Call Me Catholic

8 Things I AM Doing This Advent

Today I hope to detail a few things that our family will be doing this Advent, which officially begins this afternoon after the praying of Nones, which precedes Vespers.

I want you to remember, however, when reading this list, that this is just what works for our family. Your Advent may look a bit differently, and that’s ok!

8 Things I AM Doing This Advent

  1. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This one should be obvious, except that it isn’t in our current deplorable state of affairs… Of course we’ll be attending Mass on all Sundays and Our Lady’s feast day December 8th, but we’ll also be attending Mass on December 12th, which is Our Lady of Guadalupe. There may be other days too, but these are the For Sures.

2. Confession. Again, I shouldn’t have to mention confession, except that I do because I think people aren’t going. Look, if you’re not going to confession at least every month, you’re risking your soul. We’re talking about eternal life here. I don’t care about any potential health concerns. Go to confession!

This stuff is important. It’s basic catechism. Most of you know that if you should happen to die in Mortal Sin, you’re going to Hell. But venial sins and imperfections need to be confessed regularly too, as there’s a tremendous of amount of grace given in this Sacrament. So, go to confession!

Really, there’s no excuse, unless you can’t find a priest willing to do his God-Given Duty. In that case, say an Act of Contrition, make reparation for your sins, and keep looking for a priest. There are good priests out there.

3. Fasting. While Advent isn’t as penitential as Lent, it is still meant to be a time of fasting. In our household, everyone old enough to receive Holy Communion eats plain bread for breakfast every Friday throughout the year, including Advent. During Advent we step it up a bit–no candy, sweets, or desserts. My husband–no stranger to year ’round fasting–adds an additional day of fasting from food. He normally fasts on Wednesdays and Fridays, and this year for Advent, he’s adding Mondays. I only mention this to inspire you. If you want more, watch Dr. Marshall’s short, 15-minute video on fasting and Advent.*

Me? If I’m pregnant or nursing, fasting is out. As it is, I’m not pregnant or nursing, so I’ll be fasting, but only on Fridays, which I find incredibly difficult, probably because I need more practice.

Lastly, my husband and I are accustomed to drinking a glass of wine maybe three nights a week with dinner. During Advent? We’re cutting it back to only one night.

4. I am doing additional penance. Look, I need to. Not just for my sins, but look around. The world needs Christians willing to do penance. I wasn’t going to mention it, but then I thought, hey? Sometimes it’s encouraging to hear that others are doing extra penance. So, I’m taking cold showers every Friday, which I will continue even when Advent ends. (Again, I wouldn’t do this if I was pregnant or nursing, but I’m not.)

5. Our family will be observing a traditional meatless Christmas Eve. When I was a little girl, I thought it funny that my dad’s family always ate Oyster Stew on Christmas Eve. Now I wonder, was it intentional? I don’t know, and I can’t ask my grandma because she died years ago. In any case, we’re bringing it back.

6. Advent Wreath. Who doesn’t love lighting candles in the dark? Every evening, as we gather at the dinner table to pray before eating, the children run around and shut off every light in the house. Then, they light the candles according to the week.

7. O Come, O Come Emmanuel. After lighting the Advent Wreath, we all sing at least two verses of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” in the dark. Maybe this year in Latin? We’ll see tonight.

8. Setting up the Nativity Set. Naturally we’ll be setting up the Nativity Set today. In fact, I’m going to cut this post short–to do just that. Maybe I’ll post a few shots of it later on. The children do so enjoy playing with all the animals and the stable. They usually can’t reach Mary and Joseph, however, as I place them high up on shelves to travel around the house.

Lastly, if you have any questions, be sure to ask. Sometimes I assume something is clear, when it isn’t…

I hope you all have a blessed Advent!

*Want another family’s take on Advent? Dr. Marshall and his wife, Joy, discuss what they do HERE.

UPDATE: A few hours later…the nativity set is out!

And where are Mary and Joseph?

In a different room, making their way to Bethlehem…

Life is Worth Living

Moving, again?!?

Yes, it’s true.  We’re moving again.

This time, however, we’re not just hopping across a river and strolling down the road a few miles.  Nope, we’re trekking across the state, skipping over Minnesota, and landing in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where my husband will begin a new job at the end of January.

We’re very excited about this move for a few reasons:

  1. La Crosse puts us within about 70 miles of Rochester, MN, where our son doctors.  This will be a tremendous relief for us, should we need to race to the Emergency Room in the middle of the night again.  (God forbid.)
  2. La Crosse, as you perceptive readers may have noticed, has gorgeous churches, complete with Traditional Latin Masses every single Sunday.  As this is what our hearts long for, we are truly delighted and grateful for this opportunity.
  3. My husband is very pleased too with his new job.  It looks to be just what we need.
  4. And…it’s warmer in Wisconsin!  And the sun shines more.  Not kidding.  My husband looked it up.  Any move closer to the equator is a Serious Plus.

There are a few downsides to moving south (and east), however.

  1. We will be leaving behind family and friends.  This will not be easy, and it does tear our hearts.  We have been so blessed over the years with devoted grandparents and caring friends.  We thank God for them every day.
  2. It will also be terrible to leave the prairie for a forest.  How does one see the weather coming in Wisconsin?  My goodness, I’ll have to actually look at a Weather App.
  3. My husband has frequently commented that he’ll miss his boss and coworkers.  His boss in particular is a good man–a man he looks up to.  He will be awfully hard to replace.

In any case, though, God has clearly made His will known to us, and we are happy to move.  Wisconsin, here we come!

And we did the unthinkable…

Due to the impending move, we did the unthinkable and put the Christmas tree up early.  Yes, we are still observing our Advent rituals.  For example, here are the little girls joyfully watching the Advent candles burn:

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Yes, those candles are crooked; it’s the best we can do around here.

But we did it; we committed Liturgical Sin and bought a huge, 9-foot Fraser Fir right smack in the middle of Advent.*

Oh, what a tree!  Just for fun, here are some photos of the children decorating it.

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All said and done:

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If you look closely at the foot of the fireplace, you’ll see our Nativity Stable and Inn.  (You know, the Inn that rejected Joseph and Mary.)  Of course Joseph and Mary aren’t there yet, in fact, they wandering around in the kitchen cupboards right now, and the children are having a jolly, good time playing with all the shepherds, sheep, and inn keepers.

Favorite Christmas Ornament?

All my birds.  One cannot have enough birds in a Christmas tree.

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Isn’t he cute?

Ok, I really like this ornament too.  It’s my husband in 1987.  He made this ornament for his mother, and she graciously gave it to us.

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Isn’t he cute too?

*Next year, however, we do plan on waiting until the last possible moment for buying and putting up a Christmas tree.  Truly, there is something really special about that.  See HERE for it.
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.