Woman at Home Daybook :: Vol. 5 (On the Feast of St. Andrew)

Daybook

Read more installments here 🙂

This day in the Liturgical Year . . .

The Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, and the beginning of the St. Andrew Christmas Novena!

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Hail, precious cross, receive the disciple of Him Who hung upon thee, even my Master Christ. * The blessed Andrew prayed saying: O Lord, King of eternal glory, receive me hanging on this gibbet. * Andrew was the servant of Christ, a worthy Apostle of God, the brother of Peter, and likened to him in his martyrdom. * Christ’s dear handmaid, Maximilla, took away the body of the Apostle, and buried it with spices in an honorable place.

Antiphons at Vespers

Outside my window . . .

A late-November downpour: a misty, gray wetness clinging to the nearly-bare trees; red leaves shivering under the rain. For over a week, the weather here has been almost unfailingly bright and beautiful. This sudden change has a stark beauty in its own right, though, and also reminds me of what Strider and the hobbits might have traveled through after leaving Bree; cloaked and sodden, trudging quietly on with their heads tucked down against the miserable weather.

Sounds throughout the house . . .

Rainfall on the roof; Lena giving our younger brother and sister a lesson in Bible History downstairs. Accompanying chatter. Pippin (the washing machine . . .) chugging away from the laundry room, full of my youngest sister’s clothes, as it’s her washing day. The printer clicking and whirring in the study.

I am wearing . . .

Yet another football shirt (strangely, I always seem to be wearing these on Daybook day, which provides an embarrassing lack of variety . . . I do wear other things, you know), casual, gray drawstring pants with a yellow and white stripe running down either side, tennis shoes, Miraculous Medal, hair in a loose bun against my neck.

Attempts in the kitchen . . .

An innocent parody of Mother Teresa seems appropriate here: Thanksgiving is gone; Christmas has not yet come; we have only today; let us begin dieting! Finally, the all the lovely delectations are out of the house and my digestive tract is beginning to awaken and thank me for no longer dumping Thanksgiving-sized amounts of sugar and starch into it.

Last night, the guys were gone yet again, which provided yet another opportunity for culinary experimentation. Mom came up with a delicious ground-turkey, onion, green bell pepper, chili powder, parsley, salt, pepper olive oil, garlic, russet and sweet potato hash, all done in a cast-iron skillet. Ahh, it was amazing. This Irish girl could live solely off potatoes. And I kid you not as to the euphoria I experience when I remember I’m having it for lunch in a few hours 😉

A note on projects . . .

Yesterday, after about a week of slow consideration, list-making, budgeting and brainstorming, I balanced my checkbook and accomplished some early online Christmas shopping. I haven’t done everything, but it’s a pleasant feeling to at least have finished Round One 🙂

But ah, yes; it’s time for a miniature reveal. I have hinted at an ongoing project here–one for my mother’s birthday–numerous times without offering any details. However, as I can safely talk about it now, here goes!

It’s a daily planner, centered around the liturgical year and based upon the Old (Extraordinary Form) Calendar/1962 Missal. It begins in Advent of this year and ends on the Last Week after Pentecost in November 2018. I had the idea around half a year ago, spent weeks designing it, but my creative wheels ceased to turn as I grew unsure of what to actually do with it. However, a few weeks ago my mother asked for one for her birthday, so I picked up the reins I’d dropped and put it through a re-design.

She has her copy in now and, like the best of mothers, has both loved it and offered helpful critique, so I’ve been busy making tweaks here and there in my editable documents. I’m not sure what the future holds in terms of designing more planners, but I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it (even with the eye strain) and would love to share a peek with any interested readers! So I compiled my monthly “at-a-glance” pages, which are included in the planner, into one document and uploaded it to the blog for free download and printing. If you’d like, check it out here 🙂 Below is a snapshot:

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I am reading . . .

Continuing to read, as and when I can, Raise Happy Children . . . Teach Them Virtues! I have not picked up War and Peace for a little while, but not for lack of interest . . . probably just lack of time. I remember precisely where I am, though. Pierre’s father is in the last stages of his illness, and Pierre (bewildered as ever) is being ushered into the house (through the back way) by the quite capable (to put it mildly) Anna, even as within the house others are plotting to keep the inheritance away from him.

For a prayer group, Lena and I are both reading A Map of Life (and for me, it’s a re-read), and once again I am in awe of the contents of this book. Every paragraph contains enough truth, clarity, and profoundly simple insight to, physically, give me chill bumps. We’ve been reading it aloud to one another, which in my opinion is the best way to share an excellent book 🙂 Especially an excellent book I only had to pay 99 cents for . . .

Freedom is usually defined as the power to do what one likes. Accepting the definition, one sees instantly that the power to do what one likes may be the goal, but doing what one likes is not necessarily the road to the goal. In the bodily order, eating what one likes, for instance, may very well be the very solidest hindrance to doing what one likes, and a certain prelude to suffering what one very much dislikes. It is only by doing as one ought, that one attains a condition in which one has true physical freedom, the uttermost freedom possible to the body. And the same truth applies exactly to the soul. Freedom, then, is not to be attained by doing what we like unless by chance we like what we ought: which brings us back to the true purpose of our being and the laws by which our being may progress towards it. Apart from that is only loss.

F. J. Sheed. A Map Of Life (Kindle Locations 201-207). Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Contemplating authentic femininity . . .

I just now came across this old quote I’d saved, years ago . . .

“Our old analogy of the fire remains the most workable one. The fire need not blaze like electricity, nor boil like boiling water; its point is that it blazes more than water and warms more than light. The wife is like the fire—or to put things in their proper proportion, the fire is like the wife. Like the fire, the woman is expected to cook, not to excel in cooking, but to cook; to cook better than her husband who is earning the cook by lecturing on botany or breaking stones. Like the fire, the woman is expected to tell tales to the children, not original and artistic tales, but tales, better tales than would probably be told by a first-class cook . . .”

-G. K. Chesterton, The Emancipation of Domesticity

Yesterday afternoon, my parents and I fell into conversation about my father’s workplace that day, and about the stress a woman was going through due to her daughter having broken her arm at school. The scenario reminded me strongly of how motherhood is, truly, a full-time job. I can’t begin to imagine the stress of trying to sustain two full-time jobs; something, surely, has to give. To me, in the futuristic sense, nothing would ever be worth bartering away my place at home with my children . . . that sacred place, full of hours unnoticed by the world, in which I can be content to be a fire that blazes more than water and warms more than light.

On living the Faith . . .

Preparing for Advent . . . which means, I suppose, preparing for preparation 😉

Prayerfully . . .

It’s the last day of the Month of the Holy Souls! Let’s all make special offerings of prayers and sacrifices for their relief and release today. Be mindful, O Lord, of those Thou hast redeemed by the shedding of Thy Most Precious Blood.

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Collect of St. Andrew:

We humbly entreat Thy majesty, O Lord: that as the blessed Apostle Andrew was once a teacher and ruler of Thy Church: so he may be a constant advocate for us before Thee.

Antiphon at the Magnificat for Vespers:

When the blessed Andrew had come to the place where the cross was prepared, he cried out and said: O good Cross, so long desired, and now made ready for my longing soul! I come unto thee with confidence and joy; do thou also joyfully receive me, the disciple of Him Who hung upon thee.

Let’s also pray to have this heroic courage and fidelity of St. Andrew!

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Advent Approaches

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“He must increase, while I must decrease.”

Five days are standing between Advent and me! The beginning of the New Year always comes so quickly; inevitably, the Sundays after Pentecost seem to be lined up in an endless row, and then poof! the last one comes and goes before I’ve half-realized it. My missal ribbons have reached the ends of the liturgical year and so I’ve turned them all back to the very beginning, where they now lie waiting. Once again, I’m confronted with the same mental pile of plans, old traditions and new ideas for how to spiritually make the most of Advent: how to dig more deeply than I’ve ever done before.

In a spirit of penance and prayer we await the Mediator, the God-Man, preparing for His coming in the flesh, and also for His second coming as our Judge. The Masses for Advent strike a note of preparation and repentance mingled with joy and hope; hence, although the penitential violet is worn and the Gloria is omitted, the joyous Alleluia is retained. The readings from the Old Testament . . . taken mostly from the prophecies of Isais and the Psalms, give eloquent expression to the longing of all nations for a Redeemer. We are impressed by repeated and urgent appeals to the Messias: “Come, delay no longer.” The Lessons from St. Paul urge us to dispose ourselves fittingly for His coming. The Gospels describe the terrors of the Last Judgment, foretell the second coming, and tell of the preaching of St. John the Baptist “to prepare the way of the Lord.”

The idea of Advent is “Prepare you for the coming of Christ.” Therefore the very appeals of the Patriarchs and Prophets are put into our mouths in Advent. Prepare for the coming of Christ the Redeemer, Who comes to prepare us for His second coming as Judge.

1962 Missal, pg. 135-136

Things have been so busy around here lately! Yesterday was a day for scouring, laundry, and trying to get some household/personal things back in order after the holiday. So I suppose it’s only natural that today’s sights are turning interiorly to discover what needs redirection. I’ve been sensing the need to be quiet, and to contemplate the purpose of Advent, and how I can best translate that purpose into my day-to-day once the season arrives. After all, every Advent is, simultaneously, old and brand-new.

When it comes to assembling a spiritual battle plan for Advent, there are, certainly, a lot of potential elements on the table. Most important: tradition insistently breathes  penance into Advent. A few words from Fr. Zuhlsdorf stood out to me this morning:

I like to describe Advent as a season of joyful penance or, if you prefer, penitential joy. We can hold the two in a beautiful, fruitful tension.

Consider that Advent presents the figure of John the Baptist, who said: He must increase, I must decrease. Kenosis. Sounds penitential to me.

How is Our Lord asking me to cultivate the virtue of penitential joy this Advent?

Advent Prayers

Lasting from November 30th (the feast of St. Andrew) to December 24th, the St. Andrew Christmas “Novena” has been a part of my Advent for the past several years, and I’ve come to cherish it. Not only is it an opportunity to place a special intention before Our Lord and Our Lady throughout the holy season of Advent, but also, the words of the prayer itself, traditionally repeated fifteen times each day, evoke a special spirit of reverential, anticipated joy at the approaching Nativity of Our Lord. It’s something I’ll definitely be participating in again this year.

Here it is for PDF download (two copies per page) :: St. Andrew Christmas Novena

Hail, and blessed be the

hour & moment

in which
THE SON OF GOD WAS BORN
to the MOST PURE VIRGIN MARY,
at
midnight, in Bethlehem,
in piercing cold.

I N   T H A T   H O U R , V O U C H S A F E ,

O My God,
to hear my prayers and grant my desires
through the merits of Our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His Blessed Mother.
A M E N.

The Creator Alme Siderum and Rorate Coeli are included in Sunday Vespers throughout Advent. I am thinking of trying to pray them regularly throughout the season, hopefully daily or at least a few times a week, since they’re specifically incorporated into the Advent liturgy of the Church. Perhaps our family will be doing some of these (I think we did last year), which might replace my doing it privately. Either way, I think they perfectly encapsulate the interior disposition we should have as we await the feast of Christmas!

C R E A T O R   A L M E   S I D E R U M

Creator of the stars of night,
Thy people’s everlasting light
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,
And hear Thy servants when they call.

Thou, lest the demon’s ancient curse
Should doom to death a universe,
In love wast made, Thyself alone,
The means to save a world undone.

Towards the cross Thou wentest forth,
That Thou might’st heal the crimes of earth;
Proceeding from a virgin shrine,
The spotless Victim all divine.

At Whose dread name, majestic now,
All knees must bend all hearts must bow;
And things celestial Thee shall own,
And things terrestrial, Lord alone.

O Thou, Whose coming is with dread,
To judge and doom the quick and dead,
Thy heavenly grace on us bestow,
To shield us from our ghostly foe.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Laud, honor, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally. Amen.

R O R A T E   C O E L I

Ye heavens, drop down the dew from above, and let the clouds rain down the just.

Be not angry, O Lord, remember no more our iniquities. Behold the city of the Holy One is deserted: Sion is laid desolate: Jerusalem is laid waste: the home of Thy sanctification and of Thy glory, where our fathers praised Thee.

Ye heavens, drop down the dew from above, and let the clouds rain down the just.

We have sinned, and we are become like the unclean; we are fallen like the leaves, and our sins, like the storm, have carried us away. Thou hast hidden Thy face from us, and hast thrown us into the power of our sins.

Ye heavens, drop down the dew from above, and let the clouds rain down the just.

Behold, O Lord, the affliction of Thy people, and send Him Whom Thou wilt send forth, the Lamb, the ruler of the earth, from the rock of the desert to the mountain of the daughter of Sion, that He may take away the yoke of our captivity.

Ye heavens, drop down the dew from above, and let the clouds rain down the just.

Be comforted, be comforted, O my people: thy Savior shall come quickly. Why hath grief devoured thee? Why hath sorrow disfigured thee? I will save thee: fear not: for I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer.

Ye heavens, drop down the dew from above, and let the clouds rain down the just.

And then we have the Immaculate Conception Novena, beginning tomorrow.

The Immaculate Conception is a huge, huge feast, celebrating a most wonderful and mysterious truth of the Faith that I so often take for granted . . . Our Lady was conceived wholly without Original Sin; from the first moment her existence, she was fashioned as the Vessel of Honor, the Tower of David, the House of Gold. What an awesome reality! It should bring us to our knees.

I can only imagine how many options there for praying this novena, but after doing a little digging of my own, I felt drawn towards doing something special and rather intensely reflective of the beauty of this Doctrine, especially in light of my personal Total Consecration to Our Lady (and the fact that I renewed my Consecration earlier this year, leaving me a long gap until next year’s renewal . . . this is a good opportunity for a halfway-point offering, so to speak!).

So I’m going to aim to offer the following combination of 1) the traditional three Hail Marys in honor of the Immaculate Conception 2) two other indulgenced prayers 3) the Collect from the Mass for the Immaculate Conception, and 4) two indulgenced ejaculations.

A N   I M M A C U L A T E   C O N C E P T I O N   N O V E N A

One Hail Mary (in Honor of the Immaculate Conception)

O Virgin Immaculate, Mother of God and my Mother, from thy sublime height turn upon me thine eyes of pity. Filled with confidence in thy goodness and knowing full well thy power, I beseech thee to extend to me thine assistance in this journey of life, which is so full of dangers for my soul. And in order that I may never be the slave of the devil through sin, but may ever live with my heart humble and pure, I entrust myself wholly to thee. I consecrate my heart to thee for ever, my only desire being to love thy divine Son Jesus. Mary, none of thy devout servants has ever perished; may I too be saved. Amen. (An indulgence of 500 days)

One Hail Mary (in Honor of the Immaculate Conception)

O Mary, conceived without stain, pray for us who fly to thee. Refuge of sinners, Mother of those who are in their agony, leave us not in the hour of our death, but obtain for us perfect sorrow, sincere contrition, remission of our sins, a worthy reception of the most holy Viaticum, the strengthening of the sacrament of Extreme Unction, so that we may be able to stand with safety before the throne of the just but merciful Judge, our God and Redeemer. Amen. (An indulgence of 100 days)

One Hail Mary (in Honor of the Immaculate Conception)

Let us Pray: O God, Who, by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, didst prepare for Thy Son a worthy habitation, we beseech Thee, that as Thou didst preserve her from every stain by the foreseen death of this Thy Son, so Thou wouldst grant that we also being cleansed from guilt by her intercession, may come to Thee.

Blessed be the holy and immaculate conception of the most blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God! (300 days’ indulgence)

O Mary! conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. (100 days’ indulgence)

For prudence’s sake, and so as not to try and do too overwhelmingly much at once (in thoughtless, eager sanguine fashion), I’ll be consolidating or replacing most of my usual daily prayers with these more specific Advent devotions (especially for the days when I’ll be praying this novena and the St. Andrew Novena at the same time . . .).

But I’ve just realized this all raises a good point: on my part, this addition and re-dedication to Advent prayer will demand that I rearrange and sacrifice my free time (read: indulgent sleeping in time, indulgent internet browsing time, etc.) on a regular basis . . . This is definitely a fine form of penance! 😉

And finally, there is the Christmas Novena, beginning on December 16th and ending on Christmas Eve. Our family usually offers the PrayMoreNovenas.com version together, but we’ll see what’s in store for this year!

The Ember Days

This year, the Advent Ember Days fall on Wednesday, December 20th (fasting and partial abstinence); Friday, December 22nd (fasting and total abstinence); and Saturday, December 23rd (fasting and partial abstinence). I pray I’ll be able to use these three days of increased prayer, fasting and abstinence well!

Advent meditations

Last year, I felt that two types of meditation were appropriate for me during Advent, and the same feels true for this year, as well: meditation on the virtue of humility, especially as practiced by Our Lady; and meditation on the Four Last Things.

So, for meditational reading, I’ll be peeking some through the pages of The Four Last Things and also contemplating ways to practice the virtue of humility in my daily life, especially under the fifteen admonitions of Mother Teresa:

  1. Speak as little as possible about yourself.
  2. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.
  3. Avoid curiosity over things that should not concern you.
  4. Do not interfere in the affairs of others.
  5. Accept small irritations with good humor.
  6. Do not dwell on the faults of others.
  7. Accept censures even if unmerited.
  8. Give in to the will of others.
  9. Accept insults and injuries.
  10. Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.
  11. Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.
  12. Do not seek to be admired and loved.
  13. Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.
  14. Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.
  15. Choose always the more difficult task.

Advent in the home

And so, I guess that wraps up my personal thoughts and spiritual hopes for Advent. I fully expect it to be imperfectly done, full of holes and tangles . . . but still, I want to give it all to Our Lady like a child would, leaving it to her to transform my small efforts as she knows best.

As far as Advent in our home, however, there are other beautiful things just around the corner! The Advent wreath will be brought out, the candles lit each night and as the weeks progress . . . St. Nicholas’ feast will be celebrated on the 6th . . . hidden acts of kindness will be offered for others in old the Kris Kringle tradition . . . Advent hymns will be sung . . . the house will start seeing decorations at the beginning of the O Antiphons, but not a light will be turned on until after we get home from Christmas Eve High Mass . . . I truly look forward to posting pictures and anecdotes of the Advent days in our family!

When the oracles of the Prophets were fulfilled and the Jews awaited the Messias, John the Baptist left the desert and came to the vicinity  of the Jordan, bringing a baptism of penance to prepare souls for the coming of Christ. The world took him to be the Messias, but he replied with the words of Isaias: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

During Advent we make straight for Christ the way to our souls–and behold, our Lord will come at Christmas.

1962 Missal, pg. 136

Have a blessed remainder of your week!

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Living Virtuously :: Free Prints (and celebrating the feast of the Presentation of Our Lady)

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Early the next morning, St. Joachim took his animal offerings to the Temple with several men, while St. Ann, accompanied by many women and girls, led Mary [three and a half years old] to God’s House in a beautiful solemn procession through the streets of the Holy City. Little Mary walked behind her mother. She was dressed in a lovely sky-blue robe with garlands of flowers around her arms and neck, and in one hand she carried a candle decorated with flowers. On each side of her were three girls in white with flowers and candles. Then came other girls and women. Everyone who saw them was touched by Mary’s extraordinarily holy appearance.

At the outer entrance to the Temple, they were met by St. Joachim, Zacharias and several other priests. As they passed through the gate, Mary’s parents inwardly offered their beloved daughter to the Lord with a fervent and devout prayer. And Mary too, in deep humility and adoration, offered herself to God. She alone perceived that the Almighty welcomed her and accepted her, for she heard a voice from Heaven saying:

“Come, My beloved, My spouse, come into My Temple, where I wish thee to offer Me praise and worship.”

Then, crossing the Women’s Court, they came to the fifteen steps leading up to the great Nicanor Gate. It was here that St. Joachim and St. Ann had to make the formal offering of their child to the Temple . . . after [they] had tenderly blessed her, little Mary, without hesitating and without looking back, began to climb up the fifteen steps. She would not let anyone help her, but with remarkable resolution and dignity she hastened up all by herself, filled with holy fervor and joy.

-from The Life of Mary as Seen By the Mystics

Today is the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary! The Missal states, As soon as she could walk, Mary was brought  to the Temple by her holy parents, Joachim and Anne. With what an ecstasy of delight she must have entered into the Temple, crying out: “How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts; my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord.” (Psalm 83; 1, 2) Have I any of the same desire to consecrate my life to the Lord?

Our Lady truly is the Queen of all Virtues. Because she was full of grace in accordance with God’s will, all the virtues thrived within her without any hindrance or defect on earth, and continue to do so all the more wonderfully in Heaven.

For us members of Church Militant who are striving to attain and perfect the virtues in our spiritual lives, this is a wonderful feast on which to pray for assistance! This is the feast on which the Blessed Virgin displayed, in a special way, her desire to give herself totally to God with the utmost purity and perfection of all the virtues!

And so, because of this, I thought it would be the perfect day to launch the Living Virtuously section of Benedic, Domine, Nos.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post (Ramble #4), I’ve been designing “virtue cards” on and off over the past few years, and currently have the desire to create more. Also, having been so recently inspired by Raise Happy Children . . . Teach them Virtues!, it seems a wonderfully optimal time for me to begin crafting more cards that both inform and inspire me towards virtue (and are, hopefully, visually pleasing), and sharing them with my blog readers!

Like I describe on the Living Virtuously page, these free, original prints (designed by me whenever I experience a window of time and a spurt of inspiration!) offer brief, inspiring quotes from the Saints and traditional Catholic writings on striving after specific virtues. Print them out, frame them, tape them up, keep them, or give them away! There are two quotes per download, and it’s my goal to update this page near-daily with at least one new pair of quotes.

My only request is that, for each download, you would kindly offer one Hail Mary for the spiritual protection of all our priests 🙂 Let’s all join in striving anew to practice the virtues in our homes and families, so that we may live virtuous lives that are pleasing to God, and every day declare as Our Blessed Mother did, “How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts; my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord.”

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7 Rambling Monday Takes :: Vol. 7 (Thanksgiving Week)

MondayTakes

Explore previous rambling installments here 🙂

1.

Thanksgiving Week is here (already?!), and so I’m aiming my sights towards my usual contributions to the family table . . . apple pie and green bean casserole. (Oh, right, and the turkey breast [glad I remembered], but that involves so little comparative effort [literally, two or three ingredients] that I just now remembered I’ve been making that with my youngest sister for the past few years, too.)

Two apple pies for the benefit of others (which translates to my father), and one green bean casserole for the benefit of (mainly) myself. For whatever inexplicable reason, green bean casserole is the dish my tongue looks most forward to on Thanksgiving, tied only by Lena’s pumpkin pie . . . and no one else in our family, really, has such a friendly relationship with the GBC as I do. So for the past few years, in order to rescue it from The Thanksgiving Culling, I’ve taken it upon myself to make it.

Apple pies, on the other hand . . . I think I must have been making them for Thanksgiving since I was 11 or 12. (Oh . . . wow, that makes it almost a decade, doesn’t it?) It’s a tear-out recipe card from an old Crisco package, nicely stained with orange juice and brown sugar. It sings nostalgia!

I have a feeling my father will need to be buried with a homemade apple pie or two. He is so sweet to call it his favorite thing; and since he scorns both Redi-whip and ice cream with it, it must be the not-quite-complete-sugary-ness of the dessert that woos him year after year. But honestly, the only thing I do in the way of making it unique to me is to take care that the apples are sliced thin. Teensy-thin. Not quite paper thin, but (hold on, let me examine my helpfully nearby ruler) at least an eighth of an inch thin, maybe a little less if I’m being extra careful. (By the end of a dozen apples, the knife gets slightly less scrupulous.) But everything else is just how the recipe asks for it . . . with the addition of love, of course 😉

2.

Our family’s Thanksgiving traditions unfailingly include reading Cranberry Thanksgiving and making Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread to go along with it. Our annual visit with Maggie, Grandmother, Mr. Whiskers and Mr. Horace never grows stale.

And let me reinforce the mental image that everyone in our family is present for the reading aloud of this tale. Dad, Mom, everyone.

Picture books seem to be essential for the celebration of a holiday in our household, and their timeless presence is something I will definitely carry over into my own future home. You don’t have to have little ones to enjoy picture books (although having little ones to read them to will be indescribably fun)!

And, although it’s nothing like Alcott’s original story, we always seem to watch An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving with Jacqueline Bisset, too . . . it’s a pretty sweet movie, but I think it’s safe to say we girls only watch it for Solomon and Gad, for which I don’t believe we can be blamed.

3.

Saturday, my guy treated my brother and me to a football game at the university he attends (last home game of the season); we feared a downpour but were thankfully spared the whole time from having to pull out our ponchos. I so thoroughly enjoyed it! It was a perfect back-and-forth match of fourth downs and several goal-line stands, and as our team won, it couldn’t have been better; it was such a special way to spend time together. Although I never fail to be so sad for the players who lose . . . they always look so crestfallen and I start nonsensically wishing that everyone could win!

My fourteen-year-old brother is continually growing in his photography skills and utilized the time at the stadium to capture some (by which I mean hundreds of) action shots with his new 75-300mm lens. In fact, he’s advancing so much in his general photographic knowledge that, this morning over breakfast, he convinced me (the until-now Av stickler) of the worth of switching over to Shutter Priority as opposed to Aperture Priority, and was also describing the benefits of Manual Focus in detail. All he had to do was show me some pictures he’d taken in our (not-optimally-lit) parish hall yesterday during potluck, and an interior conversion occurred.

Brother: Mary, I don’t want you to get married and leave us!

Me (flattered): Aww, because you’ll miss me?

Brother: Because I won’t know what to do without your camera.

Indeed, that is a pressing problem.

4.

Today I finally wrapped up work on my mom’s birthday present, which again, I hope to post about soon . . . a project which was fun, challenging, and (liturgically) right up my alley!

Also speaking of projects, yesterday morning (before leaving for Mass) I flung myself through a slap-dash brush-up of some old virtue cards in order to give them to a family friend who would be at potluck. This meant . . . that everyone . . . wound up waiting in the car . . . for me. Sigh. To be fair, I can’t remember ever having been the last one in the car before, because punctuality is definitely important to me. It was an uncomfortable occurrence, though they were all very forgiving and obliging towards their Mary. Unfortunately, in the rush of things, I left my veil at home and had to borrow a spare one from Mom’s purse . . . but my father is so excellent a driver that Lena and I still made it to choir on time 🙂 Thank you, Dad!

However, all the time I was frantically printing out the sheets of cardstock while everyone else was in the van, I had prophetic visions of being married and spiking my husband’s blood pressure by putting punctuality on the line in such a fashion. Ay yi yi.

The wording of these virtue cards (twelve, for each the fruits of the Holy Ghost) are slightly adapted from an old Confirmation lapbook download, the source of which is unknown to me, but I’ll try to find out. However, the simple (amateur) design is my own and I thought I would put the PDFs here for anyone who might like to print them out for use in their Ecclesia domestica. I’ll do that in a separate post in a little while . . .

5.

Today is a gloriously chilly late-November display of all that’s wonderful about autumn. Sunny, windy, increasingly bare and with temps in the low 30s this morning (at long last!). As it’s Monday, it’s also laundry day for me, and thank Heavens I finally had the wherewithal to remember to wash my sheets. I’m not sure what happened to my rhythm there, but suffice it to say, we’re back on track now! And speaking of which, I need to wrap this post up and get back to Merry and Pippin . . .

6.

One last Sunday after Pentecost remains before Advent! I can’t believe it’s almost upon us! Advent will always hold a special place in my heart and is one of my most favorite seasons of the liturgical year. The St. Andrew Christmas Novena . . . the beautiful sense of expectation, joy and penance . . . the gradual appearance of decorations . . . the wistful strains of Advent hymns . . . the Advent wreath . . . the “Kris Kringle” traditions of secret acts of goodness . . . the beginning of a new year, the approaching coming of Our Lord! I can’t wait!

7.

Remaining thoughts . . . well, I’m hungry and am thankful the heat just kicked on 😉 It’s a definitely day for sweatshirts, warm pants and tennis shoes. Off to get some more work done! Have a very blessed Monday and a happy feast of St. Felix of Valois, Confessor!

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Gathering Up Thoughts on a Friday

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It’s been a while, hasn’t it! Time to gather my thoughts at a leisurely pace . . .

I guess the thoughts most prevalent on my mind are springing from the book Raise Happy Children . . . Teach them Virtues! by Mary Ann Budnick. It was lent to me over a month ago but unfortunately remained buried in our car until earlier this week (with all the November-themed talk of death and burial over here, I suppose it’s appropriate I buried my books as well), when I finally un-earthed it. “Ah! Right! This book!”

Smilingly, I curled up and embarked on the introduction, expecting to absorb a wealth of ideas for raising my future children–and instead I got a mirror. A massive, clear, glinting mirror. The pursuit of virtues: the real, solid, burning desire of the will to grow in specific virtues: do I have this? The unfogged perception and understanding of this one and only path to sanctity: do I possess this?

My answer was, to be honest, more of a squeak than anything.

It is not enough to have some sort of desire of virtue and perfection . . . The greater the love and desire of the end, the greater the care and diligence that are employed to gain it. Thus it is very important that the desire and affection for virtue and perfection be great, since the care and diligence in securing and gaining it will be great in proportion . . . where the desire of advancement in perfection is not found, there will be very little hope.

-St. Alphonsus Rodriguez

It’s tricky to write about; the more spiritually honest my thoughts become, the more useless and limp words seem in describing it all. Virtues–virtuous living–I know these words, and I thought I knew their importance. But I think I was mistakenly, and possibly unconsciously, viewing virtues as the byproduct of a saintly living (She is holy, and so look at how virtuous her life is) rather than as the fulcrum, the definition, the foundation of saintly living at all (She is virtuous, and so look at how holy her life is). This a subtle but tremendous difference. Tremendous.

Attending Sunday Mass or even daily Mass, saying the daily rosary and frequenting the sacrament of confession {do} not eradicate . . . vices. Oh, that it could be that easy! These are all sources of God’s supernatural grace that can help us in our ongoing battle to eradicate our vices. But it takes our will to conquer our selfishness, pride, vanity, gluttony, thoughtlessness, jealousy, etc. so as to replace these vices with the natural virtues (good habits) of spirit of service, humility, temperance, kindness, justice, etc.

Raise Happy Children . . . Teach them Virtues! by Mary Ann Budnick

My dominant temperament (sanguine) is the most superficial of them all. Naturally, I would at times love to have a different temperament; to possess the intensity, concentration, intelligence, focus and passion for achievement of the choleric instead of all my surface-level delights, and my natural lack of penetration and depth when it comes to learning, comprehending, and acting on things. And yet, as with anything else that is inherent to my person, I accept my temperament as something God-given, something chosen for me, something I am capable of refining and perfecting through the practice of virtues. Fortunately, I can see where, through God’s grace, my temperament has already been refined somewhat from its natural faults–and yet I can certainly see how far I have left to go.

In the realm of my spiritual life, having strong sanguine tendencies translates to my being easily impressed by a thought, resolution, or a truth–and yet the impressions do not remain long; it translates to my being easily inspired and aroused–and yet I lose interior perseverance once the initial firestorm of excitement has died down. It is my natural inclination to run after new spiritual goals and practices, and yet to be all the while attuned to the sensory, sensual, exterior things of life that consistently hinder my progress due to my very attachment to them. Clothes; appearances; food; smells; comfort; entertainment; mental idleness . . . The more I’m attached to pleasing my senses (as a sanguine temperament is strongly wont to do), the foggier I become in my perception of my real spiritual state. It happens every time.

The interior life should be one of continual conversion, one of falling and rising, one of constantly pursuing a goal, one of desire. While reading the introductory pages of this book, I knew I had lost more of that desire than I wanted to admit. Christ vomits the lukewarm from His mouth. And while I do care, I do want to be a saint–as of late, I’ve felt as though I’ve had buckets of good intentions and yet am walking through a fog, not really knowing where I am. While Confession itself is relatively easy for me because it is, naturally, not so painful for me to disclose myself to others and I truly desire absolution and sanctifying grace for my soul . . . examining my conscience and grasping my sins is inherently difficult because of my lack of penetration and my struggle for depth and perception. Hence the fog that descends at times. Where am I?

However, the opening pages of this book confronted me with something so simple and so profound. My holiness and happiness depend entirely (apart from God’s grace) on my practice of the virtues and my mortification of the vices.

And it’s as simple as that.

It is harder toil to resist vices and passions, than to sweat in bodily labors. He that avoideth not small faults, by little and little falleth into greater. Thou wilt always rejoice in the evening, if thou spend the day profitably. Be watchful over thyself, stir up thyself, warn thyself, and whatsoever becometh of others, neglect not thyself. The more violent thou uses against thyself, the more shalt thou progress.

-Thomas a Kempis

Somehow, distilling my entire spiritual life down to “Nothing within me is stagnant, and I am always either progressing in virtue, or regressing in vice,” radically changed my entire perspective. Distilling the inevitably cliched phrases “growing in holiness” and “pleasing God” down to “actively pursuing the virtues” cleared my fog. It translated my “good intentions” into “the actions I must make.”

One thing in particular that has helped me initially was the observation made in Chapter 1 that daily mortification of the senses is vital for the sanguine’s spiritual life. Not the hair shirt, per se, but little things (which are often much more difficult than the big ones). In recently focusing on growing in virtue and practicing mortification, I’ve begun to realize how there is a staggering number of little promptings that come from the Holy Ghost during my day; promptings to deny myself something that my senses would enjoy. Already, it is impossible to ignore how a small mortification of the senses (one that no one else would even notice) primes me in my pursuit the virtues of temperance, prudence and fortitude. An act of self-denial equates to a growth in spiritual strength. I’m starting to see there’s a potential mortification to be found even in an indulgence . . . you can enjoy something with others, and yet still exercise a mastery over yourself by quietly forgoing an element that would seem to make it perfect.

I have also noticed that it really does become a contest; a race; something that enlivens you, where you experience a sense of competitiveness and determination. What can I mortify today? What virtue can I seek after?

I’m hoping to keep a notebook or something to begin a concrete tracking of my virtues and vices, although I have a poor record when it comes to consistently journaling anything. It will call for the virtue of fortitude and perseverance, I’m thinking 😉

Virtue–even attempted virtue–brings light; indulgence brings fog.

-C. S. Lewis

* * *

But to move on! Yesterday, I read an article on motherhood by Michele Chronister that was, quite sincerely, the best article I’ve read in quite a while. I cherish the hope of being a mother one day, a stay-at-home-because-I-love-the-home mother, and she stated in such tender and gentle ways the beauty of that hidden vocation.

If you were to read my resumé, you would read about my experience as a catechist, a speaker, a writer, and a social media manager. When I encounter people outside of our family and they ask what I have been working on, they aren’t asking me how many diapers I changed that day, or how many tearful faces I stroked. They’re curious what book I’m working on, what my latest article is, or if I’ve done any speaking lately.

And so, it is hard to reconcile the fact that my most important job – the job that fully absorbs my heart and my thoughts and the vast majority of my waking and sleeping hours – is not one that is seen as important or interesting by the culture we’re living in. Adding to this confusion is the fact that the women of my generation were all raised to believe that we could “do it all” – we could work, be mothers, have a social life…and be successful in all those areas. The reality is that motherhood compels me and draws me like no other job does. No matter what my other accomplishments may be, they just don’t grab my heart the way those four little souls do.

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Beautiful roses, representing a continuously beautiful and blessed courtship 🙂 God has been so good to us and our growing relationship as we continue to make strides, and we received several pieces of wonderful news this week that display His Fatherly Providence over us, and especially the motherly intercession of Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom on our behalf, after our having made a novena in her honor the week before. Lots of gratitude in our little corner of the world!

* * *

We celebrated two birthdays in the Donellan household this week, which accounts for some of my “blog silence,” and it’s really just been a wonderful and blessed few days, all around! It’s hard to believe my brother is fourteen years old, taller and bigger than me . . . sniff . . . however, as my dad has always been taller and bigger than me, I don’t have quite the same nostalgia (wink), but he reached the milestone of 50 and it was so much fun celebrating the gift he is to our family as our leader, provider and protector!

However, all these birthday bashes included . . . you guessed correctly . . . a small overdose slightly increased amount of sugar. Ah, well, I think we’re arriving at that point in the year where temperance will just have to be fought for as best we can . . . as in . . . we’re baking four pies and a cake next week. I shall only have a few bites 🙂

* * *

I made the venture and drove downtown with Lena earlier this week for the first time. I am a full-blooded country mouse who loves trees, hills, winding roads and small towns, and would much prefer to never live in the city if I didn’t have to.

However, it was fun to expand my driving skills, especially for such a momentous occasion as contributing to Lena’s book cover and being treated to lunch and laughs by some great friends. And Lena is a great shotgun rider, by the way. We were able to have in-depth spiritual conversations and yet navigate an angry driver, unexpectedly closed blocks (agh) and one-way streets thanks to her adept usage of my cell phone, making helpful suggestions and never questioning my judgment 🙂

* * *

I have been considering Christmas gifts more deeply this week, and crafting one upcoming birthday gift which I hope to make a blog post about soon. However, we’ve chosen not to shoot for having everything done before Advent after all. Since we wind up ordering a lot of things online for Christmas anyway, we don’t really experience a mad rush of having to go out and find gifts during Advent, and so it seemed that trying to fit in our gift-acquiring before Advent would only cause unnecessary stress. Still, as that holy season approaches, I shall still try to remain ahead of the game and attempt to grow a little more in the virtues prudence and industry 😉

Have a very blessed Friday and feast of St. Gregory the Wonderworker, and let’s keep remembering to pray and make sacrifices for the Holy Souls in Purgatory!

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