Call Me Catholic

A Wedding at Assumption Abbey, Westworks, & a High Altar

My family and I had the privilege of attending a wedding this last weekend at a most beautiful church in the middle of nowhere.

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Assumption Abbey, Richardton, ND, Middle of Nowhere.

This was a treat for us for many obvious reasons, but I’d like to specifically point out one:  This church is beautiful.  Just look at that westwork!

Don’t know what a westwork is?  It’s the grand entrance of a church flanked by two towers, that should face the west, as one always entered in from the west, to worship toward the east, the Rising Son.  (This was back in the day when everyone faced the same direction during Mass, with the priest leading everyone towards the East, the Rising Son – Ad Orientem.)

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Here’s another westwork in Europe.  Notice that the two towers are different.  It’s because they were built in different time periods.  Quiz.  What famous cathedral is this?*

Of course, not every church could always be built facing the west, which is how we get terms such as, “Liturgical East.”

Back to Assumption Abbey.  This particular church in Richardton, ND, faces the south.

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Here’s an interior shot of Assumption Abbey.  Note those glorious rose windows and flying angels!

If you look closely at the above photo, you’ll notice that the baldachin or baldacchino and high altar are still in place, even though they’re not being used.  The high altar is right underneath the baldachin, but is difficult to see, as it is not lit up.

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Check out this baldachin.  It’s Bernini’s in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  Now that’s how you do a canopy and a high altar!

Because the high altar in Assumption Abbey is not in use, there was a little confusion among all the wedding-goers.  Where was one to genuflect?  I noticed that most people genuflected anyway to the (beautiful) empty Tabernacle in the high altar, but the rest of us had to look around.  Just where was Jesus?

We found him.  He was off to the side, in an obscure-looking wooden structure, with no visible tabernacle lamp.

I’d love to see Him restored to His former place of glory – up front and center.  But alas, nobody’s asking me!

The Wedding

The wedding Mass was beautiful.  Fr. Josh Waltz delivered a fiery homily, such as I haven’t heard in awhile.  He’d point to the crucifix and say, “You think you know what marriage is about?  It’s about that.  (Pointing to the crucifix.)  Suffering and sacrifice!”  Then he specifically addressed any husbands out there and commanded, “Men, do you think that’s weak?  No.  It’s hard.  Learn to die to yourselves!  That’s what real men do.”

I’m pretty sure I saw some wives kicking their husbands under the pews.

But not me, because I had to stand in the back with a crabby baby.

In all, it was a great afternoon.  May God bless that newly married couple!

Parting Humiliation

Well, I’ve been humbled.

You see, as we were frantically scrambling to get out of the house that day, our 5-year-old could not find her church shoes.  She couldn’t find any shoes, except her dirty, old flip flops.  What was I to do?  There was no time to stop and buy a new pair.  She couldn’t wear her 11-year-old sister’s shoes.  And she certainly couldn’t fit into her 2-year-old sister’s shoes.

I thought about letting her go barefoot, like a discalced nun.  Then I thought maybe just give her a pair of clean socks?

In the end, she wore the dirty, old flip flops to the wedding.  Sigh.  Hopefully no one noticed!

 

 

*Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France.  By the way, it’s westwork really does face the west.
Homeschooling

A Weekend Get-Away at UST

After the recent stress of trying to sell our home, my husband and I thought a little weekend get-away would be the ticket.  Now I’d like to say that this “get-away” involved fine dining and elegant lodgings, but that would be a lie.  Being the practical parents that we are, we “got away” to attend the annual Minnesota Catholic Homeschool Conference being held at University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

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This is my husband.  He’s excited to be driving with only me and the baby in the vehicle.  A quiet ride, really.

So, we loaded up everything: suitcase for our things, empty suitcase to fill with books from the conference, pack-n-play for the nursing baby, stroller, diapers, wipes, extra blankies, baby clothes, pacifiers…

On the six and half hour drive to St. Paul, we listened to Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell on Audible.  (If you need a good book, I strongly recommend it.)  We also drank a lot of coffee.  It was a great, uneventful drive.  I even closed my eyes a time or two, as there were no loud children in the back, only a sleeping baby.

Homeschool Conference at University of St. Thomas

As the conference was two days long, we stayed on campus in the dorms for the first night.  This was convenient for two reasons:  1. If the baby was crabby, one of us could take her back to the room for a nap.  2.  If one of us was crabby, we could take ourselves back to the room for a nap.

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Here I am with a friend, waiting for the doors to open.  I’m on the right and in my homeschooling uniform: jean skirt.  My husband was disappointed that it didn’t reach my ankles.  Ha!

The first day I bought a lot of used books.  The most exciting thing I found was my eldest daughter’s Saxon Math Curriculum for $20.  (Normally it’s around $100.)

Then I attended a blogger workshop where I met Sterling Jaquith, Jennifer Macintosh from Wildflowers and Marbles, and Kirby – all great bloggers.  In this workshop I learned:

  1. Instagram is very important if you’d like to grow your readership.  (I don’t even know what instagram is.)
  2. One should never type anything that would embarrass one’s children when they’re older.  (A good piece of advice.  Mea culpa.)
  3. And one should always back up your site in the event that it crashes, and it will.  (Yikes.  I better get my Web Master on that one.)

We didn’t attend any other talks the first night because we had to meet some good friends in South St. Paul and drink wine.

But the next day we did attend Dr. Ray Guarendi’s talks.  He’s hilarious.  Do yourself a favor and read all of his books and listen to him on the radio.  At one point, when Dr. Ray was telling about his son trying to cover up urine on his Sunday shirt by pulling up his pants over the spot, I thought the bleachers were going to collapse, as my husband was laughing so hard and shaking everyone around him.  I guess the story hit really close to home, as the saying goes.

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My children love Dr. Ray’s wonderful ideas for discipline, especially Black Out…

Later in the morning I made my way to the RC History table and purchased my books from Sonia for next year.  Sonia, by the way, is the brains behind this excellent program.

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Sonia.  Smart, smart woman.  I thought that if I took a photo with her, it might rub off on me.

Finally, it was time for lunch.  We met a couple of good friends at the Groveland Tap in St. Paul and had a good time catching up and laughing.  I also learned about sour beer.  Who knew such a thing existed?  And that it can be pink?  My goodness this was an educational weekend.

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Which drink is mine?
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This is my good friend.  She likes “sour” beer.

Well, after filling up the empty suitcase with lots of books, we departed from the conference and headed to St. Cloud for the night.

Why did we drive to St. Cloud?

  1. I’ve never been there.
  2. It would get us a little closer to home, for a shorter drive the next day.
  3. There was a Traditional Latin Mass being celebrated at St. John Cantius.

And that was that.  In all, it was a fun little get-away.

 

Life is Worth Living

You took 7 kids on vacation?!

Yes, we did.

Are you nuts?!

Yes, we are.

My husband and I decided we needed to get outta Dodge, as the saying goes.  (Where did that saying come from?  Anyone know?)  And of course, we wanted to go south, where it’s warmer.  So naturally, we went to South Dakota.

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Mount Rushmore.  Tourist Trap.  But one has to see it, right?

The Black Hills

We stayed in a beautiful cabin at Newton Fork Ranch.  Long ago we gave up on hotels, because with our big family hotels are impractical.  Cabins, on the other hand, are great because they can provide multiple bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen.  Kitchens are a must, as one does not want to take 7 children out to eat very often.

This cabin was the highlight of our trip for the children because it sat right on the side of forested “mountain” complete with a trickling stream.  They all insisted that their favorite part of the whole trip was throwing sticks and rocks into that stream and climbing that mountain.  In fact, they made both my husband and I do just that – throw sticks and rocks and hike the hill, which I found rather difficult and somewhat frightening.

Prairie Berry Winery

My favorite part of the trip was stopping at Prairie Berry Winery and drinking wine.  This place, thankfully, is kid friendly.  It even has a table set up for checkers, which my children played.  And we only had a few gaping stares from others as we traipsed in and sat down.  One bold woman remarked,  “Looks like you got your hands full!”  To which I promptly laughed and replied, “Yes, which is why we’re here!”  And I lifted my half empty bottle of wine up for her to see.

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The name of this particular wine is Lawrence Elk, which I thought was funny.  Anyone ever watch reruns of that old show, Lawrence Welk?  You do know that he was born in North Dakota, right?  All good things come from the NoDak.

I’m not really sure that these wines should be called wine, however.  Many of them are made from anything but grapes.  The Lawrence Elk, for example, is made from currants.  It tastes like sparkling Kool-Aid.  It was very refreshing after hiking a few miles though.  (My husband condescended to drink a glass of it.  He gave the rest of the bottle to me.)

Chapel in the Hills

My second favorite part of the trip was the tour my aunt and uncle gave us of the Norwegian Chapel in the Hills.  My aunt and uncle were once the caretakers of this place for many years, but they came out of retirement just for us.  They’re the best.

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Really, you need to visit this place.  Great history to this once-upon-a-time Catholic Norwegian church.

This chapel is an exact replica of the Borgund Stave Church in Norway built in 1050 and still standing.  So, if you can’t get to Norway, go the Black Hills and tour this one built in 1969.  Of course my children liked the sliding partition for the lepers to receive Holy Communion the best.

I asked my eldest daughter what she learned from the tour, and she exclaimed, “Your aunt said that there’s no such thing as white hair.  She said that she has blonde hair, not white hair, and I’m not supposed to let anyone tell me differently.  Mom, you’ll always have blonde hair too, I suspect.”

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Here we are organized.  My aunt is in the middle.  Notice her “blonde” hair.

As an aside, my aunt is also wearing bright red lipstick.  (She is my grandmother’s daughter after all.)  She kissed every one of my boys on the cheek.  She laughed and laughed, as they all ran to the van, desperately looking for baby wipes to get that lipstick off saying, “Ewwww, gross!”

Michelson Trail

And finally, we all greatly enjoyed the Michelson Trail.  This was once an old railway that ran through the Black Hills.  Now it’s a multipurpose, gravel hiking trail.  My husband and I have biked on it before, so we thought we’d take the children and explore a different section.  We found a five-mile stretch that began a few miles out of Hills City and was all downhill.  So my husband dropped me and the four older children off and met us at the end.

At first it was glorious.  The sun was shining.  The trees were glistening.  A stream ran alongside us.  Then, it was terrifying.  Gentle mountainside gave way to steep, scary cliffs.      There were no guard rails.  My children squealed in glee at the enormous canyons below.  They pointed out distant deer while the wind whipped through their hair, and we flew at a fearful pace.  Visions of wipe outs and falling children splattering on rocks below absolutely terrorized me.  I prayed to their guardian angels.  I asked St. Michael to protect them.  I begged Holy Mary to wrap her mantle around them.

And we made it.

I do not, let me repeat, do not recommend that section of the trail for children!  Nope.  If you have children, stick closer to Hill City.

But boy, oh boy was that ride breathtaking!  It even ran through the mountain in two places.  Those tunnels were awesome.