Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Greater Litanies

On the Feast of St. Mark...

...we remember one of the great evangelists (one of my husband's patron saints!), but this day in the liturgical year is set apart from the others to take care of other business, as well.

As explained in The Liturgical Year, the Church breaks for a moment today from the joy of the Easter Season to offer prayers of reparation: the vestments return for a moment to the violet of Lent, the Mass of the Stations (the Rogation Mass) is offered, and the Faithful process outside the church, while singing the Litany of the Saints. This tradition of the Church goes back to before the time of St. Gregory the Great.

It seems a little incongruous, maybe, to throw a wet blanket on Eastertide with a day of penance like this one, but I think, as always, the Church has a good thought here. Sort of the flip side of Laetare Sunday (when the Church brings out the pink vestments and incorporates a spirit of joy in the middle of a penitential season). It's like taking a little time during a period of plenty and ease to clean out the cellar and take stock of our stores. We should never be presumptuous or forgetful, even in our joy.

But, we don't take long in our backward (or maybe I should say inward) look on this feast day, as the Church turns our faces forward to the hope of spring. Today is crop blessing day!

In lieu of a traditional blessing, since we're not able to get to Mass for the Greater Litanies celebrated in our parish today, we'll be heading outside this afternoon to say the Litany of the Saints and bless our crops ourselves.   Catholic Culture has a wonderful description of how a family can do this!

Go figure; it looks like, once again, it'll be raining for our blessing, though. The children were just saying it always rains on the Feast of St. Mark.  It seems like it does!

Which makes me think that's just part of the blessing...

* For some information on the life of the mysterious St. Mark, you could run over here for a quick read.

* To print out the prayers of the blessing, go here.  (Scroll down just a bit to find them.)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

My Barristo

Who makes my bulletproof coffee pretty much every morning...

                                                      Forgot that there's no sugar in it.

The Feast of St. George!

Now here is a saint of mystery, legend, and glory. The popular story of St. George, passed down to us in the Golden Legend, has dragons and princesses running around, with our hero saving the day. This is the familiar tale and the origin of our saint's iconography, but, there are other legends of St. George, too. In one of the earliest legends , he's put to death, chopped up into little pieces, buried, and set on fire ~ three times ~ and each time God restores him to life! A more likely possibility, though, but no less heroic, is the figure of St. George as a martyred Roman soldier, perhaps the one who tore down Diocletian's edict of persecution at Nicomedia. That would have been, in my mind, a feat at least as courageous as facing a dragon!

Still, even that is legend.

We do know, though, that St. George lived in the late third century in Nicomedia, and that he likely was martyred at Lyda, and we're pretty sure he was a high ranking Roman soldier. But, we don't know for certain what the real story of this saint may have been. The details of his martyrdom have been lost to history, but his fame over two millenia has only grown. Whatever may have been the truth, we know it must have been amazing and heroic, based on the legends that have grown up around him!
St. George is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and was chosen above a heaven full of saints to be the patron of England: Greece, Portugal, Russia, Bulgaria, Germany and the Netherlands, among others.
He is also the patron saint of: horsemen, calvary soldiers, soldiers in general, farmers, lepers, shepherds, scouts, farmers, and Teutonic knights.

The flag of St. George, bearing the red cross on a white background is the standard of England and Georgia, and is the municipal flag of Montreal, Barcelona, Milan, Genoa, and Padua, among others.
* England, however, is considering doing away with the flag of St. George, as they deem it now too "warlike" and possibly offensive to Muslims. All I have to say about that is: God helps us. See that story here.
* And, though, St. George's Day is still a national day of celebration in England, it seems to have hit on some controversy. If you're interested in getting a sense of the British people's thorough confusion these days, look here to see how they are attempting to redefine the "symbolism" of St. George and the his flag to reflect modern sensibilities. (gag,gag)

For the record, here's the Catholic symbolism of the story of St. George and the Dragon:
Dragons = sin, evil, wickedness
Princess = God's Truth, Holy Mother Church

So, St. George defends the Truth of the Church against that wicked influence that would try to defeat it, from Diocletian to the Muslim tide during the crusades (and today!), and all the humanism and pagan influences of the modern day, as well as the personal dragons each of us must slay to perfect our own souls and win heaven.

On a lighter note: You can find an awesome, realistic coloring page of St. George and the Dragon, here,* and a simpler one here.  And here (we like this last one!)

Catholic Cuisine has a plethora of fun ways to celebrate St. George's Day, including this totally cool dragon cake!

Also, since St. George is the patron of England, today's lessons could include a little study of all things English.  You can find a lapbook (with free pdfs) of all things England here.  And this Pintrest board has tons of ideas -- but, not having done the prep work ourselves to dive into a whole unit study, we'll observe the day by having a tea party this afternoon -- with scones and other British style delectables.  

If the children would like to "play" St. George and the dragon today, Kimberlee at Pondered in My Heart has the best sword making tutorial here, and here is a shield-making tutorial.

* We, um, just realized upon printing these out, that the colorers, will have to, um, provide some clothing for poor, cold St. George on this coloring page...

** Repost from 2009 (Please forgive me if any of these links is not working any more.  I just haven't had the time to recheck them all!)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

If I were the devil...

“If I were the Devil . . .                    
I mean, if I were the Prince of Darkness, I would of course, want to engulf the whole earth in darkness. I would have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree, so I should set about however necessary to take over the United States. I would begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: “Do as you please.” “Do as you please.” To the young, I would whisper, “The Bible is a myth.” I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around. I would confide that what is bad is good, and what is good is “square”. In the ears of the young marrieds, I would whisper that work is debasing, that cocktail parties are good for you. I would caution them not to be extreme in religion, in patriotism, in moral conduct. And the old, I would teach to pray. I would teach them to say after me: “Our Father, which art in Washington” . . .

If I were the devil, I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull an uninteresting. I’d threaten T.V. with dirtier movies and vice versa. And then, if I were the devil, I’d get organized. I’d infiltrate unions and urge more loafing and less work, because idle hands usually work for me. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. And I’d tranquilize the rest with pills. If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine yound intellects but neglect to discipline emotions . . . let those run wild. I would designate an athiest to front for me before the highest courts in the land and I would get preachers to say “she’s right.” With flattery and promises of power, I could get the courts to rule what I construe as against God and in favor of pornography, and thus, I would evict God from the courthouse, and then from the school house, and then from the houses of Congress and then, in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion, and I would deify science because that way men would become smart enough to create super weapons but not wise enough to control them.

If I were Satan, I’d make the symbol of Easter an egg, and the symbol of Christmas, a bottle. If I were the devil, I would take from those who have and I would give to those who wanted, until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. And then, my police state would force everybody back to work. Then, I could separate families, putting children in uniform, women in coal mines, and objectors in slave camps. In other words, if I were Satan, I’d just keep on doing what he’s doing.

(Speech broadcast by ABC Radio by commentator Paul Harvey on April 3, 1965)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Things You Find Out

When you get a real-life job after being a SAHM for 28 years:

1)  It's not really a jungle out there -- and the general populace has not changed much in 30 years.

     At least judging across the years from a mall card shop on the edge of a capital city to an antique mall on the edge of a captial city, I'm not seeing much difference.  People really are not more rude, anyway, than they were when I worked retail as a teenager -- back in the stone ages.  My last retail job was in a card store in a large mall in the 1980s -- in the thick of things, so to speak, the center of the universe of my youth -- and, honestly, the ratio of nice people to rude people is about the same now as it was then.  In the '80s, for every 8.5 nice, patient, courteous customers, you got 1.5 rude ne'er-do-wells.  And it's roughly the same today; for every kid and a half with a pierced eyebrow and satanic tee-shirt, we get eight and a half clean, well-dressed patrons in the store.  But sometimes the kid with the piercings is nicer than one of the ones in khakis and button-down.

2) Your feet hurt like crazy after only a four-hour shift.
     Mine do anyway!

3)  People don't write checks any more.  
     Hardly ever.   Cash still does show up in the register occasionally, and correct change every once in a blue moon (usually from the 50 and older crowd), but 75% (or more!) of the customers I see pay with plastic.  We were speculating the other day how many twenty-somethings even know how to write a check.  With direct deposit and paypal, it's possible that many don't even know how to endorse one.  Money is all smoke and mirrors any more.

4)  Old dogs really can learn new tricks.
     Since I work in an antique mall, there's more to my job than just swiping a bar code - and I've
undoubtedly been slower than some at learning all the details of working with dealers, lay-away, storage, taxable vs. nontaxable items -- but I've been figuring things out.  Nine times out of ten, I manage to catch my own mistakes and fix them before anyone knows I've goofed!

5)   Your paycheck is pretty much spent before you get it.
     Especially since I'm a sucker for antiques... Gleaned so far from my new job: antique aquamarine canning jars, two small lamps, bedside table for the guest room, vintage chenille bedspread, depression glass butter dish, and a 5' tall whirligig for the garden (still on lay-away, so I'm still paying for it...)

6) You have to leave the house ridiculously early if you're actually going to get to work on time.
     Which is the same rule for every outing we've ever made as a family --  plus five extra minutes for every child under ten.  The thing is, though, that I thought I wouldn't have to worry about starting so early since I'm the only one trying to get to work on time.  But, sheesh.  Getting out the door can be a challenge, even when it's only me.  Everything conspires to stall me - from children's questions, to laundry I forgot to change over 'til the last minute, to cats tripping me on the way to the car...

7)  It's harder to stay on a diet when you're working!

      Holy cow.  I thought it was hard saying "no" to the kids' home-baked brownies and muffins and mocha carmel latte espressos (or whatever it is they make) -- but it's much harder to turn your nose up at the home-baked goodies a kindly sixty-something co-worker is cajoling you to try.  And the cookie jar of tootsie rolls and peppermints on the counter calling out to you when business is slow...  And the mocha frappuccinos for sale in the cooler... Assailed from all directions, and more excuses to give in!

8)  The computer register does everything but bag items and stock the cooler.
     It's probably good to be able to count back money the old-fashioned way, but chances are I'll never get to show off that skill of the dinosaur era. Our computer register totals as it goes, pulls frequent customer and dealer information from its data banks and figures their totals, with all deductions and discounts magically figured. We can pull up the store's net sales of the day at a moment's notice, find the booth number(s) of any dealer, and hold a long list of saved items for a customer in the computer memory, ready for when they're finished shopping.  But we still have to key everything in; no "swiping."  Good thing I'm a pretty good typist!

9) Tidiness and attention to detail comes in handy everywhere, kids.
     Our particular antiques mall doesn't employ a cleaning service; we are the cleaning service, and that'a fine with me.  I have no problem sweeping and wiping down counters at the end of the day.  I don't even mind cleaning bathrooms.  Talk about my wheelhouse!   Keeping the store tidy and clean is part of the job description -- and there's little I like better than toodling around an antique store, tidying up antiques, let me tell you!  Did I luck into the perfect job, or what?

10)  But still...  No matter how much you enjoy a job, there's no place like home.
      I'm blessed to work with particularly nice people -- kind, courteous folks, of conservative bent, and our customers are generally nice people, too. My hours are ideal, as I only work two nights a week and every other weekend, so the children are never left alone.  I really do enjoy the retail antiques world; the inventory is incredibly diverse, interesting, and always changing.  But, I miss my home and my children when I'm away.  Before I started working, I don't think I realized how much my family and my vocation as a mother truly is the center of my heart. It was something I took for granted.  No more, though. The extra income is nice and this part-time job is about as ideal as they come, but more than anything, working has made me realize that home is the center of the universe.  The family hearth is where God's Heart started on this earth.  I can imagine that Christ found rest during his public ministry remembering his days in Nazareth at the feet of His Mother and St. Joseph.  And when I'm at work, walking 'round and 'round the antique mall helping customers, I look forward to being at home with the children, who -- if I play my cards right -- will rub my sore feet when I get home. Yes, indeed, home is good. (I wonder if the Blessed Mother rubbed Jesus' feet when He came home to visit after a long walk through Palestine?  I wouldn't be surprised at all if she did. )

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Good Shepherd Sunday

On the hills around Jerusalem and throughout the country, shepherds seldom drove their flocks of sheep.  They led them.  Each shepherd had his own whistle, which his sheep could hear from afar, and they would move toward him at once.  When shepherds met, their flocks intermingled so that even Solomon, in all his wisdom, would not have been able to separate them with justice.  When the shepherds parted, one whistled softly.  His sheep -- all his sheep and no others -- extricated themselves from the mass and followed him.  At a pool, a shepherd could order his sheep to wait.  No matter how thirsty, they would stand.  While drinking, if the shepherd saw another flock coming to the pool, he could order his charges to stop drinking and they would obey.  A sick lamb was always carried slung across the back of the shoulders with its belly close to the warmth of the shepherd's neck.  Small stone enclosures were set up for night counting of sheep.  The entrance would admit only one sheep at a time and the shepherd sat on the little wall and counted as they filed inside.

(The Day Christ Died by Jim Bishop; Nihil Obstat, Imprimatur 1957)

[1] Amen, amen I say to you: He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up another way, the same is a thief and a robber. [2] But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. [3] To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. [4] And when he hath let out his own sheep, he goeth before them: and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. [5] But a stranger they follow not, but fly from him, because they know not the voice of strangers.
[6] This proverb Jesus spoke to them. But they understood not what he spoke to them. [7] Jesus therefore said to them again: Amen, amen I say to you, I am the gate of the sheep. [8] All others, as many as have come, are thieves and robbers: and the sheep heard them not. [9] I am the gate. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved: and he shall go in, and go out, and shall find pastures. [10] The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.
[11] I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. [12] But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and flieth: and the wolf catcheth, and scattereth the sheep: [13] And the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling: and he hath no care for the sheep. [14] I am the good shepherd; and I know mine, and mine know me. [15] As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father: and I lay down my life for my sheep.
[16] And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd. [17] Therefore doth the Father love me: because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. [18] No man taketh it away from me: but I lay it down of myself, and I have power to lay it down: and I have power to take it up again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
(John 10: 1-18)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Enjoying the Perks

We've never used the public school system in the traditional way,  but we've experienced most other kinds of education -- from conventional Catholic schools to Catholic boarding school to parent co-op umbrella schools, online education, to college sponsored high school programs... but good old-fashioned home schooling is our favorite way to learn.  The most important advantages toward soul-forming and character-building are possible in such a small and personal forum and the bonding we get to do in the home-schooling lifestyle has lifelong benefits.  But there are some other pretty cool perks we get to enjoy being a home schooling family.  This is one of my favorites:

School Al Fresco!

With Kitties!
William with "Fum."
Patty, the Momma Cat, taking the opportunity to do some schooling with one of her youngins: "Boxes,"she says to her daughter,Millie. "Boxes, bins, bags...  They are for sitting.  If you see one, assume it is for sitting in."
Other Favorite Perks of Home Schooling:

1) We choose our own school hours
      These days, we start our days around 9 a.m., after a leisurely breakfast and some visiting together.  Then, because there is little wasted time in a home school (no change of classes, no teacher's "accounting," no unnecessary review, no "twaddle") it takes us less than four hours to complete the body of our work every day, so most of our afternoon is free to do projects. (See below...)

2) We choose our own holidays
       If it's a particularly lovely day, we can take the day off and tack it on to the end of our school year, or choose to take off whole weeks that we make up in summer when it's too hot to play outside anyway.  We determine how long our Christmas and Easter breaks will be and can take off all Holy Days of Obligation with ease.

3) We can "go" to school in our jammies if we want 
      Though we seldom dress down, actually, we have the option and sometimes have "jammie days."  For the most part, however, we require the boys to wear "button down" shirts and the girls to wear skirts during school hours  because we find that more formal attire sets the tone of a more disciplined day, a sharper mind.

4)  But we don't have to go anywhere!
      No getting up at the crack of dawn and getting everyone dressed, lunchboxes packed, hair combed, fingernails cleaned, loaded in the car, and driven to school.  We've done this routine -- and we do not miss it!

5) Unless we want to!
     Field trips.  Any time we want, anywhere we want: nature walks, museum trips, zoo days... You name it, with very little preparation, and no signed permission slips, we can just pick up and go.

6) Our children become best friends, teachers, and helpmates to one another
     Home schooled children learn to cooperate among many different age groups (particularly in large families that have so many age groups), and due to God's goodness, people don't have "litters," so families organize in a natural "pecking order," where the younger sibs learn from the older and the older care for and help teach the younger -- a beautiful arrangement -- and one that truly thrives best in a home school environment.

7)  Projects
      The best learning of all, we believe, is real-life  hands-on experience -- and we have ample opportunity for those right here at home -- doing things that have real meaning for the kids.  We have more time and incentive than most to teach the kids to cook and clean, true life skills.  But they also learn from more off-the-wall projects like: The Summer Kitchen Project (2014), rebuilding the dining room in the old Byers house in 2008The Summer Kitchen Project was a gift from the kids for my birthday, but the dining room rebuild was more a parent request thing, like the yearly garden plotting, planning, and planting.  But the kids come up with most of their own pastimes -- and, given free reign and having no inhibitions or limiting expectations (which are often the burdens of conventional schooling), these guys generate some pretty crazy ideas -- like these videos: Boredom, the Silent Killer. (2015) or  Everything at Once (2013).They also routinely write music for voice and piano together -- and make up duets, like this one:

The girls are like: " Mommy!  That one's terrible!  At least let us do it again!"  But, I like this version, because it was recorded on April 1st and the little gem at the end there cracks me up....  Seriously, girls.  How can I not preserve that for posterity?

But, anyway...  I digress.  See what I mean about projects?  Not only do the children benefit and help the family with some of them, but they've learned to entertain themselves -- and they entertain Dan and me, too! Entertainment 24/7/365.  Definitely a perk for home school parents. We never know what to expect!  And you know I'm bound to share it all.  So stay tuned.  There's a lot of buzz going on around here with spring and summer projects in the making!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

We Miss You, Dominic!

Not just your ad-libbed piano serenades,
 Not just all your creative handy work on the property,
 Not just your crazy kitchen concoctions, 
Not just the amazing whiteboard art,
Or your tee-shirts and socks left all over the house...

What we really really miss is this

 Goofy Smile!


All the folks at home:
Mom, Dad, Theresa, Cathy, Anna, Gabe, William, Penny (and the Barncat bBrigade)

Did I mention that someone here just turned eleven?

 And the family sang the birthday song in turkey gobble.
Thus the silly looking faces... You just had to be there, folks.  You never heard anything like it in your life!
His actual birthday was on the12th -- but I had to slip this birthday post in when he wasn't looking, because he says I blog on him too much....  How could I ever?  (Shown here with Dan, Anna, Theresa, and Frater Philip -- though Dominic, William, and Cathy were there, too, singing in turkey, too)

Happy Birthday, Gabriel Joseph!
A man among men,
diligent, hard-working, and sober -
who likes a bit of trifle.

Many blessings, prayers, and love -- always always!

Tropical Trifle Recipe
(aka: 'Somethin' Good')

Layer in amounts to your liking:

*angel food cake, torn up into 1"-2" chunks

*vanilla pudding and/or banana pudding
 into which 
*bananas have been sliced 
and *shredded coconut has been added 
Whipped sweetened heavy cream (or Cool Whip),
 into which well-drained *tangerines 
and *cherries have been stirred

Top with circus cookies, shortbread cookies -- or whatever you think is tasty and/or pretty -- and maybe a whipped cream topping.

Refrigerate for an hour or so to cool thoroughly...