Seton Magazine :: “Weapon of Work” – The Virtue of Industry for Fathers & Sons

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When we consider the virtue of industry, it’s possible our minds fall to the thousand little details of upkeep in our homes: cleaning, cooking, laundry . . . the list goes on!

And much of this, usually, falls in the woman’s daily sphere, especially in the Catholic homeschooling family. Most of us wouldn’t have it any other way!

However, the virtue of industry also has a powerful meaning for the men and boys in our Catholic homeschooling families. They are also asked to sanctify their work in diligence, patience, and obedience to authority and to God.

Find the rest at SetonMagazine 🙂

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How we’re celebrating the Feast of the Annunciation . . .

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On this day the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, uniting for evermore our human nature to the Divine nature. The mystery of the Incarnation brings vividly before us the boundless condescension and humility of God the Son in stooping to our condition in order to be our Savior. Equally it proclaims the glory and greatness of Mary, who was chosen to give to the Divine Word human flesh and human birth, and so to cooperate with God in the restoration of mankind. Hence her most glorious title of “Mother of God,” which explains all her glories, her sanctity, and her honor.

-Roman Catholic Daily Missal, pg.1154

My apologies for being a little absent, (Lent + busyness = not blogging) but what Catholic home blogger could bear not to return for the Feast of the Annunciation!?

So yes. I felt compelled to sit down and write up a little glimpse into how my family is celebrating this solemnity in our own Catholic home. Rather, it’s a list of secrets, the first of which is . . .

1) Angel food cake.

Yes, that’s the first secret to our celebrations which, I mean, should really need no explanation for anyone who knows how to make even the simplest liturgical applications to food. (My family are all geniuses at this.)

Actually, it’s a little more than mere angel food cake, as the Annunciation was more than St. Gabriel’s presence. Ice cream and strawberries are also involved. Angel food cake for St. Gabriel the Archangel, ice cream (or Cool Whip . . . I think we’re having both) for Our Lady’s purity and virginity, and strawberries (please don’t tell me I need to explain that they were chosen because they’re, well, red?) for the Holy Ghost, by Whom Our Lord was conceived, and also to represent how Our Lord was made Flesh in order to suffer and die for our sins.

I’m pretty proud of this liturgical dessert. (Actually, I came up with this complicated concept last night and pitched it to my mother, who simply asked, “Are you going to the store?” which I took as approval.) People could get degrees for making these sorts of Catholic culinary innovations, yet here I am, doing it out of my own non-college-obtained talents.

Yes, it might sound as though we’re all growing a little dessert crazy by now . . . I’m sure you’re picturing our eyes growing glassy from our Lenten weekday dessert deprivation, and all that. However, a very important rule of authentic Catholic liturgical living in the home is to feast when there is a feast. The Annunciation is a First Class Feast, which entails us having a First Class Dessert.

So yes, our dessert is one way we are celebrating this Feast of the Annunciation. But I would truly hate for you to think of us as heathens who only commemorate our liturgical celebrations with food, so I’ll move on . . .

2) Pausing in the midst of spring cleaning and gathering for morning prayers.

Yes, the house still smelled like shower cleaner and the ceiling fans were blowing for all their worth. Yes, most of us were sweaty and one of us was sniffling from bad allergies, another nursing a knee that had been banged against the vacuum cleaner; but gather we did.

Our family’s daily prayer tradition involves going around the room and each of us taking turns reading aloud the Propers for the day. Not everybody is always happy with the Propers they’re assigned by the Master of Ceremonies for the day (“So and so’s is longer than mine!”), but well, when is everybody happy about everything? 🙂

May I say today’s Propers are exceptionally beautiful?

All the rich among the people shall entreat Thy countenance: after her shall virgins be brought to the King . . .

O God, Who didst will that Thy Word should take flesh, at the message of an Angel, in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, grant to Thy suppliant people, that we who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her intercession with Thee . . .

Hear ye therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that He may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good. . .

Grace is poured abroad in thy lips; therefore hath God blessed thee for ever . . .

And the Angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God . . . And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.

Deo Gratias!

3) Getting past familial controversy and saying the Angelus.

You see, we’ve been saying the Angelus together at noon pretty much ever since the beginning of Lent; it’s such a beautiful traditional practice and I highly recommend it!

Well, this morning we were able to gather for family morning prayers at the bright and early time of 11:30am. So . . . by the time we had finished reading all of our Propers and saying our collection of prayers, it was within 7.566 minutes of being noon.

Since we were all together, with work still waiting for us, some of us felt it might be best if we proceeded to say the Angelus a few minutes early since we were all together.

Some members of our family: Sure.

Other members of our family: Fine, if you want to be heretics.

Needless to say, we achieved the minor miracle of reconciling our passionate differences and said the Angelus together, which beautifully consummated all the Propers for the day and found us on our knees, praying “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” It really doesn’t get any better!

4) Listening to Voces8’s Marian Hymns while I cleaned the bathroom.

And finally, to top off the liturgical celebrations, I adorned my weekly routine of scouring the bathroom with Voces8’s glorious hymns from their album Eventide. I particularly recommend these two in honor of Our Lady: Second Eve and Ave Maria. They are sublime 🙂

So yes . . . just a little glimpse into our ordinary Catholic home on the Feast of the Annunciation. We’ll be praying the Joyful Mysteries tonight, too, and rejoicing in the beauty and mystery of this feast, and of the Faith! God bless!

Five Ideas for Your Lenten (Fiction) Reading

You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.

-St. Athanasius

There are so many options for traditional Lenten reading material (although so far this Lent, I’ve tended just to bury my nose in my 1962 Missal and absorb whatever I come across), and free resources (like, an astonishing amount!) for the most famous writings of the Church (take this link for example . . .) that to suggest reading anything on top of these during Lent would just seem . . . preposterous. I mean, after The Story of a Soul, St. Augustine’s Confessions, or pieces of St. Thomas’ Summa, there’s only so much more reading the brain can handle, after all . . .

But . . . (I know, such surprise there 🙂 . . .)

But, I just can’t help but think about my five favorite Catholic novels during Lent, too 🙂

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An awkward selfie to prove that I do, indeed, own all of them 🙂

While I tend to gravitate to Catholic fiction for fiction, no matter what liturgical time of year it is, Lent’s seemed the perfect time to pull out the novels written by those unfairly incredibly talented artists whose hearts seem on fire for our traditional Holy Faith. You know . . . those kinds of books. The ones that stir your soul and make you want to brandish your dog-eared copy at the nearest Wal-Mart shopper and exclaim, “I am so proud and blessed to be a member of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, per omnia saecula saeculorum, Amen!”

While fiction is, objectively speaking, the inferior category of spiritual reading and shouldn’t replace its superior counterpart (especially during Lent!), I’ve found that it can still serve as spiritual reading, if chosen wisely and read with a true desire to grow in holiness and love for the Faith.

So . . . if you happen to love a dose of solid Catholic fiction as much as I do, you might enjoy the list of my five favorite Catholic novels (so far, anyway, and definitely not an exhaustive list, since I don’t even mention Louis de Wohl, etc!), some of which I have already been re-reading this Lent . . .

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden

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This book is one of my favorites of all time. A formidable and successful businesswoman, with a tragic past, uproots from her workplace and becomes a cloistered Benedictine nun in 1950’s England. And yet, while this is the premise and foundation of the story, the book is about so much more. Letting us glimpse into the lives of all the nuns at Brede, it’s a riveting tapestry of human weakness and divine beauty, humor, tragedy, and joy, with wonderful focus put on the Catholic liturgical year and traditional practices, as well as the mysterious beauty of the vocation to religious life. The author is as enamored of our Faith as child would be. Granted, it’s written in a pretty unusual, almost stream-of-consciousness style, and is a whopping 600 pages . . . but I love this book! (And it also offers significant food for thought for those of us who attend the Latin Mass, as it also chronicles the early effects of Vatican II on religious life in England.)

“I thought I was very well as I was,” [said Philippa]; “a human, balanced person with a reasonable record; with the luck of having money, friends, love. Only suddenly it wasn’t enough–not nearly enough.” Dame Beatrice nodded; this was what she understood. “Everything seemed–not hollow, but–as if suddenly I could see beyond them, into an emptiness, and all the while there was this strange pull; no one can describe it to someone who hasn’t felt it, and doubly strange for me because until then such a thing had never crossed my mind.”

“That’s what happens,” said Dame Beatrice.

**

The Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos

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I know what you’re thinking . . . the title of this book seems to promise a quaint, happy story of ordinary country life and, maybe, an introspective priest who has the time and inclination to write a diary. It’s an amazingly misleading title. Instead, we meet a lonely young priest who scratches out his diary by night. He’s in the grip of not only painful physical illness, but acute spiritual turmoil, surrounded by a parish of mostly lukewarm (at best) souls. This novel is a masterpiece and a must-read for any Catholic; it inspired me with a far greater love and respect for the brave and self-emptying men who are our consecrated priests.

      “It’s because I can’t pray!” I cried out. And then I wished I hadn’t said it, for the Cure de Torcy’s eyes went hard.
      “If you can’t pray—at least say your prayers! Look! I’ve done some struggling in my time, too. The devil used to make me loathe my prayers so, once, that I’d sweat all over my rosary getting through it.”
      . . . I hadn’t realized there were tears on my face, I wasn’t even thinking of it.

**

Angels in Iron by Nicholas C. Prata

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While the above two books are literary and introspective, this book, on the other hand, takes one of the most important (and largely forgotten) events in the history of the Church–the Turkish siege of Malta in the 1500s–and tells it forcefully and compellingly. Here, heroic Catholic knights died in scores to prevent the invasion of Islam. I’ve read it at least three times (and *cough* have pushed it into the hands of friends . . .), and it made this list because it has poignantly reminded me that our Holy Faith is Truth, and Truth is worth dying for.

“‘I know my brothers’ sufferings,” La Valette said. “But we are merely pawns between the Cross and Koran. Elmo will not be abandoned. Malta will not be abandoned. We shall all hold out until the last. We swore obedience when we joined the Order, we swore on the vows of chivalry that our lives would be sacrificed for the Faith where and whenever required.’ He looked at them all. ‘Our brethren in St. Elmo must now make that sacrifice.”

**

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

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This book is coming up on my re-read list because I’ve actually *cough* only read it once . . . which should serve as a tribute to its amazing-ness since it nevertheless made my top five 🙂 This gentle-but-powerful, saga-like story of a Bishop, and his endearing assisting priest, sent into New Mexico to reignite the Faith in the 1800’s, is simple yet captivating. I found it easy to read (so easy I devoured it), yet at the same time crafted with beautiful descriptive imagery, human insight, and love of our extraordinary Faith as lived out by ordinary people.

“After keeping quietly to his bed for a few days, the Bishop called young Bernard to him one morning and said: ‘Bernard, will you ride into Santa Fe today and see the Archbishop for me.’

‘I will go at once, Father. But you should not be discouraged; one does not die of a cold.’

The old man smiled. ‘I shall not die of a cold, my son. I shall die of having lived.'”

**

Father Elijah by Michael D. O’Brien

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Michael O’Brien . . . where to start with Michael O’Brien? He’s simply my favorite living Catholic author, and this was the first book of his I ever read. While all his books are suffused with great love for our traditional Faith, morals, and theology, with incredible intelligence, insight into spiritual life, and masterful storytelling, Father Elijah draws you immediately into the urgency of Catholicism lived in a world that is becoming increasingly dominated by sin and seduced by the deification of man. The protagonist, a Holocaust survivor and convert from Judaism who became a Carmelite priest, is asked by the Pope to attempt to touch the soul of the man at the head of these increasingly dark initiatives. It reads like a thriller story, and yet is alive with the Faith and permeated with the Cross.

“‘My God,’ Elijah cried, ‘my God. Where are you? Why can we not reach them?’

When his hands had ceased to shake he heard a voice speak to him from the tabernacle. Simultaneously, it spoke within him.

My son, I ask you to go down into the lost places. Go without fear.

‘I have no strength, my Lord. I have no power to save them!’

No man can save another. Only I can save. Yet My strength is within you. My strength works most effectively in your weakness. When will you trust Me?

‘What is happening, Lord? Your Church is reeling from many blows and bleeding from a million wounds.’

Have no fear. Walk into the darkness and bring back souls from it. I am with you always.

**

So yes . . . thank you for allowing me to gush about Lent, the Faith, and my favorite books, all in one post. I am in your debt 😉

Have a blessed second week of Lent!

When Your Lent Starts Out in the Sick Ward

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I’ve been so excited about my first-ever “traditional Lent” (i.e., my first Lent since I started attending the Traditional Latin Mass), I’ve been struggling to gather my thoughts enough to actually write an article or two about it. However, I’ll have you know I was geared up for Ash Wednesday.

I had it all planned out. I’d been waiting for this day for months. I mean, how could I not after reading in my Missal . . .

Ash Wednesday is from a liturgical point of view one of the most important days of the year.

So, I traveled to all the traditional-minded websites and soaked in the treasuries of new knowledge about traditional Lenten practices. I read ahead in my Missal, unearthing all the upcoming prayers and propers. My Gregorian chant station was ready on Pandora. I’d even ironed my lavender mantilla. (Joking there.) I was ready. And so was my family. We’d all been looking forward to this so much–the beginning of our first Lent attending our wonderful Latin Mass parish.

But then we came down with, like, The Seventh Virus of the Year.

So, on Ash Wednesday afternoon, I was home coughing and wheezing feverishly from some form of virus-turned-bronchitis, just like my younger brother; I sipped orange juice and watched EWTN through tired eyes, along with our collection of saint movies. (We have a lot of those, by the way, mostly from Ignatius Press. Most are dubbed English. However, they’re way better if you go for the Italian/original-langue option and endure chunky subtitles. Italians have such an emotive language. But I digress.)

As I curled up in my cocoon of blankets, I mournfully contemplated the liturgy that was currently going on at our home parish. I rubbed my ash-less forehead and nearly felt excommunicated. This was going to be your best Ash Wednesday ever! complained the part of me that so easily feels sorry for Mary Donellan.

Ah, how often does God change our plans, and how often we want to complain 🙂

Just prior to Ash Wednesday I was encouraged to write about sickness in the Catholic home, and since I’d already privately had the same idea not too long before, I took it to be a nudge from Higher Up 🙂 I’m definitely not an expert on this subject . . . but, at the same time, I feel as if my family has gotten a crash course in the Catholic-home-turned-infirmary over the past two months. Remember Christmas in the Cave? Well . . . that was only the beginning. We’ve had virus after virus since January, and it hasn’t exactly been a joy.

We’ve always been a pretty healthy clan; we maybe contracted one or two colds per year, always used hand sanitizer, and escaped from most public functions plagueless. (On a personal note, I haven’t had a stomach virus since I was about eleven years old, which I think is completely awesome!) But health track records apparently don’t save you.

Our house has felt like an infirmary, with only two or so short breaks, since the beginning of the year. Friends comforted me by telling me we must be getting purified for all our many sins, which was, ahem, such a balm to my soul! 😉

Not that the sicknesses were anything really bad (Deo Gratias!) . . . but any family knows how prolonged sickness will, eventually, wear you down as a family unit! Catholic families, in particular Catholic homeschooling families (who are together nearly all the time anyway) can especially identify.

Everything feels increasingly cramped, infected, and dreary. Everyone’s company starts becoming . . . well . . . less desirable. You’re continually having to cancel plans, or (even worse) miss Mass and the Sacraments when you would so benefit from going. Everyone’s tired and miserable, either from being sick or from taking care of the sick.

So, the writing topic presented itself . . . How do Catholic families keep such special and holy seasons such as Lent, when everyone’s sick, stir crazy, and unable to attend the liturgies they’ve been looking forward to?

I once read a beautiful quote from Pope St. John Paul II:

The sickness of a family member, friend or neighbor is a call to Christians to demonstrate true compassion, that gentle and persevering sharing in another’s pain.

Sickness in a Catholic home, especially right around these sacred times in the liturgical year, can be so frustrating and disappointing. But sickness is simply a different door God has opened the Catholic family–a doorway to glorifying Him through their sufferings in whatever liturgical season they find themselves in.

Nothing is outside God’s Providence. An everlasting cold, a stomach virus, or bronchitis never “triumphs” over God’s desire for the Catholic family to participate as fully as they can in the current liturgical season. Rather, in His infinite wisdom, He’s seen that there are special graces that families can attain to by enduring sicknesses with whatever patience and docility they can muster (and pray for!).

After all . . . it’s probably easier to fast or spend more time in solitary prayer than it is to make the fortieth cup of ginger ale and pick up the eight-millionth crumpled tissue from the floor and say for the seventy-second time that hour, “Please cover your cough!” with compassion, patience and enduring charity 🙂

So it stands to reason that, when different liturgical seasons such as Lent roll around, these challenging acts of home-oriented charity are what God has in mind for some Catholic families, instead of all the (good!) plans we make to be out and about and busy with our traditional practices. We’ll be well . . . eventually. We’ll be well enough to undertake our fasts and penances, to make the homemade pretzels, to attend the Masses and the Stations of the Cross, or whatever it is we want to do in order to make this season spiritually fruitful and efficacious.

But, in the meantime, to trust and surrender humbly to God’s plan for our Ash Wednesdays, our ordinary Thursdays, our weeks and months and our entire lives? To pray from the couches and fast from complaining? To offer up our sickness and any other difficulty as a sacrifice? Now that’s the path to sanctity for any and every Catholic family 🙂

Have a blessed Lent!