Sunday, February 27, 2011

Now Taking Prayer Requests...

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We Start Them Out Young Here!

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Tess age 6 months, holding the rosary I won from Kaitlin A.'s blog, More Like Mary, More Like Me.

Mother Teresa: On Premies

I'm reading an excellent biography, "Mother Teresa: A Complete Authorized Biography" by Kathryn Spink. I love Mother Teresa because she is so influenced the "little way" of Carmelite Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.

This passage about Mother Teresa's work with sick children at her Missionary of Charity house, Shishu Bhavan, touched my heart.

"For all of the babies who survived the shock of premature birth, attempted abortion, or simply of being unwanted, there were those who died within an hour of arrival. Mother Teresa's attitude made the transition from practical to that of unqualified love without apparent question: "I don't care what people say about the death rate. Even if they die an hour later we must let them come. These babies must not die uncared for and unloved, because even a tiny baby can feel." (pg 60-61).

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Pope's Summary of St. John of the Cross

Dear brothers and sisters, in the end the question remains:

Does this saint with his lofty mysticism, with this arduous way to the summit of perfection, have something to say to us, to the ordinary Christian who lives in the circumstances of today's life, or is he only an example, a model for a few chosen souls who can really undertake this way of purification, of mystical
ascent? To find the answer we must first of all keep present that the life of St. John of the Cross was not a "flight through mystical clouds," but was a very hard life, very practical and concrete, both as reformer of the order, where he met with much opposition, as well as provincial superior, as in the prison of his brothers of religion, where he was exposed to incredible insults and bad physical treatment. It was a hard life but, precisely in the months spent in prison, he wrote one of his most beautiful works. And thus we are able to understand that the way with Christ, the going with Christ, "the Way," is not a weight added to the already
sufficient burden, but something completely different, it is a light, a strength that helps us carry this burden.  

If a man has a great love within him, it's as if this love gives him wings, and he endures life's problems more easily, because he has in himself that light, which is faith: to be loved by God and to let oneself be loved by God in Christ Jesus. This act of allowing oneself to be loved is the light that helps us to carry our daily burden. And holiness is not our work, our difficult work, but rather it is precisely this "openness": Open the windows of the soul so that the light of God can enter, do not forget God because it is precisely in opening oneself to his light that strength
is found, as well as the joy of the redeemed. Let us pray to the Lord so that he will help us to find this sanctity, to allow ourselves to be loved by God, which is the vocation of us all, as well as being truly redemptive. Thank you.

Read the Pope's entire remarks on St. John of the Cross here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If you haven't read it yet....

Go check out Lauren's new post "worth the wait!"

Just because it's not what you were expecting, doesn't mean it's not everything you've been waiting for.......

My friend Tharen has these great quotes that she puts on her Facebook page. I love this one! Pretty much sums up everything I've experienced since becoming a wife, a mother and a Catholic!

Praying for My Heart Babies

It's such an honor to pray for my heart babies, Joey and Ella.

Joey T showed up as a prayer need during Baby Tessy's baby shower. I remember assuring his Godmother "He's going to be fine. He's got a good Saint looking after him. St. Joseph never lets us down!"

Little did I realize that three months later, I'd be meeting Joey T. himself at Children's Hospital. 24 hours after Baby Tessy's emergency admission, Joey's Mom met me at the sixth floor NICU and gave me the gold standard tour. Then she brought me to Joey's 3rd floor cardiac room. Joey's Dad brought Joey's older sisters and meatball sandwiches.

I love praying for babies born with heart defects because I learn so much from their physical struggles. All of us are born with broken hearts from original sin. All of us have "fatal" heart defects that Jesus is trying to heal.

What I learned from praying for Joey, is that serious heart problems take a long time to fix. It's not an overnight deal to become a saint. There will be successes, and set-backs-- and the game is never really OVER probably for many years.

Patience. Determination. COURAGE.

These heart babies change the world for the better everyday. Pray for them. Pray also for their parents who carry a heavy load of fear, hope, love and faith.

"Carmel is the infrastructure of the Church"

a quote from my new ride to our Carmel Meetings. Mary got professed as a lay Carmelite in 1960! I'm looking forward to learning so much from her.

(Everything depends upon prayer, so all the outward signs of help that the Church does in the world comes out of an inner life of prayer. Carmelites pray for everyone in the Church, and the wider world, to become closer to Christ.)

Poor Girl, Rich Girl

On President's Day, my husband had a funny exchange with a 6 year old kid outside 16 Handles (my family's new favorite ice-cream spot). As Jon locked up the three bicycles a kid came up open mouthed and started to stare. "You have THREE kids!" he finally sputtered.

"I've got four!" Jon said with a smile.

Need Help Choosing a High Chair

Miss Tess has moved onto eating solids. I need a simple, cheap, (and hopefully pretty?) high chair for her. Suggestions? My special need is that I have to pay for shipping b/c I don't have a car.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Doing Humble Work

"We must not drift way from the humble works, because these are the works nobody will do. It is never too small. But God, being Almighty, sees everything as great.. Very humble work, that is where you and I must be. For there are many people who can do big things. But there are very few people who will do the small things." Mother Teresa.

For the past two years, I've really whined about not doing the "big stuff" for God. To be a Carmelite (and a sane mother of four) I had to quit a lot of church activities. I quit attending "Women of Prayer" Meetings. I quit the purificator committee. I quit Vacation Bible School and folding plastic bags for the Food Bank. I quit going to Adoration at a regular time and having a predictable Daily Mass schedule.

To rub salt in the wound, I sinned with a bit of spiritual envy last month. To celebrate receiving his red hat my beloved Cardinal passed out "Manifesting the Kingdom of God" to people doing "hidden work" for Christ. On the cover of the Catholic Standard was a picture of a Carmelite from my old church receiving recognition for her work at the Spanish Immigration Center.

I joked with my husband "the surest way to NOT get a Manifesting the Kingdom of God award is to stay at home to better care for your own biological children."

Yeah, envy sucks! It's why God put it on the big "No No list" of the 10 commandments.

So weeks after this wound, God has been planting something different in my heart. Like maybe a big "official" volunteering posts are not in my future.

Today, Jon read our "nun mail" our monthly letter from the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. On the bottom was a handwritten note "yours is the first picture we've ever received back of the medals!" As in the picture of Baby Tess that I slapped in my Valentine Greeting to the Sisters turned out to be important. That photo was the first time the Sister ever saw a child wearing the miraculous medals that they lovingly hand make for each New Baby Card.

How many hundreds of medals had those dear Sisters passed out over the years? Now, those dear Nuns have a picture of my Tess up in their convent in a place of honor. That photo op was a reward for a hard-working cloistered Sister. (It also means even MORE prayers for my cute Baby Tess.)

With the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I helped make a Nun's Day all all because I had a little extra time on my hands from staying at home, doing my humble work for God.

Mother Teresa reminds us that God has many volunteers for the big, "important" jobs. He lacks cheerful hands for the more "humble" jobs.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

Shocking Scripture Passage Today

So I'm praying the Liturgy of the Hours with my husband . . . Ho hum, Ho hum. Reading words that I've heard a hundred times before when that dang Living Word of God rises up and smacks me in the heart.

What do you think of this striking passage from Ecclesiastes?

"For to whatever man [God] sees fit he gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering possessions to be given to whatever man God sees fit. This also is vanity and a chase after wind."

Say what?

To the "sinner" is given the task of "gathering possessions"????

As in the obession with "gathering possessions" already marks you as a sinner. And you're doing a lowly task for God who will ultimately decide to hand over your possessions to someone else (as in inheritance or in a bankrupcy?)


Oh Happy Day!

One of the cutest babies in the world just got formally adopted on paper today! (Little Abigail Chiara got adopted by her Mama and her Daddy in their hearts on the day of her birth and adopted by the Catholic Church through her baptism awhile ago.)


If you haven't checked out Lauren's lovely blog "Magnify the Lord with Me" stop by and say hello. She has insightful posts on "Marriage Mondays." She has helpful hints for raising a newborn. (Lauren was the girl who insisted that I cope with Baby Tessy's colic with the Happiest Baby on the Block book and a Moby Wrap. Thank you!)

But the most jaw dropping thing about Miss Lauren is that she is a Mother who has gone through the cross of losing her children over and over again- and yet she keeps saying YES to new life!

Lauren carried the cross of infertility for years. She opened her heart to four babies who needed a safe, loving homes. Over and over again, she lost each one in a failed adoption.

Two weeks after the heartache of held a newborn baby boy in her arms that the mother decided later not to place out for adoption, Lauren met with a social worker and said "lets keep going!"

The fifth child that she opened her heart up to adopt ending up being-- Abigail Chiara.

Now Lauren's spiritual motherhood finally matches her actual physical motherhood. A new baby forever in her heart and now forever in her arms!

Praise God for your continued Yes, Miss Lauren! You inspire me!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

“When was the last time any of us here prayed for Osama Bin Laden?”

Ouch! Prayer is hard work! The Deacon's Bench reminds us that today's Gospel reading holds us all to a very high standard. "When was the last time any of us here prayed for Osama Bin Lidin?"

Not me, Lord! I've been too busy patting myself on the back for my constant prayers for those adorably cute babies in the Children's National Hospital NICU ward.

'Cause it's easy to pray for adorably innocent babies, even if they happen to have "unadorable" yellowish green NG tubes coming out of their nose.

It's much harder to pray for angry guys from foreign lands who desire to plant explosives on my local Metro Redline.

And I'd argue that praying for abstract enemies who hate my country and desire to blow up my children on the Redline Metro, are far easier to pray for and far easier to love, than my more personal enemies in real life who seem to get kicks and giggles from their emotional sucker punches to me, my kids and my spouse.

Jesus lays done the line clearly for us -- LOVE YOUR ENEMIES! Pray for them!

We all know that I'm a major sinner in the "Christian who lacks meekness" department.

Guess I just got my prayer project for Lent!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pope's Summary of St. Teresa of Avila

Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Saint Teresa of Avila

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the course of the Catecheses that I have chosen to dedicate to the Fathers of the Church and to great theologians and women of the Middle Ages I have also had the opportunity to reflect on certain Saints proclaimed Doctors of the Church on account of the eminence of their teaching. Today I would like to begin a brief series of meetings to complete the presentation on the Doctors of the Church and I am beginning with a Saint who is one of the peaks of Christian spirituality of all time — St Teresa of Avila [also known as St Teresa of Jesus].

St Teresa, whose name was Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, was born in Avila, Spain, in 1515. In her autobiography she mentions some details of her childhood: she was born into a large family, her “father and mother, who were devout and feared God”, into a large family. She had three sisters and nine brothers.
While she was still a child and not yet nine years old she had the opportunity to read the lives of several Martyrs which inspired in her such a longing for martyrdom that she briefly ran away from home in order to die a Martyr’s death and to go to Heaven (cf. Vida, [Life], 1, 4); “I want to see God”, the little girl told her parents.

A few years later Teresa was to speak of her childhood reading and to state that she had discovered in it the way of truth which she sums up in two fundamental principles. On the one hand was the fact that “all things of this world will pass away” while on the other God alone is “for ever, ever, ever”, a topic that recurs in her best known poem: “Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices”. She was about 12 years old when her mother died and she implored the Virgin Most Holy to be her mother (cf. Vida, I, 7).

If in her adolescence the reading of profane books had led to the distractions of a worldly life, her experience as a pupil of the Augustinian nuns of Santa María de las Gracias de Avila and her reading of spiritual books, especially the classics of Franciscan spirituality, introduced her to recollection and prayer.
When she was 20 she entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation, also in Avila. In her religious life she took the name “Teresa of Jesus”. Three years later she fell seriously ill, so ill that she remained in a coma for four days, looking as if she were dead (cf. Vida, 5, 9). In the fight against her own illnesses too the Saint saw the combat against weaknesses and the resistance to God’s call: “I wished to live”, she wrote, “but I saw clearly that I was not living, but rather wrestling with the shadow of death; there was no one to give me life, and I was not able to take it. He who could have given it to me had good reasons for not coming to my aid, seeing that he had brought me back to himself so many times, and I as often had left him” (Vida, 7, 8).

In 1543 she lost the closeness of her relatives; her father died and all her siblings, one after another, emigrated to America. In Lent 1554, when she was 39 years old, Teresa reached the climax of her struggle against her own weaknesses. The fortuitous discovery of the statue of “a Christ most grievously wounded”, left a deep mark on her life (cf. Vida, 9). The Saint, who in that period felt deeply in tune with the St Augustine of the Confessions, thus describes the decisive day of her mystical experience: “and... a feeling of the presence of God would come over me unexpectedly, so that I could in no wise doubt either that he was within me, or that I was wholly absorbed in him” (Vida, 10, 1).

Parallel to her inner development, the Saint began in practice to realize her ideal of the reform of the Carmelite Order: in 1562 she founded the first reformed Carmel in Avila, with the support of the city’s Bishop, Don Alvaro de Mendoza, and shortly afterwards also received the approval of John Baptist Rossi, the Order’s Superior General. In the years that followed, she continued her foundations of new Carmelite convents, 17 in all. Her meeting with St John of the Cross was fundamental. With him, in 1568, she set up the first convent of Discalced Carmelites in Duruelo, not far from Avila. In 1580 she obtained from Rome the authorization for her reformed Carmels as a separate, autonomous Province. This was the starting point for the Discalced Carmelite Order.

Indeed, Teresa’s earthly life ended while she was in the middle of her founding activities. She died on the night of 15 October 1582 in Alba de Tormes, after setting up the Carmelite Convent in Burgos, while on her way back to Avila. Her last humble words were: “After all I die as a child of the Church”, and “O my Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another”.

Teresa spent her entire life for the whole Church although she spent it in Spain. She was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1614 and canonized by Gregory XV in 1622. The Servant of God Paul VI proclaimed her a “Doctor of the Church” in 1970.

Teresa of Jesus had no academic education but always set great store by the teachings of theologians, men of letters and spiritual teachers. As a writer, she always adhered to what she had lived personally through or had seen in the experience of others (cf. Prologue to The Way of Perfection), in other words basing herself on her own first-hand knowledge.

Teresa had the opportunity to build up relations of spiritual friendship with many Saints and with St John of the Cross in particular. At the same time she nourished herself by reading the Fathers of the Church, St Jerome, St Gregory the Great and St Augustine.

Among her most important works we should mention first of all her autobiography, El libro de la vida (the book of life), which she called Libro de las misericordias del Señor [book of the Lord’s mercies].
Written in the Carmelite Convent at Avila in 1565, she describes the biographical and spiritual journey, as she herself says, to submit her soul to the discernment of the “Master of things spiritual”, St John of Avila. Her purpose was to highlight the presence and action of the merciful God in her life. For this reason the work often cites her dialogue in prayer with the Lord. It makes fascinating reading because not only does the Saint recount that she is reliving the profound experience of her relationship with God but also demonstrates it.

In 1566, Teresa wrote El Camino de Perfección [The Way of Perfection]. She called it Advertencias y consejos que da Teresa de Jesús a sus hermanas [recommendations and advice that Teresa of Jesus offers to her sisters]. It was composed for the 12 novices of the Carmel of St Joseph in Avila. Teresa proposes to them an intense programme of contemplative life at the service of the Church, at the root of which are the evangelical virtues and prayer. Among the most precious passages is her commentary on the Our Father, as a model for prayer.

St Teresa’s most famous mystical work is El Castillo interior [The Interior Castle]. She wrote it in 1577 when she was in her prime. It is a reinterpretation of her own spiritual journey and, at the same time, a codification of the possible development of Christian life towards its fullness, holiness, under the action of the Holy Spirit. Teresa refers to the structure of a castle with seven rooms as an image of human interiority. She simultaneously introduces the symbol of the silk worm reborn as a butterfly, in order to express the passage from the natural to the supernatural. The Saint draws inspiration from Sacred Scripture, particularly the Song of Songs, for the final symbol of the “Bride and Bridegroom” which enables her to describe, in the seventh room, the four crowning aspects of Christian life: the Trinitarian, the Christological, the anthropological and the ecclesial.

St Teresa devoted the Libro de la fundaciones [book of the foundations], which she wrote between 1573 and 1582, to her activity as Foundress of the reformed Carmels. In this book she speaks of the life of the nascent religious group. This account, like her autobiography, was written above all in order to give prominence to God’s action in the work of founding new monasteries.

It is far from easy to sum up in a few words Teresa’s profound and articulate spirituality. I would like to mention a few essential points.

In the first place St Teresa proposes the evangelical virtues as the basis of all Christian and human life and in particular, detachment from possessions, that is, evangelical poverty, and this concerns all of us; love for one another as an essential element of community and social life; humility as love for the truth; determination as a fruit of Christian daring; theological hope, which she describes as the thirst for living water. Then we should not forget the human virtues: affability, truthfulness, modesty, courtesy, cheerfulness, culture.

Secondly, St Teresa proposes a profound harmony with the great biblical figures and eager listening to the word of God. She feels above all closely in tune with the Bride in the Song of Songs and with the Apostle Paul, as well as with Christ in the Passion and with Jesus in the Eucharist.

The Saint then stresses how essential prayer is. Praying, she says, “means being on terms of friendship with God frequently conversing in secret with him who, we know, loves us” (Vida 8, 5). St Teresa’s idea coincides with Thomas Aquinas’ definition of theological charity as “amicitia quaedam hominis ad Deum”, a type of human friendship with God, who offered humanity his friendship first; it is from God that the initiative comes (cf. Summa Theologiae II-II, 23, 1).

Prayer is life and develops gradually, in pace with the growth of Christian life: it begins with vocal prayer, passes through interiorization by means of meditation and recollection, until it attains the union of love with Christ and with the Holy Trinity. Obviously, in the development of prayer climbing to the highest steps does not mean abandoning the previous type of prayer. Rather, it is a gradual deepening of the relationship with God that envelops the whole of life. Rather than a pedagogy Teresa’s is a true “mystagogy” of prayer: she teaches those who read her works how to pray by praying with them. Indeed, she often interrupts her account or exposition with a prayerful outburst.

Another subject dear to the Saint is the centrality of Christ’s humanity. For Teresa, in fact, Christian life is the personal relationship with Jesus that culminates in union with him through grace, love and imitation. Hence the importance she attaches to meditation on the Passion and on the Eucharist as the presence of Christ in the Church for the life of every believer, and as the heart of the Liturgy. St Teresa lives out unconditional love for the Church: she shows a lively “sensus Ecclesiae”, in the face of the episodes of division and conflict in the Church of her time. She reformed the Carmelite Order with the intention of serving and defending the “Holy Roman Catholic Church”, and was willing to give her life for the Church (cf. Vida, 33,5).

A final essential aspect of Teresian doctrine which I would like to emphasize is perfection, as the aspiration of the whole of Christian life and as its ultimate goal. The Saint has a very clear idea of the “fullness” of Christ, relived by the Christian. At the end of the route through The Interior Castle, in the last “room”, Teresa describes this fullness, achieved in the indwelling of the Trinity, in union with Christ through the mystery of his humanity.

Dear brothers and sisters, St Teresa of Jesus is a true teacher of Christian life for the faithful of every time. In our society, which all too often lacks spiritual values, St Teresa teaches us to be unflagging witnesses of God, of his presence and of his action. She teaches us truly to feel this thirst for God that exists in the depths of our hearts, this desire to see God, to seek God, to be in conversation with him and to be his friends.

This is the friendship we all need that we must seek anew, day after day. May the example of this Saint, profoundly contemplative and effectively active, spur us too every day to dedicate the right time to prayer, to this openness to God, to this journey, in order to seek God, to see him, to discover his friendship and so to find true life; indeed many of us should truly say: “I am not alive, I am not truly alive because I do not live the essence of my life”.
Therefore time devoted to prayer is not time wasted, it is time in which the path of life unfolds, the path unfolds to learning from God an ardent love for him, for his Church, and practical charity for our brothers and sisters. Many thanks.

Francesca Battistelli - This Is The Stuff

Great song about cheerfully making "little sacrifices" for Christ. The song lyrics say "might not be what I choose, but this is the stuff you use!"

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why I Love My Husband- Part IV

Because whenever Baby Tess does something cute, Jon says "You and I were meant to be together. The proof is in the pudding!"

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Suffering Part 2

Jon and I have 3 major "go to" Scripture passages on suffering that we like to rank on a continuum of enthusisiam St.Paul, St. Peter and the St. James.

1. St. Paul tells us that we must suffer for the church. "In my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church." (Colossians 1:24).

(My random aside. Meditating on this passage brought me a lot of comfort while Bunny was in the NICU. Unlike St. Paul, I wasn't "rejoicing" that my newborn was the one slotted to have a serious birth defect that landed her in the NICU for 25 days--but I didn't lose my Faith in God during her stay, either.

Bunny was born with a complete blockage in her small intestine called "duodenal atresia." This is the reasoning I used to get myself to accept God's plan for her to be in pain in the NICU.

In the context of "making up for Christ's afflictions" Bunny's birth defect and her subsequent sufferings made sense.

God couldn't make his only son, Jesus, suffer duodenal atresia at his birth in Bethleham. Due to the limited nature of medical care in 1st Century Palestine, Jesus would have been dead within the first week. Jesus had to be born healthy enough to make it to age 33 so that he could carry the cross and die on it.

Duodenal atresia existed in Palestine,, it's existed since Adam and Eve first messed up the whole "no pain in childbirth thing." So God needed my bunny to happily carry that "duodenal atresia" cross for Christ.

Bunny showed the world that a wounded body does not separate a baby, or her family from the Love of Christ. Christ is there, in the midst of this specific birth defect called "duodenal atresia". Complete healing is even possible through prayer, and love, and great medical staff at Children's National Hospital (which I'm now even more convinced that the natural virtues of excellent medical care and the supernatural virtue of love go hand in hand after a NICU stay).

2 Verse two is from St. Peter "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed." (1 Peter 4:12-13).

3. On the last end of the continuum is St. James "My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kin, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4).

Let me be clear, I do NOT meet St. Jame's standard yet of experiencing "pure joy" during suffering. But my husband and I like to tease each other and shout "PURE JOY" in a very loud, funny tone whenever the other one is complaining loudly about something trivial. I hope to reach your high threshold someday St. James, someday!

St. Paul, St. Peter and St. James, pray for us!

Suffering Part 1

(2010 was the year of suffering for the Benjamin family. I want to gather my thoughts on this topic over a series of posts before Lent.)

Suffering is what separates the men from the boys in the spiritual life. I'm way too much like St. Peter, I talk big "Oh Lord, I'd die for you", then a few hours later when I'm asked to endure a hang nail for my Catholic faith-- I'm like "Jesus who?"

Suffering makes absolutely no sense without a concept of the afterlife. If this life on earth is "it" and we vaporize into a bunch of carbon molacules at death, then why not be like the seeker in Ecclesiastes and say "Come now, I will make a test of pleasure; enjoy yourself . . with silver and gold, . . . and singers, and delights of the flesh, and many concubines." (Ecc. 2: 1 & 11)

As Catholics, however, we are forewarned about "the last things": death, judgement, heaven & hell. As cool as laying in a bed with clean sheets, for a straight uninterrupted 10 hours of sleep (I'm the mother of 4 non-sleeping Benjamins kids. I long for sleep the way a drunk craves beer)

my current sacrifice of comfortable sleeping habits for the past 8 years (and the foreseeable future!) has great long term results:
a) I get to co-create more friends on earth and more souls for heaven
b) I get to work off all my purgatory time
c) I'm more likely to be in a holy place during the discomforts of my final sickness if I've got some previous practice,
d)by learning how to be nice without sleep, I'm a better person
AND e) this mysterious thing called "redemptive suffering" which basically means that IF I remember to suffer cheerfully for God (a very difficult virtue for someone as naturally whiny as me) THEN I can offer up my pain to help out other people

I hate suffering. I'm a sensitive girl. I'm like the modern the princess and the pea. I feel miserable after a new cavity filling in a back molar for 3 days straight. I hate it when my shoes pinch, or my legs are cold. I wince with agony when the "bug guy" has to step over mounds of smelly diaper trash in 15 separate Target bags in my front hallway in order to get to our kitchen.

The misery of life goes on and on.

But I love people!

For me, it helps to wind up dreaded future suffering with specific people. As a Carmelite, my prayers are for priests and sinners (which is a wide category which includes every human being on earth except for the Virgin Mary.) If I hear about someone in trouble, or who is hurting, or has a sick kid in the NICU-- I like to offer up the yucky parts of my day to them.

Just a simple way to feel connected to the wider world while in my little apartment tending to my little Catholic family.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Visit the Sick-- from your Computer Screen!

I've got an easy peasy lemon squeezy way for you to get some charity points in heaven today.

Baby Sky is a buddy from our NICU stay with daughter Tess. Sky is beautiful and healthy and sweet. She's also got some lingering health issues as a result of being a micro-premie. Her Mom recently found out that Sky is deaf. There is also a possibility that Sky may have some potential heart and brain problems that the doctors are waiting to rule out.


Sky is headed to Children's National Hospital for tests today.

Even though you maybe far away, here is an easy way to send some love to a sick baby and a worried Mom.

Tharen, Baby Sky's Mama, really wants to win a free Flip Phone. (I'm a Carmelite. I don't even understand what a Flip Phone is. I just know that is supposed to be super duper cool and Tharen has chatted about finding one to film her beloved daughter for over 3 months.)

So make a Mommy's day. Help Baby Sky win a free flip phone by voting for cute Sky's video on Facebook. This is the last day to vote and Sky is only losing right now by 12 votes.

Step one: log into facebook
Step two: go to this site
step three: hit "like" Brambleton at the top of the facebook page
Step Four: scroll down to the "Running Man Arm Video" submitted by Tharen
Step Five: hit "like"
Step Six: leave a nice comment
Step Seven (optional) please pray like crazy for this cute baby today.

St. Jude please give Baby Sky a Clean brain scan, and Clean heart scan. (And Tharen, since you expressed an interest....) St. Jude please get Baby Sky and her Mom Tharen baptized soon and welcomed into a friendly church home pronto!

You are all awesome! Thank you!

Thanks for you prayers! Here is the update.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Finding Union In Christ

This past Christmas I really missed the son that I miscarried in 2006. We buried Francisco in July. Somehow I always miss him the most at Christmas time, however, rather than the actual anniversary of his death.

To deal with grief this year, I search a lot of "infant loss" support groups online. It was still only a few weeks after Tessy safely returned from the NICU. Many stories touched my heart and I left a lot of supportive comments on different websites.

Over time, reading a lot of these stories "secular" websites got very draining and depressing. I found this tendency that was very striking.

This was this angry "fracturedness." Over and over again grieving parents said unless you've actually felt my pain, you can't know what it was like. It was so fractured the divisions were nonsensical. Parents said people who suffered from "stillbirth" couldn't possibly relate to someone whose premature baby died after 30 minutes. Someone whose kid died of a bone disease at 8 months couldn't relate to someone who died of a heart complication at 6 months.

There was this thought that unless your kid suffered in the exact same way, for the exact amount of time, you couldn't possibly offer compassion or understanding. "Unless you've experienced this exact same trauma, get out of here" was the message stated over and over again.

I found that experience of self-imposed isolation during grief very foreign.

There was a moment, immediately after Tessy's diagnosis, where I took a lot of comfort in visiting a website of her specific illness. There was one kind website where parents of doudenal atresia posted photos of their sick kids in the NICU next to a picture of the same child's one year birthday. See that dichotomy gave me hope on the rough day of her very first diagnosis.

Since that moment, I'm really surprised. I haven't been back to the "doudenal atresia" sites. Instead, I've found comfort and compassion very diverse sources.

For example, I bonded with fellow NICU parents with kids who suffered from wildly different issues than Tessy; premature birth, serious heart defects and hydrocephalus.

When I asked for prayers on this website, we had tons of people sending in prayers from outside of America.

And the best, most open heart people I found in my journey of grief over one dead son and one daughter born with a birth defect, are people who will never, ever face that grief themselves. . . .priests and nuns.

To be a Christian, means to carry a cross. It's heavy. It sucks. And when you run from it, usually by escaping into mortal sin, the results are catastrophic. And when you turn towards your cross, the results is luminous and beautiful.

The priests and religious have totally different crosses than us married folks, but there is a "union" in Christ.

As lay Christians, we can have radically different crosses than each other, infertility, unexpected pregnancy, miscarriage, "super" fertility, sickness, infant death. Yet there is a "oneness" in Christ. We can support each other in love, even if we don't understand instinctively the unique heart-ache of another's cross.

Those are my thoughts after listening to Deacon Mike in video posted below. His unique Christian journey is so "relatable" to mine.

Deacon Mike - My Soul Proclaims

Very relatable!

Gearing Up for Lent

So this is what they are talking about --getting to know Jesus through suffering!

To gear up for Lent, Jon and I popped "the Passion" in last night. We're visual learners, so the plan is to watch a little of the Passion every time we've got a yearning for TV or Netflix.

I got to the scene where the temple priests are all hitting Jesus, and I was transfixed.

For the first time in my life, the scene didn't feel "cartoonish", fake or "over the top."

People hitting Jesus in the face. It made sense.

Jon and I stopped the DVD and started talking. "Why are they hitting him?" I asked. I didn't write them off as foolish monsters. I saw them for the first time as real people. Why are the temple priests, the guys who are supposed to be praying for the coming Messiah hitting the actual Messiah in the face?" I asked Jon.

"They are afraid," Jon said confidently. "The are hitting Jesus because they are trying to get control over something they are afraid of."

"What do you mean?"

Then Jon and I started talking about our Bunny's experience in the NICU. When the real God stuff hits, life is not a Hallmark commercial. People who are in the light were attracted to our Bunny like a magnet. Sometimes they made mistakes, sometimes we made mistakes, but like Peter, John and Jesus we always found a way to be together for the big stuff.

Meanwhile, people who were "in darkness" got absolutely furious at Bunny. It was irrational. It didn't make any sense. People told us "if you didn't have a 4th child, none of this would be happening right now."

I didn't want to spend one "extra" day in the NICU with my pretty girl Tess and I ended up spending 25 extra days. This is one of the gifts of faith from that trial by fire.

The Passion doesn't seem like such an unreal cartoon anymore.

John and Alexis - My Soul Proclaims

A beautiful description of the vocation of marriage from my friends in real life, John and Alexis. (John is a Third Order Carmelite and a theology professor. His students made this video as part of a project to promote Catholic vocations. Way to go guys!)

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why I Love Being Facebook Friends With Priests

. . . because just when I start slipping into a pity party mood that my special 3 day Valentine's Weekend got marred by a super ugly head cold that has wiped out the entire Benjamin family, this surprising comment appears on my facebook screen.

"Father Dan G. is back from Mount 2000! Surprisingly tired; with his right hand not yet working properly (pinched nerve from sleeping on the gym floor? can't type right!); and having heard a good chunk of the almost 900 total confessions! Praised be Jesus Christ! Zzz..."

When concerned parishioners inquired further, Father updated us on the details of his
Youth Retreat Palsy

"Not all the way to full function, but continuing to improve. . . .
I was just reading about arm and hand muscles, arteries, and nerves, and I am pretty sure I know what happened. From an arm position while sleeping, I must have compressed the radial nerve in my arm and cut off blood supply to it (perhaps to some muscles as well?). This is indeed what happens when you make your arm "go to sleep"-- but I must have done it for more than 40 minutes, though less than several hours, based upon the length of time it is taking to recover. A page that describes all of this well is at I did not lose sensation in the arm and hand, just the ability to move some of the muscles.

This is common enough that they say there are nicknames for it based on different causes: "Saturday Night Palsy," when due to drinking, and "Lover's Palsy," from someone else sleeping against the arm. Shall we call this one "Chaperone Palsy"? "Youth Retreat Palsy"? :)

Seriously, God! Seriously?

To serve you, a priest hears almost 900 confessions during one youth retreat and spends an uncomfortable night sleeping on a gym floor. His reward for this great deed--a nice case of "youth retreat palsy". Because what priest needs a working right hand to celebrate the Mass each day??

This is why it's great to be a Carmelite, folks. (And Father Dan G. is a member of my Carmelite community). We totally get how God hands out "extra credit" sufferings as a special thank you for a job well done. Seeing it in action sends us into ironic giggles. *

God bless you Father D! We're praying that your sore arm heals soon. St. John Vianney, remind us to pray daily for our beloved priests.

*If you are still thrown by the concept of "suffering because of doing the right thing", I'll write a post on St. John of the Cross soon.


Comment #3 Beth F., won my drawing for Cardinal Wurel's new book.

Thank you to everyone for participating!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My 1,000 Post!

Whew! Where did the time go?

I started this blog back when my daughter Maria was seven weeks old. Now she's 3 1/2!

This blog was something fun to do as a new stay-at-home mommy of three. It became a lifeline during my youngest daughter's health crisis last fall.

Many, many thanks to all of my readers.

To celebrate, I've got my first ever blogger give-away. My Cardinal wrote a new book called "The Mass." It's awesome! To win this book, leave a comment describing your favorite place to pray in your domestic church. Winner announced on Valentine's Day.

Faithful in the Little Things

I was in a hurry to check out of the Dentist office yesterday. I had a cavity filled and my lips were still numb and tingling from the Novocaine. Hannah looked equally miserable from her drilling experience. "I need to get us out of here fast", I decided.

I handed over my credit card and nodded my head in silence to all requests made by the receptionist.

There was this little whisper in my mind "compliment her on her necklace."

I swatted that thought away quickly. My tongue felt drowsy in my mouth. I wasn't in the mood for polite chitchat today.

The thought came again, "compliment her on her necklace."

Okay, okay, I'll play ball. With about all the enthusisiam I could must for a 3 AM feeding for Baby Tess. I said flatly "I like the necklace you are wearing." My voice was all weird and heavy. I felt totally stupid for talking.

A change came over the receptionists face. She started to glow. (It's been 3 years going to the same dentist and I've never seen his receptionist smile before.)

"It's my grandmother's necklace. I hardly ever wear it out," she said. "It's the only thing I have of hers so it's very special to me . . ."

"Well, that worked!" I thought.

Meet the Saints- St. Bathild

I missed posting about a new favorite saint whose feast day was on January 30th. St. Bathild was a young English girl who was kidnapped by pirates around 630 AD and brought to France as a slave to an officer in the king's palace. In an amazing demonstration of virtue Butler's Lives of the Saints states: "(St) Bathild did not struggle against her circumstances but carefully learned to do the housekeeping chores required of her, while remaining polite and gentle"

King Clovis II MARRIED Bathild in 649. As Queen Bathild did much to advance the Christian faith in France. (Not surprisingly, she also took an active part in suppressing the slave trade.) After the Kings death, Bathild abandoned her crown and entered a convent. The only thing that set her apart as a nun was her "extraordinary humility and strict obedience to religious superiors."

So much to learn from this Saint--starting with "learning how to do my housekeeping chores while remaining polite and gentle."

I'm struck by how this real life fairy tale models the life of Our Blessed Mother, the humble Queen of Housekeeping eventually becomes Queen of France--while Mom becomes the Queen of Heaven and Earth.

I'm also amazed at how many saints started out as slaves: St. Patrick, Ven. Pierre Toussaint, and St. Josephine Bakhita. Anyone have other former slaves to add to the list?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Miss Kaitlin Had Her Baby!

Hannah Rose born Feb 7 at 3:02am. 7.3 lbs 20in. Dark curly hair! (from Facebook)

Thanks for your prayers! You can leave some messages for Hannah at her Mommy's website.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

When the Liturgy of the Hours Makes Me Laugh Out Loud

Todays Reading is from St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians 1:1-12,

"If I were trying to win man's approval, I would surely NOT be serving Christ!"

Are You Salty?

Oh no he didn't!!!!

My Carmelite buddy Father Dan puts our feet to the fire with this easy litmus test of living our Catholic faith.

Which made a bigger dent in your life this week, the Super Bowl or the Feast of the Presentation?

"If the National Labor Relations Board investigated your life in this way, what would they find? Would they find that you really are salt in the world, and light in darkness, as Jesus’ urged? Or would they also find that the reality of your life doesn’t match the surface? And if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?

I want to close by considering two days: today, and this past Wednesday.

Today—this evening—there is something happening. I can’t imagine what. It isn’t a federal holiday; it isn’t on your employer’s calendar; it isn’t on your children’s school calendar; I doubt it is even a Hallmark holiday. And yet, mysteriously, 100 million people will do something different than they do on a normal Sunday; 100 million. They will all watch the same television channel, so that it will be the most-watched program of the year—perhaps even of all television history, as it was last year. They will all make special food, especially chili and wings, so that it ranks only second to Thanksgiving as food purchasing for a holiday. It might even generate more prayers, on behalf of one team or the other, than many other days of the year.

Yes, the government investigator would probably find evidence of the Super Bowl in your finances and your calendar. It shows up; it makes a bump.

But what about last Wednesday? The investigator would point to the evening of February 2 and say, “It says Presentation; was that some sort of talk you were giving?” “Oh no,” you would say, “that’s the Feast of the Presentation—one of the great feasts of the Church year. It comes 40 days after Christmas, and celebrates when Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple. And so the Lord entered his Temple. And the old man Simeon said he would be a ‘light to enlighten the nations.’ And so the whole parish gets together in the evening. And we start out in the front of the property, and the priest blesses candles, and we have this candlelight procession, singing, until we get inside the church—which has been a Catholic tradition for centuries. And then we celebrate Mass. And then we go to the parish hall for a great dinner—with traditional foods for that feast day. And there are games for the kids; and one class always puts on a little skit about the day. It’s so much fun. I look forward to it every year. You know, you should come next year. I think you would really enjoy it.”

And the investigator would mark down: Yep, this one is Catholic. This one is salt and light. This Feast of the Presentation isn’t a federal holiday, or on the employer’s calendar or the school calendar or in the Hallmark cards; but it sure makes a bump in his life.

Of course, that didn’t happen last Wednesday, did it? But it could! If you would like to help make plans for feast days like that one, let me know. The Feast of the Annunciation is coming up on March 25."

Read Father Dan's whole homily here.

Find ideas about how to celebrate Candlemass better next year, click here and here.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Things I Wish I Knew Before Baby Number Four...

My blogger friend, Kaitlin, at More Like Mary, More Like Me is past her due date with her first baby. Go down there and give her some love. She's taking prayer requests for upcoming labor, so be sure to give her something extra hard. Mommy Mary NEVER turns down prayer requests from
ladies in labor.

In Honor of the new baby (who WILL be coming out sometime this month, Kaitlin. We promise!) here is a quick wrap up "things I wish I knew before Baby Number Four.. ."

1) The Cloud b Sleep Sheep might be a gimmick for the baby, but BOY does it work for soothing stressed out Mamas! I'm getting my taxes done online in no time by listening to its "relaxing whale sounds."

2) Keep one pacifier, one pacifier clip in the house. Crazy, but I haven't lost it in three months. When I had 10 for my other kids, I lost my pacifiers all of the time.

What do you Veteran Mothers suggest? (Mothers of all family sizes welcomed to comment!)

Update: As of 11:56 AM, looks like Kaitlin is in labor! Prayers please!

Bunny's First Solids

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Yummy Bunny!


5 months old
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Snow Days in the South


Using a Parking Lot Snow Bank as Our Mount Everest!
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Still Working On Taking Pics As A New Family of 6!

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Friday, February 4, 2011

"Stealing" Money from My Husband's Paycheck

When Jon and I were newlyweds, we both worked. In our joint checkbook register, we titled the two regular deposits each month as "Jon's paycheck" and "Abby's paycheck." After I became a stay-at-home Mom, it was very hard to break down the label of "Jon's paycheck" in my mind.

For example, here is a stupid example of how sin begets sin. Whenever Jon had to "sacrifice" something fun for the benefit of our new babies, I used to do the child support calculation that I still had memorized in my head from my old work of advising divorcing clients. "How sad," I'd think. "The kids and I take 100% of Jon's paycheck. If he'd divorce me he'd only have to pay X amount to his family each month and he'd get to pocket the rest." (Because that's the unformed spiritual mess I was in my late twenties. Beer, travel, and ski pass money were still more exciting expenses than our new fixed expenses of laundry soap and teething crackers.)

By the time I officially checked "retired" on all three of my State Attorney license agreements, I no longer felt guilty about having "our" single paycheck pay for my contact lenses, or my dentist bills, or my winter coat.

However, I still felt really, really guilty about "stealing" money from my husband's paycheck to pay for my private student loans. For our ten year marriage, that cost has floated between $250 to $300. I've constantly been tempted to get quick fixes to take care of "my" debt.

Over time, God has really healed my heart on this issue. Our God is an awesome God. He can do anything. He could have sent a long-lost uncle to pay off my entire student loan debt the moment I decided to follow his call into the land of stay-at-home motherhood. But he chose something more beautiful!

Month by month, my husband has been the one who has happily paid the price the stupid financial mistakes I made before our marriage. (And believe me, those pricey, not-really-needed, private loans WERE a mistake). I went from feeling defensive and embarrassed, to feeling honored.

Every day, my husband tells me that he's so happy that I'm a stay-at-home wife. Then each month, he underlines those words with action. He cheerfully mails a hefty portion of "our" paycheck to "our" student loans.

I affectionately call Jon, "my starter husband for Jesus." Jon is preparing my heart on earth for a spiritual marriage to Jesus in heaven.

What I've learned from coming into my sacramental marriage deeply in debt-
emotional debt,
spiritual debt, &
financial debt-

is that a loving spouse, just like Jesus, will happily pay the price for all the mistakes that I made before we met.

Our old student loans are small potatoes next to the current reality of a beautiful marriage and a happy family life.

I've got the financial balance sheet to prove it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Living in the Land of Little Rain, part 2

I finally started working on the financial aid applications for Tessy's medical bills. For some unexplained reason our portion of her hospital bills so far is almost $8,000.00. That's about $2,000 more than out expected "yearly out of pocket maximum" for our health insurance plan, and well over what we can pay upfront if we cash out our IRA.

We've been here before. Financially nervous. Not freaked out and drowning in debt (that would be our life in 2005 when we were totally unemployed with two children and living in Jon's parents house), but "uncomfortable."

Jon calls this our "20% in the red rule". God gives us a firm 80% each month for our family's expenses and the rest of our "extra" needs we sort of handle on a wing and a prayer.

I didn't know where the extra $2,000 was going to come from in our budget through if we ended up needing to pay the full amount. (Medicaid send us an official denial. Individual hospital determinations are still in the works.) So I started calling all of our Student Loan Creditors to see if there was any wiggle room in 2011.

The lady from a call center in India told me something so shocking, I dropped my jaw, the phone, and I almost dropped Baby Tess. "You have 16 more months of forbearance time on that loan Miss. . ."

Remember the prophet Elijah and how he granted a poor widow a jar of oil and that never ran out in the midst of a famine?

I've got the 21 Century equivalent, a Sallie Mae student loan forbearance on a gigantic law school loan debt that never runs out. It's been ELEVEN years and I have never, ever paid a dime on my student loans. Oh, I've paid blood money to the pesky private loans companies--but never on the main, gigantic loan.

Legally dodging my loan payments were "normal" for the first four years. Every student gets a 6 month deferment to find a job. I chose a low-paying job helping the poor, so I qualified for an extra deferment where the Federal Government paid the interest on my loans for another 2 to 3 years.

Then when I was expecting my first baby in 2003, my husband and I took out matching Federal Consolidation loans. We were both working at the time. We were surprised to find out that the "new" loan came with 4 "extra" years of forbearance time, which we immediately put to good use.

We were converted Catholics who used the "four year grace window" to scrambled to find a sane work/life balance for our new family. In four years we had 3 more pregnancies, we moved 4 times to 4 separate states, we started a new business, we lost a business, and finally found my artistic husband a steady job in Washington D.C. that almost supports a family of six.

In the back of my mind, I always thought I had to go back to work to pay back the monthly payments on my law school debt. Most of my friends don't know, but I stuffed my first 3 pregnancies so close together because I thought I'd only be home a short time.

After my miscarriage, I started to realize that God wanted me to be a stay-at-home mother full-time and forever. I got really scared. There was a period of about 18 months in my early Carmelite journey when I had this note on my prayer alter; "Jesus if you want me to be a full-time servant for you, I cost $109,092.78!" (That was the amount of my unpaid Student Loan Debt at the time).

In 2007, Jon started paying on his Sallie Mae loan as agreed.

It's 2011, and I still haven't started paying mine.

We are a husband and wife with matching Sallie Mae Consolidated Loan terms. We file joint tax returns as proof of our identical financial circumstances. When Jon calls to ask for extra forbearance time, the lady from India says "I'm sorry Mr. Benjamin, you have exhausted all of your forbearance time. You may receive more only if you become unemployed."

Abby, "Mrs. I'm Completely Unemployed For Jesus" calls, and it's "Oh, don't worry about it Mrs. Benjamin, you still have 16 more months left."

As a unpaid, stay-at-home Mom, I somehow got the forbearance pot that has never gone empty.

In 2007, I was told I had 12 extra months left. More forbearance time appeared for no reason in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, I suddenly had 24 extra months left. In 2011, I've got 16 more months left. 24 - 12 does NOT equal 16!

Then the Indian call-center lady, continued to make my day. (If my next daughter is named Preema, you'll know why!) Starting in April 2011, my entire student loan payment will effectively disappear. Sallie Mae changed the rules and now considers the educational loan debt of husband and wives together, instead of separately. We will pay the same amount on two grad school debts that would have owed with one.

After my last pesky private school loan is payed off in 2012, I will no longer be a stay-at-home wife with a gigantic inverse dowry for her husband. (A girl who brings large debt into her marriage.) I'll just turn into the regular wife that clips grocery store coupons for profit, rather than sadly sending out gigantic chunks of her family's income to her student loan debts.

Considering the circumstances, I think that we'll somehow be okay with Tessy's medical bills this year.* God has very surprising ways to bless poor families that depend upon his providence to care for "extra" sick babies placed in their midst.

*For you Math whizzes out there I know that an extra forbearance time isn't technically free as I still have to pay the accrued interest on my loans. However, my interest rate is so low that it's practically free. Considering the price of hiring a babysitter for Baby Tess, and paying Catholic School fees for her three older siblings, my "interest" penalty for stay-at-home motherhood is nothing.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Life in a Carmelite Marriage

For many years, I've been trying to write out my conversion story. Lately, my husband's started telling me "you don't need to write about how we became a Catholics. You need to write about our current life as Catholics, because its CRAZY!"

So I'm starting a new little series called "Life in a Carmelite Marriage."

Today, I'm writing about our Carmelite take on Thomas Jefferson.

Mr. TJ is pretty big around my town. There's a grand monument to him in Washington D.C. and his ideals get thrown around frequently in Congress and the McLaughlin Group and the University of Virginia Debate Halls.

In our American History-centric house, we recently praised Mr. TJ as the mastermind behind the Lewis and Clark Expedition. (Jon and I saw a fantastic National Geographic Documentary on this on Instant Downloads from Netflix!)

We talked about this documentary for days, and then I causally mentioned that as a kid, I kept my Dad's copy of Thomas Jefferson's rewritten New Testament on my bedside table and read it during one dull Sunday. I mentioned this in causal conversation to say a) it's weird that we had this book available in our house and b) can you believe the junk I read on the Sabbath before becoming Catholic.

My husband was horrified.

"Thomas Jefferson rewrote the New Testament?"

"Yeah, he just consolidated all the Gospels into one narrative and he left out all of the miracles," I answered.

"He left out the miracles!!!!" Jon turned a different shade of white. "Who could do such a thing? How could he get it published?"

"Well, honey. Many of the founding fathers were Deists. It was sort of a popular thing back then. . ."

"But the Hubris!" Jon continued in total shock. "I mean, you could write the worse drivel about the Devil being great, but to rewrite the GOSPELS, without the MIRACLES?? We have GOT to pray for this man. How long is that going to get him in purgatory?" Jon finished.

Then there was a dreadful intake of breath. ". . .if he makes it that far!"

Days later, as we are on the City Bus driving to Sunday Mass Jon looks at me over darling Tessy's head and says "Please don't forget to pray for Thomas Jefferson's soul to get out of purgatory!"

And so folks, another odd twist in a Carmelite family. Some school children will identify Thomas Jefferson as the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence and founded the University of Virginia. Other college students will snicker at the mention of Sally Hemings. But my kids will say "Thomas Jefferson, that's the Dead guy who my Dad is furiously lighting candles for at every Mass."

(My kids will probably volunteer this in the middle of a home-school review which is why they'll get an "unsatisfactory rating" in History, but at least their Carmelite Daddy will be proud.)

Jon wants me to tell you that Mr. Jefferson referred to his revision of the New Testament. as "diamonds from a dung-hill". I'll post the description of Mr. TJ's intentions here. My spouse is in shock! "It's unbelievable. The hero of our country!" I need to go help offer up some more prayers now.

From Wikipedia "Jefferson accomplished a more limited goal in 1804 with “The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth,” the predecessor to Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.[4] He described it in a letter to John Adams dated 13 October 1813:
“ In extracting the pure principles which he taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests, who have travestied them into various forms, as instruments of riches and power to themselves. We must dismiss the Platonists and Plotinists, the Stagyrites and Gamalielites, the Eclectics, the Gnostics and Scholastics, their essences and emanations, their logos and demiurges, aeons and daemons, male and female, with a long train of … or, shall I say at once, of nonsense. We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus, paring off the amphibologisms into which they have been led, by forgetting often, or not understanding, what had fallen from him, by giving their own misconceptions as his dicta, and expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves. There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. The result is an octavo of forty-six pages, of pure and unsophisticated doctrines. [3]

Prayer is essential for grasping life’s meaning, says Pope |

Prayer is essential for grasping life’s meaning, says Pope |

Benedict XVI: 'Teresa of Avila shows that time spent in prayer is not lost'

God's Providence

God has richly provided for this car-less Carmelite family with excellent bicycles.

Today my husband brought home a free Trek bike for himself--a donation from a co-worker who is a biking enthusiast who had an extra racing bike gathering dust in his garage. It's beautiful, rugged, and fits my husband's six and half foot frame.

Jon thinks he can now make it home from work in under 5 minutes flat.

Thank you Mommy Mary!

Happy Candlemass!

This beautiful feast was my introduction to starting my own domestic church! If you are new to Candlemass, check out this post.

I haven't really found me sea-legs yet as a new Mama of four. In past years, I've celebrated this happy day with Early Morning Mass, a special candle blessing from our parish priest and happy feast of jelly hearts and swords (for the piercing of Mary's heart).

This morning, I got out our Holy Candle and couldn't find where I hid the kitchen matches from my inquiring kids. "I can't light it!" I told a disappointed Maria. "I can't find our matches and we don't even have some spaghetti which we usually use as a substitute."

"Mom, you can use a stick!" my 3 year old shots.

I thought she was talking about one of those bamboo sticks we used for skewers at summer BBQ's and I had no idea where she had seen one recently.

Sure enough, Maria returns from her bedroom with a 9 inch tree branch that her brother had hid under his bed.

(Because that's the kind of house I'm running here. We don't have matches. We don't have spaghetti. But we've got real tree sticks indoors!)

It took Maria and I about 12 minutes, but we did finally get the Holy Candle* light using an actual stick and my gas range on my stove. Then we pulled out the Baby Jesus from the Christmas decoration box that is still sitting in my living room waiting to returned to my bedroom closet. Maria played with the Baby Jesus in front of the candle while I read her the Scripture Passage of the "Presentation" from Luke's Gospel. We talked about how Jesus is the light of the world.

If you've got time and energy this year, Miss Alice's Candlemass Tea is a lovely treat!

During both high preparation days and low preparation days, living the liturgy is a beautiful thing!

*** The Anchoress has a beautiful reflection of Candlemass today!

*a holy candle is simply a candle that has been blessed by a priest. Every Catholic house benefits from a Holy Candle, Holy Water and Blessed Salt. The Holy Candle is really great to light whenever anyone in the family is sick or scared.