Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saints Basil, Gregory & John

Saints Basil, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom (the 'Golden-mouth') are celebrated today in the Byzantine rite. All three wrote Divine Liturgies which are in use in the Church today after 1700 years.
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 mankind a lordship which cannot be taken away,
sealing it with your precepts,
venerable Basil, revealer of heaven.

The shepherd's pipe of thy theology conquered the philosophers' trumpets; for since thou didst search out the depths of the Spirit, beauty of speech was added to thee. Intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved, O Father Gregory.

Grace like a flame shining forth from thy mouth has illumined the universe, and disclosed to the world treasures of poverty and shown us the height of humility. And as by thine own words thou teachest us, Father John Chrysostom, so intercede with the Word, Christ our God, to save our souls.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Cobbler's Wife- 7 QuickTakes

This is not a husband-bashing post. The Secret Vatican Spy has asked for tips on making a self-directed retreat (she will be a full-fledged Catholic this Easter!). Reading her post, I was brimming with ideas. Then, I realized, this priest's wife hasn't been on a retreat- self-directed or otherwise- for 10 years- hence, my post title. So, here are 7 quick ideas on making a self-directed retreat; maybe I'll take my own advice one of these days.

7 Quick Tips for Making a Self-directed Religious Retreat

1. Choose a retreat house that allows self-directed retreats or a hotel that is close to a recommended Catholic parish. Call the secretary to confirm Mass and confession times (SVS- make an appointment for a 'session' with the priest; the sacrament of reconciliation will have to wait a bit)
2. Tell family and friends that you are unavailable for the weekend and that you are on a "silent retreat." Give your mom the number to the retreat house and turn off your cell phone. At the most, check phone messages at lunch and dinner. Answer messages with quick texts only if they can't wait until the weekend is over.
3. If you are staying at a hotel: put away the remote. If you are tempted by television, give the remote to the hotel manager. Don't bring a laptop. Bring ear plugs and a CD player with music choices from praise music to chant. Bring your pillow and blanket. Bring your favorite religious icon and a crucifix. Sprinkle your room with holy water (do this even if you are staying at a retreat house) Bring a cooler with food and good coffee and tea so you don't necessarily have to go out for breakfast or dinner.
4. Your schedule depends upon Mass and confession times (and meal times if you are at a retreat house). If I were staying at a hotel, I would make time for: morning prayer, Mass, confession, the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, a few sessions of reading along with journaling, short walks, and evening prayer along with two short naps. 'Outside' activities (Mass, reading/journaling/walking in a park, having lunch) can be in the middle of the day.
5. Use a new journal and a new highlighter to make new notes on any old books that you have found helpful in your spiritual journey. Write a letter to yourself at the beginning and end of your weekend (corny, but effective!).
6. Resources to consider: the Bible (bien sur)- I am really liking my new Douey-Rheims translation; Stacy Mitch's Courageous Love (Bible Study); St Francis de Sales' Introduction to a Devout Life; the biographies of special patron saints; any books to read again
7. Beware of satan. "WHAT!" you say? Well, a running joke during high school, university, and the four years before I got married when I was regularly making retreats (yup- now that I REALLY need them, I don't have the opportunity)- wait for the evil one to rear his very ugly head to ruin the high you feel after a great retreat. You'll find him in a flat tire, a lousy homily the Sunday after you get back, a person who flips you the bird when you accidentally cut him off in traffic, a bill you forgot to pay, etc, etc. Don't be surprised, and don't be discouraged. Just laugh in recognition and contempt when satan tries to ruin what you experienced during your weekend of retreat. Then, call your mom and share about your weekend.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Random Stuff Rant

I am writing this with an oh-so-serene smile, attempting to be the Perfect Catholic Mom(tm). Yes, I live in a country that is blessed with abundance, security, clean air, clean water BUT this abundance is driving me batty. We are a busy, homeschooling family of 6. I am an easily tired mom who would rather be reading. We all feel an extraordinary amount of peace when the townhouse is clean and organized, but travel for a few days and dump suitcases in the one-car garage now family room-homeschool room and the entire house goes haywire.

Birth certificates on the kitchen table? A game of Risk- unopened from Christmas 3 years ago- in the pantry? A six-month late library book? Old blessed palms? A huge basket (not ours) from the nativity play in the middle of the homeschool room? Crucifixes and religious books that no one else wanted? Check! We have them all!

It is about 3:30 PM- Fr. is working late-
let's see how much we can get done in a few hours.
I'll report back at 9 or so. Wish me luck!

UPDATE: It's 9:30- all four kids are snug in their beds, so here is what we accomplished in a few hours
  • 2 bags to go to Goodwill, outside already
  • 3 bags of trash
  • lots of things in their proper places
  • big girls' desks in garage/school room/family room are basically clear
  • 2010 calendar (displaying November) taken done in school room- pretty icon put in its place
  • unpacked from our between Christmas and New Years trip
Things I have learned
  • stop me before I buy any stationary again!
  • tons of stationary doesn't keep you from being late with a nephew's birthday card :(
  • having 2 4-drawer filing cabinets doesn't fill and organize themselves
  • plastic tubs that have lost their lids make perfect crayon bins- maybe I will stop just throwing random crayons away
  • being cluttered is depressing- but even a small improvement is a breath of fresh air
  • decluttering, organizing, cleaning and decorating are four different things!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pro-Life Ninjas

According to Google News:
Gabrielle Giffords (Democrat congresswoman critically injured in Arizona shooting)- 30,000 news items in past month
Jared Loughner (mentally-ill shooter in Arizona)- 18,500 news items
+Judge John Roll (Conservative federal judge killed in shooting)- 4,420 news items
Kardashian family- 2,990 news items

March for Life 2011- 760 news items

Simcha calls them "pro-life ninjas;" nobody sees them even though they march in thousands. cartoon: Getty Images

Monday, January 24, 2011

Babies are...

So, if babies are not the enemy, why does the United States abort minimally 846,181 pregnancies (In 2006, 846,181 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 49 reporting areas. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). I chose this statistic because I am sure it minimizes the impact of abortion so I could not be accused of bias) a year? What are the causes for so many abortions- many sources putting the abortion number at 1.5 million per year. If babies are not the enemy, what is?
  • poverty
  • a promiscuous society and
  • general dehumanization are a few reasons why abortions are so common.
Although women can and must always choose good over evil, staring at an empty cupboard must make it more difficult to choose life. Living in a society where there are very few good jobs which don't require higher education (an education that is financially out of reach for much of the U.S. population) also contributes to this poverty. Times have changed. When I was a young child, there were four kids, only my dad worked (at a job which did not require a college degree), and we had a house and a half acre to play around in. Now, living in the same area, my four kids have a townhouse with a cement patio even though they have a mom with a Master's degree who works part-time and a dad with two Master's who has a good full-time job. We are by no means poor, but it seems to be harder to earn a good living nowadays.

I was picking up my big girls from choir when there was a debate over music perferences. My girls said they enjoy classical music along with Elton John and the Beach Boys. A few of the kids made fun of them; I tried to be a cool mom and suggested to them that they go to youtube and find the 'backing up song.' Basically, it shows how talking can be turned into a pop song with a computer and autotune. A cute little boy- the one who still sings the soprano parts- mentioned that Katy Perry uses auto-tune more than Lady Gaga. Says he: Gaga is the true artist whose meat dress will soon be in a museum. It is a promiscuous society that allows an eight-year old boy to listen to and watch the videos of these two so-called artists. When a good boy with an intact family finds their music and videos to be acceptable, we are setting ourselves up for acceptance of evil- one of those evils being abortion.

A 6-pound baby was found in the garbage today, just another news item on the radio. My last baby was 4 pounds, and her neighbor in the NICU was born just under 2 pounds. So, this is personal; I admit it. When a society condones the dehumanization of the smallest, weakest and oldest, it is a sick society. Yes, the ancient Spartans would expose an imperfect child to the elements, but aren't we supposed to be better than that now? For believers, we are all sanctified by Christ. We are made in God's image, so all life is sacred. For others, science shows us that humans develop from a fertilized egg and are always human. The fetus, no matter how small, never was something other than human. But in the early months, the baby looks strange, so we can destroy the life? Analyze a two-year old's face. His proportions are different than a teenager's. Then, compare the teenager with a middle-aged adult. They will also look different from each other, but they look the way they do because of the stage of development they are in.

My theme needs to be developed much more- Red Cardigan's blog is a good pro-life blog to peruse. I just find it sad and ironic every year that Roe v Wade and Martin Luther King Day are so close to one another. Would Dr King be pleased (as Obama celebrated Roe V Wade so his daughters will have choices) that so many African-Americans, a disproportionate number, do not exist because of abortion? He had to know the work of Margaret Sanger, founder of the eugenic Birth Control League, later named Planned Parenthood. King's niece now makes it her life's mission to speak out against abortion, perhaps to heal from the pain of having had two abortions herself. The mercy of God is so great! One last thing...

"There are currently 15,000 mentions of Jared Loughner [shot down 6 in Arizona 2 weeks ago] in the news recently, according to Google. But as of Sunday night there are less than 1,400 mentions of Dr. Kermit Gosnell [soon to be on trial for the murder of two women and for murdering seven babies who survived abortions]. That’s 10 percent. Truly, silence is the deadliest bias." (
Creative Minority Report)

update: OK- Fr Barron says it best again.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Enough Seriousness! 7 QuickTakes

After a few days of serious talk- let's get to some non-earth-shattering quick takes!
2. After all that talk yesterday about not being selfish, I realize that my husband really doesn't like the show Monk that we have been watching on DVD. Maybe it is just Monk, maybe it is Sharona's tacky outfits. Any suggestions on a show that we can Netflix that you enjoy- the 40-minute time frame is about we have time for- maybe we should play backgammon instead.

3. A lady brings a duck into the clinic & says, “I think my duck is dead”. So the vet takes a look at it, examines its heart, checks from head to tail & remarks, “Lady, your duck is dead." The lady says, “Can you check again?" So he whistles & in comes his golden labrador. His dog puts his paws up on the table & sniffs the duck from front to back, shakes his head & leaves the room. The Vet says “Lady, it is dead." The lady says, “I'm not so sure that my duck is dead. Can you triple check?” So he whistles again & in comes his cat. The cat jumps up on the table, sniffs the duck from head to tail, shakes his head & leaves. "I’m sorry, but your duck is dead!” She says: “Ok, my duck is dead. How much do I owe you?” The vet says, ”That will be $285." “$285 for what?” He says, “The diagnostic was free. But the lab costs were $135 & the cat scan was $150." (haha?- from cleanjokes)

4. The world's most boring kids' television show: Wonder Pets. The only known antidote is old seasons of The Muppet Show.


6. Beef stew success! Brown meat in pot- don't crowd the cubes- then slow cook with veggies (pre-boil potatoes until half-done) for 6 hours. Don't add too much liquid!

7. Some serious quotations to contemplate when you can't get to sleep

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried. -- G.K. Chesterton

Little things are indeed little, but to be faithful in little things is a great thing. -- Bl. Mother Teresa

We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be. -- C.S. Lewis

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Challenge of Celibacy- let's NOT talk about sex

The past few days around here have been interesting, to say the least. I still believe what I wrote 2 days ago, and I pray that Rome directly answers the questions raised by canon lawyer Ed Peters about Western Canon 277. In any case...what is so challenging about celibacy and- therefore- continence?

Is it the lack of marital contact? Is the most challenging aspect of celibacy loneliness? I can't give a theological or psychological opinion- just a practical and personal one. I was celibate and continent until I was 27. Being a virgin was no problem (maybe because I am a female?) and any loneliness I felt was lessened by time with friends and family.

My major challenge as a single person was a tendency to selfishness.

When one is celibate and- therefore- continent, it is a major challenge to be self-giving. It takes heroic virtue not to be selfish. During high school, university and four years after graduation, this was my life: the beautiful, independent single life where I would serve others to a point. I could fool myself into thinking I was a giver. I lived at home during college, taking classes full-time and working various jobs about 35 hours a week to pay for tuition. I was really busy. I was a 'giver'- leading music at the 7:30 Mass and joining my family for the 9:00. I was involved in the Newman Center and did the dishes at home. But I would go to the movies during a break in the school day and watch the latest tearjerker (Steel Magnolias, anyone?). After college, I was teaching English in Slovakia for $100 a month plus rent- how is that selfish?! But, I could take a train to Rome without calling anyone, walk around for 12 hours, and then get on the next train north. Being poor, I debated between spending my money on green leather mittens or lunch in Krakow. Being married, sometimes a mom has to choose between lunch for herself or the kids. And she chooses the kids.

When I was single, I never had to always think of another person. If a younger sister was visiting, of course I would buy her favorite flavor of party pizza and make brownies while we watched Labyrinth. But that was an aberration. Normally, I went into a store and bought my favorite things, took a shower when it was convenient for me, watched only the movies that I preferred, and even prayed when it was a good time for me. The food was cooked to my liking, the music was at the volume I preferred, the thermostat temperature was perfect for me. The furniture could be just where I wanted it, I could work the hours I wanted, I could go on retreat and not be beholden to anyone. Are any of these things sinful? Not really, but living alone makes it very easy to think of oneself- in the same way that having only one child makes it easy to cook just the foods that child prefers. Why not? It is easy, but it is not very virtuous.

We all know amazing celibate priests who are always thinking of the other person. He might golf on Monday morning as a hobby, but his cell phone is open to calls and he doesn't allow a gate keeper secretary to be a barrier to contact with his parishioners. Celibacy and continence are challenges, but Roman-rite priests know what they are getting into and, I suspect, focus on protecting themselves from sin in these serious matters. Selfishness is a much smaller sin, but it tends to creep in and make itself at home. A selfish person who is also a giver- like I was- work, work, working for God but then ignoring that call that they know is a hospital call. A selfish person insists on his hamburger super-rare (just pass it over a lit candle) even when the waitress says the health board won't let her sell it rare. A selfish person needs, even while complaining of burn-out, to choose all the music selections and flower arrangements so that things will be perfect (for him/her).

Marriage and children force us sinners to constantly think of others. We might intentionally decide to buy sharp cheddar or listen to opera even though our spouse prefers something different. We don't always have to choose what the other wants, but we always have to consider it. Marriage is a great aid to man's natural tendencies to selfishness. It seems (please note my qualification!) that the glories of celibacy and continence are emphasized as a gift for the kingdom of Heaven, but celibate priests are only warned to not be alone with people and are not trained in anticipation of other problems. Perhaps the monastic tradition (again, in only my little opinion) is the best way to live a life of celibacy and continence. The monk lives in community and is supported in living a selfless life. With his vows (not promises) of poverty, chastity and obedience, he is given tools to faithfully live a life of celibacy and perfect continence.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

sad days in one corner of the blogosphere

One of my favorite blog names is My Little Catholic Bubble- the writer seems to admit that her life is a bit insular, and she likes it that way. So, in a roundabout way, I admit that I am writing now from my experience and also from an Eastern perspective.

Do unmarried clergy really have more time to devote to the Church? This is the most common argument against married clergy- probably because people are trying to avoid the sex topic. Because of his bi-ritual faculties, my husband substitutes for Western-rite priests. As I have posted before, he is now a police chaplain volunteer for a department that has waited 18 years for help. He doesn't golf; if you see him fishing, his four kids will be with him. When he finishes his work and ministry obligations, he doesn't return to a rectory and peace and quiet; he has other family (the domestic church) to serve. Trying to be charitable here, fill in the blanks...but celibate or not- no priest can minister to 15,000 families.

Are unmarried clergymen bound to live vows of poverty, chastity and obedience like monks? My husband drives a 12-year old Chevy with 250,000 miles and dents galore. Our townhouse is 1200 square feet for 6 people. No cable (thank God!) and cell phones are month-to-month. No housekeeper, cook, babysitter- oh wait, is that me? Well, I homeschool and teach part-time at the college level, so the house is not rectory-level clean. We spend our own money to print bulletins. We changed to an HMO through his hospital job because the PPO went from $6000 to $12000 payroll deduction (!?thanks healthcare reform?!) But talking money is worse than talking sex! Trying to be charitable here, so fill in the blanks....

But I digress...the small little corner of the blogosphere I am referring to consists of What Does the Prayer Really Say, the Deacon's Bench and a canon lawyer named Ed Peters. Peters states that Canon 277 in the Western Code of Canon Law means that all clergymen in the Latin-rite must be continent (sexual relations with a lawful wife being forbidden). Fr Z seems to concur. Whether Peters believes that the canon should remain or it should be clarified for married clergy remains to be seen. The comments on all these blogs have been interesting however.
My first quibble is this:

WHY OH WHY do people think that by accepting the East's 2,000 year tradition of married men priests and their dignity and worthiness leads to....married men being ordained de facto in the West, altar girls, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, women 'priests,' clown masses, blessings with bubbles and sage, embracing divorce and remarriage, birth control, abortion, meat buffets on Fridays, abandoning Holy Days of Obligation, global warming, etc and etc...We just want our sui juris church to be respected. We love the Holy Father and the Catholic Church. Let me be a broken record for a bit; the Church is bigger than my microscopic rite and the Roman rite- no matter the majority the Roman rite has.

another thing to think about:

One question that has been posed a few times on various sites and which is not answered is- How does marital relations negatively effect an ordained married man's ministry? All married people are called to chastity and occasional continence. Ordained married men are no exception. Of course, discretion and dignity is key, but all married couples should be dignified in their public actions. I feel it is undignified to calculate conception dates and contemplate any person's sex life.

If the Church has allowed married men to be ordained as deacons in the Roman rite and are allowing a 'new wave' of married men to be ordained priests from the Anglican Church for the Roman rite, shouldn't there be new canons to address these issues?

one last thing...

a response to all this Eastern talk-defense of married deacons from about 25% of the responders at WDTPRS stated- "can't those Eastern rites just be influenced by us instead of always the other way around?" Reading that, I had to stifle a laugh/sob. "Subdeacon Joseph"-now an Orthodox priest- said it best:

"I would add to the priest’s wife comment that my diocese left the Byzantine Catholic Church officially in 1938 for Orthodoxy because the Vatican had betrayed the Union of Uzhorod which allowed for: 1) equal status with the Roman clergy socially and politically 2) retention of liturgical and ritual customs (including married clergy) 3) and the right to elect their own bishop. Sadly all three of these tenets were violated by certain American Catholic bishops and even the Vatican itself, and our people had enough. They would have been happy to remain Greek Catholic if they had only been respected by the Irish Catholic bishops in America. The most hostile of the Roman bishops was Archbishop John Ireland of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His outright hostility to the Greek Catholic married clergy is well documented historically."  

My husband is writing a history of our church (an ethnic division of the Byzantine rite) in America. It's a sad tale. In 1925, we had 150,000 believers (yes- always very small compared to the Roman-rite). Now we have 5,000. Many of the people went back to the old country right before World War II, just to be caught up in the evils of communism there. But we also lost parishes due to the disdain for our traditions. Married priests weren't allowed to come to America; the bishop's conference insisted on lending us bi-ritual Roman-rite priests. Families were told they would have to change rites in order to have their children go to Roman-rite Catholic schools. This Catholic bishop Ireland is commemorated by the OCA (Orthodox Church in America) as the 'founder' of the American Orthodox because of his hostility to a married clergy and its leading to the formation of a break-off church. 

So this is why my post title is called sad days. If we truly pray for unity, we need to respect the traditions of sui juris churches. So, I respect the 1,300 year old tradition of celibacy and, therefore, continence for Roman-rite clergy. But if we are to welcome more Anglicans back to the Church and if we are to pray for the full unity between true churches, the canons must be clarified by Rome. How can I dare pray and work for unity with the Orthodox when 'good, practicing orthodox Catholics' believe this (more from WDTPRS): 

"pfft, what you want and force the Magisterium to back saecula saeculorum. A Married Priesthood is coming to the Catholic Church. I know it. You know it." "If you think I am afraid of the emergence of an unofficial order of bossy “clergymen’s wives,” you are right." "a Trojan Horse to undermine the Consecrated Priesthood and give way to a form of Presbyterianism, complete with married ministers" 

...sad days, indeed...and yes, the Roman rite has the right to demand celibacy and continency of their clergy and since I am not Roman-rite, I have 'no say' in the matter. It is just sad when it comes to solution? Let us learn from our respective traditions and also build up those men who have answered the call to ministry. Let us pray for the Holy Father to clarify this canon quickly for the sake of the dignity of married deacons in the Roman rite.

Monday, January 17, 2011

When Judgemental Thoughts Attack

The Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning. I'm happy that I have earrings on and dress shoes with a 1-inch heel. Usually we run out of the house before I even get mascara on. I had a well-stocked diaper bag. The little kids are pretty well-behaved. It was a good day. Greeting some out-of-town visitors (2 adult sisters and a little two-year old girl) after Mass, my eyes were met by these on both sisters along with skinny jeans and crop tops:
The mind is either unceasingly thinking or unceasingly praying; it has to be one or the other. My mind was just thinking this:

arrgh...I thought I would get through Sunday without any confessional can she run after her daughter in heels like those....and us 'conservative types' are quibbling over sleeve lengths...I was proud of myself for not wearing clogs to church...are her heels more feminine than my one-inch wedges?....this is so superficial for me to even think about least I got mascara on my albino lashes, but I certainly don't have a full-makeup face like them....what would Simcha say?.....gotta pray, gotta pray....what are my big girls thinking- and have they noticed? Will they rebel when they are older with the standards I have set for them? can I even consider covering my head when it isn't our tradition (except for widows) and spike heels and skinny jeans are considered "elegant" by ethnic-types...I wish I were that skinny; do they ever eat?...and us 'conservative types' are quibbling over skirts or pants (I vote skirt-below-knee-for-Mass)....I wish that my girls didn't have to look so old-fashioned compared to the rest of the world in order to be modest....this is not charitable to be judgmental...I am not better than they....
...they are daughters of God as much as my girls and I are....

Friday, January 14, 2011

To Inspire Mommy- 7 QuickTakes

no pressure, ladies

"All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother. I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life."
-- Abraham Lincoln

"What the mother sings to the cradle goes all the way down to the coffin."
-- Henry Ward Beecher

"My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her."
-- George Washington

"Most of all the other beautiful things in life come by twos and threes by dozens and hundreds. Plenty of roses, stars, sunsets, rainbows, brothers, and sisters, aunts and cousins, but only one mother in the whole world."
-- Kate Douglas Wiggin

"Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children."
--William Makepeace Thackeray

"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us when adversity takes the place of prosperity when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when troubles thicken around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts."
--Washington Irving

"A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path."
-- Agatha Christie

find real 'Quick Takes' at

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

a simple woman's daybook for January

Outside my window...well...I can't really see out that sliding glass door very well- baby prints on the inside and cat prints on the outside
I am thinking... that Monk is a pretty good show
I am thankful husband who took out the trash and smashed some cardboard before leaving for work
I am wearing...a grey sweater
I am remembering...that I am dreaming that I want to start again to learn how to knit well
I am start girl cousin skirts as Easter gifts- I am loving this pattern
I am 19-month old baby talk
I am currently reading...Introduction to a Devout Life (for the first time since I have been married!)
I am hoping... that Big Baby Girl will sleep through the night tonight- it has been a little rough lately
On my husband did his first training ride-along with the police department he is a volunteer chaplain for- the married priest with four kids is making time to minister to the police after them asking for 18 years for a priest chaplain. Lord- keep him safe!
Noticing that...politicians and media want to blame evil on the opposite party when something awful happens
Pondering these words... “It is most laudible in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife and sometimes must leave God at the altar to find him in housekeeping” St. Frances of Rome
In the kitchen... vegetable bean soup is cooking- I'm going to throw in a little bacon because it isn't a fasting time
Around the house... big girls are doing math (percentages-decimals-fractions), Boy is playing with vintage Little People, Big Baby Girl is talking on my cell phone, I am finishing this post
One of my favorite things ... hot cocoa and toast
From my picture journal...She is now a big girl of almost three-and-a-half, but we still celebrate the birth of my brother's first daughter who was a long time coming. Isn't she so sweet?
find more at a simple woman's daybook

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Good and Faithful Servant- 7 QuickTakes

If one googles the key words "priest wife," this article by an Orthodox source comes up as the first website. There are points that I can understand, but it is rather negative and depressing. Then, a few clicks down, it is the sad, scandalous story of Cutie who abandoned his vows to the celibate, Roman-rite priesthood to begin an affair with a single mother, not even bothering to ask his bishop for laicization before he began the 'romance.' In a later post, I might develop the positive aspects of being married to a Byzantine Catholic priest and hopefully Google will pick up my writing, but for now, I'll just share some reasons why I think my priest husband is a good and faithful servant.

1. He is obedient to our bishop. Of course, sometimes obedience means moving across the country with a four-month baby and a month-long pregnancy- not easy. In the Catholic Church, we do have a hierarchy; his obedience to our bishop is a reflection of his obedience to God. Much like a parent (who is not perfect) who asks the child to follow the rules for his or her own good, the bishop (who is not perfect, but worthy of respect) is a spiritual father for the priest.
2. He meets people where they are. We have a faithful parishioner who is a trucker. When he is unable to get to Divine Liturgy, my husband will call him and tell him the homily (short and sweet, I promise). Of course, this is a testimony to how minuscule our community is, but I still think it is great! He has done home Masses recently for Roman-rite Catholic visitors to our mission for their anniversaries. He does single-language Masses as well as bi-lingual Masses with a little 'Spanish lingo' throw in. It just depends on the congregation.
3. He supports himself and his family without Church funds. This is also a matter of opinion, but we prefer the money issue to be off the table. As a board-certified hospital chaplain, he doesn't need to pressure our little missions. This isn't to say that church communities shouldn't support their clergy, we just like this arrangement for us.
4. He is nice to kids. This isn't just because he is a dad himself! He has struck a nice balance between ignoring crying babies and admonishing an older child after the Liturgy to behave better. He invites all boys up to the altar and doesn't expect perfection, just reverence.
5. He is good with the elderly. Perhaps he has developed this skill because of his work at the hospital, but he always was respectful to his grandparents. As a priest, being a minister and servant to the elderly is only going to increase in importance as our population ages. I think that our older parishioners can feel the love and respect he has for them.
6. He has used his bi-ritual faculties to help in bigger parishes. My husband was quite busy during Advent, helping at parishes for their reconciliation services.
7. He is true to our tradition. Even if he does goofy things like joke & play soccer after church in the parking lot or 'low' things like scrub a donut tray, he always remembers our sacred traditions during the Divine Liturgy. I pray for God to protect him because he really is an example of a priest with a servant's heart.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Blessed Theophany to All!

Today marks one of the biggest differences between the Roman-rite and Byzantine-rite calendars. For Western-rite Catholics and many other Western Christians, today is Epiphany ("appearance" or "manifestation" from the Greek) or the celebration of the Three Magi coming to worship the Christ Child. For Byzantine Catholics, we celebrate the baptism of the Lord at this time, also a manifestation of Christ's divinity.

This change in feast days was a challenge for me when I first became Byzantine Catholic. Especially living in a very Latino area where Three Kings is a major feast day, it has been an adjustment. All is well in those years where we are able to celebrate with the hours- all of the Christmas season is filled with the entire story if one can also pray the hours.

When You, O Lord were baptized in the Jordan
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest
For the voice of the Father bore witness to You
And called You His beloved Son.
And the Spirit, in the form of a dove,
Confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ, our God, You have revealed Yourself
And have enlightened the world, glory to You!

Today You have shown forth to the world, O Lord,
and the light of Your countenance has been marked on us.
Knowing You, we sing Your praises.
You have come and revealed Yourself,
O unapproachable Light.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

praying with my eyes closed

This past Friday, I went to Mass without any of my kids. It was amazing listening to God with my eyes closed. As far as I can recall, this is the first time I have gone to Mass sans children since I had my first baby eleven and a half years ago.

My kids are always with me- except for the evenings I teach at the local college or the times when the big girls have their extra-curricular activities of ballet, choir and Shakespeare. I think this is a good thing. We generally get along well, and the children are complimented on their behavior. But still- I cannot close my eyes while praying in church. With four children, there is always someone to supervise, instruct, help or admonish. My relationship with God is not one-on-one as it was before I had children; it is a group relationship with my beloved children distracting me from keeping my gaze on Christ.

Mothers have a huge task in raising their children to be good citizens here on earth and future members of the heavenly choir. In fact, this is an impossible task without massive amounts of grace from God. We are supposed to be leading these children to Christ while suffering from sleep deprivation and perhaps being in a dark spiritual place. Yes, we moms can and should find the spiritual in cleaning the floor, looking at a sunset, or praying a decade of the rosary while changing a load of laundry. These are beautiful expressions of faith, but there is something to be said for being able to pray during the Divine Liturgy with one's eyes closed every so often. I would never want to leave my children in a church nursery; they are members of the church as well. I want them close while we participate in the sacrifice of the Mass. There is never an easy time to introduce a child to the Liturgy, so one might as well start at the beginning. But again, it was wonderful to be able to focus on God at church! I should do it more often, perhaps once a month.

When I became Catholic when I was twelve, it quickly became my habit to either pray with my eyes closed or keep my head buried in the music book. I didn't what to be tempted into judging the parishioners coming up for the Eucharist. Yes, maybe she is wearing a tube top. Maybe that is the boy I saw smoking a cigarette of dubious origins on the bus. Maybe I know that she yells at her kids. But right then after I have received the Eucharist, it was none of my business. Closing my eyes helped me focus on the reason for being in church. I am not proud that I have not been to Mass alone in 11 years. This means I have not had a retreat of any kind and that I am probably 'driving on fumes' when it comes to my personal spiritual life.

Having a personal relationship with Christ is a challenge for mothers. We mothers tend to go around in a pack. Is it even possible to get to confession without our dear littles coming along? Yes, yes, yes- this is simply a phase in life and one must find the spiritual in changing diapers, but this phase can go on for two decades and then- with God's grace- the grandchildren come along. It is so important for moms to take care of their spiritual lives as much as they care for their kids'- if not, she might become like a clanging cymbal. The children are watching; they don't pray with their eyes closed. They are watching momma.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Regrets, I've had a few...

So the new year is upon us. After the beauty of Advent and Christmas day, it is easy to get oneself into a melancholic mood. Celebrating the Christmas season helps, but the dark days (sunset at 4:30!) and an emphasis on what is past can lead me to be a bit down. While planning resolutions is a classic activity at the new year, making them can actually make me dwell on regrets, sins of omission and commission.

What is this feeling of regret telling us? Can you reflect truthfully on the past and see where improvements can be made? Does regret make you 'freeze' and do nothing because the past cannot be changed and the future is sure to be imperfect?

Reflecting on past mistakes & changing for the better
A past mistake of mine is not planning menus. This leads to a lot of waste of time, money and food. It is depressing thinking of the food that I have had to throw out because I have forgotten it is there. My primary resolution is to plan menus and make dinner while I am making breakfast. I could wallow in the regret, but it is time to make a change. I am optimistic that I will be successful with this change. I'll keep you posted.
Dwelling on past mistakes & persisting in those mistakes
I could continue with my chaotic kitchen because in the past I haven't planned menus and my husband has gone to work with questionable lunches. I could continue to throw out half-eaten tubs of hummus and defrosted turkeys (there is a downside to being $.75 a pound- people forget you) because I have done that in the past. I could continue on this path because I can't change the past and the future is bound to be imperfect. But dwelling on these mistakes does me no good. A quick reflection on the changes that I need to make is all that is required; then, it is on to improving!
Reflecting on past sin & changing for the better
What if the action is sinful in nature? In anger or frustration, I have said 'bad words' in my children's presence. While this action is very infrequent, this is not something I am proud of. I think feelings of anger and frustration are epidemic with moms of young children. What can we do? Reflecting on this sin, we can apologize to the kids and avail ourselves of the sacrament of confession. Maybe we need to understand the cause our frustration. Maybe you need to stop staying up until midnight. Maybe you need to lower your housekeeping expectations and delegate some chores (after you have taught them) to the big kids. Maybe, dare I say it, you need to stop homeschooling the children. If the children live in an environment of constant harsh words and stress, it might be beneficial to go to family counseling. The important point is this- reflect on the sin and then change. Reflect on past problems just long enough to realize what needs to change. Then, change.
Wallowing in past sin & persisting in sin
Let's imagine that I frequently say bad words in front of the kids and perhaps even direct them to the kids. Then, I don't apologize, and I don't go to confession. The sin just stays there and steeps like a forgotten teabag. The atmosphere at home gets worse.- maybe even abusive. I get depressed and so do the kids. In any case, the past can't be changed and I might slip up in the future, so why change at all? The kids have heard those hateful words, so it makes no difference if I am a good mom starting today. But through Christ, all is made new. The Catholic Church encourages us all to reflect on our sin but to then give a contrite heart to God in the sacrament of reconciliation. There is no use in wallowing and persisting in sin. Even if we live 100 years, life is too short!

Resolving to be a better mom or cook or wife or Christian should be a hopeful and helpful tool. It should not be a guilt trip or a competition with the fictitious Perfect Catholic Mom(TM) or the celebrity on this month's cover of In Style. There will always be someone better; I just want to be a better me. I am not even going to try to be the best me possible- just better than yesterday. I am going to continue with my Proverbs 31 inspiration for change. I want to start the day with a made bed like Leila and a clean sink like Flylady. And that's it. Through God's grace, 2011 will be a year of faithfulness, consistency and courage in living a more authentic life in Christ.