July is (random observations) . . .

July4

. . . hot!!!

As in “put my hair into a bun every day” hot.

I snapped the above picture after a (hot) day of cleaning, laundry, and canning pears on Monday (although I was one of the much lesser contributors to the whole canning enterprise. I was cleaning the bathroom, dusting, vacuuming, doing dishes after the canning, etc…) Lena is in the background, her hair also in a bun. We Donellan women are putting our hair up, people. In the words of The Dash, “Look out.” 😉

July3

A delightfully clean bathroom. Unfortunately, I am too proud to show the “before” picture. I did send the “before” photo to The Dash, so you can rest assured that however proud I am, I’m not that proud.

July5

At one point during the canning process, they called me downstairs to factor an accurate(ish) ratio of pectin to pears, based off an online ratio table, which was oriented around 7 cups of pears per batch. We eventually discovered we were dealing with 12 cups per batch. So how much pectin would that be?? (13.5 tablespoons, more or less.)

July1

We have been canning fruit practically ever since we moved to our current home (seven years ago, this September). The builders/previous owners of this home planted blueberry bushes, horse apple trees, pear trees, and a fig tree. We were thrown into “Canning 101” when we wound up with more fruit than we could consume in cobblers. (Although we can consume a lot of cobblers, I assure you.)

Monday, Mom, Lena and youngest sister made jar after jar of Holiday Spice Pear Preserves (or pancake syrup, depending on how much pectin was used per batch; either way, a success!) . . . which are, frankly, sumptuous. Cloves and cinnamon and nutmeg heaven.

July6

Here is banana pudding, replete with milk and preservatives and rich deliciousness: once-a-year dessert finery. We always make it for one of the summer American holidays (4th of July, or Memorial Day, or Mother’s Day . . .). I’ve had the honor of making it the past couple of years. So far, it has survived me mixing the wrong ingredients together and mildly scorching the pudding. That’s what strainers are for.

However, right now *sigh* I’m done with sugar . . . I know it’s been affecting, at least somewhat, my hormonal health (or, really, lack thereof) and how I’ve been able to deal with stress. Taking it away won’t fix everything, but it will certainly improve the landscape a little!

July2

Here I am, cooking (enchiladas) with my favorite guy, Tuesday night ❤ For the curious-eyed, The Dash is wearing an apron I received for my eighteenth birthday, bearing a picture of Johnny Gage and the phrase, “Genius at Work” (a reference to the Emergency! episode “Dealer’s Wild.”) When I wear the apron, it’s a joke. When he wears the apron, it’s the truth 🙂

July9
Us in the backseat with my sister . . . slightly cramped . . . but we still leaned in for this picture 😉

We’re only a few days away from our 10-month courting anniversary! Each new month is a blessing. Tuesday night, my family and I showed The Dash a treasured secret of our secluded mountain road: a fantastic yearly fireworks show on top of a nearby hill. We pull off onto the side of the road, arrange ourselves on the grass with the help of some lawn chairs, and soak in the display like villagers watching castle parties from afar. At first, we thought They (The Party People) would be setting off the fireworks last Saturday night, but after pulling off the side of the road and listening to the frogs croak for an hour with nary an explosion, The Dash was (understandably) rather skeptical of their existence (the fireworks, that is–not the frogs). Fortunately we were able to regain his faith 😉

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There is a beautiful (if intense) 54-day novena in honor of Our Lady of Pompeii that fell into my lap only a few days ago, thanks to a friend emailing me this homily. It is challenging, consoling and uplifting–and, as with all things under God’s Providence, perfectly timely. The whole text is here.

Yesterday I took some time to read a little of the story of the origins of devotion to Our Lady of Pompeii, along with the story of Blessed Bartolo Longo, as well as prepare a long list of intentions for this novena. Something that’s dawned on me is that, the greater your intentions, the greater your suffering or anxiety or desires . . . the greater your prayers should often be. Prayer is our most powerful recourse, and it should grow in proportion to our needs.

July11

And finally, a walk this morning! Much-needed and very brisk. I somehow managed to walk to the cadence of two poems the entire time, mumbling them under my breath . . . hopefully I didn’t look too insane . . .

July8

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began
Now, far ahead the Road has gone
And I must follow, if I can
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet
And whither then? I cannot say.

July10

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth . . .

A blessed feast of St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria to you all, and happy Thursday! 🙂

Sig

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Tiredness

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Just a little sleepy 😉

I am an energetic person by nature, a happy person by temperament (and God’s grace!) . . . but sometimes (like today), I am just tired. Tired and grouchy-feeling. How tempting it is to be discouraged by these feelings of tiredness and grouchiness, to be frustrated when I give into them and consequently don’t have that same I’m-so-happy-to-be-around-my-family shine as I usually do.

What am I doing?! I groan inwardly. I just went to Mass this morning!

And I did. In a little chapel with Lena and three friends and a marvelous priest. Everything was soft and still. Hoc est enim Corpus Meum. What a gift. For a little while now, I’ve been praying hard for the eventual gift of daily Latin Mass nearby, that I can attend every morning. But for now, once a week has been amazing!

I drove Lena and myself home through a light drizzle, the two of us chattering happily. I came in and had my fasting breakfast. I went upstairs and took a shower. And . . . I came out tired.

I’m sure it has something to do with being human. With early mornings, less food, family members being gone, teaching a classroom of girls, running up and down our lane until I can’t breathe (i.e., training for a 5K) and, because of my lack of virtue, so often failing to accept these feelings of tiredness and grumpiness as Crosses, and to embrace them with a joy that radiates to where no one can tell that I’m feeling grumpy at all. I’m working on the joy. Do you know how it is when the smallest acts of simple decent human kindness seem almost impossible to achieve? (I know . . . it’s the signal that I need a nap 😉 I think I will lie down shortly . . . )

My youngest sister has a cold. Lemon and melaleuca are being diffused in the living room. I gave her a mini-concert and played on the guitar, singing songs I’d written, for half an hour earlier. Things are gray outside. Lena is leaving on Friday. A whole week without her is a strange prospect; quite possibly a very light foretaste of the future in which she might be in her house at Ephesus and I’m in my house surrounded by a future beautiful brood of children. Does God intend for the majority of our earthly sisterhood, our close earthly companionship that has been particularly close ever since our early teen years, to be spent apart, joined together by letters and prayers, but by only the barest human contact?

Of course, the thought brings both spiritual joy and human tears. Joy for vocation and for becoming saints. This is what Lena and I want more than anything! But tears for the little daily things that will pass away and leave a void capable of being filled only by God; the countless conversations, the little jokes, the giggles, the hugs, the knowing of what the other is thinking and feeling in a way only sisters can, the shared daily prayers and devotions, Mass together, two white mantillas side-by-side. To some degree, it would still pass away even if we were both married . . . but not as radically as this. The little things will pass for a time, but the love will remain. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing. And I am already rejoicing with excitement and gratitude at what God may have in store for my dear sister, and for me, and for our sisterhood.

This Lent has been unlike any other. The fasting is a great challenge; not just the absence of food, but using the absence of food to gain mastery over oneself and grow in virtue. That is the hardest part. It has been exactly two weeks now since Lent began. Three weeks to corrupt a vice, three weeks to instill a virtue. At this rate, I’m 2/3 of the way through corrupting the vice of intemperance . . . and then, after another week or so, I’ll begin to instill the virtue of fasting.

Perseverance!

Fr. Ripperger’s talks at Sensus Traditionis have been one of my mainstays. It is unspeakably consoling to receive truth and guidance in the form of masculine, priestly, fatherly direction. I can’t seem to get enough. I also just finished his “The Spirituality of the Ancient Liturgy” from Latin Mass Magazine, and this paragraph struck me particularly (no wonder, after having just attended Mass!):

The ancient ritual also gives one a taste of heaven, so to speak. Since the altar marks the dividing line between the profane and sacred, between the heavenly and the earthly, and the priest ascends to the altar to offer Sacrifice, the traditional rite leaves one with a sense of being drawn into heaven with the priest. This feature naturally draws us into prayer and gives the sense of the transcendent and supernatural that are key in the spiritual life. The numerous references to the saints foster devotion rather than minimizing it. The Latin provides a sense of mystery. The beauty of the ritual, the surroundings that naturally flow from the ritual itself (such as the churches that are designed for the ritual), the chant – all of these things lead to contemplation, the seeking after that which is above.

Life is beautiful, because God is Supreme Beauty and He provides so many channels of grace for us through the Sacraments, through prayer, through pursuing the virtues. We can all be saints if only we continuously trust and try. Perhaps the tired days are the most beautiful days of all; or they can be, if only I ask for His grace and participate in it with joy 😉 Always and everywhere, Deo Gratias!

P.S. Keep praying for Baby Isaac’s complete healing! https://www.facebook.com/Prayers-for-Baby-Isaac-1977272082313227/

Sig

On the Eve of All Saints

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Hello there! 🙂 Since I, once again, missed my opportunity to write another installment of “7 Rambling Monday Takes” yesterday, I will be indulging in a rambling blog post comprised of all different sorts of topics . . .

It’s a glorious end to October over here, blue-skied and cool, and all the trees outside my window are reddening beautifully; I’m fittingly garbed in a sweatshirt, jeans and tennis shoes in celebration of this fine weather, and I’m glowing with the accomplished feeling of satisfaction a girl gets when she writes a long diary entry by hand. I have been woefully sporadic (although my attempts have been numerous and I have several full diaries) in this practice over the years, but once again I am going to try and be faithful to keeping a diary. I have a really nice one, in fact, that’s made by Eccolo, and I got it two Christmases ago (I believe) from my grandmother; it’s got an elegant green leather cover with some gold gilding and an embossed image of a tree on the front, with a “refillable” lined paper book you can tuck in on the inside. I hadn’t written in it since November of last year. Sigh.

I know, a blog sort of counts (since all I seem to do here is ramble ceaselessly about my life and my thoughts), but there is something irreplaceable about a true diary. Maybe it’s the handwriting (mine grows in flair in proportion to my level of excitement) and the lack of the Backspace key. Either way, I keep telling myself, “For posterity!” since I’m just the type of person who loves to think about her future great-granddaughter discovering an old diary of Great-Grandmother Mary’s in a musty attic somewhere. It sounds just like a Hallmark movie.

But to move on from that . . .

Renewing Baptismal Vows

The past weekend was a lovely one; on Friday, my aforementioned Baptism anniversary, we lit my Baptismal candle after dinner and I renewed my vows. True to my (only slightly) scattered nature, this meant I was flipping through my missal at the very last minute, attempting to decide which portions of the Old Rite of Baptism I wanted Dad to read aloud. All the while, I was getting ideas (which was not helpful in terms of keeping me focused on the then-current task) for how my future family could celebrate our future Baptism anniversaries.

Perhaps my ideas have been gilded slightly by the medieval feeling of Men of Iron (my brother and I are now on Chapter 28 of 34!), but I was thinking how I’d love for the family member in question (if they were old enough) to kneel before the family images of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts while holding their burning Baptismal candle, and answer the Baptismal questioning (posed by the father of the family) in that posture. Maybe they could wear white, too, and have their white linen cloth! (Ideas abounding here . . .) And if the person in question was too small to do all this this, well, then, the Godparents (who would already, hopefully, be celebrating with us) could either hold or kneel with the child and answer for him/her, just as they would have done at the Baptism itself. I don’t know . . . It’s all about strengthening our dispositions to live a holy life, and it just seems to me that this could witness in an even more powerful fashion to the beauty and obligation of living out one’s Baptismal vows!

But, to return to the point (perhaps I should have named my blog But, to Return to the Point), here’s the traditional questioning Dad posed to me Friday night, along with my responses (taken from the Missal, pgs. 1831, 1838-1840). I would love to incorporate a few more applicable sections from the Rite next time (and maybe offer my responses in Latin, since my replies are unfailingly simple), but it was still very moving:

V. Mary, what do you ask of the Church of God?
R. Faith. (Fidem)
V. What does faith offer you?
R. Eternal life. (Vitam aeternam)
V. If, then, you wish to enter into life (perhaps “enter into eternal life” could be said, since we’re now commemorating Baptism), keep the commandments: thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and thy neighbor as thyself.

V. Mary, do you renounce Satan?
R. I do renounce him. (Abrenuntio)
V. And all his works?
R. I do renounce them. (Abrenuntio)
V. And all his pomps?
R. I do renounce them. (Abrenuntio)
V. Mary, do you believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?
R. I do believe. (Credo)
V. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was born into this world and Who suffered?
R. I do believe. (Credo)
V. Do you believe also in the Holy Ghost, the holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
R. I do believe. (Credo)

V. Receive this burning light, and keep the grace of your Baptism throughout a blameless life. Observe the commandments of God. Then, when the Lord comes to His heavenly wedding feast, you will be able to meet Him with all the Saints in the halls of heaven, and live for ever and ever.
R. Amen.

The Feast of Christ the King

Sunday was High Mass for the Feast of Christ the King. A very cold morning that dipped into the 30’s, at long last! However, our parish’s interior heating was working merrily well, and those of us who had dressed to compensate for the cold were shedding layers in the choir loft and turning on the fans while jokingly murmuring about offering it up as Purgatory (in the way that Catholics always seem to do) 😉

Over the past few years, it’s started to become a bittersweet feast for me interiorly: a feast of joy and love and adoration for Christ the King, of course . . . but as I knelt in the choir loft this Sunday, overlooking the solemn regalia of High Mass, the Propers (particularly the Gospel) stabbed me with a sense of grief that “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not,” . . . a sense of swimming within this blackness of confusion, deceit and dissolution that is our time, and that is permeating everything, down to the foundations . . . like smoke that prowls, billows and stifles, leaving behind its stains and its smell. Pope Paul VI termed it the “smoke of Satan.”

What does it mean to be living now, in these dark times? Where does it fit into time and history? To be kneeling in the choir loft on the Feast of Christ the King, overlooking the splendor of the liturgy, while being surrounded by all of this turmoil and, truly, desolation? A poignant sense of sorrow, of being overwhelmed? Difficult to find words for this . . . and yet, we have this Feast.

The rejection, contempt and agony Our Lord endured throughout His earthly Passion included His suffering, at least interiorly, all the rejection and hatred He is receiving now at the hands of those who have deemed evil, good and good, evil.

But He is the King Who has told us, “Take courage, for I have conquered the world.” He is the King Who commands us to hope, and to be faithful!

The Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive power and divinity and wisdom and strength and honor; to Him be glory and empire for ever and ever. Give to the King, O God, Thy justice, and to the King’s Son Thy judgment. (Introit)

He shall rule from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. And all kings shall adore Him, all nations shall serve Him. (Gradual)

 Pilate therefore said to Him: Art Thou a king then? Jesus answered: Thou sayest that I am a King. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world, that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth My voice. (from the Gospel)

Our Lord has seen fit to plant within my soul the vocation of marriage and family life, and in that same seed He has also gently allowed me to find, and lovingly helped me to nurture, the virtue of hope and the fruit of joy. And in the midst of all these rather sober reflections of mine, the Feast of Christ the King was filled with wonderful hope and joy; I was blessed to enjoy the company of very dear friends (while we celebrated an early Thanksgiving together), to spend time with the amazing man I’m courting, to hold and coo over my sweet Godson, and to cuddle some of my other favorite kids, all of which serves to create a perfect day for yours truly 🙂 I am so grateful for all of the blessings Our Lord has showered me with!

We have received the food of immortality and beg, Lord that we who are proud to fight under the banner of Christ our King, may reign with Him for ever in His realm above. (Postcommunion)

The Heroic Minute . . . and wrapping up . . .

Yes . . . now we come to this: trying once again to pick myself up instantly from bed, and (naturally) failing two days in a row. Such is my life. Granted, things have been busy and we’re almost managing to kick out the last of a month-long cold that’s been circulating through our family, which means schedules have been off . . . but still, it is so humbling to realize how hard it is to deny myself simply for the sake of denying myself, first thing. Hopefully, writing about it here (for all the world to see) will help . . . although, I think my Guardian Angel just whispered in my ear that I should probably be praying a little more for the grace to do it.

Yesterday I underwent a personal organizational project which involved taking one of my brother’s giant dry-erase boards from his room (with permission), cleaning it (a task) and making a monthly calendar out of it (also a task). I changed my mind two or three times about the color-coding process, but overall it went fairly well. I just needed to see the things I needed to do and the projects I needed to keep up with, if you take my meaning. Currently, it’s on the wall next to my desk, making me feel structured and efficient . . . ha 🙂

Mom and I were discussing the idea of having all our Christmas gift shopping/creating done by the beginning of Advent, in imitation of a friend’s practice and in order to leave that holy season free of a lot of that “rush”. We do have a lot to plan for this year, it feels, notwithstanding the fact that we draw names for our own family’s gift-giving . . . I would love to hand-make more things this year than I usually do, and I have some ideas, but of course we’ll see how it all pans out! Good intentions and a dash of optimism are all you need to get a job done, right? (Riiight 🙂 )

And as a final note, I have changed my blog signature to Latin! Going off what I had before, I’m confident it’s still fairly decipherable . . . Have a lovely rest of your day!

Latinsig2

Growing Up with the Unique Beauty of Catholic Homeschooling

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While I’ve written here almost exclusively about Catholic life at home, and the beautiful spirituality of the Catholic home, I realized haven’t really touched yet on the topic of homeschooling. I’m the oldest of four children and was homeschooled all my life by my truly wonderful parents. So I can’t deny that most of my passion for writing about Catholic life at home has stemmed from my experience growing up as a homeschooled child.

In an ideal world, I would love for every family to be a homeschooling family in some shape or fashion, simply because of the potential homeschooling has to bond the family, to nurture children and raise them in authentic respect and love for their parents, to enforce a wholesome focus on relationships instead of material things,  and, of course, to create a unique environment where the Faith can be deeply integrated into our everyday lives.

From my own experience, homeschooling is without a doubt a colorful adventure; and when you make it homeschooling of a traditionally Catholic kind, it can explode with astonishing beauty and grace, even if it’s wrapped up in diapers, crying toddlers, and math books (as it almost always is!).

Even under all the chaos of our ordinary life, there can be a rhythm of grace in the Catholic home (Michele Chronister, author and homeschooling mother, aptly calls the home a “domestic monastery”) where, if we manage to catch onto this rhythm as best we can, so many virtues can be taught; faith, hope, diligence, patience, mutual charity, peace, industry, generosity, forbearance . . . you name it!

From waking, praying, eating, studying, cleaning, conversing, eating, studying, and praying, repeated over and over until we finally collapse in bed, the home is a mine of spiritual treasures for the Catholic family. So homeschooling, apart from anything else, gives the family yet another opportunity to remain in this “mine” with much more consistency than other families might be able to, and it helps them better catch onto this rhythm of grace where virtue can be learned (through much trial and error!).

God knew what He was doing when He established the home as the very building block of human society. Here, He foresaw that so many graces necessary for salvation would be waiting for every family earnestly seeking Him. While we’re not meant to stay inside our homes without pause, never seeking to build other friendships or practice the works of mercy as God has called us to, it still makes sense that Satan would seek to lure and distract society as a whole from the home.

While I do think there are many proven educational and social benefits of homeschooling, in my view, the far most important benefits are the spiritual ones–the times where the choice my parents made to homeschool reaped a little more beauty and grace for our home and our family, and strengthened us a little more for the arduous trek to Heaven. Catholicism and homeschooling are integrally connected when homeschooling is used as a tool, a means, for growing in sanctity as a family.

Homeschooling isn’t a possibility for everyone; there are financial, health, or logistical reasons, to name a few, that just make homeschooling untenable. But in principle at least, homeschooling is something truly beautiful, and something intrinsically Catholic at heart, because it bears witness to the father and mother as head and heart of the home, respectively, and their united primacy in bringing up their children–as well as the great spiritual importance of life in the Catholic home.

The beloved late Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J articulated this former point quite well:

What do we mean when we say that parents are the primary educators of their children? We mean everything.

  • We mean that parents begin to teach their children from the moment their children are conceived and born.
  • We mean that parents teach their children during the children’s infancy and childhood.
  • We mean that parents are the first, and most important and indispensable teachers of their children.
  • We mean that unless the children are taught by the parents, the children will be getting only a substitute education.

All of this we mean when we say that parents are the primary educators. But we mean much more. After all, there is a primacy in what the children are taught. They can be taught how to walk and to talk. They can be taught how to read and write. They can be taught how to eat and drink and take care of their things. They can be taught arithmetic and spelling, and history and geography. All of those things they can be taught and should be taught. But what they mainly need is to know why God made them; why they are on earth at all; why they are in this world; that they are here in this life in order to prepare and train themselves for the world to come.

In a word, children are to be taught that their short stay here in time is only a preparation for the world that will never end. They are to be trained for heaven…

Under God, parents are the first in time, first in authority, first in responsibility, first in ability, and first in dignity to educate their children for eternal life.
(my emphasis)

So I especially wish to thank my parents for having homeschooled me and made our home a place that reminds me of the reality of Heaven, and of the potential graces of Catholic family life (even if some family members always forget to put up their shoes . . .). Catholic homeschooling is something I cherish, both as an ideal and a (often messy) reality, and hope to carry on one day in the future.

And finally, may God bless all faithful Catholic homeschooling parents who, in their vocations, are generously witnessing to God’s design for the Catholic family and for their home–both of which should be consecrated to Him daily, in deed and in truth, in virtue and in joyful love!