Labora (A Woman at Home Post)

The_Lady_Clare

Happy feast day of Pope St. Julius! 🙂

It just occurred to me how easy it is for me to cheerfully describe the joys and interests of life as a young woman at home. The Faith, family life, courtship life, friendship, tutoring, femininity . . . all of these things absolutely delight me. Writing about happinesses and about blessings is so necessary, and is the default for the sanguine, I’m thinking.

But . . . womanhood at home is hard, too. It is work. Labora. It is labor–the labor of pursuing virtue, the labor of struggle, and of making choices between little things, in which reside either heaven or hell. I am slowly learning that, if choosing young womanhood at home means choosing joy (which it does), it also means choosing labor, struggle, and sometimes suffering. If remaining at home (by which I mean in the family atmosphere) augments that which is beautiful about being feminine, it also emphasizes that which is most difficult. If it enriches a girl’s natural good inclinations, it also sharply highlights her habitual failings. It isn’t my nature to bring difficult things to the forefront . . . and yet they are there, nonetheless! Choosing to remain a young woman at home is simultaneously very beautiful and quite hard.

In my life right now, labora means something like these things . . .

It means battling for the heroic minute. It means rolling over in bed, turning off the alarm, and confronting Self lying in the bed beside me, fuzzily whispering at me not to get up, because I need rest, because last night was a late night, because today will be a long day–or, at least, because I can simply lie here and rest briefly without going back to sleep. I’ve chosen to be home, I don’t have “a job,” so why get up until I want to? It means mumbling through the Regina Caeli, it means wrestling with myself. It means getting up . . . or failing to.

It means going downstairs and finding dimness, chilliness (if the morning is cool), and observing the silhouettes of scattered throw pillows and unfolded blankets and other little piles from family time the night before. It means turning on the lamps (and the heat) and straightening things up (one of my chores here at home). It means making coffee if I forgot to assemble it the night before. It means either fully waking up to my good mood (fortunately, I usually wake up happy in the morning, or at least peaceful!), or dealing with an unexpected groggy/cranky/stressed mood and contemplating how I’ll present myself to my siblings and mother when they get up (my dad already being gone to work). Sometimes it means practicing my expression and my words for when they’ll walk into the kitchen.

And then it means kneeling down and offering my full morning prayers, which normally seem at least slightly longer than I have initial willpower for. It means either persevering, or cutting them short with some excuse that seems quite reasonable. It means sometimes getting consolations: sometimes not. It means fighting the imperfections in my prayer, those mainly of distraction. And then it means either choosing spiritual reading, or reading up on my phone. And then it means having breakfast and either being generous with my time towards my newly awakened siblings, or not so generous and rather distracted. It means choosing to watch Mass if I have legitimate time for it, or postponing it “just a little while.” It means starting my laundry or waiting an hour. It means embarking on my work and various obligations, or peeking at blogs. It means adhering to a hierarchy of daily priorities, or randomly following whatever is my newest interest or desire. It means choosing work first or choosing leisure first.

It means choosing to deny myself something small throughout the day, or simply eating whenever I want to. It means giving my attention and care to a sibling who is hungry for a little time, or finding an excuse to get back to the computer. It means embracing the present work with contentment and purpose, or it means constantly living in futuristic expectation of what may never come.

It means going out for my tutoring work, but coming home again and–despite my lack of energy–making up for all the time I’ve spent away from a family who misses me. It means choosing cheer and not tired reclusiveness; it means choosing the funny stories instead of the vague details.

It means scrubbing algae out of a shower, getting soggy food scraps out of the sink, folding underwear, rubbing shoulders.

It means crying from hormones; it means hugging someone else who is crying for the same reason; it means offering to cook or clean or assist with school when I really don’t want to, and before I’m asked; it means being patient when someone else is having a bad day; it means making someone’s bed when they deserve to make it themselves. It means trying to use my feminine intuition to sense if someone needs to talk, needs a shoulder to cry on, needs a break, needs a defender, needs a helper, needs a joke-maker, needs a prayer . . . although sometimes it might feel like I’m the one who needs these things. It means choosing to accept sicknesses and potential medical issues with trust, and prudently combating them when to not combat them is far easier.

It means using my funds unselfishly when I want to save it all from the motivation of having security: putting gas in the car, buying someone a snack. It means serving when I am tired; it means choosing against irritation. It means remembering to pray whenever, wherever I or someone else is in need, especially spiritually. It means imitating Our Lady when all I want is a fuzzy sweater, a bar of chocolate, and a bed to curl up in. Sometimes, if there must be a choice, it means dressing modestly instead of comfortably, or instead of what appears to be slightly cuter or newer or just simply different when all your clothes begin to appear the same to you. It means eventually leaving my hair alone and choosing to leave the mirror. It means defending the purity of my thoughts and resolving, again and again, that reason would rule emotion.

In family, in friendship, in courtship, it means having conversations I don’t want to have. It means being honest when I would rather not be honest. It means forgiving and guiding and listening and submitting. It means developing my femininity concretely through tasks, through creativity, through reading . . . without being lazy and without being guided solely by my own whims. Again, it means remembering and choosing to pray for  grace.

Most of all, sometimes, it means choosing (through an act of will!) to not be wistful or even envious towards someone who is ahead of me; of young women who are married to their beloveds and building homes and raising children of their own. It means absorbing and enjoying the pictures and words of others that capture the beauty of traditional life and of virtue so well . . . and yet being mindful that life is far more than pictures and words. It means striving to be compassionate and encouraging, choosing just the right words for those who are not even where I am. It means not settling for where I am in my own courtship, but striving to become a better woman for God’s sake, and the sake of the wonderful man who asked me to court him!

So yes . . . labora can mean all these things for a young woman at home . . . and far beyond. It really is simply the Christian calling; it is the laying down of one’s life, it is the carrying of the Cross. It is always a battle for virtue and holiness–for me, specifically, it always seems to boil down to a battle against laziness, against a day that is steered by what I want to do, instead of what I should do. May God give me renewed grace to combat my faults, and let us all pray for one another!

But even with all these difficulties and trials, my life as a young woman at home has had, and continues to have, beauties and graces that far exceed the struggle! Again and again, Chesterton’s words breeze into my mind, filled with truth and with challenge:

“Women were not kept at home in order to keep them narrow; on the contrary, they were kept at home in order to keep them broad. The world outside the home was one massive narrowness – a maze of cramped paths, a madhouse of mono-maniacs.”

Indeed, being a woman at home demands that she becomes broad, broad in virtue and in heart! And what a beautiful thing that is 🙂

Sig

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Resurrexit, sicut dixit, Alleluia

There is nothing that can compare to waking up early on Easter morning, tiptoeing downstairs, uncovering the shrouded images of Our Lord (the paintings, the crucifixes, the statues…all of them!), lighting beautiful white candles, putting out flowers, opening the blinds, letting in the sun, gazing on the images of His face that you are no longer bereft of, and watching the whole world become suffused with the joy of His Resurrection. That is what my Easter morning was like!

It was the most beautiful dawn, with everything shimmering, lush and verdant outside: as we stood together on the back deck, Lena (with her mug of steaming coffee and me with my shower-wet hair) reminded me of G. K. Chesterton’s words,

On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.

Alleluia! He Is Risen! He Is Risen indeed!

Once the three of us girls were downstairs in our Easter dresses, we made our traditional Resurrection Rolls for the family (marshmallows dipped in butter, cinnamon and sugar, each wrapped in a crescent roll, and baked at 350 degrees for around 10 minutes until the marshmallows melt, leaving a soft, incredibly sticky “empty tomb”) and the six of us all sat down to those rolls, to Hot Cross Buns, and to plenty of bacon and sausage; and we looked through the Easter baskets Mom had lovingly arranged the night before. This is perhaps the only Sunday of the year when our family cooks a full breakfast before Mass, and how lovely it was . . . our Lenten fast made it a feast, and we enjoyed so much more than just the food 😉

Off to Mass! Off to rejoice in the Resurrection by partaking in the most beautiful Easter High Mass surrounded by our dearest friends; to be in choir, singing in Latin of the triumph of the Paschal Victim; of Our Lady flowering like a lily as she beheld her Risen Son; of the bread of sincerity and truth. There aren’t words for God’s sublime gift of the Easter Mass. I really wish I could have that part of the day all over again; it finished much too quickly, and there aren’t any words I can come up with to do it justice . . . My brother served as acolyte; I never fail to be astonished at just how old he looks at the altar of God . . .

When High Mass begins, when we all kneel and when the chanting of the Introit becomes mingled with the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, there is nowhere else on earth I would rather be. On Easter . . . multiply that by a thousand!

I arose, and am still with Thee, alleluia; Thou hast laid Thy hand upon Me, alleluia; Thy knowledge is become wonderful, alleluia, alleluia. Lord, Thou hast searched Me, and known Me: Thou knowest My sitting down and My rising up.

I spent the rest of the day with The Dash and his dear family, snuggling with my Godson (who took a nap on me! I was so happy!), eating delicious food, and laughing a lot. It was so beautiful (if bittersweet, it being the first Easter I spent mostly away from my family!) and I was so blessed to be surrounded by their love and to be able to celebrate the triumph of Our Lord with them.

I pray that your Easter season is filled with the countless blessings of Christ’s victory, and of the wealth of His divine charity! Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia!

Sig

Recipes for Fasting Bread and Hot Cross Buns

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Good Friday, a required day of fasting and abstinence, and Holy Saturday (traditionally a day of penance) are wonderful opportunities to eat foods that are symbolic both of the culmination of Lent, and of Christ’s Passion.

While this week’s plans aren’t set in stone yet (are they ever? 😉 ), in years past we have made both fasting bread and hot cross buns for Holy Week, specifically for Good Friday and Holy Saturday (we had a lot of fasting bread during the first few weeks of Lent this year, and then stored the rest in the freezer for this purpose). Hot Cross buns are especially traditional for Good Friday, by the way 😉 Lena is our baker par excellence!

Below are links to both recipes:

Fasting Bread

Hot Cross Buns

(And if there are leftovers, you can freeze them to have for the next Ember Days, which would be the Embertide after Pentecost!)

God bless you! 🙂

Sig

A Holy Thursday Meal for the Traditional Catholic Family

For a very long time now, thanks to the efforts of my wonderful mother, our family has had a symbolic, prayerful meal on Holy Thursday (almost always before Mass), one that evokes some of the old basic elements of a Jewish Seder, but most certainly Christianized (for lack of a better term). I would say we’ve been having one for nearly ten years; it is very much a part of my mind when I think of Holy Thursday, and something I hope to continue whenever I’m blessed with a home of my own.

Originally sourced from a Catholic Culture article, our Holy Thursday meal has morphed and been modified several times over the years, but this year–our second Holy Week after beginning to attend Latin Mass–, Mom felt it called for another more considered overhaul in light of the traditions of our Faith that we are continually learning of. Today was the day for that “tweaking” and I thought I would post it here for anyone interested in catching a glimpse of what we do. I really do hope to take pictures of it, as well, although I can’t promise . . .

The elements of our meal include pita bread (heated and wrapped in a clean cloth), horseradish, parsley sprigs, salt water, applesauce, roasted meat (lamb this year, for the first time ever!), wine and juice, another starch (usually mashed potatoes), a vegetable (usually green beans), and a white cake (or cupcakes, as it will be this year).

The table is set with a white tablecloth, candles, and our best dishware. There is an aura of solemnity, reverence, and yet excitement, since it’s our most singular family meal of the entire year.

The questions and answers are arranged for the number of people at our meal this year, but this can easily be changed depending on the size of the family. Also, if the children are younger (my baby sister is almost 13!), the reflections could, and should, certainly be simplified to make it more accessible to the family!

And while it’s a reverent meal, talking between the reflections isn’t disallowed by any means 😉

A Holy Thursday Meal

All stand quietly around the table. The mother of the family, who supervised the making of the meal and the beautifying of the kitchen, now lights the candles, which symbolize the Light of Christ.

All make the Sign of the Cross as the father of the family, standing at the head of the table, begins the Introit for the evening’s Mass:

Father: “But it behooves us to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ in Whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection; by Whom we are saved and delivered. May God have mercy on us, and bless us: may He cause the light of His countenance to shine upon us; and may He have mercy on us. But it behooves us to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ in Whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection; by Whom we are saved and delivered.”

Then he leads his family in the Blessing Before Meals:

All: Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

All sit. The father unwraps the pita bread from the cloth and passes a piece to each family member.

Father: Why do we eat unleavened bread tonight?

Mother: We eat unleavened bread to recall the Passover, in which the Israelite slaves ate unleavened bread before their flight from Egypt. We eat it to recall Christ’s perfect fulfillment of the Passover through His Passion and Death, and through His institution of the most Holy Eucharist: the Bread of Heaven which gives life to our souls.

We see the absence of leaven, and we contemplate Christ’s meekness and humility. We look at the stripes on the unleavened bread, and we contemplate Christ’s bloody scourging. “He was wounded for our transgressions: He was bruised for our sins, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.”

All taste a small bite of the pita.

Father: Why do we eat horseradish tonight?

Child/Person # 1: We eat horseradish to recall the bitterness of the Israelites’ slavery to Pharaoh, and of mankind’s slavery to sin, out of which Christ redeemed us by His Precious Blood. He took the bitterness of our sins upon Himself during His Agony, Passion and Death.

We taste the bitterness of the horseradish and renew our desire for a pure life. We resolve to go frequently to Confession, that we may always be free from sin.

All taste the horseradish.

Father: Why do we eat bitter herbs tonight, and why do we dip them twice?

Child/Person #2: We eat bitter herbs to recall how the Israelites, on Passover, used hyssop branches to mark the lintels of their doorposts with the blood of the lamb. We recall how Christ, on the Cross, took His bitter last drink on a hyssop branch. We are reminded of how hyssop represents, to us, new life. “Thou shalt sprinkle me, O Lord, with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall become whiter than snow.”

We dip the herbs once in salt water to recall the tears shed by the Israelites in slavery, by mankind in sin, and by Our Lord and His Blessed Mother during His sorrowful Passion.

All dip the herbs in salt water and taste.

Child/Person #3: We dip the herbs in sweet applesauce to recall the sweetness of Christ’s ransom for us. Mankind fell by the fruit of a tree; and yet mankind was redeemed by Christ, the Fruit of Mary’s womb, Who hung upon the Tree.

As we work out our salvation in fear and trembling, we hope in Christ’s infinite goodness and promises.

All dip the herbs in applesauce and taste.

Father: Why do we eat lamb tonight?

Child/Person #4: We eat lamb to recall that Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world. Through His Passion and Death, He perfectly fulfilled the prefigurement of the unblemished Passover Lamb.

“He was offered because it was His own will, and He opened not His mouth. He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter and shall be dumb as a lamb before His shearer, and He shall not open His mouth.”

“Blessing and honor, glory, and power unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, Who hath redeemed us to God by His blood, for ever and ever. Amen.”

All taste a small bite of the lamb. Then the other foods are served.

Mother: We eat these remaining foods to also remember Christ’s Passion. The potatoes are bruised and mashed, just as Christ was crushed and bruised for our sins; and yet they are hearty and give us strength, just as Christ’s Passion gives us strength for our spiritual warfare. We drink wine and juice to recall the shedding of Christ’s Precious Blood, and to remind us that He is the Vine, and we must bear fruit in Him. These vegetables give us nourishment and strength, just as Christ’s Passion teaches us to strive for virtues with perseverance and courage.

Everyone eats and enjoys the full meal. Finally, the father asks:

Father: Why do we eat round, white cakes tonight?

Child/Person #5: We eat round, white cakes to recall the marvelous gift of Christ’s institution of the Holy Priesthood at the Last Supper. The cakes are small, because Christ humbled Himself in washing His disciple’s feet, giving us an example of meekness and servitude.

Our holy priests impart to us the sweetness of Eternal Life through the Holy Mass, through the Sacraments, and through a life of heroic virtue, sacrifice and purity.

“He shall purify the sons of Levi, and shall refine them as gold and as silver, and they shall offer sacrifices to the Lord in justice. And the sacrifice of Juda and of Jerusalem shall please the Lord, as in the days of old and in the ancient years: saith the Lord almighty.”

Father: Let us pray for our holy priests.

A moment of silence. Then, the father prays aloud the Collect from the morning’s Chrism Mass:

Father: Lord God, Who dost use the ministry of priests in regenerating Thy people: grant us persevering subjection to Thy will, so that Thy people who have been consecrated to Thee may by the gift of Thy grace increase in our day in merits and in number. Through Our Lord.

All: Amen. O Lord, grant us priests. O Lord, grant us holy priests. O Lord, grant us many holy priests.

All enjoy the cakes. Afterwards, the father leads his family in the final prayer:

All: We give thee thanks, Almighty God, for all Thy benefits, Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

Father: Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

All: May they rest in peace. Amen.

Father: A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, saith the Lord. Blessed are the undefiled in the way: who walk in the law of the Lord.

All: May God have mercy on us, and bless us: may He cause the light of His countenance to shine upon us, and may He have mercy on us. Amen.

God bless you all! 🙂

Sig

Behold, Thy King Will Come to Thee

+JMJ+

by Giotto

Even after this morning’s procession around the grounds of our parish church, and after the reading of the Passion at Low Mass, I can hardly believe Holy Week is already here! Let us all resolve to make this week the most faithful, fervent and sacred week of our Lenten observance.

Below are a few links to reading material that I will be looking over this week. As Lent draws to a close and we enter into this most sacred week of the liturgical year, I hope to write a little more about my thoughts and experiences of this past Lent. Specifically, tomorrow, I plan to post our recipes for fasting bread and other symbolic Holy-Week-food 😉

Palm Sunday

from Fish Eaters:

Today, this “Second Sunday of the Passion,” is the memorial of Christ’s “triumphant,” but misunderstood, entry into Jerusalem, the day that begins Holy Week. This entry into Jerusalem is seen as the prophetic fulfillment of Zacharias 9:9-10 :

When Mass is finished, we take the palms home and hang them over crucifixes or holy pictures (I don’t know how universal this is, but an Italian and French custom is to break off a piece of the palm and, while praying to St. Barbara for relief, burn it in times of great storms or natural disasters). Another custom is to shape the palm into Crosses before hanging them (see below). The people of Italy and Mexico shape palms into extremely elaborate and beautiful figures. Also, men in some places will wear a piece of it in their hats or pin it to their lapels, and a piece should also be placed with one’s sick call set.

Some of these same palm branches are saved and burned the next year to make the ashes for the next Ash Wednesday — the palms, which symbolize triumph, and the ashes, which symbolize death and penitence, forming a great symbolic connection between suffering and victory. The next year, when we get new palms, the old palms are burned and their ashes buried.

Now, this day has in the past sometimes been called “Fig Sunday” because just after Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, He cursed the fig tree:

Mark 11:12-14
And the next day when they came out from Bethania, he was hungry. And when he had seen afar off a fig tree having leaves, he came if perhaps he might find any thing on it. And when he was come to it, he found nothing but leaves. For it was not the time for figs. And answering he said to it: May no man hereafter eat fruit of thee any more for ever. (also Matthew 21:18-19)

This cursing is undoubtedly a reference to what would happen to those of Israel who rejected the Messias, as revealed in this parable:

Luke 13:6-9
He spoke also this parable: A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it, and found none. And he said to the dresser of the vineyard: Behold, for these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it done therefore: why cumbereth it the ground? But he answering, said to him: Lord, let it alone this year also, until I dig about it, and dung it. And if happily it bear fruit: but if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
Because of the cursing of the fig tree, the eating of figs is customary…

Spy Wednesday

Maundy Thursday

Good Friday

Holy Saturday

May God bless you!

Sig