Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Monday, June 30, 2014

Poetry Break

There's been too much going on to get to the next portion of the "Children & Prayer" project.  Instead, today, here's a poetry break.  A favorite of mine, taken from a wonderful compendium of poems, The Harp and Laurel Wreath. (Not an affiliate link.)
The Builders
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.

Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.

For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.

Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.

In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the gods see everywhere.

Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.

Else our lives are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of Time,
Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble as they seek to climb.

Build to-day, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall to-morrow find its place.

Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky.

A favorite line of mine is the bit about "builders wrought with greatest care, each minute and unseen part; for the gods see everywhere."  It calls to mind the way construction was once done. Behind walls, underneath floors, there is beauty in older buildings.  Form and function.  Compare that to the way things are done today.  The underside of the floors in my newer-built home are purely functional, and that's all I can say about them.

Fortnight for Freedom: Day Ten

The Right to Practice Faith In Daily Life

~ Another USCCB fact sheet ~

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Garden Views: End of June

There is a wren couple that has taken up residence in our garden.  They sing quite loudly, so we can hear them, even when we cannot see them.  Their favorite singing spots are the maple tree and the privet hedge.  We've seen the female taking bits and pieces into the birdhouse.


I do not have many flowers blooming, which is a shame.  Here is what happens to be blooming at the end of June: petunias, lavender, Black-eyed Susans, oh my!


Well, almost blooming.




Sometimes I choose to sit in the garden, rather than work in the garden, so the onions and the lettuce are sharing space with weeds:



This summer's garden surprise?  PURSLANE!  After ripping it out of the garden for years, I decided to give it a try.  [Yay, urban foraging, right?]  It's a tasty leaf!  Rather sweet.  Full of Omega-3s, so I've been adding it to my veg/fruit smoothie this past week:


Herbs are thriving.  I'm letting the cilantro go to seed, because it re-sows so nicely.



Vegetables are coming along:

Plum Tomatoes

Cayenne

Cucumbers are flowering!

My dream garden includes lots of leafy greenery.  There is something so peaceful, being surrounded by shrubbery with trees arching overhead.  That describes the backyards of my childhood.  "Walls of green enclosures" describes a dearly loved garden that was mine for only a year and a half.  It has taken years with this garden, but I am finally getting close to my walls of green.






Happy June!

Fortnight for Freedom: Day Nine

Five decades of a rosary = 50 Hail Mary prayers

50 states in the United States = 1 Hail Mary per state

A man in Arizona has created a patriotic rosary and a prayer booklet that lets you pray for each state.  But you can do it on your own, too.  Open with the prayer from the USCCB:

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.


We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.


Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be "one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."


We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fortnight for Freedom: Day Eight


Here's an amazing link I stumbled upon!

Evening Prayer to be prayed during the Fortnight for Freedom.  I'm not sure that I will do this tonight, as I don't want to supplant the Evening Prayer I for a Sunday.  However, here it is, available to do any other night for the remaining nights.

Friday, June 27, 2014

7 QT: Fortnight for Freedom Edition



A “Fortnight for Freedom” observance on this week’s 7 Quick Takes, featuring seven saints whose lives speak to people who live in times of persecution.  As reprehensible as I find the secularization of the United States, it does not yet compare with the persecution seen in other parts of the world today.

Whether your livelihood is threatened because of your Christian values, or whether your very existence on this planet is at risk because of anti-Christian terrorists, you are not alone.  We have limitless Saints who have gone before us.  They pray for us.  They inspire us to remain steadfast and faithful.

Here, in no particular order, are seven Saints who I find remarkable examples for unique reasons.  Yes, it is an over-simplification of their lives and times.  But, this is 7 Quick Takes; sorry, not sorry.

~  ONE  ~

He is remarkable because he had an entire household dependent upon him.  It might have been tempting, to keep his head down and not anger the king.  Even though the king was wrong in trying to get an annulment for a marriage for which he’d already received a dispensation.  With Thomas More as an example, you cannot use “I’m the primary provider” as an excuse to compromise on you principles.

~  TWO  ~

In choosing between God and Caesar, Thomas had to go with God.  Adversarial leaders of a nation needn’t be directly complicit in persecution.  In the case of St. Thomas, the king complained about the priest being a nuisance, and the kings’ men took it upon themselves to rid the king of his inconvenience.

~  THREE  ~

The first Christian martyrs, right?  Childhood will not protect you from a tyrant.  In order to hold his temporal power, a person in position of authority might kill ‘inconvenient’ children.

~  FOUR  ~

Ah, another victim of politically motivated courts.  And people you thought were your friends, feeding you to your enemies. I know some people doubt God taking sides in a battle.  However, it doesn’t negate the “use a person for your own ends and then dispose of her” attitude of the French towards Joan.

~  FIVE  ~

This woman did not die a martyr.  She lived during the Spanish Civil War, where institutionalized persecution kept her from carrying out work that she felt called by God to do.  She’s an inspiration to me because of the way she carried on trying to do God’s will, despite the anti-religious furor of her age.

~  SIX  ~
(Including well-known names such as Edmund Campion, Margaret Clitherow, Robert Southwell, & Henry Walpole)

These martyrs experienced sham trials or no trials at all.  Many (beyond these forty!) were accused of treason, as you can read in history books.  But Queen Elizabeth I’s definition of treason?  Attending Mass, saying Mass, participating in the Sacraments.

~  SEVEN  ~

We hear about how the French Revolution was all ‘power to the people’ and all that.  Apparently, the people were extremely threatened by 16 women who were praying, living, and working together in a religious community.  This still scares some people, doesn’t it?



Thanks for hosting 7 Quick Takes Friday, Jennifer!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Monday, June 23, 2014

What is a contemplative life?

“Keep in mind that I say we should all try to be contemplatives, since we are not here for any other reason.”

Way of Perfection, Ch 18.3

The contemplative life.  This is daunting for me to attempt to explain in a few words or a few sentences.  There is so much written about the contemplative life for Christians of all stages, other religious faiths, and even seculars who would describe themselves as “spiritual, if not religious.” Here are three good Catholic sources for descriptions on the contemplative life:

·         Fr. Gabriel, in the “Little Catechism of Prayer,” wrote, “The contemplative life is a form of Christian life in which one endeavors to live not only ‘for God,’ but also ‘with God.’ It is not restricted to religious, but can also be lived perfectly in the world.” He goes on to say that this is done through spiritual exercises (prayer, mortifications, practicing the virtues). 

·         Contemporary author Connie Rossini shared in her e-book “Manual for Mental Prayer” that the contemplative life is one which is ordered toward union with God.  This is achieved through prayer and mortification.

·         An obvious source for a look at the contemplative life is St. Teresa of Avila. “I repeat, it is necessary that your foundation consist of more than prayer and contemplation.  If you do not strive for the virtues and practice them, you will always be dwarfs.”  (Interior Castle, VII: 4.9)

What is the common theme in each of these descriptions?  The contemplative life is not defined solely by the time spent in active prayer.  Anything that happens during meditative time must spill over into a life of virtue.  In any number of places in her writing, St. Teresa describes this way of life as living as both Mary and Martha.  So often, we try to take sides about who is offering more to the world, siding wherever our natural inclinations happen to be more Mary or more Martha.  Stop doing that.  Strive to integrate the industrious work of Martha with the prayerful attendance of Mary.  In describing those who have achieved this integration, St. Teresa said, “Mary and Martha never fail to work almost together when the soul is in this state. . . When active works rise from this interior root, they become lovely and very fragrant flowers. . . The fragrance from these flowers spreads to the benefit of many.  It is a fragrance that lasts, not passing quickly, but having great effect.”  (Meditations on the Song of Songs, Ch 7)

St. Teresa also wrote, “Union consists in the spirit being pure and raised above all earthly things so that there is nothing in the soul that wants to turn aside from God’s will; but there is such conformity with God in spirit and will, and detachment from everything, and involvement with Him, that there is no thought of love of self or of any creature.” (Spiritual Testimonies, #25)

So, wait.  You mean, you do this with children?

I believe that children are natural contemplatives.  Observe children when they become forgetful of the world around them, so intent are they on their task at hand.

From “Story of a Soul,” where St. Therese of Lisieux is writing about the happy childhood she remembers before her mother died.
  
“Ah! How quickly those sunny years passed by, those years of my childhood, but what a sweet imprint they have left on my soul!  I recall the days Papa used to bring us to the pavilion, the smallest details are impressed in my heart.  I recall especially the Sunday walks when Mama used to accompany us.  I still feel the profound and poetic impressions that were born in my soul at the sight of fields enameled with cornflowers and all types of wild flowers.  Already I was in love with wide open spaces. Space and the gigantic fir trees, the branches sweeping down to the ground, left in my heart an impression similar to the one I experience still today at the sight of nature.”

 
Putting aside for the moment individual temperament, I believe that most people are born with this sense of wonder.  It’s more easily observed in children, who do take time to stop to smell the roses.  And watch ants.  And play in tidal pools.  And gaze at clouds.  One day, when my son was only two years old, I was passing the room in which he was playing.  He turned to see me at the door and beckoned me to the window with him.  “Mommy, look!  Clouds!”  I leaned against the window sill, watching the fluffy white cumulous clouds, moving gently across the blue summer sky.  Nothing noticeably remarkable was happening up in the sky.  He was merely taken with the moment of beauty in the pretty summer day.  We didn’t say anything.  (For once in my life, I was intuitive enough to know to just shut up, watch the clouds, and not make it a teachable moment.)

Yes, children are natural contemplatives.  I wrote early in this project of mine that we are cultivating a garden that’s already been planted.  Perhaps the best thing we can do to foster the contemplative life in children is to improve the soil by offering them a world of beauty: nature, music, literature, artwork.  Then plant the seeds of faith: God’s creation, art as a gift of the Holy Spirit.  Maybe work in a little compost with the soil: every small task we do with love, even the unpleasant ones, can be an offering to God.  (Enough with gardening?  Sorry!  I write this on a beautiful day when my senses are overwhelmed by the glory of God’s earth.)

In “The Living Flame of Love,” St. John of the Cross shares quite a few words about spiritual directors and how they can do so much to help or hurt the progress of souls under their care.  There are parallels between the relationship of John of the Cross writes about and the way a parent can foster spiritual growth in a child.  If I were to paraphrase what he write in Stanza 3, it would be that spiritual directors (think: parents) must leave souls alone, that intellect can hold back a soul.  We come close to God through faith, and this gets accomplished by an idleness that John of the Cross remarks upon.  When I read that, in Stanza 3, I couldn’t help but think of how children have a way of becoming reflective all on their own.

So, parents provide the opportunities.  Then, stand back.  Allow God to work.  Allow the child to mature.  Understand that this is not a one-time readying the soil/plant/observe growth/harvest.  This is the work of a lifetime.  We shouldn’t measure spiritual growth as we do physical growth or scholastic development.

More about this ‘inner idleness’ and the concept of parents as spiritual directors next week!



Fortnight for Freedom: Day Three






Today, I link to Connie Rossini for some wonderful family activities.

Fortnight for Freedom activities for the whole family

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fortnight for Freedom: Day Two






Whilst we do not commemorate the feast day of Saints on a Sunday, I cannot let the opportunity pass to make St. Thomas More be a part of any reflections on religious freedom.  If this weren't a Sunday, then June 22nd would be his feast day.


More's Psalm on Detachment



Give me the grace, Good Lord:
To set the world at naught;

To set the mind fast upon thee,
And not to hang upon the blast of men's mouths.

To be content to be solitary,
Not to long for worldly company.

Little and little utterly to cast off the world,
And rid my mind of all the business thereof;

Not to long to hear of any worldly things,
But that the hearing of worldly phantasies may be to me displeasant;

Gladly to be thinking of God,
Piteously to call for His help;

To lean unto the comfort of God,
Busily to labor to love Him.

To know my own vility and wretchedness,
To humble and meeken myself under the mighty hand of God;

To bewail my sins passed,
For the purging of them patiently to suffer adversity;

Gladly to bear my purgatory here,
To be joyful in tribulations;

To walk the narrow way that leadeth to life,
To bear the cross with Christ;

To have the last thing in remembrance,
To have ever afore mine eye my death that is ever at hand;

To make death no stranger to me,
To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of hell;

To pray for pardon before the judge come,
To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me;

For His benefits uncessantly to give him thanks,
To buy the time again that I before have lost;

To abstain from vain confabulations,
To eschew light foolish mirth and gladness;

Recreations not necessary -- to cut off;
Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss at right naught, for the winning of Christ;

To think my most enemies my best friends,
For the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.

These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasures of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it gathered and laid together all in one heap.


~ Poem written by St. Thomas More whilst imprisoned in the Tower of London, 1534-35
Source

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Fortnight for Freedom: Day One

Beginning today!





Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be "one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Source

Friday, June 20, 2014

7QT: In which I link up after a burst of energy!



I’ve missed 7 Quick Takes too much recently.  I've not posted and I've not visited any fellow 7QT-ers in a few weeks.  In a fit of blogging energy, I will post it my blog and visit others'.   

These are my 7 Not-As-Quick Takes today.

~  ONE  ~
Love this. Getting Kids Moving Might Be Easier Than You Think. A paleo dad gives the science behind why we choose to move or why we choose to be sedentary.  Very interesting ideas.  He has a trampoline, a trapeze bar, and a balance beam inside the house for his kids to play.  Mine would love it; not sure if my husband would go along with it.

~  TWO  ~
Whenever I have latched on to a topic, I find it everywhere.  Here’s another link about children and movement.  WHY CHILDREN FIDGET: And what we can do about it. Among the many, many, many reasons I don’t believe in year round school, extended school days, or zero time for recess is that, quite simply, I don’t believe that it is right or natural for children to sit still at a desk for hours at a time.  Schooling as we know it is a very new concept, compared with the history of humanity.  Even if kids didn’t have a carefree childhood before the advent of schooling, they were not sitting still.  They were working around the home.  It took a lot of physical exertion to keep a household going, once upon a time.

Therefore, I am a firm believer that the explosion of diagnoses of hyperactivity, attention problems, and the like might be linked to modern life.  Undoubtedly, many things play a role.  Certainly, though, the sedentary life is not natural.  Don’t start in with me on the need to keep up with foreign students’ math scores.  Longer school days and longer school years are not the answer!

~  THREE  ~
One thing that annoys me is how often people are hurt by the careless tongues of others.  I’m not sure why people think it is all right to comment on personal issues such as one’s weight, one’s age, one’s family size, one’s profession, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  To the lady ashamed of being pregnant with her fourth.  Yes, I have been there.  I do know the sense of relief that comes from having a stranger give their approval upon learning of my pregnancy, instead of their incredulity or horror.

Others’ family size is one of those things I don’t dwell on.  I don’t talk about family/friends/neighbors, wondering why they don’t have any/have only one/have nine.  So, more than wondering why people are so bold about offering unsolicited opinion on the lives of others, I guess the better question is why such things cross their mind in the first place!

~  FOUR  ~
This.  Yes.  I’ve got nine kids.  Are we killing you yet?  The reason this one knocks it out of the park is this sentence here:

 Resource abuse and overuse happened in parallel with demographic decline.

Precisely! Every environmental, carbon footprint no-no has gotten worse as the birth rate plummets.  Materialism has increased, as the birth rate has tapered off.  And this:

The problem is not simply how many people are killing the planet, but how they are doing it!

 Those who would point their progressive finger at large families ought to use a little logic.

~  FIVE  ~
On a lighter note, the two-year-old indicated that she wanted to try to use the toilet.  We got out the little training potty.  She sat there a few times Thursday.  Fully clothed.  But, get this: she fills her diaper when she’s sitting on the little potty!  She’s on the right track, no?

~  SIX  ~
I took these last weekend.  SUMMER BEGINS TOMORROW!!!




~  SEVEN  ~
Are you keeping up with the latest on teaching children to be contemplatives?

 New hostess this week for 7 Quick Takes!


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Spring 2014

A look at the progression of Spring, 2014.

Gosh, this took a long time to upload.  No matter.  It was a long winter, so it is well worth any time spent celebrating springtime!

March through June . . .