Saturday, November 28, 2015

Happy (Liturgical) New Year!

As per tradition, we used Jennifer Fulwiler's saint generator to draw patrons for the year. Here are our results:

P: St. Wenceslaus
Me: St. Veronica
RM: St. Margaret of Cortona
MM: St. Genesius
MC: St. Margaret Fontana

Ora pro nobis!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

On Being Nothing

"I'm more afraid of being nothing than I am of being hurt."  That was my senior quote, taken from that masterpiece of American cinema, Days of Thunder (what can I say? Twelfth grade was the height of my "Deep Redneck" period).  Eighteen-year-old me planned to go to college on the cheap but then go on to law school somewhere staggeringly impressive and someday sit on the Supreme Court.  After all, what was the point of anything if I wasn't striving to be at the very highest possible peak of my chosen career path?  What meaning could my life possibly hold if I let feelings or relationships get in the way of "making something" of myself?

Now, a few months from turning 30, I'm starting to realize that being nothing is the whole point for me.

I am blessed to be surrounded by a group of remarkable comrades-in-arms in the trench warfare that is mothering lots of very small people.  We sneak out of our houses after bedtime every other Wednesday to read the upcoming Sunday's Gospel and to encourage one another to grow in virtue.  This week, we read the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, John 10:11-18, which is about how the Good Shepherd lays down his life for His sheep.  He surrenders Himself to the will of the Father.  Our discussion turned, as it often does, to what it means to embrace God's will in this season in our lives.  We spent a good deal of time talking about why we choose to stay at home with our children.  Most of my girlfriends said that withdrawing from the world to stay at home was something that fit right now, for a variety of reasons, but that they expected to rejoin the workforce/to contribute to society/to follow their passions/to do something personally fulfilling as soon as they moved out of the all-little-kids phase.  I made a joke about being too lazy ever to want to go back to work, but I've been thinking about this conversation all day, and I can't make it go away with a blithe self-deprecation (though it is true.  I am deeply lazy).

When I decided not to go to law school, I said it was because I didn't want to practice law and because I hated writing and wanted to be done with school.  These things were true, to a point.  But it occurs to me now that it really was a rare occasion of my listening to and submitting myself to God's will over my plan.  I needed to be broken of those career ambitions in order to accept the path to sanctity that God had in store for me.

Hearing my girlfriends comment about following their passions, using their talents, and needing to find personal fulfillment outside the home threw something into sharp relief for me:  I don't need that.  I need to work hard at being nothing.  

For most of my life, I never did anything I wasn't great at.  If success didn't come easily, I just quit (this is why I still can't really drive a stick).  I found a handful of endeavors that did go well for me, and I was happy to accept heaps of accolades in those fields.  And then I became a mother.

No one awards engraved plaques for Achievements in Bulb Syringe Usage or letters of commendation for Excellence in Pretend Tea Sipping.  After I've read The Travels of Babar for the seventeenth time in the space of an afternoon, I don't have the mental wherewithal to do anything that the world at large might extol.  And that's ok.  I don't have a yearning for creative expression or a fiery passion for any particular field.  I've spent a lot of time envying my friends who do have those things, but I'm slowly starting to recognize that perhaps I don't have that sort of drive because I'm not supposed to right now.  

Instead of looking for some way to make something of myself, I need to accept that I'm called to be nothing.  If I can joyfully surrender myself to His will, content myself doing the invisible tasks that are asked of me in this vocation, and make my only ambition to attain Heaven, I'll have everything.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Visit to Jesus

Yesterday on our way home from a birthday party, RM asked to make a visit to the chapel at our neighborhood church. We entered, and she very sweetly (if a bit noisily/exuberantly) went and gave kisses to the statues of Mary and St. Joseph. Then, kneeling before the Tabernacle, the following exchange was had:

Me: Would you like to say a prayer together?
RM: No prayer. I just want to talk to Him myself.
Me: Ok, go ahead.
RM: I love you, Jesus. Thank You.
Me: *instantly weepy* That's very good, baby. Jesus loves you so much. What are you thanking Him for?
RM: Thank You, Jesus, for being in the Tabernacle so we can visit, and thank You for being in Heaven so we can live there with You some day.

One of those heartwarming moments that makes me think I might be getting something right along the way, in spite of myself. God, help me foster her love for You and her pursuit of Heaven, always.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Tutu Pig

Tonight at dinner we were introduced to Rita Mae's first imaginary friend.  "Tutu Pig" is a pig who wears a tutu (you don't say), because she is a ballerina, much like RM's favorite scene in Olivia.  Apparently Tutu Pig doesn't know Olivia, but RM plans to introduce them.  Tutu turned three on Rita Mae's birthday and lives in a house "pretend across the street."  She and Rita Mae like to play with toys together.

Tutu Pig wasn't at dinner with us tonight because she was "on a trip out of town."  When I asked RM where Tutu went, she told me, "the airport."  Further inquiries revealed that Tutu Pig had flown to Chattanooga (a favorite pretend destination of RM's since our [real] trip there this summer).

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Monuments to Selfishness?

A former teacher of mine tweeted a link to this article, which I found quite provocative (unsurprising, as this teacher's specialty has always been goading his students toward meaningful thought).  The author and I are coming from such different mindsets that we can hardly have a conversation, but I'm going to respond anyway.

The author asserts that ornate, lasting grave markers are a mark of selfishness, that they "represent an almost universal human self-indulgence."  Professor MacCulloch lauds the older practice in English churchyards of marking graves with simple wooden planks that "gently decayed back into the soil, making way for the next generation of the dead."  His preference for the unadorned and impermanent puts me in mind of something written recently by remarkably talented artist Matthew Alderman: "If Puritanism is the fear that someone somewhere is having fun, progressivism must be the fear that someone somewhere is enjoying beauty."  Professor MacCulloch (a "progressive," I'm willing to bet, judging by the digression at the end of the article railing against the use of fossil fuels) seems to support the idea that previous generations must be dealt with and then forgotten, pushed aside (or beneath, as it were) in favor of the next, with the inexorable march of time leading us always onward to better things.  Why create lasting memorials to Bygones when the New will always be better?  Where is the value in erecting something beautiful, when that space could be reused?

This article came at an interesting time.  It is the first week of November, which the Church sets aside especially for devotions in aid of the Holy Souls in Purgatory.  This is why I say Professor MacCulloch and I are too far apart really to have a conversation:
Tombs represent an almost universal human self-indulgence, a longing to perpetuate individual existence, if possible, for ever. Not just Christians have felt that way; the impulse goes right back to the pyramids of Egypt and beyond.  For Christians, it’s illogical, because Christianity is based on the principle that there is not much that you and I can do to influence our fate after death; it’s all in the hands of God.  In any case, if you believe in life after death, the soul is nowhere near those graves sealed by granite and marble.  So in Christian culture, an ornamental grave really is self-indulgence. 
The Church says otherwise.  Certainly, all is in God's hands, but prayer has real power.  The souls of the faithful departed endure the purifying fires of Purgatory so they may be made clean and then enter into the ineffable joy of the Beatific Vision.  That process can be sped along when members of the Church Militant beg for the application of Redeeming Grace on behalf of the Holy Souls.

I spent a lovely morning yesterday walking with my girls around Nashville's Catholic cemetery.  We wandered and prayed for the souls of those buried there, and we enjoyed the beauty of the statues, especially in the older sections.  Rita Mae asked why we were there, and I told her about the wonderful gift we can give the Holy Souls by praying for them, especially during this week.  She was captivated by the monuments; she flitted from plot to plot, asking me to read the inscriptions to her and then pausing to pray by name for each person represented there.  It was beautiful.

I believe the souls for whom we prayed benefited from the indulgences we gained for them.  I do not believe that the monuments they built benefit only those memorialized.  I know that I was edified both by their aesthetic merit and by the work of charity in which they encouraged me to participate.  I know they were an aid in teaching my daughter about prayer, charity, and God's mercy.  This isn't the lesson Professor MacCulloch would have us draw from that "crowd of stones," but I daresay it's a better one.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rabbit-Snail Monkey Jousting

I came across this post about snails in medieval marginalia on Facebook, and it might be my favorite thing on the whole internet.  I defy you to think of anything funnier than the above picture.  It's a rabbit.  Jousting a snail.  On monkeys.  And the snail's monkey is on stilts.  Amazing.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rosary Show and Tell

Suscipio is hosting a "Show and Tell" link-up celebrating the month of the Most Holy Rosary.  So fun!

We have a lot of rosaries.  Most of them reside in our sacramental drawer (the drawer itself isn't get it.  "Sacramental drawer" just sounds nicer than "Catholic junk drawer").

This is after removing two hand missals and a copy of St. Louis de Montfort's Secret of the Rosary.
My favorite rosary was the first one I ever used.  It was a gift from Paul right before I started RCIA.  He got it from the priest who was the chaplain of the college Newman group.  It was blessed by JPII.

It is relatively small, the result of which is that most normal rosaries intended for adults feel awkwardly long to me.
It's not the most beautiful rosary in my collection, but it does mean the most to me.  As I said, it's the first rosary I ever used, the one I learned on.  The hyperdulia afforded to the Blessed Virgin was one of the things that drew me to the Church--it just made sense to me that we ought to love Jesus's mother and ask her to pray for us.  I was excited to learn to pray in this way, and Paul taught me, mostly over the phone.  I'd say this is my second favorite sacramental he's given me over the years (with #1 being my wedding band).

Join in the show and tell fun over at Suscipio!

Five Favorite Fall Foodstuffs

Linking up with sweet Hallie for another edition of Five Favorites!
The Internet is dangerously near, if it has not already reached, its absolute saturation point with regard to all things pumpkiny/pumpkin-spicy, but I don't care.  My birthday has come and gone, which means it is now officially allowed to be Fall.*  Here are the autumnal yummies I've been binging on this week:

1.  Mystic Monk Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Malt Balls
Y'all.  Pumpkin Spice.  Chocolate.  Malt Balls.  From monks!  They're basically the perfect food.  I love all malt candies, and these might just be the best ever.  They're perfectly spiced, and the malt center is great (no weirdly stale, chewy bits here). 

2.   Mystic Monk Pumpkin Spice Coffee
This is a delightful pumpkin spice coffee.  My only regret is that the decaf is only available pre-ground, which means it is not ideal for my Chemex.

3.  Mystic Monk Thanksgiving Blend**
This one is even better than the Pumpkin Spice, I think.  The flavor is deep and complex and perfectly fallish.  I'm counting down the minutes until naptime so I can curl up with a(nother) cup.

4.  Trader Joe's Pumpkin Toaster Pastries
I impulse-bought a box of these and then had to send my husband back to get another box the next day.  They are the Platonic Form of pumpkin pop-tart.

5.  Trader Joe's Pumpkin Biscotti
These were Paul's impulse buy at TJ's.  They're particularly good with the coffees mentioned above.

Honorable mention (not-pumpkin division): my grandmother's hot chocolate.  We tailgated my high school's homecoming game on my birthday, and Nanny brought along a giant cooler full of her magical cocoa concoction.  I will pass along the recipe as soon as I can remember to get it from her.

*Yes, my birthday (Oct. 11) is several weeks after the autumnal equinox.  Don't care.  It makes me sad when it gets cold (read: below 75) before then.  Just ask me about the year it snowed on my birthday when we lived in South Bend...actually, you don't have to ask; I still complain about it all the time.  Snow in mid-October is an outrage.

**I don't get any sort of kickback from the monks, promise.  I'm just kind of obsessed with their products.