Monday, April 30, 2012

I've been tagged...because I am so, so intriguing

Jen from meditatio tagged me with this meme...so here it goes...
Rules
1.) The first rule is to post these rules.
2.) Post a photo of yourself then write 11 things about you/your life.
3.) Answer the questions for you set in the original post.
4.) Create 11 new questions and tag people to answer them.
5.) Go to their blog/twitter to tell them you have tagged them.


OK…11 things about my mama....

1. In the thousand photos on my computer, there are maybe 5 of me (so I posted one of Boy when he was little). The last time I took lots of photos was at my wedding (70 pounds ago)- then I get a photo each time I give birth...so no more photos for me.  I don't look monstrous, but I am certainly not beautiful like some bloggers. So I am always behind the camera, and no one suggests that I get a picture as well. This makes it really easy to stay semi-anonymous, but it is rather depressing, and that would bring me to the serious post subject that I'll just write briefly about here and forgo the long, navel-gazing entry:

2. If I had a therapist (which I don't), I would have finally just made a break-though about not being organized and uncluttered. Yes, I am a lazy, tired Type-A when it comes to organizing and cleaning, but my subconscious self is lazy about organizing for this reason: I am afraid I will die if I am decluttered and organized because my day to day purpose would be gone. I remember reading a blog post about a homeschooling mom of five or more kids who was so organized that her children were able to continue homeschooling after she died. It was like she wasn't even needed after she had prepared all the curriculum. I can think of many reasons why my subconscious is silly, but it is what it is.

3. Even though I am feeling #2, I am battling it by decluttering no matter my feelings. Dead or alive, I find peace in cleanliness. We 'goodwilled' ten big bags of random stuff this past weekend. Okay- on to random, non-serious stuff....

4.  My first car in college cost $50- it didn't last very long. I commuted all four years and went through four old cars with varying degrees of drama. I think a car loan would have been smarter...

5. Gosh, I am looking forward to the end of the college semester May 15th. Even though I will be unemployed until the middle of August, it is so time. I hope to see all these new family babies this summer! Two born, two to go!

6. If you have kids two to six years old, be certain to read them the Elephant and Piggie books. Mo Willems is brillant!

7. I wrote this on my real life Facebook "survey- why do the majority of Americans not give stipends to priests for baptisms, house blessings, weddings, funerals etc- I'm not talking about 'paying' for a sacrament but a gift towards his HOURS of work counseling, paperwork, detective work to find old baptism records, etc (...just saying, three Orthodox priests I know charge $1500 for a wedding....not counting the stipend to use the church or hall)"- it was interesting to see the people who responded- or didn't! It is a moot point however. My husband doesn't talk money, so it is free-will completely. And usually a 'non-ethnic' American doesn't make a donation. Oh well. 

8. My almost three-year old is starting to talk. Now, if I declutter enough, I might find the video recorder and camera chargers. Then, I can record the cuteness for posterity. And maybe I'll find the Kindle charger, too.

9. If you hacked into my Pandora, you would find: 70s folk, any Romanian (folk, rock, classical) music, any classical music with an emphasis on the Baroque with almost no piano music, lots of Ingrid Michaelson and Elizabeth Mitchell-style music along with 80s-90s praise/Christian pop and Queen. 

10. Reader Kim is nervous about going to Divine Liturgy with kids at the seminary where her husband will be studying- here's my response to her: 
Kim- plaster this on your forehead- My kids are the present and future of the Church. And then do a lot of Madagascar penguin 'smiling and waving'. Yes- you WILL have these types of people to contend with at the seminary (I assume the public comes to Sunday DL)
1. Grumpy Granny- yes, she really IS glaring at you and the kids. How dare you disturb her beautiful Liturgy- and the kids don't speak Ukrainian well at all! And you don't have the proper head scarf on! (this category is the minority- no solution- smile and wave and try not to listen)
2. Lollipop Poppop- This grandpa type doesn't have his grandkids in the area, so he will use your kids as surrogates. You will have to decide how to deal with his smiling distractions- and yes- actual lollipops given during the Mass.
3. Agent 007- Your eparchy is much bigger than mine- but what happens in seminary will be part of the history of Fr. and Kim and family for better or worse. People have really long memories. Remember that there will be some people whose questions will get a little personal- slowly learn your boundaries and NEVER talk about money. Someone might be all 'concerned' and say "wow- how are you going to support a family of ___ on a priest's salary?" They are fishing. They want-for whatever reason- to find out your financial situation. You might say- I'm willing to live on very little or I'm a nurse so I will help support the family or My grandfather left me lots of money so his small church salary doesn't matter or the church actually supports us well. None of these responses will satisfy someone who asked this question so don't answer it.
4. Lovely Laity- yes- you were right to think that most people 'glaring' at the kids are just thinking the kids are cute and wishing that they had such a distraction- cherish these people!

11. okay...I am really out of ideas...I am not very interesting. 

OK… my questions to answer from Jen!
01.) What food would you never eat even if you were paid to eat it? Hershey's milk chocolate. No, if you paid me to eat it, I would. You would have to pay me a lot to get me to eat kidneys or liver, though. Yuck.

02.) What is your favorite Bible verse or quote? There are too many to count, but Jesus' words to the 'good thief' on the cross is in the top three.

03.) Should jello at church be in the proper liturgical color? We Byzantine Catholics are usually in white or gold....gold jello sounds pretty spendy.

04.) What was your high school or college mascot? 'Rams' in high school and I cannot remember my college's mascot (I was an anti-sport English and music-type)

05.) What do you wish you could do? Speak the languages I know fluently and play the violin  well and knit well. Doing all these things takes dedication and the time that I'm not willing to put in, though. I wish I could sing again, but one of my vocal chords is permanently paralyzed. People- take vocal nodules seriously!

06.) What book should everyone read? off the top of my head, The Children of Men by P D James. Click the label 'books' to the right to find more of my favorites.

07.) What is the weirdest thing you’ve eaten? maybe cold Chinese eel with chili or blood pudding in Slovakia.

08.) Pretend I magically arrived on your doorstep. How would we spend your ideal day? Since Jen and I are both introverts, we would start by getting a pedicure at my favorite place with lattes in our hands and then go see The Hunger Games. Then, we would be warmed up enough to talk so we would take our children to the park and watch them play. We'd finish the night by going with our husbands to my favorite Thai restaurant and talking theology and church politics without fear of scandalizing lay people. 

09.) Manicure or pedicure? Pedicures are my one indulgence. They last so much longer than a manicure. 

10.) What is the best type of ethnic food? I love Thai and Vietnamese food. The only 'ethnic' food that I don't like that I have tried is Japanese.

11.) Grey or orange tabby cats? Orange tabby! I had one named Sunny when I was little. I love tortoise shell and Maine Coon type cats as well, but the kitty has to be a short hair to live inside.


OK… now my questions for the bloggers I'll tag! (stolen from the blogger who tagged Jen)

1.) What is your favorite movie? 
2.) If you could go back and give your 16 year old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
3.) Why do you blog? 
4.)What did you want to be when you grew up? 
5.) M&M’s – plain or peanut? 
6.) What was your first car? 
7.) What is your favorite Halloween costume you’ve ever worn? 
8.) What are your favorite blogs?
9.) If you were to have a boy and a girl tomorrow, what would you name them? 
10.) What was your favorite class in college? 
11.) What celebrity do you think it would be fun to be friends 

Now for the tagging!


If you've already been tagged, ignore this! and I know all of you have lives and such. Please find a way to mold this meme to your blog. If you can’t post a picture of yourself, post something that represents you.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

7 QuickTakes- Kids & Church

Dana Carvey as 'the church lady' on SNL

Have I told you about the time Baby Girl put long-lasting lip gloss around her eyes like mascara during Mass? I had the courage to close my eyes and pray because we were at my parents' Roman-rite parish. I had no responsibilities- except watching after my kids- so I closed my eyes for a bit to meditate. Whoops! It didn't take her long to quietly open up my purse and make herself up. Using baby wipes helped, but her eyes looked sort of bloodshot for awhile. It was embarrassing, but babies will be babies. And I learn to really keep my eyes on her now!


In my last quick takes post, I wrote a bit about my shock in seeing an almost pre-teen boy playing on his IPad during the entire Divine Liturgy while seated between his praying grandparents. It was depressing. What can we as parents and as Church do to help the next generation engage during religious services? Here are some ideas:

1. As always, it starts with the family. Are the parents trying to practice virtue? Are they loving and gentle even while disciplining? No one is perfect, but blatant hypocrisy (being an active alcoholic while preaching on the importance of teetotalism, for example) will ensure that the children will find no value in the Church. Yes, mom and dad- you represent God's love to your children.
2. In order to participate in church services- or at least stay seated without wailing- the family has to make prayer a priority at home. It can be a quick grace before and after meals (yes, even in a restaurant). I hope every Byzantine Catholic reading has an icon corner where morning and evening prayers are said. Personally, I recommend not being too long in your family prayers (but I know many families that pray a nightly family rosary and it seems to 'work'). A daily habit of family prayer will go a long way in making church services a normal thing the family does. And church services on Sunday (or a Saturday vigil) must always be attended. It becomes a (hopefully happy) habit to be in church on Sundays with the family.
3. Bringing stuff into church might be frowned on, but I do it. We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with Boy, but Baby Girl still needs stuff....or maybe I need it. In any case, set yourself up for success. Change diapers and/or go to the bathroom right before the service begins. Depending on the timing of Mass, eat something right before (string cheese isn't messy) and consider bringing in water sippy cups for the little ones. Anything with noise is not allowed. We are trying to teach respect for others- so nothing that makes music or lights up. My rule of thumb is two quiet things (a stuffed animal, a car that doesn't squeak, a book) per little child. Some families are successful with nothing but the missal, but I need to be able to cantor, so a few quiet things for the little ones to focus on are necessary. I am trying to find that impossible balance so they won't hate churchgoing. about food- Babies are another story; they get the milk they need in whatever form they are used to. So if someone gives you the stink-eye for discretely nursing your 3-month old, tell them "Priest's Wife" said it was okay. Watch their brain explode.
4. But maybe the boy with the IPad and the grandparents doesn't have churchgoing parents so the Divine Liturgy was something new and boring to him. How can they instill in the boy a love for God and His Church when his parents don't care? First of all- the grandparents need to pray for the boy's parents and the boy...then...
5. Insist on basic manners during church services. This means- no electronic devices during the Mass- ever. It also means that he should be asked to assume the posture of the people around him, like standing for the reading of the Gospel. I remember a non-U S citizen in high school who would stand for the pledge of allegiance to the US flag but not say the words or have his hand over his heart. I think he got it just right. Basic manners doesn't mean he has to sing along with the congregation (my parents insisted we do this even in our sullen teenage years) or even make the sign of the cross. Basic means that his presence in the church doesn't offend other people and distract young children from the service with a blinking electronic tablet.
6. Let's imagine that the grandparents get to have their grandson over every other weekend or even once a month. Now, church is going to be a part of his life with his grandparents, but it is not a part of his life the other times. In this situation, the grandparents should ask for the direction of their parish priest. One possibility is for one grandparent to leave the church with the grandson at the liturgy of the Eucharist (like in the old days when the catechumens left for instruction) to shorten the time he is in the church and so that he will not be receiving the Eucharist. Of course, if he is engaged in Mass and is missing Sundays through no fault of his own, he should ask the priest if he can receive. 
The grandparents should really try not to accuse the parents of dereliction of duty. The child will most likely be confused and 'side' with his parents. Grandparents should make church services as stress-free as possible. Expect more from an older child. Ask him- what was the Gospel? What did the priest say about the Gospel? Which icon is your favorite in the church? Training a child to be respectful and quiet/prayerful for a little over an hour once a week will have life-long benefits. He might even be able to sit peacefully for an exam or a job interview.
7. And for all those who see/hear unchurched-boy-with-grandparents or toddler-having-a-fit, have mercy! Keep your eyes closed during church, try to ignore any distractions, imagine that Jesus had to deal with loudly baaing sheep during the Sermon on the Mount. He didn't complain; He said "Let the little children come to me" (14 verses later in St Matthew's Gospel). Try to ignore the imperfect behavior and be happy to hear a few kerfuffles. A church is dead if there are no young families. Yes, children need to be disciplined and guided, but if church is going to be a part of their spiritual life, the guidance needs to be slow and gentle because IPads are instantly interesting and they require nothing from us. Technology from the 21st century is just so much more blinky than a 2,000 year old Liturgy. Let's lovingly help the next generation learn there is more to life than the latest gadget.



It's Still Easter


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Day in the Life of Kh.Jen- guest post part 2

continued from yesterday..
                                                                   
  "Upon arriving home, I give Daniel a bath because he's been playing in grass (one of his allergies) and put him in clean clothes.  We then go have "adventures" with today's adventure being dropping my tax extension envelope off at the drop boxes outside the post office (because my mailman is incompetent) and a trip to the grocery store for Cheerios and Pedialyte.  When we get home, I change Daniel's diaper, give him a sippy cup of Pediasure 1.5, and put him in the pack n' play to take a nap.  I then make my lunch (some soup from Bertolli) and settle in to eat.  Edda comes over and meows at me to share.  I explain to her that house panthers don't eat tomato florentine soup and happen to look down and notice that I'm now wearing some of it.  I change my shirt and take the dirty one along with an armload of laundry to the laundry shed to pre-treat and wash it before the stain sets.  After coming back in, I settle back in the recliner and realize that I'm getting sleepy.  I put my computer on the coffee table and curl up for an afternoon nap.

I wake up to Daniel babbling in the pack n' play at 4:50 and wish that Jon was home so that I didn't have to get up from my comfy spot.  Oh well... it's in my job contract as a mom.  I grab Daniel from the bedroom, change his dirty diaper, put Winnie the Pooh on, and catnap some more.  Jon gets home from his day (office hours, lunch with pastor colleagues, visits, and a board meeting for the local food pantry) around 6 and settles in to watch Winnie the Pooh (the classic one) with us until he has to leave at 6:30.  I use his presence as an opportunity to grab some cereal because I know that I won't get a chance to eat until 9 p.m. otherwise.  He leaves at 6:30 for the church council meeting next door at the church and I use the time to put Daniel in his jammies and transfer the laundry to the dryer.

Tuesday is NCIS night and our CBS affiliate has programming start an hour earlier than most other stations so the first NCIS episode starts at 7.  I curl up in the recliner and Daniel alternately hangs out in my lap eating cheese and plays by himself.  During a commercial break, I see that he stripped naked and is waving his diaper over his head so I quickly change him.  It's an interesting episode tonight and perhaps one that will be built upon at another time.  NCIS: Los Angeles comes on at 8 and is a re-run.  Jon gets home at 8:30 and settles in to watch TV with Daniel and I.  At 9:00, I gather Daniel and his sippy cup and we head to his pack n' play where I give him kisses and set the blinds on the windows so that Daniel can't mess with them.  Jon heads in shortly after to do Daniel's bedtime routine (story, song, prayers) with him.

After Daniel goes down for the night, I watch some He-Man, work on a few projects on my laptop, pray for things that come up on my Facebook, listen to podcasts, and relax.  My main project is putting together a blog for my Reece's Rainbow kid.  Around 11:30, I realize that the reason I'm not asleep yet is that I'm hungry and I'm also stuffed up from my sinus infection.  A roll-up and some Sudafed solve that and before I know it, I've drifted off to sleep in the recliner instead of in my nice cozy bed.   


Jen is a Lutheran pastor's wife living in northern California with her husband and 3 year old son Daniel.  She documents life at ::Meditatio::.                                                             
                                                                   
                                           

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Lutheran Pastor's Wife- a guest post


"I open my eyes to see a little black face eye to eye with me.  I look over at the alarm clock which read 6:17.  Edda!  I attempt to explain to my little house panther (Edda) that we needed to re-set her alarm because she was an hour early.  She snuggles down with me and before I know it, there is a cute little blond boy running into the living room where I fell asleep with my laptop the night before.  Jon grabs my laptop and glasses to stow them in a safe place while Daniel and I watch cartoons and he has his Cheerios and a sippy cup with his Pediasure 1.5 in it.  (It's a medical-grade incarnation of Pediasure that Daniel gets three times a day to supplement some calories that he isn't getting for other reasons.)  At 7:50, I move him off my lap and go to the laundry shed to get some clothes for him.  We get him dressed and Jon comes in from showering and getting ready just as we were about to do his shoes.  Jon takes over while I hastily run to the kitchen, climb over the baby gate, and make Daniel his roll-up (a tortilla with pub cheese from Trader Joe's for his lunch.  I pack his lunch box and the two boys leave to get Daniel to preschool and Jon to the church (around the corner from our parsonage).  After they leave, I curl back up in the recliner and do Internet stuff, praying for people as I see prayer requests come in.  I read my devotional book online and surf through my comics, Google reader, and links.  I also munch on a roll-up, take my pills, and curse at the antibiotics for my sinus infection which are currently giving me stomach issues.

When 9:30 rolls around, I toss on clothes and get in the car to drive to Best Buy where I will be picking up the printer I ordered for store pick-up last night.  My current one is demon-possessed and missing part of the power cord (which is probably some place in the bedroom but until I can shovel all the detritus around I'm not going to find it).  This new one is a printer/scanner/copier and cost less than my former printer (an HP deskjet) did.  Score!  As I drive to the town north of me, I have KLOVE on in the car and try not to think grumpy thoughts about it being pledge drive season for them.  I get to Best Buy early so I go look around the Old Navy two stores down.  I see some possiblities for shirts but decide to come back later.  I should also probably replace my flip-flops but there's time yet for that.  I stroll down to Best Buy where I pick up the printer and also buy a two year warranty for it.  After that, I head back to my own town to hit up the post office for stamps, CVS for postcards so that I can do some postcrossing on Daniel's behalf, and Carl's Jr for some Coke.  (Hi, my name is Jen and I'm a Coke addict.)
Arriving back home, I set up the printer, get it set up with the wi-fi in our parsonage, and get my tax extension form printed out.  During this time, Cullen (my big orange sissy cat with a jet engine motor) comes out and ponders the idea of coming to check me out.  I affirm his tabby manliness and the boldness of his stripes and he heads back into the bedroom.  After getting all the printing done, I realize that I haven't tortured my cats recently so I get the vacuum cleaner from the kitchen and vacuum up the debris field of Cheerios from the living room carpet.  After that, I surf some more blogs, pray for people, check the site of the Reece's Rainbow child for whom I'm an Angel so I can pray for him, and then get ready at 12:45 to head to get Daniel from preschool.  When I get to the preschool (a block away), Daniel is busy playing with his teacher and aides.  Once he and his teacher realize that I'm there, his teacher reports that he had a stellar day with maybe a minute of crying and lots of engaging in activities and imitation.  (For those who don't know, Daniel is autistic and started preschool last week in the autism class.)  We work on waving bye-bye and the two of us head home."

Jen is a Lutheran pastor's wife living in northern California with her husband and 3 year old son Daniel.  She isn't sure when exactly she lost her mind but it's probably documented at ::Meditatio::.  In her spare time, she spoils her 4 cats, raises awareness for preeclampsia (you know you want to sponsor her in the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia), and is a Guardian Angel for Brett through Reece's Rainbow.  She also reads too much, is in a constant search for the perfect iced vanilla latté, and has grandiose visions of what her garden will look like this year.


...enjoy part two of Jen's day tomorrow!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

QuickPeeves- some silly, some serious

Since I am incapable of writing a quick takes post without a theme (except that is the whole point!)- here it goes....here are some things that drive me batty!

1.  blatant grammar errors from professional writers- its versus it's, your versus you're, etc, etc- come on- it's not that difficult! I ask my children to be aware; my ESL students are learning the differences as well. So, writers for pay- please don't depend on spell-check.


I love the above cartoon because it uses the word 'grammar,' but it peeves me that it combines it with 'nazi.' I know what the artist is getting at, but it is still just wrong to equate a person who cares about standard language usage to a killing squad of World War II. It belittles the pain that so many went through as well. That being said, I blog for free, so be kind to me when I let typos slip by!

2. police cars that don't signal lane changes- if I don't signal, the police has every right to stop and cite me. So why do they very rarely signal? Is there a reason for this? Perhaps they don't want people to know where they are going? It seems dangerous to me.

3. really soupy fried eggs when I order them "over medium"- I like fried eggs that have the yolk half-cooked, not soupy and definitely not solid. Any tips on how to order? or maybe I should just fry my own.

4. steep budget cuts to the community college systems while upper administrators get raises and bonuses- My gauge of the importance of a job- What if the job was not performed for a month or two? What would happen? By my gauge, trash collectors and doctors have important jobs while administrators I have never seen and who have never been in a classroom are less important.

5. people that make assumptions about me based on my family size. Simcha Fisher wrote a quite cool post about birth control versus contraception and I Use NFP will be launching soon- bookmark it!

6. disabled orphans in Ukraine and Bulgaria and other places being sent to adult mental institutions when they are five or so because they are not getting adopted. Reese's Rainbow is a special ministry to help parents give some of these children a forever family.

 7. kids with electronic devices in church- It had to happen one day. Last weekend, we were travelling for an anniversary party. The vow renewal was at a Byzantine church. There was an eight or nine year old boy playing a game on an IPad the entire time. He was sitting three pews up with grandparent-types. I felt sick to my stomach as the grandmother was making profound bows during the service and her grandson was playing a game in full view of so many people.
Having children respectful and engaged in the Liturgy can be difficult, but it starts with  being in church every Sunday (with a 'this is what our family does on Sundays' no nonsense attitude) and demanding a level of respect for God and those around oneself. Being able to sit for an hour out of respect for others is an important skill that all our children need to work on even if we are not raising them to be church-goers. The grandmother took the easy way out and allowed him to be placated by a video game. 
Yes, children cry and make scenes and even throw up during Mass, but there seemed to be no standards at all for the boy to live up to. It was sad, but it was also frustrating trying to engage my five year old and two year old in the Divine Liturgy while they could see a blinking screen not too far ahead. Perhaps the grandmother thought that her bows would inspire the boy to put away the game and focus on the Liturgy, but it was not going to happen. Sometimes, we need a loved one to just eliminate the distraction before we can hear the beauty of the real world. The Divine Liturgy is a time for everyone to slow down and take a break from all the random cacophony around us. I think the boy hasn't had a break in a long time. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

PrettyHappyFunnyReal kids- just an Easter photo

Christ is risen!

I took this photo with my non-smart phone last week on Mercy Sunday. We were so blessed to have a weekend to travel to celebrate a 25th wedding anniversary. The couple were the 'Godparents' for my husband when we were married almost 14 years ago. At the time, they had one daughter who was a year old. Then, they had one more child and had to wait over ten more years to adopt three children. It was wonderful to see God's work in their life. And it was wonderful that we had a faithful substitute priest to let us have a weekend away from town. 


Monday, April 16, 2012

Catholic in the UK- A Guest Post from Elizabeth


"When I was 6 years old, having watched The Adventures of Robin Hood and read The Once and Future King a few too many times, I told my parents that I was going to move to Britain.   At the time, they laughed it off and forgot all about it.   But 12 years later, my dad and I boarded a plane destined for Edinburgh, Scotland, so I could begin my first year at the University of St Andrews.  When I arrived in Scotland, I was not yet a Catholic – I was still a somewhat lapsed Anglican (the established church of England).  But in the September before my fourth and final year, I was received into the Catholic Church.  Before my conversion, I always had faith and prayed regularly even as my churchgoing ebbed and flowed.  So I assumed that being a Catholic in Britain would be relatively similar to being an Anglican in Britain...naively imagining that the British anti-Catholicism was a relic of a distant past.  And to be fair, anti-Catholicism on religious grounds (i.e. prejudice against Catholics by fervent Protestants) is fairly thin on the ground (although my Church of Scotland-raised boyfriend’s family had never met a Catholic before), now that we can own property and have Bishops (yay Catholic Relief Act of 1829!).  But anti-Catholicism as the forefront of the British war on religion is clear and seemingly here to stay.  
To understand the relationship modern Britain has with the Church, you have to understand that the Britain that was the Dowry of Mary, the Britain that produced Edward the Confessor, St Margaret of Scotland, David Livingstone and William Wilberforce, the Britain that produced the King James Bible is well and truly gone.  Just over half of Brits say they belong to a religion, and only 47% consider themselves Christian. Only 10% of British people attend Church weekly, compared to 41% of Americans. Even the state with the lowest church attendance, Vermont, easily beats Britain with 23% attending Church every week. 

It always astounds me just how a-religious Brits truly are, especially since they retain all the traditional Christian holidays (Good Friday and Easter Monday are national holidays).  But to give you some idea of just the level of religious illiteracy I’m talking bout here: last Advent I went to every shop in town looking for Christmas cards and in one I asked the shop assistant if they had religious cards.  The poor guy took me up the escalator, through the kids section, past the dressing room and proudly pointed me at the Santa display.  And that’s nothing compared to my first Ash Wednesday in England.  When I arrived an hour late, having told my boss I needed to go to Mass before work, no fewer than 5 people came up to me to tell me that I forgot to wash my face that morning.  None of them had ever seen someone with ash on their forehead, and when I explained what Ash Wednesday was, it transpired that none of them had ever realized it was connected to Lent or involved actual ashes.  

So while it’s true that religious anti-Catholicism is gone, that’s only because there are almost no religious Britons left (and those who are left are likely to be Catholic, since there are now more practicing Catholics than practicing Anglicans). But secular anti-Catholicism, anti-Christianity and anti-religion are definitely on the rise. And the Church in Britain is facing serious threats from an increasingly secular society that views Christians, and Catholics in particular, as a damaging force in society.  
To give you some idea of the challenges the Church is facing here, it is worth remembering that Obama’s now infamous HHS Mandate, if not struck down by the Supreme Court, will effectively prevent Catholics from providing charitable services to or employing non-Catholics.  It will curtail our ability to help the poor and will turn freedom of religion into freedom of worship, the mere right to do what we want in our churches as long as we leave it at the door when we leave.  But here in Britain, even the freedom to the sacraments in our churches is under fire.  The Coalition Government, led by Prime Minster David Cameron, has proposed an amendment to allow civil partnership ceremonies for gay couples to be held in churches.  Needless to say, this proposal has greatly concerned not only Catholics, but also Britain’s Jewish and Muslim communities.  Father Marcus Stock, general secretary of the English Catholic Bishops’ Conference, made clear that the Church “will not allow civil partnerships to be registered on its premises.”  This backlash prompted Mike Weatherley, a Conservative Member of Parliament (i.e. an MP from the Prime Minister’s own party) to write Cameron an open letter arguing that churches who refuse to perform gay civil partnerships should be banned from performing any marriages.  Chillingly, Weatherley compared the situation to Catholic adoption agencies refusing to place children with gay couples, reminding Cameron that when those agencies did not comply, they were shut down.  “As long as religious groups can refuse to preside over ceremonies for same-sex couples, there will be inequality,” Weatherley wrote, adding “such behaviour is not tolerated in other areas, such as adoption, after all.”  It is true that Weatherley is just one MP, and yet the fact that an MP from the governing party can publicly suggest that Christians who won’t perform gay civil ceremonies should be prevented from performing any marriages with no consequences or reprimands is a sign, I suspect, of things to come.  
And unfortunately, while Weatherley’s attack on marriage is still theoretical, there have been a number of court cases in recent years that directly attack the rights of Christians.  As Weatherley alluded, all of Britain’s Catholic adoption agencies have been shut down or have ceased to be Catholic, after the government passed a law forcing the agencies to place children with homosexual couples.  In 2007, a London registrar named Lillian Ladele, a devout Christian, was told to perform same sex civil partnerships or lose her job; in 2009, she lost her appeal in 2009.  In 2008, relationship counsellor Gary McFarlane lost his job when he refused to provide sex therapy for same sex couples on the grounds that it violated his Christian principles.  He lost his appeal in 2010 as the presiding judge, Lord Justice Laws, commented that a “law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds is irrational, divisive, capricious, (and) arbitrary.”  In 2011, Adrian Smith posted about his disapproval of ‘gay church marriages’ on his private Facebook page.  After two colleagues reported his comments to his employer (Trafford Housing Trust, or THT), Smith was demoted and had his salary cut by 40%.  He is now appealing in Manchester County Court, where District Judge Charles Khan has banned Smith from using human rights arguments (like freedom of speech or religion) to argue he was unfairly dismissed.  Earlier this year, a judge ruled that two Scottish Catholic midwives can be forced to supervise abortions against their will. And currently, two women who lost their jobs for refusing to remove their cross/crucifix necklaces are pressing their case at the European Court of Human Rights, which the British government plans to contest.  The government will argue that Christians do not have the right to wear a cross because there is no “suggestion that...wearing of a visible cross or crucifix (is) a generally recognized form of practicing the Christian faith, still less one that is regarded...as a requirement of the faith.”  Britain’s only Cardinal, Keith Patrick O’Brien of Edinburgh responded to this latest attack by calling on Catholics to “openly wear a Cross ‘every day of their lives’ to show support for the religious values that are often marginalized in Britain today.”

It is certainly true that the treatment the Church receives in Britain is nothing compared to the persecution suffered by many Christians around the world.   But it is growing, and it should be a source of concern, not least for the fact that in many of the countries where religious persecution is rampant, there is no concept of a right to religious freedom.  The intolerance for Christianity in Britain, the US and throughout Europe is noteworthy precisely because these are the countries that created liberal democracy and the concept of human rights. And it is growing.   I hope you’ll keep us in your prayers, because I think we’re going to need them." 


Elizabeth R is a Californian Catholic convert living near London.  She moved to the UK in 2006 to study international politics and now works with disabled children at a Catholic school in a large London suburb.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter QuickTakes

1. I love chant. That is all.

2. We Byzantine Catholics greet each other with 'Christ is risen' until Ascension, so be prepared to respond just in case I bump into you...

Christ is risen - Indeed He is risen - in different languages
Albanian: Krishti Ungjall! Vertete Ungjall!
Arabic: Al Maseeh Qam! Haqqan Qam!
Armenian: Christos harjav i merelotz! Orhniale harutjun Christosi!
Byelorussian: Khristos Uvoskros! Zaprowdu Uvoskros!
Chinese: Helisituosi fuhuole! Queshi fuhuole!
Coptic: Pikhirstof aftonf! Khen o methni aftonf!
Czech: Kristus vstal zmrtvy'ch! Skutec ne vstal!
Danish: Kristus er opstanden! Ja, sandelig opstanden!
Dutch: Christus is opgestaan! Hij is waarlijk opgestaan!
English: Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen! many more languages at Byzcath.org

3. I didn't have time to bake the traditional sweet bread ("pascha') for the blessed baskets so I bought two loaves of challah bread. I felt a bit bad because it was the Jewish Passover. I hope that the stores carried enough challah for everyone. I love it when Jewish passover and everyone's Easter is the same week- I pray that our calendars can be aligned soon.

4. I had an interesting 'how was your weekend' conversation with my ESL students this past Tuesday. I teach adults in a college setting, so we are free to discuss about any subject with sensitivity. Occasionally, we talk a bit of religion if it is relevant to the conversation. They know I'm Catholic; they don't know I'm a Byzantine Catholic priest's wife.  I wouldn't want their heads to explode. Anyway, a Protestant Mexican student was very eager to discuss how immoral it is to have eggs and bunnies and such on Easter Sunday. "It isn't a religion; it's a relationship." Um ok- how do I quickly discuss this and get back to the matter at hand- English class and present continuous and colors. I did sympathize with her that yes some people give up tequila for forty days and then are too smashed to celebrate the resurrection properly.

5.But I couldn't let her 'get away with' her anti-Easter celebration attitude so easily. I did agree that the commercialization of Easter and six-foot tall mall bunny rabbits are not the best way to celebrate Christ's rising from the dead. But when I said "my older daughters led music and worshiped on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I think that some chocolate and new running shoes are a way to 'balance' things so that they remain, as children, enthusiastic about God and His Church." My student didn't like that answer. We should always worship perfectly and not do anything different on a random Sunday. Um-ok. She believes that there are no seasons to life. She can't wrap her mind around a feasting-fasting seesaw. She sees it as hypocritical.

6. And what about eggs? I showed the class an icon of Mary Magdalena holding a red egg. The egg symbolizes life and the blood of Christ. I find it one of the most powerful icons in existence. My student just sneered and said that Magdalena did not have an egg in the Bible. All I could do was smile and say, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written." (John 21:25) Then we got back to learning about the present continuous tense.
7. Mary Magdalena is a favorite saint of mine and the patron of my second daughter. She's amazing and an example to us all. We call her 'equal to the Apostles' and yet have never thought that she should be an Apostle/priest herself. So it really irks me when her name is used to push a political agenda. It is a political, not spiritual agenda because women can hold clerical positions in almost every denomination, but some people want the Catholic Church to become Episcopalian. Most are not content to be Episcopalian themselves. They need to be Catholic priests, not Episcopalian ones.  There's a PhD dissertation in that.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Very Random PrettyHappyFunnyReal

many thanks to the lovely ladies at Like Mother, Like Daughter for hosting...
Pretty- a few weeks ago, we had a visit from our bishop and had some very 'pretty' pontifical Divine Liturgies. This photo is the bishop bowing at the altar praying the creed with two priests by his side.
Happy- We went to a different park every day of Holy Week. Here, Baby Girl is riding a whale (she called it mama). She refused to ride the much smaller shark (she called it daddy). The dolphin from yesterday's post was baptized "baby."
Funny- just because.....because everybody needs some Princess Bride 
Real- This camera-photo of my oldest is the only photo we got of any family member in their Easter outfits. That is one 'real' aspect of being clergy family- on holidays, we cannot think of ourselves and there is usually not a moment to 'waste' to take a family photo...better luck next year!



Easter Joy!


Oh- to be a kid again! Boy, now 5, can swing by himself if he gets a push. Baby Girl got her ears pierced. Time flies, and I am trying to enjoy their childhood. This past Holy Week, I did my best to ignore the duties of the house and get outside with the kids.
Our innocent month+ houseguest probably doesn't realize that I am really beating myself up over the fact that the house isn't immaculate and the meals aren't constantly gourmet. I don't quite agree with Benjamin Franklin ("fish and visitors stink after 3 days"), but I think after about 3 days, all expectations should be gone (if the woman of the house works part time, homeschools, etc with no outside help) and real life goes on. 

I'm linking up with Wordless Wednesday



Sunday, April 8, 2012

Christ is Risen!


Christ is risen from the dead;
trampling down death by death,
and unto those in the tombs
bestowing life!



Easter Homily of St. John Chrysostom

Let all pious men and all lovers of God rejoice in the splendor of this feast; let the wise servants blissfully enter into the joy of their Lord; let those who have borne the burden of Lent now receive their pay, and those who have toiled since the first hour, let them now receive their due reward; let any who came after the third hour be grateful to join in the feast, and those who may have come after the sixth, let them not be afraid of being too late; for the Lord is gracious and He receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him who comes on the eleventh hour as well as to him who has toiled since the first: yes, He has pity on the last and He serves the first; He rewards the one and praises the effort.

Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness. Let no one grieve over his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no one weep over his sins, for pardon has shone from the grave; let no one fear death, for the death of our Saviour has set us free: He has destroyed it by enduring it, He has despoiled Hades by going down into its kingdom, He has angered it by allowing it to taste of his flesh.

When Isaias foresaw all this, he cried out: "O Hades, you have been angered by encountering Him in the nether world." Hades is angered because frustrated, it is angered because it has been mocked, it is angered because it has been destroyed, it is angered because it has been reduced to naught, it is angered because it is now captive. It seized a body, and, lo! it encountered heaven; it seized the visible, and was overcome by the invisible.

O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? Christ is risen and you are abolished. Christ is risen and the demons are cast down. Christ is risen and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen and life is freed. Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of the dead: for Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the Leader and Reviver of those who had fallen asleep. To Him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.
Electronic text (c) Copyright 1996 EWTN. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 6, 2012

This Easter, Be Your Parish's Welcome Committee


Jesus- Vanquisher of Death


Troparion
By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy passion, 
Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God. 
Like the children with the palms of victory, 
We cry out to Thee, O Vanquisher of death, 
Hosanna in the highest! 
Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord.
this is why today is "good"


Troparion
When Thy glorious Disciples were enlightened at the supper by the feet washing, 
then the impious Judas was darkened with the disease of avarice, 
and he delivered Thee, the Just Judge, to the lawless judges. 
See, O lover of money, this man through money came to hang himself. 
Flee the insatiable desire which dared to do such things to the Master. 
O Lord, Who art good towards all, glory to Thee.

Kontakion
Having taken bread in his hand, the traitor secretly stretches it out, 
and takes a price for Him Who with His own hands made man. 
And Judas remained an incorrigible slave and liar.

Troparion
Thou hast redeemed us from the curse of the Law by Thy precious Blood. 
By being nailed to the Cross and pierced with the Spear, 
Thou hast poured immortality on mankind. 
O our Saviour, glory to Thee.

Kontakion
Come, let us all praise Him Who was crucified for us. 
For Him it was Whom Mary beheld on the Tree, and said: 
Even though Thou endurest the cross, Thou art my Son and my God.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A PrettyHappyFunnyRealHoly Thursday

Jesus Washing St. Peter's Feet by Ford Madox Brown

Pretty- Today is a commemoration of the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist. here is the audio of one version of the liturgical portion of "Accept me today as a partaker of Your Mystical Supper."

Happy- I wish we sung like this - O Joyful Light- but I am happy to use as much as I can of this fabulous website.

Funny- He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” John 13:7-9 

Real- Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:11-17


Holy Thursday

We sinners also cry out with these blessed powers, O loving and kind Master,
and say:  Holy are you; truly, all-holy.
Immeasurable is the majesty of your holiness.
You are revered in all your works;
for with righteousness and just judgment you have ordered all things for us.
Taking clay from the earth, you formed man
and honored him with your own image, O God.
You placed him in a delightful paradise
and promised him immortal life and the enjoyment of eternal blessings
through the observance of  your commandments.
But man disobeyed you, the true God who created him;
he was led astray by the deceit of the Serpent,
and by his own transgressions was subjected to death.
In your righteous judgment, O God, you banished him from paradise
and returned him to the earth from which he had been taken,
but provided for him the salvation of rebirth in your Christ.


For you did not turn away from your creature forever, O Good One,
nor forget the work of your hands;
rather, you intervened in various ways because of your merciful loving-kindness.
You sent prophets and performed mighty deeds through your holy ones
who have pleased you in every generation.
You spoke to us through the mouth of your servants, the prophets, 
who foretold the salvation which was to come.
You gave the Law as an aid, and appointed angels as guardians.
When the fullness of time had come, you spoke to us through your own Son,
the very one through whom you created the ages.
Although he is the reflection of your glory and the express image of your person,
sustaining all things by his powerful word,
He did not deem equality with you, God and Father, something to be grasped;
rather, while remaining everlasting God,
he appeared on earth and lived among men.
In becoming incarnate from the holy Virgin, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
conforming himself to the lowliness of our body,
that he might conform us to the image of his glory.


For since, through a man, sin entered the world,
and through sin, death,
so it pleased your only-begotten Son,
who is in your bosom, God and Father,
to be born of a woman, the holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary,
to be born under the Law,
to condemn sin in his flesh
so that those who are dead in Adam
might be brought to life in him, your Christ.
Living in this world, he gave us precepts for salvation,
turned us away from the deceit of idols,
and brought us to know you, true God and Father.
He purchased us for himself as a chosen people, a royal priesthood, 
and a holy nation,
cleansing us with water and sanctifying us with the Holy Spirit.


He surrendered himself as a ransom to Death
by which we were held captive,
sold into slavery under sin.
Descending by the cross into Hades
to fulfill all things in himself,
he freed us from Death’s despair,
and rose on the third day,
preparing the way for the resurrection of all flesh from the dead.
Since Corruption could not keep the Author of Life in its clutches,
he became the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep,
the first-born of the dead,
that in all things he might have pre-eminence over all.
A portion of the Holy Thursday services 
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