Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wearing a Chapel Veil

Fr. Z has an interesting post about wearing chapel veils in a place where other women don't do so.  I think he gives excellent advice (the comments, as is to be expected on such a topic, range from very helpful to downright crazy).  I have a few points to add to the mix.

I wear a chapel veil (a large, black, lace triangle kept in my purse) every time I set foot in a church.  I am a convert, and in the place where I converted it was customary for women to cover their heads every time they stepped into the church.  I have adopted this custom.

At first I was self-conscious about wearing a veil in churches where I would be the only woman doing so.  I was afraid of being chastised by the parish priest.  I found over time that I was even more uncomfortable with not wearing a veil.  I have, on various occasions, worn a hat, shawl, or scarf instead.  I recommend this option if you are concerned about drawing attention to yourself or appearing overly pious.  This was recommended several times in the comments over at Fr. Z's blog, and it is a good solution.

I find that a veil does indeed help immensely with distractions (on of the reasons the questioner gave for wanting to wear a veil).  I think this is partially because of the reduction in peripheral vision, partially because it is a reminder to myself that I am in church and I ought to at least try to focus, and partially because it tends to discourage people who might otherwise want to strike up a conversation with me.

It is unfortunately easy to start thinking badly of anyone who doesn't do the same optional pious practices that I do.  There are plenty of pious practices that I don't do and can't do to keep me humble, but I recognize the temptation.  If wearing a veil would add fuel to the fire, it would probably be better not to do so.  That said, I wouldn't worry too much if the concern is that other people will think that you think that you're better than they are.  As long as you don't actually think that, those opinions are irrelevant.

At this point, wearing a veil has become a non-issue for me; it's simply what I do.  I no longer worry about what other people think, or what other people might think I think.  I do find it refreshing on the rare occasion that I find myself in a place where the majority of the women are wearing veils.  I feel at home, as I do in places where people are quiet before and after Mass and many stay for a few minutes to pray after Mass has ended.

Okay, I'm done.  Soapbox over.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Being Pro-Life

I've been thinking lately about what  it means to be pro-life.  Right now things like political activism and prayer vigils outside abortion mills are not in the cards for me.  As my mother-in-law and husband often say: duty before devotion.  I have duties that preclude doing such things.

So what does being pro-life mean in my life, right now? 

It means not complaining about being pregnant.  Being pregnant is not that bad, certainly not nearly as bad as some women make it out to be.  Yes, I'm uncomfortable.  Yes, my ankles are swelling.  Yes, it's May in Louisiana and I'm hot.  Yes, I'm tired.  But ... I'm healthy and my baby is healthy and I can do everything I need to do.  Pregnancy is not a huge inconvenience, so I'm not going to complain about it.  Honestly, it's not half as bad as I thought it would be based on the whining I heard as a young single woman (and I had major surgery mid-way through my first pregnancy.

Being pro-life also means being positive about my 11-month-old.  I don't consider her an inconvenience, and I want people to see that she doesn't inconvenience me.  She sweet and good-tempered.  I can take her to the store and she behaves beautifully.  I can take her out to dinner, and in most restaurants I can find something for her to eat.  The other day, we took her to a social event at a museum.  She looked at the paintings and she smiled at people and she didn't fuss at all.  Being six months pregnant while caring for a child under a year old is not a nightmare scenario (many people would consider it so).  I want people to see from my appearance, demeanor, and conversation (and the appearance and behavior of my children) that children are a blessing, not a burden.

People are tempted to prevent the conception or birth of children because they consider children a burden.  We can do things to change this perception.  We can start by speaking well of our children, just as we ought to do for our spouse.  In churches and other public places where we have influence, take measures to make them baby-friendly.  For example:  make sure there are changing tables in restrooms, and make sure nursing mothers of newborns have a relatively comfortable, private place where they can take their babies to nurse (this means making it clear to fathers of toddlers that it is not a space to take a misbehaving older child).

For me, being pro-life means showing the world how wonderful my children are.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cooperating with Grace: Thanksgiving after Communion

I talked the other day about preparing for Holy Communion in order to be receptive to grace, but cooperating with the grace that God is waiting to give to the soul in Holy Communion doesn't stop there.  It is also important to be attentive during Mass.  For me, at the moment, the best I can do is prepare, try, and realize that if I am distracted by meeting the needs of a wiggly baby then there is merit in that also.

That brings me to the practice of making a thanksgiving after Communion.  If a beloved and awaited guest arrived at your house, would you say, "Hi.  Sorry.  I'm really busy today.  I have to run.  See you later!" and go on about your business?  Certainly not!  You would sit down, spend time with your guest, chat, catch up, offer a drink, etc.  You would put aside other things and spend time with your guest.  How much more then, should we put aside other affairs and spend a few minutes in prayer with our Lord after receiving Him in Holy Communion?

This is challenging for me for several reasons.  When Mass ends, I still have the baby.  Sometimes she has fallen asleep, but more often she is awake and, having reached the end of her attention span, needs something new to do or look at.  Where we go to Mass there is also the commotion of people leaving the church, chatting (sometimes while still inside the church), and sometimes wanting to strike up a conversation with me (I am holding a baby, after all -- the ultimate conversation starter).

Because it is no longer necessary to be absolutely silent (the church is not silent anyway), I solve the problem of a fidgety little girl by talking to her.  I simply include her in my conversation with our Lord.  I explain what we're doing and pray with her.  We make a simple act of Faith and adoration, thank our Lord for the privilege of assisting at Mass and coming to me in Holy Communion, and make whatever petitions seem appropriate.  If, for whatever reason, this doesn't seem to be working, I go out of the church and wait for my husband to be ready to go, and then go back into the church for a few minutes while he entertains our little girl.

I think the effort to spend at least a little time in thanksgiving for Mass and Communion (incidentally, I would make a thanksgiving for Mass even if I didn't receive Communion) is more important than the form.  It is fitting that it should take place immediately (after all, you wouldn't receive a guest into your house and then abandon him to his own devices for a couple hours without a very pressing reason).  If your situation allows for such helps as holy cards and printed prayers, there is another excellent prayer by St. Thomas Aquinas that matches the one I suggested for preparation.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life.

I made curtain tie-backs for my kitchen window and a fabric bin to contain kitchen laundry.    I'm really pleased with the way both turned out.
I'm knitting along making a Baby Surprise Jacket.  It's my very first sweater, and I'm excited about it.  Here I've just started.

And here is my current progress.  This picture is a much better representation of the color of the yarn.
And then there were eleven.  This mug is another casualty of my pregnancy hands.  Does anyone else find that they extra clumsy in the third trimester?  The mug slipped out of my hand as I was loading the dishwasher, and chipped exactly where everyone around here would drink from it, since we're all right-handed.  Funny in an ironic sort of way.

In the midst of moving the lampshade broke away from the metal frame that holds it on the lamp.  After trying unsuccessfully to replace the shade (we couldn't find anything of the right type in an appropriate size)  I glued it back together.  So here it is, sitting upside down on waxed paper, waiting for the glue to dry.  It worked beautifully, by the way.

round button chicken

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Yarn Along

I'm knitting along, making a Baby Surprise Jacket.  It's my very first sweater, and so far I'm enjoying it.  I've been reading the rest of The Opinionated Knitter as well, and I think it's a book I will really enjoy.  I already have plans to use some of the other patterns.

Go visit small things to see what other people have been knitting and crocheting this week!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cooperating with Grace: Preparing for Holy Communion

Christ the King
a detail from the Ghent Altarpice by Jan van Eyck.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.
The world is full of sources of grace.  God pours out grace in abundance, but we receive grace only to the extent to which we cooperate.  There is limitless grace to be found in Holy Communion, but one who receives it without being properly disposed, without attention, and without gratitude will gain no benefit.

The first part of being properly disposed is to be in the state of grace.  It is, of course, best to live so as to be as nearly as possible always in the state of grace.  If you become aware that you are in the state of mortal sin, hasten to receive the Sacrament of Confession.  But then, if you are interested in grace, you know all that.

The next thing is to keep the Communion fast.  This is now a fairly light requirement:  we are to abstain from food and drink for one hour before receiving Holy Communion (water and necessary medicine do not violate the fast).    But again, you know all that.

Here's where I fall short.  If I were receiving an important guest into my home, I'd want it to be clean and uncluttered.  I would spend time planning and preparing special meals to entertain my guest.  I would put away partially finished projects, pick up the baby's toys, and put everything in its place.  In short, I would put quite a lot of time and effort into preparing to welcome a human guest into my home.  How much effort to I put into preparing to welcome the King of Heaven into my soul?  Sometimes I skate into church the moment before (or after) Mass begins, having given no thought at all to Mass, Holy Communion, and Our Lord other than to get us up and dressed and out the door in time to get there.

I think for me preparation needs to happen the day before.  I'll look at the readings and prayers ahead of time in order to help me be attentive during Mass.  Then I'll recite this prayer, and those will be a couple of small steps in the right direction.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Yarn Along

I knit two more pairs of mittens this week.  I like them.  They're fun.  These are my very first stripes.  I finally discovered that it's really quite easy to change colors of yarn while knitting.  I think I'll probably take a break from mittens for a little while, but I definitely plan to come back to them; they will make good Christmas presents, and I have several more pairs already planned.

As for reading, I finally finished A Mother's Rule of Life.  I found it generally an interesting and inspiring read.  It presents some interesting ideas, not all of which are applicable at this season of my life, and not all of which will ever be useful to me, but some will.  I'm glad I read it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

We got the curtains and tie-back up in the nursery in our new place.  I think they're pretty.

I managed to get enough boxes unpacked to clear off the top of this bookshelf.

It now houses some of our most-used books.  It makes me happy every time I look at it.
Once upon a time there was a kit to make a gingerbread train.  The gingerbread train was supposed to entertain some children who didn't come to the party at Christmas.  It was sent home with me to entertain some other children instead.  It was then forgotten.  We moved, and the train resurfaced.  I decided we should eat the cookies, so I decorated them in a springy sort of way.  I am choosing to think of this as funny rather than pathetic.
Baby likes to play with the washcloth after I wipe her face and hands after meals.  She like to chew on it, and, as you see here, she likes to test gravity with it ... as many times as Mama will pick it up and give it back to her.

round button chicken

A Prayer Book for the Baby

The baby is generally very good at Mass.  She's interested in what's going on.  She almost never falls asleep.  I almost never have to take her out.  But ... the periods of not much motion exceed her attention span, and we've exhausted the interest of the few statues and pictures in the back of church.  She needs something else to look at.

I made her a "prayer book."

Blogger insists on displaying the picture in this orientation.  I can't seem to prevent it.  Sorry.
It's cloth, so it won't make noise if dropped.  My husband and I picked out some pictures from his books of Medieval Art, scanned them, and printed them on iron-on-transfer paper.  I cut out fabric for the pages, ironed on the images, and sewed the pages and the cover together.

This has turned out to be enormously helpful at Mass.  It gives her something basically on topic to look at when she loses interest in the other things around us in the Church.  The book also serves as a distraction when she gets a little too excited about things and wants to start "talking."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Yarn Along

I haven't done much reading lately except reading board books to the baby (all of them, a couple of times a day).  She cries when I stop.  So ... that's why I don't have a book pictured on this post.  I've knitted a couple more dishcloths, and a pair of mittens.  I was really proud of myself when I finished those mittens, because they involved doing about a half-dozen things I'd never done before.