Call Me Catholic

Yeah, You’re a Strict Catholic

I brought the baby into the doctor’s office yesterday.  She had an ear infection, and I had an interesting conversation.

As the doctor was entering his information into the computer, he said, “Wow, you have 7 kids!  You must be a strict Catholic.”

This seemed out of the blue.  Apparently my baby’s computer file must keep track of those things.  Then he said with a smile and a smirk, “I guess you had to have all those kids, huh?”

Now I’m used to snarky comments about the size of my family, but this ticked me off.  Why should I have to put up with his condescending, vitriolic pompousness?  I didn’t comment on the size of his family, implying that he’s a dope.  So I reached across the baby sitting on my lap, and slapped his smug face.

Ok, no, I didn’t do that.  But I did say, “Yes, we wanted all these children.”

He calmly said, “Oh yeah, I suppose you planned them all too?”

What the hell?*

“Natural Family Planning does work, when you actually monitor and chart your mucus.”  (Yeah, I said that.)

At this point, the look on his face completely changed.  He blushed, cleared his throat, and said, “Uh…I guess the other doctor here at this clinic wants to bring in a nurse trained in Natural Family Planning because she’s so busy with all her NFP patients that she can’t keep up.”

It’s true.  I knew that doctor was swamped with women wanting her assistance.  So I replied, “Yes, it’s fascinating–the woman’s body.  We studied the Creighton Model.  You might consider learning too?”

“Hmmm…”

“This isn’t your grandma’s version of the ridiculous Rhythm Method.  This stuff actually works.”

Then he said something awkward about my husband’s “swimmers” always seeming to find their way (weird), and I just sighed as he quickly slunk out of the room.

Why do I mention this incident?

Of course I couldn’t slap the guy.  That never wins people over, but of course I also couldn’t remain silent.  A wise priest once told me that if someone else is going to “go there,” then by all means, go there with him.

In other words, if someone is going to comment on my family size, then maybe I should go there too.  Just because you think 7 children is nuts and overwhelming, doesn’t mean that I do.  Or, just because you’d rather watch TV in your bedroom, doesn’t mean that we’d rather do that.  You wouldn’t believe what some people say.  “Get a TV!  Don’t you know what the pill is for?”  Or, “Don’t you know how that happens?”  Come on, people.  Be a little open-minded.

Or open-hearted?  As a matter of fact, we didn’t specifically plan each of our 7 children; God did.  My husband and I knew what we were doing, though.  Many of you may not be familiar with Natural Family Planning (NFP), but it’s not that complicated.  I simply chart when I’m fertile by monitoring my cervical mucus.  Yes, it sounds gross, but it works.

So while we may not have specifically “planned” to have, for example, this last baby, we did choose to have intercourse on a fertile day.  We knew the consequences.  But our hearts were open.  Open to God’s plan–His providence–with all it’s heartaches and joys.

And my heart has become bigger and softer with the birth of each child.  And I am so thankful.  So thankful.

 

 

*I just thought that.  I apologize for the foul language.  It’s a sin, and you should pray for me.
Call Me Catholic

Jomo and Silent Retreats

Jomo What??

The other day I came across a curious acronym – JOMO.

Now I know that some of you are much more up-to-date on these things than I am, so you likely have an idea of what it stands for.  For the rest of you (and me) it means: Joy of Missing Out.  It’s a play on the famous “Fomo,” Fear of Missing Out.

This caught my attention because my husband and I joke about Fomo every time we get a new email suggesting another activity for our children, or I listen to another podcast about someone else’s family doing great things out in the world.

Now don’t misunderstand me, I am glad that extra activities exist, and I am glad that other families do great things, but I also know that I’ve got to be comfortable with where we’re at and not fear missing out.

This is where Jomo comes in.  For it’s true, there is great joy in missing out.  We say no to many things and prefer to be together as a family.  Instead of running our children to multiple sporting events or musical performances, we limit these things and stay home.  Our children ice skate in the backyard and build snow forts.  We have friends over for coffee.  We pray the rosary together every evening.  We play Up and Down the River with gummy bears.  We laugh with our children.

No, our home isn’t always peaceful.  Quite the contrary.  Most evenings someone’s crying or whining.  My point is that family life seems to have been lost or tossed aside in this modern world, and it’s worth fighting for.  It’s worth it, to be home with the children in a meaningful way.

So the next time you’re tempted to say yes to another commitment, maybe pause a moment to reflect.  Will this bring joy to your lives?  Or will it result in more running?

Silent Retreats

One beautiful thing you might consider doing this Lent is signing up for a silent retreat.

As we’re now in the middle of Lent, and most of us are trying to step it up a notch, I want to strongly encourage all of you to sign up for a silent retreat this year.

You all know how important it is to step back in silence from time-to-time to be with God.  I’m sure I don’t need to convince you.  The hardest part, however, is actually going.  Of course Satan hates silent retreats.  He’ll do anything to prevent you from spending time with God.  In fact, retreat masters will often tell you to expect all kinds of obstacles to appear, especially at the last minute.

Let me give you an example.  Two years ago I was signed up to attend a private silent retreat with a small group of mothers, but just hours before the retreat was to begin, our Retreat Master was forced to cancel.  So we were left wondering if we should still go, without a Retreat Master?  Well, we decided yes.  After all, what harm could come from spending time alone with God for a weekend, even if it wasn’t directed?  And I am so glad we did!  For God always provides, and He sent an excellent priest at the last minute to replace the previous one.  We had a Shepherd and the Sacraments.

In any case, you all need to go on retreat, or into the desert, if you like.  And since I can’t ever get enough of Cardinal Sarah, I’ll leave you with a quotation from his book The Power of Silence.”

It is vitally important to withdraw to the desert in order to combat the dictatorship of a world filled with idols that gorge themselves on technology and material goods, a world dominated and manipulated by the media, a world that flees God by taking refuge in noise.

Did you read that?  It is vitally important!

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This is a life-changing book.

Cardinal Sarah

Cardinal Sarah has two of the greatest books ever written out now – God or Nothing and The Power of Silence.  Buy a copy for yourself and your priest.  You won’t regret it.
I understand he’s got a third book in print too, but it hasn’t been translated into English yet.  When it is, I’ll be sure to get it.
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Now here’s a Man of God, let me tell you.  This book is awesome.

 

Call Me Catholic

Ash Wednesday & Fasting

Good Morning, and Welcome to Lent!

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Just got back from Mass.  My ashes are stuck in my forehead creases.

If you’re looking for a really good video on fasting, look no further!  Dr. Taylor Marshall and Timothy Gordon knock it outta da park HERE.  The history of the tradition of fasting is fascinating, but my husband and I were really inspired by what these gentlemen are  doing.

Seriously, watch it tonight with your spouse.  Again, it’s HERE.

Call Me Catholic

It’s Sexagesima Sunday

Yep, this Sunday is Sexagesima Sunday, in the Old Calendar.  Kind of a funny name, no?  It means that we’re on the threshold of Lent.  Are you ready?

Septuagesima, Sexagesima, & Quinquagesima Sundays

In the Old Calendar, the three Sundays prior to Ash Wednesday were specifically dedicated to preparing one for Lent, and they have funny, Latin names: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima.  They mean, seventieth, sixtieth, and fiftieth, which is to say, it’s roughly 70 days until Easter, 60 days until Easter, and fifty days until Easter.  This next Sunday, we’ll be at Sexagesima.  Clear as mud?

Well, in the Old Calendar during the three weeks prior to the actual start of Lent, priests wore violet vestments and certain elements of the Mass were dropped, like the Gloria and Alleluia.  (In fact, there’s a sweet tradition of physically burying the Alleluia, only to dig it up again at Easter.)  All of these things were meant to get you thinking.  Sober up, people!  Let’s start preparing.

The 3 Pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, & Almsgiving

During these fore-lenten Sundays, my husband and I like to begin preparing for Lent.  We take a look at the classic 3 pillars of lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Below I’ll offer a few thoughts for you all to consider.

Prayer:

  1. Do you set aside a time to pray, every single day?  If not, what’s stopping you?
  2. For those of you who are married, are you praying with your spouse?  Every day?
  3. Or how about praying Compline in the evenings?  (There’s an excellent book, The Office of Compline, by Fr. Samuel Weber.)
  4. For those of you with children, are you praying with them every day?
  5. How about a family rosary?
  6. Fathers, are you blessing your children every day?
  7. And finally, go to confession!  At bare, rock-bottom minimum, go at least once this season.  If you’d like a challenge, consider going every week or so.
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Again, go to confession!  You won’t regret it.

Fasting:

Fasting is the second great pillar of Lent.  In our culture, this one gets ignored a lot.  And we need it.  I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Mark 9:28-29, “And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast [the demon] out?”  And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.”

Do you have something in your life that needs casting out?  Try fasting.  Do you know of someone who really needs Jesus?  Try fasting.

If you’ve never done this before, start small  Give up one meal a week.

If you’re accustomed to weekly fasting, try two days a week.

Almsgiving:

This one’s a little tricky, as every family is in a different place financially.  If you’d like a little more on what the Church officially says, click HERE for Jimmy Akin’s take on tithing and giving.

The point during Lent is to work towards the virtue of generosity – the virtue of being unattached to material goods and in gift giving.  During Lent, one may look at it in two ways:

  1. How can our family work towards giving more of our total income?
  2. In what ways am I able to make a monetary sacrifice during Lent to benefit a charity?

The first one…again, as each family is different, this one cannot have some uniform answer.  Wherever you’re at on this one, take a step towards giving more of your total income.  If you’re currently giving 1%, try 2%.  For those of you who’d like a stricter guideline, I once read somewhere to shoot for 5% of your income to your local church, 4% to any charity, and 1% to the Bishop.  This would be a true 10% tithe.  (The word tithe means one tenth.)

If you really want a challenge, and are already tithing 10% of your income, then consider giving 10% of your total income before taxes.  And tithe that bonus too.

The second point…during Lent make an additional monetary sacrifice.  For example, maybe you are accustomed to dining out a few times each month.  Consider not eating out, and expressly give that budgeted money away to your favorite charity.

In the end, God cannot be outdone in generosity, and He will reward you!  Just take the first step.

And Lastly, a Lenten Challenge

Have you ever wondered what it was like for most Catholics throughout the history of our Church to pray the Mass?  I mean, what was it like for St. Catherine of Siena to receive the Eucharist?    Or which Mass inspired the great writings of St. Thomas Aquinas?  Or the great missionaries?

For nearly 2000 years Catholics have been worshipping the same way at the Latin Mass, and if you’ve got one near you, check it out.  Don’t worry about not understanding everything.  Most places have hand missals, if you’d like to follow along.  (But you don’t have to.)

If you live around here, we’ve got one this Sunday at Christ the King Church in Mandan at 11:30.  I’d love to see you there.

Call Me Catholic

TLM Question and Response

[Note:  For whatever evil reason, my computer will not let me format the paragraphs correctly on this post.  My sincere apologies to all of you!]

Occasionally I get emails and questions from you Readers.  Recently the following was sent to me:

“If you don’t mind my asking:  other than prayer and fasting (!),  what have you found most helpful in working toward the goal of a Latin Mass?  Whom do you work with, make contacts with, and how do you present the idea to the parish or the diocese?  I’m struggling to find inroads to accomplish this here where I’m at.  Thanks for whatever you can share.”

First of all, thank you, dear Reader, for the question!  I do have a few thoughts and ideas. For those of you who are interested, read on.  For those of you who are not, I’ll see you next post.

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Have you ever been to a TLM?  It’s awesome.  This picture comes from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

Traditional Latin Mass Question and Response

In our diocese, we’ve been working for about ten years to get a Traditional Latin Mass here every Sunday, and we’re still not there!  (We currently have a priest willing to celebrate every fourth Sunday at Christ the King Catholic Church in Mandan.)  So I can fully understand your plight, and here’s what I have to offer.
Yes, of course prayer and fasting should be your top priority in promoting the Latin Mass.  While I am not always able to fast because I’m  A. wimpy,  B. usually pregnant, or  C.  forever nursing a baby, my husband in particular is always fasting for this very thing.  In particular, he fasts on Wednesdays and Fridays for this intention (and others).
I point this out not to embarrass him, which I know I just did, but because many of us simply need to hear that there are real men out there actually sacrificing for their families in a tangible way.  They are fasting.  My husband thinks that the Latin Mass is worth fighting for on a spiritual level.  So he really abstains from food two days a week, and it’s hard some days, especially when the office brings in donuts and pizza.
In any case, the single most important thing, after prayer and fasting, is to have a priest who either wants to celebrate the Extraordinary Form, or who is willing to learn.  And this is likely out of your hands.  Fortunately here, about ten years ago, a good friend of mine was ordained, and he wanted to learn.  So we made it happen.  We paid for him to go to Chicago, to St. John Cantius, to learn.  When he returned, he was able to offer weekly Friday masses.  After a few years, he was transferred, but another priest here offered to celebrate the monthly Sunday mass.
Along the way, we’ve had to pay for other things – vestments, books, other liturgical items.  I point this out because if you want it to happen, you’ve got to make it as easy as possible.  Pay for everything.  Willingly.  Find others who will help, if possible.
Not only should you be willing to pay for everything, but you also should be willing to help out in every way possible too.  Fortunately we’ve got some great families around here who help out at every Mass.  For example, a couple of dads are permanent ushers.  My husband trains all the altar boys and is permanent sacristan.  You want it; you gotta do it.
And it’s not always easy.  Do I like the fact that my husband is busy for a full half hour before every Mass and at least that after Mass?  Nope.  Because it means that I’ve got to herd and corral 7 children by myself while we wait for him.  But if it means worshipping at a TLM, bring it on.
Also, what about music?  The beautiful thing about the TLM is that one need not suffer through horrible, Marty Haugen jingles complete with guitars and tambourines.  Thank God.  But it isn’t always easy to find musicians.  When you do, pay them well, if possible, and send them yearly to the Sacred Music Colloquium put on by the Church Music Association of America.  In fact, go yourself.  You won’t regret it.
Finally, there are two more things you can do.  Write a brief letter to your bishop kindly requesting a TLM.  Do it annually until it happens.  And don’t expect results over night.  (For anyone interested, I’d be happy to show you an example of a letter.  Drop me a line.) And secondly, keep educating yourself on the TLM.  The resources are inexhaustible.  I’d particularly recommend anything by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski.
Speaking of Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, have you read this yet?
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It’s next on my list.  HERE’s a good review of it.

Lastly, take heart, dear Reader!  So many more people are looking for a deeper, richer experience at Mass.  All over the world there has been an upsurge in both TLM Mass attendance and those desiring to attend a TLM.  Hang in there.  We’re a young crowd with lots of babies.  It’s not going away.

P.S.  I realize there’s a formatting issue with my paragraphs on this post.  I’ll see if I can’t get my Web Master to take a look at it.  My apologies for any difficulties in reading.

 

Call Me Catholic

Resolution Time: Epiphany of Virtues

All right people.  It’s Resolution Time.  Yes, I know it’s a little late, but around this household, we do it with Epiphany.

And our resolutions are going to be different than most peoples’.  So in other words, instead of trying a hundred different ways to lose weight, we’re going to try a virtue.

For example, if weight really was a problem, then I’d want to take a deeper look at it.  What is the deep, down issue?  Where are things going wrongly?  Instead of determining to lose ten pounds this year, maybe take a look the virtues that you’re soft on.  In this case, maybe it’s an issue of Moderation or Temperance.  So then, make a concerted effort to read and learn about the virtue of Temperance.  And get on your knees and beg Jesus for the grace of this virtue.  And then make a concrete plan to live it.

But maybe this isn’t your issue.  Maybe it’s the Noonday Devil, otherwise known as Acedia or Sloth.  I’ll tell you what, 3:30pm rolls around, and I’m wiped.  I don’t want to think about feeding my family of nine.  Just the thought of chopping vegetables, boiling noodles, and frying up 3 pounds of hamburger for supper is enough to paralyze me into inactivity.  Or, worse, it makes me want to load the van up and go for a coffee instead – thinking that caffeine will give me the boost I need.  Or maybe I just need to check my email one more time before picking up that frying pan…  Ugh, I had better pray for Diligence instead.

The point is, maybe this year it would be a good idea to take a look at the 7 Deadly Sins with the 7 Lively Virtues when it comes to Resolution Time.  Maybe pick one that you struggle with and make a commitment to learn about it, pray with it, and then form a concrete plan to live it out.

I’ll repeat that.

Living Epiphany and the Year 2019 with the Virtues:

  1. Determine which vice you struggle with, or which virtue you lack.  (Maybe your spouse could pick it for you?  That’s what we’re doing.)
  2. Look that virtue up.  Read about it.  Buy a book about it.
  3. Spend 2019 praying with that virtue.
  4. Form an action plan to live that virtue.  (Hopefully this will come about through prayer.)

And in case you’ve forgotten…

List of 7 Deadly Sins with the 7 Lively Virtues

  1. Greed and Generosity
  2. Sloth and Diligence
  3. Gluttony and Temperance
  4. Lust and Chastity
  5. Envy and Kindness
  6. Anger and Meekness
  7. Pride and Humility

Or, if you’d rather pick one of these….

3 Theological Virtues

  1. Faith
  2. Hope
  3. Charity

4 Cardinal Virtues

  1. Prudence
  2. Justice
  3. Fortitude
  4. Temperance

And finally, I’ll leave you with a quotation from the Catechism, paragraph 1804:

“The moral virtues are acquired by human effort.  They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love.”

Call Me Catholic, Homeschooling

Bishop Kagan: 4 Weaknesses of Homeschooling. Most Popular Serious Post of 2018

As promised, here is my Most Popular Serious Post of 2018.  According to my stats, this post really made the rounds.  I hope Bishop Kagan had a chance to look at it too.

Bishop Kagan: 4 Weaknesses of Homeschooling

Bishop David D. Kagan’s Latest Pastoral Letter

Bp. Kagan of the Bismarck Diocese has issued a Pastoral Letter on Catholic Education, which can be found on the diocesan website.  (Click HERE for it.)

I was asked if I might offer my thoughts on his letter, which is divided into a Preface, Introduction, Parts 1,2, & 3, and a Conclusion.  I will comment, but am limiting myself to Part 1, as this is the section most of you are interested in.

If you haven’t read the entire letter yet, it would be helpful to do so first.

TeachThemPastoralLetter

Part One: Catholic ‘Home Schooling’

The first six paragraphs of Part One speak of the historicity of the homeschool movement in the Bismarck Diocese.  There is nothing shocking here.  In fact, he has some kind and truthful things to say about it all.

The last 4 paragraphs, however, get a little interesting, as Bp. Kagan details what he perceives as 4 weaknesses of homeschooling.

Bp. Kagan: 4 Weaknesses of Homeschooling

1. Bp. Kagan begins with, “First, given the excellence of our own Catholic schools the real necessity for Catholic families to home school in my judgment is not as necessary as it may have been years ago.”

In other words, he thinks that years ago, one may have had a good reason to homeschool, based on the condition of Catholic schools at that time, but now, however, Catholic schools are better.  So, it’s not “as” necessary, in his opinion.

What’s really going here, in any case, is that some people truly don’t understand why one might choose to homeschool, and so sometimes it’s assumed that homeschoolers are against Catholic, diocesan schools.  But all the homeschoolers I know are actually glad that these schools exist.  For they do provide an important mission in the daily life of the Church.  They are a good thing after all.  We want them to succeed.

However, most of us have discerned as parents that homeschooling is the best option for our particular families, for a multitude of reasons.  Maybe we have a child with a learning disorder.  Maybe we enjoy traveling and the flexibility homeschooling provides.  Maybe we think it is important for our families to be together.

Personally for our family, and among other reasons, it primarily comes down to our philosophy of education.  We are attempting a traditional, classical approach to education, which is just not an option here in this diocese.  And we have access to excellent curriculums and online classes.

For example, I’ve often spoken of Classical Academic Press, which we’ve found to exemplify this philosophy.  If anyone is curious about what we’re attempting to do, click HERE for a short philosophy of classical education and how it differs from what is typically available in diocesan schools.

If you want more, I’d suggest reading Stratford Caldecott’s Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education and Beauty for Truth’s Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education.

2.  Bp. Kagan goes on with his weaknesses to say, “Second, there is a real advantage for children at an early age to see and learn from other Catholic adults and children their own age what they have already seen and learned from their parents.”

In this second point, he argues that it is necessary for children to be around other people’s children and parents in order to learn properly and be well-rounded.

There are two ways to look at this.  One, Bp. Kagan could be promoting the whole “anti-social” argument that most homeschoolers face all the time, which says that because our children learn at home, we’re necessarily socially awkward.

This just isn’t true, however, and studies would prove otherwise.  For statistics and a great article on homeschooling and socialization from the Washington Times, click HERE.

Secondly, and if you read his statement closely, most homeschoolers would actually agree with Bp. Kagan here.  It’s just that he’s probably unaware of all the activities that many of us are involved in.  For example, many families are in rosary groups, wherein entire families gather together to pray the rosary weekly and then have fellowship.  Many of us are involved in PE programs.  Many homeschool families gather together to do projects, sports, music, whatever.

The point is, most of us don’t sit at home with our doors locked, shaking in fear lest our children interact with other children or adults.  Rather, we enjoy being around other Catholic families and in fact make it a priority.

3.  His third weakness states, “…the more Catholic families desire that faithful and robust Catholic education for their children and make use of our Catholic schools, the stronger the Catholic culture of our schools and parishes become.”

In other words, Bp. Kagan wants our children in the Catholic schools because then the schools would be stronger.  I’ve heard this argument many times, and maybe we ought to just consider it a compliment.  He must think we’d have something positive to offer the schools after all.

I would point out, however, that our children would not be who they are without the formation they have had at home.

As far as parishes go, all the homeschool families I know are very active in varying parish ministries.  In fact, I can’t think of a single homeschool family that isn’t involved in their parish life.

4.  Bp. Kagan concludes his discussion of “home school weaknesses” with a note on other people’s perception of us.  He says, “Often enough I have heard from other Catholic parents and even some priests that families who home school do so because they think our Catholic schools are not Catholic enough when it comes to the teaching of religion…I do not know how widespread this perception may be but it does not serve well those who have chosen homeschooling for their children.”

It would seem that he’s accusing us of being guilty of how other people perceive us.  But I’m not sure we can help what others may or may not think of us, especially if they are unwilling to dialogue with us.

I can’t help it if people want to assume I’m a Catholic school detractor.  I can only say, I’m not.

Conclusion

In the end, maybe we ought to invite Bp. Kagan to come have a look at our “schools?”  This might help shed some light on the modern homeschool movement.  In particular, it might be helpful if he understands that most of us are not rejecting Catholic, diocesan schools, but rather are choosing another form of an authentically Catholic education.

An Open Invitation to Bishop Kagan

Bp. Kagan, we first of all thank you for your dedication to our diocese.  Please know that you are always in our prayers, and our family welcomes you to visit our home and our school any time.

 

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9 Things I’m NOT Doing This Advent

In the last post, I wrote about a few things our family will be focusing on this Advent.  In this post, I want to highlight I few things I WON’T be doing.

Now before you read this list, please know that I’m tired.  Really exhausted.  I could give you many reasons why this is so, but I’m too tired do it.  My only intent is to show you that not all families are alike, and that sometimes, one needs to cut back.

Everything you’re about to read on this list is, in fact, a good thing.  If your family is able to do them all, I’m glad!  It’s just that I can’t right now, and I suspect I’m not the only one who is a little overwhelmed.

Without any further ado, here we go.

9 Things I’m NOT Doing This Advent

  1. I don’t have a Jesse Tree.  One year I did, but not this year.  And I know that Jesse Trees don’t even have to be a difficult thing to do.  One can simply print off a bunch of paper ornaments, have the children color them, and then cut them out.  But not me.  Nope.  I can’t.
  2. I don’t even have an Advent Calendar.  Our 2018 wall calendar will have to do.  The thought of another trip into Target, or even clicking around on Amazon to find one, is just too much.
  3. There is no Elf on my shelf.  Nor has there ever been.  I understand this is a fun thing for children, but mine will have to be satisfied with Mary and Joseph traveling around the house.

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    There is no Elf on these shelves.  But there are books all over the floor of this room.
  4. I’m not going to make a single cookie.  Heck, I might not even make a single cookie during Christmas.  My cookie press from Pampered Chef broke, and so I can’t make my all-time favorite Spritz Cookies using Grandma Hahn’s recipe.  This does actually make me a little sad, but really, it’s freeing too.  I know there won’t be any lack of cookies coming into the house anyway.  In fact some have already found their way into my freezer, as my mother is such a go-getter that she and my aunt already supplied me with two huge containers full.  So nope.  I’m not making any cookies.

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    But hey look!  I do have some cooking supplies.  Maybe I’ll just lock myself in the pantry and eat those M&Ms and pretzels.
  5. My box of Advent and Christmas books for the children to read is not out yet.  I’ve just been too tired to actually walk down the stairs, turn a corner, open a door, and get it.  I’m really hoping that I’ll find the motivation to do so, at least by December 24th.  We do have some good ones.  In the meantime, if I can’t, one year without them will be fine.
  6. I’m not going to listen to Christmas music this Advent.  Maybe.  Goodness, this is such a hard one for me.  I love Christmas music so much, that it isn’t uncommon for me to blast it any time of the year.  Just ask my children.  Who doesn’t love a little Sleigh Ride in July?
  7. I’m not decorating for Christmas during Advent.  This one is easy to not do for the obvious reason that I don’t have to do anything!  We stopped decorating for Christmas during Advent a long time ago.  Instead it’s become a family tradition to decorate on Christmas Eve, and I can’t tell you how much fun we have!  And I also have the added bonus of my husband being home to carry the heavy boxes up from the basement for me.  So I’m not really worried about this one.
  8. I’m not going to buy a ton of Christmas gifts.  We’ve been scaling back over the years, which has been difficult because our extended families are so generous!  But now the grandparents are down to just one gift per child, and we’re doing the same.  Well, not really, I guess.  Each child gets one book, one practical item, and a little candy.  (Candy because we abstain from sweets during Advent.)  For example, my eldest son loves the Redwall series, so he’s getting book #8 along with a new watchband and a candy cane.  We’ve found that less is more.  It teaches the children gratitude.
  9. And finally, I’m not going to write any more blog posts until Christmas.  I need a little break, especially with my son’s medical issues.  But don’t worry, I’ll be back!  (I can’t seem to help myself, when it comes to writing, for better or for worse.)

May God bless you this Advent!

Call Me Catholic

Advent is Here!

Last Sunday we began the holy season of Advent.  So I’ll offer a few thoughts and ideas on what works for our family to keep this season holy and prayerful.  If you have any great traditions or ideas, I’d love to hear about them too.

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My Drummer Boy is ready to start the season off with a bang.  But with only one drum stick.  The other one is lost.

Where to we start?

Lately I’ve mentioned the importance of Confession and Adoration.  While we never quit going to Confession throughout the year, our family has taken a three-month hiatus from Adoration, as we were into the chaotic business of packing and moving and switching parishes.  Now that that’s over, it is our top priority to get back to a weekly holy hour, beginning this week.

This is a difficult thing, however, as we feel strongly that not only my husband and I ought to have an hour, but that all those children who have received First Holy Communion should too.  So, we just have to make it a priority, which sometimes means saying no to other things, while also getting creative.

My hour will be during the evening and by myself, as I’m home all day and need a break.   My husband’s hour, however, will be in the morning before work, and he’ll take the four older children with him.  This is doable because after the holy hour, two of the children will walk over to their school, one will join her homeschool coop, which happens to be at our parish, and the last remaining child will get picked up by me.

Complicated?  Yes.  Worth it.  Double Yes Yes.  Prayer is the most important thing we can make time for.  It is our top priority.

Advent Prayer Intentions

This Advent we will be of course offering prayers for our Church, but also specifically for our son who suffers from migraines.  Lately they’ve become more intense and debilitating, which landed us back at his neurologist’s office.  After an MRI, we discovered that he has a Chiari I Malformation, which is fancy talk for the lower brain extending too far into the spinal cord.

We don’t know if this is causing his migraines, so we’ll be traveling to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis to have a specialized, pediatric neurologist examine him.  We hope to find some answers.  And if you think of it, please pray for him.

And now the Fun Stuff

Of course we’ll be lighting our Advent wreath every evening at dinner.  The children love this because we shut all the lights off, light the candle, and sing two verses of O Come, O Come Emmanuel.  Then my husband prays the Vespers Responsory and the Magnificat Antiphons, with the O Antiphons being the last seven days of Advent.  It’s beautiful.

As many of you also do, we have our nativity set out too.  Well, just the stable, shepherds, Drummer Boy, and the animals, as Mary and Joseph are traveling.  We start them off somewhere else in the house and move them closer every few days or so.

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We put our Nativity Set on the lower ledge of the fireplace, so that all the children can easily play with it.

And for school?  During Midmorning Prayer Time, our hymns will reflect the season.  Our favorite is On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry.  And we’ll be listening the Benedictines of Mary Advent at Ephesus during all hours of the day!

And for poetry?  I’m still looking for a good piece.  Anyone have any ideas?  Drop me a line.

I pray your season of Advent may be prayerful and fruitful!

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Even the baby gets to play with the Nativity Set.  Those plastic pieces must taste good!  She tried them all.
Call Me Catholic, Homeschooling

Advent and Nativity Sets

It’s cold outside, and it’s Friday.

So, it’s time to think about Nativity Sets.  Yes, I know Advent isn’t here yet, but some of us prefer to plan ahead for such things, so as to avoid stress and anxiety later.  Plus, I like to scatter the cost of Advent and Christmas over a couple of months, so December’s budget isn’t sky-high.

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And here’s my Nativity Set.  I know the quality of the photo is poor, but I took this a year ago with an old-fashioned camera.  You know, those digital ones that nobody has anymore.

Since most of us are home all day long, this matter of Nativity Sets is important for a couple of reasons.

  1. We are Catholics, and as such, have some sweet liturgical seasons, which ought to be celebrated in style.
  2. This is about our children after all.  What kid doesn’t like to mess around with nativity sets?  Think of it as a hands-on, Montessori-style education.
  3. Lastly, in as much as we can, we ought to make the space around us beautiful.  Hence, if you don’t already have one, buy a good, indestructible Nativity Set.

Now I am biased about nativity sets and strongly prefer Fontanini Nativity Sets mostly because I inherited a beautiful one, complete with a little stable, featuring an electric fire, along with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  But here is why Fontanini really is the best:

  1. It’s indestructible.
  2. Your children can chuck these beautifully painted pieces across the room.  Not that my children would do such a thing…
  3. There are myriads upon myriads of sheep, cows, shepherds, angels, and villagers available to play with–er–for purchase.
  4. Did I mention that these pieces don’t break?  (If you have boys, you will automatically know the importance of imperishable and everlasting nativity figures, or anything else for that matter.)

And so naturally one more question arises.  1.)  Which is my favorite nativity figure?

The Drummer Boy of course is my favorite accessory piece.  Everyone knows that a poor little drummer boy drummed on his drum for Jesus and Mary Christmas morning.  Jesus even smiled at him.  I’m pretty sure the drummer boy is in the Bible; in fact there’s a most beautiful song about it.*

Our family purchases a new figure every year, and this year we bought two camels.  I would have bought three camels, because that makes the most sense, but our budget only allows for only two.  We had to order them, however, so there not here yet.

Later next week I hope to have a post on a few more Advent things we do as a family.

 

 

*For your listening pleasure, HERE is one of the best Christmas songs ever.  I think this song is also in the Bible.**  (To those of you who prefer not to listen to music outside of its proper liturgical season, don’t listen to it!)
**Just kidding about the Drummer Boy being in the Bible.  Although if I were some kind of reforming heretic and enjoyed messing with the Bible – you know taking books out that I didn’t like and adding others – I’d for sure insert the Drummer Boy in the Christmas story.  You’d find it in the Gospel according to Kim.