Friday, December 31, 2010

A Blessed New Year

St Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia

Your proclamation has gone out into all the earth
Which was divinely taught by hearing your voice
Expounding the nature of creatures,
Ennobling the manners of men.
O holy father of a royal priesthood,
Entreat Christ God that our souls may be saved.

You were revealed as the sure foundation of the Church,

Granting all men a lordship which cannot be taken away,
Sealing it with your precepts,
O Venerable and Heavenly Father Basil.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.
For by it those who worshiped the stars,
Were taught by a star to adore Thee,
The Sun of Righteousness.
And to know Thee the Orient from on high,
O Lord, Glory to Thee!
– Troparion for Christmas Day

Friday, December 24, 2010

Twas the Night Before Christmas...

'Twas the night before Christmas when all through the townhouse
not a creature was stirring except for dad and his spouse,
the stockings were hung along the banister with care
in hopes that St Nicholas would a second time come there
The children were snoring all warm in their beds
while visions of new cars and Breyers danced in their heads
with mom wrapping presents & dad making cabbage rolls
it would be long before they could take a dreamland stroll

...perhaps next year, I'll finish this silly poem, but for now, we are off to the Divine Liturgy to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord

Rejoice, O Bethlehem! And make ready, O Ephrata! Behold, the Virgin is on her way to give birth to the Great Shepherd she carries in her womb. The God-bearing forefathers will rejoice at his sight, and, together with the shepherds, they will glorify Him in the Virgin's arms.
Troparion of the Preparation for Christmas

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Count Your Blessings...

...instead of sheep!

The kids and I made it to Mass at the little hospital where my husband works on Wednesdays. It's not so close to home, so this is the first Mass we have been to there. They meet in the extended care unit with about 8 patients and 4 volunteers participating. These patients are all parapalegic or quadrapalegic with aids for breathing. Some are mentally strong and some aren't. Most of them could not participate at Mass at all- in the expected ways. One patient would use his mouth-controller to tip his chair/bed up when one would normally stand during the Liturgy. I thought of the 'widow's mite' and that his raising his chair a bit gives more glory to God than all of our perfect prayers. 

Let's remember to count our blessings. Really, really count them. Thank God for your heart beat, your breath, the food you have in the pantry, any gifts that are under the tree, anything your family and friends have done recently that has been a blessing. Thank God for your ability to walk and offer up a stubbed toe for those that cannot. Thank God for your kids- on earth and in heaven. 

I thank God for my boy who innocently says that Jesus wants a "huge truck" for His birthday and who stayed in the room with these patients and behaved so we could sing. I thank God for my baby girl who is completely healthy and normal after being born early with me being quite sick. I thank God for my two big girls who sang at Mass today even though the oldest had tears in her eyes. I thank God for my husband who took the time to walk "Christmas Tree Lane" with us after the Moloben and Bible study and before he went back to the hospital to work some more.There is so much for which to be grateful. For most of us, we should be mindful of the blessings of being physically and mentally 'normal.' It is such a blessing to be able to breathe independently and walk independently. Let's not take these blessings for granted.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Are You Ready?

Christmas is almost upon us- I looked at the date at the bank, and I was shocked...Advent is almost over and the Christmas SEASON is almost here! My advice (not that you asked for it)- go to church on the second day of Christmas (it is a Sunday- very convenient) and make cookies the third day of Christmas (just have the ingredients on hand). And if I were you- I would stay out of the shops until the fourth day of Christmas.

Here is an explanation of the song we all love at this time of year. No matter what challenges the "world" gives Catholics, we find a way to remember the - REASON FOR THE SEASON

The 12 Days of Christmas
December 25-January 6th Epiphany/Theophany

Catholics in England during the period 1558 to 1829 were prohibited by law to practice their faith either in public or private. It was illegal to be Catholic until Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England in 1829.

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England as one of the "catechism songs" to help young Catholics learn the basics of their faith. In short, it was a coded-message, a memory aid. Since the song sounded like rhyming nonsense, young Catholics could sing the song without fear of imprisonment. The authorities would not know that it was a religious song.

"The 12 Days of Christmas" is in a sense an allegory. Each of the items in the song represents something significant to the"The 12 Days of Christmas" is in a sense an allegory. Each of the items in the song represents something significant to the teachings of the Catholic faith. The hidden meaning of each gift was designed to help Catholic children learn their faith. The better acquainted one is with the Bible, the more these interpretations have significance.

The song goes, "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…" The "true love" mentioned in the song doesn’t refer to an earthly suitor, but it refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person. i.e. the Church.

1st Day: The partridge in a pear tree is Christ Jesus upon the Cross. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge because she would feign injury to decoy a predator away from her nestlings. She was even willing to die for them. The tree is the symbol of the fall of the human race through the sin of Adam and Eve. It is also the symbol of its redemption by Jesus Christ on the tree of the Cross.

2nd Day: The "two turtle doves" refers to the Old and New Testaments.

3rd Day: The "three French hens" stand for faith, hope and love—the three gifts of the Spirit that abide (1 Corinthians 13).

4th Day: The "four calling birds" refers to the four evangelists who wrote the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—which sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ.

5th Day: The "five golden rings" represents the first five books of the Bible, also called the Jewish Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

6th Day: The "six geese a-laying" is the six days of creation.

7th Day: The "seven swans a-swimming" refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

8th Day: The "eight maids a milking " reminded children of the eight beatitudes listed in the Sermon on the Mount.

9th Day: The "nine ladies dancing" were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

10th Day: The "ten lords a-leaping" represents the Ten Commandments

11th Day: The "eleven pipers piping" refers to the eleven faithful apostles.

12th Day: The ‘twelve drummers drumming" were the twelve points of belief expressed in the Apostles’ Creed: belief in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, mad"e man, crucified, died and arose on the third day, that he sits at the right hand of the father and will come again, the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting.

This is the time of martyrs too, St. Stephen and the Holy Innocents. May 2011 be a year when we remember those who have suffered real losses for Christ. Let us continue to bring real peace and justice to earth by valuing the sanctity of life. (reprinted from VOCAL)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmasy Pet Peeves- 7 QuickTakes

It's hard being a priest's wife. Apparently, I either shouldn't exist or I should be a smiling, perfectly holy, human-shaped piece of wall paper with no opinions (according to multiple commenters that I haven't published because of profanity). So, in a little fit of rebellion, my quick takes this Friday will embrace my inner pessimistic curmudgeon; I'll be back to trying to be charitable in my next post:

My Top 7 Christmasy Pet Peeves

1. Mrs. Santa exists. No, she doesn't. Saint Nicholas of Myra (the origin of Santa Claus) was a great Eastern Catholic (!) bishop; bishops are celibate. Hence Virginia, there is no Mrs. Claus. Well- perhaps she is his sister or cousin?

2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer exists. No, he doesn't (hear that? That's the sound of people un-following this blog). I love the stop-motion animated Rudolph and the companion Rudolph's Shiny New Year. We have the DVDs and watch them every year. But my kids know- Rudolph isn't in the original poem "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" by Clement C. Moore, the 'canon' poem for the West's image of Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus. 

3. We should be super-moms. Advent is an austere season of quiet preparation and fasting (for Eastern Catholics) with an automatic switch to festive Christmas celebrations until the Transfiguration. Perhaps the Perfect Catholic Mom(TM) can make all Christmas preparations while the kids are sleeping so that Advent does not bleed into Christmas for them, but that isn't me. We bake a bit during Advent and yes, have Christmas concerts during this time. This is the world we live in. We do make a strong effort to keep celebrating after December 25th, however. 

My Advent/St. Phillip's Fast is this: fasting (an Eastern Catholic thing) from meat except Sundays and doing the Jesse tree with the kids in the evening. The nativity set is out without Baby Jesus and the Magi. We are slowly bringing things out, Christmas music, videos and books. That's it. It is a process. My older sister doesn't do a Jesse tree- too stressful. Their Advent tradition is to eat dinner by the light of the Advent wreath and sing:

We're waiting for Jesus like Mary- We're waiting for Jesus the Lord
Come down Lord Jesus! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
The whole world is waiting for love; the whole world is waiting for love!

Isn't that beautiful, simple and doable?! Advent is set apart as a time of preparation, but  this tradition isn't too much- We can learn a lot from that.

4. Shopping at malls is top priority; it's our patriotic duty to stimulate the economy.  The latest plastic must-have toys and electronic gadgets (they're all getting kindles, iphones and flip cameras right?) are the way that your kids know that you love them. Well... I need to prop up banks and charge things that I can't pay off so they can charge me fees? No- I'll live within my means, thank you.  Sometimes I suspect that the scowling faces I see at the stores during this time aren't based on getting a bad parking space or needing more sleep during this busy time- I think many people are worried about paying basic bills but are still charging stuff to placate family and friends.

5. or.... everything has to be homemade, organic, free range and free trade- Around here, we are trying to get more homemade and more free trade but we don't turn up our noses at plastic toys (anyway, Lego and Playmobil are plastic) . Boy is getting some 'vintage' Fisher Price Little People (wooden and plastic) that I got off of Ebay. In terms of getting more homemade with our gift choices, I'm already making plans for next year. Slow and steady wins the race to a peaceful, handmade Christmas!

6. China- We need your cheap goods! The U.S. needs you to buy more of our debt! Who cares if you have no employer oversight or environmental regulations! It is great that you are the only country that manufactures Christmas lights- now we don't need to comparison shop! It's great that even the candy canes at the local shop are made in China- I wouldn't want to have to budget to be to afford candy from See's. And I really, really NEED an inflatable fruitcake! Charge it, please!

7. Today is the 6th day of Christmas! It's all over on Christmas day, December 25th! Then, pack up the ornaments and throw out the tree. December 26th is for going to the mall and returning any gift that wasn't just perfect. Sorry to burst your bubble- this isn't true. The 12 days of Christmas start on December 25th...the second day of Christmas isn't for shopping. Go to church again (anyway- it's a Sunday this year) and then spend the day again with family and friends. No pressure- eat leftovers, but keep the Christmas music on at least until Epiphany/Theophany. Technically, the Christmas season is as long as the Advent season. Let's party (with reverence, of course)!

Is this scandalous- especially being anti-Mrs. Claus & Rudolph? 
...Merry Advent, anyway!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Study in Contrasts: Celibate or Married Priest Dinner?

Last night, we were invited to an adults-only dinner party at a local priest's rectory. The ordered priest is the spiritual father of a good friend of mine. Thus, we snagged the hottest ticket in town! As it was a Tuesday, we decided to throw caution to the wind, eat meat and enjoy ourselves mightily. I couldn't help myself....I felt a blog post coming on as I sat there and had a great time. 

We started with a glass of champagne seated in the living room, a fire burning in the fireplace. No music, just the voices of those discussing whether Voyage of the Dawn Treader was worth the $10+ ticket price. I believe we decided that yes, it was. 

The dinner party- three couples, Father Order and a postulant- proceeded to the beautiful table. We scan the place settings- multiple glasses and flatware. Prepare for a dinner cooked by a master... My friend (with six kids) and I (four kids) were a little giddy at being served dinner instead of serving and  participating in adult conversation instead of wrangling children at the table. We started with a delicious shrimp cocktail paired with white wine and went on from there- eight courses. The dinner was about three hours of amazing food and wonderful, adult discussion- the conversation of people on the same page, comfortable to talk about religion and politics with minor variations of opinion but agreeing on basic principles.

Father Order had lived and studied in Rome for seven years and it showed with his hospitality and offering of such a generous meal. We spoke about the new Mass translation for the U.S. that will be coming up in a year. I confessed that my least favorite Christmas carol is "O Christmas tree." My husband and I told some silly jokes. We talked  about the husbands' jobs- there was a scientist, a college administrator and a hospital chaplain at the table. We talked and joked about the postulant's year of discernment (we know him from his volunteering at the hospital); it is very heartening to see a man finding his way in his vocation. It was a peaceful, blessed evening.

But my blog post title is "A Study in Contrasts"- so let's compare and contrast, shall we?

Father Order's rectory- immaculately clean and organized
Father Dad's townhouse- not too bad, but why are there Playmobil figures on the icon table and does the shoe pile really need to be that big at the front door? How many people live here anyway? Is that a chocolate smudge on the wall? Why is that cat crying outside- I hope you fed him today, Girl #2!

Father O's before dinner ritual- champagne in front of the fire
Father D's before dinner ritual- getting home right at 6, rushing to the front door, talking on the cell phone to parishioner or hospital while wife is finishing up dinner a bit frazzled because the guests came right on time and the two littles refused to take a nap so at the moment they are grumpy. Then Father D offers drinks to guests; we drink in the living room. I rush to the CD player to turn off Wee Sing Christmas and turn on something a little more classy.

Father O's starter courses- shrimp cocktail, then sauteed mushrooms- each with a paired wine
Father D's starter- depends on what his wife felt like making- sometimes deviled eggs, sometimes an antipasto tray, sometimes cheese and crackers set out by the big girls (did you wash your hands, girls?).

Father O's main course- duck breast with champagne gravy, garlic mashed potatoes and peas (um...yum- I must confess- this was my first time eating duck) and peace
Father D's main course- again, it depends- maybe something grilled, maybe a casserole, maybe a delivery pizza, maybe something 'gourmet,' depending on the guests...take the big girls aside and ask them to stop monopolizing the conversation, take the boy aside and tell him, yes, he must eat some of the weird dinner, take the baby aside to change her diaper...tell all the kids  including the guest-kids that they can play upstairs until dessert...then, a little peace

Father O's after main course courses- a salad course and a cheese course and more conversation 
Father D's after main course- re-fill the glasses. Father D gets a call from the hospital- fortunately, he is on the phone for less than five minutes. I still shoot daggers at him with my eyes. He is the sanguine one; I don't like having the main hosting job.

Father O's dessert course- a choice of two yummy desserts, liqueur and coffee or espresso and more conversation
Father D and dessert- call the kids back for dessert; coffee is ready- boy spills his chocolate and cries- kids ask- isn't there more whipped cream? We might put in a video and let the kids eat their desserts picnic-style; our table only seats six, so it is always a tight squeeze. At this point, I might put the baby to sleep. We sometimes wind down the evening with a board game.

I know Father O doesn't have these mega-dinners all the time, but it was so much fun and an amazing invitation- thanks to my friend for setting it up. I love my kids, but sometimes it is a nice break to have a dinner with only adults. We have a babysitter so rarely (like go-to-a-Lord-of-the-Rings-movie-rarely). The contrasting dinner isn't really a fair comparison because my husband will go to a parishioner's home alone or to a restaurant when he needs to be sans famille. But when we are together, it gets chaotic!

A Boy and A Boat- Mommy-blog Style

Enjoying an hour in a rented boat at the harbor, Boy decided he was the captain and we all were his servants. Oh- to have the confidence of early childhood! 
Although we enjoy the relative warmth around here, we are searching for the time and place to go run to the snow to have a 'real' Advent and Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Fatima,  Our Lady of Lourdes: one great, holy woman who is Mary, the Mother of God, Theotokos, and ever-virgin who intercedes for us to her Son Jesus Christ.
Holy Mother of God,  Holy Virgin of virgins,  Mother of Christ,
Mother of divine grace,  Mother most pure,  Mother most chaste,
Mother inviolate,  Mother undefiled,  Mother most amiable,
Mother most admirable,  Mother of good counsel,  Mother of our Creator,
Mother of our Savior,  Virgin most prudent,  Virgin most venerable,
Virgin most renowned,  Virgin most powerful,  Virgin most merciful,
Virgin most faithful,  Mirror of justice,  Seat of wisdom,
Cause of our joy,  Spiritual vessel,  Vessel of honor,
Singular vessel of devotion,  Mystical rose,  Tower of David,
Tower of ivory,  House of gold,  Ark of the covenant,
Gate of Heaven,  Morning star,  Health of the sick,
Refuge of sinners,  Comforter of the afflicted,  Help of Christians,
Queen of Angels,  Queen of Patriarchs,  Queen of Prophets,
Queen of Apostles,  Queen of Martyrs,  Queen of Confessors,
Queen of Virgins,  Queen of all Saints,  Queen conceived without Original Sin,
Queen assumed into Heaven,  Queen of the most holy rosary,  Queen of Peace.
Pray for us! 

It is truly proper to glorify you, who have borne God, the ever-blessed and immaculate and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, who, a Virgin, gave birth to God the Word, you, truly the Mother of God, we magnify. 

You can find a story of Blessed Juan Diego and Mary, our Lady of Guadalupe here.
You can find Bible-focused rosary meditations here.   Mary, the new Eve: here

Friday, December 10, 2010

Random Thoughts- 7 QuickTakes

I am determined to do seven, totally random quick takes just as Jen does at Conversion Diary. Usually I concoct some theme. So here it goes...

1. My husband wanted me to write a post on the Immaculate Conception. I felt like better, more intellectual blogs have explained the holy day well. Well, the vast majority of people (including a Catholic deacon) he spoke to believed that the Immaculate Conception is the same as the Virgin Birth. No, it's not. The Immaculate Conception in a nutshell: Mary was conceived without sin by Anne and Joachim; she was kept free from sin from the moment of this conception in preparation for her FIAT to God. We celebrate her birthday on September 8 because we celebrate her conception on December 8.

2. There is no better Advent breakfast than chile and cheese tamales left over from the end-of-the-semester class party and black tea with egg nog. Add a chaser of Trader Joe's sweet and spicy pecans, and I am a happy woman.

3. Do your children have a case of the Christmas gimmes? Break out your Little House books and read the Christmas portions- especially the year when Pa is lost in a blizzard for three days and he brings them a can of oysters. Come to think of it, I should re-read these stories for myself and be more grateful for the blessings I overlook.

4. My big girls are practicing Shakespeare's Macbeth (sorry- the Scottish play) for a March performance with their drama class. What a bleak play to be practicing during the winter. They must have all their lines memorized by next week, and yes, sometimes it is nice for this homeschooling mom to have other people make their kids accountable.

5. I think progesterone is mightily lacking in today's women- maybe. After a late miscarriage where the placenta was calcified at 20 weeks, I decided I need progesterone supplementation. I got a One More Soul doctor to give me a script- and I took the drug at the first signs of pregnancy throughout the entire pregnancy with my last two children. Progesterone is what is lacking if your luteal phase is really short. Talk to a doctor if you think this might help you.

6. I thought that all blogspot blogs were censored by China, but sometimes my stats report otherwise. I imagine a lone reader, hacking a way out of the Chinese firewalls...and the same for my reader from Saudi Arabia. I pray that those with more freedom will use it for more than just reading celebrity gossip and watching kittens playing.

7. Awful food for thought: My husband participated in a talk from a Holocaust survivor yesterday. Eva was a twin and was forced to participate in medical experiments. She spoke of the power of forgiveness; the victim who forgives takes back power and gets the "last word" from the victimizers. As far as she knows, the experiments had to do with contraception. The company that invested the most in these experiments was Bayer.  We all know that company;  we probably all have Bayer aspirin in our cabinets. The evil in the world is overwhelming.  As the Lord said, "prayer and fasting is needed to drive out this kind of demon."

Bonus Quick Take: The Holy Father's general intention for November (forgot to post it...) was:
General Intention: For the eastern Churches, that their venerable tradition may be known and appreciated as a spiritual treasure for the entire Church.

Thank you Pope Benedict for praying for us!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

at my windowsill...

Around here
, we don't have four seasons. As you can see from the back patio, there is no snow and the bougainvillea is in bloom. But, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas when I take out my nativity sets. This is last year's addition- a free-trade nativity from Nepal bought from the shop 10,000 Villages.
The sink has bottles of soap and Simple Green out in the open that didn't make it into the photo, but other than that, I followed Leila's instructions.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Yes, Virginia...

...there is a Santa Claus!
...memories of when my big girls were little...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

a priest's wife daybook


Outside my window..I see a picked up back patio with pretty roses and a rusty mini-trampoline ruining the view

I am thinking...that I really should start planning our menus

I am thankful for...the librarian who had mercy and waived half of our fines

From the kitchen...leek and potato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches

I am wearing...teaching clothes...only 3 more classes until Christmas break!

I am year's Byzantine Catholic Jesse tree (we start Advent on November 15th, so the regular Jesse trees aren't sufficient)

I am buy a new camera so I can post a windowsill photo as per Leila's instructions

I am reading...C.S. Lewis' Til We Have Faces - it just came in the mail

I am get family photos taken and soon!

I am stomach growl- forgot to have lunch

Around the house...there is so much work to be done, dishes to do, laundry to fold, bills to pay and yes- kids to hug and read books to- we have fresh books from the library- we promised to be more careful this time

Some of my favorite things...were given to me by St Nicholas yesterday- sweet and spicy pecans, Oregon Chai, Panda black licorice, dried blueberries- all from Trader Joe's

A few plans for the rest of the week...various church activities and gearing up for holiday baking for friends and neighbors

Here is a picture for sharing...

 ...memories from the summer in the old country- what a sky!

from click for bigger image

Monday, December 6, 2010

Singing with Saint Nicholas

Jolly old Saint Nicholas, lean your ear this way
Don't you tell a single soul (except the Theotokos and Her Son) what I'm going to say
Christmas Eve is coming soon. Now you dear holy man,
this is what I ask of you; tell me if you can:

Grandma wants the CCHD stopped
I'd like a Douay Rheims
Bunicu wants an easy visa
so he can finally see the States

Father wants the monsignor
to return his calls
The kids should practice Latin-n-Greek
not run around the halls

Big Girl 1 would like a poodle
Big Girl 2 wants another cat
Boy would like more, more cars
who can argue with that?

Big Baby Girl would like a new
wooden kitchen from family far away
She'll have to wait for now
Uncle needs to hit the hay

Bishop & Saint Nicholas
We Byzantines adore
you were a champion of the Faith
We praise your works all the more

Although you're used for commercial gain
we remember your great life
through your intercession now
please help end this world's strife
(my apologies...try to sing to the tune of Jolly Old St Nicholas)

Kontakion of St. Nicholas

...You were truly a priestly worker in Myra,
for zealously living the Gospel of Christ,
you dedicated your life to your people;
you saved the innocent from death.
Therefore you have been sanctified
as one who has entered the mystery of God's grace.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Homeschool FAIL- 7 QuickTakes

Jen at Conversion Diary wrote in her first quick take today that she just starting homeschooling (as in on December 1st) her son. There must be a lot of prayer and perhaps drama that went into changing course (literally) in the middle of a semester. In any case, she inspired my quick take category- I just can't be random yet...

7 things my homeschooled kids cannot do:

1. Latin and Greek- We just aren't classical homeschoolers. Even though we live in Mother of Divine Grace territory and most of the kids' friends study through that program, Spanish and Dad's language take a much higher priority. They are dabbling in Greek in catechism and are signing a song in Latin for choir; I just can't see making Latin their language. Since Latin isn't the Church language for us Byzantines, it has less importance for us. We do need to start the text English from the Roots Up, however.

2. Typical Homeschool Semi-Genius Things- Once I sat in on a 'gifted' talk at a homeschool conference. It became quite apparent to me that my kids are normal, not gifted in intelligence or extraordinary in talent. And what a blessing! My kids are healthy in body and mind. If they put their mind to it, they could do anything (just about). But they don't play the lute professionally, they don't converse with each other in Swahili, and they aren't enrolled in accelerated university courses (my oldest is 11)- not that there's anything wrong with that. They are also nowhere near able to be champions at the national spelling bee.

3.  Eat a Cold Sandwich- I suppose this is a bit of an exaggeration- but they usually have leftovers for lunch, so the concept of a boring, cold sandwich is foreign to them. Probably peanut butter and jelly on Fridays would be good to break them of the hot lunch habit. The problem? I don't like pb &j !

4. Go Without a Bathroom Break for Hours- In middle school, I had 4 minutes to get to  my locker, change books, and the next class. There simply was no time for a bathroom break. I learned to 'hold it.' The longest my kids would have to wait would be a 1.5 hour ballet class or Divine Liturgy. My kids simply (first informing me) go when they need to go- no hall pass needed. The anarchy of it all! 

5. Stay Quiet When Around Adults-  We are working on this. I was really proud of them the last time we had guests over. Homeschooled kids tend to be (overly?) confident when they are around adults, and my kids are not the exception. Sometimes it is good (singing for the hospital foundation, contributing to a conversation, volunteering independently); sometimes it is not so good (can't a mom talk to just adults once in a while?).

6. Prowl the Library Alone-  I know the statistics. Crime is way, way down. I just cannot allow my 11 and 10 year old big girls to prowl around the library on their own. In the old country, my husband would do just about everything alone when he was their age. I suppose communism had some advantages. There is something so beautiful about getting a stack of books and reading them in the library; everything is so quiet that your imagination can run wild. But our typical library routine is to get the two littles into the double stroller to contain the three-year old as long as possible and then run around the library, filling our baskets before the baby starts squawking. It's not very romantic, but that's where we are now.

7. Tell the Difference between Justin Biber and Hannah Montana-They've never seen the Montana show, so they don't know that she is really named Miley. They know the Hannah Montana name from seeing it on fruit snacks packages and the like. They know a singer named Justin Beiber (spelling?- I refuse as a music snob to google it) exists, but they don't have a radio and I don't listen to Top 40. I'm sure that when they are older, they will have some Top 40, secular favorites. I believe that at 11 and 10, they are still quite young enough to enjoy music for their ages- and all ages. I admit; I do smile smugly when other moms are frantic over their pre-teen's latest role model who is in rehab (Demi Lovato) or has a nude photo scandal (Miley Cirus). My biggest problem right now (Thank God) is explaining why we have to do- yes- more math today.

Our time with homeschooling has been good for my kids and the family. But remember  fellow homeschoolers, the vast majority of children are in schools- parochial or public. No matter what- parents are the primary educators of their children. How can parents stay strongly and positively involved with their schools and their kids in schools? Put your ideas in the comment box if you are so inclined.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

This Moment- A Chilly Day

I hope you all have a WONDERFUL, GLORIOUS December!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lay People- What is the proper way to participate in Church life?

Last week, the girls and I were at a Roman-rite parish because of Nutcracker craziness, but this past weekend was back to 'normal.' While both parishes had strong points, it really bothered me when the lay people were circling the tabernacle and opening it and divvying up the Precious Blood into different glass goblets at the Western church. I've been thinking of what I believe are the best ways that lay people can be vital members of the body of Christ and help the Church along her way. Please remember, these are my opinions; there are Church documents and theologians to give serious, drawn-out answers. We moms are pretty practical.

There is a difference between ordained men and the laity. For some, this statement is about as obvious as the sun setting in the West. All of us need to remember that there are roles for every baptized person in the Church. The priest should be consumed with life at the altar. The deacon has a role in proclaiming the Gospel as the priest does. Lectors and cantors should be receptive to the needs of the priest and the people while maintaining reverence and dignity worthy of God's house. The laity have important roles as members of the parish, but they should leave the altar to the priest.

How does the laity leave the altar to the priest? First of all, the priest preaches, celebrates the sacraments and distributes Eucharist to the faithful. Lay people do not preach- perhaps they give short talks on practical matters after the final blessing or at coffee time. They don't celebrate the sacraments and they don't confuse others by actions that could be perceived as a priest's job. They don't distribute the Eucharist; they prepare extra songs during distribution time. It will take longer to distribute the sacrament, so this is 'meditation' time- before and after a believer receives the Eucharist or a blessing. The priest does his duty when he prepares the people for this change, perhaps giving printed prayers for lay people to pray silently while they are waiting for the Eucharist distribution to finish. The priest does his duty when he asks the choir or cantor to prepare reverent songs during this time. The priest does his duty when he is available for the sacrament of confession before Liturgy (Mass) as well as a longer time on Saturday. And if he is available for confession before Mass, that means he has to leave a lot of the practical work to lay people...

How can the priest leave practical work to lay people? Some priests micro-manage everything from song selection to whether the faithful can kneel after receiving the Eucharist (I suppose that was bishops). It seems in today's modern world, people want to be what they aren't and they have a difficult time accepting their roles. A priest should never 'give' homily time to a lay person- it is not his time to give. Preaching on the Gospel is the priest's duty. But what is not necessarily his duty? If the priest has well-catechized, faithful lay people, he can relax and leave many of the day to day duties to them. Frequent (and short) meetings will verify that all is well for the priest is the bishop of his parish. Boys and men trained in the action of the altar can join  the priest during the Liturgy (although it is possible in the Roman rite to have girls as altar servers, this leads to confusion as to why women cannot be ordained  as Catholic priests). Girls and women can participate in traditionally feminine roles such as flower arranging, linens, meal organizing and caring for shut-in parish members. Girls and women can be bell-ringers and  icon writers. All lay people can read the epistles and sing in the choir or as a cantor- while in the past these were minor orders because the roles are outside of the altar, it should not lead to confusion.

More Ideas on Lay Involvement
  •  Ask the priest how you can help. Maybe you are an accountant and can help with the books. Maybe the same 5 people have been on the pastoral council and new blood is needed. Maybe you can watch the little ones while the priest trains altar boys. Maybe you can drive an older parishioner to church. If your heart is open, the possibilities are endless- at least until the altar. :)
  • Don't accept a job that is the priest's. Sometimes it's hard if the lay person knows better than the priest. Chalk it up to misguided pastoral notions. If he asks you to do a presentation on the newest fundraising, say you would be happy to do so after the final blessing. Defend your priest to the finance committee who has all power over the church money when he wants to know how much money is in the accounts. Both priest and lay people should be involved with the parish bookkeeping.  
  • Be creative with participation- especially when it comes to girls. Remember that Mary the Mother of God, Mary Magdalene and others sat at the feet of Jesus when he taught (a radical idea for that time) yet they weren't apostles. Women have a different role than men in the Catholic Church. Let's say you want your daughter to be involved in church beyond going to Mass, but you don't want her to be an altar girl. Perhaps she can volunteer as a bell ringer or a choir member. She could help the person in charge of the bulletin if she has a literary bent. If she is artistic, she could learn how to write (paint) icons- this would be a permanent gift to her parish that she would be very proud of. And of course, children can help with coffee hour and prepare songs to sing. 
  • Don't insist on always doing the same job. This is a tough one. Just because you have the best singing voice in the parish does not mean that you always get to sing "O Holy Night" on Christmas Eve. Just because your family always brings the coffee doesn't mean that another family cannot also give. The only person who is guaranteed a job at the parish is the priest with the altar. Even he should step aside humbly when another person wants to make his world-famous cabbage rolls. We should be open to new ideas. 
  • For Eastern Catholic parishes with a married priest- please don't assume that he and his family can do it all- or that we want to do it all. Yes, a married priest has assistants on-call 24/7, but he is the only one ordained. I homeschool my four children and also work part-time as a college instructor.  One of my vocal chords is paralyzed. I am limited to what I can do. Our parish missions could use more help from lay people- the participation we do get is wonderful and welcome!
 A parish should be a loving family; there's enough work to go around.

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    Thoughts from a Priest's Wife

    Outside my window I see...Megablocks on the patio and birds eating the dry cat food- cat is watching it happen
    I am thinking...Why did the baby cry all night? (no really- ALL night)
    I am thankful and eggnog and the sacraments and my husband's good job and our missions and turkey soup
    From the learning rooms...getting ready for our charter school learning meeting tomorrow
    From the kitchen...leftovers for lunch; vegetable bean soup and bread for dinner
    I am wearing...clogs (and yes, Simcha, a skirt!)
    I am creating...ideas for our Jesse tree
    I am take the big girls to ballet and choir
    I am reading...the third Mysterious Benedict Society book (I am- not the kids)
    I am get a short nap in (see above- the baby cried ALL night)
    I am hearing...the washing machine hum and a baby wanting to get up
    Around the house...are kids doing school work and making messes- depends on the kid
    One of my favorite things...smacking baby kisses
    A few plans for the rest of the week: the Jesse tree and other Advent crafts

    Friday, November 26, 2010

    Shopping with Jesus

    So my Black Friday rant didn't convince you to sleep in today. It's four in the morning, and you are prepping for the onslaught of shopping. I don't blame you; there are too many good deals to be had. And you go to Mass all the time, so this is not a shopping day of obligation for you like those that worship at the cathedral of stuff. Anyway, priest's wives shouldn't judge. In any case, here's some unsolicited advice for the Friday shopper.
    • Shop with Jesus. Say a prayer before you sip that early morning coffee. Let the other car get in front of you. Don't even try to get a good parking space. Just park as far out as possible and say a decade of the rosary while you walk into the store. Have a smile on your face for everybody because Jesus Christ is by your side, and you are preparing for His birthday.
    • Don't charge anything that can't be paid off before a month passes. Many people are in dire financial situations these past few years. Don't compound the problem (literally) by allowing a balance on your credit card. Be truthful with your family and simplify! Even though it is heart-breaking to see a child go without a toy they wanted, the stress avoided by not carrying a balance is a greater gift to the entire family.
    • Shop with intention. Try to go free trade or homemade as much as possible. For the adults in your life, buy things that don't add to the clutter. If you have no ideas but simply must buy a gift, get a nice candle.
    • Have a list and stick to it. This will lessen the feelings of panic. You have a plan.
    • Focus on the kids. While we don't want our kids to be materialistic, it is fun to get toys and other treasures on such a special day. My kids won't be getting an I-phone like some of their acquaintances. We don't try to keep up with the (credit card dependent) Joneses, but we do make sure the stockings are stuffed with little goodies and there are a few things under the tree- lots of practical things that I have held off buying and some just for fun. Last year, we focused mainly on books- a luxury because we usually either check out at the library or buy used.
    • Next year, turn off the television after August 1st. No more commercials to prep the kids for buying season! We borrow DVDs from the library or Netflix, so our children aren't exposed to commercials at all. Even so, every show is a means to get parents to buy stuff- even commercial-free PBS. If my child wants a toy because they really want it, I will consider getting it. I refuse to buy because an advertisement said that this is the thing to get if you really love your kids. I am stubborn that way.

    "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."     -2 Corinthians 9:7

    Lord, I thank You for Your blessings. Whether in plenty or with little, I want to be a cheerful giver. I desire to give from a full heart that serves, no reluctantly or with complaining. I long to see Your money used in ways that will bless others—through my tithing at church, giving to missions, or helping the needy. I choose to give —and I ask You to bless it.  ---from beliefnet

    O God, give me the grace to shop wisely so I may purchase eternal happiness for myself and all others in need of love. ---from mamarocks

    Thursday, November 25, 2010

    The Church of Stuff- or- a Black Friday Rant

    Tomorrow is a holy day of obligation for many consumers. They prepared for their worship of  stuff by checking the ads, reading and comparing the best prices. They have their cell phones charged for communicating with friends who they are shopping with and have prepared their driving schedules to get to all the right stores. Although an hour or two is too much on Sundays for church (too busy), many will wake up before the sun rises to get the best deals on goods most likely made in China or another country that has no employee or environmental protections.

    I don't shop on the day after Thanksgiving- or the day after Christmas for that matter. There are many days where I can find 'great deals' on random stuff. It is just too depressing to see all the consumerism in preparation of a holy day where we will  remember a tiny baby- who is God- born in a cave to parents who had almost nothing. On the years where I have ventured out to shop a bit on 'Black Friday,' I see people (not assuming- I know these people) who don't believe in Christ and actually are hostile towards His Church. Why are they charging stuff on a credit card to commemorate a holy day that they despise and scoff at?

    Culturally, we love to give gifts for Christmas. We love the excitement of kids running down the stairs to check their stockings. I love that, too. I have great memories as a child of opening gifts. I love to give gifts. But the endless supply of STUFF that we Westerners get from poorer nations at cheap prices is not a way to celebrate Christ's birth.

    I am trying to be more intentional in my gift giving. I encourage you to do so as well- Read this post to see where I am coming from on certain aspects of Christmas consumerism-  Let us all avoid being parishioners at the Church of Stuff. I promise to stop writing about this- but it is on my heart right now. But for today- 

    I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving day!

    A psalm for Thanksgiving
    Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
    Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing.
    Know ye that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
    Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
    For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. (Psalm 100:1-5).

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Giving Thanks & some kid literary masterpieces

    apples, baby kisses, cars to get us where we are going, dance lessons for dear big daughters, eggplant dip from the old country, friendly faces, God's love, happy smiles in the morning, ice cubes ready in the freezer, Jesus' sacrifice, kin that have to love each other, loving hugs, mom and the rest of my extended family, nutella, ocean breezes, people who pray, quiet time, really good books, Saint Philip's fast (Advent), tea, undying mercy of God, violin music by Mozart especially, water, x-cellent kids, you who are reading and commenting, and zoos for fun- Those are a few things I am thankful for this day! and now...a poem....written by a big girl

    Time to thank, time to love
    Happy are we to have people to think of
    All our family has come to the feast
    No one can be left out of the feast
    Kindness is shown to everyone here
    Find no one out there
    Underneath the table lie
    Little children sneaking pie

    another version....written by another big girl....

    Time to be cheerful, time to get spry
    Happy aromas fill the air
    All in the kitchen bake pie
    Next, bring out the turkey!
    Kin and friends are all here
    Find your knives, find your forks
    Under the cabinets lie
    Lingering mice waiting for evening's pie (seems like somebody's hungry)

    So Thankful for God's Blessings

    I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; in the council of the just, and in the congregation. Great are the works of the Lord: sought out according to all his wills. His work is praise and magnificence: and his justice continueth for ever and ever. He hath made a remembrance of his wonderful works, being a merciful and gracious Lord: He hath given food to them that fear him. He will be mindful for ever of his covenant: He will shew forth to his people the power of his works.That he may give them the inheritance of the Gentiles: the works of his hands are truth and judgment. All his commandments are faithful: confirmed for ever and ever, made in truth and equity. He hath sent redemption to his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever. Holy and terrible is his name: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. A good understanding to all that do it: his praise continueth for ever and ever. Psalm 111

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    An Outsider's View of a Typical Catholic Parish

    The big girls and I went to Sunday Mass at the closest Western-rite church this weekend because of all the Nutcracker craziness. I always feel unsettled when I go to a church that isn't 'mine;' I don't belong. Perhaps visitors to our missions also feel this way...

    Humility- I whisper to myself. I always feel like people are looking at me, sympathetic that I am going to Mass alone with four children. I bet they imagine my husband is reading the Sunday paper in bed. I want to shout- my husband actually left early to replace the ill priest for a different community. He'll celebrate their Liturgy and then our mission's Liturgy until the priest is better. With God's mercy, the ill priest will be better before Christmas.

    We frequently go to Mass at the hospital, but that is a speedy daily Mass and the chapel has no kneelers, so the Mass itself is as simple as it gets. A Sunday Mass is different. I always forget that we aren't supposed to kneel after receiving the Eucharist, so I stay kneeling. I worry that I am distracting the believers with my 'backwards' sign of the cross. I hope that everyone has the eyes on their own work. My girls are shocked when altar girls come up the aisle and admonish them to stop judging- even though I disagree with the concept of altar girls. My girls are doubly shocked to see a girl friend who used to faithfully attend the Byzantine Liturgy being an altar server at this church. They left our mission when my husband allowed the people to sing the old country anthem on a holiday during coffee and donuts; they insisted my husband was a liberal. 

    This parish has three priests and two deacons. They do a lot of good works and have lots of  groups involved in the pro-life movement. All of their Sunday Masses are packed. I am sure that some of my misgivings are simply sins of jealousy that I need to confess- to one of the priests at this parish since I don't confess to my husband. I am jealous that we are so small and that people who identify themselves as Byzantine Catholic have never even visited us. 

    The parish has the trappings of a modern church- clapping after the kids' choir rendition of "Soon and Very Soon" is finished, girl altar servers, lay people opening the tabernacle and distributing the Eucharist (the Blood being poured by a lay person from the priest's chalice into clear glass goblets), and a children's liturgy where they take the children out during the Liturgy of the Word. These things are disturbing to me.

    But the lay reader was reverent during the readings, and the homily was dynamic, yet a hard-core teaching directly related to the Gospel. The tabernacle is in the center, and there is a beautiful crucifix as a focal point in the modern construction. There are normal confessionals and there are Knights of Columbus as ushers that also stay close to the Eucharist distributors to eliminate desecration. 

    It was a bit discombobulating, but God was there and we were blessed to be there.