31 December 2015

Luke 12

Several verses from this week's chapter jumped out at me as appropriate to today, on the eve of a new year. 

And I say to you, my friends: Be not afraid of them who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.

But I will shew you whom you shall fear: fear ye him, who after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell. Yea, I say to you, fear him.

And I say to you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God.

But he that shall deny me before men, shall be denied before the angels of God.

15 And he said to them: Take heed and beware of all covetousness; for a man's life doth not consist in the abundance of things which he possesseth.

34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

It's certainly easy, too easy, to find things to be fearful about in the world today. But Christ here provides a perspective-check: preserving our physical wellbeing, even our very lives, is not as important as defending our spiritual wellbeing. Not to say that we can't or shouldn't take care of our and our dependants' physical needs, but if we believe that our spiritual wellbeing is as important as Christ says it is, that belief will be reflected in our priorities. I don't know about you, but my day-to-day priorities could stand a little reorganizing here...

Verses 8 and 9 sort of tie into that, but specifically regarding how our spiritual health is manifested in our words and actions. 

"...for a man's life doth not consist in the abundance of things he possesseth." The gentleness of this reminder is actually what stopped me. It's not so much a 'woe to you wicked covetous people' as it is nudge to remember that we're all inclined to this in one way or another, so we need to be on guard for it because allowing ourselves to dwell on or act on covetous thoughts will not benefit us. 

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Pretty much sums it all up, right? Our "treasure" is whatever we safeguard, build up, single out as our priority, "set our hearts on." 

I'm not the biggest fan of New Years resolutions, certainly in part because I'd be lucky to remember any of them by the second week in January. But as we begin a new year, I'm hoping to come back to these verses a couple of times as reminders of what Christ is looking for from me.

23 December 2015

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their savior; come to save us, O Lord our God!

The last O Antiphon; tomorrow night, we celebrate the long-awaited Savior's birth. We proclaim Him our Lord, our God, our king, our savior. Emmanuel, God with us. Though we have one more day before Christmas, this last antiphon carries a uniquely excited, eager note: we expect Him. We know that he is coming, and we hover tonight on the cusp of that joyous proclamation the shepherds will hear tomorrow night: a child born, a savior, Christ the Lord!

O come, O come Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

22 December 2015

O Rex Gentium

O King of the nations, desire of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

King and Keystone, two images of the key piece without which everything below them falls apart. The king holds together his kingdom as surely as a keystone holds up an arch. Without Him, we are jumbled, fallen pieces; with Him, parts of a cohesive, functioning whole. 

In the context of King and Keystone, today's antiphon's description of Christ as the "desire of every human heart" becomes self-evident: everyone desires wholeness, even if they don't realize that the wholeness they seek is only found in connection with Christ.

O come, desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease
And fill the world with heaven's peace.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

21 December 2015

O Oriens

O rising dawn, brightness of light eternal, and sun of justice: come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Say, there're those folks sitting "in darkness and in the shadow of death" again, still referring to us, of course. This antiphon reiterates that we aren't merely "looking forward" to Christ's coming—we are desperately longing for Him. Longing for His enlightenment, and particularly so on this dark Solstice night.

We know a little bit about darkness, here in Alaska.

And on this darkest day of the year, we boldly proclaim Christ to be our light. Not just a light, but the "rising dawn": the light whose arrival we so eagerly watch for on the horizon. The "brightness of light eternal," shining through the bleakest night. The "sun of justice," putting all things to rights.

O come Thou Dayspring from on high
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh.
Dispell the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadow put to flight.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

20 December 2015

Luke 11

And he said to them: Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and shall say to him: Friend, lend me three loaves,

Because a friend of mine is come off his journey to me, and I have not what to set before him.

And he from within should answer, and say: Trouble me not, the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.

Yet if he shall continue knocking, I say to you, although he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend; yet, because of his importunity, he will rise, and give him as many as he needeth.

And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you.

10 For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

Encouragement to keep knocking, to keep asking. I've fallen into an overthinking pattern lately that's left me needing to hear this particular passage; I somehow reasoned myself to a place of thinking that it was "more right" to just pray for God's will to be done in whatever given situation instead of making specific intentions. That praying "May Your will be done in X's life" was what I ought to be saying, rather than "Please help X to get better." And because of this, praying for people was starting to be a source of stress and confusion and even guilt.

But right here we have Christ instructing us to bring those specific petitions to God: "Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you." God does want me to bring my needs and particular prayers to Him, and even to continue doing so over and over again.

Understanding that prayers may not be answered the way I think they should be is still important, of course; God sees everything, and I see only a small part, so any time one of us is wrong about what the best course of action is, it's always going to be me. But even in spite of my shortsightedness, God invites me to ask, to seek, to knock. What a gift!

O Clavis David

O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens: come, and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.

What "captive" are we speaking of here, asking Christ to come set free? Ourselves. Each one of us is that captive, trapped "in darkness and in the shadow of death" by our sins. Only Christ has the key, is the Key, to free us from our prisons.

Today's antiphon sounds reminiscent of Matthew 16:19, wherein Christ tells Peter that He gives him the "keys to the kingdom of heaven," and bestows upon him (and a few chapters later, the other apostles) the authority to bind and loose, open and shut. In today's verse, we proclaim belief that Christ comes bearing these powers, in order that He (and down through the ages, priests and bishops to whom the ability to cooperate with His authority has been passed down) may loose us from the sins that bind us.

O come Thou Key of David come
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

19 December 2015

O Radix Jesse

O Root of Jesse, that stands for an ensign of the people, before whom the kings keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make application: come to deliver us, and tarry not.

Getting impatient for our Advent waiting to end? "Tarry not," we pray today. Come as quickly as possible! 

"Root of Jesse," we call Him, proclaiming Him the successor and fulfillment of the Davidic line. This antiphon weaves together the old covenant and the new: He comes to the Israelites awaiting the Messiah, but also to the Gentiles to whom the promise of salvation had not originally been revealed. All of us, all the world, grow impatient for the deliverance that Christ brings.

O come, Thou root of Jesse's stem;
From all distress deliver them
That trust Thy mighty power to save,
And give them victory o'er the grave.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

18 December 2015

A Late-Advent SQT


We're in the midst of the Advent ember days, folks: the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday following the feast of St Lucy (Dec 13). In the Shifflerhaus, that means meatless meals plus discussion, each time someone wants meat, of how giving up meat winds up giving us lots of opportunities to remember (each time we want it and realize we can't have it) to be grateful for all of the blessings we've received—especially the blessings of the Christmas season which we're fast approaching!—and to use the gifts God gives us as best we can.

Even more than ember days, the O Antiphons tell me that we're flying toward the end of Advent. Those began yesterday, with O Sapientia (O Wisdom); today we sing O Adonai, O mighty Lord. I introduced Little Bear to the hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel early this Advent, swapping it for one of the songs he'd been accustomed to hearing at bedtime, so by this point he sings the refrain with me and is enthusiastic about having me sing the verse for the day's Antiphon, over and over again all day long. He's also somehow developed a firm belief that the only place you can breath during the refrain is between the second "rejoice" and "Emmanuel." I'm certainly the one who taught him that we breathe before the "Emmanuel" instead of after, but when I'm feeding Kit, sometimes it's hard to hold enough air to skip the breath before "O Israel"!

Upon turning 6 months old this week, Kit promptly produced her first tooth! It completely took me by surprise—she hadn't been fussy at all, and the "chewing on everything" has been going on long enough that it's just normal. Long about bedtime that first night, she discovered the tooth for herself, biting down on the finger she was gumming. I'm wondering if there might be another lurking just beneath the surface, because her gnawing on hard things certainly hasn't slacked off since the tooth popped through; if anything, it's increased.

Speaking of Kit, she's still having some troubles, but they're seeming to be getting smaller and less frequent. We will see how the weekend goes, and what the pediatrician has to say at her 6 month appointment on Tuesday. I'm planning to stay off dairy for at least the 21 days that Jenna recommended, despite the fact that people have been bringing us delicious-smelling Christmas treats that I can't eat... Nope. Not complaining. Matt and Little Bear will certainly enjoy them all for me, and then I won't feel as badly for making mostly dairy-free treats this year.

I have not the brain this evening to make a separate post for this, so here's a super quick look at today's O Antiphon:

O Lord and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai, come, and redeem us with outstretched arms.

Lord, ruler, lawgiver. All mighty titles, presenting an image of strength and power... and then the antiphon throws in that paradox at the end: "come and redeem us with outstretched arms." How did Christ redeem us? With arms outstretched in submission, obedience, sacrifice. If we're acclaiming Him as our Lord, the one who leads us, then we are by extension agreeing to follow where He leads.

O come, o come, Thou Lord of might, 
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

The only physical preparing-for-Christmas that I accomplished today was reorganizing the living room to make a spot for the tree; Matt and Little Bear are planning to go out tree-hunting tomorrow, because the low tomorrow is still above 0, but our temperatures are supposed to begin tumbling Sunday, bottoming out close to -30 by Christmas. Hey, that'll be a good reason to stay inside and do the baking later on, right?

Actually, I intentionally didn't bake anything today. Matt and I were talking about Advent and Christmas the other day, the way we celebrate them compared to the way we both grew up, and we discovered that while we've done a thorough job of keeping Advent as Advent, we haven't done very well at celebrating Christmas as Christmas. We both grew up with Christmas music and treats and a festive air permeating the days leading up to Christmas Day, and by making our Advents simple, we've lost that sense of festivity. And we miss it! So we're going to try to put it back where it belongs by intentionally celebrating the Christmas season: December 26 through Epiphany the Christmas lights will be on, carols playing, cookies and candies being made... Honestly, I'm not really sure what it'll look like yet; it's our first attempt. But it'll hopefully feel more Christmassy than past years!

Have you heard of the Christmas Rose Novena? It started on December 12, so obviously I'm quite late to be writing about it, but maybe think about filing it away for next year, if you're interested. It's a novena to St Therese of Liseux, and you say this prayer 12 times each day for the 12 days leading up to Christmas:

Remember, O Gracious Little Rose Queen, your promise to spend your heaven in doing good on earth and even, if necessary, to come down to help those who ask your aid. If it is God's Holy Will, and my dispositions are pleasing to Him by their honesty and true desire for goodness, keep your promise to shower roses and send me some visible sign of your heavenly friendship for me and for those I love. In memory of the great interior enlightenment you received on a certain Christmas of your early life, ask God for a "Christmas Rose" for me in these my urgent needs, that I may experience an increase in faith, hope and confidence. (Meditate, here upon your petitions so that St. Therese can understand why your are asking her to assist you.)  I desire to know and to accept real objective truth about life and death. Give me assurance that you understand and will remain my heavenly friend, so that one day we may be together with God. Keep your promise to give some answer! Amen.

St. Therese of Lisieux ~ Pray for us!

I am absolutely terrible at remembering to say the prayers before 11 o'clock at night, but I haven't missed a night yet! I've been meaning to try to connect with St Therese more for a while, so this was a good opportunity, and saying the prayers each night has given me a great deal of peace over my worries about Kit.

Hope your weekend is warmer than ours! As usual, you can find more quick takes at  This Ain't The Lyceum.

17 December 2015

O Sapientia

O Antiphons time already! Goodness, how quickly Advent goes. You're probably busy and preoccupied with a myriad of things; I know I am! But let's try to quickly take advantage of these focuses for reflection that the Church gives us in these final days of Advent.

O Wisdom, who came forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly, come, and teach us the way of prudence.

The phrasing of "reaching from end to end" is tickling my brain this year. What does it mean? Is it temporal, from the beginning to the end of time, or earth's creation to its destruction? Or spatial, "from the River to the ends of the earth," as the coming king's sovereignty was described in today's psalm? Or both, or something else entirely?

Ends. I have a lot of loose ends right now, a lot of things I'm trying to finish up, a lot of questions I'm trying to find answers to. These ends, I'm impatient to hurry and have arrive already. Other ends, like the end of Advent (how is it already almost over?), the end of a little one's littleness (how does she have a tooth already?), I'm unprepared for.

"O Wisdom... reaching from end to end, and ordering all things..." I need that wisdom, that order. The long to-do list, the questions I can't resolve by myself, all the "ends" that I look at and feel are coming too quickly or too slowly, they're all going to come in God's time. If they feel "off" to me, I'm the one who is off kilter, and I need to learn to hand God my master plan and let Him teach me to order it rightly.

O come, thou Wisdom from on high
Who orderst all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

14 December 2015

Luke 10

42 But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.

A brief reminder that many of us probably need in this busy season: Am I too busy preparing things for the celebration of Christ's birth to listen to Him here and now?

Martha's busyness isn't wrong; the trouble comes when she dedicates herself to her work so completely that she sees listening to Christ as a distraction from something more important. Could Martha have listened while she worked? Probably. Could Mary have set the table while she listened? Probably. But Martha, like I, like many of us, needed to be reminded that listening to the Word and receiving Him in our hearts is ultimately more important than any of our physical preparations for His coming.

How are you listening in the midst of this busy season of preparation? I've recently been appreciating the daily readings and reflections from Blessed Is She. I'd sure like to say that I read them both first thing in the morning... but most days, it's mid afternoon at the earliest, more often in the evening while the baby nurses. They get read before I fall asleep, at any rate. Often I feel like I "should be being productive" instead of sitting and reading, but I'm trying to remember the value of this "best part," and choose it like Mary did.

11 December 2015

Seven Quick Takes

Linking up with SQT guest hostess Anabelle of Written by the Finger of God this week! Yesterday I promised tales aplenty from this all-the-things crazy week, and here they are...

Kit and I spent last Saturday morning at the walk-in clinic, and came home with a possible diagnosis of lactose intolerance for her and a ban of all forms of milk products for me. I bake all of our everything, and most of my breads have milk, butter, or both; my mother-in-law's delicious pumpkin bread is pretty much the only exception, calling as it does for canola oil and water instead. I'm reluctant to admit to how much butterkin (butternut squash/pumpkin) bread I've eaten this week...

We did also learn that taking my standard sandwich bread recipe, replacing the milk with water, and using all white flour (gasp!) (only because I ran out of whole grain flours and the baby was asleep on my shoulder so I couldn't grind more), and kneading for a solid 10 minutes, produced a respectable loaf that held up well both fresh and toasted.

Sunday, the feast of St Nicholas, we woke up to chocolate coins in our shoes, which I suddenly couldn't eat because there is milk in everything and it is ridiculous and frustrating. Since chocolate is pretty much my favorite thing in the world, Matt's and my coins went directly into his bag to take to work the next day. And then he went and brought home a plate of fudge, which has been sitting in the fridge taunting me all. week. long. Anyway. Bigger things than fudge to fret about this week...

On Monday, the well stopped filling the holding tank, and we ran out of water. No showers, laundry, dishwashing until the well started working properly again; since Monday it has done a not-quite-mediocre job, struggling to fill the 200-gallon tank even with all of us (both apartments draw water from the same well/tank) severely conserving water.

Well, it was doing a just about mediocre job until Wednesday, when water pressure somehow sheared the valve off one of the pipes next to our washing machine. Water was fountaining out of the pipe, splattering the garage ceiling, covering the floor, soaking everything in a 6' radius... until the holding tank emptied, and then the well stopped filling it again and there was no more water. Again.

We do have an incredibly clean garage floor now, though.

Thursday the plumbers came out and replaced the broken valve, and the water delivery truck filled the holding tank. We've been asked to continue conserving water until the landlord can get a well guy out to hopefully fix the well. I totally understand the request—having water delivered is expensive—but I'm not quite sure what "conserve" means at this point. How long, realistically, would one expect 200 gallons of water to last two households?

But Tuesday was good: it was the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, we had supper at my parents' house (which came with the added bonus of not accumulating more dishes in our kitchen that I couldn't wash), and we were cheerfully laboring under the delusion that by giving the well a little rest it would be back to normal soon. Oh, and we made it to noon Mass for the solemnity as a family! Matt was able to take a long lunch to come with Little Bear and Kit and me, and we happened to have a visiting priest from the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, who gave a wonderful homily.

First thing Thursday morning Kit had a follow-up with our regular pediatrician, who said that given her symptoms, A) Kit much more likely has cow's milk protein allergy (CMPA) than lactose intolerance, although B) it's a little unusual for CMPA to have taken so long to show up, but C) at this point, there's more evidence to support CMPA than any of the other possible causes he could think of for her symptoms. So I'm off dairy completely until next weekend, when I can try reintroducing baked goods containing milk/butter as long as she's doing fine. If symptoms return while I'm off dairy, then it will be clear that CMPA isn't the culprit, and we'll have to start doing tests to see what's really going on.

And because I haven't been able to do any Christmas baking yet, both because of A) not wanting to make more dishes and then feel guilty for using water to wash them, and B) slightly panicking over the idea that I may have to go off dairy completely for another year or longer and feeling completely overwhelmed by the question of whether to abandon our classic butter-bearing recipes, rework them to be dairy-free, or just make them the right way for Matt and Little Bear and tell myself that God is helping me lose weight this Christmas... ahem. Yes, slightly overwhelmed here. But that's effectively kicked me out of the kitchen this week, so we've been doing lots of reading:

And, apparently saving this most exciting news for last, Little Bear is definitely reading! That little booklet he's looking at? He read that story to me yesterday, with very little help. And today on our way in to Mass, I heard him in the back seat sounding out words in a picture book; I didn't quite have the brain power at the moment to explain silent Es, so I just let him laugh at the book about baby moose for calling them "moosE"s. Having him so excited about learning to read is so much fun!

10 December 2015

Luke 9

Late, so late. But I legitimately forgot to read and write about the chapter this time, instead of just putting it off!

...Actually, I'm not sure whether that's better or worse.

Anyway, there will be stories aplenty tomorrow about this week of watery angst that will hopefully excuse my tardiness with this, but I'll leave them for my Seven Quick Takes and just jump straight into the ninth chapter of Luke here.

Foreshadowing. So much foreshadowing in this chapter.

Now Herod, the tetrarch, heard of all things that were done by him; and he was in a doubt, because it was said
By some, that John was risen from the dead: but by other some, that Elias had appeared; and by others, that one of the old prophets was risen again.
And Herod said: John I have beheaded; but who is this of whom I hear such things? And he sought to see him.

If I recall correctly, Herod's desire to see Christ doesn't come up again until the Passion narrative, when Pilate sends Christ over to Herod briefly.

23 And he said to all: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

"Take up his cross daily..." Reading that today and knowing the whole story, we have the context to know that Christ is using imagery from his coming Passion, and so can interpret that as a call to follow in Christ's footsteps, through sacrifice and dying to self. But what context did his disciples have? Peter just affirmed that Christ is the Messiah, the Savior of Israel; at this point, a Roman instrument of torture has no part in their concept of being saved. 

29 And whilst he prayed, the shape of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and glittering.
30 And behold two men were talking with him. And they were Moses and Elias,
31 Appearing in majesty. And they spoke of his decease that he should accomplish in Jerusalem.

The Transfiguration physically foreshadows the glorified, risen Body of Christ. The "shape of his countenance was altered;" possibly a prevenient explanation of the disciples on the road to Emmaus not recognizing the risen Christ? I love the word "prevenient"—it made me ridiculously happy to hear it at Mass on Tuesday. Am I a dork? Yes, yes I am.

Moses and Elias/Elijah also appear "in majesty," which the longer I think about it, the more it confuses me. Our physical bodies will be raised and perfected at the final judgement, and presumably that's the "majesty" here, but if Christ hadn't died yet (thus opening Heaven to those who had already died), how did Moses and Elias...? Because God is outside of time, and because nothing is impossible for God, I suppose is probably the best answer. 

Also, given the centuries separating them and the clear Hebrew prohibition of graven images, how did Peter know that the two men were Moses and Elias? I wonder if there was any way, apart from God allowing him to know it.

30 November 2015

Best-laid plans of Adventing

Second day of Advent, and I'm feeling so disorganized. That's not a good way to start out!

My mind functions best when I'm looking at written-out lists, so I'm going to chart out the 2015 Advent plan here: all of the things, all in one place. Possibly wildly overambitious; we shall see.

Nov 29: First Sunday of Advent. Nativity scene out, figurines scattered around the living room as they begin their journeys to Bethlehem. Advent wreath on the kitchen table. Beeswax Advent candles rolled (because I'm crazy and thought it was a good idea to wait to make them on the same day that we were setting up everything else. Don't do that next year.) Begin nightly reflections from Magnificat Advent booklet.

This week: hopefully finish making and mail out presents. At least some of them? One trip to the post office before Friday would be great...

Dec 5: kids put out shoes before bed; I put gold chocolate coins in shoes before bed. Find St Nicholas toy in the linen closet (I think) and set him by the shoes.

Dec 6: Second Sunday of Advent; St Nicholas. Find shoes in morning. Move nativity scene people closer to stable. Make fruitcakes some time in the coming week. Also, Christmas cards.

Dec 8: Immaculate Conception. Noon Mass. Make something with blueberries for dessert.

Dec 9: St Juan Diego. Read about OL Guadalupe with kids, print off a coloring page for Little Bear. Mexican for supper.

Dec 11: absolute deadline for mailing cards & presents out of state, if they're going to have any real chance of getting there by Christmas.

Dec 12: OL Guadalupe. Read same books as Wednesday. Something for dessert... maybe chocolate? With cinnamon? Also, bake St Lucy buns.

Dec 13: Third/Gaudete Sunday of Advent; St Lucy. St Lucy buns for breakfast. Wear pink/rosé/roses? Move people closer to the stable. If I'm really on top of things, make Kit's stocking this week.

Dec 16, 18-19: Ember days. Meatless.

Dec 17: begin O Antiphons (sing pertinent verse of "O Come O Come Emmanuel" before supper). Also, may begin Christmas cookie baking.

Dec 20: Fourth Sunday of Advent. Cut & put lights on Christmas tree. Continue decorating with kids over week when I have time/hands. Move people closer to the stable.

Dec 23: bake Stöllen. Mary & Joseph can arrive at the stable.

Dec 24: feast of seven fishes. See how many types of fish we actually come up with. Hopefully presents are wrapped by now...? Everyone (including Baby Jesus) (not including the Wise Men) to stable after kids are asleep. Note to self: Baby Jesus is on the icon shelf, behind St Luke.

Sometimes I look at this list and feel like I'm taking the easy route and hardly doing anything, and sometimes I look at it and have to suppress the urge to laugh hysterically because how in the world am I going to do all those things? And really, make all the presents this week? Indeed. And somehow my mother always manages to have a thoroughly deep-cleaned house before Christmas, and that sounds so wonderful... impossible, but wonderful. 

Everything important will get done. The less important things may not, and that will be okay. What's "important" changes, too; we didn't light the Advent wreath or read a reflection tonight, because Little Bear got sick and then fell asleep before supper. Did I fail at Advent already by not lighting the candle while Matt and I ate quickly, listening for Little Bear instead of discussing some profound meditation on the coming of Christ? Of course not. Advent is Advent regardless, and we just have to celebrate it as best we're able given our family circumstances, taking it a day (or less) at a time. Because I do love celebrating these feasts scattered throughout Advent, I make a point of trying to make them special. But life happens, and sometimes that just winds up being finding Little Bear a coloring page online; sometimes it's closer to just barely remembering to tack on a "Pray for us" to the saint of the day at the tail end of bedtime prayers. And that's still okay. We'll try again tomorrow.

29 November 2015

Luke 8

Take heed therefore how you hear. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given: and whosoever hath not, that also which he thinketh he hath, shall be taken away from him. (Luke 8:18)

Other translations present that convoluted "that also which he thinketh he hath" as "even what he thinks he has," in case that tripped you up, too; sometimes the Douay-Rhiems is harder to untangle than just reading the passage straight from the Vulgate!

Christ makes this admonishment at the conclusion of the parable of the sower, with the seeds falling on different types of ground and coming to varied but mostly bad ends. So faith is the thing that He's speaking of us "having" here. If we hear the Word of God but just let it sit there comfortably on the surface—heard something about God today, check! now what's next on my list?—instead of internalizing it, bringing it into our hearts and making it a part of ourselves and our lives, seeking to grow and to grow in our faith, then what we have is more of a hobby than a faith, isn't it? 

The seed that fell of the path: it just sat there on top of the path, and so it was taken away by the birds. The seed that fell on the rock: it sprang right up, but not being nourished, died right out again. The seed that fell among thorns: it grew, but not being made a priority, was slowly choked out. All thought they had the seed, the faith, but because they didn't actively take possession of it, seek to develop it, give it priority in allocation of resources, they didn't truly have it.

The concept of "to whosoever hath [faith], to him shall be given" is illustrated all over the Gospels, but we get two that I particularly remember in this chapter: the woman who touches Christ's cloak, and the daughter of Jairus. This woman has been hemorrhaging for 12 years, has spent all her money on doctors who haven't been able to cure her, and believing Christ can cure her, she touches the hem of his cloak and is immediately healed. "Thy faith has made thee whole," Christ tells her. She had faith, and to her was given healing.

Jairus is the "ruler of the synagogue" according to the Douay-Rheims, a pretty direct translation of the "princeps synagogæ" from the Vulgate, not that that actually tells me a whole lot about his role in the Hebrew culture because I'm not familiar with the relationship between the synagogues and the Temple. But, a title like that, and the fact that a few verses later he's referred to as Master ("Præceptor"), makes him sound fairly important. Already by this point in Luke's Gospel, many of the important people connected to the Temple want Jesus dead. But Jairus comes before Jesus, prostrating himself, begging Him to save his daughter from death. And when Jairus is informed that his daughter has died, Christ tells him to "fear not; believe only, and she shall be safe." Jairus believes, he has faith, and his daughter is returned to him.

One thing we can't try to take from this is that having faith means that all good material things will come to us, or that bad things happening despite our prayers means we don't really have faith or our faith wasn't good enough. Nope. Very frequently throughout the Gospels, Christ's initial response to someone who is seeking physical healing is "Your sins are forgiven." He heals our spiritual ailments first, and then, if it would be the best thing for our souls, He heals physical or otherwise material ailments. Sometimes, avoiding or removing a form of suffering would be bad for us spiritually. Sometimes it's better for us to be given the strength to bear something for His sake than to have it instantly made better. And He wants what's actually best for us, not just what we think is best or easiest.

27 November 2015

Seven Nearly-Advent Takes

Advent begins on Sunday! Ready yet? Me neither. Having two kiddos with head colds flopping around and fussing meant that I got pretty much nothing done today... but I may still be ready in time, thanks to others who already have their Advent-ing figured out. Here are seven resources I've found helpful:
Simcha Fisher, on practical ways of observing Advebt as a family while keeping it simple.

Advent: How We Try to Celebrate Things in Their Proper Season Without Feeling Like Total Jerks
Kendra of Catholic All Year, discussing how Advent is supposed to be distinct from Christmas and how her family keeps it so – without, as she says, being jerks.

Advent Customs: The Advent Wreath
Lisa of Are We There Yet? shares an excerpt from a pamphlet from the 1950s on Advent traditions, with a simple formula for praying as a family while lighting the Advent wreath.

A Catholic Mom's Trying-To-Remember-It-All Advent Calendar
Another post from Lisa of Are We There Yet?, going through her family's observances for the coming Advent.

3 Ways to Watch and Wait this Advent
Danielle Bean, drawing a beautiful parallel between our Advent's preparation for Christ's birth and the way an expectant mother prepares for her baby's birth.

EWTN's Advent hub
A collection of prayers and reflections, Advent traditions and the network's Advent programming.

The Magnificat Advent Companion
Daily prayers and reflections, longer essays, an Advent penance service with a tied-in examination of conscience, the Advebt Stations, the O Antiphons... We've used Magnificat's Advent booklet every Advent since we've been married, and have been very happy with it. It looks like Magnificat does still have print copies available, otherwise they offer it as an e-book or an iOS app.

Maybe—hopefully—I'll get a bit of time tomorrow to sit down and line out our family's plans for Advent. Any other resources or reading you've found helpful? If you already have plans made, how are you observing Advent this year?

Linking up with Kelly over at This Ain't The Lyceum.

26 November 2015


Happy Thanksgiving!

Today we're so thankful for our family and friends, a fun afternoon of good food and conversation, a bright, crackling fire warming our home, and so many other blessings, like squash.

My name is Rosalie, and I might have a squash problem.

Sweet dumpling. Carnival. Butterkin. Butternut. Gold nugget. So many wonderful shapes, colors and flavors!

Roasted, mashed, or broiled, in sweet or savory baked goods, I love winter squash. Each time that winter squash have gone down to $0.99/lb this fall/winter, I've brought more home. We have quite a bit of puréed cooked squash in the freezer now! So when it was time to figure out the Thanksgiving menu, I was an obvious person to volunteer to bring my mother's traditional butternut squash bake. My parents always host a good-sized gathering, so I tripled the recipe; I got started a little later than I'd planned, and since it was so much deeper than usual, it had just barely finished baking by the time we were ready to leave. But it did get done!

I had some help prepping the squash yesterday: Little Bear was very happy to turn the handle while I scooped cooked squash into the food mill. Did I forget to show this off? We found this beautiful like-new stainless steel food mill at the thrift store a couple of weeks ago, waffled a little over the exorbitant-for-a-thrift-store price of $10, brought it home anyway, and looked it up online to discover it retails for $120 new. Well! Certainly another thing to be thankful for; it works perfectly, and never have I mashed 7 cups of anything so quickly and smoothly.

Kit helped with getting it ready to go in the oven this morning by sitting up in my arms and grabbing at everything. Some day very soon, the little lady is going to succeed in getting some sort of real food into her mouth. She managed to stick her hand and the tip of her nose into Matt's mashed potatoes at dinner today, but nothing has made it into her mouth yet.

3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk, plus a splash more
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups mashed butternut squash

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream together butter and sugar. Mix in eggs, milk, vanilla and squash. Pour into an 11x7 pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until brown around the edges and set in the middle. If you want to, sprinkle on the following topping and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.

1/2 cup crisp rice cereal
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 Tablespoons butter, melted (optional)

I never make the topping when I make this for us at home, but I know better than to mess with a Thanksgiving tradition; I did put the topping on today, and then got to feel smug about my 3 year old carefully eating all the squash and leaving behind the sugary topping! If you have reluctant squash-eaters, though, the sweet and crunchy topping might help encourage them to give it a try.

23 November 2015

Luke 7

I love the first story we hear in this week's chapter, of the faith of the centurion whose servant Christ heals.

And Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent his friends to him, saying: Lord, trouble not thyself; for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof.

For which cause neither did I think myself worthy to come to thee; but say the word, and my servant shall be healed.

For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers: and I say to one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doth it.

Which Jesus hearing, marvelled: and turning about to the multitude that followed him, he said: Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith, not even in Israel.

This Roman centurion, an occupying soldier of rank, was given the faith to recognize Jesus for who He is. For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers... He recognizes the divine authority of Christ, relating it to his own experience of being an authority figure: If he told someone to do something, they did it. Period. Immediately. No arguments. And he believes that Christ has that same manner of authority on a much larger scale, and is able to command obedience even over intangibles like illness.

I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof ... but say the word, and my servant shall be healed. Others throughout the Gospels profess their belief that Christ can heal them if He wishes, as the centurion does here. But more than that, he also clearly understands that, despite outward appearances, Christ so utterly "outranks" him that he is not even worthy to stand in His presence. 

We echo these words of the centurion at each Mass: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed." Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea. And like Christ healed the centurion's servant despite his acknowledged unworthiness, so too does He come to us in Communion despite our unworthiness. 

The concept of "unworthiness" resonates strongly with me, the being made aware of my sinfulness, of how my choices, actions, and words separate me from God. It's so easy to not think about it, to allow cooking and housework and messy diapers and whatever I last read or watched and the Thanksgiving and Advent to-do lists and the kid-created catastrophe of the moment and everything else all day long to quietly just kind of push the concept of "sin" to the back of my mind. And let me tell you, I'm definitely nowhere near holy enough that I always make the right choice that draws me closer to God, especially when I'm not even thinking about the possibility of any and every thing I do bringing me closer to or farther away from Him.

If I'm conscious of my unworthiness to receive Christ, it gives me the push to ask His mercy, to get to confession more frequently, to try to pray more throughout the days and ask for the help to do better. If I'm not made aware of it, none of those things happen. I need those reminders, and I so appreciate them!

17 November 2015

Luke 6

The Sermon on the Mount is really not a very comfortable thing to hear, if you keep reading past the beatitudes, is it? Woe to you who are filled, for you shall hunger... Woe to you who now laugh, for you shall mourn... This reading sounds a lot like Pope Francis' message of not just being comfortable where we are, rather reaching out to the poor and those that need our help.

Each November, our chiropractor encourages her patients to help those in need by offering a free adjustment to those who bring in a bag of nonperishable food to donate to the food bank. When I was there yesterday, they already had several tall stacks of boxes full of donated food!

Being comfortable. It seems to me that many, most, people aren't opposed to helping others, whether by donating money or food or other material goods or time/talent volunteering or whatnot: it's just that it's so easy to have it not even occur to us that there is anything we could or should be doing to help, if we're too comfortably ensconced in our own life, our own daily tasks and troubles. I was so grateful for the call from the receptionist, reminding me that I could donate food instead of paying for this month's visit. Oh, of course! Yes, definitely I want to donate food! That we're coming up on Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas... has been on my mind all the time lately, but it took that phone call to broaden my focus from what I'm doing for my family to include what our family can do for others.

And a part of me keeps trying to feel guilty over that fact, that I didn't think of giving to the food bank this month on my own, as it's colder and more people are looking to them for basics as well as holiday fare. But it doesn't matter, does it? "Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful." (Luke 6:36) God showed me that mercy first, giving me a reminder when I needed it to look beyond my own immediate concerns to see the needs of others. It's how I respond to that merciful reminder that matters.

13 November 2015

Seven Quick Takes

It's winter for real now: we woke up to a negative temperature for the first time this morning. Nothing too terrible—I think it got up to 3 or 4 above in the middle of the day—but tomorrow evening, we're going to start tumbling into the 20s below. Brr! It's certainly not early for this kind of cold to be moving in, but the first real thermal drop of the winter is painful no matter when it comes.

Had a couple of "we live in Alaska" moments today: As we were heading to Mass this noon, a moose was trotting down the driveway fifty yards in front of us. Since it was moving away in the direction I needed to go, I slowly followed, but halfway down the driveway I noticed the much larger moose bedded down in the snow off in the trees to the side. We were now between the cow moose and her calf, and she was definitely bigger than the jeep. Lots of Hail Marys were said the rest of the way out to the road, please let us get out on the road without the cow coming after us! She didn't get up, thankfully.

The other bit of stereotypical Alaskan life was much less adrenalin-boosting. On the way to pick Matt up from work this evening, we passed a dog team on the bike/foot/etc trail along the side of the road. I know that a lot of people throughout the valley we live in have sled dogs, but this was one of the first times I'd seen any. It was a small team, only five or six dogs, but they could have been just a part of a larger kennel out for a training run. Little Bear was pretty excited to see them.

We have an amusing/frustrating history growing of Matt and my dad going out hunting but not catching sight of whatever they're after, and we at home seeing the same animal in the yard while they're gone. It happened during several moose and grouse hunting trips last year, and today would have been another instance: they were supposed to be out moose hunting today, but one of the snow machines was making a strange noise and they didn't quite trust it to take them all the way out and back. Hopefully the hunt won't close until they've had a chance to get out! The limit on this hunt is 30 moose and at least 8 have been taken so far; this cold will strengthen the ice on the rivers they have to cross to get to the hunt zone, but we hope it will also keep other potential hunters at home...

Our diving temperatures have reminded us of why we're having such a hard time finding a house—the place we're renting is kind of like Mary Poppins: practically perfect in every way, aside from the shared walls. An attached garage, high enough in the hills to get the inversion, a fireplace: I'm almost certain that so far this winter, our heat has not kicked on at all. Will that change once we hit -20 F on Sunday? Unfortunately, the bedroom baseboards probably will overnight... The bedrooms are both on the same zone, which we keep at 65 because of Kit (and Little Bear's continued refusal to sleep under blankets. Seriously, child, you live in Alaska. Let me put quilts on your bed.) A good fire in the evenings will definitely keep the thermostat for the rest of the house from turning on the heat overnight, though.

No photos yet in this week's Takes... I was just flipping through my camera roll looking for photos of recent interesting things, and it appears that I haven't been taking many photos lately, but someone has. I give you, the last couple of weeks from Little Bear's angle:

Knuckles, her favorite food.

Special Car and Little Guy.

Daddy's ring.

A lot of the time, he's just holding the button down to see the flash go off because he got ahold of my phone for 30 seconds—I deleted several hundred blurry photos just now—but some of the time, it sure looks like he's learning to actually take pictures more intentionally. All of the filters and cropping are his; I just watermarked and shrank them.

Here's the photographer himself, helping me prep a sweet dumpling squash for the oven this morning:

Have a good weekend! As always, lots more quick takes to check out over at This Ain't The Lyceum

12 November 2015

Luke 5

I've been putting this off all week; I can't think of anything to say, because I don't have time to sit down and re-read the chapter several times and really think about it. Without realizing it, I guess I've been internalizing the idea that if I can't do it "right," going in depth, drawing something meaningful from the text the way my childless siblings can, it's not worth doing it at all. 

That's not true, and I know it; God didn't put me here in this present role and state of life and then say, "And you're just going to have to choose between neglecting the children, and waiting until they are older to ever read Scripture." That's wildly irrational. God is perfectly rational, so that attitude can't be from Him. And if it's not from God, then I need to stop believing it and letting it affect my (lack of) approach to reading the Gospel. But it's hard.

In Luke 5 this week, which I finally read this afternoon while feeding the baby and building blocks with Little Bear, Christ calls Simon, John, James, and Levi. And they drop everything, their whole lives and jobs and everything, and follow Him. That's pretty discouraging! There's one part of me, and I'm not entirely sure if it's cynical or not, that is looking at their response to Christ's call and saying, "There's a reason Christ only chose men to be Apostles!" I couldn't physically leave behind my 'job,' my children rely on me for their survival. It rather stings to hear this radical physical sacrifice praised when it would be wrong, sinful, for me to emulate; it loops right back to that thought process that's kept me from even reading this week, that there's this important thing [following Christ/reflecting on Scripture] that I should do, and here's an outstanding example of how to do it [the apostles/my siblings], and I can't do it in a way even close to what they can, so what are my efforts worth compared to theirs?

God asks different things of different people. I think that's something I'm supposed to be learning here: When the Pharisees contrast the fasting habits of St John the Baptist's disciples with those of Christ's disciples, He doesn't say that either group is right or wrong, or even that one is fine but the other is better. He says that their circumstances are different, and so of course their actions look different. Once the Bridegroom was taken away from them, then Christ's disciples would fast. One day, I will no longer have any young children in the house, and then my life and prayer will look very different. And no matter how long it is until then, it's not going to feel like it was long enough, looking back, even if it seems to stretch on forever right now.

No more of this contrasting my own efforts with those of others. I'm not in their circumstances. My only question should be, What is God asking of me right now?

03 November 2015

Passing it on

The kids and I made it to Mass yesterday for All Souls Day. Getting out of the house was a circus, as usual, and I probably said "Stop doing X we're going to be late!!!" five million times. And it was snowing, not as heavily as it had been earlier that morning, but enough for me to keep the radio off and sternly warn Little Bear that the roads are slippery so do not fuss and distract Mama. We live a good 20 minutes from the church on clear roads, and by the time we were halfway there yesterday, I was definitely wondering whether it was actually important to be doing this... But we made it, a little bit early even.

And then, there was the homily. Father really didn't pull punches! We have a responsibility to pray for the dead, he stressed. To offer Masses for them. To pray for the repose of our ancestors. To visit cemeteries and pray for those buried there, especially those who have been forgotten. He talked about how Catholics in other countries gather in the cemeteries on All Souls' Day to tend grave sites and pray for all those buried there. The souls in purgatory need our prayers, and we have an obligation to pray for them.

Parents have a responsibility to pass on these traditions and the whole of Catholic culture to their children, he reiterated. If we don't teach them to pray for the souls in purgatory, if they don't see us praying for those who have died, then when we die they aren't going to pray for us. If we don't make the Faith the center of our lives, the rhythm we live by, why would they do so? 

Visit a cemetery today, he instructed us. Bring your children. Say a rosary, or a decade of a rosary, or whatever prayers you can. Pray for the repose of those souls, even if you don't know any of them. Pray for all of the souls in purgatory.

Oh. Okay, going to Mass yesterday really was that important.

We'd already talked a couple of times over the course of the morning about All Saints and All Souls, how the saints are in heaven with God, and the souls in purgatory are people whom God is helping to become perfect so they can be saints in heaven too, so we pray for them that they will quickly become saints. I think that made sense to Little Bear; he explained it back to Matt after work yesterday evening. We stopped by a cemetery on our way home for supper, and Kit slept just long enough for us to get in a decade before she was very sure she needed to be done in her car seat, so we had to go home.

We've lost such a huge amount of tradition and Catholic day-to-day culture from just a few generations back, and it makes me so sad and frustrated. No one had ever told me before yesterday that we're supposed to visit cemeteries on All Souls Day! Why didn't they? Why didn't anyone I asked from my parents' generation know about it either? There's this huge body of cultural knowledge that I want to have, to form my kids in and build our family life around, and it seems like it should be all around us, but if I don't know what I'm looking for or even that I should be looking for something, it can be so hard to find.  Sometimes it seems impossible, passing on a Catholic culture to our children, when we're still learning it ourselves. Thank heaven for the priests and laypeople who do have a solid knowledge of our traditions, and share them with the rest of us!

01 November 2015

Luke 4

Wow, I'm early with this this week for a change! The fourth chapter of Luke picks up right after Christ's baptism in the Jordan River, beginning with the temptation in the desert and following the early part of His public ministry. This passage jumped out at me as I was reading today:

And the devil led him into a high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time;

And he said to him: To thee will I give all this power, and the glory of them; for to me they are delivered, and to whom I will, I give them.

If thou therefore wilt adore before me, all shall be thine.

And Jesus answering said to him: It is written: Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

What caught my attention was that Christ didn't contradict the devil's claims that all of the kingdoms of the world belong to him, and that he can give them to whomever he wishes. Nero, Diocletian, civilizations that practiced human sacrifice like Carthage or the Aztecs, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Hussein... It certainly has seemed, all through history, that some regimes have been diabolically inspired. But one name for the devil is the "father of lies," so is he here telling the truth, exaggerating, or out and out lying?

Psalm 23:1 The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and all they that dwell therein.

If all the earth and all the people in it belong to God, then "all the kingdoms of the world" can't literally belong to the devil. He is offering to give Christ what already belongs to Christ, and if it belongs to Christ, the devil doesn't have the ability to hand it out to anyone else. He does have some sway, though, given the fallen state of Man and our inclinations to sin: more obviously so in some "kingdoms" than others, but to a degree everywhere—the only people with perfectly pure, sinless hearts are in heaven.

Matt also pointed out that in context, no rebuttal of that point was strictly necessary. It didn't matter *what* He was offered, or whether the offer was valid or not: Christ was not going to agree to worship the devil. He didn't have to say "No, and that's not yours to offer anyway."

Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. That's going to be my verse to reflect on this week; goodness knows, I need to be reminded of it often enough. Not in a golden calf sort of way, but in every little instance when doing what I want to sounds easier or more enjoyable than doing what He's asking of me: choosing not to be "too tired" when Little Bear wants help building with blocks, bundling everyone in snow gear and going out to play even though it takes longer to get dressed/undressed than the kids will end up wanting to stay outside, putting celery in the soup because everyone else likes it better that way. Cultivating the domestic church is hardly glamorous! But it certainly does offer a lot of little opportunities to serve God by putting others first.