Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Have A Holy Daring This Lent

Live Strong! Pray hard! Detach! Lent is our training time to hop up a few more steps towards sainthood.

A little inspiration from my bff, St. Teresa of Avila:

"God deliver us, Sisters, when we do something imperfect from saying; "We're not angels, we're not saints." Consider that even though we're not, it is a great good to think that if we try we can become saints with God's help. And have no fear that He will fail if we don't fail. . . The presumption I would like to see present in this house, for it always make humility grow, is to have a holy daring; for God helps the strong and He shows no partiality."

The Way of Perfection, Chapt. 17, pg 98.

I'm fasting from this blog for the next six weeks. I'm looking forward to catching up with everyone after Easter Vigil!

National Geographic - Inside The U.S. Secret Service - Game Day

I used this documentary as a metaphor to explain Lent to my young son. The Secret Service has some awesome spiritual parallels to us Catholic spiritual warriors. Human nature commands us to duck whenever we hear gun shots. Yet through great effort, the Secret Service train their body to turn TOWARDS gunfire in order to protect the life of the President. In a similar fashion, it's human nature to shy away from suffering. Lent, however, asks us to train our bodies with fasting to turn towards suffering in order to help protect the souls of others.

"A Ray of Sunshine Spreading Joy Where She Goes"

Read this sweet post how a loving priest helped a Non-Catholic at a vulnerable time.
I love you Miss Betty Beguiles!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Getting Ready to Shut Down for Lent

The Fruit of Silence . . is Prayer! (Mother Teresa)

I'm getting ready to start my six week computer fast starting on Wednesday.

Detachment is so hard! How will I EVER survive!!!

Happy Lent--Divine Union Awaits!

40 days of Lent!

How close are you climb towards Sainthood in the next 40 days?

Words of encouragement from last Sunday's homily by my Carmelite buddy, Father Dan:

(Not only to say "Lord, Lord" but to do the will of the Father.
9th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A: March 6, 2011
Deut 11:18, 26-28; 32; Ps 31; Rom 3:21-25, 28; Matt 7:21-27)

"Our Lord’s words are meant to shake us: they are meant to shake us free. They are meant to lead us to joy; they are meant to fill us with peace. Our Lord knows how much we believe already; and he says, “Let me help your unbelief.” [cf. Mark 9:24] Our Lord knows how far we’ve come by faith; and he says, “Onward and upward!” Sainthood awaits. Beatitude, total blessedness, awaits. Divine union awaits.

And not only in the next life; but even blessings in this one. For, as we heard, whether we act upon his words or not, this life will bring us rain and floods and winds. The difference is that, if we not only listen to his words but also act upon them, our house will not collapse but it will stand—if we have built our house upon his rock rather than upon our own sand.

Brothers and sisters, isn’t it time to lay aside every burden, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and once again to run with endurance the race that lies before us? [Heb 12:1] Our Lord in his mercy gives us the season of Lent that begins this Wednesday: not just one day for New Year’s Resolutions but 40 days of grace to throw off those burdens and sins. 40 days to be free to give of ourselves, and receive what we need most, in prayer and acts of giving.

40 days to not only say “Lord, Lord” but to do the will of the Father. Onward and upward! Sainthood awaits. Beatitude, total blessedness, divine union awaits. Take courage and be stouthearted, all you who hope in the Lord."

Read the whole homily here.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Virtue of Hospitality

A few months ago, I wrote a piece about how St. Elizabeth Ann Seton extended small gifts of hospitality as a married woman to her estranged father. Despite being abandoned by her Father during her childhood, St. Elizabeth "made a home for her Father at her house."

Her example really inspired me to better practice the virtue of hospitality in my own family. I'm an adult convert and my Catholic faith has been the source of many tense conversations with my parents as I slowly changed from obessed Career Girl into a stay at home Mommy with baby, after baby, after baby, after baby attached to my hip.

St. Elizabeth encouraged me to do something simple to set the tone for a relaxed family visit from the start: Serve Tea when my parents come to visit.

With my husband's help on Saturday, I not only managed to clean the living room, feed the baby and dress four kids in a fresh set of clothes.

I also washed the tea set that I inhertited from my maternal grandma....
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ironed a table cloth that I inherited from my paternal grandma and cheerfully served coffee to my visiting parents!

Simple signs of love that paid great dividens!

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(look at my relaxed smile! Only took 8 years of gulping down the Eucharist! :-)

Guess the Baby--Revised

Here are four baby pictures of my kids, 3 are old and one was taken last week. Which Baby is Baby Tess?


Baby A
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Baby B
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Baby C
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Baby D
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(for Danya part II)

Since I became a Carmelite, I've really shaved off most of my devotionals. I'm an adult convert to the church. The rosary still feels exotic to me.

There was a time three years into my conversion, where I was collecting all kinds of devotionals like shiny medals in a row. Johnny and I just had layers and layers of them.

Now as a Carmelite, everything is pretty simple and streamlined.

As a Carmelite, I'm committed to 3 types of prayer; the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours (Morning and Evening Prayer), and at least 1/2 an hour of prayer of the quiet. As an unformed newbie in Catholic motherhood, I'm not remotely hitting all 90 minutes of prayer and getting to Mass each day. I'm not adding any "new" devotionals until I get my Carmelite prayer life in order.

Here's my simple list:

I wear my brown scapular.
I pray my "Morning Offering" with my husband in our hallway before he leaves for work.
I've got Holy Pictures hung in my house that I like to look at when there is "trouble" with my vocation during the day.
I rent Saint movies from Netflix.

Advice on How to Pray the Liturgy of the Hours

(for Danya. Totally ironic that you are asking me for advice because this was the part of Carmelite Life that I hated at first! It seemed so boring, repetitive, and pointless! Now it is one of my favorite parts of the day.)

The Liturgy of the Hours is a set of prayers and Scripture Passages that the entire world wide Catholic Church prayers at different hours of the day. You'll be praying the SAME prayers as the Pope and your local parish priest. (In fact, I've got a picture of my smiling Cardinal Wurel above my prayer station because I love remembering that I'm praying with him!)

There are a ton of graces that come from praying "with" the entire Church in the privacy of your own home. I love discovering new Saints and vivid explanations of Scripture passages which always seemed mysterious and remote.

The longest and most important part of the Liturgy is called "the Office of the Readings." These are two long passages which come from either the Old Testament, the New Testament, or writings from the Saints. You can pick which time of day you want to read the "Office Readings". Most people do them first thing in the morning. Then you sing a hymn, read some Psalms and say some intercessory prayers.

As a Carmelites, my husband and I pray Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. (We're encouraged to pray Night Prayer before bed but I personally haven't yet established a stable bedtime routine with so many young kids in my house.)Meanwhile, priests and Religious pray all the prayers, which are something like six times a day.

Helpful Hints:

a) First find a Liturgy of the Hours book. The prayers are available free on line. I really enjoy praying with an actual book in my hand instead of reading from a computer screen. This is the complete set of 4 books for the entire Church Calendar year at a decent price. We bought each of our books one at a time for around $45 dollars each from the National Shrine. (A new book will be starting for Lent & Easter). Make sure you've got a little "cheat sheet" that tells you where to turn for Feast Days and Special Saints Days.

If you'd like to start in the "baby pool", check out the a single condensed version called "Shorter Christian Prayer:Liturgy of the Hours." for only $11. This is a simple, four week cycle with special readings for Easter and Advent. You can learn to swim easily without getting lost. It will build up your confidence and insure your $160 prayer book investment won't set unused in your bookcase.

b)grab a "Liturgy of the Hours Partner" in your house. Hopefully, Hubs. This type of intense prayer time is like training for a marathon--WAY more fun if you practice with someone else.

c) pick a specific time to start praying. Start with a time to do Office of the Readings each day. Go slow! This is a prayer marathon, not a prayer sprint. It's not about rushing through the entire six prayer set in one day. It's about slowly building up a feasible prayer schedule for the rest of your life.

d) be strategic about WHERE you pray. I usually pray on the living room couch with my husband. We are "available" to little babies in need. I've discovered if my kids can see me praying, then they usually don't interrupt me half as much as if I'm hiding in a closet trying to get my quiet time with Jesus.

d) be flexible. Life is going to get crazy and you're going to fall off the Liturgy prayer schedule. We are not in a convent. We have messy, needy, unpredictable people in our lives. Be gentle with yourself and remember this prayer schedule is "optional for lay people." At the same time, when my life was REALLY falling apart I clung to this prayer routine. It's a solid rock under your feet in times of sickness, stress or fear.

If anyone has more helpful hints, be sure to chime in!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Thoughts on Evangelical Poverty--From St. Augustine

(From Todays Daily Office, St. Augustine's Confessions)

Pity the prosperity of this world, pity it once and again, for it corrupts joy and brings the fear of adversity. Pity the adversity of this world, pity it again, then a third time; for it fills men with a longing for prosperity, and because because adversity itself is hard for them to bear and can even break their endurance. Is not the life of man upon earth a trial, a continuous trial?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Running Into Jesus at Macy's

Yesterday, I took Baby Tess to her doctor's appointment. Me, Tess and her 3 older siblings left the house with the sky a brilliant blue. It was the first day that I'd let the kids leave the house with sweatshirts instead of their winter coats.

Fifteen minutes later on a city bus, all of the passengers watched as ominous black clouds gathered overhead. I looked at Tessy's cute head with its skinny pink cap poking out of the Bijorn. "I hope we get to the doctor's office before it rains."

"Oh God," I prayed. "I'm so poor. I don't even own one umbrella. You've got to help me today."

We made it off the bus before the rain drops started falling. I counted my blessings. Found out that we'd dodged a tornado warning! I counted my blessings twice.

The doctor visit was great. A kind nurse brought everyone TWO rounds of gram cracker snacks. My two older kids stayed uneventfully outside in the waiting area for the first time ever. Tess passed her physical with flying colors and got 3 rounds of immunization shots.

We left the doctor's office at one. The scary clouds were all gone. Now it was raining a damp London drizzle. Jon encouraged me to call a cab for the family instead of waiting in the rain for the next bus. I felt reluctant to spent the extra $17 and I was anxious about this extra notarized document I needed to submit to Children's Hospital. We don't have a bank within walking distance from our house and there were 3 banks near the doctor's office.

I took a deep breath and plunged out in the rain.

If there is ever a time that you feel INCREDIBLY stupid for being poor, it's when you cross heavy city traffic with a newborn on your chest in the rain, with a fuzzy blanket over her head instead of a proper rain coat, and a stream of children trailing behind you.

When we got out of the dangerous cross-walk, I noticed something funny. My kids were all having fun.

It was "Singing in the Rain" Benjamin style. They were all making up songs about getting wet and splashing through puddles with their snow boots on and insisting that they didn't need to wear their hoods because "rain makes my hair curl funny" and "no kids ever have as much fun as us, Mommy!"

When we got into bank, my extra-friendly sweet, "makes me feel like I'm living in a small town again" bank. A jolly guy cooed over the baby and notarized my document for free.

I was feeling so uplifted after getting this dreaded task down, that I asked my kids if they wanted to play at the indoor playground at the Mall next door for a few hours.

I couldn't decide whether I should just call it a day and go home, or wait for a few extra hours to save my husband from a 2 hour bus trip back to the pharmacy later that night. (Tessy has this super crazy ulcer medicine to take after her NICU experience. Her meds need 2 hours to make up at the pharmacy and once made, it requires immediate refridgeration.)

Everyone was so happy with songs and lollipops from the bank, that I decided to "give it a go."

About 1/2 a mile into our walk, I bitterly regretted my decision. There were Canadian geese hanging out in the middle of the highway divider before the Mall, that's how wet the parking lots were. Everyone got soak. Mimi dropped her lollipop in the middle of the crosswalk. "I was talking Mama and it fell out!" She demanded that we return immediately and pick it up. I yanked her forward over a bitter protest.

When we finally got into the nearest Mall door, under the red star of Macy's, I felt like a drowned rat. I felt exhausted. I felt like the stupidest mother on the planet.

But all of my kids were so jolly. The girls ooohed over the pretty women's shoes and handbags. My son tried to divide the shoe prices by his three year old Sister's weekly allowance. Baby Tess looked after everything with wide-eyed wonder.

I shook the rain out of my hair and mentally regrouped. We made it.

As I smoothly guided everyone past the shoe department and towards the exit, a familiar white collar emerged the racks of slippers and winter gloves on clearance.

It was a priest.

I'd never seen a priest at our Mall before and this priest wasn't someone I'd recognized from one of our neighboring parishes.

That didn't matter.

It was Jesus.

"Hello, Father," I said with a smile. "God Bless you!"

Father gave us a special smile as he sized up my entire brood "Same to you."

God didn't give me an umbrella or a sunny day yesterday, but He did give me a special pat on the head!