Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Pressed Petal

Baby's Breath


Baby's Breath is also known as Our Lady's Veil

robbing their childhood

Victoria Secret.

Abercrombie and Fitch.

American Eagle.

What do all these stores have in common? 

Posters that cause any decent, modest Christian to guard their eyes.  How many times have you walked through the mall and needed to cast your eyes aside due to impure pictures, images, or models?  Victoria Secret provides scantily clad images, more pornographic than anything.  Aberocrombie broadcasts bare chested pictures of men, and sometimes even topless MEN posing outside their stores!  And American Eagle?  How many of their manikins have suntaned, toned, and seductive bodies, with little short shorts, and tube top shirts being displayed?

What is this world coming to?  The scary thing is, we as adults are so used to seeing all of this, that slowly we become desensitized to the dangers of such impurity and lack of tolerance.  Yet, our children are growing up in this society, and they are in even MORE danger of falling prey to such sin.

And to encourage this introduction to seduction, what is the newest phase for young children?  Padded push up bikinis SPECIFICALLY designed for 7 year olds.  7 year old girls, who are not even ready for a typical bra, are now being given a push up bikini, so they can...what?...feel more like seductive, attractive, adults?  How disgusting of our society!
 

And now, to disguise the objective, they are now being called "triangle bikinis." So obviously, downplaying the name is suppose to make it all okay? 

Not to mention the new baby dolls that just came over from Europe for our children.  "The Breast Milk Baby".  It's purpose?  To allow young girls to "breasfeed" their babies.  They baby is equipped with sucking, slurping, burping noises, and attaches to a nursing "apron" that allows the baby to "hook up" to the child's chest.


Seriously?? 

And then we stand back and wonder..."why are there so many teen pregnancies?  so many teen girls becoming online prostitutes?  Well no wonder....we're starting their sexual interests at such an impressionable age!

O Mary, Queen and Mother of Purity, protect our youth!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sponsa Christi


"How many of you have met a nun in a habit before?" I asked my 12 middle school catechism students the other day.

No hands went up...

As tragic as this is, I can't say I was that surprised. I didn't see a nun in full habit until I was in 8th grade either. The Franciscan convent in my town is slowly dying off. Many of the Sisters are too old to participate in an active apostolate and spend their days inside the Mother House. Many of the rest of the members of this former teaching order live in apartments all across town and hold a variety of jobs (a blog for another day).


When I ran across this episode of Oprah not that long ago, I was floored. While most convents are full of elderly women, the average age of a sister in this convent is 26! The Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist are a conservative, fully habit-ed order of Sisters whose convent is busting at the seams! Inviting Lisa Ling into the convent over night, the nuns provide fascinating insight into the life of a spouse of Christ. Check out some of the things they had to say about the consecrated life...

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Living Rosary

 “Give me an army saying the Rosary, and I will conquer the world.”
~ Pope Blessed Pius IX

Boys praying the rosary at the funeral of Fr. Flanagan, founder of Boys' Town

On the feast of Our Lady's Annunciation, it's only fitting that we mention the Rosary. Lily and I are both members of St. Philomena's Universal Living Rosary Association, and we wanted to share this wonderful apostolate with you. Founded by Venerable Pauline Marie Jaricot, the Association has taken the St. Philomena, the Wonder Worker as its patron. It is free to join, and details are as follows:

  1. Decade: Pray one decade of the Rosary daily, and mediate on the Mystery assigned to you. Four other people around the world have been assigned the rest of the Mysteries to complete one full Rosary. 
  2. Intention: Pray your decade for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and in honor of Saint Philomena
  3. The Hour: The decade can be prayed at any time and anywhere. 
  4. Duration: The decade is to be prayed daily for the rest of your life.     
  5. Donation: a voluntary donation is asked for by the ULRA ($1.00 a month to help them meet expenses.
  6. Spread the devotion: Try to bring in new members. 
  7. Pray for One Another: Pray for deceased members, & pray for the Apostolate.

 We encourage you to take a look at their website, and join if you can! Not only do you gain graces from an extra rosary a day, but think of the 15 promises Our Lady promised to those who recite her Rosary devoutly!


A Thousand Words

Huckleberry is still waiting for spring...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

You Knead to Try This!

Did you know that pretzels have Lenten roots? It's true. 


In the past, the Church had much stricter fasting rules. The Faithful abstained from meat and any products that came from those fleshy animals (like eggs, milk, and cheese). The pretzel, then, was a Lenten "super food" that was made simply, conformed to these rules, and was still able to sustain people during their fasting.

The shape of the pretzel reminds us of the prayerful season of Lent, as it is meant to look like arms crossed in prayer-- the way people used to pray. The Latin word bracellae means "little arms." Legend has it that the word pretzel came from the German word, bretzel, a derivation of the Latin word.

This recipe for Bavarian Pretzels is one of our favorites! It is quick and easy-- and tastes fabulous! Top them with garlic, salt, cinnamon, or spice it up a little and try my favorite combination: rosemary, garlic and Parmesan cheese!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Pressed Petal

Hollyhock


In honor of St. Joseph: 
Hollyhocks are also known as St. Joseph's Staff after his miraculous flowering staff

St. Joseph

March is the month of St. Joseph, patron of so many things...but especially husbands and fathers.  What a wonderful patron to have for such important roles.  I think we as women tend to overlook the vital part these men play in our lives.

The father is the first man a daughter meets; the first man she gives her heart to; the first man she trusts.  Her father is the man who sets the example for all the men to come.  I always find it such a shame when I see fathers in today's society not setting that example for their daughers--not setting that example for their sons!--and it always makes me so thankful that I was blessed enough to have such a strong father to guide me in all aspects of my life.

Then there comes the husband, oh the poor husband!  We pity the husband, we make the husband the butt of our jokes, we underestimate the husband---in a word, we don't appreciate the true role of our husbands.  Take a minute to really consider the pressure husbands have to handle to keep up their end of the "bargain."  A young man, 20 something years old, marries a young woman...just as naive about life as he is.  And that young woman holds her husband up to be the "life-solver", the "provider", the "rock when things get shakey." I think we as wives tend to forget that we have a vital impact on the role of our husbands.  We are supposed to be there to support them too.  We're supposed to take care of thier needs too.  Marriage isn't a one way street....you know the saying, "it takes two to tango..!"

So here you have the Father on one hand, and the Husband on the other, both having different but similar roles to play, and both impacting the lives of others.  What better way to support, encourage, and LOVE them, then to PRAY for them?  And who better to pray to for them than the ideal model for fathers and husbands: St. Joseph!
(and you know, even if you don't have a husband yet, or aren't even dating yet, you can still be praying to St. Joseph to protect and guide that knight in shining armor as he works his way in life toward you!)


St. Joseph, Patron of Fathers and Husbands, pray for us!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Christmas in March


Okay, okay! I know this is a little Christmasy...but I couldn't resist.

As my first student teaching assignment, I have been placed in charge of the Read Aloud. This was always my favorite part of the day (and still is!). As I began to research "best 4th grade read aloud books," however, I quickly became frustrated. Flipping through the chapter books, I discovered that many contained some rather "colorful" language... Most of these recommended books (award winners!), I felt I couldn't in good conscience read to children. What a dilemma!

When did popular children's literature take such a dive in standards, and why have we allowed it to continue? As a teacher, this is a huge thorn in my side, and a rant I'm sure I will reprise in the future.

Leafing through my own boxes of books-- my Goodwill treasures-- I was comforted by running across one of my favorite picture books: The Donkey's Dream by Barbara Helen Berger:



This is a book that all children (and adults) should read. It is the story of a dream that a special donkey has one night. He dreams he is carrying a majestic city, then a special ship, then a fountain, and then a soft rose. His last dream he thinks he is carrying a lady full of heaven...and soon realizes this is no dream! A beautiful story about the night Christ was born, this story incorporates different symbols of Our Lady as a city of God, an ark, a spiritual vessel (fountain), and the mystical rose. The author points out that decorating most of the pages are tiny blue forget-me-nots, which in French are called les yeux de Marie, the Eyes of Mary. How appropriate!

Today...


I am thankful that my husband is finally home!  He's been gone for the past two months off the coasts of the Carolinas, and Lilybug and I are so excited to have him home with us again!

I am praying for the safety of all the victims in Japan.  What a disaster they are having to deal with.  I pray Our Lady, Mother of all, keeps them safe and protected.

I am feeling nervous but excited about our upcoming move to California!  We just got our orders of transfer last Thursday and it is as we expected.....we'll be reporting to the Eastern Bay of San Francisco at the end of June! 

The saint of the day is Saint Benedict!  He is the patron saint of many different things, but to name just a few:
  • fevers
  • inflammatory diseases
  • gall stones
  • monks
  • against temptations
  • against witchcraft
I have been reading sooo many books!  I get in these moods where I just want to read everything I lay my eyes on!  Right now I'm trying to concentrate on just two books:  "The Life of St. Gemma Galgani"  and "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands", both excellent books!  Other books on my "reading list" are:
  • "How to Raise Good Catholic Children" by Mary Reed Newland
  • "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" by Jamie Ford
Around the house I'm hoping to get some laundry done, and do some grocery shopping.  We'll be heading up to my in-laws tonight to visit with my husband's Godfather (Father Peter), so looking forward to that.  Before the hubby comes home though, I'm hoping Lilybug will cooperate and let me get some cleaning done.  (I suppose being able to get in the shower would be a bonus too!)

Outside my window its unfortunately not very "spring-like".  It looks very gray and cold...apparently they are predicting more snow for this afternoon, but I don't think its supposed to accumulate very much.  Over the weekend, hubby and I were able to take the Munchkin into Boston and walk around Quincy Market and the Commons!  It felt so good to walk and just be outside, enjoying some sunshine!  (It was a little chilly out though, and I had forgotten my gloves, so we had to spend the first 20-30 mins trying to find some to buy for my white-turning, cold knuckles!)

My goal is to remain positive and upbeat.  To keep first and foremost in my mind that it is Lent, and to offer up all the little challenges or struggles I might have today. 

Enjoy your Today!



morning chat

Well hello there!  Won't you join me for a cup of tea? (or coffee if that's more to your liking...)  I was just getting ready to start my day, but now that you're here, I would certainly welcome the chance for a chat!
You see, I'm a wife and new mother.  I've been married just over a year, and our little Lilybug joined us within nine months...exactly!---so I've had quite a few changes to adjust to over the past year!  With my husband in the military and unfortunately away a good chunk of time, we've had our struggles, but then again....who hasn't?!  Life is so unpredictable, how could anyone expect it to go smooth sailing 360 days of every year?  Not to mention, wouldn't life be boring if we never encountered bumps along the way?  I know we complain and wish we could have that glass ball to tell us all the twists and turns that are in store for us along our journey, but really.....there IS such a thing as being too prepared!  God has a wonderful sense of humor, and I think He delights in surprising us.

As I sit here in our living room, listening to the repetitive notes of "Old McDonald" and "Twinkle Twinkle" drifting from the swing my daughter is now being entertained in....I can't help noticing how beautiful her smile is as she excitedly looks around at her surroundings.  Everything is so new to her....and even though she has no idea what most things around her are, or what they're called, or what the day has in store for her....she's content because her "Mummy" is sitting on the floor next to her, and she has her bottle of milk.  That's all she needs right now.  And she's perfectly at peace. 
So watching her, I remind myself of that well-known Bible verse from Matthew 19:14 "Let the little children come to me..."  In all their innocence and complete trust, "let the little children come to me."  Be happy in the little things.  In the simple things.  Understand that it's okay if we don't know what's around the next bend.  God has everything all planned out for us.  And do you realize something?  All He asks us to do is simply offer all our worries, cares, and concerns to Him!  Be as "little children", and He will take care of the rest.  Well, if we can manage that, than we are already well on our way toward a peaceful day!

Don't you already feel more confident in starting your day? I do.

So thank you, Friend, for this lovely chance to chat.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Gaelic Hail Mary

As we are still in the wake of celebrating St. Patrick...

Our Lady of Knock with Irish Roses
The Hail Mary 
(in Gaelic)

Sé do bheath' a Mhuire, atá lán de ghrásta, tá an Tiarna leat. 

Is beannaithe thú idir mná agus is beannaithe toradh do bhruinne losa. 


A Naomh Mhuire, a mháthair Dé, guí orainn na peacaithe, anois is ar uair ar mbás. Amen.

Fuschia


Fuschia is also known as Christ's Blood Drops or  
Our Lady's Ear-Drops (because they look like earrings)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dear Anne Frank

“It’s an odd idea for someone like me to keep a diary; not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I—nor for that matter anyone else—will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old school-girl.” ~ Anne Frank

Anne Frank at 12 years old
Dear Anne Frank,
You have always intrigued me.

Library Mouse (the Italian translation of "bookworm") that I am, I remember devouring her autobiography in 4th grade and being utterly amazed by her life. Her diary chronicled the seemingly insignificant musings of a thirteen-year-old girl over the two years she spent in hiding from the Nazis. She often wrote about the courtyard garden she could see from her window and commented on the majestic tree that grew hardy and strong just past the glass. The 4th grade girl inside me mourned when I learned that her beloved chestnut tree (check out the online tree monument!) died this past summer... 

Perhaps this is what triggered my life-long interest in WW2-era history and culture; seeing the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is even on my Bucket List. So yesterday, on one of my resale shopping adventures (yes, I am a resale junkie) to build up my teacher library, I was thrilled to unearth a picture book of the little Dutch authoress. It's easy to relate to the teenage mindset of being horrified at the thought of someone reading your diary...and at the same time yearning for everyone to know your "profound" thoughts on life. 

As I flipped through the photographs in the book, I realized that now that I am older, the more intriguing aspect of her life is the courage of those around her. Otto Frank's employees risked their lives to keep the families in the Annex safe. A striking testament to Christ-like charity.

The Franks were sent to Auschwitz. Here the soil on which they walked was still damp with the blood of the martyred priest, St. Maximilian Kolbe. What an edifying reminder of the countless courageous people that lived during World War II like Miep Gies, Corrie ten Boom, and Edith Stein (just to name a few).

Tragically, Anne and her sister Margot (whose own diary was lost) died just weeks before Auschwitz was liberated, but her diary allows us to pass her story and teach young people the importance of doing corporal works of mercy...and of the importance of the "unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old school-girl."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. Paddy's Day

 

The early missionaries had it rough. How were you supposed to explain to people the mysteries of the Faith without the internet? I would have needed Google translator and an e-version of the Catechism... But the good God supplies the grace when you need it, and those missionaries sure were creative. The missionaries in North America used two sticks to form crosses, and we all know how St. Patrick used a shamrock to explain the Trinity to those heathen Irish (I can say that because I'm Irish).

So, as you drink your shamrock shakes and green beer tomorrow, take a moment to reflect on what St. Patrick's day is truly about from the mouth of babes:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Final Finals!

With my last college finals ever this week, I turn again to my studying partner-- St. Joseph of Cupertino. I often wonder how much higher my GPA would have been had I learned of this devotion earlier...


Prayer to St. Joseph of Cupertino
O Great St. Joseph of Cupertino who while on earth did obtain from God the grace to be asked at your examination only the questions you knew, obtain for me a like favor in the examinations for which I am now preparing. In return I promise to make you known and cause you to be invoked.
St. Joseph of Cupertino, Pray for us.
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, Pray for us.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Pray for us.
Amen.


How did St. Joseph become patron saint of test-takers? He actually struggled with test-taking himself. Due to his general lack of brains and his frequent ecstasies that often rendered him absentminded, he was once expelled from a monastery. Eventually, the Franciscans accepted him. During his test for the diaconate, it is said that he was randomly asked the only question he knew. His levitations became renowned (he's also the patron saint of pilots), and when he died in 1663, two angels were constructed to continue to hold his incorrupt body in the air.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Thousand Words

Oh, Lent...

"Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. 
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak."  
Matthew 26:41

Spiritual Motherood: A Privilege

Reunion of the children of the Mothers of Lu in 1946


As a college student, I can tell you first hand of the Feminism that pervades campuses across America. Being a woman (or a man), they argue, is merely a social construction which then explains the spectrum of genders that we see in our world today. So, tonight after reading Lily’s post, I flipped through my copy of Alice Von Hidebrand’s The Privilege of Being a Woman.

Among her many profound thoughts, the one that struck me was that women have been given a supernatural mission. “Whereas few men are called on to be priests, all women, without exception are called upon to be mothers.” It is not simply a call to beget children, but to give birth to Christ in the souls of men.

Ladies, it’s about time we reclaim true femininity.

Listen to this beautiful sermon on True Feminine Dignity: Spiritual Motherhood to Priests. Father discusses the Mothers of Lu, a group of women who stormed the gates of heaven in the 1800s for vocations. Father suggests that women of all ages and states of life embrace this same spiritual mission for souls:

1.      Once a week pray before the Blessed Sacrament (or before a picture of Sacred Heart)
o   Pray a Memorare (that Our Lady will help us conform ourselves to her)
o   Pray a Litany to the Sacred Heart (for vocations)
2.      On the 1st Sunday of the month, offer up your Communion for vocations
3.      After Mass, pray at communion rail...

O God, grant that one of my sons becomes a priest! I promise to live as a good Christian woman and will lead my children to all that is good, wherewith I hope to receive the grace to be able to give to Thee, O God, a holy priest.

To quote Father:
“Ladies, embrace your God-given role in the church, 
and do something beautiful for God!”

Friday, March 11, 2011

What does it mean to be a Woman?

And so, I pose the question.  What does it mean to be a woman?

I'm convinced this answer will never be considered black or white.  Think about it, can you imagine how easy life would suddenly become if it were?  Men would suddenly be able to truly understand a woman when she says things like, "I'm fine" or "nothing's wrong."  They might finally be able to interpret the famous "I'm-giving-you-the-silent-glare-so-you-better-shutup" look.  No, unfortunately for the male gender, the depth of a woman can not be summed up in a mere "one line response."  We are complicated creatures, and for most men, that's where the digging ends.

But for the adventurous souls who dig a little deeper, I think they would discover some unique qualities that only a woman can ever possess. For instance; qualities such as femininity, nurturing, home-maker, and the most valuable of all, the heart of the home.  And because of these qualities, it makes it impossible for the "role reversal" to ever be justified. 

I don't think women today, truly understand what they're role in society is.  And how could they?  Throughout the past generation, there was been a serious decline in the proper education of what a woman's role is.  Society has offered nothing but pressure, confusion, and a whole lot of nonsense.  We now have talk show hosts who are "proud gays."  We have young 7 year old boys making the "executive" decision to be girls.  We have men who decided the Creator must have made a mistake with their gender, and that really...they were meant to be females.  (and vice versa.)  I mean, c'mon!  How far down into the grime can we possibly slide??  It's disgusting!

So how can it possibly make any kind of sense that people like these are considered "socially acceptable", yet women who are open to having more than one or two children, who refuse birth control, who homeschool their families, and who dress modestly are mocked and laughed at?  When I went in for my 6 week post partum check with my doctor, she all but fell out of her chair when I told her I wouldn't be taking a birth control.  I mean, that wasn't even an option in her book!  (and her response? haha..."you do realize you can get pregnant, don't you?  Ah...hm, let me think about that one...I'm here for my "post partum" check, NATURALLY I realize I could get pregnant!) 

The true definition of a woman is totally misconstrued and lost in this society.  To the point where when a true woman is discovered, they don't know how to receive her anymore; they don't understand how to respond to her "awkwardness."  Simple beauty, modesty and respectfulness is no longer even thought about, let alone practiced in this world.  The whole idea of a woman's body is to show off as much as you possibly can for seduction and vanity.  Oh, if we could only remember Sodom and Gomorrah....

A woman is meant to be beautiful on the inside, as well as the outside.  She's meant to be that binding force that holds her family together, that nurtures and cares for her family, even sometimes above her on needs.  She's meant to be that light that refuses to be hid under a bushel, the example to her peers.  Women have a very influential power over men, sometimes more so than they realize.  They have a dazzling charm that can convince and persuade, and when they use that to their own advantage...what a destructive result it can be.  We have only to look around us to see the truth of it.  It is our DUTY to raise that standard in men.  To force them to reach outside of themselves and achieve something higher than their passions and inclinations.

So thank you, to all the women out there who are standing strong and brave, despite the pressures that may overwhelm them.  Thank you for presenting the truth of womanhood, and being that example of what it means to be a woman.

A Pressed Petal

The Oriental Poppy


"The best place to seek God is in a garden.  You can dig for Him there."
 ~George Bernard Shaw


These are also known as Christ's Blood and Crucifixion Blood Drops  
because of the dark colored spots that form on the petals.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Thousand Words

Huckleberry has a hard time giving up treats during Lent...

{what the saints have to say}

 “Sanctify yourself, and you will sanctify society.” –St. Francis of Assisi
+
“You must be holy in the way God asks you to be holy.  God does not ask you to be a Trappist monk or a hermit.  He wills that you sanctify the world and your everyday life.” –St. Vincent de Paul
+
“To be perfect in our vocation is nothing else than to fulfill the duties which our state of life obliges us to perform, and to accomplish them well, and only for the honor and love of God.” –St. Francis de Sales
+
“You will become a saint complying exactly with your daily duties.” –St Mary Joseph Rossello

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How to feast during a fast


Sitting in my college's computer lab this morning, I was working hard to prepare for my last round of finals. I happened to overhear two girls lamenting over Lent: "What am I supposed to eat? If I can't have meat, I'll never be full." It's a shame that some people-- and so many from our own generation-- abandon the opportunity to fast because it's "hard."

First point: Is it so terrible to feel the pangs of hunger once in awhile? As Lily points out: offer it up!

Second point: There are lots of ways "tricks" to try to get more bang for your buck when your fasting and abstaining from meat.

Here are some Lenten food ideas to keep your fuel up:
  • Apples- Apparently the pectin in the skin of these bad boys is a natural appetite suppressant. If you eat it off the core instead of in slices, it takes longer to eat than other foods, so you feel more full!
  • Bagels- These are my Lenten breakfast of choice. Because they are loaded with carbs, they take longer to digest. I toast them and slather them with peanut butter (protein) or cream cheese.
  • Beans- It takes our bodies awhile to digest beans, so they stay with you longer. Bean burrito, anyone?
  • Eggs- Break out your omelet pan! Eggs are chock-full of protein, so they stick to your ribs.
  • Nuts- Almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts...the possibilities are endless. Try trail mix; it's a great snack to keep your energy up.
  • Oatmeal- This is power food. I've read it will keep you fuller longer than any other breakfast around. Add a little brown sugar and some honey, and you're set!
  • Popcorn- This is Huckleberry the cat's favorite food, Lent or no Lent! Because popcorn requires more chewing, it takes longer to eat than most food, fooling your mind into feeling full.
  • Seeds- Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are like nuts in that they are "high density"-- high in fiber and in protein.
  • White Potatoes- Get out the masher-- white potatoes are one of the most filling foods around.
Anything with PROTEIN is a good plan because it makes you feel more full. Also, don't underestimate the power of liquids. You can drink tea, milk, coffee, and juice any time. You'd be surprised how even water can fill a rumbling tummy!

One final piece of advice....KEEP BUSY. The busier you are, the less time you have to think about your empty stomach. Take a walk, read a book, or give a friend a call if you need help getting your mind off that candy bar.

Ash Wednesday

“Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” (Gn. 3:19)  These words, spoken for the first time by God to Adam after he had committed sin, are repeated today by the Church to every Christian, in order to remind him of two fundamental truths—his nothingness, and the reality of death.  Dust, the ashes which the priest puts on our foreheads today, has no substance; the lightest breath will disperse it.  It is a good representation of man’s nothingness: “O Lord, my substance is as nothing before Thee” (Ps. 38:6), exclaims the Psalmist.  Our pride, our arrogance, needs to grasp this truth, to realize that everything in us is nothing.  Drawn from nothing by the creative power of God, by His infinite love which willed to communicate His being and His life to us, we cannot—because of sin—be reunited with Him for eternity without passing through the dark reality of death.  The consequence and punishment of sin, death is, in itself, bitter and painful; but Jesus, who wanted to be like to us in all things, in submitting to death has given all Christians the strength to accept it out of love.  Nevertheless, death exists, and we should reflect on it, not in order to distress ourselves, but to arouse ourselves to do good.  “In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin .” (Sir,7:40)  The thought of death places before our eyes the vanity of earlthy things, the brevity of life—“All things are passing; God alone remains”—and therefore it urges us to detach ourselves from everything , to scorn every earthly satisfaction, and to seek God alone.  The thought of death makes us understand that “all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.” (Imit. I 1,4)  “Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die…then there will be many things about which you care nothing.” (Teresa of Jesus)  That is, you will give up everything that has no eternal value.  Only love and fidelity to god are of value for eternity.  “In the evening of life, you will be judged on love.” (St John of the Cross)”     --Divine Intimacy, Ash Wednesday selection
---------------
So many times, I approach Lent thinking… “I’m determined to make this the best Lent ever!  I’m going to get up every morning at 5am, meditate for an hour, fast on bread and water, read from these 5 spiritual books AND the entire Bible…..” 
Right attitude, impractical approach!  Especially now that I have a 3 month old munchkin who not only requires 110% of my attention, but also is not the most predictable creature!  Father gave a sermon a couple of Sundays ago that really hit home for me.  He spoke on how valuable it was to offer up “what was in our power” to offer.  It’s not realistic to go into Lent with extremely high expectations of all the sufferings and mortifications you’ll do…of all the time you’ll spend devouring books and prayers, and all the extra things you’re going to perform.  It’s just not practical.  You set the standard unrealistically high, and set yourself up for failure.  Now , that’s not to say that there aren’t people out there who have already reached such a high degree of holiness and are able to do all these things.  But for me?  I need to be practical, so I won’t fall flat on my face after the first week of Lent.  After all, isn’t that Satan’s plan for us all?  Get us to strive so much higher than we’re ready for, only to get discouraged and give up! 
We’re not all meant to be “St Joan of Arcs.”  Like St. Therese of the Child Jesus said, some of us need to be content to just be the little flowers.  So I’ve spent a lot of time mulling over my Lenten resolutions, conforming helpful hints to really stick to them, and ultimately, reap the most graces I can this Lent.   
Here’s what I’ve come up with:  Be R E S O L U T E!
  • Remember to be realistic.  Be practical.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  You can always add more as you adjust further into the spirit of Lent.
  • Entreat Our Lady.  She is our Mother, and she WANTS to assist us in any way possible.  We can’t do it alone.  Ask the Blessed Mother to guide you throughout this liturgical season, and help you stick to your resolutions.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others and their sacrifices.  In fact, don’t even mention or ask what others are doing for Lent.  What makes sense for YOU?  Concentrate on what YOU need to do and the changes YOU need to make that work for YOU.
  • Offer your day to the Lord.  Whether climbing out of bed, taking a shower, or brushing your teeth….offer your day to Christ and ask for the graces to remain strong throughout the day.
  • Look for the small sacrifices.  Even the smallest sacrifices contain great graces, so don’t let those chances slip away.  Sitting in traffic?  Offer it up!  Stuck in the long line at the grocery store?  Offer it up!  There are so many little things that could be turned into great graces if we just take the time to notice them.
  • Use your time wisely.  While you want to be realistic and practical, don’t idle your time.  If you’re folding laundry or ironing clothes, start a Rosary.  Listen to an audio sermon.  Say the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  We as Catholics have such a treasury of prayers and ejaculations memorized -- dust them off that “cranium shelf” and put them to good use during Lent!  
  • Take ten!  Work with your schedule to find at least ten minutes for some quiet reflection, whether its right when you wake up, or before you go to bed, or some time in between.  Read from the life of a saint, read a few bible verses, or a quote from a saint.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly these ten minutes can be a “pick me up” for you.  Can’t remember to take those ten minutes?  Leave your spiritual book out on the coffee table or on your bedside table.  It’ll be too easy to forget about it if you leave it tucked away on the shelf!
  • Endeavor!  Don’t give up.  Don’t get discouraged.  The whole point of Lent is to grow spiritually.  No matter how many times you fall, pick yourself back up and continue to carry your cross to Calvary.  On Easter Sunday, you can present it to Our Lord and be able to tell Him you did your best.
We wish you all a fruitful season of Lent!  Our Lady of Sorrows, Pray for us!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday

Fat Tuesday. 

The last day before Lent starts where everyone can party hard, and pig out. 

What a misconception.

Lent is one of the most solemn liturgical seasons in the Church, and instead of using this time to really think about how we're going to begin our "lenten path", we're more concerned with packing in the sweets, treats, and everything in between.  How many times, we get to Ash Wednesday and realize....."whoops!  kinda forgot Lent was coming.  What am I going to do? Well I'll just do some extra reading and praying."  Or, we could be the type that goes through the days preceeding Lent knowing it's approaching, but we still get to Ash Wednesday and say to ourselves, "...well things were just so hectic I didn't have time to think about what I was going to do, so..."

Excuses, excuses. 

The Church gives us days preceeding Lent to gradually come down from the joyful season of Christmas and Ephiphany, and start contemplating the most important part in the life of Christ---namely, our Redemption.  They start raising those red flags to start poking and proding us--"hey! Lent is coming!"  And yet, how many of us (and notice the "US" part!) still reach that holy, solemn day of Ash Wednesday without truly understanding or having prepared for the long journey ahead. 

Society treats Fat Tuesday as "Mardi Gras"....grab those colorful beads, party, masks, parades.....it's time to celebrate!  But is it really?  True, its the day to indulge where you can to a certain extent....but should our thoughts truly be so callous?  And how sad is it, that too many people take the spirit of "Mardi Gras" all throughout Lent. 

Today is not a sorrowful day, I know that.  And I guess you can refer to it as that "cushion" the Church provides for us to enjoy before we "take up the cross" on the road to Calvary.  But let's also keep in mind the truth of today:  that Lent IS approaching, and each one of us has a Catholic duty to make this Lent our best one yet!


(**Disclaimer: This naturally did not prevent me from indulging in a few sweets...homemade chocolate cookies!  Yummm!***)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lenten Calendar for Kids

"Come, let us also go to die with Him." ~ St. Thomas

Lent is almost upon us-- To get my catechism kids ready for the Penitential Season, I passed out this wonderful printable (and FREE) Lenten calendar. (P.S.- This website has fabulous craft ideas) The kids can track their progress from Ash Wednesday to the end of Lent by following the winding path all the way to Easter. Because my students are older (6th-8th grade), I had them brainstorm ideas for good things to both give up and simply to give for Lent (i.e.- give up sweets, give your time to do an extra chore/ read the life of a saint). The students wrote their aspirations inside the boxes for each day. If they wanted to stick with the same penance every day, they could write that in the box. If they wanted to maximize their merit potential, they could fill in different ideas on top of what they're already giving up. This way, the kids can have a visual reminder of both what their goals are and their progress toward the Holiest day of the year!

Here's my colored version with my penance ideas for the students:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mary Gardens

Notre Dame of the Roses by Simon Saint-Jean

Rosary comes from the word rosarius, which means a garland or bouquet of roses.

Legend has it that once Our Lady appeared to a young monk as he was reciting Aves. Taking rosebuds from his lips, she wove the flowers into a garland and placed it on her head.

Roses are often associated with the Blessed Mother, but most flowers have some kind of association with her as well. In ancient times, most plants were named for pagan gods, but with the spread of Christendom they were renamed with religious themes. Many flowers, then, have "secret" Mary names.

A Mary Garden, then, is "a garden filled with flowers, plants, and trees named for Our Lady and Jesus, designed to be a place of beauty that reminds us of Our Lord and Our Lady, allows one to experience God's creation, and invites prayer and contemplation."

Plant flowers that are named for the Stations of the Cross or the Mysteries of the Rosary. Every time you take a walk in your garden, you can also meditate on the Stations or "walk the Rosary!"

Check out this website for an extensive list of flowers, their former pagan name, and their Christian names. Here are some of our favorites:

Daffodils...............Mary's Star         
Violet....................Our Lady's Modesty   
Baby's Breath.......Mary's Veil                 
Fern.....................Our Lady's Hair
Buttercups...........Lady's Locks              
Foxglove..............Eyes of Mary
Lily of the Valley...Our Lady's Tears 


Don't have time for a garden?
  • Plant a few flowers in a pot to give to a friend/relative devoted to Mary
  • Experiment with a virtual Mary Garden!
  • Consider planting some flowers for a "roadside shrine" if you live in the country  
Some helpful websites to get you started:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Noble Fruit

"Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits." ~ Henry David Thoreau


I quite like the idea of apples as "noble fruit." It lends a certain royal quality to this Sour Cream Apple Pie recipe -- The quintessential American dessert. My first Thanksgiving apart from my family, some friends and I made this unsuspecting pie. While not a pie lover by birth, by the first bite of this creamy confection, I was converted. Since then I have made this pie several times, and it is always a favorite. Pie-making is a feminine rite of passage, and an adventure every woman should try at least once! (And that store-bought crust can be our little secret...)

PS- If you are not yet addicted to allrecipes.com...what are you waiting for?