Friday, November 30, 2007

Jesse Tree

I have decided that the boys and I are going to do a "Jesse Tree" for this Advent. Here is a good resource for patterns if you are interested in doing the same:

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Beginning of Peer Pressure

David came home from school today upset that some kids in his class had called him a "baby" for playing with Thomas trains. David and Isaac love Thomas trains. I know that they will outgrow them in a couple years and move onto something else, but for right now they spend a great deal of time acting out stories with their trains - it is good wholesome fun using their imaginations.

I know David's feelings were hurt and I told him not to care what they think. He replied, "But, Mommy, I do care. I don't think I should play with Thomas anymore." So, I told him to play with Thomas all he wants at home and to just not talk about it at school. I know that isn't a perfect solution, but I wasn't sure what else to say. I told him that all through life there would be people who would make fun of him for things that he liked and that he needed to just be his own person no matter what people said. That is a lesson that takes a lifetime to learn. We all feel hurt when someone makes fun of us for something we do or believe. It takes courage to stand up to the crowd and be your own person. I hope I can help my children have that courage.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Christmas Novena

It is time once again for the Christmas Novena. Pray for whatever your heart desires most this Christmas. There are two versions of this - one begins November 30th (the feast of St. Andrew) and ends Christmas Eve. A shorter version goes the traditional nine days from December 16th - 24th.

Say the following prayer fifteen times a day for whichever duration you choose:

Hail & Blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Interruptions in Parenting

Dionna Sanchez has written a great reflection on all those times our children interrupt us when we are trying to get something done:

Monday, November 26, 2007

Getting Ready for Advent

Advent begins this coming Sunday. It is a four-week period dedicated to getting our spiritual lives ready for the birth of Christ. Here are some products that might help you in this process:

Aquinas and More Catholic Goods - For all your Catholic needs

Advent and Christmas Wisdom From Pope John Paul II

Advent and Christmas Wisdom From Pope John Paul II
Aquinas and More Catholic Goods - For all your Catholic needs

Advent and Christmas with the Saints

Advent And Christmas With The Saints

Advent Coloring Book

Advent Coloring Book
Aquinas and More Catholic Goods - For all your Catholic needs

Advent: A Family Celebration

Advent: A Family Celebration
Aquinas and More Catholic Goods - For all your Catholic needs

Approaching Christmas

Approaching Christmas
Aquinas and More Catholic Goods - For all your Catholic needs

Celebrating Advent with the Jesse Tree

Celebrating Advent with the Jesse Tree
Aquinas and More Catholic Goods - For all your Catholic needs

Jesse Tree Kit

Jesse Tree Kit
Aquinas and More Catholic Goods - For all your Catholic needs

Jesse Tree Ornament Kit

Jesse Tree Ornament Kit

For more beautiful Religious Christmas Items, such as Advent Wreaths, Christmas Cards, Ornaments, Nativity Sets and More, Visit Aquinas and More at:
Aquinas and More Catholic Goods - Your source for Catholic products on-line. Each purchase helps support this blog and the Spiritual Woman website

Raising Children Without Going Insane

Children can be a challenge. No, children are a challenge! Jane Evans, co-pastor with her husband of Paradise Community Church in Adelaide, South Australia, and mother of three boys, realizes this. In “Raising Children Without Going Insane”, she offers an insightful, humorous look at this job called being a mother. Evans comments that mothers often feel “that life has them hurtling along on a rollercoaster.” She reassures mothers that they have “a mandate from God and that you are equipped with everything you need to succeed . . . Besides, God is counting on you to love your kids, because there will be plenty of times when no one else will!”

Evans begins by describing the different personalities of her three children, Mark, Nathan, and Benjamin, aged nineteen, seventeen, and four. Mark is very strong-willed eager to fight every boundary, prone to food allergies and abrupt changes in behavior. Nathan is a worrier, and Benjamin has a strong sense of humor and a magnetic personality. Every child we receive from God is unique with his or her own strengths and weaknesses. “There is something special about your children and God wants you to help them find out what it is.” Evans writes, “I'm constantly seeking to get to know [my children] better. I need to know their strengths so that I can encourage them and sharpen them. I also need to understand their weaknesses so I can build strength into each weakness and train the boys to overcome them.” She tells of presenting each child with a “challenge goal” for every year – something special that particular child needed to work on. Sometimes the same goal would be carried over from year to year.

Evans offers much encouragement and practical advice for mothers as they navigate the daily demands of parenthood. She also reminds mothers that God is always there to help us in our duty:

"When your child was born, God gave you the heavenly mandate to develop that child into all that He has destined your child to be. And yet He didn't leave you to do it alone without any direction or guidance. He promised that He would never leave you or forsake you. . . There are many times as a mother when i haven't known what to do and have felt at a loss as to where to go from here. Every time I have called out I have received an answer. It may not have been the answer I was wishing or hoping for, but it always turned out to be the best one I could hear."

Mothers need to have confidence in their parenting abilities. “As a mother, you need confidence based not in your own abilities, but in the knowledge that God searched the entire planet for the best mother for your child and chose you!” Evans also encourages mothers to stand firm against the world. Even when everyone else may be allowing her child to do something, if you feel it is not right, don't let them. Mothers need to keep their eyes on the end product. What kind of an adult do you want your child to be? Evans places a strong emphasis on training your children and on providing a good example.

Much of what Evans writes about in “Raising Children Without Going Insane” is common-sense, but we can always use a good reminder. Her emphasis on faith and on relying on God is inspiring and encouraging. The way she offers practical examples of how she has parented in her own life is very helpful. I have already started to implement some of her suggestions in my own family! “Raising Children Without Going Insane” is recommended reading for anyone trying to parent with God at the center.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Living a Backward Life

Our pastor shared the following story with us at the Children’s Mass this Sunday:

This morning I am going to tell you a story about a king. As you know, a king usually wears a crown made of gold, silver, and precious jewels. The king in our story wore a different kind of crown. Listen as I tell you the story of "King Backward."

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there lived a King. He was no ordinary king. He was different from other kings because He did everything backwards from the way other kings did them. From the very day he was born, you could tell that this king was going to be different. Most kings are usually born in a palace, but this king was born in a stable surrounded by donkeys, sheep and cows. It wasn't a very big beginning for a king. In fact, very few people even knew that a king had been born. Only a handful of shepherds and three wise men got the word that a king had been born.

As the infant king grew into a man, he continued to be different from other kings. While most kings spent all of their time building up riches of silver, gold, and jewels, this king owned nothing at all. And while most kings surrounded themselves with servants, He chose to be a servant. He could often be found helping others. As time went on, people became very unhappy with their King because He just didn't act the way that they thought a king should act. Instead of riding into town on a big white horse the way other kings usually did, their king rode into town on the back of a donkey. Was that any way for a king to act? And the people He chose to be his friends! His closest friends were a bunch of smelly fishermen and He could often be seen visiting with the poor and eating with sinners.

Finally the people decided that they had put up with this King long enough. If He couldn't act the way a king should act, then they didn't want Him to be their king any more. They made a plan to have Him arrested and thrown into prison. Their plan worked. When the day came for his trial, the King stood before the people. Instead of shouting "Hail to the King, Long live the King!" they shouted, "Crucify Him! He is not our king! Crucify Him!" So they crucified the King. They nailed Him to a cross; they put a crown made of thorns on his head; they poked Him with sharp sticks and made fun of Him. What a way for a king to die! After He was crucified, they took His body and put it in a borrowed tomb. Wait, that isn't the end of the story. Remember ... this King was different! King Backward rose from the grave to live forever. Now, instead of being the Backward King, He is the Forever King. He is the King to anyone who chooses Him to be their King. Oh, there are still some people who call Him "King Backward," but those who know Him don't call Him that ... they call him King Jesus! Jesus wants to be your king, too.
(Author unknown.)

When we really take time to reflect on Jesus and his message, we realize just how radical it is. Jesus’ path to happiness and eternal life goes against everything the world tells us. The world tells us to be successful we must make lots of money and have lots of things. We should look out for oneself and do whatever we think will bring us happiness regardless of what that means for other people. We live in a very “me-first”world.

In contrast, Jesus tells us to put others first and to give our possessions away. It is truly an other-centered philosophy. We achieve our own happiness and salvation through sacrificing ourselves and giving to others.

The longer I live the more I have come to realize just how true this is. A selfish life will not bring you any joy. Possessions are necessary and they may bring a temporary happiness, but if they are your sole purpose for living, you will soon become disillusioned. There will always be some new gadget to get; some person who has more. The quest is never-ending. On the other hand, when you derive your joy from giving and loving others, true happiness (at least as happy as we can be this side of heaven) becomes possible.

Yes, this is a backward way of living, put forth by a “backward king.” Those of us who are Christian profess to follow this king. Perhaps it is time we become a little more backward ourselves.

The Life of a New Sister

Through Catholic Extension magazine, I learned about a very interesting blog: The Life of a New Sister. It is good for people interested in religious life to get an inside look. It chronicles the life of Sr. Nicole Trahan. Her profile states:

I am a second year novice with the Marianist Sisters. I'll profess first vows in the summer of 2008 - God willing! I've grown a lot through my formation with the Sisters - in my understanding of myself, Religious Life, and God... more than I imagined possible in such a short time. Having been a teacher and campus minister for 8 years... and living alone during that time, I am learning a new way of being... while still being myself. Life is good. God's grace sustains. And my family & friends are supportive. For what more can a person ask?

Taking a Break

This is hard to admit, but it is hard for me to relax. I feel like I always need to be doing something in order to be productive and justify my existence on this planet. (Yes, I know - my value comes from God, not from anything I do, but still, the feeling remains.)

Sometimes, therefore, I truly need to force myself to relax. I schedule my Saturday nights as relaxation time. My husband and I take out a movie from the library and watch while I work on my scrapbooking or quilting (two relaxing activities I enjoy). This past holiday weekend I forced myself to take a more extended break. I took Thanksgiving off totally. The other days, I confess I did check my email, but that was the limit of my work-related activity. Every night my husband and I watched movies and I worked on my quilt. I enjoyed it so much! Yes, I did feel a little guilty but I got over it! Relaxation is important. That is why God created the Sabbath and secular society gives us holidays. It is just up to us to give ourselves permission to enjoy them.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Catholic Contests

I heard about this one from Lisa Hendey on her Catholic Mom Moments Blog:

Check out the Catholic Contest blog where each week you have the chance to win something new!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Critical Weekend for Catholic Filmmakers

Keep One in Theaters, Get the Other
into Every Catholic Home

Thanksgiving Weekend is a critical weekend for two sets of Catholic filmmakers. While the team at Metanoia Films appeals to Catholics to keep Bella in theaters this coming weekend, the filmmakers at Catholic Exchange appeal for a blockbuster response to our multi-award winning DVD, Champions of Faith: Baseball.

Just as important as ticket sales for theatrical releases, DVD sales support and sustain films released straight to video and in this instance will enable Catholic Exchange to create more films featuring cultural icons who embrace and affirm our beloved Catholic faith.

This Thanksgiving weekend only, you can buy a special “Christmas 6-Pack” for just $69. Keep one for your family and give the other five away as Christmas gifts. That's nearly 50% off the retail price and a full $30 less than the regular price for a Champions of Faith 6-PK! CLICK HERE or call 1.877.263.1263 right now to order!

By now you've heard a sampling of the reviews for Champions of Faith:

“A nine-inning faith classic!” – Bishop Ignatius Catanello, Archdiocese of Brooklyn

“A great testimony to how rich our lives can be when filled with faith .” – Dennis Heaney, President, The Christophers

“A healthy reminder that men of character do still play the game .” – Russell Shaw

“An answer and an antidote to the tidal wave of scandal.” – Arlington Catholic Herald

“ Anyone with a spiritual bent is sure to be moved by the experiences of these men.” – United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Film and Television

Champions of Faith is being called “the greatest gift of Catholic evangelization this decade” – greater even than The Passion of the Christ, which was limited to adult audiences. That is why it is being shown to enthusiastic audiences at Catholic grade schools and high schools across the country with a special license permission granted through Champions of Faith. Call 1.888.488.6789 for information on how to participate.

But great reviews and accolades on their own cannot make Champions of Faith the success it needs to become in order for more such breathtaking films to be made for the Church.

Only you can make it such a success – and in just one weekend!

The Best Christmas Gift You Can Give!

Do you know five Catholic families that love movies or sports? Or five families that may be weak in their faith who would profit from seeing such a film as Champions of Faith?

Do you want to see more first-rate Catholic films that stand shoulder-to-shoulder with mainstream Hollywood films in terms of production values? Do you believe the culture can be changed by them and the Faith spread through them?

We ask that you help Catholic filmmaking by supporting this exceptional film – and in doing so help your neighbors, friends, co-workers or family members by giving them this important gift this Christmas.

Even if you typically do not give Christmas gifts to your neighbors or your children's friends or the people you work with, make this year an exception. Touch them with the gift of faith and help ensure that high-quality Catholic filmmaking is here to stay.

There is nothing more inspirational than to see and hear superstar athletes at the top of their game talking about something greater than winning the World Series or being named a Major League All-Star — that is, their faith in God, devotion to the Blessed Mother and love for Christ in the Eucharist. For the first time, there is a tool available to hand to those people in your life who are the most difficult to speak with about God. Champions of Faith is that tool.


Again, right now, and through this Thanksgiving weekend only, you can take advantage of a special offer to buy a “Christmas 6-Pack” for just $69. Keep one for yourself and give the other five away for Christmas. That's an almost 50% discount off the retail price and a full $30 less than the regular price for a Champions of Faith 6-PK! CLICK HERE or call 1.877.263.1263 right now to order your DVDs and Free Poster!


If you want to go the extra mile and impact 100 people with a gift of faith this Christmas, buy our 100PK for only $999 – a full 50% discount off the retail price! Buy one of these special packs and, JUST FOR THANKSGIVING, get an autographed baseball or autographed film poster signed by six of the athletes in Champions of Faith (while supplies last) plus your name or parish added to the credits for the next Champions of Faith film. Click here to order your 100 PK and get your free autographed memorabilia.

Champions of Faith has been the best-selling Catholic product of the year, but we need to get thousands more out there to really make the impact needed for future versions of this powerful new series to become a reality.

Buy a STEEPLY DISCOUNTED 6-PK or 100-PK this Thanksgiving weekend and make a gigantic impact!

This multi-award winning DVD will inspire the people in your life to not only “keep Christ in Christmas,” but to keep Him at the center of everything they do!

Not one of's “Hit Movies for the 2007 Christmas Season” deals with faith. Help us change that! We are celebrating the birth of Christ after all! By helping distribute Champions of Faith, you are providing your neighbors, friends and family with a phenomenal resource to enhance their faith and their life. Order your Christmas 6-Pack today!

Champions of Faith 6-PK!
CLICK HERE or call 1.877.263.1263 right now to order!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I wish you and your families all the best!

Give thanks unto the Lord
For he is good; for his mercy endures forever. (Psalm 107:1)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Let it Snow . . .Let it Snow . . . Let it Snow

It unexpectedly snowed today. I always love the first snow of the season. It is so pretty and the kids get so excited. We already have two local radio stations playing Christmas music 24/7 so we listened to Christmas songs (early I understand, but I don't care - they put us all in a good mood!) and drank hot chocolate. It was wonderful.

Thank you, God, for the gift of snow!

Monday, November 19, 2007

For Moms Everywhere

I got this from the Amazingly Blessed website.


A little boy came up to his mother in the kitchen one evening while she was fixing supper, and he handed her a piece of paper that he had been writing on. After his mom dried her hands on an apron, she read it, and this is what it said:

For cutting the grass: $5.00

For cleaning up my room this week: $1.00

For going to the store for you: 50¢

Baby-sitting my brother while you went shopping: 25¢

Taking out the garbage: $1.00

For getting a good report card: $5.00

For cleaning up and raking the yard: $2.00

Total owed: $14.75

Well, his mother looked at him standing there, and the boy could see the memories flashing through her mind. She picked up the pen, turned over the paper he'd written on, and this is what she wrote:

For the nine months I nurtured you here while you were growing inside me there:
No Charge

For all the nights that I've sat up with you,doctored and nursed and prayed for you:
No Charge

For all the trying times, and all the tears that you've caused through the years:
No Charge

For all the nights that were filled with dread,and for the worries I knew were ahead:
No Charge

For the toys, food, clothes, and even wiping your runny nose:
No Charge, Son

When you add it up, the cost of my love is:
No Charge

When the boy finished reading what his mother had written, there were big tears in his eyes, and he looked straight at his mother and said, "Mom, I sure do love you."

And then he took the pen and in great big letters he wrote: "PAID IN FULL"

–Author Unknown

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Discernment Event

For those of you who live in Massachusetts or Connecticut, the Connecticut Vocation Council of Women Religious will hold a Discernment Night with the theme "What is It You Plan to Do with One Wild and Precious Life?" Women ages 21 - 45 are invited. The event will be held at the Sisters of Notre Dame Provincial House. Call 860-586-8637.

Giving Thanks During Hard Times

I read the paper this morning as I always do. The pages were filled with discouraging news – news of the war, of the real estate market slump, of rising gas prices, and increasingly bare shelves at local food banks, not to mention the ever-present issue of global warming. It is so easy to have a pessimistic outlook at times like these. It is so easy to focus on all the bad.

Yet, here we are at Thanksgiving, a time set aside to give thanks for all the good in our lives. It is during hard times such as these that we are perhaps most in need of thanksgiving. It is easy to be thankful when everything is going well, yet ironically those are the times when we are most likely to forget to thank God. How often do we thank God for our health when we are not sick? We really don’t appreciate our health until we can’t breathe because of a cold or we are in pain from some injury or illness. It is only right after we recover that we appreciate our well-being. All too quickly, our health once again becomes something we don’t think about. By the same token, when our jobs are going well and there is enough money to pay the bills without worry, we tend not to consider God’s hand in this. Instead we take the credit ourselves.

We are often quick to blame God, however, when things are not going well in our lives. Why is God allowing these bad things to happen to us? We petition God to lift this hardship. It is right and good to petition God for our needs, but even in our time of need, we also need to remember to thank God. The Daily Examen is a cornerstone of Ignatian Spirituality. As part of that process, we take time at the end of the day to thank God for His presence during the day. We reflect over the day and thank God for all the good things that occurred.

Some days it may seem that there is little to thank God for, but amazingly there is always something. There is always some glimmer of light in the darkness: a kind word that someone may have uttered, a moment of beauty in nature, an unexpected blessing. God has ways of letting us know that He is there, even when we are traveling on a difficult path. In this week’s gospel (Luke 21:5–19), Jesus tells us that bad things will happen. “Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines in various places; there will be terrifying events and great signs from heaven . . . you will be seized and persecuted.” Yet, even amidst all that pain and suffering, God is with us.

And so, yes, especially in these hard times, we need to take the time to thank God for the many blessings in our lives. We thank God for family and friends, and the food we do have to eat. We thank God for the gift of life and each new dawn. We thank God for the gift of nature, for the sunrise and the sunset, for the animals, and the plants. We thank God for love and the ability to share with our fellow human beings. We thank God for the gift of His son and the hope of eternal life. We thank God for everything.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Getting Ready for Black Friday

For those of you eager to begin (or Finish!) your Christmas shopping, is offering special deals this coming Friday. The link below will take you to their special Black Friday deals. Amazon sells much more than just books, so please, consider clicking through below on Friday and helping to support this site and blog with your Christmas purchases. Thank you for your support!

Amazon Black Friday deals

Friday, November 16, 2007

Parents Bill of Rights

Tom McMahon has a great listing of parents' rights on his website, Sometimes it is hard to assert your God-given authority as a parent, especially when the world (and your children) is against you. This is a good reminder of one's rights as a parent:

Parents Bill of Rights

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Living Miracle

Fr. Stanislaus Papczynski was recently beatified by the Catholic Church. The miracle that made that beatification possible was written about in the Winter 2007-8 edition of "Marian Helper." :

A Polish man named Zbigniew Chojnowski prayed to Fr. Stanislaus for his cousin (also his goddaughter) who was two months pregnant. The previous year she had suffered a miscarriage and her second pregnancy was in trouble. Upon examination, her doctor discovered that the amniotic sac had shrunk and the fetus had not been growing normally due to a lack of blood flow through the amniotic cord. In addition, the woman had a tear in the sac that had drained virtually all of her amniotic fluid. In-utero tests confirmed the baby's heart had stopped beating. The doctor declared the baby dead. The following day, Monday, a second test confirmed that the baby had no heartbeat.

'But I didn't stop praying to Fr. Stanislaus.' Zbig recalls. On Wednesday, the disconsolate mother hadn't yet spontaneously miscarried, so her doctor prepared to perform surgery that day to remove the dead baby.

'But just before surgery, examining her with an ultrasound, the doctor discovered a heartbeat.' says Zbig. Further tests confirmed the baby was alive and that blood was flowing through the umbilical cord. The presence of amniotic fluid also indicated that the tear in the sac had mended. . . . No medical explanation can account for these events.

Sebastian is now a healthy 6 year old boy. To find out more about Fr. Stanislaus Papczynski, visit

Report Card Day

David got his first report card of the year today. He is doing well academically - all A's and A+'s, continuing to struggle with things like self-control and handwriting. I can't say too much about the handwriting. I have horrible handwriting and always have. My sixth-grade teacher gave me an S- instead of a U out of the kindness of her heart so that I wouldn't be kicked off the honor roll. My best friend successfully defended herself out of allegations of cheating off of my paper in college by stating that no one would actually be able to read my paper. The professor agreed. In any case, we'll keep working on it. David does know he need to work on his self-control and he is trying. These things take time.

This is what his teacher wrote for a comment:

David is a very expressive child. He tends to get easily frustrated and this inhibits him from trying new things. However, he is very mathematical and is doing well in all areas.

Yup, that sounds like David. Expect that I never thought of him as mathematical before. Seeing that his younger brother is the math whiz who was working on mastering division yesterday, I always thought of David as having average ability. Sometimes it is good to get another person's perspective on your child's strengths and weaknesses.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

St. Maria's Messenger

Saint Maria's Messenger's first issue was sent out in November 2002 to only a couple subscribers, literally only a couple! Bernadette and Rebekah Fox, sisters who live with their large family in Michigan, wanted a Catholic magazine specifically for girls but was never able to find one. They finally decided that the only thing left to do was start one themselves, which they did! They were only 16 and 14 when they began - but with God's help anything is possible!

They write 95% percent of the magazine themselves and have even printed it up themselves on their family’s printer for five years. This year, for their sixth volume, things will be a little different in the way of printing. Little Flowers Family Press located in Canada, will be printing their magazine - partly in color, too!

As their magazine becomes more and more known especially through their website, people from all over the world are sharing in what Saint Maria's Messenger has to offer. To find out more, visit their website at

Monday, November 12, 2007

Welcome back to Victoria Magazine

When I saw the new issue of Victoria Magazine at my local grocery store, I had to buy it. This is very unusual for me - I am not prone to impulse buys, but this one tugged at my heartstrings. I first discovered "Victoria" when I was 14 years old. It was such a beautiful magazine dedicated to a simpler time. All the women featured were gorgeous in their 19th century dresses and all items were antiques or antique reproductions with plenty of flowers and ribbons and cameos thrown into the mix. Places featured seemed stopped in time. Needless to say, it appealed to my young romantic spirit and my historical appreciation. As the years went by I would use pictures cut out of the magazine to decoupage boxes and create Christmas ornaments and as inspiration for watercolors. I even got my first rejection letter ever from them at age 15 when I sent in a poem for publishing consideration. (I still have the letter safely tucked away in my journal from that year). So, needless to say, I was sad when it ceased publication several years ago. Of course, by then, the romantic teenager had grown up and gotten married and was no longer so interested in such flights of fancy.

Still, when I saw the magazine, I had to splurge and spend the $5. I enjoyed my time with it immensely as did my children. Together we cut out many of the pictures. I saved some of them in my "picture box" and others they taped to their bedroom wall (which is a veritable collage of pictures). It brought me back to an earlier time, and resurrected some of the 15 year old girl I used to be.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Can't Sing? Sing Anyway!

A colleague in her sixties shared the story of being a young girl and being told by her music teacher to simply “mouth the words.” Scarred by the experience, the woman still hesitates to sing today. Many of us can relate to that experience. Judging by the thousands of contestants who try out for American Idol each year, most of us are not blessed with stellar singing voices. While young children are likely to sing with joy and abandon regardless of what they sound like, teens and adults are much more likely to limit their musical expression to the shower, singing “Happy Birthday” in a large group, or accompanying the radio in the car if driving alone.

An exception to this unspoken rule of “no singing allowed” should be in Church. God gave us our voices and we should be willing to offer them up to God in liturgical song as a means of prayer. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “song and music fulfill their function as signs in a manner all the more significant when they are ‘more closely connected . . . with the liturgical action,’ according to three principal criteria: beauty expressive of prayer, the unanimous participation of the assembly at the designated moments, and the solemn character of the celebration.” (CCC 1157) “Unanimous participation” – that means all of us.

I sometimes feel badly for the music ministers. Our parish is blessed with several wonderful singers and musicians, both paid and volunteer, who lead the congregation in song. They have beautiful voices and are a pleasure to listen to, but if they judge their success by how many people sing along, they are bound to be discouraged. Our job, as part of the congregation, is not to listen to them, but to join along. No one sounds bad in Church, especially if everyone is singing. There is something supremely beautiful about all those voices raised in song and prayer. Young and old, rich and poor, black and white, our voices all come together in joyful praise.

Part of the intent of the liturgical reforms of Vatican II was to get the congregation more involved in the liturgy. Mass is not meant to be a spectator sport. Yes, it still counts if one attends mass but doesn’t speak the prayers aloud or engage in song. Somehow, though, it seems a little like attending a banquet with your closest friends and not engaging in any conversation.

I do understand the reticence. Many of us have had humiliating experiences of singing badly in public. Like my colleague, we may have been told flat out to stop singing, that we can’t sing and shouldn’t torture other people by our efforts. Church is different, though. We are there to worship God, not to worry about the opinion of our neighbor. God wants to hear our voices lifted in song. Can’t sing? Sing anyway. Be part of the wonderful gift of liturgical song.

Friday, November 09, 2007

How your right brain can help your left brain

The latest issue of Writer's Digest has several articles dedicated to how the brain works - its left-side and right-side functions and how they can work together. Most of us have a dominant hemisphere, either the logical, linear left-brain, or the more creative, better at spacial relationships, right brain. All of us can benefit from attempting to use both hemispheres on a more regular basis. For those of us who are left-brained, this means nurturing our creative side a bit more. Every one of us can find some creative outlet we enjoy, whether that be a traditional art form like painting or drawing or something more geared to domestic endeavors such as gardening, sewing, or experimenting with cooking. Taking a break from "left-brained" activities will actually help us be more productive when we return to them. It also might provide a new insight into how to approach a problem that has been challenging us in a new way.

On my website, I have a whole section devoted to Creativity because I believe it is such an integral part of what it means to be human and to be made in the image of God (the ultimate Creator). Check it out for some ideas on how to bring more creativity into your life.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Real Life Love

I just posted a great article by Heidi Hess Saxton on "Real Life Love." It is geared towards adoptive parents, but I think it speaks to all parents.

Real Life Love

Discrepancies in the Gospels

Here is an interesting article by Mark Shea on how to explain discrepancies in the Gospels:

Discrepancies in the Gospels

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

For our Soldiers

My sister, whose son is serving in the Navy, sent me the link to this YouTube Video. Grab your tissues and watch:

Remember Me

Using Our Gifts for the Lord

Sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in our own little world and to focus on what we perceive to be our weaknesses. It is easy to look at those we admire and think how wonderful their contributions are to the world and how many lives they have touched. We may pale in comparison. I was thinking about this earlier today. I am blessed with friends who have done some truly amazing things. My life was feeling mighty small in comparison. But then I came upon today's first reading and it reminded me how each part, each life, even the smallest, is important. We are each called to use the particular gifts God gave us to the best of our abilities in the situations in which we find ourselves. This is what the Lord asks of us and I can take comfort in that.

Brothers and sisters:
We, though many, are one Body in Christ
and individually parts of one another.
Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us,
let us exercise them:
if prophecy, in proportion to the faith;
if ministry, in ministering;
if one is a teacher, in teaching;
if one exhorts, in exhortation;
if one contributes, in generosity;
if one is over others, with diligence;
if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Romans 5:5-9

Monday, November 05, 2007

Praying for All Souls

I'll admit that this is a bit late since All Souls Day was November 2nd, but the need to pray for those who have died never goes away. Purgatory isn't a popular concept today. I would venture to say that most people who believe in an after-life feel that upon death a person's soul goes immediately to heaven. A smaller number would acknowledge that some might go to hell. Purgatory is a waiting place for those who have died but who have not reached the level of perfection needed to go to heaven.

The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" teaches that "all who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven." (CCC 1030)

"From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead." (CCC 1032)

Some saints have had visions of purgatory, among them St. Faustina and Padre Pio. From their witness, we know that it exists. It is a place of longing, for those who are there know that they will ultimately get to see God, but for the moment they are denied that joy. This is why we offer masses for the dead and say prayers for the dead - to help hasten their ascent into heaven. Padre Pio told of souls coming back to thank him after they had reached heaven for the prayers and masses he had offered. If the particular person we are praying for has already gone to heaven, our prayers will be applied to someone else still waiting. Our prayers are never wasted.

I'm including some links to books about purgatory if you are interested in learning more:

Adjusting to the Time Change

Now that we have turned the clocks back one hour, it really does feel like winter is on its way. Having it be pitch black and cold outside before 5 pm means that evening activities now take place in the house. It also means that my children's inner clocks need to be re-set. Adjusting to the time change always takes about a week for them, in both the fall and spring. As babies, it wreaked total havoc with their systems - in terms of when they wanted to eat, nap, go to bed, etc. Now that they are older (6 1/2 and 5) and can actually tell time, it is becoming a little easier. Still, they woke up right at 5:30 am the past two days instead of 6:30 am even though their bedtimes had been adjusted. A few days of this and they will be sleep-deprived and cranky. So will I! Thankfully, it is usually right around this time that their clocks will make the needed adjustment.

While I do miss the freedom that the warmer, lighter months provide, this time of year has its advantages as well. It is a good time to spend more time together as a family. We play more board games and read more stories. We do more crafts and bake together more. When my boys' energy level gets too high, we even run and jump and dance around the house to get our exercise. Yes, sometimes we even watch television together. What is important is that we are sharing our time together. I hope that your families will take advantage of this time change to do the same.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Should We Obey?

I recently read “Saints in Love: The Forgotten Loves Between Holy Women and Men and How They Can Make Our Relationships Divine.” In her chapter on the relationship between St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi, Carole Hallundbaek discusses the root meaning of the word obey: “It may be a cosmic coincidence that the word ‘obey,’ like St. Francis himself has its roots in the thirteenth century. It comes from the Old Frence obeir and from the Latin oboedire – to pay attention to; to give ear; to listen to. Although the word has taken on quite a different connotation in our language, obedience is not mere submission to another’s will. When we obey, we are listening – truly listening – to another.”

Unlike the vows that my parents took on their wedding day, my vows did not include the word obey. If my memory serves me, my vows to my husband were to “love, honor and cherish.” I was thankful for this. I bristled at the word obey. Whenever I would read St. Paul’s injunction that wives should be submissive to their husband (Eph. 5:21-33) my neck hairs would stand on end. My husband and I were supposed to be equals! In my young, na├»ve opinion, obeying had no part in that equation. In the intervening years, however, I have come to appreciate the idea of obedience a bit more. While I am still thankful that it wasn’t formally written into my wedding vows, I no longer view obedience as a sign of weakness or inequality.

Ideally in marriage, both partners want what is best for the other and the family as a whole. There should be a large amount of give and take in that scenario with both spouses willing to sacrifice for the other and the greater good. This is where Hallundbaek’s explanation of the root of obedience comes into play. What if all married people actually listened to their spouse? What if we took the time to pay attention and to understand what was going on in the other person’s life?

In marriage, it is easy to sink into the routine of informational conversation – this is what needs to be done today; this is where the kids need to be; this is what broke today; this needs to be paid today; this is what happened at work today. Unlike the early days of romance when all you had to focus on was each other, married life puts great demands on the people involved. It isn’t easy to find the time to focus just on each other and what the other person is thinking or feeling. It is easier to put the relationship on “cruise control” and just continue in the old comfortable routines. While this can work for a limited time, if we want our marriages to radiate the love they started with, we need to put in some effort. We need to actually communicate on a deeper level. People change over time. The person you married is not the same person ten, or twenty, or fifty years later. Neither are you. Staying in love with that changing person means actually knowing them. Knowing a person requires conversing over something more intimate than what is for dinner.

If we as spouses are able to communicate and have each other’s best interests at heart, then obedience is no longer a burden. Of course, it should work both ways – husbands should be obedient to their wives as well! Sacrificing for one’s spouse is a gift we can give to each other. The requests for obedience should be few and far between and should never go against God’s law (to which we owe our primary allegiance). Whenever possible, however, we should try to follow our spouse’s wishes. Doing so will only serve to make our marriages stronger and put our families on sturdier footing.

Big Book of Women's Saints Blog

Sarah Gallick wrote me to thank me for my review of her book: The Big Book of Women Saints and to let me know of her new blog:

Thanks for letting us know!

Making the Most of <i>Menopause Moments</i>

  When I unexpectedly got in a review copy of Menopause Moments: A Journal for Nourishing Your Mind, Body and Spirit in Midlife , I must adm...