How did your week go? Here are a few highlights from mine.
I recently returned from a silent retreat in South Dakota. This is a picture of Sts. Isodore and Maria Catholic Church where I did the majority of my holy hours. I snapped this shot as I was pulling up last Thursday evening, for as you know, phones are verboten during a retreat, so I couldn’t take any more pictures.
2. Who needs a phone during a retreat anyway? Even if one were to say to me, “But, but, but I need my phone for an alarm clock and to look at my sweet breviary apps.” I’d still say nope. We all know that screens do something to us. The constant scrolling with endless options are tiring. Rather, you might consider saving your money and buying this and learning how to use it. Flip some pages. Be uncomfortable. And as for an alarm…where I went on silent retreat, they had old-fashioned alarm clocks in our private rooms, and they had cheap watches for sale in their book store, should you not have one.
3. There is a misconception about silent retreats. Some people are inclined to think it like a vacation. Let me tell you, it is not. It is work; it is a labor of love. My spiritual director recommends scheduling 5 holy hours during the day, wherein one prays before the Blessed Sacrament. This is in addition to Mass and Confession. Then there are other devotions one may want to do–Stations of the Cross, Rosary, ect. Not to mention fasting in some sort of way. No, it is not a vacation.
4. But it is worth it. We may not always be faithful to God, but He is always faithful to us. He loves us dearly and sees our little sacrifices. He is quick to stoop down to His little ones and hold us, should we want Him to. If you’re thinking of a silent retreat, just schedule it and go!
5. And lastly, the Eldest had a birthday this week. She turned 13, and I finally have a teenager! (Her birth story from 13 years ago is HERE.)
Angelico Press recently released Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s book Christus Vincit: Christ’s Triumph Over the Darkness of the Age this last September. Click HERE for it on Amazon.
I am so thankful to God and to Bishop Schneider for this clear and moving account of the affairs in the Church. Seriously, this is the best book I’ve read in a long while.
I came across this book in an interesting manner. Of course I had heard about it’s coming release this last summer, but what with Paul’s medical problems, I couldn’t pay much attention. Then a friend, who knew how our family suffered by lack of a regular Traditional Latin Mass in our diocese, read this book and found much hope in it. She mailed me a copy by way of a gift.
The book, however, sat on my shelf for about a month, for the simple reason that I was trying to force feed myself Cardinal Sarah’s book. (Not worth it, by the way.)
Then one night I couldn’t sleep. As this happens to me a lot, I’ve tried to just accept it and be grateful for it.
I have a plan, though, for when it does strike:
If I’ve been lying there for about 15 minutes or so, I force myself to get up. (I hate getting out of bed.)
Then I walk to the living room and kneel before our icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in complete darkness and cold.
I tell Jesus what’s on my mind, and He looks at me.
Then I pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet for all my intentions.
Normally I can then walk back to bed and fall fast asleep. But not this night. No, I was wide awake. So I sat on the couch in complete darkness and watched the stars out of the window. It was quiet and beautiful.
Then I remembered Schneider’s book, sitting on my bookshelf. I picked it up, out of curiosity, and couldn’t believe the story I was soon reading. The story of a family surviving cruel and inhumane gulag camps in the Ural Mountains. The story of persecution and faith in communist Russia. The story of a young man experiencing the liberal craziness of 1970s Germany. The story of a bishop shepherding his flock in the midst of raving wolves.
For those of you who may be interested in my son Paul’s story, I’ll be interviewed on Real Presence Radio this Monday, November 4th, at 10am. I hope to speak of God’s greatness in allowing us to suffer this trial. May He be glorified and adored forever!
For those of you who may be new to Musings From the Home, click HERE for more pictures and a brief account of his suffering.
And Just For Fun
And lastly, just for fun…HERE is a video of some men destroying Pachamama with explosives. Not kidding.
I recently started reading Cardinal Sarah’s latest book The Day is Now Spent, but I had to quit, for I’m spent. Why, oh why will he insist on everlastingly quoting Pope Francis? I got to page 97 and was about to swallow another Francis quotation, but I couldn’t. I chucked the book across the room instead.*
It’s not that what Sarah is quoting is controversial or bad. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Sarah goes out of his way to find decent quotations out of Francis’s mouth. (That had to take some time.) Then Sarah will go on pretending that he and Francis are on the same page, which just isn’t true.
For example, Sarah is arguing and calling for the reform of corrupt clergy. Just what has that to do with Francis? Nothing. In fact, Francis has only intentionally surrounded himself with very controversial and corrupt clergy. Let’s remember that Francis knew about Pope Benedict’s censure on Ex-Cardinal McCarrick, but that didn’t stop Francis from hobnobbing with McCarrick and sending him on a public mission to China.
Let me repeat, it’s misleading to quote a conspicuously subversive man and pretend your minds are one. I don’t think these two men could be more different from each other. I’ll grant that Sarah probably has the sincerest of intentions, perhaps hoping that Francis is only naive or stupid or something, but I’m weary and done with it all. Why not quote someone with a clear track record of ousting corrupt clergy? Why not quote the Council of Trent on that?
Apparently I’m not the only one thinking these things either. If you want more, check out this article from Dr. Jeff Mirus at the CatholicCulture.org. I especially appreciate the second half of his article.
Parting Note on Sarah
Please note that I still would recommend Sarah’s God or Nothing and The Power of Silence. He’s got some pertinent and profound things to say, especially about the primacy of prayer and silence. (Not silence in the face of corruption, but rather silence as regards to the interior life.) Sarah also has a miraculous and astounding personal story of growing up in Africa.
Truly, you should read his first two books. I’ll warn you, though, he does quote Francis in both books, but it’s more forgivable, if you will, because these books were written earlier in Francis’s pontificate.
As it is, my book club is currently reading The Day Is Now Spent for November. I can’t wait to hear what these other ladies are going to say.
What Else Am I Reading?
Books in Brief
Recently I finished Gertrud Von Le Fort’s The Song of the Scaffold. This fictional novella is based on the real-life tragedy of the death of 16 Carmelites during the French Revolution. If you want a short, but moving read, I strongly recommend it.
The end, wherein the Carmelites are brought before the guillotine singing Veni Creator Spiritus, is very dramatic to say the least and inspired me to teach our children that ancient chant.
I also just finished a biography of J.R.R. Tolkien written by Humphrey Carpenter. This was a very enjoyable read, and I also recommend it, especially for you Lord of the Rings fans.
And lastly, I’m currently reading The Catholic Guide to Depression by Dr. Aaron Kheriaty. (No, I’m not suffering from depression.) I’m only a half of the way through, and I appreciate Dr. Kheriaty’s insights thus far. Perhaps I’ll post more on this book later.
Really, though, I can’t wait to read some more James Herriot. He’s light; he’s funny; he’s pre-Amazon Synod…
*Ok, fine. I didn’t actually chuck it across the room. If I would have, the children would have looked askance at me, for we have a rule about throwing books: No Throwing Books. It obviously damages them and anything else they might happen to hit, like their sisters.
I just want to briefly point out that Bishop Athanasius Schneider has publicly and forcefully condemned the use of the pagan idol “Pachamama.” Schneider is calling on all bishops and priests around the world to also condemn these demonic statues.
Praise God for Bishop Schneider speaking up. May all the angels protect him, for he will be persecuted.
Read Bishop Schneider’s whole public statement HERE at LifeSite News. Read it to your families. This is a bigger issue than you think.
I’ll leave you with a few of Schneider’s remarks. Note his very last line. (All items in bold, color, or italicized are mine.)
“As a successor to the Apostles, entrusted with care for God’s flock, I cannot remain silent in the face of the blatant violation of God’s holy will and the disastrous consequences it will have upon individual souls, the Church as a whole, and indeed the entire human race. It is therefore with great love for the souls of my brothers and sisters that I write this message.”
“All true Catholics, who still have the spirit of the Apostles and of the Christian martyrs, should weep and say about the pagan ceremonies which took place in the Eternal City of Rome, paraphrasing the words of Psalm 79:1: “O God, the heathen have come into thine inheritance; thy holy city of Rome have they defiled; they have laid Rome in ruins.””
“Amid the consternation and shock over the abomination perpetrated by the syncretistic religious acts in the Vatican, the entire Church and the world has witnessed a highly meritorious, courageous and praiseworthy act of some brave Christian gentlemen, who on October 21 expelled the wooden idolatrous statues from the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina in Rome, and threw them into the Tiber. Like a new “Maccabees” they acted in the spirit of the holy wrath of Our Lord, who expelled the merchants from the temple of Jerusalem with a whip. The gestures of these Christian men will be recorded in the annals of Church history as a heroic act which brought glory to the Christian name, while the acts of high-ranking churchmen, on the contrary, who defiled the Christian name in Rome, will go down in history as cowardly and treacherous acts of ambiguity and syncretism.”
“In view of the requirements of the authentic worship and adoration of the One True God, the Most Blessed Trinity, and Christ Our Savior, in virtue of my ordination as a Catholic bishop and successor to the Apostles, and in true fidelity and love for the Roman Pontiff, the Successor of Peter, and for his task to preside over the “Cathedra of the truth” (cathedra veritatis), I condemn the veneration of the pagan symbol of Pachamama in the Vatican Garden, in St. Peter’s basilica, and in the Roman church of Santa Maria in Traspontina.”
“It would be good for all true Catholics, first and foremost bishops and then also priests and lay faithful, to form a worldwide chain of prayers and acts of reparation for the abomination of the veneration of wooden idols perpetrated in Rome during the Amazon Synod. Faced with such an evident scandal, it is impossible that a Catholic bishop would remain silent, it would be unworthy of a successor of the Apostles. The first in the Church who should condemn such acts and do reparation is Pope Francis.”
The other day, when the twins and I were stranded in St. Paul, we decided to tour the old James J. Hill Mansion. I was of course wearing my usual attire: black shirt, gray skirt, and black boots.
And naturally I was minding my own business during this tour, politely listening to our Tour Guide in his ponytail, pink button-up shirt, and skinny jeans.
As we were entering the bed chamber and bathroom of the Mr. James J. Hill’s wife, our Tour Guide commented on the lack of a shower.
He glibly remarked, “You’ll notice, if you look into Mrs. Hill’s bathroom, that you will not see a shower, but rather only a bathtub. In fact, none of her daughters’ bathrooms have showers either, but all the boys do, as well as James Hill. This was because it was thought that if a woman were to take a shower, she may suddenly want to wear…”
He dramatically paused and then smirked, “pants.”
At this point, the Tour Guide grinned and looked directly at me, the only woman wearing a skirt in our group, and then remarked, “You probably don’t have a shower in your home?”
He winked at me and went on, “Watch out for those showers, ladies!”
Honestly, it took all my self-control to hold back an eye roll. Instead, I just interiorly rolled my eyes, for he meant his comment as a slight to any woman who would be backwards enough to prefer the chains of feminine attire.
Well, I do prefer dressing in a feminine way. I like skirts, and I like dresses. And I can really think of two main reasons why this is so:
I am a woman after all, and I like how skirts and dresses make me feel. I like feeling feminine. Why is that such a bad thing in our culture anyway? Why must we all be the same?
I’ve noticed that when I do “dress up,” I feel better about everything. My morale goes up. I’m happier. I’m a better wife and a better mother.
For the record, I do own one pair of jeans and one pair of black pants, which I do wear from time-to-time…even though I don’t like them.
Today, however, in honor of my Condescending Tour Guide I want to offer a challenge to any ladies out there who may have never given skirts or dresses a chance. I challenge you to a 30-Day Skirt-Wearing Fiesta. (Or Dress-Wearing Fiesta.)
30-Day Skirt-Wearing Fiesta Guidelines
Wear a skirt (or dress) for 30 days in a row.
Notice how it makes you feel. Uncomfortable? Pretty? Frumpy? Feminine? Whatever.
Does anyone treat you differently because you’re “dressed up” in a seriously “dressed down” culture?
Write these things down daily. Keep a journal.
At the end of 30 days, review your thoughts, and let me know what you think. I’m genuinely curious, for I realize that skirts and dresses are not everyone’s cup of tea.
I Did Not Grow Up Wearing Them Either
By the way, I never used to wear skirts every day. It just sort-of grew on me over the years, but I suppose it began about 15 years ago in grad school. I had a friend who consistently wore skirts, and she always looked so well put-together. Later she married and everlastingly wore the same thing: a black pencil skirt and a collared, button-up shirt. I can tell you, her presence commanded more respect and awe than if she had chosen to wear sweatpants and t-shirts.
In any case, I’ll close this post with photos and comments of my 4 skirts that I wear every single day. (I’ve also got a few nicer skirts and dresses for Mass…but I don’t feel like trying those on right now.)
This is my newest skirt, which I bought at Christopher and Banks for about $45 earlier this year. (It’s still available HERE on their website.) I like the jean material because it’s stiff. I don’t like flimsy material of any kind. The buttons that you see running down the front are deceiving, as they don’t actually unbutton. I also like this skirt because of its length. It’s great for any season. You’ll notice that all my skirts are this length, which is intentional.
I purchased this skirt for a few dollars at Clothes Mentor, a second-hand store. I’ve had it for a few years, and I still like it, even though I’m not a huge fan of brown.
I bought this skirt probably 7 or 8 years ago at Christopher and Banks. I don’t remember how much I paid for it. It’s also jean material, like the first skirt. (I clearly like jean material, even if some may think it nerdy.) I realize that when I wear this skirt, I’ve likely got “Homeschool Mom” tattooed on my forehead, but I don’t care.
Lastly, you’ve already seen this skirt. It was also purchased at Christopher and Banks 7 or 8 years ago, and I still like it, in spite of Condescending Tour Guides.
If you’ve got any other clothing-related questions, be sure to ask! Or, if you’d like a tour of my closet, click HERE.
For those of you who may be new here, I’ve also got some other thoughts on clothing and modesty HERE.
If any of you are following the Amazon Synod, you may be curious to know that a somewhat hopeful event just happened in Rome.
A few men, finally fed up with Amazonian pagan idols on display in their church, did something. They walked in, genuflected, collected those pagan fertility goddesses representing “Mother Earth,” and walked out. They strolled over to the Tiber River and flung them in. One by one.
The video is HERE. We showed it to our whole family, toddlers and all. That is how one deals with naked and offensive idols.
Then we prayed a rosary for these men, who will no doubt be persecuted.
I can’t help but be reminded of St. Boniface chopping down the sacred oak trees in Germany, long centuries past. St. Boniface, pray for us!
If you’re not familiar with what’s going on, you might consider watching Dr. Taylor Marshall and Timothy Gordon explaining this “Pachamama” phenomenon HERE. It’s excellent.
For those of you who might want more, HERE is Michal Voris from Church Militant. (This video is only a few minutes long.) He’s got the official response from the Vatican, which speaks volumes. Unbelievable. One wonders if they’ve read the Book of Kings.
Anyone remember this photo that I posted awhile ago?
At the time, we thought it might be a bull snake, but we were wrong. That is definitely not a bull snake. It’s a fox snake.
The boys and I recently made this discovery while we were in Rochester last week. During one of Paul’s good days, I took the twins to Quarry Hill, which features some scenic trails and a little nature center. This nature center happens to house a few snakes (yuck), and a staff worker kindly let the boys hold their fox snake (yuck, yuck, yuck).
Now this is obviously disgusting, but the boys were undaunted by it and had no problem holding a live snake. Me? No. Way.
The point is, is that I was gravely mistaken about the difference between a bull snake and a fox snake. In case anyone is wondering, a bull snake is fatter, and while the colors of both are nearly the same, their patterns are not. See below.
As it is, when my husband and I were hiking this last summer on some nearby trails, I believe it was a bull snake we came by. But all the other snakes we have seen this year have been fox snakes. Like this one I snapped a shot of towards the end of summer:
And here it is, trying to get away from my boys:
There. I’ve made my correction. My conscience may rest in peace. Science class is over for the year. May I never see a snake again. Amen. Alleluia.
P.S. For those of you wondering about Paul…he’s doing well. He is having daily headaches, but they’re “small,” which means that both of his shunts are working. We travel back to Rochester at the end of November. If both shunts continue to work, but he still has daily headaches, then likely he’ll be in for that big, complex surgery. St. Jude, pray for us.
P.P.S. We’re just kind of hoping the headaches disappear all together. But in the meantime, this last week has been nice, as these headaches are not the scary ones, and he can fully function with them.
Well, the good news is, Paul, Michael, and I are on our way home from Rochester at last! The bad news is, we’re stranded in Fargo because of a big snow storm that’s been raging across North Dakota for a few days now. The interstate is still closed between here and Bismarck.
Fortunately, Fargo is a great place to be stranded in, however, because we have family here. In fact, I don’t mind at all. We’re staying at my husband’s aunt’s house, and it feels like a spa! Check out my room:
And right now, I am sitting in a quaint sunroom:
But here’s a closer look at the snow out my window:
To really get an idea of the nasty weather, however, you must look at a few photos my husband sent of the other side of the state. Here’s my backyard:
Those of you in warmer climates, eat your hearts out! We’re committing a sacrilege and listening to Christmas music. According to my husband, there’s only one thing to do in October weather like this:
Go, grab a beer, and send the children outside to make snowmen.
P.S. For those of you who like wintery poetry, see THIS post. It is very fitting.
P.P.S. Paul is doing well. He is still having headaches, but they’re “small.” Hopefully we can get a few weeks at home before he gets worse again… Or maybe, they’ll just disappear all together. In the meantime, we’re hoping to be together again as a family sometime tomorrow, if the interstate opens up.
I want to begin by soberly thanking every one of you who has offered a prayer or a sacrifice for Paul and our family. Again we are deeply thankful for all the kind words, meals, money, and most especially, the prayers and sacrifices. God works in mysterious ways, and please know that we feel His love through you all.
Unfortunately after another shunt revision surgery last Friday, Paul is still hurting. His head is aching, in an ebb and flow manner, and he isn’t eating well.
Because we were able to secure a house within walking distance of the hospital, however, Paul was allowed to join us. This has been a great blessing for our family. It cheers him to be around all his brothers and sisters.
Yesterday we took the whole family and attended a Latin Mass at the shrine in La Crosse, WI, dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. During his brief homily the priest paused and said quietly, “One of two things happen, when one begins to pray the rosary every day. He either quits sinning, or he quits praying the rosary.”
Put so starkly, those words gave me great hope.
Incidentally, we were able to make this pilgrimage to the Shrine through the generosity of some friends. But also, on a practical level, we were able to take Paul because the Shrine offers rides on a golf cart to those individuals who are unable to make the ten minute hike up the wooded hill to the church. Our Lady was surely interceding for us!
We prayed for Paul, but also for a friend of ours suffering from cancer and for the Amazon Synod. We lit a candle in this small chapel on the hillside:
It was a beautiful day, even if our hearts were aching for our son.
Tomorrow Paul has more appointments, to determine what should or should not be done. Every day we live in uncertainty as to whether he’ll get better or not. It is agonizing. But we continue to trust in God. We want to be loyal to His will, no matter the cost.
Tomorrow is also Paul’s 11th birthday, which he of course shares with his twin brother, Michael. (I wrote about their birth HERE.)
But today…today we thank God for his most lovely and fair mother. Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!
Paul is unexpectedly back in the hospital. (For those of you who are new, click HERE for more details and pictures.)
We are choked with grief, as we watch him suffer. He’s been vomiting for two days now, as the doctors are deciding what to do. As it is, they are going to tap his spinal shunt, to see if fluid will come out. If no fluid comes out, then Paul will have another shunt revision surgery. If fluid does come out, then that means the shunt system is “working,” but it’s not helping him. In this case, he’ll have a cranial reconstruction surgery on Monday or Tuesday. This is where they cut and peel back his skin from ear to ear, take apart his skull, and put it back together, allowing for more space. (St. Jude, pray for us.)
In the meantime, his doctors will do everything they can to get him through the weekend. They can go in, open up his cyst, and drain fluid to release pressure, but again, they won’t do the cranial reconstruction surgery until Monday or Tuesday because it requires more doctors and planning. It is a complex surgery, to say the least.
We should know later tonight which surgery to expect.
This is very painful for all of us. It’s heart-rending.
Just now, we’ve booked a house within walking distance of the hospital, and the children and I are leaving tomorrow morning to join my husband and Paul. Our whole family will be together.
Please remember us in your prayers.
P.S. A friend sent this to me. I feel it in my heart. Thank you, dear friend.
I have a tomato problem. I didn’t think it would come to this, but it has. There are just too many tomatoes in my garden. Every day the children are bringing in buckets of them.
I thought that having six tomatoes plants would be manageable because I treated them so poorly. In fact they’re just lying all over the ground in a tangled mess.
But I guess one can mistreat tomato plants, and they’ll still produce.
This is a problem because I don’t “can.” I don’t know how to can, nor do I have any desire to can, but I do hate wasting good produce, so lately I’ve been making fresh salsa every day.
But that still didn’t get rid of all these tomatoes.
So I sallied forth and made my very first pot of homemade tomato soup. I did this by roasting a bunch of tomatoes, onions, and garlic first.
Then I blended them all in batches with basil from the garden.
My husband loved this soup, but the children thought it needed a little cream cheese. Me? I don’t care, I’m just trying to decide what I’m going to do with these:
In the meantime, what have I been listening to while chopping tomatoes? The Patrick Coffin Show. Have you heard his September interview with Joseph Pearce? It’s soooo entertaining! He and Pearce talk books for an hour and a half. It’s delightful, especially because they’re mentioning such great books like Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and Belloc’s The Path To Rome.
Speaking of good books…if you’ve never read Joseph Pearce’s autobiography Race With the Devil, you should. I have a tremendous respect for that man. He went from being the leader of white supremacist group to writing Catholic biographies and editing a series of literature books for Ignatius Press.
Incidentally, my local Saturday Morning Book Club will be reading Pearce’s book Unmasking of Oscar Wildein a few months. I can’t wait for it.