One Year in the Domestic Church | She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the

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description:"She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness." Proverbs 31:27
Home About One Year in the Domestic ChurchShe looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Proverbs 31:27 Feeds: Posts Comments St. Cecilia andBaptism

Apologies for the long interval of postslets just say a certain someone decided to play with our laptop, thus resulting in a shut down of all computer activities for a while.  Anyway, were back and running.

November 22nd is the feast of St. Cecilia, patron of musicians and Church music and what a glorious thing of which to be patron!  It is said she earned this patronage because she sang to God while she was dying.  She was an early Christian, dying sometime around the late 1st century (cant get much earlier than that, no?), and we know there was a church dedicated to her in Rome as early as the 5th century.  She is a splendid saint, with a myriad of devotees (especially amongst musicians), but our little family will always have a special place in our hearts for her because her feast is also Teddys birthday into the Church.

No, November 22nd is not Teddys actual birthdaythat is November 19th (the feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungry).  The feast of St. Cecilia is his baptismal birthday.  I can hear you doing the simple math nowyes, Teddy was three days old when he was baptized.  Oh shock, horror!  I cant tell you how many people of our family, friends, colleagues, and even simple acquaintances were so surprised to hear of Teddys baptismal date.  Even some of our Catholic friends couldnt believe it.  The response was always the same: Oh but why?  You really dont think anything will happen to him, do you?  Hes a healthy baby.  Well, let me, once and for all, answer those questions (especially considering were still getting them).

First, for those of you who dont know/know but dont agree, let me quickly outline the Catholic understanding of the sacrament of baptism:

It is one of the seven sacraments, instituted by Christ (we see this in John 3:5 and Mark 16:15-16).Baptism washes away the guilt of original sin (and actual sin, if any have been committed).Baptism is essential to salvation (although we leave all judgment to God)Water, the words I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and a proper intention all must be present for a baptism to be valid.

Ok, so thats the very, very basic understanding of it.  Catholics do not view baptism merely as a symbol of our personal relationship with God, but as an actual grace-giving function that provides the necessary initiation into the Body of Christ.  I refer you here for a more academic discussion.

Second, we had a lot of people ask us, as traditionalists, if we believe in Limbo, and thats why we baptized Teddy so early.  The short answer is noand yes, in a way.  Limbo has never been a defined doctrine of the Church (meaning, it has never been declared a doctrine or dogma by any pope).  Many popes and Catholics throughout the ages, however, have viewed Limbo as a good explanation to the question about innocents who die without baptism (because baptism is necessary to salvation).  In a way, it makes sense.  In another way, however, it doesntwhy would God create a soul only to keep it separated from Him forever?  Not being God, I dont know.  Our yes and no answer simply means the Church has never required us to believe in Limbo, but it has never forbidden us from believing in it either, and that being the case, we simply dont know one way or the other for sure.  My gut tells me no, but then, what does happen to the soul of an unbaptized baby?  Again, not being God, I cant know.

Which brings me to point three: babies die.  Its tragic.  But, it does happen.  No, we dont live in a world with high levels of infant mortality, and yes, Teddy was a healthy newborn.  But, he (or any of us) could die any minutea car accident, SIDS (when he was a newborn), choking, etc.  The point is no one ever knows the hour he will be called.  And as parents, Jon and I see it as our supreme duty to try to ensure our sons salvation.  Yes, he has free will, and yes, he may (well, probably will) lose the innocence of his baptismal vows, but it is our role as his parents to do everything within our power to put him on the path to Heaven.  And thats really what its all about.  We need to feed, cloth, and shelter our son; we need to love, support, and educate him.  But we need to make sure he spends eternity in happiness with God.

Therefore, point four, why wait?  Just so we can throw him a bigger party and have him smile for his baptism picture?  No thanks.  And let me tell you, we all three slept peacefully that night almost one year ago.

Teddy being held by his godmother as he is baptized.

Me (still looking horribly pregnant) holding our little Christian, with a proud uncle and aunt looking on.

St. Martin dePorres

Well, it was a relatively busy All Saints Day and All Souls Dayhence the lack of posts.  I was going to post on Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead (aka All Souls), which, as many people know, has its own traditions and customs in Latin America.  But, not being Hispanic, I would have had to do a lot of research to make the post correct, and frankly I just didnt feel like it.  Terrible, I know.  Motherhood, even stay-at-home motherhood, has its demands after all.  I do hope to learn more about the traditions associated with the Day of the Dead though, especially considering that I live in California.

Anyway, today is the feast of St. Martin de Porres.  I never knew that much about him until university, where I met my very good friend Adrian.  St. Martin is his patron saint, and he had a statue of him in his room (we were also flatmates).  He was kind enough to tell me about the good Dominican brother.  St. Martin was a Dominican tertiary in Lima, Peru during the late 16th and early 17th centuries.  His father was Spanish and his mother was a freed black slave.  He grew up incredibly poor, and when he was 15, entered the Dominican Convent of the Rosary in Lima as a servant boy, but was soon promoted to almoner and later, the Convent lifted its racial limits to accept him as a full Dominican.  St. Martin is known for his extreme love of charity, even going so far as to give his own bed to beggars and the sick.

He was also gifted with the miracle of bilocation as well as levitation, miraculous knowledge, instantaneous cures, and the ability to communicate with animals.  There is a story that St. Martin, through his gift of bilocation, was seen as far afield as Africa (and also China, Japan, and Algeria). An African slave said he had known the saint when he came to minister to and console many like himself, telling them of heaven.  When later the slave saw St. Martin in Peru, he was very happy to meet him again and asked him if he had a good voyage; only later did he learn that he had never been outside his native Lima.

St. Martins body was exhumed 25 years after his death and found to be incorrupt.  He was beatified in 1837 and declared a saint in 1962.  He is the patron saint of innkeepers, barbers, and public health as well as, most famously, those of mixed race.  I decided to make a marble cake in his honor today, symbolizing the mixture that produced such a noble and charitable solider of Christ.

St. Martin de Porresoro pro nobis!

P.S. Youll notice a new sidebar option, the Affiliate Store.  Amazon.com will give a percentage of all proceeds obtained through this link back to this blog.  Happy shopping!

All Hallows Eve PartII

So today was a busy day.  No, we did not take Teddy trick-or-treating; perhaps because he is yet to be able to eat candy in any form in addition to Jons continued resistance to the idea.  Im not too upset, although I did make Jon take us (Teddy and me) down the street to my aunt and uncles to deliver some soul cakesand he actually enjoyed the atmosphere outside.  It was a lovely Northern California autumn evening, the temperature being cool but by no means cold, the leaves changing, and the smell of freshly carved pumpkins hanging in the air.  The street was filled with families, the children going excitedly from house to house, the parents talking to each other congenially.  Halloween in suburban America is more like this than the monster parties/pranks/devil worship that a lot of the world thinks it to be.  Sure, I didnt see one saint or angel costume, but the worst I saw were a fewersuggestively dressed mothers as nurses or cats.

Today, in addition to being All Hallows Eve, is the feast of Christ the King in the old calendar.  I know this feast assuredly takes precedence over a vigil, so in honor of Our Lords kingship I made Jon one of his favorite treatsa quiche.  Yes, thats right, a quiche.  I figured that the butter pastry, cream, bacon, and cheese concoction was a lordly dish, as well as knowing it would please my husband.  I even skipped the whole wheat flour this time and used all white, making it that much more decadent (ah, the small things in life).

But, tradition is also tradition.  I had to make soul cakes, even if I wouldnt be giving them out to our little beggars so they could pray for our dead.  A soul cake, by the way, is nothing more than a homemade doughnut.  Some recipes or variations of the tradition call for a fruit bread, but never having been fond of fruit bread (who is?), I opted for the doughnut option.  The story goes that a baker in merry old England wanted to reiterate the reason for soul cakes (i.e. praying for the dead).  He made a cake in a circle, symbolizing eternity, and dropped it in boiling fat, symbolizing either the burning purification of Purgatory or the torments of Hell (yes, purgatory isnt going to be like your doctors waiting roomwere talking some cleansing by fire people).  So, a soul cake, a soul cake, pray for Christian souls for a soul cake!

Above is the rolled out and cut dough for the cakes.  I had to use biscuit cutters, so the rings ended up being a bit on the skinny side.

Here they are fryingI certainly hope I do not share their fate.

And here they are, finished with cinnamon sugar.  I also went ahead and fried the holes.

Next came the pumpkin.  Every year of my life, including those I spent in Scotland, I have carved a pumpkin for All Hallows Eve, and this year was to be no exception.  We had the great privilege to hear a homily by one of the Dominican priests of the Priests for Life at Mass today.  This inspired me to carve a pro-life lantern, using this template from the American Life League.  It turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

The unsuspecting pumpkin

becomes awhat is that exactly?

Baby in the womb.  Caught some moms of trick-or-treaters taking pictures of it.  Yeah, its awesome.

Hope everyone had a blessed and safe All Hallows Eve.  Even though tomorrow, All Saints Day, is not a holy day of obligation in America this year, I hope youll try to make it to Mass.  Im thinking of pulling out some recipes from my new favorite, A Continual Feast.  Well definitely start tomorrows dinner with some freshly roasted pumpkin seeds, perhaps spiced with some chili powder to represent the saints fire for the faith!

All Hallows Eve PartI

In pretty much any Christian tradition, no date on the calendar causes more controversy than Halloween.  Youve got your hard core anti-group and your more permissible oh, its not that bad, its just costumes and candy group.  There is always debate about it, however, regardless of your stance and denomination.

Some Christians (and some non-Christians) refuse to celebrate it all together, thinking it is some how evil or demonic.  Jons family was one of those families actually (but, to be fair, when Jon was growing up Halloween as we know it wasnt really a thing in the UK).  Jons mom comes from a pretty conservative Anglican/Baptist/(and now) Catholic background, and didnt want the kids to have anything to do with it.  My family, on the other hand, let us go trick-or-treating, carve pumpkins, etc., but we were never allowed to dress up as devils or witches or any other nasty thing.  Nor were any of the more unsavory parts of modern Halloween (blood, gore, ghouls) brought into our home.  Also, just as another example, the Lutheran school I went to growing up usually had harvest parties as opposed to Halloween parties.  So, my little family (Jon, Teddy, and I) has a very mixed bag of Halloween traditions.  In fact, I will even go so far as to say Halloween was a point of contention when were discussing children (so is Santa Claus, but thats another post).  I maintain it wont do Teddy any harm to be able to dress up like a lion or pumpkin or even St. Dominic and get some free candy; Jon doesnt want to encourage a something-for-nothing or entitlement mentality (begging door to door like an urchin, as he put it), nor does he agree with the modern twist on Halloween.  Ok, for that matter, I certainly dont agree with the celebration of Halloween as it is now, but this little argument lead me to do some research.

Using Joanna Bogles Feasts and Seasons, Meredith Goulds The Catholic Home: Celebrations for Feast Days, Holidays, and Every Day, and Mary Reed Newlands The Year and Our Children, I was able to get a better picture of Halloween and its Christian roots.  I think most people know that  Halloween is simply a term born of All Hallows Eve, or All Saints Eve, November the 1st being the feast of All Saints, one of the greatest feasts of the Church.  The celebration of keeping the vigil on the eve of a great feast has been part of the Churchs life since the beginning.  The feast of All Souls (or those souls still in Purgatory) is on November 2nd.  Since a vigil cannot be kept on a feast day, and since these two feasts are consecutive, the vigil for both is kept on October 31st, hence the somewhat deathly nature to Halloweenwe are keeping the vigil of all dead, not just the saints, and all the departed who need prayers.

Now, the feasts of All Saints and All Souls were not formally established by the Church until the seventh century.  Until then, however, it was always a Christian tradition to pray for the dead, as seen in Scripture and sources contemporary to the early Church.  Why did the Church choose to put these feasts at the end of autumn?  There are many theories, the most well-known being the Christianizing, or baptizing, of Celtic Samhain and other pagan holidays saluting various gods of death.  It is certain that the Church Christianized various pagan holidays to symbolize the triumph of Christ over the old, so Im pretty sure there is some merit to this theory.  My favorite, however, is the understanding of the seasons and their symbolism to man.  Mary Reed Newland writes, She [the Church] chose this time of year, it is supposed, because, in her part of the world, it was the time of barrenness of the earth.  The harvest was in, the summer done, the world brown and drab and mindful of death.  Snow had not yet descended to comfort and hide the bony trees or blackened fields; so with little effort, man could look about and see a meditation on death and life hereafter (The Year and Our Children, page 288, Sophia Institute Press, c. 2007).  I think thats great.  I love the way the Church uses our natural surrounding and the passing of the year to teach us our faith.  Take Christmas for examplethe darkest time of the year is when we celebrate the Light being born into the world.  But I digress

Anyway, I can prove to Jon that Halloween does in fact have Christian origins.  I doubt, however, he ever disagreed with that.  What I need to prove was that one can in fact celebrate Halloween in its modern form without re-paganizing it (e.g. haunted houses, scary movies, witches, devils, etc.).  Is trick-or-treating a terrible thing?  Maybe I wont be able to totally convince him, because really he takes issue more with the entitlement thing (as a trick-or-treater so aptly proved to us last year when he demanded a particular kind of candy).  But, I can try.  Jon, honey, trick-or-treating iswait for itENGLISH!  HA!

Yes, the origin of trick-or-treating developed in England as far back as the seventh century (the origin of the feast) when people went door to door begging for soul cakes.  If you gave the beggar a soul cake he or she would pray for the dead of the household (a small aside here: I realize this gets into rather heavy theological stuff regarding the afterlife.  Im sure a lot of my Protestant family and friends will dismiss the premise that prayers for the dead are helpful or even wholesome.  We Catholics, however, believe this is a good and charitable thing, and that our prayers can actually help our loved ones achieve Heaven.  If youd like more info regarding this teaching, write so in the com box or email me).  The refrain of the song sang at the door varied from A soul cake, a soul cake, have mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake to Soul, soul an apple or two/ If you havent an apple a pear will do/ One for Peter and two for Paul/ And three for the Man who made us all.  The trick part of trick-or-treating is a very modern invention indeed, but the practice of begging door to door is in fact part of our Christian heritage.

Some believe that the tricks and other Halloween shenanigans developed as a post-Reformation contribution to plague Catholics who kept the vigil (Ibid.), but theres not a whole lot of proof for that.  We do know that Elizabeth I forbade all All Hallows Eve celebrations and merriment following the break from Rome.  Despite this, Shakespeare slips in a mention in his Two Gentleman of Verona when Speed tells Valentine that he know he is in love because he has learned to speak pulling like a beggar at Hallowmass.

Suffice to say, Halloween is an ancient practice for Christians, and there is nothing wrong with keeping this vigil.  In part II of this post, I will attempt to make soul cakes as well as list some other ways to celebrate.  Let me know if there is any way you keep the vigil that you would like included in the next post.

St. Jean de Brebeuf andCompanions

Ive been slacking a bit these past few days on the posts, but, in my defense, we have been very busy.  I didnt post on the feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (this past Sunday) because we were away at a friends house having a lovely dinner, and because Ill post more about her when we talk about the Sacred Heart.  I didnt post yesterday, St. Lukes day, because, well, after a very enjoyable weekend of activities, there was a pile of laundry, dirty dishes, and a fussy baby.  The joys of domesticity after all.  So, apologies.

Before I get into St. Jean and his companion martyrs, there is an interesting story connected with St. Lukes day (yesterday) that I thought I should mention.  Joanna Bogle, in Feasts and Seasons, writes that because the weather generally warms up slightly this time of year we call it St. Lukes little summer.  This is also where we got the term lukewarm, something that is neither hot nor cold.  Like I said, interestingor at least I think so, but then again I am a renowned dork when it comes to etymology.

Anyway, today is the feast of St. Jean de Brebouf and companions in the new calendar.  These men were all Jesuits, missionaries to the Iroquois, and some of the first martyrs of North America.  After initial success with the natives, the Iroquois turned on the priests.  Their martyrdom is a truly horrific storythey were slashed with knives, scalped, mock-baptized in boiling water, and had red-hot tomahawks tied around their necks.  Throughout this torture, it is said that St. Jean uttered not a word, which amazed the Iroquois warriors who, after his death, cut out his heart and ate it in hopes of gaining his courage.

Despite their martyrdom being their most famous story, St. Jean and his companions did a lot of good in Canada.  St. Jean himself left behind some beautiful writings encouraging his fellow Jesuit priests in their trials in the New World, writings that emphasize the joy of abandoning ones comforts and conventions for the sake of Christ, and preaching Christ to all people.  When I was little, I very much wanted to be a missionary and I have always been a little disappointed in myself that I have not become one.  However, after I read some of the things St. Jean wrote, I realized his zeal and missionary spirit could be applied to any walk of lifebe it in the wilds of a new land, or simply at homewhere ever people need to hear the word of God.

I decided against the slightly vulgar suggestions of baking a heart-shaped cake in St. Jeans honor.  Instead, I made some cornbreada staple of almost all of upper North America in early colonial times, Indian or settler.  There are a variety of recipes to be had, all promising the perfect contrast of tender and fluffy to crunchy and firm cornbread, but this tried and true recipe is my favorite:

1 cup corn meal1 cup flour1/4 cup sugar1 Tbsp baking powder1 tsp salt1/3 cup oil1 cup milk1 egg

Combine the corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Mix the oil, milk, and egg together in another bowl, then add to the dry mixture.  Bake in a greased pan (any will do really, but I always use a pie dish) in a  400 F degree oven for 20-25 minutes.  I like to serve it with butter and honey.  You cant get much better than cornbread and honey.

St. Jean de Brebouf and companionsoro pro nobis!

Finished cornbread

St. Teresa ofAvila

Ecstasy of St. Teresa by Bernini, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome.

Today is the feast of St. Teresa of Avila.  She was a 16th century Carmelite nun, mystic, and reformer.  In 1970, Pope Paul VI named her a Doctor of the Church, one of three women (the others being St. Catherine of Siena and St. Therese of Lisieux).  She is well-known for her writings on the contemplative life, fueling the Spanish Renaissance in literature, along with her spiritual advisor, St. John of the Cross.

A favorite story of mine about her childhood is her quest for martyrdom.  She and her brother, Rodrigo, so loved hearing the stories of the saints from their parents that they set off to seek their own martyrdom amongst the Moors; their uncle soon retrieved them when he saw them outside the city walls as he was riding back into Avila.

St. Teresa stressed the necessity of a rich prayer life, and in her writings you can see the various levels of contemplation she describes.  Now, in the home, I think its near to impossible to achieve full mental prayer,  or the withdrawal of the soul from without and specially the devout observance of the passion of Christ and penitence (Autobiography 11.20).  We can, however, use her feast day as an attempt to focus our minds better during family prayer, and pray for the graces to be better united to God through our devotions.

I am also using this post as a tool for humility.  Looking back over my previous posts I seem to have presented myself as some sort of baking/cooking queen who can whip up a delicious meal at any time.  Er, not so.  There are some disasters, as today so aptly proved.  I attempted to make Yemas de Santa Teresa from Schuegrafs Cooking with the Saints.  It looked like a relatively easy recipe and an intriguing one.  So, I gave it a go.  Yemas are a popular dessert/snack in Spain, but in the Avila region especially.  They are essentially sugar and egg yolk balls rolled in more sugar.  Couldnt be too hard to make, right?  Well, here was my attempt:

Its a sticky egg yolk mixture.  Not sure what went wrong, but perhaps I didnt stir it enough

Heres what theyre meant to look like:

And, well, I just didnt want to waste another four of my very expensive organic eggs on a second attempt.  So, sorry St. Teresa, well be without Yemas on your feast day.  Ill try to make something Spanish for dinner thoughsomething I know I can cook.

Also, this is what happens when I try to do my posts while Teddy is awake:

St. Teresaoro pro nobis!

Miracle of theSun

Crowd witnessing the Miracle of the Sun, taken by journalists present

Today we celebrate the fulfillment of the promise of Our Lady of Fatimathat she would perform a miracle so that all may believe.  That miracle was called the O Milagre do Sol, or the Miracle of the Sun, in which nearly 100,000 people witnessed the sun dance while they waited in the fields of Cova da Iria near Fatima, Portugal.  One account says, The sun, at one moment surrounded with scarlet flame, at another aureoled in yellow and deep purple, seemed to be in an exceedingly swift and whirling movement, at times appearing to be loosened from the sky and to be approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat (Dr. Domingos Pinto Coelho, writing for the newspaper Ordem).  October 13th, 1917 was the final and most amazing apparition of Our Lady of Fatima.

I could write at length about Fatima.  In fact, there are numerous books devoted to the subjectthe apparitions themselves, the children, the prophecies.  I am not a scholar, however (despite my dissertation adviser telling me not to devote an entire chapter of my masters thesis to the Fatima prophecies in relation to Russia and John Paul IIs pontificate), so Ill simply refer you here for any further explanations on Fatima.  What I will say is thisFatima is awesome.  As Catholics, we are not bound to believe in any apparition, but once one has been approved by the Vatican, I dont see why we shouldnt embrace it.  There are many blessings to be gained from a devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, as well as some sound truths to absorb.  One of the most important is the Rosary.  Again and again, we see the Rosary as a weapon to battle the evils of this world.  Let us not disregard the message of our blessed Mother, and let us use the tool she has given us.

So in addition to our rosary today, there are a few ways we celebrated.  I was going to make a Miracle of the Sun cake, but I think Jon is getting a little tired of the sweets.  Instead, I decided to go a Portuguese route for dinner, albeit a very Anglicized one.  We had carnitas, which is essentially just a braised, shredded pork, much like anything akin to pulled pork, luau pork, or barbecue pork.  The Portuguese version, I believe, is slow cooked in milk until the meat is super tender.  I remember attending the Portuguese parades in our town with my good friend Kelly, who is half Portuguese (and, I always thought this way funnyher mother is one of five girls who all have the first name Fatima.  They all go by their middle names so as not to confuse people); there would always be a big banquet at the end, with, of course, carnitas.  Like I said, however, my version is not so authentic.  This is my grandmothers recipe for Sweet and Dry Ribs:

2 1/2 lbs country-style pork ribs (I use boneless, but any will do)2 cups water4 Tbsp soy sauce1 tsp salt (optional)2 Tbsp + 1 tsp sugar2 Tbsp sherry1/4 cup orange, pineapple, or other sweet juice

Combine the ribs, water, soy sauce, and salt in a large pot and bring to a boil; simmer 1 1/2-2 hours (at least).  Remove the bones and fat from the meat, shred, then return the meat to the cooking liquid and add the sugar, sherry, and juice.  Cook over high heat until the liquid evaporates, stirring frequently as the ribs get dry.  Allow the ribs to slightly caramelize by browning at the end of the cooking process.

So, not exactly authentic Portuguese carnitas, but it was in the same ball park.

Today is also the feast of St. Edward the Confessor, so we could have gone the English route for dinner, but honestly, I cant get too many bangers in a row (see feast of the Guardian Angels), and the weather is still far too hot in Northern California for a roast beef dinner.  Maybe next time!

Away

The extended family (including yours truly) will be away camping this weekend.  Therefore, I will not have access to a computer to post about this weekends feasts and ferias.  Well be missing: St. Bridget of Sweden today, St. Dionysius (patron of headache sufferers) on Saturday as well as St. John Leonardi, and the 20th Sunday after Pentecost.

Not to worry, though.  There are some amazing feast days coming up, like the Divine Maternity of Our Lady (11th) and St. Teresa of Avila (15th).  Also look forward to my post(s) about Halloween.

Thanks for reading!

Our Lady of theRosary

Tomorrow is the feast of Our Lady of the RosaryI mean Victoryno, Rosary.  The feast was known as Our Lady of Victory until (depending on your source) about the 17th century, when it became known as Our Lady of the Rosary (see Fr. Z and the com box for a little more info on the name change).  Either way, the feast really celebrates the same thingthe power of the Rosary.  I wont give the whole history (you can look here if you want the academic version) lets just say this: the year, 1571; the place, Lepanto.  Don John defeats the Muhammadans (aka Turks) trying to invade Austria in a naval battle.  Success is attributed to the intercession of Our Lady, prompted by the efforts of the Rosary confraternity processing into Rome that same day.  And were talking massive, massive success.  This one battle saved Christian Europe.

Also attributed the the intercession of Our Lady is the victory of the Battle of the White Mountain for Catholic Europe.  You can read more about that here.

There are numerous ways to celebrate this feast, starting withhmmm, any guesses?  How about praying the Rosary?  Apart from the Mass, this is probably the most powerful prayer available to us, to all Christians, not just Catholics.  To my Protestant readers out theredont be afraid of the Rosary.  Its entire basis is Scriptural.  Fr. Corapi used to ask all his Protestant friends if they had said their rosaries that day.  When answered with a shocked and resounding no, he would reply, Why, dont you like the Gospels?  It is such a rich and rewarding prayer.  And, as tomorrows feast proclaims, is powerful.  Padre Pio said, Love the Madonna and pray the rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today.  And goodness, is that true.  Besides Lepanto and White Mountain, there are numerous examples.  In Brazil, a Rosary crusade was organized to prevent the communists seizing power in 1970s, which obviously worked.  In Austria, the Soviets inexplicably evacuated after the end of the wardue to another Rosary crusade.  There are far too many historical instances of the power of the Rosary to mention here; but, lets remember those more well-known examples, like Lepanto, and ask our Blessed Mother for her intercession for the end of todays evilsabortion, anyone?

In addition to saying our Rosary, tomorrow is a wonderful day to bake a Rosary cake.  Well, sure, its just cupcakes fashioned into a Rosary, but can you think of a better excuse to eat cupcakes?  Catholic Cuisine has some great recipe ideas and pictures.

Also, why not read the Gospel stories that give us the mysteries.  See if you can find the relevant passages:

Joyful Mysteries:

The AnnunciationThe VisitationThe Nativity of Our Blessed LordThe Presentation in the TempleThe Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple

Luminous Mysteries:

The Baptism in the JordanThe Wedding Feast at CanaThe Proclamation of the Kingdom of GodThe TransfigurationThe Institution of the Eucharist

Sorrowful Mysteries:

The Agony in the GardenThe Scourging at the PillarThe Crowning with ThornsThe Carrying of the CrossChrists Death on the Cross

Glorious Mysteries:

The ResurrectionThe AscensionThe Descent of the Holy Spirit at PentecostThe AssumptionThe Crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven

Dont be fooled by the last two Glorious mysteriestheyre in Scripture.  Just look a little further than the Gospelstoward the end, you know.

I wont lie, I come from a family of complete dorks.  We will make anything into a competitive game, including definitions from the OED.  Im thinking Teddy will absolutely love me if I turn this into some sort of board game and/or speed test when hes older.  If anyone with older children attempts it this year, please let me know!

Happy Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary!

Photo courtesy of Catholic Cuisine

St. Francis ofAssisi

Today is the feast of that very well-known saint, Francis.  I would bet any amount of money that you know someone who has a statue of him in his/her garden, or that a parish, school, or community center will have a blessing of the animals today.  Poor Francis, in my opinion.  This holy mans image has been a bit hijacked.  He was a stigmatic, a mystic, an extreme lover of poverty, and builder of churches.  He founded an order that changed the world.  And yet, most people only remember him for that one story about preaching to the birds.  Sure, maybe it happened, but thats not the pointthe story is supposed to reflect his knowledge and conviction that all creatures can praise God, that all creation, though fallen, has been redeemed through Christ.  His preaching strongly reiterated the Psalms.  His love of the poor was legendary; his commitment to evangelization by founding an order of mendicants, who by their very nature could not be cloistered, ensured the spread of Christianity throughout the world (in addition to the efforts of such orders as the Dominicans, and later, the Jesuits).  Why then do we commemorate this feast by sprinkling some holy water on the dog?

Ok, perhaps Im wrong.  There is some merit to the holy water/dog scenario.  The purpose of the domestic church is not only to bring us into a closer relationship with the body of Christ, but to educate our children in the ways and meanings of our faith.  How can I explain to Teddy about the stigmata without it sounding a little scary?  Or, how can I impress upon him the importance of charity in terms of rebuilding churches in disrepair, or giving to the poor, or how St. Francis worked with the most putrid of lepers?  I can, however, tell him the story of how the saints donkey wept when his master died because he and Francis had done so much good together.  Or, I can tell him that an icon of Christ spoke to Francis and told him to rebuild His Church.  I can even show him show him a picture of that icon.  Maybe we sprinkle the holy water on our pets because St. Francis instructed us that all things come from God, and that God has given us living creatures to enrich our lives, but we must respect them and care for them.  But, I still think its a bitI dont even know, I guess I just dont like it.  Maybe Im a stick in the mud.

That said, I was going to take Teddy to a pumpkin patch/petting zoo today.  Even though hes far too young to register anything about the life of St. Francis, the point of all this is to permeate our family life with things associated with our faith so its simply second nature.  I thought hed love to see the animals, and perhaps there would even be a donkey.  But, the best laid plans and all thattime ran out before Jon and I had to do the Teddy swap so I could go to my tutoring job.  But well make it to that pumpkin patch before All Hallows Eve (and yes, there will be a post about that).

Nevertheless, in addition to all the animal stuff, there are two other things we can do today: first and foremost, do some charitable work.  You can (oh, just off the top of my head):

Feed the hungryGive drink to the thirstyClothe the nakedGive shelter to the homelessVisit the sickVisit the imprisonedBury the dead

St. Francis is one of the best saints we can ask to help us perform the corporal works of mercyafter all, he did most of them on a daily basis.  And let us not forget that good works, as St. James tells us in his epistle, are essential to the faith: Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only (James 2:24).

Secondly, do something good for the environment.  If there is any area of contention in our household, its my insistence on being as green as possible (or, as Jon puts it, my hippy-tude).  Ok, so we dont drive a Prius, compost a lot of our waste, and Teddy uses disposable diapers (unlike my cousins baby), but if I can make small choices based on good stewardship, I will.  St. Francis was very big on good stewardship of the earth and all things living in it.  I took Teddy out to our small herb/vegetable garden and explained where some of our food comes from.  Maybe when hes older well go to a farm, and we can read about St. Franciss teachings on self-sufficiency and trust in the Lord.

Italian food tonight, because hes St. Francis of Assisi (duh).  Havent decided on the exact menu, but Im thinking some whole wheat pasta with garden fresh tomatoes, peppers, chicken, and olives.

Take some time today to say this famous prayer attributed to the saint:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;where there is hatred, let me sow love;where there is injury, pardon:where there is doubt, faith;where there is despair, hopewhere there is darkness, lightwhere there is sadness, joyO Divine Master,grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;to be understood, as to understand;to be loved, as to love;for it is in giving that we receive,it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  Amen.
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