A House Divided

Y’all, I’m literally to the point of feeling sick over this election.

Like, I’m reading things that are posted by family and friends (and even strangers) and I feel physically ill.  I can’t take the arguing, the “fact-checking” back and forth, the he-said-she-said, the “who’s a worse person”, the “the Church says this, not that” and “the Church DOESN’T say this, it says that”, quoting from questionable sources, blogs, & opinions.  Etc, etc, etc. picard-facepalm-who-voting-for

I’m over all the arm-chair politicians and moralists and theologians and philosophers of social media.

I’m tired of reading things and being surprised and saddened and shocked at what the people who I know and love are spewing that seem so out of character for them; that seem inconsistent with how I’ve seen them live and speak;  that are just not well-thought-out before being spoken.

But, as my dear, fellow author recently posted on her Facebook, it’s basically like this every four years, with every election.
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Our [Imperfect] Family Rosary

“Continue to pray the Rosary every day.”
(Our Lady of Fatima to Sister Lucia)

I don’t think there’s any practicing Catholic out there who would deny the importance of daily recitation of the rosary.  The saints, the Popes, and even the Blessed Mother herself invites us to pray it on a regular basis, promising great spiritual wealth and growth as a result of it.  And, I have no doubt at all that that is true.

childs+hands+holding+rosaryBut, for the vast majority of us, praying the Rosary daily is actually rather challenging.  Or, maybe that’s just me.  I am not sure if it’s that I lack focus or the ability to sit still that long, but when I am attempting to pray it alone (which, let me tell you, happens about 0.1% of the time of my life) or when I am driving (which is more realistic), I easily get distracted.  I do much better when I pray it aloud with other people.

But, the only people I am with on a regular daily basis are these tiny human beings that I call my children.   Which, hey, is GREAT!  Because, praying the FAMILY rosary is possibly an even more beneficial and spiritually efficacious type of prayer than praying it alone.

Maybe efficacious isn’t the right word.  Perhaps saying it’s a source of “great sanctification” is more appropriate.  Especially when your prayer partners are 5, 3, and 20 months old.

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Thank You NFL & Fox…

The Super Bowl was truly a family experience at our house this year.  At 4:30 or so, we grabbed snacks and gathered in the living room to pick the teams we wanted to win.

Hubby and I are both fans of Peyton Manning –  what a class act – so we chose the Broncos.  Our 9 year old picked the Seahawks because he’s contrary like that.   The 6 year old picked the Broncos because she wants a pony.  The 4 year old was rooting for “the ones with the green shoes.”

The older kids discussed (not for the first time since their playoff loss) why the Packers aren’t in the Super Bowl this year, and my husband and I explained that this is the exact opposite of every other football game we’ve watched all year.  They can talk as much as they want during the game itself, they have to be quiet during the commercials.

Then – kickoff.  Each time the game went to commercial I sat, perched on the edge of my seat, remote in hand, ready to punch the off button or turn the channel at any sign of scantily clad and objectified women, wardrobe malfunctions, twerking, or even crude innuendo.

Surprisingly, I didn’t need to use it.  From the positive family messages in the Cheerios spot

to the ad activism of Bank of America and Chevy,

the crude jokes, sexual innuendo and scantily clad women were kept to a minimum.

Then, the halftime show.  Now, my kids do not know who Bruno Mars or the Red Hot Chili Peppers are (though my 6 year old said she recognized “Give It Away Now”), but they bought the pre-game and in-game hype 100%.

“The greatest concert of the year?! I can’t wait!” my son shouted at the 2 minute warning.

We tried to prepare them for the inevitable disappointment that goes with the Super Bowl Halftime show.  My husband explained that while it *may* be the greatest concert of the year, the year has only had 33 days in it so far – so there’s not a lot of competition.  I remembered the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” that had mothers screeching in horror everywhere and wondered if I should tell my son to cover his eyes just in case.

Lo and behold – it wasn’t all bad.  Bruno and his gold lamé jacket squad were more Motown classy than pop star sassy.  Boy does that kid have moves!  The Red Hot Chili Peppers were in their head-banging glory and Anthony Kiedis (lead singer) even broke out his dress shorts for the occasion.

Both bands did what they do best, did it spectacularly, and didn’t need anything outrageous or controversial to put on one of the best halftime shows I’ve seen since U2’s 9/11 tribute and heart-shaped stage in 2009.

I know that many people complained that the ads and halftime show were as sad, pathetic, and boring as the game itself (that one touchdown the Broncos scored felt like an awful lot like pity points).  But this mom is grateful that I did not have to answer any awkward questions from my young children.

It wasn’t perfect…Since when do threesomes save troubled marriages Butterfinger?  And why is Uncle Jesse about to use your yogurt to trick a girl into oral sex Oikos?   Oh and Sodastream…I’m sorry but using seductive straws won’t get me to buy your soda? Fortunately the worst offenders were after halftime and after my kids were in bed.

Despite a few hiccups, I want to issue a huge thank you to the NFL and Fox for a family-friendly Super Bowl experience!

thankyousuperbowl

God Provides. Yes, He Actually Does.

I am 23+ weeks into my pregnancy with our happy surprise Baby #3 (a little girl).  When I say she is a “surprise”, I mean just that.  We are people who use NFP regularly and though we are pro-life and thus always ready to accept a new little life as God sees fit to give it, we weren’t purposefully trying to get pregnant with this little one (as we were with our other two).  So, when,  that 2nd little line showed up on a pregnancy test last fall, surprised is the best word to describe my reaction.530862_661837282070_1511837382_n

When it took 14 months to get pregnant with my first child, I learned quickly that God alone is the author of Life and only HE knows when it is best for a person or family to have a baby.  Sometimes our will and His will line up (we were trying for a 2nd child and God deemed it to be the right time and we got pregnant quickly).  Other times, it’s challenging to understand why God is or isn’t allowing a pregnancy to happen.

I have never once take for granted the gift of this new little life within me when I know so many people who would give anything to get pregnant and I am so thrilled to be having another little girl.  But, from my limited perspective, I wouldn’t have chosen right now to be pregnant again!  Read More

Two Wrongs CAN Make a Right…

Family

My husband and I are both passionate about raising loving, respectful kids whose strong relationships with Christ and His Church are lived out in their relationships and community.  Sometimes, though, we disagree on our approach and I wonder if our different backgrounds have put us on completely different pages when it comes to reaching our parenting goals.

I’ve got advanced education in Pastoral Studies, Theology, and Teaching. My husband has advanced education in Administration, Teaching, and Social Studies.

I’m a cradle, Catholic-school girl Catholic.  My husband is a convert.

There are times when I seriously challenge my husband to become more comfortable with and better understand the words, signs, and gestures of our faith.  Sometimes he makes himself talk about (or listen to me talk with friends about) theology, Church doctrine, and what it means to be Catholic because I’ve shown him it’s an important conversation.

There are times when my husband seriously challenges me to remember that all those words, signs, and gestures mean nothing if we do not live as Christians in the real world.  Sometimes I make myself to stop talking about theology, Church doctrine, and what it means to be Catholic because he’s shown me that it’s important to just be a Christian interacting with our world instead of talking about how Christianity interacts with our world.

There are lots of times I’m convinced he’s wrong.  There are at least as many times he’s convinced that I’m wrong.  Then there are those moments – those oh-so-precious moments when I’m missing the mark and he’s missing the mark, but together we are exactly right.

This week our 1st grade daughter was asked by her principal to represent her school by leading the pledge at the City Council meeting.

My response:  I’m so proud of you! Because you are so kind and loving and respectful, you are showing people what it means to be a good Christian in our community, how to show Jesus’ love to everyone around you, and they are obviously noticing!  What a great job!

My husband’s response:  I’m so proud of you!  Because you are so kind and loving and respectful, you are showing people what it means to be a good citizen in our community, how to make our world better, and they are obviously noticing!  What a great job!

My daughter, who claims she wants to be either a teacher or a singer when she grows us, was instantly petrified.  She didn’t want to do it – she was too nervous because she doesn’t think she knows the pledge well enough, she doesn’t know these people, and she doesn’t know what it’s going to be like.

I responded by telling her I think we should take a few days to pray about it first. I told her that sometimes doing good things and being a role model isn’t easy.  We talked about how Mary said “yes” when God asked her to do something big even though she didn’t know a lot about what it was going to be.

So…she went to her dad and told him all the reasons she didn’t want to do it

My husband responded by telling her she should take a few days to think about it first.  He told her that it would be a great chance for her to be an example for other kids in her school and that it would give the city leaders hope to see someone her age doing something so big.  They talked about Rosa Parks and how little people can do big things that make them nervous if they do them by thinking about others instead of themselves.

My response wouldn’t have been right on its own – neither was my husband’s.    But both of them together?  We brought Church, State, and family together and I think all of us got a lesson from the ‘school of deeper humanity’…

2 wrong people + God = the right family.

Family communion can only be preserved and perfected through a great spirit of sacrifice. It requires, in fact, a ready and generous openness of each and all to understanding, to forbearance, to pardon, to reconciliation.

There is no family that does not know how selfishness, discord, tension and conflict violently attack and at times mortally wound its own communion: hence there arise the many and varied forms of division in family life.

But, at the same time, every family is called by the God of peace to have the joyous and renewing experience of “reconciliation,” that is, communion reestablished, unity restored.

Familiaris Consortio #21

(Listen, I know that comparing standing up in front of the 6 people on our city council and reciting the pledge to Rosa Parks or, you know, the Mother of God is a little heavy handed and over the top, but it’s a pretty big deal to her! Plus, I am an English major and hyperbole is a legitimate way to prove a point!)

Epiphany Home Blessing

What is a blessing?

Blessing a home recognizes God’s goodness in providing for us a home to live in, invites God to be present within our home, and dedicates our home to God.  A blessing isn’t a magic formula that makes our homes holy; our homes become holy because of how we act inside them. Rather, it asks for God’s protection over the mind, body, and soul of those who live there.  This kind of blessings bestows what the Church calls actual grace — the divine energy which the soul needs in the countless emergencies and difficulties of our daily struggle with the devil, sin, and our own fallen nature.*

Having our home blessed helps draw us closer to God, to Whom it is dedicated; and acknowledges that our home does more than just benefit our bodies by providing the tangible things like warmth, heat, shelter, etc.  A blessed home can benefit our souls as well.

Epiphany Home Blessing

The Feast of the Epiphany has, for centuries, been a traditional time for families to bless their homes.  This tradition likely came about because the Three Wise Men visited the home that the Holy Family had established in Bethlehem (before the flight to Egypt – after which they settled in Nazareth).  The visit from the Wise Men blessed the home of the Holy Family because they came in humility to honor and pay homage to the Christ Child and because they were the first to not only seek Jesus, but also to recognize Him as the Messiah.

The Epiphany home blessing tradition has been more popular in Europe than in the US, but many American Catholics have taken up the practice as well.

What you’ll need:

  • Blessed Chalk**
  • Your Home
  • A person with spiritual authority over your home to lead***
  • Incense (optional – frankincense would be ideal!)

How to do it:

  1. If you are choosing to use it, light the incense as a reminder of the gifts offered by the Three Wise Men.
  2. The leader should say the blessing.  There are a variety of Epiphany home blessing ritual prayers available (here, here and here).  Choose whichever one you like.
  3. Once the prayer is complete, the leader should use the chalk to write the following on the door (or door frame or lintel):

20 + C + M + B + 14

The three letters stand for the three kings who were traditionally known as Caspar, Melchoir, and Baltassar. (The initials, C, M, B, can also be interpreted as the Latin phrase “Christus mansionem benedicat” which means “Christ bless this house”.) The numbers are for the year.

  1. Go through the home and write the blessing formula over each door within the home – especially the threshold, the dining room, and the bedrooms.
  1. Gather as a family and discuss ways that you can seek and recognize God’s presence in your family and your home throughout the coming year!

Luke 10:5


* from: The Priestly Power to Bless by Ernest Graf, O.S.B.

** Chalk is customarily blessed on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany.  Your parish (or another parish in town) may provide blessed chalk after Masses this weekend.  If not, you can always ask a priest to bless some chalk.  The blessing can be found here.

*** Just as there is a spiritual hierarchy within the heavens (choirs of angels) and a spiritual hierarchy within the Church, there is a spiritual hierarchy within your home. Top down it would be:  A priest or deacon of the parish you belong to, another priest or deacon, the father of the home, the mother of the home.

“Mama” Mary

I don’t presume to think I am “cool”.

Any type of “coolness” I may have possessed in my younger years has most certainly gone flying out the window with motherhood.  I finally spoke this truth out loud to my still cool, unmarried, currently living in Nashville (the epitome of hipster/music/coolness) about to go to awesome music graduate school younger brother.  “Yeah, there’s pretty much nothing we do as moms that will become an ‘in’ thing.  In fact, if something becomes a trend for moms & kids, it is probably on it’s way out,” I said.

Good one, Catholic Memes.

Good one, Catholic Memes.

The reality of my motherly uncoolness became even more pronounced today as I was sitting in Barnes & Noble visiting with my pregnant friend while her son and my two kids played around with a group of other children (most of whom were accompanied, also, by moms of various ages and stages of pregnancy).  We chatted and laughed about potty training (yes, discussing poop), baby food, sleeping habits, toys & interests of our kids, pregnancy, and motherhood in general.  Probably the most boring conversation ever for my girlfriend’s unmarried friend who was with us, too.

Yes, motherhood is unglamorous and totally uncool when it really comes down to the nitty gritty of it.

On the ride home, this realization got me thinking about the Blessed Mother.  Our Most Holy Mother Mary, who is always depicted as beautiful, serene, demure, hair perfectly coiffed, the “coolest” woman who ever walked the face of the earth in all her holiness and Immaculate Conception-ness, was also a mom. Read More

Parenting: Harder Than it Looks

I would consider myself a pretty confident person. In fact, I would say that I have always been fairly confident about myself and my abilities. I never really struggled with school. I always had a knack for sports or physical activities. I was never excellent at one particular sport or subject, but always picked things up easily and felt good trying out something new.

Well, I am.

Well, I am.

I wouldn’t say I was overly confident when it came to guys or my looks. Though I was probably the first homecoming queen in history who didn’t have a date to the Homecoming Dance, things like that didn’t break me or cause me to not really know who I was or where I was headed in life.

Yes, confidence would probably be on the list of “What are 3 words that describe you?”.

But, I have found the one thing that is trying to break my confidence. The one thing that is not just “something I do” or something that I am trying out to see how I like it. No, it’s the ONE THING that is second only to my primary vocation as a wife. It is the ONE THING that will never, ever end and I may not ever get right. Read More

Put Down the Camera…and Slowly Back Away

I recently attended the last Mass of the school year at my kids’ Catholic school.  For those of you not familiar with the Catholic elementary school culture – each week the whole student body attends Mass together.  One of the classes “leads” the Mass by doing the readings, bringing up the gifts, serving, carrying up the processional cross, etc.

This week, it was the 4 year old Kindergarten class that finally got its turn.  They can barely (if at all) read so the readings were done one sentence at a time – and, I suspect, memorized.  The typical Kindergarten Mass characters were present including:

  • The girl who doesn’t believe the microphone will pick up her voice, so she shouts her line.
  • The shorty whose hairline is barely visible above the top of the ambo.
  • The boy who forgets how to pronounce at least one of the words on his construction paper mounted sheet.
  • The teacher frantically motioning that the children holding the psalm response poster board have it upside down.

It may not have been the highest of liturgy, but it was cute – and there certainly is something moving about watching 15 Kindergarteners belt out every word to “I Love You, Lord” and know (because I know their music teacher) that they understand it to be a song of praise to our God.

What’s not so moving:  15 parents in the back of church running around with video and digital cameras trying to capture every cute moment for posterity.

I have little kids – I have the boy who shouted into the mic when it was his turn to read part of the 1st reading last year, and I anticipate my daughter will be one who holds the poster upside down (she can be a little ditzy) – so I certainly understand the desire to capture the moment.

But at what cost?

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A Hidden Life

There was a time in my life when I thought I wanted to be famous.  Well, maybe not famous, but at least notable.  When we took the Meyers-Briggs personality test in high school and college, I would undoubtedly always get the “Extrovert” E.  I used to love meeting as many people as possible, being included in major events, going to parties where there would be lots of people, making an impression.

As I got older and began my career in ministry, I thought it would be great to become a public speaker.  Maybe not be on a major circuit, but at least on a minor one where I got to travel and meet lots of people and be a recognizable name.  I wanted people calling me because they were so impressed with my public speaking skills.

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