Book Review

Book Review: Perfectly Yourself by Matthew Kelly

A while back a friend of mine gave me Matthew Kelly’s latest book Perfectly Yourself, so I read it over Lent.  It was exactly what I needed.

IMG_0372.jpg

Let me begin by quoting a funny, but insightful passage from the book:

I have seven brothers, and as you can imagine, as children we could be quite a handful from time to time.  When we went altogether too far, my mother would send us all to the laundry room.  That meant we were going to get a spanking, usually with a wooden spoon.  We couldn’t all fit into the laundry room , so some of us would sit around outside.  Nobody wanted to be first, because everybody knew she would be tired by the time she got to the end, but sometimes she started with those inside the laundry room and sometimes with those outside.
Having sent us to the laundry room, my mother would then go and make herself a cup of coffee and sit at the kitchen table and drink it slowly before coming to spank us.  I asked her several years later why she used to do this, and she told me that she used to get so angry at times and that she never wanted to beat us out of anger, but she needed to spank us out of love.

This passage really struck me.  How many times do I discipline my children out of anger and frustration?  (Click HERE for my post on Yelling.)  All the time.  Sigh.  I’m always confessing it and always vowing to improve, but am I really working on this?  Nope.  Kelly convinced me that I need an action plan.

Thumbing Noses

Now I know that in some circles Kelly is scoffed at.  I’ve personally come across it, and I’m not really sure why.  Perhaps for some he’s not “Catholic” enough in his approach to writing and speaking?  For it is true; he appeals to all kinds of people – Christians and nonChristians alike.  I guess I would argue that it’s not his mission to explain or defend Catholic doctrine and theology, but rather, his mission is to inspire everyone to live better lives, which is appealing to all people, at all times.

And I need to hear his message from time to time.  And I need his practical advice, which this book gives.  If you find yourself in a similar position, I strongly recommend reading Perfectly Yourself.  This is not a book to thumb your nose at.  Rather, put your nose in it, and read it.

By the way this book isn’t all about discipling your children either.  It’s set up as nine chapters or lessons that help you take a good, hard look at your habits and lifestyle.  Kelly encourages you to do the next right thing.  He wants you to grow in virtue.  He tells you to simplify your life and quit with all the worrying.  And all along there are practical suggestions and interesting stories.  It’s truly inspiring.

Like Matthew Kelly?

My brother, Rodney,  is a avid Matthew Kelly fan.  In fact he’s an ambassador for Kelly’s Dynamic Catholic program.  (Click HERE for the Dynamic Catholic website.)  Rodney insists that it was Kelly’s website, daily videos, and books that saved him from the cesspools of our culture.

I asked him what he thought of Kelly’s work.  He said, “Nobody teaches you anything any more.  You go to Mass, which is of course a good thing, but it’s meaningless unless you know what’s going on.  And I was sick and tired of not knowing anything.  Then I came across Kelly’s books and website, and they are the best thing ever.  And he’s not boring.  It’s all engaging.”  And Rodney went on and on and on…  This all coming from a young man with a rocky past – a marriage, two children, a divorce, and an annulment – all by the age of 27.

My point is that Kelly’s writing appeals to all walks of life.

IMG_0373.jpg
I also recommend all three of these Kelly books, especially The Seven Levels of Intimacy.  My husband and I read that one together.  It was excellent.  It inspired us to have regular Date Nights.

 

Call Me Catholic

Good Friday, Allegri, and A White Easter

Today is Good Friday.

Now I know that I ought to be focused on the passion and death of Jesus Christ, and I am, but I am also a mother.  Therefore, I must plan ahead for my family accordingly.  And this entails preparing any necessary music that my family will want to sing and listen to for the appropriate liturgical seasons.

So today, our family will listen to Allegri’s Miserere Mei, Deus.  (Click HERE for it on YouTube.)

This piece has an interesting history, by the way.  It’s title comes from Psalm 51 and means, “Have mercy on me, O God.”  It was composed in the seventeenth century and was reserved exclusively for use in the Sistine Chapel during Lent.  In other words, nobody else was allowed to use it anywhere.  Well, the story goes that 14-year-old, smarty-pants Mozart was visiting the Vatican during Lent and heard this song performed.  He simply went home, copied it out from memory, and that was that.

Last_Judgement_by_Michelangelo.jpg
Michelangelo’s Last Judgement.  This beautiful fresco can be found in the Sistine Chapel, where Allegri’s Miserere Mei, Deus used to only ever be sung.

And now for Easter.

I know that you are all familiar with Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”  But maybe you’re not familiar with the Easter version?  My children began singing this a few days ago, so I thought I’d send it along, so that you might have a new song to sing Easter Sunday.  This song is especially appropriate for those of you living in colder climates, like mine, where it snows forever and ever.  Amen.

White Easter by Kim Heilman & Kids

I’m dreaming of a white Easter,
just like the ones in North Dakota.
Where the Easter Bunny skis and children listen
to hear Alleluias at the Mass.

I’m dreaming of a white Easter
with every Easter basket I fill.
“May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Easters be white!”

Call Me Catholic

You Need a Silent Retreat

As we’re now in the middle of Holy Week and most of us are trying to step it up a notch, I want to strongly encourage all of you to sign yourselves up for a silent retreat this year.  Yep, just look at your spring and summer calendars, and do it.

Unfortunately for me, I’ll have to wait until my latest baby is done nursing before I can go, but for the rest of you, just do it!

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 tell you to expect all kinds of obstacles to appear, especially at the last minute.
Let me give you an example.  Last year 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.
As an aside, It should also be noted that we had coffee available all day too.  This is important because during day two or three, when you’ve already put in a few holy hours, read your Bible, prayed a rosary, walked a few miles, and spent an hour sitting on a rock pile at the end of a tree row, you will need coffee.

In any case, you all need to go on retreat, or into the desert, if you like.  And since I can’t get enough of Cardinal Sarah lately, I’ll leave you with a small quotation from his latest book The Power of Silence.  (Click HERE for it on Amazon.)

“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.

Cardinal Sarah

By the way, have you ever read anything by Cardinal Sarah?  He’s got 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.
IMG_0262.jpg
Now here’s a Man of God, let me tell you.  This book is awesome.  I’d post a picture of his other book too, but I’ve lent it out to a friend.
Call Me Catholic

Time for Confession?

Last night, sometime after the baby screamed for an hour and another child wet the bed, and my thoughts went from Black to Blacker, it occurred to me that it’s probably time for Confession again.

We all know that as mothers and fathers, there is nothing more important and effective we can do, than to model the faith.  Let your children see you pray.  Let your children see you receive the sacraments, especially Confession.

800px-Artgate_Fondazione_Cariplo_-_Molteni_Giuseppe,_La_confessione.jpg

 Now this is no easy feat for our family.  Not anymore, anyway.  Back in the D.B.C.* it was never a problem, though.  If I wanted to go, I’d go.  At the time I lived in St. Paul, MN, where it seemed Catholic churches sat at every corner, offering confessions at all times.  No lines either, that I can remember.  Sin on Tuesday night?  Not a problem.  Confession on Wednesday.

It’s a whole new ballgame now, however.  Those of you with bigger families will understand.  The confession lines where we live are always long, and I’ve got three children that need to confess too.  And four others that need supervising.  So, it’s load them up Saturday afternoon – we certainly cannot make it before a week day Mass – and stand in line for an hour.

This is always an interesting hour for any lookers-on, for my husband and I dump the three little ones in a pew to fend for themselves, while we rush to get a spot in line with the three older ones and the baby.  Yep, the six-year-old takes “care” of the one-year-old, while the four-old-year sings and giggles.  I can tell you, we’ve been humbled again and again.

But you know what?  God understands.  No, it’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

So, go to confession.

 

*D.B.C.  Days Before Children.  You know, that magical time, when you could sleep in.  And go to the bathroom by yourself.  And go to confession willy-nilly, just about anytime.

Call Me Catholic

Passion Sunday & Veiling Images

There’s some crazy stuff in the Old Calendar that is just interesting to learn about.  My husband is forever telling me this.  (By Old Calendar I mean those things connected to the Traditional Latin Mass.)

For example, this coming Sunday is called Passion Sunday.  It always falls on the Sunday immediately before Palm Sunday and serves to move our thoughts toward the Passion and death of Christ.  (In the New Calendar, this Sunday is called the Fifth Sunday of Lent.)

Before.jpg

Passion Sunday is also Judica Sunday

Now I know that the prayers of the Mass are supposed to reflect the liturgical season the Church is observing, but there’s some real beauty and depth to be found in the prayers of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) that I’ve never noticed before.  I’ll give you one example.

On Passion Sunday, Psalm 42 is highlighted in the Introit and pleadingly states,

“Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man: for Thou art God my strength.”

If you’ll remember in the TLM, Psalm 42 is also prayed every Sunday during the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, but on Passion Sunday it’s omitted and will be until Easter Sunday.  This is something like the Gloria.  Both are omitted because they are associated with the Paschal joy of the Risen Christ.

In other words, we have this stripping away of Pascal references in order to sharpen our awareness of Christ’s Passion, which is why we refer to these final two weeks of Lent as Passiontide.

Sometimes this Sunday is also called “Judica Sunday.”  Judica being Latin for the opening word of Psalm 42, “Judge.”

It’s amazing how it all comes together.  I’ve got a lot to learn.

Veiling Images

In any case, my children always look forward to Passion Sunday, for my family likes to observe a unique tradition that all churches used to do, and many still do.  We veil our images with purple cloth.

VeilingImages.jpg
As I don’t have much purple cloth, I only veil a few.

This tradition began sometime in the ninth century to reflect the readings of the TLM.  For example, the Gospel for Passion Sunday is always John 8 wherein the Jews take up stones to cast at Jesus, but he mysteriously passes through the crowd unseen and then hides.  Therefore, the veiling of images reminds us that Christ’s Divinity was hidden at the time of His Passion and death.

Think about that for a minute.  Again, it’s astounding how all these things come together.  Of course His Divinity was hidden!  Otherwise everyone would have believed, not just that centurion at the foot of the cross.

Secondly, veiling also strips us of visual stimuli.  Throughout the year we may become accustomed to looking at and praying with our crucifixes and icons, and so taking them away for a time helps us paradoxically to become more aware of them.

So if you’ve never done it before, try veiling a couple of your images.  It’s pretty easy to do.  I just bought a yard of purple cloth at Hobby Lobby and cut it into squares.  I’ve also heard of families using purple tissue paper though.

Want More?

In the Bismarck diocese, a Traditional Latin Mass will be celebrated this weekend, March 18th, at 11:30am at Christ the King Catholic Church in Mandan.  Come experience Passion Sunday as it was through the ages!

Life is Worth Living

Welcome Home!

How fun does this look?  Man, I’m a good wife.  Sometimes.

WelcomeHome.jpg
Here he is, my husband.  He just walked in the door.

He loves it when I greet him with a drink and a smile.

Are you in the habit of greeting your spouse, when he or she arrives home?  If not, you should try it sometime.  Maybe it could be a Lenten sacrifice, especially if you’re not in the habit of doing so?

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, click HERE for an explanation.

Call Me Catholic, Life is Worth Living

A Conscience-Stinger for Lent

Anyone want a good conscience-stinger for Lent?

DubayBook.jpg
Excellent read, especially for Lent.

Recently I just reread Thomas Dubay’s Happy Are You Poor.  (Click HERE for it on Amazon.)  And my conscience was stung.  I have too much stuff, and my children have too much stuff.  And this stuff gets in the way of knowing Jesus.  And it’s time to clean house and make space for Him.

Now as a homeschooler, one does need a good supply of books and proper curriculum in order to teach our flocks of children, but do we really need whole drawers full of crayons and colored pencils?  Or mounds and mounds of construction paper stuffed in cabinets?  Or how about that endless sea of legos taking over the whole basement?

I know that colored pencils, paper, and legos are a good thing.  In fact, they are required for Northern Winter Survival, but maybe I’ve overdone it?  Uh, yes.

So, I decided to do something about it.  Over this last year, I’ve been going through our entire house, closet by closet.  Box by box.  Drawer by drawer.

Utensil Drawer.jpg
My Utensil Drawer, before I got rid of every utensil that I haven’t used in a year.

For example, I told our children that 75% of their legos actually belong to the poor children who live on a nearby Reservation.  And I thought there would be wailing and grinding of teeth and fit-throwing at this Big Announcement, but there wasn’t.  They were actually excited to help.  I was the one secretly reluctant to part with my old lego sets of pirates and wizards and Indians that I had passed on to them.  I was the one with attachment issues, but by the grace of God, I kept my mouth shut and taped up a huge, heavy box full of those dearly beloved legos.  And shipped them off.

And now, I can walk through our basement, without a foot injury.  (Uh, most days, anyway.  They do have marbles too…)  This was the start of it all and got me thinking.  Maybe it’s time to think about each room in my house.  What can I give away and get rid of?

As recommended by one of you, I boldly and recklessly cast off the burden of multiple towels.  Now, each child gets one.  Yep, I did it.  Just one.  See the picture?  It’s even color-coordinated, so each child knows exactly which is his.

Towels.jpg
The Big Kids’ Towels.  And that’s all they get.

I did keep two for myself, but that is because I’m needy and attached to the idea of beautifully folded towels, serenely waiting on a shelf, for my use after a hot bath and a glass of wine.  Plus I’m selfish.

And lest you think I am totally crazy, I did also keep a small stack of towels for emergencies – you know, like puking, wetting the bed, diarrhea…that sort of thing.

But this is not the end of it.  For I’m tired of stuff.  If you are too, and want some further encouragement, check out this article by David Mills on “Death Cleaning.”  (Click HERE for it.)

 

Call Me Catholic

Lent: It’s Upon Us

Here we are, on the threshold of this great season of Lent.  Have you thought about it yet?

Septuagesima, Sexagesima, & Quinquagesima Sundays

In the Old Calendar, the three Sundays prior to Ash Wednesday were specifically dedicated to preparing one for Lent.  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.  Today, we’re at Quinquagesima Sunday.  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!  How are you going to prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

(Want more on information on these pre-Lenten Sundays?  Click HERE for a New Liturgical Movement article.)

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

Prayer

If you’re not already setting aside a specific time every day to pray, you need to.  I am the mother of six little children.  If I can do it, you can.  And if it’s at all possible, make that prayer time the first thing you do every day.  Get up before everyone else.  If you’re new to this, start small.  Start now.

For those of you who are married, are you praying with your spouse?  Every day?  If not, start small.  Start now.

Fathers, are you blessing your children every day?  If not, do it.  You represent Christ in your household, and your family needs you to set the example.  (Bless your wife too; she needs it.)

Are you accustomed to daily prayer already?  Consider adding Night Prayer.  There’s an excellent book, The Office of Compline, by Fr. Samuel Weber.  It’s in both Latin and English.  And it’s beautiful.  (Click HERE for it on Amazon.)

For those of you with children, are you praying with them every day?  If not, do it.  Consider a family rosary.

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.

800px-Artgate_Fondazione_Cariplo_-_Molteni_Giuseppe,_La_confessione.jpg
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.  Start now.  Give up one meal a week.

There are many ways to be creative with this one, by the way.  If you’re pregnant and cannot fast, consider eating one meal in a way that you wouldn’t like.  For example, you’re having an egg sandwich for breakfast, eat all three pieces separately – toast by itself, egg by itself, and cheese by itself.  It’s not as fun.  You get the idea.

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.

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.

May God bless you abundantly this Lent!