Friday, September 23, 2011

St. Pio (and me)

"Our Lord sends the crosses; we do not have to invent them."

I have only recently begun to attempt a devotion to St. Pio, known for long as Padre Pio by those who love him. He is a great modern saint, a model of holiness and humility, something of a celebrity (though this caused him considerable distress), bearing the stigmata and a gift for reading souls. As I have long wished for spiritual direction, I have wondered, if I had lived then and sought his guidance as a confessor or spiritual father, what he would have seen in my soul. It is a comforting thing, to be known.

On the other hand, he could be severe with sinners who were insufficiently contrite. Maybe they were curious rather than sincere, or maybe still too attached to their sin or full of self-love? I have no doubt he was able to discern which was more appropriate, a gentle consolation or a sharp-worded rebuke. I wonder, thinking of my own selfishness, which one I would have needed? Still, I think of how many he accepted as his spiritual children, and say, "Why should it be too late because he is no longer on this earth? It must be much easier for him now to obtain blessings for them." This both scares and encourages me, but any saint of God cannot refuse a plea for help, right?

I am reading biographies from the library again, because I can't decide which one(s) to buy. The ordeals caused by his own superiors, whom he obeyed even when it grieved him deeply to do so, make me think of him as an ideal saint to invoke as a patron of priests. Especially now, with so much flying around about "celebrity priests"--the good and the bad, they need him.

My favorite post-canonization story of him is here.

St. Pio of Pietrelcina, pray for us!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Happy Hobbit Day!

(I got the name right this year.)

Here's Wikipedia's entry explaining the holiday. I love the fact that people have tried to reconcile the Gregorian calendar with Tolkien's Shire calendar, to the extent that there is actually an alternative date.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I love conversion stories, especially those of people smarter than I am. John C. Wright tells his:
Upon concluding through a torturous and decades-long and remorseless process of logic that all my fellow atheists were horribly comically wrong about every basic point of philosophy, ethics and logic, and my hated enemies the Christians were right, I wondered how this could be. The data did not match the model.

Being a philosopher and not a poseur, I put the matter to an empirical test.

For the first time in my life, I prayed, and said. “Dear God. There is no logical way you could possibly exist, and even if you appeared before me in the flesh, I would call it an hallucination. So I can think of no possible way, no matter what the evidence and no matter how clear it was, that you could prove your existence to me. But the Christians claim you are benevolent, and that my failure to believe in you inevitably will damn me. If, as they claim, you care whether or not I am damned, and if, as they claim, you are all wise and all powerful, you can prove to me that you exist even though I am confident such a thing is logically impossible. Thanking you in advance for your cooperation in this matter, John C. Wright.” — and then my mind was at rest. I had done all I needed to do honestly to maintain my stature as someone, not who claimed to be logical, objective and openminded, but who was logical, objective, and openminded.

Three days later, with no warning, I had a heart attack, and was lying on the floor, screaming and dying.
Read the rest.

H/T Mark Shea, of course.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'm a Winner!

I'm feeling very affable toward Happy Catholic right now, although many of you are already aware of this wonderful blog. I just won a copy of Living the Call by Michael Novak and William E. Simon. I hope to read and post about it soon, along with another book I read that's overdue for a review.

Update: I've been called out. Well, I'm an incorrigible procrastinator. I was trying to decide which of Julie's regular types of posts to tell her I like best, and I couldn't decide--which incidentally reminds me to tell you that I voted for her in "Best Potpouri of Popery" of the Cannonball Catholic Blog anti-Awards, and you can too--or whoever you feel deserves it. I wasn't influenced by my new book. :-) But I think I decided--yes, it's her book reviews.

Monday, September 19, 2011

On Anger and Impatience

There is no sin nor wrong that gives a man such a foretaste of hell in this life as anger and impatience.
--St Catherine of Siena

Friday, September 16, 2011

Declutter Day 5: Let Go of the Guilt

Yesterday was about asking some questions and making decisions about whether all this stuff has a place in your life. I know decisions can be hard. Actually, they're easy--you just don't always like to make them, if you make them honestly. Truth? I probably am not going to ever make enough candles to justify the stash of wax I possess.

But as you ask yourself the same questions over and over, it gets easier to see what you should keep and what you don't need to--sometimes shouldn't--keep. You accept that you can let go of things that you once had something invested in. Maybe it was money, or maybe it was some ideal. Throwing out--or even donating--something that has this sort of claim on your ownership may feel like a waste. But if you have ascertained that it's something you don't want or love, then the truth is that you are investing in something more valuable. Order. Peace of mind. Simplicity.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Declutter Day 4: Ask Yourself Some Simple Questions

On the face of them, at least, the past three days have been decluttering no-brainers. I've had lots of experience with setting goals. I was already on the ball about how to get stuff out of the house (once it was actually so designated). And of course it's easier if you start with the easier stufff.

Here's where we start to get challenged. Now you have to think a little bit. You have to engage each item you're encountering. Do you really need this? Do you love it? And all the other questions from the original article that basically amount to this: The time and space that your life occupies are finite. Do you have room in your precious life for this?

It slows you down a bit, to weigh these questions, item after item. But you know what? Not as much as the drag that clutter has on your life. And the more you ask yourself these questions, the easier it is to answer them. Your perception of this stuff, and of its place in your life, sharpens so that eventually, with practice, your knowledge of whether to keep or save something becomes automatic.

I admit I am out of practice. Maybe you are, too. That's okay. I have a feeling it will all come back to us. So commit to making some decisions and acting on them. More tomorrow on this one, right?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Declutter Day 3: Start with the Easy Stuff

Self-explanatory, right? If I want a really quick purge, it's a simple matter to pull some trash from my mounds of paperwork--junk mail, obsolete lists, old newspaper that's been used as a drop cloth. (Seriously, the paper mess is bad here.)

Ditto with toys, although I have to do it quietly. These kids have the ability to evince an attachment to even the most beat up, broken, unusable toys.

I have found that this "easy stuff" phase will carry me pretty far. The author of the decluttering article behind my five-day spurt is right that this actually becomes easier with practice. Tomorrow I'll look at how the process of purging becomes more automatic by, paradoxically, becoming more deliberate.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Declutter Day 2: Set Up a Donation Station

Actually, I already had this.

It was a matter of survival. With ownership of all of the stuff that being a household of 11 entails, there's bound to be some chaos in the management of it. And if I'm trying to reduce the quantity of that stuff, I have to set it aside very clearly or it is just going to get dragged back into the parade of laundry, toys, books, etc. that circulate in this home. We have a closet in our foyer where I keep boxes on the shelves for such things. I even manage to keep them sorted by destination a lot of the time. Once a box is filled, I mark it (if it isn't already labeled) and load it up into the van. I did need a couple of new, empty boxes, so I set those up today.

And I will just say, once you put your newly full donation box in the car, make sure you drop it off at your earliest convenience, instead of lugging it around with you to every play date, Mass, and grocery run for weeks. Not that I ever do that.

Do you have a way to manage "outgoing clutter"?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Declutter Day 1: Set a Daily Goal

Having a goal is the key to success, and I've heard that if you don't write a goal down, it doesn't count! Here's my daily goal for decluttering my house this week:

Declutter one bag's worth and for 15 minutes.

I"m allowing myself quite a bit of flexibility here, because I need to make it easy to succeed, or I will easily get discouraged and fall off the bandwagon. I know myself. But I also need to demand something of myself for the same reason--it's easy for me to fool myself that I'm making progress when all I'm really doing is shuffling papers.

The article refers to purging, but I'm not limiting myself to just stuff I throw away--I'm counting putting stuff away properly, and using some of the allotted time to establish "a place for everything" is completely allowable. I have plenty of things lying around making a mess, but that I legitimately need or want, but I can't use it in the shape it's in, or can't get to it, or just can't find it. Of course, I have plenty of stuff to throw away, too. Either one will do.

"One bag" is loosely defined. It can be a box, or a garbage bag, or my purse that need cleaning out. Usually I mean a grocery bag's worth of stuff--if you have ever gathered a grocery bag's worth of sundries and tried to put it away, you know that it has the potential to take every bit of 15 minutes and then some. Of course, it doesn't have to. One of my decluttering tricks is to use my time to collect like items from around the room, so putting them away is a simple minute. I will sometimes choose to clear a space of all the little things that have collected there, but it does take a while to go through the house putting everything in its home.

Sometimes knocking that one bag out is a cinch, and I have maybe ten minutes left of my time. For example, I recently left out a big pile of fabric that will easily clear two bags' worth as well as a good-sized corner of the room. In cases like this, that time is a bonus I don't want to waste--I will take this time to just grab whatever's low-hanging fruit and declutter it without having to keep track of it for my quota.

And (being flexible) if I get pressed for time, I don't have to feel guilty for turning away from the task. My challenge is to do both; but if I achieve either my time or my quantity, that's good enough.

Have you set a daily goal to clear your clutter? What is it?

Declutter with Me

My goal is to do one of these each day this week.

Join me?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Kids and Messes

We are trying to adjust to a new schedule now that school has started again in earnest. The new things we are now accommodating are having 5 official students (up from 4 last year), a demanding but adorable addition to the home team, and (once again) a multi-grade teacher with prolactin-induced narcolepsy. One of the challenges is chores. We were just getting into a groove when the demands of education pre-empted my routine.

So here are some links that seemed related, to me, in a sequential sort of way.

Melanie Bettanelli makes a little observation the other day that gave me great pause, not so much because it was a revelation as because I utterly sympathized. I am in the middle of this tension, and it's heightening:
And then because Dom and I had been talking about the ancient Romans and military tactics over breakfast, suddenly I recalled the famous words of the Roman historian Tacitus: "they make a desert and call it peace."

Oh yes, that speaks so perfectly to the great tension in my life: if the house is very clean, I've probably been ignoring the kids and their needs.

I tend to fall on the other side of the spectrum from "desert," but I've been fighting through to the other side, not so peaceably. With nine kids, it's tough to restore order to kid-inflicted chaos all by myself, as Simcha Fisher points out. She also points out the conundrum this creates.
A priest once counseled me to make my children help me more. There are so many of them, he said, and it’s generally their messes I’m cleaning up. What a simple solution to my irritability, my exhaustion, my frustration with my duties!

I’ll forgive that priest some day.

In the meantime, let me explain, Father. When your kids help, it doesn’t help. At least, not for the first 46,923 times you get them to help. They need to be trained, and it would be faster to train an olive tree to grow in the shape of an ampersand. It would be faster to train a cocker spaniel to type in Mandarin.

It would be faster just to do the job myself.

I've been working on the training thing. And frequently I realize I need training more than my kids do. In anger management, for instance. I saw this link and clicked on it, knowing from the title that I should just print it out and memorize it: 8 Ways to Take Anger Out of Mothering
Here are a few things that help take me out of AngryMom mode.

1. Have a list of Bible Verses ready.

They can pertain to anger. Or they can just be verses that help you remember you’re loved by God. Or verses that you know you need to read at this time in your life.

I can't decide if this is my favorite tip, or #5: Pretend there's a nanny cam.

So there we are. Part reflection, part entertainment, part how-to.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Gratifying sound bite for the day

If I devolve into a blog of nothing but links for a while, I hope you'll forgive me. I try to discriminate in my linking, since most people who arrive here are probably reading the same things I am reading. But sometimes you just have to wave it around in your virtual fist and yell, "Yes!"

Or something.

From Simcha Fisher:

I do expose my kids, when they’re ready, to ideas that are contrary to what we believe. On the other hand, one essential way to make them ready is to instill a deep, visceral, emotional loyalty to the ideas which are true (such as: there is a God, the Church is not evil or repressive, and Tolkein could kick Philip Pullman’s bony atheist hinder without even putting his pipe down).

Monday, September 5, 2011

For a Lazy Monday

I've been thinking about a few posts. I mentally composed one last night as I went to sleep, but since I didn't write it down, it's escaped me entirely. Oh, well, I'll try again some other time. In the meantime, for your listening pleasure, I offer you this musical gem:


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