Monday, October 31, 2011

Next year, In Jerusalem

The Little Entrance- Divine Liturgy series

Continuing the series on the Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy, we are at the point in the Liturgy where the priest and altar servants procession with the Gospel book:

The priest makes three bows, then a procession is formed and the priest carries the Gospel Book around the Altar.
PRIEST (silently): O Lord, our Master and God, Who in heaven established orders and armies of angels and archangels for the service of Your glory, make this our entrance to be an entrance of holy angels, serving together with us, and with us glorifying Your goodness. For to You is due all glory, honor and worship, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and forever. Amen.
Making the sign of the cross towards the Altar, he says:
Blessed is the entrance of Your saints, always, now and ever, and forever.
The priest kisses the Gospel Book, elevates it and says aloud:
PRIEST: Wisdom! Be attentive!
PEOPLE: Come, let us worship and bow down before Christ.
PEOPLE: O Son of God, risen from the dead, save us who sing to You. Alleluia.

There are many wonderful theologically rich commentaries on our Liturgy that you can find on the internet, so I will just say this- at this point in the Liturgy, I think to myself- wow....we Byzantines are really Bible believers to love the Gospel so much. 

I hope you all have a blessed All Hallow's Eve (yes, All Saints' Day is a Roman-rite feast)- and don't forget to write a comment in my 'little giveaway' post if you are interested in being entered to win.
and this Ukrainian Catholic parish has a good website on the Divine Liturgy

Friday, October 28, 2011

Grocery Shopping Once a Week- 7 QuickTakes

Have you ever been in the grocery line at 6 PM with a full cart of groceries, still not certain what is for dinner? I've been there, and I am sick of the wasted time and money. I am on a once a week shopping kick- I invite you to join me!

1. Plan your meals around your schedule, fasting/feasting times, possible guests. "P's W"- you ask- "Aren't you forty; don't you know this already?"....well, no... Leila of Like Mother, Like Daughter recommends planning all three meals for every day. I'm slowly getting there.

2. Do 'save a step' cooking- again, advice from Like Mother, Like Daughter (just go there- link to the right under 'eclectic links')- basically, if you have meals planned, plan to cook twice (not once a month- who really has time for that? or the freezer space? not me!) what you need- chop and brown ground beef, onions and peppers for today's spaghetti sauce and Thursday's chili. If you plan your meals, you will know if the extras need to be frozen or refrigerated. 

3. Bring one child shopping as a helper. I alternate my 2 big girls for our early Saturday morning shopping trips. We go to coffee and four stores from 7:30 to 9 and then make a big late breakfast. I like bringing one child for a little bonding and comparison shopping learning time; also, I can keep her engaged while we are waiting at the check-out to keep her eyes away from the tabloids.

4. Hide your ingredients. Just because you bought it doesn't mean it is fair game to eat today! I'm not his mother, but I do let my husband know which essentials need to stay uneaten for my meal plan to work. I am also trying to buy official snacks and goodies for him to bring to the hospital so he has something to munch on besides vending machine fare. This week, he has Coke Zero, sunflower seeds and Trader Joe's sesame seed sticks to take to work.

5. Have a few essentials in the pantry so you will never need to shop more than once a week. Flour for emergency bread and chocolate chips for emergency cookies, etc, etc

6. Freeze a gallon of milk. Take out a little to allow for expansion while freezing. Then, when milk gets low in the fridge, take out the frozen one to defrost slowly in the fridge.

7. Have a big box of dried milk on hand (or if you can handle the taste- cans of evaporated milk)- going out for only milk turns into time, gas and money wasted. Who among us only buys milk when only milk is on the list? Not me, I assure you. I have also been using milk powder instead of formula if my bigger-than-average two year old needs something in the night (yes, it should be water- I'm just not ready for the three nights of screaming when we do this change)

--- and why is milk so essential? Well, I need it in my morning tea. 

and a bonus quick take- 

Stop wasting food! In the old country, my mother-in-law doesn't have a garbage disposal, so they don't throw out any food. You finish what is on your plate, beginning with smaller portions than typical American ones. Then, leftovers go into the fridge and are not forgotten. Any scraps like peels and cores are saved to bring to great-grandmother's pigs. Bones and random yucky meat stuff are saved for her dogs and cats.

Well, I don't have pigs or dogs and our cat refuses any table food. Our townhouse is too small for composting. I do have a freezer and fridge where I can save bits of meat and veggies for mystery soup and bits of fruit for mystery smoothies.

find many more quick takes at

Thursday, October 27, 2011

PrettyHappyFunnyReal- Peanutbutter Candy a la My Hippy Mom

My parents were hippies- sort of. My dad was a Chicano-wannabe in a jellyroll, beatnik-type who strolled the streets of Pacific Palisades saying "Elvis stole music from the black man!" (truer words were never spoken- love you, Dad!). My mom graduated high school the last year that girls would set their curls in a flip and wear tailored skirts to class. By the time I came along in 1971, my mother had long, straight hair parted down the middle and an affinity for exotic health food like yogurt, whole grains and carob.

We didn't eat junk food as kids, so any treats like Panda licorice, maple sugar Santas, rice paper covered Japanese jelly candies were well-remembered and enjoyed. The following recipe is one of my favorites- and I don't really go wild for peanut butter.

Priest's Wife's 'Madeleines' -or- Mom's Peanut Butter Candy
1 cup  real peanut butter
1 cup non fat dry milk
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp almond extract

Mix all ingredients well. Using wax paper, shape into a log. Wrap in wax paper and freeze. When firm, slice and serve 

This candy is my 'pretty, happy, funny, real' for Thursday. My mom was really pretty as she made this for us. We kids were so happy when she made it for us. It might be funny for kids to be excited over 'healthy' candy, but we were. And my real? My mom lives so far away, I'll have to make the candy myself....miss you, Mom!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

UU and me, part two

Last week, I went to a local laundromat to dry some cleaned laundry because my machine is broken and it was a very overcast, cold day, making it impossible to line-dry. The people at the laundromat were the typical hodgepodge of college students, motorcycle men on a cross-country trip, low-income-appearing moms, and a business woman talking on her cellphone while she cleaned up after her teacup dog who had thrown up over all the bedclothes. 

Outside, there were two men and a woman who staked their claim to the benches. They were squabbling over the fact that they didn't have change for the machines and the dollar-changer was broken. I gave them two dollars in quarters, they thanked me, and the woman went off to the nearby grocery store. They never did any laundry in the hour I was there. Maybe it was their way of begging without a sign. In any case, my encounter got me to thinking about Christian 'charity' versus the Unitarian philosophy of humanism.

All three seemed to be homeless and maybe a little mentally ill. They all had beer cans and a cigarette. One of the men stood out, however. He answered his colleagues normally, but then he would twitch and talk to someone who was not there. He didn't seem dangerous; it made me sad. He sat in a wheelchair, and his pant legs were like broken balloons. A small stream of beer or urine or both flowed from his wheelchair. I had to step over the stream to give the change to his friend. 

As I stifled a cough from the stench of this man and gave him a little money, I wondered why the Unitarians in my town are focusing on the homeless such as he. They are doing a big push to end homelessness and to "raise awareness" of the problem in our city. We have 'section 8' housing for low-income families who are able to do paperwork and qualify. We have moderate income housing available as well. We have shelters such as Salvation Army and county facilities for people who don't have a stable situation and might not even have identification. But as far as I know, these shelters will not give a bed to a person who is obviously under the influence. So, this man has nowhere to go if he can't or won't say yes to the help that the county provides (drug/alcohol rehab, psychiatric help and maybe medication, a required shower and clean clothes to sleep in a county facility)

Why do we as a society do anything and spend any money to help 'these kinds' of people? "Are there no prisons?" says Ebenezer. Will the man in the wheelchair sitting in his own urine and speaking to a ghost ever contribute anything positive to society? Will his life ever have even a neutral effect on society or will 'normal' people have to continue to hold their breath and avert their eyes when they pass by him? 

We try to help men like him (with private and public means) because:
  • there is potential for rehabilitation (he will then be a positive contributor to society)
  • our society wants people to live at a certain level of dignity in a clean and safe environment (he will be a neutral, non-disruptive part of society)
  • we 'normal' people are uncomfortable with other people living too far below our level and know that our society is rich enough to guarantee a life where the mentally ill and homeless won't bother us too much because they get basic services
  • all human life has dignity and worth no matter the life stage, physical or mental health, income level, etc (he may remain a 'negative contributor' to society, but he will be helped by society simply because he is a human person with intrinsic worth)
But why does human life have intrinsic worth? And if human life has intrinsic worth and dignity, doesn't that mean that we need to value all human life- especially that life which is the weakest and most at risk? 

This is where the Unitarian parts ways with the Christian. For the Unitarian, human life has dignity because of whatever reason that person believes. At the church where my daughters are meeting for drama class, the focus is on the mentally-ill homeless. Now, if this were simply their focus (no one can solve every problem- we use the talents and means we have- and what we feel called and motivated to do) and they had a consistent respect for human life, I would not quibble. But it was devastating to see a sign-up to help the homeless right next to the "Stand with Planned Parenthood!" signs and a sign-up to work on legalizing euthanasia. 

The surprise pregnancy and the sick elderly are just as unwanted and challenging as the mentally ill homeless, so why won't this Unitarian congregation stand up for them? Why don't the baby and the elderly have the same human dignity as the mentally ill? Do only those six months (for some, the young infant is not a fully-formed person) to sixty years have the right to ask for the help and support of the Unitarians? 

For the Christian person, all human life has been made in the image of God. This means that life has value even when it is messy and inconvenient. The fetus, the child with a disease or disorder, the mentally ill, the prisoner, the housewife, the brain surgeon, the terminally ill, the elderly- all are human; all have value.  I just wish that we Christians could be Christian enough to convince Unitarians of this fact. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

UU and me

This school year, my daughters' Shakespeare class is held in the multi-purpose room of a Unitarian church. I was the 'room mom' this past Friday, so I stayed in case I was needed and perused the bulletin boards and pamphlets available. 

I was baptized Episcopalian, spent an extended time with the Quakers, and hopped around with the Methodists, Presbyterians, and non-denominational Christians for a while before my family and I became Catholic when I was twelve and a half. My mother was involved with a Buddhist/New Age guru when I was a kindergartener, so I have a non-Christian experience as well. This is the first time I have been to a 'church' that officially believes that there is no final truth to be taught by a church.

Here is their mission statement:
"We the members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of ______ , united by our religious liberal tradition seek truths and meaning, and commit to right action. We will nurture our congregation and carry our principles forth to better ourselves, our community and our planet. To these purposes, we pledge our hearts, our hands, our minds, our means."
An Invitation from Rev. Jan
"When I first visited a Unitarian Universalist Church, it felt like coming home. I never knew such a place existed. I knew more then about what I didn't believe than what I did believe. I wanted a place that would encourage my questions and honor my skepticism and provide a community at the same time. What I have found over the years is a place that has inspired me to move beyond focusing on what I don't believe to what I do believe. And more importantly, it is a place beyond belief. It is a place that emphasizes our freedom to believe whatever we must in order to live ethical, loving lives and helps connect us to something bigger than ourselves. Our good news is that "we need not think alike to love alike." If this is what you are looking for, I hope to meet you soon at a Sunday morning worship service. Come nurture your spirit and help heal our world."

The problem with all this social justice in a no-supreme-truth setting is that 
  • it is inconsistent (I'll explore this idea tomorrow)
  • they have their eyes only on this world
  • they do have a supreme truth (at this location, I'm not certain if UU's 'doctrine' is centralized)- this truth is God is 'green.' 
UU members have their eyes on this world only
  • None of their literature nor their 'liturgy' is focused on the afterlife. Officially, it exists only for those UU members that want (or "must") to believe in a heaven. At this location, UU members lean towards Buddhism and Humanism. 
  • Their liturgy focuses on making personal moral choices with no guidance from the outside (ie. dogma or religious leaders) and singing of self-acceptance and self-healing
  • This philosophy is clearly at odds with nearly all religious traditions. For Christians of all kinds, we do everything with eternity as our motivation. For a mother, we can make caring for our children a prayer to God, aligning ourselves with those saints of old who experienced the same struggles. As far as I could see, the only concrete reason to be a 'good' parent in the UU tradition is because "I choose to treat my baby with good care because I am a humanist."
  • But keeping your eyes on this life can be a plus. How many times, reader, have you changed a baby on the floor of a Catholic church's bathroom?  I have, many times. This UU church (with posters declaring "We stand with Planned Parenthood!") has a fully stocked changing table, a baby toilet, a baby toilet insert for a big toilet, and two stepping stools for little ones to wash their hands. I say, if the Catholic Church is going to preach pro-life, we need to start with changing tables in all bathrooms. A little dignity goes a long way for a new mother.
The supreme truth- God is GREEN
  • Since this world is all there is, ecology is the true religion for (this congregation) UU. One can believe anything when attending a UU church, except one must accept ecology as a requirement. 
  • UU members drive electric and hybrid cars as 'statements'- they realize that coal is burned to make the electricity to fuel the cars, but raising ecological awareness is the important aspect of driving a hybrid.
  • For other religions and for Christians, ecology can play a large part in our theology but for contrasting reasons with UU members. We are superior to plants and animals and thus should be stewards of creation. Animals may be used as food for humans. Resources (such as oil) may be used by humans. We compost to make our gardens grow better, not because composting is a sacrament. We recycle because we can get good use out of resources again, not because filling dumps is an insult to Gaia.
  • But being GREEN can have its upside, too. I love that the members leave a coffee cup for after church. I love buying free trade, organic coffee and chocolate. I have no problem with recycling- even though sometimes the recycling company just throws it all together in the landfill. I totally agree with reusing and thrifting, but for very different reasons than these UU members have. I am trying to live a simpler life so that I can be closer to those things not of this world. Lots of possessions tie us down to this world. I am trying to keep my eyes on heaven (Mary) even as I have worldly cares (Martha).

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why GATHER at a Big Church?- 7 QuickTakes

1. Introverts unite! In a large parish, you can be at Mass and never have to look at anyone. No one will notice if you don't go to coffee and donuts. No one needs to know your name. No one will know if you are a little late or leave early (at least they won't be able to identify you). The 'kiss of peace' is the one difficulty here for the truly introverted; you could look in your purse for a tissue or be flipping through the songbook so you can avoid making eye contact with a fellow parishioner.

2. Choose your own adventure! Do you like 'folk' music (meaning music written in the 70s and 80s by Dan Schutte)? The 9 o'clock is for you! Or perhaps you would like a real four-part choir with a smattering of Latin. Try the 11 o'clock. Maybe you just want some peace and quiet. The 6:30 AM is just right. No choir is going to get ready to sing at that time! Or if you are really particular, find the next nearest large parish and you might find the music/priest/people/statues more to your liking.

3. Don't see Father sweat. A family, having been visitors/parishioners weekly for over a year, decided to go back to their large parish with the words, "I want to be at a church where I'm not close enough to see Father sweat." So now they are one family out of 15,000 and the pastor doesn't know if they are there or not. See #1.

4. Get really involved. Don't step on anyone's toes and take over 'their' job, but you can volunteer to be a part of many, many activities. You might even get paid.

5. Don't be involved at all. Don't worry, if you don't volunteer to help or be in charge of the youth group or catechism or coffee hour or sewing circle or bell ringers or altar society or financial advisory committee, someone else will. And, sorry to say, even if you have been choir director or flower arranger or sacristan for years, in a large parish they can find someone to take over those roles as well. Perhaps this is sad, but it gives freedom knowing you don't have to do anything for the parish to survive.  If it is big enough, enough people will be interested and able to pick up the slack if you don't want to.

6. Come to a Third Place- there are enough activities besides Liturgy at a large parish to rival a Protestant 'Mega-Church'

7. Last Chance Mass. A large parish usually has a seven o'clock Mass on Sunday evening. Yes, maybe it is in Spanish or Vietnamese or Tagalog, but it will fulfill your obligation. Just remember to set your alarm next Sunday.

For the sake of this blog post, I am generalizing that a 'large Catholic parish' has at least 200 families attending Sunday Mass weekly and this hypothetical parish is no more than a thirty- minute drive to another Catholic church. 200 is probably small for most Catholic readers. The Roman-rite parish closest to me has 15,000 registered families; it is what it is...this post is just my opinion & yes, I know I am generalizing...

Dear reader, you probably have surmised that you will receive none of these benefits if you visit or are a parishioner at one of our Byzantine Catholic missions. You will, however, have a priest who will drive six hours after hospital work on Friday to perform an out-of-town baptism early Saturday morning and be home in time for Saturday Vigil. He will bring some of his kids, though, so that they won't lose too much family-time.

edit: here's a link from another Byzantine Catholic mom you might enjoy- she's an iconographer

find many more 'quick takes' at

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

PrettyHappyFunnyReal- pans & pumpkins

Pretty- It only took me seven years, but the cloth that great-grandmother wove, decorated and crocheted lace onto is finally on display. Perhaps it is because I was not born in the old country, but I can't figure out how to do the perfect pleats. But I put it up anyway.

Happy- Haiku for a cast iron pan
cast iron, true non-stick
took me forty years to buy
use metal, not soap

'bye evil Teflon
now I truly deglaze it
browned bits with wine...yum

Funny- pumpkins are perfect for my Halloween season apathy/dislike

Real- Can you find the 'real' in this photo? Yes, it is the extension cord along the back that is powering up the refrigerator. We already had an electrician come and fix the three-outlet problem. Two weeks later, the problem is back on- so it is an opportunity to rejoice that I have electricity at all! 

find more PHFR at Like Mother, Like Daughter

How to Scramble Eggs

The temptation was too great. A few months ago, I was at the 99cent Store, and it called to me- the Clever Cracker- the ultimate unitasker (or no-tasker as I came to learn). Besides, it was only 99.9 cents. A bargain, it retails for over fifteen dollars. Dear reader, I bought it.

Here, in a few simple steps is how to make scrambled eggs, helped along with the wonder gadget, the Clever Cracker/Scrambler.

First, find a battery to go into the Clever Scrambler. After you take out a battery from one of the kids' flashlights, you open the Scrambler and realize that you will need a second battery. Fiddle with the channel changer for awhile to 'borrow' another battery (you will forget and throw out this battery - a big no-no- when you throw away this worthless gadget after this experiment in complicating the simplest of activities).

Carefully place a fresh egg onto the Scrambler's needle. Don't be distracted by your sweet children surrounding you and then impale your finger.

Turn on the Scrambler and wait for thirty seconds or so. Give it to each child so they can experience the wonder that is the must be really scrambled by now....

Place the scrambled egg into the Clever Cracker (razor-blade cutter not photographed) and prepare to crack the egg over a bowl with grated cheese.

Crack the egg. Notice that the egg is not in the least pre-scrambled. The only 'success' is that the Clever Cracker did not drop eggshells into the bowl.

Use a fork to scramble the egg and add some milk (only use half and half or cream if you have a bit leftover from PW's latest recipe)

Pour the well-scrambled mixture onto a hot frying pan. Here, I am using a cast iron skillet with a bit of grapeseed oil. Let it sit a bit. 

Add a bit of salt and pepper. Fold the scrambled egg when it begins to look a little puffy ('Pie Near' would put in a joke about PW here...but I'm too 'nice').

Eat up! and then tell your kids- whether you are a 'tea party' type, an 'occupy' type, or somewhere in is sick and wrong to spend even 99 cents on a piece of semi-slave labor plastic like the 'Clever Cracker' in order to do the easiest of kitchen tasks- breaking an egg and beating it with a fork before frying it. I know I labeled this post 'not so serious'- but I am serious about abolishing anything from my life that is neither beautiful or useful. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Righteous Anger

"And Jesus went into the temple of God and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple and overthrew the tables of the money changers and the chairs of them that sold doves." (Matthew 21:12 Douay-Rheims).

This act of relative violence on Jesus' part has been used to justify a lot of negative actions and emotions of Christians today. If Jesus can get angry, why can't I? Well, certainly- if you are capable of remaining righteously angry without succumbing to bitterness, then be righteously angry over a slight or hurt or someone sinning against you. Those of us who suffer from a fallen nature- which is all of us, of course- should guard ourselves from indulging in these negative emotions however true they might be because there is a very real danger that we will become bitter when contemplating the sins of others.

Here's an example from my own life to illustrate my point. This past semester at my college where I teach, we had very low opening enrollment. The dean had the option of dropping classes before the beginning of the semester, and if he had done this, I could have 'bumped' a less preferred person off the list and received a class if my assigned class didn't have enough enrolled students. Well, he decided to wait until the second week of classes to drop- merciful but making it impossible for me to bump. We need fifteen students to retain a class. I had ten students in my advanced class, and the next class down had twenty-one students (many of whom had been in my high-intermediate class the previous semester so they were ready for advanced). The teacher refused to sign any transfer slips or listen to my idea to shuffle the students so we could each have a job. So, now I am unemployed, and because of broken transmissions and other surprise expenses, we are really feeling a financial struggle. Now I can feel:

After Some Righteous Anger, Positive Action: I could go to my department chair and ask for a class assignment next semester that would be more likely to receive the necessary enrollments (intermediate). I could work with some colleagues on outreach so that we all get more students. I could work with the dean so that some of my department's classes would be transferable to a four-year institution,  attracting more students. I could use this extra time to help my husband translate his book. I could be inspired by my relative first-world poverty to be thankful and very careful of the resources we still have. And I could register for unemployment insurance benefits!

or Bitterness: I could embarrass myself by bringing up this instructor and the problem at department meetings. I could prank call him. I could get a spy to reveal just how much Spanish he uses in a class that is supposed to be English-only. Bitterness means we allow ourselves to wallow in the hurt. But dwelling on this hurt only affects me. Bitterness also magnifies the first hurt and makes it continue. He is busy teaching a class now; he doesn't remember how he got to keep that class. So, an antidote to bitterness is humility- I have to realize that he is not thinking of me at all. Another antidote to bitterness in my specific case is to imagine why he wouldn't share his students with me. Perhaps he was afraid that some of the students would drop the program altogether and he would have less than fifteen students and he has a wife with medical needs and he has to keep his job and he is sponsoring a few kids from Africa and he needs the money to pay their school tuition. I don't know if these things are true, but it comforts me a little when I am transferring my kids' saving accounts into my checking so I can pay basic bills. Righteous anger can lead to positive action and forgiveness while bitterness stays negative and internal, a rotten core that is very difficult to change. We probably all know elderly people who- even while near death- still harbor grudges and resentment.

The following prayers are perfect for those of us who are struggling with righteous anger becoming bitterness. As always, Jesus is our guide. Even when He could be righteously angry, he usually didn't show those emotions. According to Holy Scripture, He was more likely to be sad than angry when confronted with sin.

 A prayer written before his execution from St Thomas More:
ALMIGHTY GOD, have mercy on N. and N., and on all that bear me evil will, and would me harm, and their faults and mine to-gether, by such easy, tender, merciful means, as thine infinite wisdom best can devise, vouch-safe to amend and redress, and make us saved souls in heaven together where we may ever live and love together with thee and thy blessed saints. O glorious Trinity, for the bitter passion of our sweet Saviour Christ. Amen.

Lord, give me patience in tribulation and grace in everything to conform my will to thine: that I may truly say: Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in coelo et in terra. The things, good Lord, that I pray for, give me thy grace to labour for. Amen. 

Here's a rather intense, mystical prayer from the Orthodox St Nicolai of Zica- 
Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.Enemies have driven me into Thy embrace more than friends have. Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world. Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world. Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Thy tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me. So that my fleeing to Thee may have no return; so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs; so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul; so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger; so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven; ah, so that I may for once be freed from self deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself. One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends. It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies. Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.
If you can pray the following prayer sincerely, you are safe from becoming bitter  no matter the sufferings and enemies you have:
Lord, remember not only the men of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Remember rather the fruits we have brought, thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown out of this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have bourne be their forgiveness. (wow. just wow.) Source: found on a scrap of paper at the liberation of Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in Germany

Monday, October 17, 2011

3rd Antiphon- Divine Liturgy series

While the priest and altar servants process with the Holy Gospel, the people sing the Beatitudes interspersed with the verse "Remember me, O Lord, when you come into Your kingdom."

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.

Blesses are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. (Matthew 5:3-12).

-on feasts, special antiphons can be used- such as, "We your servants, O Protectress, bring thanks to you for victories, because you did save us from peril, O Mother of God. As one who has unvanquished power, free us from all danger, that we may cry to you: hail O bride forever virgin"

a few things come to my mind at this point in the Divine Liturgy:
  • Wow- we Catholics must be Bible believers! Here we are parading around with a Gospel book covered in precious art (in the past, gold and real jewels). The Gospel book is elevated during the procession, with altar servers carrying incense and crosses and icons surrounding the holy book. If people are paying attention, they should be 'gearing up' to listen to God's words in the Bible and take those words very seriously. 
  • The verse "Remember me, O Lord" is a little preview for the prayer before receiving the Eucharist, and it is one of my top-five favorite parts of the Gospel (you have to love the Good Thief!)
  • The Beatitudes turn everything on its head- How can the meek inherit the earth? How can those who mourn be comforted? How can the hungry be filled with good things? The answer to these questions- it is impossible, but nothing is impossible with God. 
  • As much as we would love peace and security here on earth, the Beatitudes quietly remind us that our hope is in the Lord and in our eternity in heaven where all will be well.
  • "Blessed are you when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven."--- I love this verse, but it is rather complicated. Should we seek out persecution so that we will be great in God's eyes? No- it must be for the sake of God not ourselves, so as usual pride can have nothing to do with it. And we must be reviled untruly for the sake of Christ to receive this eternal reward. It seems to me that this verse is calling us to live a good Christian life without seeking renown. And if our Christian life is annoying or offensive to others, we should bear this patiently and hope for a reward in heaven. A verse comes to mind as well:
Remember my word that I said to you: The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also. (John 15:20)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

PrettyHappyFunnyReal- pasta edition

I have four children. This is three or four too many for the modern secularist types that I know and three or four too few if I compare myself to most of my Catholic homeschooling-type friends. But it is what it is.

There's a lot in our life that is pretty, happy, and funny- but I usually have a dead battery or a missing memory card to contend with when I try to take a photo. But last night, I took a picture that is a testimony to our 'small' family size: pasta three ways. This is my 'real' photo for the week- because sometimes, if it's easy, I will quickly cater to varying needs or wants. Another 'real' photo might be the peanut butter sandwich that a kid gets when they complain about food that is marginally gourmet.

I usually don't cater to the personal pickiness of my kids- daughter #2 doesn't like eggs, cheese or sour cream....not easy when cooking in my kitchen. But last night, it was easy. Dad had pasta with leftover beef goulash, daughter #2 had pesto pasta and the rest of us had mac and cheese.

Monday, October 10, 2011

1st & 2nd Antiphons- The Divine Liturgy of St John Chyrsostom

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Bless the Lord, O my soul and let all that is within me, bless His holy name. Blessed are You, O Lord.

(In addition, on feasts we sing- 'Through the prayers of the Mother of God, O Savior save us' with verses)

Now and always and forever and ever. Amen. O Only begotten Son and Word of God, you who are immortal, yet did condescend for the sake of our salvation to become incarnate of the holy Mother of God and ever Virgin Mary, without change becoming man, and being crucified , O Christ our God, with death you conquered death, you who are one of the Holy Trinity, glorified together with the Father and the Holy Spirit save us.

(in addition, on feasts we sing- 'O Son of God, you who are glorified in your saints, save us who sing to you. Alleluia' with verses)

In the first antiphon- the portion that resonates with me today is 'let all that is within me, bless...' So, by singing this, I am reminded again and again that I must offer my entire self to God and my entire being in blessing His name. My life as a Christian is an offering to Him. But I am also reminded that I am to offer myself, not someone else. We are exhorted to "be yourself, everyone else is taken" (my favorite scandalous writer Oscar Wilde). The widow who gave a minuscule amount of money as an offering in the temple is remembered as one who gave all. This line of the Divine Liturgy is a strong reminder that we should be like her and give all we have and 'keep our eyes on our own work' as they say in school.

The second antiphon is a good example of Byzantine spirituality. Every Divine Liturgy mixes the concepts of death and resurrection ("By death, he conquered death" and "Alleluia"). The concepts are never separated. It can be shocking for some to hear  "Alleluia" in our churches during the Great Lent and to hear "By death he conquered death" over and over between Easter and Ascension. My older girls are preparing a Russian folk song for Christmas that depicts Jesus as a boy who gives white roses to some children. They ask him what He will use for a crown and he says that His thorns are growing in the garden in preparation for His future.- and it also uses the words Alleluia! Bleak, yet beautiful....

I'm sure you could search for deep theological reasons for this, but I'll just say: we are an 'Easter People' every day but we also are living with the consequences of original sin- death- every day. Until we are all called home to God, the foot of the cross is our home. It is the sadness and fear of the crucifixion combined with the hope and joy of the resurrection. I suppose you could call us a 'bitter-sweet' people.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

just for laughs

....shamelessly 'borrowed' from What Does The Prayer Really Say where it was borrowed from somewhere else:
 The Perfect Priest 

The results of a computerized survey indicate the perfect priest preaches exactly fifteen minutes. He condemns sins but never upsets anyone. He works from 8:00 AM until midnight and is also a janitor. He makes $50 a week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car, and gives about $50 weekly to the poor. He is 28 years old and has preached 30 years. He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all of his time with senior citizens.

The perfect priest smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work. He makes 15 calls daily on parish families, shut-ins and the hospitalized, and is always in his office when needed.

If your priest does not measure up, simply send this letter to six other churches that are tired of their priest, too. Then bundle up your priest and send him to the church on the top of the list. In one week, you will receive 1,643 priests and one of them will be perfect. Have faith in this procedure.

One parish broke the chain and got its old priest back in less than three weeks.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

just a link

Math. Do you like it? Do you understand it? Have you perused the 'state standards' for math lately? 'They' want students to be doing Algebra I (more difficult than any Algebra I that I did as a high school freshman) as eighth graders at the latest. Are you spending lots of money and time at tutoring centers such as Kumon? Homeschooler or not, if you have children from about third grade and up or if your math skills are non-existent, use your google or facebook to log on to Khan Academy. It is free- I think with some of Bill Gates' money.

I can see this being a saving grace for a big family with lots of different levels. And I never studied past Algebra II, but I have a feeling my children will go beyond that- so I can use this to study for myself and/or make sure that they are getting supplemental help in math. Knowledge is power!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An October Daybook

Outside my window...are grey clouds and leaves beginning to change colors even though we don't have extreme four seasons like normal places. 

I am thinking...of the beautiful little tree that grows against the wall near the sports store in Gaming, Austria. It should be bright red right now. Fall is probably the most difficult season to live in a place with palm trees.

I am thankful...for friends that let us invite ourselves over for some fun. The pizza was delicious!

From the learning rooms...we are using as a math supplement. I am hopeful.

In the kitchen...I'll be repurposing the Italian sausage leftover from church on Sunday into bangers and mash. And we had toad-in-the-hole for breakfast. And I'm drinking tea right now. I'll always be an Anglophile at heart even though I've never been there. Yep, I lived in Europe for four years and never got to the island.

I am wearing...exercise clothes- Daughter #2 and I went out for an early morning walk.

I am creating...quilts with my girls for our 'Crafters for Life' club.

I am need to go to the Laundromat- my dryer is broken and I left wet clothes out to dry and it promptly rained. And a big storm is coming up. So, off to the laundry I go!

I am wondering...when I'll need to have my girls quit ballet. That is all.

I am reading...The James Thurber Carnival, if you like dry, old-fashioned humor, this book will have you rolling. Just don't read it too late of you'll wake up the kids.

I am hoping...that my daughters will learn their new Nutcracker parts with little stress.

I am looking forward to...the rain storm that is coming. Time to make my world-famous cocoa and some stove-top popcorn

I am hearing...the leaf blowers at our townhouse complex.

Around the house...some kids are doing schoolwork, and the baby is drawing on paper, her dress and herself with a purple marker. Luckily, it is washable.

I am pondering...Ray Bradbury is a genius. For me, October equals Ray Bradbury stories and the Rosary (yes, it's a weird combination)

Some favorite things...harpsichord music, 'Manifesto' perfume, peach-blueberry panna cotta from the freezer section, telephone calls from family, new babies in he family and making baby quilts for them, little kids that behave enough for me to stay in church

A few plans for the rest of the week: more school work, more sewing, preparations for Christmas gifts, etc, etc, etc....

A photo to share:

It's a time to pray for life ('40 Days for Life')  AND it is ONLY 12 weeks until Christmas! Oh my goodness! How does this happen to me every year! I am trying to be ready for Christmas by the beginning of Byzantine Advent (St Phillip's Fast) which starts on November 15th. Wish me luck!
 Find more daybooks at

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Great Litany- series on the Divine Liturgy

We continue with thoughts on the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom with the Great Litany, the beginning of the Liturgy where the priest is in dialog with the people:

Priest or Deacon: Blessed is the kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and always and forever and ever.
Choir (all people are encouraged to sing 'choir' parts): Amen.
P: In peace let us pray to the Lord.
C: Lord, have mercy.
P: For peace from on high and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord.
C: Lord, have mercy.
P: For the peace of the whole world, for the welfare of all the holy churches of God, and for the union of all, let us pray to the Lord.
C: Lord, have mercy.
P: For this holy house and for those who with faith and reverence and in the fear of God enter it. let us pray to the Lord.
C: Lord, have mercy.
P: For our Most Blessed Father Pope Benedict, for our Beatitude and Archbishop (N.) for our God-loving Bishop (N.) for the honored priesthood, the diaconate in Christ and for all the clergy and the people, let us pray to the Lord.
C: Lord, have mercy.
P. For this country, its president and government and for the armed forces and all who are in authority, let us pray to the Lord.
C: Lord, have mercy.
P. For this city, for all the cities and villages, and for all who in faith dwell therein, let us pray to the Lord.
C: Lord, have mercy.
P: For good weather, an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and for peaceful times, let us pray to the Lord.
C: Lord, have mercy.
P: For those who travel, for those who are sick, for those who suffer and those in prison and for their salvation, let us pray to the Lord.
C: Lord, have mercy.
P: That we may be delivered from all distress, wrath, tribulation and want- Preserve, help and have mercy on us, O God, by Your grace.
C: Lord, have mercy.
P. Commemorating our most holy, pure, blessed and glorious Lady, the Mother of God and ever Virgin Mary, (C; Most holy Mother of God, save us) together with all the Saints, let us commend ourselves and each other and our entire lives to Christ, our God.
C: To you, O Lord.
Priest: For to you is due all glory, honor, and adoration, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and always and forever and ever.
C: Amen.

You can see that the 'default' response of the people is "Lord, have mercy." We are asking for God's love and mercy on the petition. All bases are covered- from the obvious of praying for our hierarchy to the surprise of praying for those in prison. We pray for everyone, but especially for those who need it, either because they have no one to pray for them or they are in positions of authority. We pray for the President and the armed forces not because we are enamored of them. We pray for them because they have massive responsibilities over others. 

Much like the 'Jesus Prayer,' the litanies in the Divine Liturgy can be considered a meditation with the 'Lord Have Mercy' being a time to breathe out. For some, the repetition of a liturgical form can be dry and boring- but if one really reflects on the words, it can be very meaningful and one can still be learning at an old age. 

"That we may be delivered from all distress, wrath, tribulation and want- Preserve, help and have mercy on us, O God, by Your grace" is a line that resonates with me. Distress, wrath, tribulation and want will always be with us to some extent here on earth, but we pray that God will preserve us from the day to day realities of a sinful world. God desires us to be free of distress and anxiety- hence the name of my little blog- Fear not, little flock.

For a theological reflection of this portion of the Liturgy, click here for a perspective from a Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic priest. Here is another reflection. This page is very interesting, linking all the words of the Liturgy with the Bible. It is from an Orthodox perspective as many evangelicals have been converting to the Orthodox faith.