting to exercise for too long and it makes me achy.

Outside my window ...
It's cold!

I am listening to ...
Silence.  That baby is still sleeping.

I am grateful for ...
our Pastor, who is going to have an Extraordinary Form Mass on Wednesday, since it's a Holy Day.  I'm also grateful that my husband has a job that's flexible enough that he can go to a noon Mass.

From the kitchen ...
Not much.  And it's a mess.  Gotta go clean it up.  After that shower.

One of my favorite things ...
packages from Amazon ...  and getting my Christmas shopping done without leaving the house.

A picture thought I am sharing ...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Second Sunday of Advent

Stir up, O Lord, our hearts to prepare the ways of thy only-begotten Son: that by his coming we may be enabled to serve thee with a pure minds.
           -- Collect from the Second Sunday of Advent

Advent is a time of preparation, and as this collect suggests, a time of purification.  Traditionally, Advent was a time of fasting and penance.  For our eastern rite bretheren, it still is.  Vigils (the day before an important, high-ranking feast day -- not the feast itself celebrated on the day before) were days of fasting, so that each of the major feast days of the year was preceded by a day of fasting.  While these fasts are no longer required by Canon Law, let us strive to keep the penetential character of this season.  After all, the message of John the Baptist, who was sent to prepare the way for Christ, was "Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Also seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Ye brood of vipers, who hath shewed you to flee from the wrath to come?" (from the Douay-Rheims version, Matt. 3:2 and 7).

We are preparing for the coming of Christ, not only as an infant king in the stable in Bethlehem, but also his coming at the end of the world, on that day of ire, When the world shall melt in fire ... As the Judge through gleaming rift Comes each soul to closely sift (Dies Irae, translation from The New Roman Missal by Father Lasance).  We are preparing for the coming of the King and Judge, and our house ought to be swept and clean.  Our souls ought to be clean.  A sacramental confession, then, would be a good preparation.

May we not be too blinded by the bright lights and colors and shining tinsel and glaring advertisements, nor too deafened by the blaring "Holiday music," to see and hear the still, quiet promptings of the Holy Spirit and prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of their King.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holy Water

We have a holy water font next to our front door.  I have had a holy water font since shortly after my conversion.  While I was still living in the dorm in college, I had a plastic font attached to one side of my desk with command strips (little adhesive strips that come off without damaging surfaces or leaving a sticky residue).  In other places it was hung near the door of my bedroom.

Holy water is a reminder of baptism.  In the old liturgical books, holy water was used in blessings of objects and many blessings of people.  I see mentioned in many places (I have not been able to find an authoritative source -- if anyone knows where to look, please leave me a comment) that holy water has the power to remit venial sins.

Whenever we leave the house we make the sign of the Cross with holy water.  Do you have a holy water font in your home?  I highly reccommend the practice.

Friday, December 3, 2010

7 Quick Takes

7 Quick Favorite Recipes

1.  Lentil Soup
   1 onion, chopped
   1 cup lentils
   1/2 lb. sausage
   1 can Italian tomatoes
   3 cups water
   1 cube (or equivalent) beef bouillon
Use a large deep skillet.  If your sausage is raw, brown that first.  Saute the onion in a small amount of oil. Add water, lentils, sausage, tomatoes and bouillon.  Simmer about 40 minutes.

2.  Best Chocolate Cake Ever
Cake:
   2 cups flour
   1 3/4 cups sugar
   1/2 cup cocoa
   1 tbs. baking soda
   2/3 cup oil
   1 cup buttermilk
   1 cup strong coffee
Mix dry ingredients.  Add oil and buttermilk.  Stir in hot coffee.  Mixture will be soupy.  Bake in a 9 by 13 pan at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes.

Icing:
   1/2 cup butter
   2 tbs. cocoa
   1/4 cup milk
   3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
   1 tsp. vanilla
In a saucepan, combine butter, milk, and cocoa.  Heat to boiling, stirring.  Mix in powdered sugar and vanilla, stirring until frosting is smooth.  Pour warm frosting over cake as soon as it comes out of the oven.
  
3.  Curried Orange Chicken
   2 chicken breasts
   1 tbs. curry powder
   1/2 cup orange juice
   2 tbs. honey
   1 tbs. mustard
Combine last four ingredients, pour over chicken in a crock pot.  Cook on low 4-6 hours or on high 2-3 hours.  I serve this with hot rice and pour the liquid over the rice. 

4.  Spinach Frittata
   1 cup frozen spinach
   1 small onion
   7 eggs, beaten
   salt and pepper to taste
   1/2 tsp. minced garlic
   cheese
Saute spinach, garlic and onion in an oven-safe skillet in a small amount of oil. Preheat oven to 350.  Let most of the excess moisture in the spinach boil away.   Add eggs, salt and pepper.  Scramble eggs until about half the eggs are cooked.  Smooth mixture in pan, and put into the oven.  Bake about 5 minutes, until eggs are set (time will depend on how much moisture was left in the spinach and how done your eggs were before you put them in the oven).  While the eggs are baking, slice some cheese to put on top (you could also grate it, but I find grating overrated).  When eggs are set, arrange cheese on top of the frittata.  Return to oven long enough to melt the cheese.

5.  Mexican Rice and Beans
   1 cup white rice
   2 cups water
   2 cups beans
   1 small can tomatoes and green chilies
   1 can crushed tomatoes
   1 tsp. minced garlic
   2 tsp. oregano
   2 tsp. cumin
   1 onion, chopped
Combine all ingredients in a large skillet.  Simmer, uncovered, until rice is done, about 20 minutes.

6.  Oatmeal Bread
   1 1/4 cups water
   1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
   1 1/2 cups bread flour
   1/2 cup oatmeal
   2 tbs. dry milk
   3 tbs. brown sugar
   2 tbs. oil
   1 tbs. wheat gluten
   1 1/4 tsp. salt
   2 tsp. bread machine yeast
Combine all ingredients in a bread machine on the regular cycle.  I make this bread twice a week, and almost never buy bread.

7.  Grits and Sausage Gravy
   1/2 lb. bulk pork sausage
   1 small onion, chopped
   2 tbs. flour
   1 tsp. thyme
   1 cup milk
   1 can diced tomatoes
   grits prepared according to package directions
In a large skillet, brown the sausage, add onion and saute until translucent.  Add flour and thyme, and cook until brown.  Add milk and cook stirring until gravy begins to thicken.  Add tomatoes and cook until thickened.  Serve gravy over grits (or anything else you like gravy on).

More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Small Successes (vol. 2)

1.  I managed to finish my Jesse tree and ornaments in time for the First Sunday of Advent.  It was a little close (I was still working on ornaments on Saturday), but I made it.

2.  I have made real progress today on the ornaments I am making for Christmas gifts this year.  If I keep it up, I might actually manage to get everything finished before Christmas.  Next year I'm starting earlier.

3.  I taught my sister-in-law to crochet yesterday.  We had a lovely morning.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Sunday of Advent

Exert, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy power and come; that by thy protection we may be freed from the imminent dangers of our sins, and be saved by thy mercy.
                     Collect from the First Sunday of Advent

Today is the first day of the new year.  And it's the end of the world, again.  So we pray, "Lord Jesus, come and save us."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Last Sunday after Pentecost

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful; that, becoming more zealous as to the fruit of the divine work, they may receive the greater remedies of thy goodness.
                         Collect from the 24th and Last Sunday after Pentecost

This is all about cooperating with grace.  We should respond intentionally, with a will, to the promptings of grace.  If we do so, God will give us greater graces to do greater works.  It is a picture of progress in holiness:  do the small things according to the grace you are given, and do those things to which you are called because they are the duties of your state in life, and furthermore do them wholeheartedly, and God will grant you greater graces to do greater things, to which you again respond wholeheartedly and grow in holiness.  We should all be concerned about growth in holiness, because the end of the world is at hand, and we know not the day nor the hour.  Let us, therefore, strive to gain the greater remedies for our sinfulness from the goodness of God.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Meal Planning

Life around here is a little unpredictable.  What is appropriate for dinner sometimes depends on whether the baby is being quietly happy and cooperative, or fussy and difficult, or I am exhausted because she has been fussy and refusing to nap all day.  It doesn't really work right now for me to plan out specific meals on specific days.  I also don't have time I want to spend of writing a new meal plan every week.  On the other hand, having no plan means it gets to be dinner time and everyone is hungry and I have nothing quick and simple to fix.  That in turn results in grumpiness.

My current approach is to have about ten standard meals and keep the ingredients for them on hand all the time.  When I run out of something, or it gets low enough that I can't make that recipe again, I write it on my grocery list, which is stuck to my refrigerator with a magnet along with a pencil.  I periodically change some of the recipes in this list to keep things from getting boring. 

This solution works pretty well for me.  When dinnertime rolls around I just go to my list and pick something appropriate for today's situation.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Perspective

Several years ago I was at the house of friends and saw their two-year-old doing something I knew she wasn't supposed to be.  I frowned at her (I gave her what I call the "teacher look" -- you know, the one that says, "I see you misbehaving and you better quit before I have to come over there.") and she stopped, put her lower lip out, and cried.  I felt pretty proud of myself.  After all, I got a two-year-old to stop misbehaving with just a look.  (The middle school kids I was teaching in school at the time? They were not at all impressed by my teacher look.  I don't think it works above about seven years of age.)

Today my baby fussed.  Why?  She was asking for my attention.  I, being involved with something else, frowned at her (just frowned, nothing like the teacher look).  She cried.  I felt like crying, too.

Oops.

So I told her I was sorry, and I picked her up and cuddled her, and I left what I was doing on the floor, abandoned, until she took a nap half an hour later.

If I were a saint, I would never frown at a baby.  As it is, hopefully I'll do better for at least a week ... or maybe a day ... a couple of hours? ...

Mea culpa.

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 6)

1.  I've been thinking about the reasonableness of the Catholic Faith.  It is interesting that the healthy way to live is also often the moral way to live.  For example:  it has been recently in the news that "the pill" is a carcinogen on a level with things like asbestos and cigarette smoke.  If you've been leading a moral life according to the teachings of the Catholic Church, then you've got nothing to worry about, because you haven't been using any form of artificial "birth control."

2.  I threw together a dinner last night that my husband and I really liked.
Anne's Jambalaya with Beans
In a large skillet combine 1 cup white rice, 2 cups water, 2 cups pinto beans (a little more than one can), 1 14.5-oz. can crushed tomatoes, 1 small onion (chopped), 1/2 pound smoked sausage (chopped), and 2 teaspoons Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning.  Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered until rice is done, about 15 minutes.

3.  I've been talking about images again, so here's another picture from the dining room.


4.  My baby has been watching me eat, which caused me to realize that I have some bad habits, and that I'm lacking some good ones.  Yesterday was a pretty good day;  I haven't had peanut butter or crackers all day, and I said the grace before meals out loud before breakfast.

5.  This is horrifying.  Rutgers University Professor Helen Fisher, of the Center for Human Evolution Studies was on the Joy Behar show and described having lots of children as littering.

6.  Happy feast day to all the Elizabeths out there!  Today is the traditional feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary.  In only 24 years she was a wife, a mother, a widow, and finally wore the habit of a third order Franciscan.

7.  It's time to go attend to my baby.  My monastic bell is fussing.  My little vox Dei is calling.

More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Small Successes

1.  Baby and I survived and even enjoyed my brother-in-law's wedding and reception last weekend.  If only wedding reception bands weren't so SO loud it would have been perfect.  Such events are a little more complicated with a nursing not-quite-five-month-old (including the standing up in the bathroom feeding) but we managed, and it was really pretty good.  It helps, of course, that my husband is very helpful about holding her part of the time so I don't get totally exhausted.

2.  I have a pound of dry beans almost done in the crock pot.  They just need to be portioned out and frozen and then they'll be ready and waiting to go in anything I want to put beans in.

3.  I washed our sheets yesterday for the first time in far too long, which means that I was on top of the rest of the laundry enough to be confident I could finish and have them back on the bed before bedtime.  That, in turn, was because I got five loads of laundry done the day before.

Happy Thursday!

FaithButton

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Good Example

It seems to me that the easiest way to teach a child to do something is to do it yourself.  Children are sponges; they absorb and imitate everything.  Having a baby who is newly interested in watching me eat is causing me to rethink my eating habits.  Is what she's seeing me do what I want her to learn?  Not really.

So what needs to change?  I should eat healthier things.  I should snack on fruit instead of peanut butter or crackers.  I should be sure to pray out loud before and after eating.  These are the habits I want my daughter to have, so these are the habits that I must form in myself.

St. Gregory the Wonderworker Daybook

Today the Church Celebrates ...
St Gregory the Wonderworker.  He was consecrated bishop over a flock of seventeen, and at his death, there were only seventeen pagans left within the territory of his diocese. 

I am thinking ...
about what to make for dinner tonight.  There's some sausage in the refrigerator saying it's time for jambalaya.

I am praying ...
for a daily extraordinary form Latin Mass in our area.

I am wearing ...
a blue long-sleeved t-shirt and a khaki skirt.

I am creating ...
snowflakes!

I am reading ...
The Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family by Mary Osten.  I just started it.

Outside my window ...
a beautiful, sunny, cool day.
I am listening to ...
silence.  The baby is asleep.
I am thankful for ...
a happy, healthy, sleeping baby.

From the kitchen ...
buttermilk pancakes last night for dinner.  I had the last two as a peanut butter sandwich for lunch today. Yummy.
One of my favorite things ...
reading with my baby.  This morning we read six or seven picture books while lying on our backs on the floor.  I'm excited to have a baby old enough to be occasionally interested in books.
A picture thought I am sharing ...
I've been talking about images, and then more images, so here's one more:
from the Simple Woman's Daybook

Monday, November 15, 2010

On Images -- Part 2: According to Cardinal Ratzinger

I have always been unusually sensitive about idolatry.  When I was in elementary school I went to a (protestant -- I'm a convert) Christian summer camp.  At one point at that camp, we were talking about the episode in Exodus when Moses is up on the mountain getting the ten commandments from God, while Aaron is down at the base of the mountain with the people.  The people give Aaron all their gold jewelry and Aaron forms it into a golden calf, which they then fall down and worship.  At the summer camp, in order to try to explain to a bunch of elementary school children what idolatry is, they played a pretend game with the "pizza god" that if you danced around this thing then the pizza god would give you a bite of pizza in your mouth.  All the other children danced around the thing and pretended to chew a bite of pizza.  I sat stubbornly on the bench and refused to participate.

Protestants sometimes characterize the Catholic use of images as idolatrous.  It is not.  In The Spirit of the Liturgy, Cardinal Ratzinger explains why (brief summary):  The invisible God has become man and has made Himself visible to us.  Even in Old Testament worship, images were not totally unknown:  the ark of the covenant had two cherubim of beaten gold on the cover, as God commanded Moses.  Icons (and all good sacred art) come from prayer and lead to prayer.  They are intended to draw the mind and heart to God.  Because of all this the Second Council of Nicaea regards iconoclasm as a denial of the Incarnation.  The Catholic use of images is not idolatrous because there is no worship of images, but only of God (even images of the saints are also images of God, because in conforming themselves and their lives to the will of God, the saints become more and more transparent, so that we can see God working in them).  The images are a sort of window into heaven.

On that note, here are a couple more of the image in use in our home:

A San Damiano Cross over the bed

St. Philip Neri

Sunday, November 14, 2010

25th Sunday after Pentecost

Grant, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that, ever meditating on such things as are reasonable, we may, both in word and deed, carry out the things which are pleasing to thee.
              --- Collect from the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

Far from what secular and atheist men would have us believe, the Catholic Faith is reasonable.  It all hangs together and flows from one thing to another such that it must be all true or all false (I say this as a convert who came to precisely this conclusion, which was a central point in my conversion).  But if it is all false, then whence are we?  No, even the conclusion that it is all false is unreasonable; the very existence of man demands a Creator.  Let us then meditate on our reasonable faith, which with the grace of God will lead us to do and say things which are pleasing to Him.

Friday, November 12, 2010

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 5)

1.  We celebrated Martinmas yesterday with a rehearsal dinner for my brother-in-law, who is getting married tomorrow.  Many prayers that they will have a long and happy life together. 

2.  Since I was talking about images the other day, here's one from the dining room.  It's a picture of the walk to Emmaus, which seems appropriate for the place were we eat our meals.


3.  Here is more proof that Holy Mother Church is generous:  she offers to those of the faithful who have been in the habit of saying some prayers a plenary indulgence, even if there is no priest available to give the apostolic blessing.  I like to think of myself as a reasonably well informed Catholic, but I didn't know about this one until a few days ago, and (please forgive me for repeating myself) I think everyone should know about it.

4.  In addition to being the feast of St. Martin of Tours (a Roman soldier), yesterday was also Veterans Day.  My husband, who keeps track of such things, wore a poppy in his lapel.  Let us remember and pray for all soldier and veterans, both the living and the dead. 
St. Martin of Tours, intercede for all soldiers.

5.  In the place where we lived previously, people were very conscious of the church being the house of God.  People did not have conversations inside the church before and after Mass, in fact, this silence was one of the first very obvious differences I noticed as a convert:  Protestants come into the church on Sunday morning and chat with their friends and mill about until the service starts, while Catholics come into the church, genuflect, find a place in the pews, and kneel down in silence.  Where we live now, that doesn't happen as much, and particularly after Mass, people are a lot less careful to go out of the church to chat.  I miss that silence.  It is a very noticeable testimony to the Real Presence of Christ.

6.  I really enjoyed reading this the other day, because I had already been thinking of the baby's cry as my monastic bell. 

7.  One more thing that makes me happy:  the Roman Martyrology arrived yesterday, and my husband read the day's reading after Vespers.  Yay!

In case anyone is interested, we found it at Preserving Christian Publications.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Martinmas daybook

Today the Church celebrates ...
St. Martin, bishop and confessor.  Martin was the first non-martyr to be recognized as a saint.  He was a soldier in the Roman army as a young man.  According to legend, he met a mostly naked beggar, and because it was cold, cut his cloak in half and gave half to the beggar.  That night in a dream Martin saw Jesus wrapped in this half cloak.  This happened while he was still a catecumen.  Martin went on to be a bishop, and died around 397.  

I am hearing ... 
Mozart violin concertos.  Who knew that my collection of classical music from a music degree would be put to such regular use!

I am thinking ...
that every Catholic should know that there is a plenary indulgence available at the point of death, even if there is no priest available.

I am wearing ... 
a black t-shirt and a linen print skirt.  Somehow, even though the weather has cooled off a great deal, it still seems like summer, or maybe the very beginning of autumn.  Perhaps because the baby and I are just barely beginning to have a routine, and that feels like the beginning of the school year.

I am going ...
to a rehearsal dinner tonight.  My brother-in-law is getting married on Saturday.  Hopefully my baby will cooperate and we will all enjoy the evening (it's kind of hard to enjoy such events with a cranky baby).

From the kitchen ...
apple crisp.  I bought some apples a couple weeks ago that were a big disappointment.  I find baking improves such apples immensely.

Also, we had tuna salad again last night.

I am creating ...
A Christmas dress for my little girl.  I have the fabric washed and the pieces cut out.

I am praying ...
the Angelus.  I'm not getting all three in every day, but I am remembering at least one.  Mostly, when I stagger out of bed sometime between five and seven in the morning to feed the baby, I'm still to asleep to remember.

I am thankful ...
for a husband whose taste is very similar to mine.  It makes choosing artwork for our home enjoyable.

I am reading ...
picture books to my baby.  My mom brought all of my old books to me last weekend, and we are having fun reading them.

A picture thought I am sharing ...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On Images

Before I was a Catholic, I belonged to several varieties of protestant churches.  While we are not the iconoclasts that we once were, and religious artwork is not entirely absent from protestant homes and churches, this artwork in general has little purpose beyond decoration.  One of the things I love about the Catholic church is that images are used as objects of devotion and aids to prayer. 

When my husband and I set up our household together, we wanted to make sure that anyone who came in our door would immediately know they were in a Catholic home.  However, we have selected artwork that is to our taste (my husband intensely dislikes what he calls "chubby babies with wings"). 

Since we're talking about images, here are a few pictures.

This is what we have displayed on the mantel piece.

An image of the annunciation
thee icons showing Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

a statue of St. Michael the Archangel

a standing Crucifix, in the center

 
A statue of the Virgin and Child


A prayer by Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman
 This is in the first room one sees upon entering our home.  There are images in every room of the house (except the bathroom -- we thought the humidity might damage things).  I will post more examples later.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Plenary Indulgence

Here's something every Catholic should know:

There is a plenary indulgence available at the point of death.  Ordinarily this is in the form of the apostolic blessing given by a priest.  However, if a priest is unavailable, the indulgence may still be gained, so long as the person has been in the habit of saying some prayers during his life.  The use of a crucifix for gaining this indulgence is suggested but not required.  In general, one must be baptized, not excommunicated, and in the state of grace; and one must have at least a general intention of gaining an indulgence in order to be capable of gaining an indulgence.  At the point of death, the Church supplies for the usual three conditions (Sacramental Communion, sacramental confession, and prayers for the pope). 

All you have to do to avoid purgatory is:
  1. Be in the habit of saying some prayers.
  2. Be in the state of grace.
  3. Intend to gain this indulgence.
So.  Now you know.  Now, since it's November and the "Month of the Holy Souls" go offer your indulgences for all the souls that are in purgatory.  Pray for them; they'll pray for you -- another good way to avoid spending a long time in purgatory.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

24th Sunday After Pentecost

Preserve, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy family by thy constant mercy; that, as it leans solely on the hope of heavenly grace, it may always be defended by thy protection.
                 Collect from the 5th Sunday after Epiphany

I think this Collect is similar to the Our Father:  "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."  This is conditional.  The Father will forgive us if we have forgiven our neighbor.  We will be defended by God's protection if we rely solely on the hope of heavenly grace.  This reminds me of the parable of the bad steward, which concludes "make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity, that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings."  I believe this conclusion is, at least on one level, sarcastic.  It rebukes those who would rely on earthly things rather than the help of heaven, and points our that those who are worldly are often more zealous about their business than Christians are about the things of heaven.  Let us remember to be zealous for the things of heaven, where our treasure and our hearts should be.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The House of God

Tomorrow, my sweet baby, we will go to the house of God.  Because it is the house of God, I will wear a pretty skirt and shirt, and my Sunday shoes, and a chapel veil.  Because it is the house of God, I will dress you in a pretty dress, and your daddy will wear a coat and tie.  Because people are there to pray in the house of God, we will be quiet in church.  When you are happy and start to coo, even though I am glad you are happy, I will say, "shh" instead of striking up a conversation with you like I would at home.  This is not our house; it is the house of God.

Friday, November 5, 2010

7 Quick Takes (vol. 4)

1.  I'm trying to remember to pray the Angelus morning, noon, and evening.  (post ideas about reminding myself)

2.  My baby has apparently decided that the carseat is a good place to poop.  Since the episode last Saturday, she has done it several more times, including one that necessitated changing a diaper in the cemetery.

3.  I love this post from Testosterhome.  I have had similar experiences recently; when I finally buckle down and clean up the clutter that has been bothering me, it makes me happy to look at it for several days.  Amazingly, this seems to spill over into every part of my life, making me generally more cheerful, patient, and mindful of things that need to be done.

4.  We had tuna salad sandwiches last night for dinner, even though it wasn't Friday.  Tonight will probably be some sort of beans and rice concoction.  When I get that perfected, I'll post my recipe for that as well.

5.  I've been thinking about good example.  How do I teach my child to pray if she doesn't see and hear me do so?  Better pray.  Out loud.  Every day.   How do I teach her to eat well?  I guess I should eat better myself.  And the list goes on.  I will be posting more about this later.

6.  Happy Name Day (yesterday), Charlotte at Waltzing Mathilda!  One of my names is also a derivative of Charles, and although my parents had no such thing in mind when naming me (I am a convert), I claim Charles Borromeo as a patron as well.

7. This is what I do while standing up rocking my baby until she falls deeply asleep enough so that I can put her in her crib.  It sure makes five minutes go by faster.
Find more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Friday Recipes

On all the Fridays of the year, we abstain from meat.  We do this because it is a penitential day.  According to Canon Law
Can. 1250   All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the universal Church.  
Can. 1251  Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities.
The USCCB has allowed for some other form of penance to be substituted on the Fridays outside of Lent, but "give first place to the abstinence from flesh meat."

So here's one of our favorite meatless recipes:

Anne's Tuna Salad Sandwiches
2 5-oz. cans of tuna
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon mustard
2 Tablespoons Tiger Sauce
Flake tuna, and stir in other ingredients.  Serve on bread for sandwiches. 

This serves two adults for dinner.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Angelus

Here's another indulgenced prayer that takes about a minute to say.  Traditionally, the angelus is said at 6 am, 12 noon, and 6 pm, and a partial indulgence is granted to those who recite it at any or all of these times.  I realized today that I am generally holding a baby and walking around at all three of these times, so a memorized prayer would be really easy to do at those times.

Here's the text of the prayer in Latin:

     V. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ.
     R. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostræ. Amen.
     V. Ecce Ancilla Domini.
     R. Fiat mihi secundum Verbum tuum.

Ave Maria...
     V. Et Verbum caro factum est.
     R. Et habitavit in nobis.

Ave Maria...
     V. Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei Genetrix.
     R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

     Oremus: Gratiam tuam quæsumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut qui, angelo nuntiante,
Christi Filii tui Incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem eius et crucem, ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.


And here is the prayer in English:

     V.  The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
     R.  And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.
     V.  Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
     R.  Be it done to me according to thy word.
Hail Mary ...
     V.  And the Word was made flesh.
     R.  And dwelt amongst us.
Hail Mary ...
     V.  Pray for us, O holy mother of God.
     R.  That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
     Let us pray.  Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Souls Daybook

Outside my window ...
it's a grey, stormy day today.

I am hearing ...
raindrops hitting the windows. 

I am thinking ...
about the holy souls in purgatory and the church's very generous rules for gaining a plenary indulgence on their behalf during this week after the Feast of All Saints.

I am praying ...
to Our Lady of Prompt Succor.

I am thankful ...
that our priest has decided to have an extraordinary form Mass today.

From the kitchen ...
just sandwiches for dinner tonight.  After the extra effort to get the baby ready and rehearse the music, and then sing the propers of the Requiem Mass, and then take care of the baby again, and then stop by the cemetery on the way home, we were exhausted.  So we had sandwiches and rested.

I am wearing ...
black for All Souls.

I am reading ...
Guiding your Catholic Preschooler.  I'm not sure about this one yet.  Maybe it's just that I've only ever been a Catholic adult, so I'm having trouble seeing the Catholic faith through the eyes of a small child.

A picture thought I am sharing ...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Feast of All Saints

O almighty, everlasting God, who hast granted us to venerate in one solemnity the merits of all thy saints; we beseech thee, that as our intercessors are multiplied, thou wouldst bestow upon us the desired abundance of thy mercy. 
               Collect from the Feast of All Saints

With so many to pray for us, let us not forget to pray for the dead.  All this week (November 1st through 8th), "a plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful who ... devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, if only mentally, for the departed."  (from the current Manual of Indulgences)  It is also necessary to be free from attachment to any sin, receive a sacramental confession, communion, and pray for the intentions of the Pope. 

The document The Gift of the Indulgence states that it is sufficient to have made a sacramental confession "within several days (about 20)" before or after doing the prescribed work.  This is much more generous than the old requirement of "within the octave" and this permission is still in effect (not only for the Jubilee year).

Since the church is so generous, let us not fail to send this abundance of mercy to the aid of the poor souls in purgatory.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Christ the King

Almighty everlasting God, who in thy beloved Son, King of the whole world, didst will to restore all things:  grant in thy mercy, that all kindreds of the nations, torn asunder by the wound of sin, may be subjected to the sweet yoke of his rule. 
                        -- Collect from the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King

Bind up the wounds of the church militant, O almighty and everlasting God, that she may continue to fight the good fight and bring the Gospel to every corner of the world.  Perfect her in holiness, that she may assist the suffering souls, and together with them and all the saints who have gone before be united to her King in triumph.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Visit to Church

According to the current Manual of Indulgences, "A partial indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who, while carrying out their duties and enduring the hardships of life, riase their minds in humble trust to God and make, at least mentally, some pious invocation."

Baby and I went to church yesterday to make a visit and drop something off for the pastor.  On the way, she pooped.  She had been saving up for about twenty-four hours, so it was overwhelming.  It was on her clothes.  It was on the carseat.  It was all up her back.  I changed her diaper on the back seat of the car, and used every wipe I had to clean things up as well as I could.  Then I closed the diaper, but it seems I closed it too tightly, becuase the poo came oozing out -- on the car seat, on the floor, on the container of wipes ...
So anyway I had one wipe left, reserved to "wash" my hands, so I wrapped everything up in the changing pad and wiped up as much of the rest of the mess as I could, and we went to make our visit.  By this time the church door was locked, but we could see into the church, so I pointed out Jesus in the tabernacle to my baby, and we said an Our Father, and went on our way.

In the morning before all this I made a general intention to gain all the indulgences I could for the holy souls in Purgatory.  So.  I gained an indulgence for all this, right?

Friday, October 29, 2010

7 Quick Takes (vol. 3)

1.  Apparently the devil has no knees.  "... there is a story that comes from the sayings of the Desert Fathers, according to which the devil was compelled by God to show himself to a certain Abba Apollo.  He looked black and ugly, with frighteningly thin limbs, but, most strikingly, he had no knees.  The inability to kneel is seen as the very essence of the diabolical"  (Cardinal Ratzinger in The Spirit of the Liturgy).  There is a wealth of Christian culture and history in this book.

2.  I've been pondering the different ways we see God at Mass.   There are images, like the crucifix and the stations of the cross.  There are symbols, like the altar and vestments.  There are sacraments:  the Eucharist and the Priesthood.  And we are each created in the image and likeness of God.

3.  I am praying for the unity of the church.  Obviously God alone can heal a rift a thousand years old, but since the conversion of hearts in the domain of grace given by almighty God, he alone can heal the rifts in the church both old and new. 

4.  Since the unexpected death of a friend a couple weeks ago, I have a new found devotion to praying for the holy souls in purgatory, and to gaining as many indulgences as I can, both partial and plenary, for their benefit.

5.  In the pursuit of holiness in everyday things, I am gradually building small prayers into my daily routine.  This week I am working on making a morning offering.

6.  Since yesterday was the feast of Ss. Simon and Jude, a second class feast, we used the china for dinner and had dessert and coffee afterward.  Here's a picture of my pretty table:

7.  I recently found some folks who explain very well the reasons for wearing a chapel veil.  It seems it is more fashionable these days to call them mantillas these days. So I ask...
Mantilla With Me

more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Daybook for the feast of Ss. Simon and Jude

Outside my window...
hot and muggy.  Apparently I just thought autumn had arrived around here.

I am listening to ...
Bach.  Specifically the Brandenburg Concertos.  Classical music seems to make my baby happy.

I am thinking...
about all the ways we see God.

I am praying ...
the blessings before and after meals, and making a morning offering.

I am thankful...
for a baby who can spend an hour awake at church during Exposition, and make just enough baby noises that everyone there knows there is a baby in the room, and yet not so much as to be a disruption.

From the kitchen...
Chocolate cherry cake!  It's my very first attempt at a layer cake, and I only made a slight mess of it.

Living the liturgical year at home...
It's a second class feast today, so we will be using the china and having dessert and coffee after dinner.  It's not much, but it's the beginning of a habit of marking the major feast days of the year.

I am creating...
a Christmas dress for my baby.  Considering the length of time it took to make the last one, I think I'd better get started.

The baby will be wearing...
her new dress this Saturday when we go to a special brunch.

I am reading...
Guiding your Catholic Preschooler by Kathy Pierce and Lori Rowland.  I think it's going to be a quick read.
Pondering these words...
"I shall never forget the devotion and heartfelt care with which my father and mother made the sign of the Cross on the forehead, mouth, and breast of us children when we went away from home ...  I believe that this blessing which is a perfect expression of the common priesthood of the baptized, should come back in a much stronger way into our daily life and permeate it with the power of the love that comes from the Lord."
                                    -- Cardinal Ratzinger in The Spirit of the Liturgy

One of my favorite things...
Lemon curd.  I'm still enjoying it.



A picture thought I am sharing...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Indulgences

I just learned yesterday that one of the things I do every day can gain a partial indulgence:  say the blessings before and after meals.  If you say both the blessing before meals and the blessing after meals as a pair and make the intention to gain the indulgence, then you can gain a partial indulgence. 
Find them in English and Latin here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Morning Offering

One habit I have never acquired since becoming Catholic is that of saying a morning offering prayer every morning.  Since this is a habit I would like to teach my children, I need to cultivate it in myself.  Because at this season of my life I stagger out of bed in the morning to go change and feed the baby, I need to associate this prayer with the act of changing the morning's first diaper.

Here's how I'm going to do this:
I've written the prayer large enough that I can read it from across the room.  This way, I can read the prayer either while I'm changing a diaper or after sitting down to nurse.

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer Thee all my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Thy Sacred Heart, in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all our associates, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

22nd Sunday after Pentecost

O God, our refuge and our strength, give ear to the holy prayers of thy Church, O thou, the author of holiness; and grant, that what we ask with faith, we may effectually obtain. 
                     Collect from the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost

Let us ask with faith that which is consonant with holiness.  May God grant that all our Christian bretheren may be united in the fullness of one faith in one fold.  As the Gradual says:  Behold, how good and pleasant it is for bretheren to dwell together in unity!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

To See God

Tomorrow, my sweet baby, we will go to see God.  Where will we see Him?

When we arrive at the church, we will see the red sanctuary lamp burning, which tells us that our Lord is present in the tabernacle.  Seeing this, we will genuflect as we enter the church as a gesture of reverence because we are coming into the presence of God.

The tabernacle is on the altar, which is also Christ.  That is why the altar wears vestments, which will be green tomorrow.

You will look around at all the other people in the church.  They are made in the image and likeness of God.

The priest, also, is another Christ, and he will wear vestments to match the altar.  When he speaks the words of consecration, he will speak the words of Jesus, in the person of Jesus.  When he touches the host, it is because his hands have been anointed and consecrated for the service of our Lord.  His hands are the hands of Christ.

During the beginning of Mass, before you fall asleep, you will look around at the stations of the Cross on the walls of the church.  These are images of the passion of Christ.

After the consecration, the priest will lift up the host so that we can see it.  That is Jesus.

After Mass, as I kneel behind the back pew making my thanksgiving for Communion, I will hold you as you sleep.  You also are made in the image and likeness of God.

Friday, October 22, 2010

7 Quick Takes (vol. 2)

1.  I'm thinking about Holy Communion this week.  I'm cultivating anticipation and desire in preparation for the Sacrament, and I'm thinking about making a thanksgiving afterward.  I find it harder than I once did to keep the necessary recollection for the kind of thanksgiving I would like to make after Communion -- partly because I have an arm full of baby (which makes reading prayers out of a book impossible), and partly because that baby attracts the attention of others who then decide they want to talk to me.  I need a way to focus my attention.  Please comment if you have ideas.

2.  I'm praying to St. Michael the Archangel this week.  In part, I am asking St. Michael the Archangel to defend us in the battle against principalities and powers and such because of the Collect and Epistle from last Sunday. Because a friend of mine died this week I'm also praying:  "O Lord Jesus Christ, the King of glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell and from the deep pit; deliver them from the lion's mouth, that hell engulf them not, that they fall not into the darkness; but let Michael, the holy standard-bearer, bring them into the holy light which Thou didst promise of old to Abraham and his seed." (from the Offertory of the Requiem Mass).

3.  Between a cold and a baby who has suddenly started sleeping like a newborn (up every three hours at night to eat), I have fallen far short of my various resolutions.  Since I seem to be almost over the cold, today I am renewing my efforts, and awaiting with great anticipation whatever new exciting thing my baby is about to do.

4.  On Sunday it will have been two years since my husband proposed on the feast of St. Raphael.  It's hard to believe it has been that long.  On the other hand, it's hard to believe that only two years ago we were living in different cities.  Life has changed a great deal for us in the last two years. 

5.  I read somewhere recently that clutter contributes to migranes.  So maybe if I could get the house clean, I would have fewer headaches.  Or maybe I just need to drink more water (which is my father-in-law's solution to every ailment).

6.  Happy thought:  My baby giggles.  Yay!

7.  Another happy thought:  My husband will be home any minute now, so it's time to take the baby to watch out the window for him.

Find more quick takes at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gratitude

Holy Communion is the highlight of our day, our week, our life; why not linger awhile to enjoy the intimate presence of God Himself?

When you are given a gift, you are expected to write a thank-you note, or at least to say "thank you" to the giver in person.  If this is what you are expected to do, having received something that is merely material, and therefore passing, is it not much more important to pause and give thanks when our Lord has given us Himself?

If you recived a guest into your home, you would set aside chores and other activities and spend time with your guest.  Why not, then, take a few minutes to entertain our Lord Jesus, having received him in your soul?

Monday, October 18, 2010

St. Luke Daybook

Outside my window...
darkness.  The sun is going to bed earlier and earlier, and the days are noticeably shorter.  I think summer has finally faded into autumn here in the south.

I am hearing ...
the creak of a rocking chair, my husband's soothing murmuring, and the occasional protest from my baby.  He makes up words to baby songs like "Itsy Bitsy Spider," and his version is different every time.   Sometimes his lyrics are pretty funny.

I am thankful ...
for a generally happy, healthy, lively baby.  She's just beginning to giggle.  It's impossible to be sad when she's smiling and cooing.

I am thinking ...
about death and judgment, heaven and hell, and trying to temper those thoughts with the mercy of God.

I am reading ...
The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. 

I am creating ...
a new dress for my baby, and a pair of tiny crocheted shoes.

I am praying ...
the Office of the Dead today for an old friend.

From the kitchen ...
fajita beef soup.  It was a hit.  I should make it more often.

Around the house ...
I am slowly making progress in eliminating dust bunnies.  It's taking longer than I had hoped, but I have other things to attend to.

One of my favorite things ...
My engagement ring just got cleaned today, so it is extra sparkly.  It catches my eye from time to time normally, but now even more so, and it makes me smile.

A picture thought I am sharing ...
from The Simple Woman's Daybook