Are you ready for Lent? Friday, Feb 25 2011 

I was just telling my husband that I am going to become a souper Lenten cook this year, when voilà,  this article came across my email.  I am determined to do better with cooking more soups, and this is a great start for the upcoming season of fast, abstinence and penitence.  Only these soups don’t seem too penitential….

If you try any of them, let me know what you think.  Remember, Lent starts in just a few days with Ash Wednesday on March 9.

 

Catching up–More Easter pictures Wednesday, Apr 22 2009 

After Easter I switched gears to prepare for the conference, but I wanted to post a few more pictures. Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday

Easter Bunnies

Easter Bunnies for the littles

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Easter bonnet chocolate mousse cake

 

Bella

Mesmerized by the bottle

Dessert table

Christ is Risen! Sunday, Apr 12 2009 

The vigil and Mass of the Resurrection were absolutely beautiful.  Our drive was a bit foggy, but the weather was perfect for the lighting of the Easter fire.  As we processed from the cold outside to the church, we could gradually feel the warmth of the little candles all the people were holding.  As the priest sang the Exultet, you just new this was something special.  Then there were the lessons from the Old Testament, the blessing of the Easter water, then the renewal of our Baptismal vows.  After the Litany of the Saints, Mass began.  Three hours from the start, we were on our way home in the fog.

This morning at 7, there was just a bit of hoar frost from the fog of the night before.  And then it began.  Within 4 hours we had four inches of snow–very heavy wet snow.  But hey, isn’t white the Easter color?

A few pictures:

coming-home

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centerpiece

 

butter

Lamb Butter

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pascha

Pascha

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Magdalene Icon written by Rebekah

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Me in the outfit we bought for my mother for Ashley’s wedding.

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This is what you call a friend.  He drove his tractor from home to come help Larry clear the driveway for our Easter guests.  Thanks, Byron.

Celebrating St. Patrick Tuesday, Mar 17 2009 

St. Patrick’s Day has been a tough one for me for the last 30 years.  Thirty years ago our precious Erin Patricia was born on this feast day, and 12 days later she died.  About 20 years ago, I decided that I needed to do something positive on the feast day and stop spending it crying.  Our family is not Irish and corned beef was not part of our culture.  But I decided to introduce it into our annual menu and it was an instant hit.  So now, we eat an “American-Irish” dinner and pray St. Patrick’s Breastplate prayer, and I can pretty much get through the day smiling and giving thanks for the precious life of Erin Patricia.

We have grandchildren who are now involved in Irish dance because my husband wanted us to provide this for them.  He is so dedicated to the mission of getting the girls to dance and outfitting them as needed.  It is a joy to see them develop poise and skill as they learn the steps and perform on stage with big smiles on their faces.  Saturday was our annual St. Paddy’s Day parade.  Here are a few pictures before they headed out.

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Irish boing-boing hair

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Our oldest granddaughter, Lucy, was a gift to us on the 20th anniversary of the death of our Erin.  God is good.  He always provides.

So I wear a bit of green on this day, eat corned beef, and praise God for the life of Erin.

Can you feel Lent yet? Tuesday, Mar 3 2009 

We are not quite a week into Lent yet, having begun on Ash Wednesday.  Our priest had been telling us in the 3 weeks preceding Lent to begin to plan, to prepare our attack on our sinful inclinations and overindulgence.  He encouraged us to be thinking about our own Lent during that time when the Eastern half of the Catholic Church was already into Lent.  Their preparation was incremental.  To see what I mean by that, read this informative article.

This is a good article to read and meditate upon, because what we are asked to do seems so trivial by comparison.  Our Holy Father, in his lenten message for all of us, has explained clearly the what and the why of fasting.  He says that in our culture fasting is “a therapeutic value for the care of one’s body. Fasting certainly bring benefits to physical well-being, but for believers, it is, in the first place, a “therapy” to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God.”   It brings us solidarity with the poor who are often hungry, and it disposes us to partake more of prayer and the word of God. 

So if you haven’t noticed the positive effects of a bit of deprivation, perhaps it would be good to re-examine your lenten plan and to polish up your weapons for the 40-day-less-6-battle of the remaining days before Easter.  And don’t forget about almsgiving–the money you save from the soda or wine you aren’t drinking, or the candy you aren’t eating, or the simple meals you are preparing instead of heavier fare can go to buy food for your local soup kitchen or for the support of a ministry to the poor.  Hopefully, when we celebrate Easter we will look back on Lent and thank God for that great gift from Holy Mother Church.

Mardi Gras to Lent Thursday, Feb 26 2009 

It all went so quickly. Before we knew it, Mardi Gras was coming and in the blink of an eye it was gone. At work we had a Mardi Gras luncheon and I decided to make a King’s Cake.  I didn’t know what it was actually, and I envisioned making my super chocolate cake in a bundt pan, decorating it like a crown, and then taking that in.  But when I got on the internet to see what it should look like, I discovered that king’s cake is actually a bread with a baby (plastic of course) or a coin baked inside. kings-cake1

I found a wonderful recipe here and proceeded to make it.  In the process I learned that even when the jelly roll-up is done evenly, the bread doesn’t always rise evenly, so mine was not perfectly round.  I also learned that Mardi Gras colors mean something:  gold stands for power, green for faith, and purple for justice.

From Mardi Gras the move to Ash Wednesday is very quick and almost jarring.  From revelry (OK, we didn’t revel) to the austerity of Lent is a stark contrast.  It is a blessing from the Church that we have this time to re-evaluate our past year since Lent ended and realign our habits.  I know I have eaten more than I should and prayed less than I should and probably picked up other bad habits as well.  So with the memory of King’s Cake still fresh, I am looking forward to fewer rich foods and more time for quiet and prayer.  St. Teresa of Avila said Lent was the time for obrar y callar. That is to say, Lent is a time to act (do what we must, pray, etc. ) and to be quiet.  That will be my challenge.  How about you?

An Epiphany House Blessing Thursday, Jan 8 2009 

Our home now smells of incense–the incense of Epiphany.  Every room and every closet has been blessed.  And on the outside of every entrance to the house is the sign of the Wise Men–Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar. 

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Our priest has prayed for our protection and used the very powerful water of Epiphany to bless our home.

This is another of the sacramentals that has been lost in the last 40 years.  Thanks to the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, it is making a comeback. 

The blessing can be found here.

Catholic Culture and homeschooling Wednesday, Jan 7 2009 

I am fascinated with Catholic Culture.  As the years have gone by,  I have tried to instill it in my children and bathe our family life in it.  Homeschooling affords us the time to teach Catholic Culture, but it doesn’t have to be done in an academic way.  It is more effectively taught if it is lived.  I didn’t realize how much Catholic Culture has been lost in the last 40 years until I started attending a Tridentine parish recently.  So much of what I grew up with is lost to all but a few.  Some examples:

My mother never let anybody leave the house without her vaya con Dios blessing, and when we would talk about something planned for another time, she always said con el favor de Dios.  It was just part of who she was to put things in God’s hands and to ask His blessing on our comings and goings.  We never went to bed without her blessing, even as adults.  We prayed for the Pope every time we entered a Catholic church for the first time, we avoided meat on Friday, we wore scapulars, prayed the rosary, looked to the bishops’ rating in choosing movies,  we fasted, we abstained, etc.  We were Catholic, and yes, our practices were different than those of most of our neighbors. 

A friend recently asked me to teach a class about Catholic culture.  She is a convert and did not receive any teaching on the culture of Catholicism.  She had not heard the word sacramental or many other terms that are part of Catholicism.  She truly wants to learn to live a Catholic life, but what does that mean?  How do people learn about it?

I don’t feel called to go out and teach a class on Catholic culture, and there are many people who are far better qualified than I to do so, but I can share what I know and point people to sources of information.  I humbly submit to you that there is far more that I don’t know than I know.

So where do we begin?  How about with a definition of sacramental?  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

a sacramental is a sacred sign which bears a resemblance to the sacraments.  It signifies effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church.   Sacramentals always include a prayer, often accompanied by a specific sign, such as the laying on of hands, the sign of the cross, or the sprinkling of holy water.  (1667, 16680)

Since we are in the liturgical season of Epiphany, I will begin with one of the sacramentals of Epiphany.  In my Epiphany post I explained what Epiphany is and when it is celebrated.  One of the sacramentals associated with Epiphany is blessed salt.  There are special prayers which the priest says to bless salt for individual use.  Fr. Hampsch has a wonderful explanation here of the importance of salt in our religious history and its use today as a sacramental.  No point my trying to summarize his words, because his explanation is complete and fascinating.  After Mass last night, we were given blessed salt to have in our homes.   We do not look at this wonderful sacramental as something magical.  The salt points us to the saving, healing power of Christ, as do all sacramentals.  Grace does not flow from sacramentals as it does from the sacraments, but the sacramentals help prepare us to receive grace.  Isn’t our Church wonderful in giving us so much to help us on our earthly journey?

Epiphany Tuesday, Jan 6 2009 

Epiphany, or Theophany as it is known in the Eastern Rite, is celebrated on January 6 in most places around the world.  But the Holy See has allowed local Bishops’ Conferences to set their own schedule of Holy Days and, taking the path of least resistance, the American bishops have chosen to move Epiphany to a Sunday to avoid having a mandatory Holy Day of Obligation fall on a weekday. 

The day is generally thought of as commemorating the arrival of the three kings to the manger where Jesus lay.  That is really too simple, because it is the  revelation of God in human form in the person of Jesus Christ. It is kind of an “ah ha” moment for the world to realize the divinity of God in the infant Jesus.  The kings were gentiles who came to see THE King, but it is not clear whether or not they realized the profundity of the mystery they witnessed.  They came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

We might ask ourselves what the meaning of the gifts they carried was.  As Catholics, we see the gifts as prophetic.  Gold was the precious medal which symbolized earthly kingship, but it also symbolized virtue.  Who could be more virtuous than Christ?  Frankincense was a symbol of the priestly vocation.  In the Tridentine Rite, as well as in the Eastern Rite, there is a beautiful prayer which says “let my prayers rise up to You like incense, and the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrfice.  O Lord, set a watch before my mouth, a guard at the door of my lips.  Let not my heart incline to the evil of engaging in deeds of wickedness.”   So the prayer is lifted up to God as the smoke from the incense.  Myrrh was an oil used in the preparation of the body for burial, and thus served prophetically as a symbol of suffering and death.

Our family opened gifts on Sunday, the day the Am Church celebrates Epiphany, because it is hard to get everybody together during the week.  However, we are looking forward to the beautiful Epiphany Mass and proclamation of the date of Easter when we attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form tonight.

Today I pray that Mike will always be faithful to the Catholic Faith which is the most valuable gift he received on the day of Baptism.  It is the anniversary of his own Chrismation (Confirmation) and reception of Holy Communion.michael-chrismation

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas Monday, Jan 5 2009 

We celebrate St. John Neumann, a holy priest who came from Bohemia to this country to care for the souls of the poor in the cities and on the frontier.  He lamented the deplorable living conditions in which he found many Catholics and worked tirelessly on their behalf.  He was eventually made a bishop.

Today I pray for our good priests and bishops who work tirelessly to save souls.  Most Americans may not live in physical poverty today, but countless millions live in spiritual poverty.  May God send us holy priests to relieve the spiritual poverty of American Catholics.

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