Monday, January 31, 2011

Them's Praying Words

I have come to a conclusion: I read too much.

Okay, this is a conclusion reached "early and often"--ever since my mom told me at 10 years old to stop reading a book and go play with friends (whom we were visiting out-of-state) I have known that I have a tendency to let reading take over my life. Nowadays, especially, it means that if I'm reading blogs and news on the Internet (or a Jane Austen novel, or the kids' astronomy textbook--but usually the Internet) there's very likely something else not getting done that needs to. You know the drill. Of course reading is a good thing, and some reading is necessary for our homeschooling, spiritual growth, functioning as a good citizen, friend, and well-rounded human being. All of that.

I'm not going to go any further into the tension of finding the right balance for intellectual and informative engagement proper to my situation in life. I am just going to say this: too many times I have used some idea of duty as an excuse for reading, and confused being informed with doing something. As in, "I need to know about this stuff [politics, curricula, spiritual warfare] so I can do something with it." So I read the latest posts in my reader and conclude that I have done my duty and need to go cook dinner. I do need to go cook dinner, but I'm fooling myself that I have helped in much any other way.

Nowhere is this truer than on the topic of prolife work. Our family does some prolife things--donate, pray, speak up. Reading about the latest trends; sharing powerful, true-life anecdotes; staying informed about local or national civic activism--these can all help.

But abortion is such a huge, confused, many-tentacled, tragic part of today's society--and it's so easy to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of this evil. A few years ago I stopped reading a well-known site devoted to prolife news because of the despair and helplessness that ensued in my head.

That doesn't mean I never read prolife news. Let's face it: we need to shine a light on this ugliness to dispel it. We also need to recognize that abortion has got to be one of those demonic entrenchments, to be driven out by prayer and fasting, in addition to our active work. In fact one of my most helpful conclusions to many of the stories I would read was, "I need to pray more." Then maybe I would say a Hail Mary and click away.

So I'm taking this small step.* It's just a step. But here goes. Every time I read the word "abortion" I am going to stop and pray. It will still be a quick prayer--but in a story or post like this one, for example, I will have already stopped four times to pray. This little step will achieve three things: 1) it will help me read less, like putting down your fork after every bite helps you eat less; 2) it will increase my offerings of petition and repentance, which is what all prayer is, and which the saints plead with us to make; and 3) it will reorient my way of thinking from one of frustration, hopelessness, and disavowal to one of penance, hope, and joy--from sin to Jesus.

Here are a few of the prayers I intend to use:

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.
Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

*(And others, please God, to fight abortion that I won't necessarily be blogging about.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A little bleg

I'm getting a lot of traffic thanks to Elizabeth's nod to yesterday's post about Candlemas, so I thought I'd take advantage of a boost in readership and ask you guys:

Where do you buy your icons?

I'm trying to set up a new area for our family altar, with the patron saints of our family represented (along with any other inspiration that strikes me). I love personal devotional spaces like Elizabeth's altar and the Anchoress's "oratory." I've seen a few really beautiful examples of icons in catalogs and on blogs, which I usually forget about when it comes time to do something about it. Of course.

If you have bought icons, or just know a good source, can you leave it in the comments section? Thank you!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Candlemas is Coming!

This beautiful feast, which used to mark the end of the Christmas season, celebrates the occasion of Jesus' presentation in the Temple and Simeon's witness that Jesus is a "light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel." At Masses around the world on this day, the Church blesses the candles which will be used for her liturgical rites all year.

It's been about four or five years since I learned that we can bring our own candles to be blessed for devotional use at home. Since then I have brought my basket laden with candles to Mass, for our pastor to include in the rite with which he blesses the candles. But it always seems I am scrambling the night of February 2, trying ot think of--and find--what we will use this year. This year I will be ready.

These are the kinds of candles we've successfully in the past or want to try this year in our family prayer times.

Beeswax candles. This may seem a generic category but I want to note beeswax in a special way. The Church requires that liturgical candles be made of beeswax (or at least mostly of beeswax) because of its symbolization of Jesus' Incarnation (and indirectly, Mary's pure virginity). I give it priority when it's practical, especially for more significant feasts. A carved beeswax candle I received as a Christmas gift would look beautiful on our Lenten altar, and we made our Advent candles from rolled beeswax sheets this past year. Speaking of...

Advent candles. It seems as if we just put away all the Advent apparatus. But go ahead anyway and get next year's now. Order from a Catholic supplier; or see if your local Catholic bookstore has any left over. Appropriately colored tapers or votives from a department store work, too. If you want to make them, you can find beeswax sheets at some craft stores, or order some online--or I love this idea of painting white candles with crayons.

Altar/shrine candles. Options here are really quite diverse. Beeswax votives and tapers are available; I've also used tea lights, pillars, votives from Wal-mart and specialty candle shops, a Virgin of Guadalupe candle I found at the grocery store. The kids really like to have a blessed candle--any candle--lit when we gather to pray together.

Christ candles. We use one at Christmas and one at Easter. In the past we've used a tall white store-bought candle. This year we're rolling a beeswax pillar and studding it with cloves in the form of a cross.

Mary candles. I always have a blue candle or two in my basket for Marian feasts. One new tradition we will try this year is a Immaculate Conception novena candle. Better go get a white one...

Baptism candles. Renewing your baptismal vows on your baptism anniversary is a wonderful tradition. If you or other members of your family do not have the candle each of you received on that occasion, you can buy a replacement. (If your parish gives away the taper candles used at Candlemas or the Easter Vigil mass, they are excellent for this use--and they're already blessed!)

Memorial candles. This little tradition was inspired by the Jewish yahrzeit candle, which is lit for a loved one for one year after his or her death. In November, the month when we remember the Holy Souls, we light a votive candle for each family member who has gone before us, and for whose souls we pray.

and... :-)

Gaudete candle. This is my own little invention. I have a little pink candle I have started keeping in the vicinity of my family altar. On "bad days" I will light it to help me remember St. Paul's command to "rejoice in the Lord always," and St. James' counsel to "Consider it all joy;" to try to be a light to the world myself, to lift up my heart to the Lord, and take strength and solace in the knowledge that through trials he will perfect me.

Perhaps you have a beautiful candle or personal ritual that you love. Tuck your candles into your purse or a box, and I'll see you at Mass. I'll be the one with the candle-packed basket!

Update: Elizabeth Foss has a beautiful reflection on blessed candles at home.

Update 2: Hello, new readers! I have a question for you, if you would be good enough to take a look.

I love this

Ladies, go watch the video linked here. It is a fantastic little clip. (Okay, guys, you should go watch, too.)

Have I heard of Ravi Zacharias? It seems I must have, vaguely, before. The guy is obviously a giant of a thinker. A lot of what he says is very familiar, but he puts it together so skillfully.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thank you, St. Francis!

Remember this well: we are sometimes so busy being good angels that we neglect to be good men and women.
- St. Francis de Sales
(Today's quote from the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales)

Well, I don't think that I'm in much danger of being that kind of so-busy, but it's a good point to remember--we are called to be holy in our natural sphere. In fact, one of my perennial struggles is trying to be more than what I am, and neglecting to be what I am. More later on that, perhaps.

St. Francis is one of my favorite saints. He wrote extensively--he is credited with reconverting entire regions of France from Calvinism with his written pamphlets defending the faith, and he wrote many other spiritual masterpieces of devotion and pastoral direction. (
Here's a particularly exquisite example, and apropos of the vocation of mothers, of the gentle heart he has for souls.)
I don't know half enough about this great saint, but I know that this is a perfect day to resolve to read some of these great works that merited him to called a Doctor of the Church. Today is his feast day.

Do you have a favorite example (quote, title, anecdote) about St. Francis de Sales to share?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Revisiting a Nature Art Project

I recently checked in at Art Projects for Kids, a favorite kid-art site. Seeingthis entry made me happy. Now, I collect projects like this to do with my kids, but the truth is that I don't do half of what I mean to do. This project is totally doable (especially in a few months, when we can use flowers from our own garden). I know, because we've already done it!

I suppose I shouldn't boast about having this one under my belt already, because it was really almost all my girls' initiative. A few years ago, (I'm pretty sure this is how it played out,) I saw a blog, which I would credit if I could remember whose it was, whose kids had done pretty little nature pictures. I showed the pictures to my kids; I completely intended to do the same with them in a few days. But the girls collected their goods outside and ran with it then and there.

I've got some other little ones old enough now to try this, and I'm sure the girls would love to do it again. I can't wait until spring!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Why I Haven't Been Posting as Often as...oh, Never Mind

I thought about going into all the different factors that have kept me off this blog for almost a month--and as the days stretched on, the factors kept adding up. But really, all it amounts to is, I've been a little busy with life, something I'm sure you're very familiar with.

I'm very glad to see that some of you have still been coming by, and while I can't promise that I"ll have anything worthwhile to say anytime soon, I'll make the effort to be a little more sociable. :-)

In the meantime, I've been thinking about what in the blogosphere has gotten through the noise to make me say, "I am so glad I read that." Some (a very little) of those items ended up in my Google reader on this page, but I'm curious... is there anything in the two weeks of 2011 that you're glad to have written or read? Share it in the comments!


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