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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!

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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.
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Cardinal Sarah, Mother Theresa, and One Mad Mom

I came across two articles this morning that are worthy of your attention.

  1. Anytime Cardinal Sarah speaks up, it’s worth noting.  LifeSiteNews published part of his speech at a conference in Milan this week wherein he speaks of both JPII and Mother Theresa’s love for the Eucharist.
    The cardinal recounted Mother Teresa’s own words: “Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand.”
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    Have you read this yet?

    Or This?

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    Sarah’s Power of Silence.  I can’t think of a better Christmas gift.
  2. Have you ever heard of One Mad Mom?  (Hey, look!  I’m not the only one.)  For any of you struggling with anger right now, she’s got a great piece about sticking to the facts and not jumping into the deep.  I needed to hear it, especially with the death of Bishop Morlino.  (May he rest in peace!  And may God send another holy bishop to that diocese!)
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I Am Mad.

Usually I like to keep the content of these pages positive, but I have to speak up, if only once.  So today, if you’re not interested, I’ll see you at a later post.

I am angry about the Homosexual Church Crisis.

I am angry because of all the silence from the bishops.*  Those of you who may be following what’s going on in the Church know what I’m talking about.  The inability of our bishops to do or say anything helpful is supremely frustrating.

Lately my husband and I have been watching Dr. Taylor Marshall on YouTube, and he’s making a lot of sense.  But just yesterday I came across Fr. Mark Goring, and I think he nailed it in one of his recent videos.  Click HERE for it.  You’ve got to watch it.

No really, like right now.  It’s only about 6 minutes long.

Now I know that Bishop Strickland of Texas spoke up at the USCCB conference, but did my bishop, Bishop Kagan?  I don’t know.  Did yours?  I tried contacting my bishop’s office, asking if he has released any statements, but I got no response.  I tried searching our diocesan website, but I found nothing.  Just more silence.  (Please, somebody, correct me if I’m wrong about this.)

Are there any priests speaking out about all this terrible business from the pulpit, for the laity to hear?  I did hear one good homily when the McCarrick Filth first broke a few months ago, but I haven’t heard anything since.  It’s like the Elephant in Room.  It’s the biggest issue of our day, and nobody wants to talk about it.  Meanwhile, the liberal media bashes the Catholic Church on all sides.  What are Catholics to believe?

I don’t want the same old solutions to these sordid problems.  I think it was G.K. Chesterton who once said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results.  How are meetings, meetings, and more meetings helpful?  Especially when Rome, i.e. Pope Francis, ties everyone’s hands and won’t let anybody do anything.

Not that that matters.  Did you know that two-thirds of our bishops voted to not have McCarrick investigated at the USCCB meeting last week?  Two-thirds!  To my unsophisticated mind, that means that only one-third of our bishops in the US are worth anything.  Jesus’ words in Luke 18:8 ring loudly in my ears, “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  My goodness, bishops, speak out!

Meanwhile, the confusion only gets worse and worse.  Priests, I beg you, start speaking out from the pulpit about this.  We want to know what’s going on, and we want to be shown the path to Eternal Life.  Give us the hard, moral truths.  We want it!  LifeSiteNews gets it.  Click HERE for their latest article, quoting Msgr. Charles Pope.

The rest of you, sign up for a weekly Holy Hour and go to Adoration.  And even though I don’t remember the last time I heard a priest speak about Confession from the pulpit, I’ll say it –  go to Confession!  Today, if possible.

And pray for our cardinals, bishops, and priests.  And especially for our Holy Father.  May this terrible Homosexual Crisis be dealt with soon.

 

*I just came across a video highlighting the few, the very few bishops who did say something at the latest USCCB meeting.  It’s painfully short, but nevertheless, these men are the Heroes of the Day.  (Along with Archbishop Vigano.)  Click HERE for it.

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Vigano Nails It

If you’re following the Church Crisis, I offer you Msgr. Charles Pope’s Reflections on Archbishop Vigano’s Courageous Third Letter, which first appeared in the National Catholic Register yesterday.  (Click HERE for it.)

Msgr. Pope begins his article with the following:

As I finished reading Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s third letter, I had an immediate sense that I had just read something that is destined to be one of the great pastoral and literary moments of the Church’s history. There was an air of greatness about it that I cannot fully describe. I was stunned at its soteriological quality — at its stirring and yet stark reminder of our own judgment day.

Finally, I want to encourage you to familiarize yourself with this terrible crisis because whether you realize it or not, it effects you and your family.  Homosexuality is the defining issue of the day.  And are you comfortable naming it?

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Archbishop Vigano.  Pray for him.  He is doing great work.