Wednesday, March 30, 2011

cough cough cough

another replay...I promise something new for tomorrow!

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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

coughing makes bad posting here's a replay from I forget when...

Bill Clinton is Right

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton was right when he stated this past week  at a UCLA rally, "When we care about something in America that's really important to us, like football, we know the facts." Of course, he was speaking about politics skewed to his particular leanings. I'd like to explore the meaning of his quotation from a different standpoint.

Is spirituality important to us? Is religion important to us? Is the Catholic faith important to us? Is God important to us? Do we know the facts?
Are Moses and Jesus contemporaries, or do they come from different eras? Why are we constantly crossing ourselves in church? Why do we stand up for a blessing? What does the Church teach about artificial birth control and why? What is the difference between discipline and dogma,  between small 't' tradition and big 'T' Tradition?

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told the New York Times that he wants Starbucks to become a “third place” in people's lives. People have home, work and then a coffee house or bar as the three places that they focus most of their life's activities.

I'd like to think that we humans can handle a bit more than three important places in our lives. Perhaps a life is like a stove with  four burners. Two burners are in the front for top priorities, and two are in the back for important aspects of life that get less play day to day. I contend that for every believer, the Church should be on one of those burners. How can we be sure that God and the Church are priorities in our lives? 

Random Practical Ideas- Some from Mom and Dad
  • Go to church on Sundays and feast days. Discuss the Gospel and the homily with family over coffee and donuts. Many Catholics are hit and miss on Sundays- let's start there.
  • Don't shop on Sundays. Make the Sabbath day holy by going to Mass and then spending time with family at home, the park or somewhere besides the 'cathedral of conspicuous consumption.' This might seem impossible, but in most of Europe (edit: in small towns), shops close early Friday and don't open again until Monday. Everyone prepares ahead of time for the weekend. 
  • Listen to only classical or Christian music on Sundays. My parents insisted on this during my childhood. It really helps set the day apart from the rest of the week.
  • Say grace before eating a meal- even in a restaurant!  
  • Educate yourself about God and the Church through the Bible and other books. Watch religious videos occasionally.  Catholic school is not necessarily the best way to do this (sorry Mom and Dad- sometimes I think you wasted your hard earned money....but that's another post).
  • Print an easy morning and evening prayer card, place it on your bedside table, and say a prayer when you go to sleep and wake up. Nightmares averted!
  • Subscribe to a good Catholic magazine and buy The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Place both in the bathroom. Eventually, everyone will read these and learn!
  • Go meatless every Friday. Why not? Many people are vegans every day of the year. It is such a beautiful reminder of Jesus' sacrifice. And there is something a little bit....gross...about eating meat when we are remembering Jesus' death on the cross.
  • Get some holy water and use it.  Sprinkle it on squabbling siblings if you are so inclined (thanks, Mom).
  • Decide if you and your family are going to make God and church a priority. There is only so much time in the day.  Church needs to be on one of the four burners to be a priority.  --- What if the marriage is mixed? Hopefully, the kids can go to church with you. Then, come home and build a nice family atmosphere. Still refrain from shopping and try to have a sabbath.  Have a popcorn and DVD afternoon together when you get back from church on Sunday. Ask your non-Catholic spouse to participate in some 'corporal works of mercy activities' with the family- mow the lawn of an older neighbor, collect food for the food bank,  write letters to our servicemen overseas. The talents of your family will determine activities that will be interesting and meaningful to you.
 So- Clinton was right in saying that we make things a priority if it is important to us. It would be a shame if we know more about the latest celebrity scandal or sports stats instead of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Don't worry; I'm not going to regale you with tales of CM....but NFP has been on my mind after reading Simcha's post and the subsequent comments. The original writing speaks for itself; I certainly couldn't have said it better....but Mr. 'Last Catholic in Boston' in the combox inspired this post.

Remember when, as a teenager, you said "Everybody's doing it" as a response to Mom and Dad being so mean as to not let you stay out until midnight on a school night? Mom and Dad knew that everybody was not doing it; in fact, all the teenagers were using the same argument in the hopes that their parents would fall for it.

What does this have to do with NFP and passionate commenters? Well- everybody (some statistics state that 90% of baptized, married Catholic couples use artificial birth control- I can't believe that it is that bad) is doing it, using artificial means to avoid a pregnancy. We remnant of remnant-type people who follow the Church's teaching on life are not immune to criticism from the super-duper trads, however. From what I could surmise, 'Last Man' believes that if a couple isn't actively seeking pregnancy, the couple needs to abstain for months and years on end instead of using the signs of fertility that God has given us. Then WHY- 'Last Man' did God give women monthly cycles?

One use for NFP (ignored by 'Last Man')- or simply being aware of a body's cycles- is to actually try to conceive or stay pregnant. Here's where the TMI comes in: After Baby #2 was born, I got sick (black mold in clergy housing....long story) and had lupus symptoms. We lost our next pregnancy at 20 weeks.  Then, I experienced what may have been very, very early (less than a week) miscarriages. So....I got a pro-life doctor to give me a standing prescription for progesterone to take when I could be less than a week pregnant to sustain the pregnancy. He also gave me blood thinners to counteract any autoimmune problems that would attack the placenta as it had with the 20-week old. Not very romantic, but it is not against Church teaching to sustain the pregnancy this way after natural conception. So- using NFP made it possible to know when I was pregnant so I could take the drugs to stay pregnant. And we have two extra-special, much-loved kids because of that. So take that, 'Last Man'!

In any case, Simcha has it right- the percentage of couples that don't use artificial means to prevent pregnancy is sadly minuscule- can't we NFPers and really-big-family-types all get along?

totally off-topic- but if you don't follow "Like Mother..." read this post anyway- it's the best ever!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Les Miz Lessons- 7 QuickTakes

A few years back, I read the book Les Miserables once and then got on to various film adaptations, all the while enjoying the music to the popular Broadway musical. Thanks to the magic of netflix, I have been watching (and whistling- sorry, family!) Les Miz- In Concert the 25th Anniversary. So beautiful and edifying and full of lessons. Here are seven lessons that came to my mind while watching:

--- Charitable actions should be direct--- One of the most beautiful images in the musical comes at the beginning. Jean Valjean, a  former convict, is given shelter by the good bishop. In hopelessness, Valjean repays his kindness by stealing silver. He is caught and brought back to the bishop. Saving him from life in prison, the bishop 'buys Valjean's soul' by giving him candlesticks as well and sends him on his way. The bishop didn't need 4-color brochures or campaigns for human development or homilies about stewardship instead of the Gospel. He saw a need and filled it. Because Valjean had a personal encounter with the bishop's charity, it changed his life and he felt obliged to be a better man. In a large Roman-rite diocese, would it be possible for each of the 'rich,' established parishes to be sister-parishes with two needy parishes close by and directly aid them whenever there was a need? How beautiful  it is to know  and have a relationship with the people one is helping!

--- Comic relief is important---Les Miz can properly be called a tragedy. Some might call it depressing, but I find it inspiring for the simple fact that Jean Valjean is validated in the end. In the concert version I have been watching, you can almost hear the sigh of relief  from the audience when the silly- though evil- innkeeper and his wife come on stage. Their song "Master of the House" is a show-stopper because it gives the audience a break from the seriousness of the subject matter of the play- poverty, war, doomed love. And comic relief is important in our lives as well, so take a walk, throw some snowballs, swing on a swing, play with your kids.

--- War is futile--- Empty chairs and empty tables are all that are left after war. Women and children are left alone. Only the top administrators are satisfied, drawing new maps with new borders that will be warred over again. Les Miz shows this well. Many people assume the play is about the French Revolution of 1789, but it is about another later revolution; the poor will always be with us.

--- Nick Jonas can really sing--- I never really liked Marius- not in the book or any movie version. Cosette will be marrying a good man in Marius, but not a great man like her (foster) father Valjean. Nick Jonas, of the pop group Jonas Brothers' fame, sings the role of Marius with depth and gravity. I was pleasantly surprised.

--- Take the log out of your own eye--- Javert is a policeman obsessed with Valjean because he had jumped parole and started living a life unencumbered by the convict's yellow card. Javert's entire life's purpose is to bring in Prisoner #24601. He ends up in the river after finally realizing that the man he despised for so long actually had changed. The lesson to be learned from Javert's failure is to leave the judging to the Just and Merciful Judge.

--- Beauty is truth, and truth beauty--- Keats said it best- and it is so wonderful to see artists use their craft for something truthful and beautiful. I just love this musical- I love Cats, too- but it just doesn't inspire like Les Miz does. And life is too short for bad art, so feel free to stop watching bad television and reading gossip magazines. Is Two and a Half Men beautiful? If not, don't waste your precious minutes on re-runs.

--- Parenting equals sacrifice---Fantine sacrifices everything- her only heirloom, her hair and even her dignity- for her daughter, Cosette. Providing for her hastened Fantine's death. Valjean takes over the raising of Cosette and also sacrifices, in the end allowing her to go with Marius. Parenting is to "decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."(Elizabeth Stone) and I think that is how Valjean felt with Cosette growing up. That is how we all feel when we become parents and start making sacrifices. But as Valjean feels at the end of Les Miz, all the sacrifices are worth it and there will be an eternal reward.

find many more quick takes at

Thursday, March 24, 2011

remnant of remnant of remnant

"Fear Not Little Flock" was taken when I decided to start writing this blog- so I decided to use "remnant of remnant" as my web address. Why? I was feeling really small  and unimportant at the time- like our little Byzantine church was a minuscule part of the Catholic Church which is a part of Christianity which is a part of the world as a whole. I didn't realize that some people use the word 'remnant' as a way to express superiority and exclusivity and the only way to get to heaven, but it doesn't change what we are- a tiny little remnant of Christianity. 

In any case, I am still feeling very small. Every weekend- after the Saturday vigil at the super-small mission and Sunday's Divine Liturgy at the small mission, I go through the stages of grief and then pull it together and thank God for getting me through.

Denial- So, only 20 people are here for Mass and the icon blessing and dinner. More people have got to come. Everyone loves Father and appreciates his homilies and pastoral nature. So many people have said that they are interested in learning a bit of the Eastern rites. So many Byzantine Catholics live within thirty minutes. More people have got to come.  

Anger- How can so many people be rejecting the church of their fathers? Aren't these the same people who prayed for an end to communism and for the Greek Catholic Church to be legal? Didn't they first go to Liturgy secretly, in an underground priest's apartment, whispering the responses so that they wouldn't be informed on? Then they prayed with fellow Byzantine Catholics in the park because our churches had been confiscated and not returned even after communism fell. And now that they are in the US in freedom with a Divine Liturgy ten minutes away, they can't be bothered. 
I am tired of my husband being the go-to supply priest for confessions and Masses when he is treated like a second-class citizen. I am tired of him needing to become a volunteer police chaplain on top of all his other responsibilities so that he can be fulfilled in his ministry.  I am tired of all the extras he does (home anniversary Masses, house blessings, counseling phone calls) because if a Roman-rite priest appears, my husband is dismissed with a 'thank-you-very-much.'

Bargaining- Maybe if the music were better, more people would come. Maybe if we were holier, more people would come. Maybe if I smiled wider, more people would come.  

Depression- All our work is for nothing. Why did my husband give up his country and his family for a church of twenty people? My friends cannot be my friends if they don't know this part of my life and can't be bothered to visit once in seven years. Where is the future of the Byzantine rite when Catholic school principals will travel far to have their children learn about Orthodoxy, passing by a few Byzantine Catholic churches on the way. Where is the future of the Byzantine rite when the Italian bishops seek to disallow Byzantine Catholic priests who are married to practice their priesthood in Italy; the same occurring in the USA 100 years ago and leading to the Orthodox Church in America.

Acceptance- We will always be small. I love the people who are part of our ministry. My husband has many small successes every day. My children are good. God has the  victory. Life goes on.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

....create anyway

Our motto is-  Fear not really, really, tiny flock! Usually I live by this motto, applying it to both church and family life. And when I write posts like yesterday's and tomorrow's, the lesson I try to remember is: "Fear Not! The Lord has the final victory!" But no one claimed that it would be easy to claim victory and no one said that victory will be enjoyed here on earth. I take comfort in these words among others:

People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered. 
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. 
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. 
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you.  
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spent years creating, others could destroy overnight. 
Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today will often be forgotten. 
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.   
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
found written on the wall in Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta

These words put the problem in perspective even when the reality remains the same:  The Eastern rites of the Catholic Church are suffering. I'll write from a different perspective tomorrow about the demise of the Byzantine rite- in the meantime, you might like to read Rabbit's take on the problem. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Choose Your Own Excuse

One of the great things about the US is that we have freedom of religion. There is no official state religion. One can go to church, go church-hopping or forgo the ritual altogether. I wouldn't want this truth to change. I want people to want to be at church, not just counting the minutes they can get back to work or the television or the gym or the coffee shop. 

 My family converted to Catholicism when I was twelve, but I was always taught that the place to be on Sunday morning was a church. It was driven into me that church and God's love could do something for me and I kept that close. During college, I was going to classes full-time and working full-time. I was also the early morning cantor at the first Mass and then joined my family for the next Mass. Lord Jesus Christ, be merciful to me, a sinner- I am not perfect. I just decided that the Church is priority. 

People can choose not to participate in Church life. All churches have the challenge of people losing faith in God or needing Sunday as a day to recover from the work week or just the constantly changing demographics of the US. On the other hand- sometimes it just gets ridiculous. Here's some of my favorite excuses from devoutly practicing Roman or Byzantine rite Catholics who decide to not visit once/ to not visit again/ to not become a parishioner/ to not continue being a parishioner at their local Byzantine-rite mission:
  • Everybody is too friendly!
  • You're Hitler!
  • The priest breathed in the wrong place while singing the Gospel (yup.)
  • My first grade son needs to do his homework
  • My great-uncle was a priest and my family is screwed up
  • An hour is too long to drive
  • 15 minutes is too long to drive
  • It's too liberal (In the Byzantine rite, we generally don't stand during the entire Liturgy and aren't compelled to be completely vegan during fasting times like most Orthodox, we generally don't wear veils like traditionalist Roman-rite Catholic women)
  • It's too conservative (no altar girls, Liturgy is ad orientem, no 'extraordinary' ministers of the Eucharist)
  • I'd like to visit, but we are just so busy (in seven years, it is not a priority- that's okay)
  • There's too much old-country-language during Liturgy (said by old-country-language native speakers)
  • There's too much English during Liturgy (said by fluent bi-lingual speakers)
  • The music isn't professional enough (said by a professional musician)
  • The icons aren't beautiful enough; I'm taking my Catholic school students to the Orthodox church to learn about Eastern traditions
I've been putting off writing these words because I want to show only the beauty that is the Byzantine-rite, but something is really, really wrong when you have only 20 people for a beautiful Divine Liturgy in a church that has easy highway access, at a convenient time with a popular priest along with men serving various functions at the altar with icon blessings and a delicious dinner if one is so inclined. 

The Byzantine-rite isn't for everyone, but is it really for only 20 people out of a population of over a million? 

I pray for my husband's soul every day that he may walk in the ways of righteousness. All good priests are hated by the evil one, so I know he is under attack. He isn't perfect either, but he is one of the best all-around priests I have known in my life. Some might sing better or preach better or run a parish better, but considering all categories, he is a gift. He'll probably be upset that I have written these words; people from the old country do not like to air their dirty laundry. He just deserves so much more for his hard work and dedication; probably moving back to his country would be for the best (so long as Byzantine Catholicism isn't made illegal again and we are sent to prison).

Too Emotional? Too Judgmental? Perhaps- but this is my life....

Monday, March 21, 2011

What a difference a day makes

This past Saturday evening- We met at the Roman-rite chapel in which we have been given permission to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. I brought a big pan of lentils and pasta and some potato salad. There was Slavic-style cabbage and potatoes along with mushroom ravioli. Others brought some yummy Mexican food. Liturgy is about an hour and a half and then dinner will go on for about 2 hours. We hurried into the church to celebrate the Liturgy of St Basil.  
Father was there as usual. He was going to bless four life-size icons written by a wonderful 85-year old woman who donated her talent to our mission. The icons make a portable icon screen to help the chapel achieve a more Byzantine 'flavor;' I am sure they will look less silly when the river rocks and empty clay pots are taken away from the center of the sanctuary space after Lent is finished. As guests we had a monk-priest who traveled far and a reader and two cantors who also traveled to be with us. We were about twenty people in total. 75 miles to the north and 60 miles to the south- this mission is the only Eastern Catholic church in a highly populated area. And we were twenty people total for this festive, reverent event.

Sunday evening- at the 'Last Chance Mass'- Father (having bi-ritual faculties for the Roman-rite archdiocese) substituted at the parish church that oversees the chapel in which we Byzantines meet on Saturday. This Mass is the 14th of the weekend for the combined church and chapel. There were at least 500 worshipers. The weekend will see a collection of about $20,000. Father had a challenging time 'wrangling' the three altar girls, but people were happy with his homily. Most likely because it is a late Mass, they don't have fellowship afterward, so he left after shaking a few hands.

So why the 'compare and contrast?' I see the final demise of the Eastern Catholic churches in this example. If I am able to do so charitably, I will continue this analysis of the disappearance of the Byzantine rite in a series.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Everybody's Irish

Holy Bishop Patrick,
Faithful shepherd of Christ's royal flock,
You filled Ireland with the radiance of the Gospel:
The mighty strength of the Trinity!
Now that you stand before the Savior,
Pray that He may preserve us in faith and love!

From slavery you escaped to freedom in Christ's service:
He sent you to deliver Ireland from the devil's bondage.
You planted the Word of the Gospel in pagan hearts.
In your journeys and hardships you rivaled the Apostle Paul!
Having received the reward for your labors in heaven,
Never cease to pray for the flock you have gathered on earth,
Holy bishop Patrick!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

to sleep, perchance to dream

Read any diet or health book. From Atkins (mostly protein) to the Hollywood Cookie Diet (just cookies?) to Oprah's latest find, there is controversy even over the amount of water to drink. The only directive they have in common is: get 8 hours of restful sleep. Since my first wonderful child joined us 12 years ago, I have not had 8 hours of restful sleep. In fact, lately the baby- who will be 2 in the summer- wakes up 2 or 3 times a night needing a bottle. Even when her father takes over responsibility, I still wake up. I can feel my heart racing every time she makes a peep. So how does a mom get 8 hours of sleep for her health and well-being? 
And it gets worse...for those women that follow the Sympto-thermal method of NFP, one of the important markers of monthly fertility and infertility is a shift in morning temperatures. One must take the temperature at the same time every morning, preferably with the same amount of sleep being had. I know for myself, I can never anticipate the amount of continuous sleep I will get. I have friends with many more than 4 kids with the baby and toddler stages going on for two decades, and I do wonder about the affect these years of sleep deprivation and disruption has on our health.
Being a mom is the most important part of my life; to have the shared responsibility over four young souls is an awesome responsibility. I am well-aware of what blessings they are to me and the rest of society. This past weekend, however, has been especially difficult with minor (thank God!) illness that has made sleep even crazier. Saturday was the performance of Macbeth that the big girls have been working on since October. They had to forgo Saturday evening Liturgy, and the rest of us missed the other classes' works, but we made it to Macbeth. Father had to leave after awhile; the little kids could handle the weird sisters but not the spooky music while Macbeth was speaking.  This past Monday, priest-husband and I were to give a two-hour presentation on the married priesthood in the East with a former Anglican priest, ordained Roman-rite priest with his wife. But we couldn't find a babysitter. So I stayed home and will remain a woman of mystery to the 150 people in attendance. So I can't really blog about the talk because I wasn't there. I surmise that much of it was about the fact that we aren't Orthodox and that a priest cannot be married (order of sacraments) and many of the questions were about it was a wee bit frustrating that I couldn't be there. Perhaps it was for the best; I can be opinionated.
"To sleep, perchance to dream"- Hamlet, my favorite melancholic, said this a long time ago and in very different circumstances. I don't want to rush my children into growing up, but maybe I would like to rush the little one into sleeping through the night. So- to help my attitude, I am offering up this struggle for some blogosphere 'friends'- one pregnant with twins (wishing her many years of sleepless nights!) and one with a little one in the hospital.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Meatless Meals for Manly Men- 7 QuickTakes

...beyond mac and cheese...

1. bean & rice tacos- prepare beans & rice (I prefer black beans and medium grain brown rice), add some salt, cumin, paprika and chili powder and use the mixture instead of meat for your favorite Mexican-style dish. Offer shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, black olives, sour cream and cheese to put in tacos- easy to keep vegan if you omit the sour cream and cheese. You could have soy versions of the milk products- We use soy only once a week because of potential health concerns.

2.grilled vegetable kebabs- use any favorite vegetables- try to use 'rich' vegetables that will 'stick to his ribs.' I like mushrooms, zucchini, onion, sweet peppers, broccoli, parboiled carrots- sprinkle with salt and garlic powder and grill; serve with any quick grain like couscous, quinoa or lentils. Another very easy idea- spread some barbecue sauce on both sides of a big portobello mushroom and grill- this is better than a hamburger!

3. baked anything- Here is a priest's wife guarantee - Use onions and garlic and some olive oil- put whatever it is in the oven- he will love it! Try pasta primavera (pasta, any favorite vegetables along with artichokes, onions, a bit of garlic, some cherry tomatoes, green peas, and red peppers for color. Then put in baking dish and cover with bread crumbs and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with basil and oregano. Broil until top is browned)

4. vegetable stew- Cut onion and sweet peppers into chunks; begin to saute while you peel carrots and potatoes. Add carrots and potatoes cut into chunks; cover with water. Add can of tomato sauce. Bring to boil and then add a cup of frozen peas and a cup of frozen corn. Put on low and then add 3 cloves of minced garlic, freshly chopped Italian parsley and dry oregano to taste.

5. anything breaded and fried- cheese, mushrooms, cauliflower (parboil first), eggplant (peel, dip in a bit of egg only). Dip in egg and then bread crumbs- then fry quickly in grapeseed oil, turning once. I am going to try to do a vegan version using almond milk before the bread crumbs.

6. bean soup- start with sauteing a chopped onion, add chopped celery and carrots, and go from there. I try to add a chopped red pepper for color - Use lentils if you are pressed for time or forgot to soak the beans last night. I try to have Italian parsley and fresh dill on hand. Add garlic. Bean soup is good with sour cream if the day isn't vegan.

7. peanut butter and jelly sandwiches- this is what priest-husband got for lunch today. He didn't grow up with pb and j sandwiches, so it doesn't make him feel like a little kid. This is my go-to lunch for Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent (it really should be a year-round but I don't like them that much). It is really the ideal fast food especially when he has to be driving around lunch time- I'll make it up at dinnertime with something more yummy.

I hope I have sparked some ideas here- Most men really prefer to be carnivores, so it can be a big adjustment for them if they are trying to be as meatless as possible during the fasting season. If your family isn't attempting to be vegan- it is not that bad because anything tastes better with cheese and sour cream- I tried almond milk for the first time this week and can I tell you- I am never going back to soy! And- don't forget hummus- it really is the best snack using favorite vegetables as dippers (we like snow peas)---one more thing wives--- don't forget to 'offer' a good multi-vitamin (and aspirin if he is giving up caffeinated beverages) to your dear one as it will help his body through this seasonal adjustment. Giving up animal products can deplete the body of Vitamin B- and then he will be exhausted. We don't want that!

Songs for Lent

"Fasting is bright and beautiful," said St Ephrem- long, long ago. So are we fasting in a bright and beautiful way? Or have we been complaining of the sacrifice we have made? or perhaps we have already given up the commitments we have made? As Anne Shirley said- tomorrow is a day with no mistakes in it- so let's dust off our attitudes and do better tomorrow. 

One bit of obvious, unsolicited advice for coffee lovers who are trying to abstain from their favorite beverage--- do you have a headache? Are you being grouchy- not bright and beautiful? Take some Tylenol for the next few days and don't forget to drink your water- you are most likely dehydrated because your default liquid is coffee. Also- the tea "Roastaroma" is a yummy substitute (in my opinion)

Hymns from St Ephrem
Christ, Adam and the Fast
The is the fast of the First Born, the first of his victories.
Let us rejoice in his coming; for in fasting he has overcome.
Though he could have overcome by any means,
He revealed for us the strength hidden in fasting, Overcomer of All.
For by means of it a man can overcome that one who with fruit overcame Adam;
He became greedy and gobbled it. Blessed is the First-Born who encompassed
Our weakness with the wall of his great fasting.

Blessed is the King who adorned the Holy Church with Fasting, Prayer and Vigil.

The Fast Purifies the Eye of the Soul to See God
This is the fast which exalts; which appeared from the First Born
So as to extol the younger ones. There is occasion for delight for the discerning ones in fasting;
When one sees how much he has grown. Fasting secretly purifies the soul
So it can gaze on God and grow by the vision of Him.
For the weight that is from the earth, bends it back to the earth.
Blessed is he who gave us fasts,
The sheer wings by which we fly to him.

Fasting is bright and beautiful for any who bright enough
To gaze on God. The Turbid One, stirred up by anything
Cannot fix the eye on that Clear One. He who possesses a clear eye
He can gaze upon him; as much as it is given to him to gaze.
Instead of the clarifying wine, let us clarify our thought
So that we will be able to see the Clear One
Who overcame the evil one by means of fasting, that disturber of all.

more hymns at 'Your Word to the Wise"

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

ashes, ashes...

Now everybody's in the thick of things- Facebook has lost lots of users, chocolate sales are down, and fish sandwiches are on sale at McDonald's (I think- no fast food for me this Lent). Most of my friends- whether Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist- will have smudges on their foreheads today. I'm not sure what my priest-husband has planned for vespers and Bible study tonight, but most of the participants are Roman-rite. I anticipate my husband being 'pastoral'- we shall see. In any case, he will have ashes leftover from the hospital. it is a very busy day for a chaplain.

Not much to say today- but I wanted to encourage those curious about Byzantine lent (which began 2 days ago) to hop on over to Rabbit's blog (cheesy pun intended)- she articulates our Lenten dilemma very well!

FYI- What's for dinner? Well- maybe peanut butter and jelly sandwiches...I'm soaking beans for tomorrow- planning ahead is a challenge for this harried mom!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

pas de Mardi Gras pour moi...

...and that's okay! I'm just happy that it is a year when all Christians are preparing for Easter at the same time even if we Byzantine-types start two days early than Westerners. I just love the Gospel reading from this past Sunday. Again, it reminds us to be joyful as we fast and try to make sacrifices during this time. Fasting in secret, or not calling attention to our sacrifices, is the way to build up treasure in Heaven. Our Lord did not like the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who followed the law for show and for love of the law- not for love of God.
So yes- I prefer to abstain from meat as much as possible during this time. For me (yup- I'm a female) it just seems sort of gross to be chowing down on meat while we are preparing for our Lord's passion on the cross. An emotional, non-theological argument, to be sure, but that is just how I feel! I can imagine God looking at my small efforts to sacrifice much like a father indulges the efforts of his child. A child gives a portion of his candy to a sibling and feels like he deserves great praise from the father. The father is gratified that his child did the right thing this time but also remembers those many instances of disobedience and selfishness. But the father has mercy and just enjoys this time of goodness in his child and hopes that it continues.From last Sunday's readings:

"The Lord said to His Disciples: If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father Who is in secret; and your Father Who sees in secret will reward you. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."  Matthew 6:14-21 

FYI: for dinner I'll be making bean soup and  polenta with cheese and sour cream

Monday, March 7, 2011

Veg-Tuh-Bulls & Pure Monday

Yesterday was a beautiful day. The little ones behaved well enough for me to stay in church during the Divine Liturgy. It was "International Women's Day," so the children put on a program of poems and songs for the mothers in the congregation. My big girls each wrote me a poem about what a great mom I am. (one example: Mother, I love so/ More than words can tell/ Your love blossoms so/ like the flowers by the well/ If possible to be a princess yonder/ I'd rather be your little daughter) The men of the church made the women a beautiful luncheon including mimosas and roses to take home. Just lovely! EXCEPT... before Liturgy, I was alone with the little children while the big girls were in catechism class. Baby girl was in her carseat with the van stopped in the parking lot. Then, with no warning, she threw up her morning bottle of milk. Time to embrace the humility (and humiliation) that Christ is calling for during the fasting season! Baby girl was dressed in a poufy princess dress, but I certainly couldn't smell the baby shampoo from her morning bath. And I have a feeling that no one could smell my perfume even though no one was impolite enough to point out that smell...

Sitting in church with the horrid smell still emanating around my sweet girl, I tried to focus on the readings; Forgiveness Sunday has some great ones! The Eastern rites have some strict guidelines about fasting and life in general. We are asked to confess our sins to the priest; our Liturgy is long, involved and serious. I like it that way- but really reading the following epistle- the truth it speaks to me is that I am not the judge. God, merciful and loving, is the judge. So while we may know what is best, we should guard our hearts and not lose graces by judging others.

"Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand." Romans 13:11- 14:4

FYI- dinner for Pure Monday was marinara pasta (with extra onions, sweet peppers, black olives and mushrooms) and a green salad- I need to get some quick vegan meal plans that incorporate protein with no soy...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

SHOCKING Byzantine Secrets!

Did I get your attention? Did you know...

The Great Fast starts at sundown today for Byzantine Catholics. So yes- while the majority of the Christian world is enjoying their Mardi Gras, we are deep into the thick of things. We start two days early so that Annunciation and the Saturday of Lazarus (day before Palm Sunday) are not calculated into the Fast. This year, Annunciation of Mary falls on a Friday, so I am not sure what that means for the fast. More news on that later.

Sunday Liturgies are even longer during the Great Fast. Depending on your priest, you won't know what is holding him up. He is just really slow during Lent. No- he is praying the Divine Liturgy of St Basil instead of the usual St John Chrysostom.This Divine Liturgy has longer silent prayers. Some priests might decide to pray them aloud or the cantor might extend the singing with the people. The Divine Liturgy of St Basil prepares the people for the weekdays' 'Presanctified Liturgy.'

Weekday masses are long during Lent. This Liturgy is called "presanctified,' so the priest already has consecrated the bread and the Body of Christ has been reserved. The Presanctified Liturgy is a long communion service that we use only during the Great Fast. Only a priest (and perhaps a deacon) can celebrate this Liturgy.

Byzantines sing Alleluia during Lent. Don't be shocked if you happen to visit. Any Sunday is a day that celebrates the Resurrection. This means that we don't have to fast and that we will sing as usual.

Different believers fast from food in different ways. Monks and nuns will most likely fast from all animal products during the season, but people in the world will fast to differing degrees.  Depending on the Eparchy, the 'bare minimum' would be to fast from meat every Wednesday and Friday during the season. Most Byzantines see that as a beginning, and many Byzantines do that during ordinary time. Lay people are encouraged to discuss the issue with their priest. And of course, any small child, pregnant or nursing woman and a person with specific medical needs do not need to fast. 

My family fasts from meat every day except Sunday and uses no animal products on Wednesdays and Fridays during fasting seasons. I gauge my children and will give them meat at lunchtime if they need it. We have soy no more than twice a week because of potential health side effects.

Byzantines can get a little proud about their fasting exploits. And any pride drives away the graces received through fasting. I know a few mixed Orthodox/Roman Catholic marriages where the Orthodox spouse makes a point of how liberal the fasting guidelines for the Catholics are and insists that the small children eat vegan during every fasting season- even on Sundays. Charity should rule everything.

Remember Eastern Christians- we don't start the Great Fast with ashes on our foreheads; we start with 'forgiveness vespers'- all should be done with humility and love for Christ crucified and risen! We are reminded to wash our faces and not let people know we are fasting. If we are guests in someone's home, we should not turn up our noses at any food- like an old calendar Christian  loudly refusing to eat something with cheese on what was Christmas for us.

a bonus shocker for any time of the year
The priest uses leavened bread and cuts the center (the 'lamb') for consecration during the Divine Liturgy. The sides that are blessed but not consecrated (so it does NOT become the Body of Christ) are  cut into strips and placed to the side and then offered at the end of Liturgy. Any person can come up to kiss the cross, be anointed with holy oil (depending on the feast day), and take a piece of blessed bread.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Simple Daybook

Outside my window… two kids are playing with Megablocks.
I am thinking... about our 'learning meeting' with our charter school teacher tomorrow.
I am thankful for…the health of my kids and for the website Rosary for the Bishop that reminds me to pray for mine!
From the kitchen…orange chicken, potatoes, broccoli, artichokes and strawberries with yogurt- thanks goodness for microwaves because I only had a half hour to make dinner!
I am wearing…newly painted toes; I love pedicures and loath manicures (they last about an hour)
I am creating…meal plans for Lent
I am going…to see Voyage of the Dawn Treader at the 'cheap' theater; I hear it is good
I am reading…. The Myth of Ability (an education book on teaching math)
I am hoping…to create a writing plan for this blog, and I hope to get to 100 'followers' by Easter!
I am hearing…music from The Mission
Around the house… we have a few projects- bedroom drapes are top priority as is cleaning up the back patio.
Some of my favorite things…
seeing the baby blow kisses, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, a little boy who still hugs, a good book and a little bit of silence
A few plans for the rest of the week: getting ready for Boy's 4th birthday!

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