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 for...health 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 going...to take the big girls to ballet and choir
    I am reading...the third Mysterious Benedict Society book (I am- not the kids)
    I am hoping...to 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.

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Blogging & Building Humilty- 7 QuickTakes

    I started this blog, my first, on the feast day of Saint John the Baptist's beheading. It's been a wild ride, but it has calmed down since I started moderating the comments....to celebrate my 43rd post, I am feeling...

    1. admiration for beautiful and well-written blogs like Conversion Diary and Secret Vatican Spy.  Not only are they well-designed, they both tell the stories of brave change. One writer was an atheist all her life; the other was an Evangelical Christian. To convert is to be sincere about your faith, but it can be scary. I am also a convert, but I made the change with my entire family when I was twelve. These writers have converted as adults and not always of the support of those close to them.

    2. educated by blogs like What Does the Prayer Really Say? Personally (that's redundant; everything here is personal), I think that Father Z is the perfect combination of tough-as-nails intellectualism and approachability. I was never that interested in the subject of theology, but the blogs on my blogroll have taught me a lot.

    3. a wee bit jealous of a friend with a blog begun at the same as mine- with ten times the followers and page views. It's a fashion blog. This is my opportunity to practice humility.  Not many people are interested in my story- or maybe they are confused by this blog. Is it a mommy blog? a God blog? a craft blog? (no one has excused me of being a craft blog- but I would like to be, a little, occasionally) In any case, comparing page views is like comparing numbers of Facebook friends- silly and unfruitful.

    4. hopeful that one day I'll be more like Leila on Like Mother, Like Daughter. I suppose I should start with dinner and the laundry.

    5. thrilled that a few people are interested in the Byzantine rite and the concept of the Eastern Catholic married priesthood. My goal with this blog is this- people in general and Western-rite Catholics specifically will understand about the different rites of the Church. Christians will understand that Eastern-rite Catholics are examples of the unity that we seek.

    6. isolated. Writing this blog has driven home to me that my family does not belong.  And that's okay. We are in the minority; why should people care that much? If I feel different, my husband must feel worse. He recently went to the priests' conference at the local Roman-rite archdiocese where he has bi-ritual faculties. He was one of two (the other being an older man who had been an Anglican priest) priests there who was married out of over 800 men. If we lived in the old country, he would be the normal one, except for the American wife.

    7. embarrassed when I make a spelling or grammatical error. As an ex-English major, there is nothing worse than making an inadvertent spelling error. I can edit all I want, but little mistakes creep in.This is yet another way that my little blogging adventure calls me to humility.

    Here's to 43 more blog posts! Who knows where time will take us?

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    This Life is NOT a Dress Rehearsal....

    ....but the Nutcracker does get a dress rehearsal- trying on costumes, make-up, hair. It is a big production with over 80 dancers and 6 professional dancers hired from up North.

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    A Proverbs 31 Philip's Fast (Advent)

    Advent (St. Philip's Fast) is upon us! Byzantine Catholics consider this season a time of both penance and preparation, a fast before the feast of the nativity. Different eparchies (dioceses) have different guidelines for the fast; my family is going meatless except for the Imperial feast on Sundays. Besides the issue of food, one should try to either give something up or do something positive to build one's character during the fasting season- like Roman-rite Catholics do during the Lent before Easter. I am going to try an experiment: to live Proverbs 31 during this St. Philip's Fast. I pray that I am up for the challenge. I believe this will be a positive experiment for my family- even if the Proverbs 31 woman may seem a bit- just a bit, but more authentically holy- like the Perfect Catholic Mom.
    10 A wife of noble character who can find?
       She is worth far more than rubies. ...Wear the garnet earrings given to me
    11 Her husband has full confidence in her
       and lacks nothing of value.                  
    12 She brings him good, not harm,
       all the days of her life.  ...Bring him a good coffee at work
    13 She selects wool and flax
       and works with eager hands. ...Find my knitting bag and start a project
    14 She is like the merchant ships,
       bringing her food from afar.  ....Make and follow menu plans
    15 She gets up while it is still night;
       she provides food for her family
       and portions for her female servants. ....Wake up earlier...
    16 She considers a field and buys it;
       out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. ....Plant herbs in pots
    17 She sets about her work vigorously;
       her arms are strong for her tasks. ...Exercise with free weights
    18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
       and her lamp does not go out at night. ...Make sure bills are paid
    19 In her hand she holds the distaff
       and grasps the spindle with her fingers. ...Do kid crafts for Christmas
    20 She opens her arms to the poor
       and extends her hands to the needy.   ...Research charities to give to
    21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
       for all of them are clothed in scarlet....Go through kids' clothes
    22 She makes coverings for her bed;
       she is clothed in fine linen and purple....Do a project with fabric stash
    23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
       where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
    24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
       and supplies the merchants with sashes....Do lesson plans for classes
    25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
       she can laugh at the days to come. ...Buy new skirts  for Divine Liturgy
    26 She speaks with wisdom,
       and faithful instruction is on her tongue. ...Finish Orthodoxy
    27 She watches over the affairs of her household
       and does not eat the bread of idleness....Fast from Facebook & Drudgereport
    28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
       her husband also, and he praises her: ...Start circle time with children
    29 “Many women do noble things,
       but you surpass them all.”
    30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
       but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
    31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
       and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. 

    It will be difficult, but not impossible, to be my modern interpretation of a Proverbs 31 woman for the fast. The most challenging verse will be "she gets up while it is still night." All mothers know that we will sleep if we are able. A bit of work and prayer before the bustle of the day is fine as well. I am praying to achieve more persistence, discipline and consistency during this fasting time. 

    The beauty of fasting is this- it makes the feasting all the more glorious! So many people get depressed at the let-down after December 25th. All that is left from the preparation is a garbage can filled with cardboard and wrapping paper. Forgotten toys are left on the floor; the family might be back at the mall on the 26th, returning gifts that didn't fit or weren't exactly what was hoped for. But when you have been preparing and fasting, there is a season of feasting that begins on the holiday. This is the beginning of the twelve days of Christmas, and the feasting should continue beyond those first twelve days to 'balance out' the time spent fasting.

    Our spiritual life is a see-saw. First we fast, and then we feast, and then we fast again. God and His Church are wise in that it is known that we humans need constant renewal in soul and body. The fast-feast cycles give us these periods of renewal if we take the seasons seriously. Our children are being introduced to these fast-feast cycles at the level in which is appropriate for their ages (there's that illusive balance again) and will be hosting an Epiphany/Theophany party for their friends. In the meantime...on with the fast...!

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    A Blessed Byzantine Advent

    Advent (St. Philip's Fast) begins on Monday for Byzantine Catholics. This is a time of both penance and preparation for the nativity of our Lord, Jesus Christ. May the light of Christ be with all! (artwork by churchads.net)

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    The Catholic Priesthood- 7 QuickTakes

    A few reflections on the priesthood from those who would know better than I...

    St. Ambrose of Milan- "We saw the prince of priests coming to us, we saw and heard him offering his blood for us. We follow, inasmuch as we are able, being priests, and we offer the sacrifice on behalf of the people. Even if we are of but little merit, still, in the sacrifice, we are honorable. Even if Christ is not now seen as the one who offers the sacrifice, nevertheless it is he himself that is offered in sacrifice here on Earth when the body of Christ is offered. Indeed, to offer himself he is made visible in us, he whose word makes holy the sacrifice that is offered" (Commentaries on Twelve Psalms of David 38:25 [A.D. 389]). 

    St Ignatius of Antioch- "Indeed, when you submit to the bishop as you would to Jesus Christ, it is clear to me that you are living not in the manner of men but as Jesus Christ, who died for us, that through faith in his death you might escape dying. It is necessary, therefore—and such is your practice that you do nothing without the bishop, and that you be subject also to the presbytery, as to the apostles of Jesus Christ our hope, in whom we shall be found, if we live in him. It is necessary also that the deacons, the dispensers of the mysteries [sacraments] of Jesus Christ, be in every way pleasing to all men. For they are not the deacons of food and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They must therefore guard against blame as against fire" (Letter to the Trallians 2:1–3 [A.D. 110]).

    "In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a church. I am confident that you accept this, for I have received the exemplar of your love and have it with me in the person of your bishop. His very demeanor is a great lesson and his meekness is his strength. I believe that even the godless do respect him" (ibid., 3:1–2). 

    St. Cyprian of Carthage- "If Christ Jesus, our Lord and God, is himself the high priest of God the Father; and if he offered himself as a sacrifice to the Father; and if he commanded that this be done in commemoration of himself, then certainly the priest, who imitates that which Christ did, truly functions in place of Christ" (Letters 63:14 [A.D. 253]). 

    St. John Chrysostom- "When you see the Lord immolated and lying upon the altar, and the priest bent over that sacrifice praying, and all the people empurpled by that precious blood, can you think that you are still among men and on earth? Or are you not lifted up to heaven?" (The Priesthood 3:4:177 [A.D. 387]).

    "Reverence, therefore, reverence this table, of which we are all communicants! Christ, slain for us, the sacrificial victim who is placed thereon!" (Homilies on Romans 8:8 [A.D. 391]).

    "‘The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not communion of the blood of Christ?’ Very trustworthy and awesomely does he [Paul] say it. For what he is saying is this: What is in the cup is that which flowed from his side, and we partake of it. He called it a cup of blessing because when we hold it in our hands that is how we praise him in song, wondering and astonished at his indescribable gift, blessing him because of his having poured out this very gift so that we might not remain in error; and not only for his having poured it out, but also for his sharing it with all of us. ‘If therefore you desire blood,’ he [the Lord] says, ‘do not redden the platform of idols with the slaughter of dumb beasts, but my altar of sacrifice with my blood.’ What is more awesome than this? What, pray tell, more tenderly loving?" (Homilies on First Corinthians 24:1(3) [A.D. 392]).

    "In ancient times, because men were very imperfect, God did not scorn to receive the blood which they were offering . . . to draw them away from those idols; and this very thing again was because of his indescribable, tender affection. But now he has transferred the priestly action to what is most awesome and magnificent. He has changed the sacrifice itself, and instead of the butchering of dumb beasts, he commands the offering up of himself" (ibid., 24:2). 

    "I, Patrick, the sinner, am the most rustic and the least of all the faithful . . . had for my father Calpornius, a deacon, a son of Potitus, a priest, who belonged to the village of Bannavem Taberniae. . . . At that time I was barely sixteen years of age . . . and I was led into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of persons, in accordance with our deserts, for we turned away from God, and kept not his commandments, and were not obedient to our priests, who were wont to admonish us for our salvation" (Confession of St. Patrick 1 [A.D. 452]).

    and for good measure....

    Excerpt from the Pieta Prayer Book (Our Lord's revelations to Mutter Vogel)

    "One should NEVER attack a priest, even when he's in error, rather one should ray and do penance that I'll grant him My grace again. He alone fully represents Me, even when he doesn't live after My example!

    "When a Priest falls we should extend him a helping hand through prayer and not through attacks! I myself will be his judge, no one but I! Whoever voices judgment over a priest has voiced it over me; child, never let a Priest be attacked, take up his defense. Child, never judge your confessor, rather pray much for him and offer every Thursday, through the hands of My Blessed Mother, Holy Communion (for Him). Never again accept an out-of-the-way word about a priest, and speak no unkind word (about them). Even it were TRUE! Every Priest is My vicar and My Heart will be sickened and insulted because of it~ If you hear a judgment (against a Priest) pray a Hail Mary."

    "If you see a Priest who celebrates the Holy Mass unworthily then say nothing about him, rather tell it to Me alone! I stand beside Him on the altar! Oh pray much for my priests, that they'll love purity above all, that they'll celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with pure hands and heart. Certainly the Holy Sacrifice is one and the same even when it's celebrated by an unworthy priest, but the graces called down upon the people is not the same!"
    Pray for our priests and bishops!

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    This Moment- Nervous for Nutcracker

    Coming down to the wire- all those practices will pay off in less than two weeks!

    No 'Catholic-guilt' here- just Mommy-guilt

    One phrase that has always annoyed me is 'Catholic guilt.' I have never really understood it. I converted with my Mom and Dad and four siblings when I was 12. The sacrament of confession was one thing that attracted us to the Catholic Church. Assurance of God's forgiveness (of course under certain rules)? Sign me up! I have always loved this freeing sacrament- I like the fact that the priest is bond to secrecy. Maybe I'll celebrate being a Catholic by going to confession and then watching Hitchcock's I Confess.  In any case, I suspect the phrase 'Catholic-guilt' is used by those 'recovering' or 'cafeteria' Catholics that aren't much into Catholic sacraments. Anyways- shouldn't you feel badly for something bad you have done and isn't it wonderful that the Church has remedies for those feelings?

    So I don't suffer from 'Catholic-guilt,' just Mommy guilt. I second-guess myself a lot as many mothers do. Are the children studying enough? Are they polite enough? Do they watch too much television? Are they eating enough veggies? Are we doing too many activities? If any other mom talked the way that I do to myself, I would tell her to give herself a break...

    Today brought the guilt home. My youngest has had a very, very, very bad diaper rash for almost a month.  The rash has spread to other parts of her body. Her poor little face has spots. We've started giving twice daily baths, cutting out juice and sugar, adding probiotics and more. But I finally broke down and took her to the doctor. I made an appointment and packed up all four kids in the middle of the school day. No one was at the doctor's office except one couple with a week-old baby.  

    I couldn't help but contrast life with one baby and then with the little crew that I have now....

    First baby- Daddy comes to the doctor's appointments
    Fourth baby- Daddy knows you can handle it and keeps working to pay the co-pay, deductible and percentage

    First baby- Mommy has a large, pink Coach purse to carry baby's needs
    Fourth baby- Mommy puts two diapers in her purse, forgets the wipes

    First baby- Mommy got treated to a pedicure to wear with her new sandals
    Fourth baby- Mommy hopes to get a pedicure by Christmas and wonders if the salon is open really, really early Saturday mornings when everyone is still asleep

    First baby- Mommy and Daddy holds hands as they walk into the examination room with the baby
    Fourth baby- Mommy looks the other way as the three older kids watch Shark Tale and is relieved they are occupied during the hour and a half wait (no kidding and no exaggeration)

    First baby- Mommy and Daddy listen attentively to the doctor's instructions and advice
    Fourth baby- Mommy listens for toddler boy to get bored by Shark Tale in the waiting room and start crying

    so I feel the guilt...

    And all of this was because of a bad diaper rash that probably could have been prevented. Poor fourth baby! Even though we all love her up, she can get lost in the shuffle. Maybe this was her way of getting attention. I have learned my lesson- maybe Mommy-guilt can be a good thing if it reminds us to be more loving and attentive of our precious babies.

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    More Books to Read Again- 7 QuickTakes

    1. Madeleine L'Engle- The Arm of the Starfish

    L'Engle's beautiful, pro-family classic, A Wrinkle in Time, is worthy reading for anyone. I'm reading it now. But there is something about the location and the villain of Arm of the Starfish that got under my skin the first time I read it. The book is next on my re-reading list. I suspect the medical technology story line will prove to be quite apropos to modern life.

    2. Agatha Christie- Autobiography

    Christie's autobiography might be my favorite book that she has written. It gives such a clear picture of her life and of life in general at that time; one might feel that one is there at tea. Her beloved characters in Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Tommy and Tuppence were so well-developed. I'm sure that her experiences written about in her autobiography formed them as well as her.

    3. Fr. Alexander Ratiu- Stolen Church

    This non-fiction work tells the story of communism taking over Romania. The witness accounts are horrifying, telling the story of forced conversions to Orthodoxy or prison time and death. While reading this book, you will be close to modern martyrs, realizing that we are still living the early days of the Church where people of faith are not safe. Reflect on the martyrs of Baghdad. In Romania, it was similar. Now, Catholicism is legal, but they struggle because the stolen churches are still in the control of the state.

    4. Marcel Pagnol- My Father's Glory & My Mother's Castle

    Two lovely pieces of his memoirs in one volume, these are just as thought-provoking as Proust's madeleines. Not much happens here; it is just little vignettes of life with descriptions you can fall into and laze around in. The sun in Provence is warmer, the colors are more striking, the food is richer even when it is simple bread and cheese. Read this volume, enjoy, and save the airfare. Along with a cup of tea, reading about Pagnol's Provence is almost as good as being there.

    5. Jane Healy- Endangered Minds

    Most of my reading is mommy and homeschooling based. I love In their Own Way, The Charlotte Mason Companion, Homeschooling for Success, The Educated Child, The Book of Virtues- I could go on and on. At the moment, the book Endangered Minds is in my re-read queue. It develops different ideas on why  kids today are so distracted and what we can do about it. Basically, it will validate you if you are a mean mom who strictly limits television and computer time.

    6. Jane Austen- Pride and Prejudice

    I know everyone says Austen in a book list, but I couldn't resist. The characters, the setting,  the dialog-everything is bliss. I need to break out and read some GKC fiction and even Oscar Wilde. But I usually return to one of Austen's perfect novels. Yesterday's post was on the impossibility of perfection. This is usually true, but Austen was the perfect novelist. Seriously, what a gift to the world. In any case, I am in a witty kind of mood with my reading- perhaps because I am the least witty person I know. One can live different lives in their reading.

    7. St Francis de Sales- Introduction to a Devout Life

    All Christian (Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic) women should have this as their personal life manual. Whenever I read this book, I am astonished by its truth, its modernity. St Francis is perfection in the way he writes to the woman- simply, but never condescendingly. I'm not a theologian who likes to analyze and reanalyze and over-analyze the use of the word "The" in a Bible passage (I exaggerate, a bit). St Francis uses practical examples of the domestic life to illustrate heavenly ideas. He respects and sanctifies the domestic life in much the same way our Lord Jesus sanctified marriage at Cana. So while I am enjoying Orthodoxy (yes, I finally started it- I like it!), Intro to a Devout Life is my go-to book for support in my vocation.

    I can't stop here! Okay TWO GREAT KIDS' BOOKS and then I'll stop...

    Bonus 1- Maud Hart Lovelace- Betsy and Tacy

    Just read it. I loved Tacy best even before we became Catholic. Mostly funny and sweet, there are spots that will have you choking back sobs if you read it aloud to your kids.

    Bonus 2- Lucy Fitch Perkins- The Chinese Twins

    Out of print and sometimes a bit politically incorrect, all the twin books will be beloved by your children. Each book develops a story around a set of boy-girl twins and their adventures. Some books are easier (Dutch Twins) than others (Caveman Twins). My girls were shocked reading the Japanese Twins that boys got a week-long birthday while the girls got a day. Educational and entertaining- find on ebay and libris.

    My previous book list is here: Books to Read Again
     Happy reading!

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    The Perfect Catholic Mom

    The Perfect Catholic Mom
    • doesn't have a television.
    • either homeschools with a classical, Catholic-centric curriculum or has enrolled the children in an independent- perhaps Legionaire- Catholic school.
    • takes the kids to daily Mass and confession once a week.
    • smiles serenely as her husband drinks wine and smokes cigars a la G.K. Chesterton.
    • prepares only vegan food every Wednesday and Friday and everyday during the fast periods like Advent (St Phillip's Fast) and Lent (Great Fast) for her Byzantine Catholic family- or meatless every Friday for her Western-rite family.
    • doesn't celebrate non-Catholic holidays like Halloween or the secularized versions of Christmas and St. Valentine's Day.
    • stays out of politics except to vote.
    • only buys fast food during the 40 Days for Life.
    • smiles serenely as strangers gawk at her 8 kids at the supermarket.
    • knits and/or crochets while she waits for her sons to finish altar server training and/or her girls to finish Little Flowers.
    • knows that her kids know their catechism perfectly.
    • can keep her kids quiet in church with a simple look and doesn't need juice, a toy or a book to calm her toddlers.
    • smiles serenely as her OB/GYN sighs when she comes in for a 12-week pre-natal check-up again.
    The Perfect Catholic Mom (TM) is a figment of fantasy, of wild optimism, of impossible expectations and perhaps depression over self-imposed perfection that hasn't been met. Still, many of us Regular, Doing-Our-Best Catholic Moms (TM) find it difficult to reconcile ourselves to reality and our humanity. I am one example of:

    The Regular Catholic Mom
    • has a television, but most likely with no cable. She likes the kids to be able to watch Blues' Clues while she gets dinner ready. She even might let the kids' see Veggie Tales. Less screaming when Dad gets home. Dad might like to decompress after work with a DVD, as well.
    • educates her kids in many different ways. Some kids go to parish schools, and others even might go to a public school. All good, regular Catholic moms, however, know that it is her and her husband's responsibility to be extremely involved in the kids' education. They know what is happening in the classroom.  I, a regular Catholic mom, homeschool my kids, using the resources of a homeschooling, public charter school.
    •  is always at Mass on Sundays and major feast days.
    • tells her husband that GKC wouldn't want him using Catholicism as an excuse for smoking. I might grumble about a cigar if it isn't to celebrate a new baby.
    • struggles with going meatless- it's so easy to throw a chicken in the oven! We have been doing well with going without meat during Advent and Lent- going all vegan is another story.
    • lets her kids go trick or treating- just no scary costumes, please! Balance everyone! Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus is fun, but Mrs. Claus- sorry- all bishops are celibate. She doesn't exist- Rudolph also doesn't exist- he's not in the original poem :)
    • can be a bit passionate about politics, talking too much at dinner parties and running to turn off talk radio when the kids can hear.
    • sometimes has pizza night from Dominos or another place just because it is Wednesday- and perhaps only made it to a pro-life event a few times this year with promises to herself that she'll improve. Meanwhile- where is my knitting bag?

      I think you have got the idea! We regular Catholic moms have the same goal as those fictitious perfect moms- we want to do what is right for our kids and help get ourselves, our husbands, and our kids to heaven. We expect a big family reunion- face to face with God and His saints. My greatest hope is that imparting a sense of balance with my kids will help them love the Lord. I might let them buy themselves Silly Bands to trade with girls after ballet, but they will participate in church and be proud of the faith that has been given to them. My big kids will sing in front of a casket at a wake, but I won't expect them to go to the three-hour funeral the next day if they don't  personally know the deceased. We might just say a prayer and make a good dinner for Dad when he gets home.

      I'm just a regular Catholic mom
      doing my best like all the rest- 
      trying to learn to 'smile serenely'...

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Fun Fun Fun- All Saints'

    We go to an All Saints' Day party and then run around and 'trick or treat'- What a weekend!

    Praying for the dead

    We Byzantine Catholics celebrate All Souls' during the Lent before Easter. Every Saturday during the fast, we remember our beloved dead with a parastas, a memorial service with sweet bread and wine. So- celebrating All Souls' with Western-rite Catholics today could be considered a Latinization, rejecting our Byzantine, Eastern culture for the culture that is in the majority. Many Eastern churches celebrate the day, however as a bonus to our traditions. After both Saturday and Sunday Liturgies, we celebrated and remembered our dead with a parastas. And yes, we will do it again during the Great Lent as well as for any special, specific anniversary that a parishioner has.  It is good to pray for our dead.