Tuesday, September 29, 2015

On the Feast of St. Michael

This is the true story of a Marine wounded at war...

    Dear Mom,
    I am writing to you from a hospital bed. Don’t worry, Mom, I am okay. I was wounded, but the doctor says that I will be up in no time.
    But that’s not what I have to tell you, Mom. Something happened to me that I don’t dare tell anyone else for fear of their disbelief. But I have to tell you, the one person I can confide in, though even you may find it hard to believe.
    You remember the prayer to Saint Michael that you taught me to pray when I was little: “Michael, Michael of the morning,…” Before I left home for Korea, you urged me to remember this prayer before any confrontation with the enemy. But you really didn’t have to remind me, Mom. I have always prayed it, and when I got to Korea, I sometimes said it a couple of times a day while marching or resting.
    Well, one day, we were told to move forward to scout for Commies. It was a really cold day. As I was walking along, I perceived another fellow walking beside me, and I looked to see who it was.
    He was a big fellow, a Marine about 6’4” and built proportionally. Funny, but I didn’t know him, and I thought I knew everyone in my unit. I was glad to have the company and broke the silence between us:
    “Chilly today, isn’t it?” Then I chuckled because suddenly it seemed absurd to talk about the weather when we were advancing to meet the enemy. 
He chuckled too, softly.
    “I thought I knew everyone in my outfit,” I continued, “ but I have never seen you before.”
    “No,” he agreed, “I have just joined. The name is Michael.”
    “Really?! That’s mine, too.”
    “I know,” the Marine said, “Michael, Michael of the morning….”
    Mom, I was really surprised that he knew about my prayer, but I had taught  it to many of the other guys, so I supposed that the newcomer must have picked it up from someone else. As a matter of fact, it had gotten around to the extent that some of the fellows were calling me “Saint Michael.”
    Then, out of the blue, Michael said, “There’s going to be trouble ahead.”
    I wondered how he could know that. I was breathing hard from the march, and my breath hit the cold air like dense clouds of fog. Michael seemed to be in top shape because I couldn’t see his breath at all. Just then, it started to snow heavily, and soon it was so dense I could no longer hear or see the rest of my outfit. I got a little scared and yelled, “Michael!” Then I felt his strong hand on my shoulder and heard his voice in my ear, “It’s going to clear up soon.”

    It did clear up, suddenly. And then, just a short distance ahead of us, like so many dreadful realities, were seven Commies, looking rather comical in their funny hats. But there was nothing funny about them now; their guns were steady and pointed straight in our direction.

    “Down, Michael!!” I yelled as I dove for cover. Even as I was hitting the ground, I looked up and saw Michael still standing, as if paralyzed by fear, or so I thought at the time. Bullets were spurting all over the place, and Mom, there was no way those Commies could have missed at that short distance. I jumped up to pull him down, and then I was hit. The pain was like a hot fire in my chest, and as I fell, my head swooned and I remember thinking, “I must be dying…” Someone was laying me down, strong arms were holding me and laying me gently on the snow. Through the daze, I opened my eyes, and the sun seemed to blaze in my eyes. Michael was standing still, and there was a terrible splendor in his face. Suddenly, he seemed to grow, like the sun, the splendor increasing intensely around him like the wings of an angel. As I slipped into unconsciousness, I saw that Michael held a sword in his hand, and it flashed like a million lights.
    Later on, when I woke up, the rest of the guys came to see me with the sergeant.
    “How did you do it, son?” he asked me.
    “Where’s Michael?” I asked in reply.
    “Michael who?” The sergeant seemed puzzled.
    “Michael, the big Marine walking with me, right up to the last moment. I saw him there as I fell.”
    “Son,” the sergeant said gravely, “you’re the only Michael in my unit. I hand-picked all you fellows, and there’s only one Michael. You. And son, you weren’t walking with anyone. I was watching you because you were too far off from us, and I was worried.
    Now tell me, son,” he repeated, “how did you do it?”
    It was the second time he had asked me that, and I found it irritating.
    “How did I do what?”
    “How did you kill those seven Commies? There wasn’t a single bullet fired from your rifle.”
    “Come on, son. They were strewn all around you, each one killed by a swordstroke.”
    And that, Mom, is the end of my story. It may have been the pain, or the blazing sun, or the chilling cold. I don’t know, Mom, but there is one thing I am sure about. It happened.
    Love your son,

Note: The above true story of a Marine wounded in Korea in 1950.  Father Walter Muldy, a navy chaplain who spoke to the young Marine and his mother as well as to the outfit commander, always affirmed the veracity of this narrative. We heard it from someone who read the original letter and retell the story here in all its details and in the first person to better convey some of the impact it must have had when first told by the son to his mother. 

Michael of the Morning Prayer 
Michael, Michael of the morning,
Fresh chord of Heaven adorning,
Keep me safe today,
And in time of temptation
Drive the devil away.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Most Important Milestones

After our first two children, I fell down on the job of keeping up with baby books. I think I may have gotten as far as Kevvy's first tooth and that was about it. I know, it's awful, isn't it?  But I admit it:  I was too busy living life to record it -- especially those first hectic years, with so many children, and me the only one around most of the time who could pour milk without spilling it. But still, the milestones, big and little, are important and I've always kept track of them in the composition book of my heart (and here on this blog sometimes with the last few kids!): the first lost tooth; the first day of school; the first book read solo; the  first ride on a two-wheeler; the first trip away from us to Grandma and Grandpa's house...  All markers on the road away from childhood, away from home, away from me. (sniff.)

 But, don't get me wrong! I'm not a weepy kind of mom, really; I don't mark the children's growth milestones in a melancholy, poor-ole-lonesome-me way. (Well, most of the time I don't, anyway...)  Because, honestly. It's my job to teach my children to be independent of me. It's the goal of motherhood.  I miss them like the very dickens when they grow up and move away, but I know I've succeeded when my boys and girls are men and women and can live on their own, do their own laundry, pour their own cereal, pay their own bills, fix their own cars when they break down, call in to work for themselves when they're sick... Eventually find a place for themselves in the big wide world of adulthood. All the big adult milestones; you know.

But there's another set of milestones that are markers setting out in a different direction, and the beauty of these is that they don't become lost in the distance to Mom and Dad left behind. These are the milestones of our Faith, the Sacraments, and special days such as these we just passed here at our house these last couple of weeks.  

The last two Saturdays, our last two boys have joined their Dad, their four big brothers, and most of their friends assisting at the altar. Gabriel and William, the last two altar boys of the Davises, were initiated into the special "brotherhood" of acolytes.  Gabe was thrown straight into the deep end last Saturday, the feast of St. Januarius and Companions, serving 1st acolyte with the Bishop!  
He did great, I'm told. I'm afraid I missed it, as I had to be in Denver last weekend,
but he was ably helped along by our good friend, seminarian, Stephen Sandquist,
serving 2nd acolyte. Here is the wonderful picture Theresa took, just at Consecration.

And here the servers are at the credence table. As 1st acolyte, Gabe was in charge of
the bells!  A big deal for a little guy!  9/19/15

 Then, this past Saturday, the feast of St. Isaac Jogues and Companions, William served for the first time, second acolyte for our old family friend (adopted Davis), Fr. Carlos Borja who offered Mass.
I got to be there for this Mass!  William served with his brother, Frater Philip!
He did a great job. Like, Gabe, just a few small slip ups, common to most
beginners,but nothing big. We were all very proud.
 (My camera was acting up, though, thus the weird lighting..) 

Here's William just prior to the Gospel.  Such a very big book for such a little guy
to be moving.  We were all holding our breath!  But, he didn't drop it, didn't even stumble.
Deo Gratias!

These are the days God bookmarks. Two big days -- for Gabe and William, and for Dan and me. These are the milestones we get graded for! These are also the ones I need to pack kleenex for. Not because they take our children farther away from us, but because they bring them close -- close to us as we take the same path toward God.

As long as we're all going in that direction, we'll never be far apart.

Omnia bona sunt!

Frater Philip and William.  Fifteen years between them, one step away from God, Himself, upon
the altar as they serve together for the first time. 9/26/15

Thursday, September 24, 2015

On the Feast of Our Lady of Ransom

The Feast of Our Lady of Ransom

A double major feast day, commemorating the foundation of the Mercedarians.

On 10 August, 1223, the
Mercedarian Order -- or the Orderof Our Lady of Mercy --  was legally constituted at Barcelona by King James of Aragon and was approved by Gregory IX on 17 January, 1235. The Mercedarians celebrated their institution on the Sunday nearest to 1 Aug. (on which date in the year 1233 the Blessed Virgin was believed to have shown St. Peter Nolasco the white habit of the order)... In England the devotion to Our Lady of Ransom was revived in modern times to obtain the rescue of England as Our Lady's Dowry.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Also called the Feast of "Our Lady of Mercy," this commemoration should not be confused with any new-fangled idea of "tolerance," as mercy often is  misconstrued today.  Today's feast remembers the Religious Order founded to save 13th century Catholic crusaders from the clutches of the Mohammedans --- now commonly known as the Muslims -- but let us call them as they are: not of God but of Mohammed. Mohammadans. Of the devil.

The Mercedarian Brothers' mission of mercy was to rescue Catholics from the Mohammedans. We thank Our Heavenly Mother for her mercy in blessing this Order to save Christians in the time of St. Raymond and St. Peter.  We beseech her now to have mercy on those in the hands of Isis -- or any other Mohammedan terrorist group of our own day.  We beg her to keep us safe from the machinations of this evil religion in our own country.  Our world is so upside-down in its understanding of this imminent threat; her mercy and her intercession are much needed!

Prayer for the Feast of Our Lady of Ransom
O God, who by means of the most glorious Mother of Thy Son
was pleased to give new children to Thy Church
for the deliverance of Christ's faithful
from the power of the heathen;
grant, we beseech Thee,
that we who love and honor her as the foundress of so great a work may,
by her merits and intercession,
be ourselves delivered from all sin
and from the bondage of the evil one.
Through the same Christ, our Lord.

* The black and white picture, above, can be right clicked to save and printed in a larger format for a coloring page. The stories of Mercedarians, St. Peter Nolasco and St. Raymond of Pentafort dovetail with this feast.

If you don't know the story of St. Raymond of Pentafort, you've just got to click on the above link.  Awesome biography!
Here at our house today: We were blessed to attend Mass this morning and pray the rosary before the Blessed Sacrament.  So much to pray for these days -- and on a feast of Our Lady, it's good to be with her and her Divine Son to spill it all out!  Anyway, back at home, and we'll be talking about the threat to the Christian world that is still alive today, as well as the different kinds of captivity -- physical and spiritual. The importance of the Mass and the Sacraments -- how vital is frequent Confession...

We're studying the transcontinental railroad and the industrial revolution in American history, so we're preparing for a trip to the railroad museum tomorrow.  We plan to watch a documentary on the history of railroads this afternoon. And then we're roasting a turkey for dinner.  Why?  Because we happen to have one thawed in the refrigerator. What better reason, right? :) Question is whether or not it is mandatory to have cranberry sauce if you're having turkey. (I think it probably is.)

Blessings on this feast day of the Blessed Mother!  Prayers ascending that she intercede for us in the small picture of our daily lives -- and also in the big picture of the scary world, and particularly against the threat of Mohammedanism. Mother of Mercy, save the Christian world!  

Saturday, August 15, 2015

On the Glorious Feast of the Assumption

There was silence in heaven, as if for half an hour-
Isaiah's coals of wonder sealed the lips Of Seraph, Principality and Power,
Of all the nine angelic fellowships.

The archangels, those sheer intelligences,
Were silent, with their eyes on heaven's door.
So must our fancy dower them with senses,
Make them incarnate in a metaphor.

There was silence in heaven as Mary entered in,
For even Gabriel had not foreseen
The glory of a soul immune from sin
Throned in the body of the angels' Queen.

Blessed be God and Mary in whose womb
Was woven God's incredible disguise.
She gave Our Lord His Body.
In the tomb He gave her hers again and bade her rise.

Bright from death's slumber she arose,
the flush Of a chaste joy illumining her cheeks;
Among the motherless in heaven there was a hush
To hear the way a mother laughs and speaks.
Eye had not seen, nor ear of angel heard,
Nor heart conceived - until Our Lady's death -
What God for those that love Him had prepared
When heaven's synonym was Nazareth!

Her beauty opened slowly like a flower,
Beauty to them eternally bequeathed.
There was silence in heaven; as if for half an hour
No angel breathed.

Alfred Barrett (1906-1985) Lentfoehr, Therese, editor. I Sing of a Maiden. New York: Macmillan Company, 1947.

Fly, my soul, with Mary fly,
Soar beyond the golden sky,
Mount to Mary's throne on high.
Bright the queenly crown she won,
Sweet the reign she has begun,
As she stands beside her Son.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

How endure this long delay?
Living here how can I stay
From such beauty far away?
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

Sad my lot is here below;
Who can hope or life bestow?
Who will help or pity show?
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

But though far away from me,
Still our sovereign Queen will be
Full of love and clemency.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

With a mother's loving care
She will lift those hands so fair,
And will save us by her prayer.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

Mother's heart can ne'er forget
That we are her children yet,
By such dangers fierce beset.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

Gently, still, she bends her eyes
On the soul that longs and sighs
For her love, the heavenly prize.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

Blest the soul who, like the dove
Borne upon the wings of love,
Follows her to heaven above.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

St. Alphonsus de Liguori

The Glories of Mary. New York: Redemptoris Fathers, 1931.

Click, copy, print, color!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ditz Packing Strategy

True story.  I'm a ditz. But I'm the worst kind of ditz when it comes to packing.  I mean actual  packing. I'm a great packing planner, mind you; I've got lists -- and lists of lists -- of what needs to be packed in what size box within what amount of time of our moving date.  I've got packing tape and fat sharpies and packing paper and boxes and bins all lined up and organized, ready to use.  But, when it comes to actually doing the job, holy cow, am I inefficient!  Because, see, things like this happen:

* One of the first items on the list to pack is the deep-storage in the trailer -- where we decide, bin by bin, item by item, what is still sentimental enough to keep and what finally has to go, what we really would use in a zombie apocalypse, and what would just be extra weight in the moving trucks.This is agonizing decision-making for me.
 Agonizing.  I'll never wear my wedding shoes again -- and it's highly likely nobody else will either -- but how can I give them away? For heaven's sake, they cost almost as much as my wedding dress! How can I not keep the big boys' kindergarten artwork?  Seriously?  It takes up almost no space...  Who cares that I only ever really look at them when I'm going through boxes ready to move?  So, yeah... takes me a loooong hot afternoon to get through the trailer.  (And we kept almost everything.)

* Next on the semi-deep storage list, I pull out the contents of the linen closet; I go through said-contents; I look at each sheet, pillowcase, and tablecloth for holes and general keep-worthiness -- and I set into piles to be packed or disposed of.  Then I pack the good ones and seal the box, throwing the unworthies into a garbage bag.  But, then my daughter comes around and reminds me how in the last move it was really useful to use the sheets, pillowcases, and tablecloths to wrap some of the more fragile glassware, and why don't we just keep it all and use it for that?  She's right, of course. Imagine ditzy me forgetting that. So, I untape the box, and throw everything in together-- good, bad, and indifferent -- with the lid off so we can use them later.  One afternoon wasted.

* I begin the daunting task of packing up the summer kitchen the next day, and under the bed I find my big box of old photographs.  And you know what I end up doing all morning, right?  Yeah.  I sit there, crossed-legged on the floor of the summer kitchen reminiscing over old photos. (My babies..  how did they grow up so fast?)  I don't get any further until after lunch,when I come back, close my eyes and put the whole box into the bottom of a bigger box, out of my sight.
* Next step in packing up the summer kitchen is the wall of books. All my personal favorites are in there. It is my beloved book stash. Needless to say, I spend the afternoon going through books, reading a snippet here and a chapter there -- and making a stack of "next-on-the-list-to-rereads." And I really do end up getting actual books into actual boxes, but it takes two sessions over two days to finish a job that most would finish in an hour or two, tops.

Sigh...  It can be slow going.   But this is why we started so early! I've done this enough times now to know myself...   We still have a few small semi-deep storage areas to work on this weekend (the tail end of the trailer, the back of my closet), then next week we start on the next outer-ring of oft-used packable items: house decor and bookcases.  We'll also start doing some of the deep cleaning.  I'll tackle the oven, for instance, and deep clean under all the sinks.  Then, the serious packing begins the week of the 23rd. God, willing, this will go faster.  It usually does. I'll have all the children pull out two weeks worth of clothes and pack the rest.  We'll do the same thing with dishes, keeping out only the basics that we know we'll need, packing away the rest.  Then movies and toys.  Cats and dogs.  Girls and boys.  We'll be moved in before we know it.  Now that all the sentimental stuff is hidden away in boxes, I'll be fine. It'll all be fine.

Until it comes time to unpack.

But, then (Deo Gratias!) I can take all the time I want!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Stillness of Nature

 That said, though, it's not so still with these guys along on the hike...

                                           At Platte River State Park, July 30th, 2015