Friday, December 27, 2013

St. John's Love

December 27 is the feast day of St. John the Evangelist. I found out from this website about a merry tradition of blessing (and sharing) wine in his honor. It's not directly pertaining to the season, but I hear there aren't many better ways to make merry than opening up a bottle to pass around, right? I'm going to try and get a few blessed for the year, especially since I have a recipe for mulled wine I'm trying out this weekend. Read more about the blessing of the wine here at Catholic Culture.

Remember, it's still Christmas for three more weeks!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

May the astounding miracle of the Incarnation of the Word, come unto mankind as a sweet, helpless, lovable baby, break anew over you this holy and joyful season.

Merry Christmas from the Stallworths

Monday, December 23, 2013

O Emmanuel!

O Emmanuel, 
our King and Giver of Law: 
come to save us, Lord our God!

From the O Antiphons. More about the O Antiphons here.

More Advent songs here.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

O Rex Gentium!

O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: 
come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

From the O Antiphons. More about the O Antiphons here.

More Advent songs here.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

O Oriens!

O Radiant Dawn, 
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: 
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness 
and in the shadow of death.

From the O Antiphons. More about the O Antiphons here.

 More Advent songs here.

Friday, December 20, 2013

O Clavis David!

O Key of David, 
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: 
come and free the prisoners of darkness!  

From the O Antiphons. More about the O Antiphons here.

 More Advent songs here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

O Radix Jesse!

O Root of Jesse’s stem, 
sign of God’s love for all his people: 
come to save us without delay!

From the O Antiphons. More about the O Antiphons here.

I found this rendition at this post at Aleteia about Advent music. More Advent songs here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

O Adonai!

O Leader of the House of Israel, 
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: 
come to rescue us with your mighty power!

From the O Antiphons. More about the O Antiphons here.

 More Advent songs here.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

O Sapientia!

O Wisdom of our God Most High, 
guiding creation with power and love: 
come to teach us the path of knowledge!

From the O Antiphons. More about the O Antiphons here.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Reading aloud on St Lucia's Day

Apparently, I have lost the will to blog.

First, Part 2 of the home atrium interview was supposed to be the last week. Then I promised it to you for Wednesday. But on Tuesday night Evernote ate it. Evernote never used to do this kind of thing to me, until the last time I updated it on my phone, which is probably not even the most recent update available. Anyway,  I considered just putting up the phone interview in its raw form (at least I still have that), but I just haven't been defeated enough to do that, or motivated enough to redo it. Yet.

Instead, though, here's a nice little surprise from Melissa Wiley. I had Hannah's Christmas on my Christmas wish list of books, after seeing it recommended, and also basically loving all of her Little House books. A week ago, though, after seeing the prices for a used copy, I took it off the list. I just didn't think it was going to happen. But today, voila!

She also posted an introduction to the interview, which you can also get to from her place, Here in the Bonny Glen. She sounds so cute! But while you're here, let me tell you: I added her video to my playlist of children's book read alouds—which is now all of five books long. Now, there are tons of great kids' book videos online, I know it. But after searching and adding the first four, I got overwhelmed thinking about the possibilities. Then I forgot, for a long time, that I even started the playlist.

So, tell me, and maybe leave me a link in the comments: do you have a favorite video of a children's book?

Monday, December 9, 2013

One Week into Advent

My birthday was over Thanksgiving weekend (my first 39th!) and it was lovely, as I shared with you. Well, I thought I shared, but I haven't been paying attention to the blog as much as I meant to (what else is new), and so the blog posts I thought up just kept racking up. I cheated and posted the one for the day after my birthday for that date, but the second part about the home atrium that was due for last week will go up tomorrow. I'll post others as I fix them into a shareable form, for which I have decided this one now (barely) qualifies. But real life will not relent in passing by, and we've been trying to catch it in moments like these

I was going to say something clever here, but the kids objected to it. 

and these

Christmas trees before the first Sunday of Advent? I didn't say anything. No grouchy humbug here.
Seriously, they were having too much fun on "vacation" with Daddy for me to think about being grumpy.
I think I'm getting better. 

and these

Playing with friends at Krystin's! Although this mesmerization of the crowd with a Christmas TV show, aside from being the only way to take a picture with almost everyone in the frame, was the best (only) picture I took.

and I don't always capture them on schedule

Ditto with our Advent wreath. It would break the week before Advent starts. We had a simple brass ring with the cups to hold four tapers, very easy, very decorable (is that a word? Does it mean what I think it means?), very popular. As in, they sell out fast at our parish's book store, and are not restocked until next year. Since I would be out of town the first Sunday of Advent, I knew I likely wasn't getting one from there. Ordering a new one online didn't work out as amoothly and quickly as I hoped, so this past week I improvised.

I'm calling it a wreath, but it's more like an Advent cloche. I already had the cake stand, the ivy, and the tea lights. I bought the colored tea light holders from Hobby Lobby, where I went hoping to find either a bona fide Advent wreath or something I could make into one. 

I also picked up other candles, including a three-count set of white pillars, one of which you see here as my Christmas candle. I used some beeswax to affix the candle cups onto the cake stand. 

A little plain, but I like the understated look of it.

Still, I knew I would miss my traditional arrangement, so I also decided to attempt one with some floral foam, more fake greenery, and long candles. In the whole store I couldn't put together a matching set of three purple candles and one pink (rose) candle. So I bought three "formal" candles and two "tapers." Oh, well—that first week candle is always gone by the end of Advent. We'll just burn it down and use the last taper as a spare.

Close enough!

Did I ever mention that Advent is my favorite season?

Hey! I'm in time for the Advent wreath link up!

Friday, November 29, 2013

A short, and uncharacteristic, appreciation of Facebook

One of the neat things about Facebook is that people remember your birthday who otherwise wouldn't. And some of them come out of the ether to wish you well even if they have not spoken two words to you (in person, Facebook, or otherwise) in years. 

And another neat thing about Facebook is that you may actually know something about what's going on in the lives of these far flung friends, even if you haven't said two words to them. Even if you have never actually met.

And the neat thing about sharing your birthday with Thanksgiving is that you're already primed to be celebratory and warm and fuzzy and just busting with good will toward the whole world, but especially everybody you encounter. (It's also nice to have holiday felicitations to offer people in return for their birthday greetings.)

So, I found myself grateful for and solicitous of everyone who came to my attention over the past few days for any reason. I found myself quite easily and naturally giving thanks for these people being in my life, and praying for little graces for them and whatever they might be facing, good or bad. Because everybody is facing something, but, thank God, he doesn't mean that we should have to face it alone. That's what it's all about, bearing each other's burdens, and rejoicing with those who rejoice, and interceding for one another so we can all have a share in that eternal "Thanksgiving" feast.

And although singing the praises of Facebook is not something I would normally do, I am thankful for Facebook making it possible in Little Ways like this to build up the Body of Christ.

And, by the way, Happy Advent!

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Home Atrium: An Introduction

This is an interview I did a few years ago with Moira Farrell, the author of the Home Catechesis Manuals. It was meant to be a "Montessori/domestic church" article that ended up not happening. 

Back then I was just hearing on many of my favorite blogs about such things as atrium programs and Good Shepherd catechesis for children. I had to learn more, and as I did, I knew that there were many people who would be enriched by learning more about it, too. In fact, much of it, though it came to me sounding very formal and structured and "approved," is just a natural means of teaching children. Touching children's hearts means engaging their hands and their imaginations, and requires little more than intention. 

Although I've known that Moira has some wonderful insights to living the liturgical year with your kids at home, I never could decide how best to share them. Now we're coming up on a great time to begin putting some of the ideas she shares into action, so I'm posting it here as a two-part series. Part 1 today is our exchange by e-mail. We also talked on the phone, and I'll share that as Part 2 later.

Briefly, what is Montessori education? Why should Catholic parents be familiar with it?

A Montessori education is merely the type of education that embraces the learning process through the physical senses of the child. Although Maria Montessori is credited for discovering this method as the most natural and compatible with organic learning, the recognition of its truth is much more ancient. It was Thomas Aquinas who said, "Nothing is in the intellect which is not first in the senses." Beyond this discovery, Montessori further discovered several principles that, when implemented, enormously assisted children in their learning process. Some of these include creating a prepared environment, matchmaking meaningful exercises to meet a child's particular sensitivities, control of error within the design of the exercises, as well as the isolation of difficulty.

What is an atrium?

Atrium means "ante room" or "before room." Architectually speaking, it is the interior space before the church, where one enters in order to come into the church building itself. Montessori's idea of the atrium was symbolic of the environment in which a child dwells as he prepares to enter into his fuller sacramental life in God's Church. In this sense, that environment is chosen and designed by God to be the family, aptly called the domestic church.

Is a parish children's atrium a catechism program in itself, or does it support the program?

There is not a formula for an atrium—it is merely the name used for a particular space designated for the catechizing of children. The name was adopted and used by Sophia Cavalletti, who worked for 25 years with children, and wrote about her observations in working with them. Parishes who establish an atrium are usually implementing the programs and methods Cavalletti used, but there is not a hard and fast formula for making an atrium, and it does not necessarily need to be established within a church either.

What is a home atrium? What would it look like? How would it function?

The home atrium is the family—the domestic church. It looks like your home, and it functions like your everyday life.

What ages especially benefit from the kinds of activities presented? (How or why?)

The activities of the home atrium affect and benefit ALL of its members. Perhaps it is most surprising to see the smallest members become engaged and captivated, and remember things even when we were not aware they were listening. I have also been astonished by some of the things my older chldren have said. One such example was my son (who was 8 at the time) after reflecting on the event of the Last Supper, when he said, "So really, the Last Supper was all of the apostles' First Communion." Amen to that!

But the effects are not limited to just the little ones. In my own experience, the work of our home atrium has transformed ME, and has completely transformed the way I think about teaching the faith.

What kinds of activities lend themselves well to a home atrium?

The simplest activities can have the profoundest meaning, so I find the best ones are not complicated ones but are the ones that are easily adapted into family life. Lighting a candle, reading pieces of scripture, talking about the words of Jesus and the mystery inside a parable, telling a story with your own words, etc. Beyond that, I enjoy the process of preparation and letting the chldren help me. They love to take out the colored banners for the change of the liturgical seasons, to set up the Advent wreath, or to light the candles at prayer time. These things are very simple, but it is the meaning of these things we do that makes the work appealing.

What kinds of materials can a family make for themselves that are especially fruitful?

Frist are the things that benefit the whole family—materials that help the family celebrate the events and seasons of the liturgical year such as colored banners or drapes for the liturgical seasons, Advent wreaths, Jesse trees, a Christ Candle, an Easter Cross, etc. Second are things more directly for the children. These may include a miniature Mass kit, miniature priest vestments (if the children are boys), story boxes for the parables of Jesus, or a beautiful reading and prayer corner. But apart from these "things" it is important to note that it is not just the acquiring of objects that is important, but the acquiring of habits—and by this I mean the laying down of traditions for your domestic church, that is of the utmost importance here. For example, one of our traditions is to sing the seven verses of "O Come Emmanuel" when we light our Advent wreath. There is no cost here, but the habit is deeply ingrained, and even though I have the verses printed out, most of my children don't need to look at the page to sing them anymore, because we repeat them every year, during the four weeks of Advent.

What materials would you say are worthwhile to purchase, perhaps because they can't be effectively made at home? (A miniature Mass kit comes to mind, just as a possibility to throw out there...)

I have not found anything so far that I could not make on my own. I would only say that the making of things should be a labor of love, and if making some particular thing becomes a burden, maybe it's better to purchase that particular thing "ready made" instead.

Do kids seem to have a favorite type of presentation, or respond well to a particular story, devotion, etc?

In my experience, children respond very well to beauty. If your presentation contains beautiful objects, they will be captive. If your story is told beautifully, they will listen. If you give them a page to color with beautiful images, they will be eager to do their best to color it. Beauty comes from God, Who is the source for everything good and beautiful. Beauty speaks to children with or without words, and to adults as well.

Many parents may feel intimidated by the idea of taking on a large-scale or long-term project like this, or they may not be able immediately to afford (in money or time) to do much. If you could make only three recommendations for materials or presentations, what would they be? (or, what would be a bare minimum or a good start-up?) Why these?

I would start with the resources for the domestic church: colored drapes, Jesse Tree, Advent Wreath. I would make the Jesse Tree with the help of the children, and while working on the pieces I would share the stories behind the symbols. This preparation is a wonderful activity, and even if the results are less than perfect, the process is invaluable.

What kinds of successes have you seen with the use of a home atrium in passing on the faith to children?

One of the best places to see this result is in the organic creative processes of children. They will create and RE-create whatever it is that they love. Much like a 9-year-old girl will draw horses over and over and over again, what comes out of a child in terms of artwork is the result of an interior love and interest. My children have made Jesse Trees, nativity sets, O Antiphon symbols, miniature statues of many saints, scapulars, prayer books, and lots and lots of images of their favorite sacred symbols and icons. And they do these with great enthusiasm and interest.

Is there anything you would have parents watch for to gauge their success, or fine-tune their practices?

I would simply say "be an observer" and let their children lead them.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Praise the LORD! 

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. 

Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. 

Full of honor and and majesty is his work; And his righteousness endures forever.

                    Psalm 111:1-3

Thursday, November 14, 2013

It's Autumn—Pretty Happy Funny Real

It's a beautiful fall, and it's finally turned cold around here. We had a beautiful day here two days ago, when the wind began to blow in earnest but the weather was still balmy and bright. The yellow hickory leaves rained thick and fast on top of us, like a golden snowfall.

This is the season when the world seems to spin faster even as nature is slowing down, people circle in and celebrate life and family and memory and now.

It suits me fine. I am feeling the need to draw inward and mull over my thoughts, even as the needs of the world around me are making themselves felt. Yes, needs, I hear you loud and clear. But first...

round button chicken

Just dropping in to celebrate a few of life's little joys.


My grandmother's funeral was November 2, appropriately. After attending the beautiful ceremony and visiting with family, we took the opportunity to stop at my grandfather's grave, which was in a different cemetery. You might not immediately think of visiting a cemetery on the side of a mountain at sunset as a joyful thing, but it was. We prayed and talked and gave thanks for the people God gives us.  The colors were beautiful—the lights and clouds in the sky slowly shifted, and the shadows fell down the slope, over the bright foliage of the trees so strikingly. 


Red velvet doughnuts from the local Daylight Donuts. 
Let me just say... these are something special.


Anwen is two now. This means she's loud at Mass, and impervious to requests that run counter to her own ideas. So this picture is from a bulletin board in the atrium at our parish (St. Joseph Catholic Church) to where we regularly remove. I should have gotten a photograph of the actual statue inside the church, but this is what she saw. Authenticity. And what is this a picture of? 

"Baby Jesus and Daddy Jesus!"

We could call this a parenting catechizing fail, but aren't we supposed to see Jesus in everybody? And don't the greatest saints model for us the imitation of Christ as the height of holiness? So I think I'll go with "toddler win" on this one.


Pluot cake a la mode!

I don't know, this seemed like my most likely candidate for "real," because I've given up on blogging anything in much of a timely fashion. This was from almost four weeks ago, when Deirdre blogged about the less-than-pleasing plums she bought that needed rescuing. I was in the exact same situation with some pluots that were part of our latest fruit binge. There aren't many fruits that I don't have a taste for, but these pluots...I don't know if it was this batch, or if I just don't care for pluots. I mean, they were okay. I just wasn't loving them. 

So I tried the remedy she tried (minus the spirits), and I'm happy to report that the linked, classic recipe for plum cake was such a success that I'm going to try them with the batch of blueberries I washed and then froze during blueberry season. (If you're going to freeze blueberries, don't wash them first—the skin turns tough. Speaking from experience here.)

Hop over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {phfr}. Maybe next time I'll get you some falling leaves!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

All Souls Day

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Another Soul for the Saints

The next few days are significant holy days both in the Church and personally in our family, and now for an additional reason. Will you please pray for my grandmother, who passed away this morning? As my five-year-old son said, "She's St. MeMa now." Please remember the rest of us in your prayers as well, especially my parents and aunts and uncles. There was a certain level of emotional preparedness, but the profundity of the moment is inescapable.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Idling High

Luke broke his arm again.

Same arm. Different place. More complicated break.

I remember three years ago when we took Luke in to what amounted to our first "real" emergency room visit. Even in the middle of it, we were able in the midst of it to consider how blessed we have been, that they have been so rare in our family.

Now we are back from another ER trip and almost two weeks in. It was just kids horsing around, and I was fine when it happened. Calm and collected, I communicated with my husband, got some help, and took care of my baby. Left him with his dad when my other babies needed me. We made arrangements and everybody lined up pretty well, and our days went on.

"I do not think I was in danger from suffering from not being overpowered,
thank you Captain." Or so I thought...

Luke will be fine. Mainly, he's bored. But he's cheerful enough, as long as his sister is there to entertain him, and she's happy to do it. He will need to lay up for a while. He will need multiple orthopedic visits. He may need surgery. But this is a very manageable crisis, as crises go.

All the same. 

I think I should be handling it better than I am.

Life—especially life in a large household—is always going to fill up with things. Things to do, things to buy, things to maintain, things to put away. All these things are always going to demand my attention. Going on high alert should mean I can deal with them more quickly, right? Knock that stuff out and check it off the list.

Maybe I'm spoiled. Maybe it's the stress of a dozen personal anxieties, running underneath. Maybe I'm still getting used to the rhythm of "ten kids," and these new coping needs threw me for a loop. Whatever it was, it wasn't too many hours after I got home (ahead of Luke) before I felt that my level of functioning was a bit depressed. Understandable for the first day or two. But it didn't bounce back. I thought—I hoped—I was more resilient than that when it mattered.

I'm not falling apart or anything, just idling high. Just when there seem to be more "things" to attend to, I get less efficient. And then it builds up.


I went for my first visit with Luke to the orthopedic (Luke's second—the first was the day after the ER.) We got good news, and it looks as though we may avoid surgery, if we can keep him from re-injuring the arm.

Even before that, Jason was bringing me perspective. This, in its own way, is a gift. This is clarity, he said. If we let Him, God can use these sorts of incidents to bring us back into focus when we are drifting.

How can that work when the event itself drives me to distraction? I'm just thinking out loud here, but maybe the fog of distraction, forcing me to deal with nothing but essentials, drowns out everything but the essentials so that I can let the rest fall away. Maybe it forces me to feel what's missing, so I can intentionally pursue it and pull it out of the fog. And then, as the fog clears, I can deal with what's important enough to remain, as I come to it.

Even the metaphor feels muddled, but I think that's about the size of it.


Your prayers for Luke, and maybe my soup of a brain, are welcome.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Where I've Been

Enjoying this:

Dominic. Actually, I think "Nic" is finally starting to win out.  I have at least one holdout for "Michael," though. And Cora occasionally calls him "Dominicky." Anwen's is the cutest though (as is a two-year-old's prerogative): she says "Mah-maht-nat."

And this:

Big sister love. Jason says he's going to be "ruirnt" by the time he grows up with these two coddling him.

Don't let his big sisters' old bath tub fool you—he's all boy!

First-ish smile—look at the mischief just waiting to emerge from that face!

And even a little of this:

Why is it that even when your baby cries he's still crushingly adorable?

But mostly this:

Always a cutie

And we've done a few other things this summer. 

Swimming lessons are always a hit. 

I don't worry about boredom. One thing about a big family is that there is always something to do with somebody. They are very good at making up their own fun. 

Kids are so great. My mom took us to this beach on a day the seaweed was so thick "you could walk on it." Also, it was the bay side, not the "regular" beach where we usually have seventy (or whatever) feet of sand before hitting the tide.  They were unfazed. My superlative son repeatedly exclaimed, "This is the best water!" "I love this beach!" Just happy to be here.

After their bedtime "story," which was really three chapters of a Magic Treehouse book, they were not ready to let it go. They'd snooker me into reading the whole thing in one night if I let them. Not that I know this from experience or anything.

No doubt about it; the dynamics of our family have changed over the past few months. It's nice that we've had the summer to adjust. Now it's time to shift gears again, now that the school year is starting up. I don't know what that will mean for this space, but I have a few things in mind to share, so I hope you'll check back!

Oh, and Happy Feast Day, little Dominic!

Update: It's Thursday! Think I'll join {phfr} at Like Mother, Like Daughter. I won't bother untangling the Pretty from the Happy from the Funny from the Real. I hope you don't mind. It's been a while, and that's how it happens in life, anyway.

 And do go see the ladies over there, today especially—happy, happy news!

round button chicken

Monday, May 27, 2013

In Memory

...of all who have died serving their country. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Here's something that's a little different but still appropos of today. It's a column from our local Sunday paper, mentioning my parish in a story from decades ago.
He was 12 years old in the summer of 1943. He had finished the sixth grade at St. Joseph School and was an altar boy at the church.

He was called to participate in a funeral Mass at St. Joseph with Father Robert Bryant on the morning of July 21, 1943. It was a Wednesday. He was told nothing about who had died. He just showed up.

Remember the part of the Eucharistic prayer that speaks of how Christ "shared in our humanity"? I am the granddaughter of a war widow whose first husband is buried somewhere in Europe. Of a pilot shot down in World War II (who lived to tell the tale) and his Italian war bride. Like the teller of this tale, I am grateful to be part of the universal Church, reminding us of our common humanity under God.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Deo Gratias! Introducing...

Michael Dominic Stallworth

He was born on Tuesday, May 21. I can't believe it has already been five days! And he's a big boy, almost eleven pounds.

We can't resist the cute little baby toes!

We're wrestling with what to call him. The boys are set on Michael, maybe shortened to Mike. I rather like Dominic. And Jason took to the idea, ten minutes after he was born, to call him Nick. So while everybody gets used to having a new person to talk about, he's full-on Michael Dominic.

The whole family is in love.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

New Five Favorite Things

Hallie's all wrapped up with her very excellent new favorite thing, so maybe she won't notice the two months between my first and second Five Faves posts. I'm a little sporadic about posting and joining. I know you know. But in this case it's because I find it difficult to find things I'm enthusiastic enough about to call "favorites." I guess I'm just good at that "detachment from worldly goods" thing. Yeah. That's what it means.

But I think I have some good ones here. In fact, it's all the more reason to share my little treasures now that I'm finally getting with it—who knows when she will need them! (See my #1.) So here goes.


We're going to start with chocolate.

My most recent love is this gorgeous, delectable find: these chocolate-covered açai-blueberries. Something Jason found. (He always finds the best goodies and brings them home to me.) I've had chocolate-covered blueberries before but the addition of açai is a novelty. I don't really know if it made a difference in the taste for me. All I know is it was hard to make them last longer than a day.


I just bought this panel (actually, it's twice what the image shows) of fabric blocks of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Etsy. I have high hopes for a project I'm dreaming up—simple enough for you real crafters and sewists out there (by the way, is that the term you prefer?) but for a non-finisher like me, it's ambitious. Still, I was happy when it came in the mail. If I ever do make it, I'll show you.


Bolthouse makes the most delicious mango lemonade. But it's never available on sale the way some of their other products are in my grocery stores. And then it's gone so fast.

So I came up with the idea to mix my own.

Just pour them together in a pitcher. So delicious.

I also will sometimes mix some lemonade using 6 parts water, 1 part lemon juice, and 1 part sugar, and just throw in some of the mango drink. I may even graduate one day to mango puree. But right now that 2ish cups of Bolthouse's Amazing Mango is key; and using the two bottles together gives me a more consistently pleasing balance. 


This would be a favorite if I had it. Remember my last Five Favorites when I said I wanted a honey jar?   I love to have butter at room temperature, just ready to be spread over homemade bread or fresh, warm banana muffins. But I don't really want it sitting out open on a plate (or more likely, just sitting in its wrapper) cluttering up the counter. It would be lovely to find a pretty, covered butter dish in glass or ceramic for the table. And if I had that and the honey jar, I would likely be inspired very often to make some delicious honey butter...


I'm just going to give a shout-out to the track Night Prayer on this Martin Doman album, Praying Twice Vol. II. (You can hear a preview at the link.) It is part of a sung night prayer I prayed sometimes at college, based on the Liturgy of the Hours. I bought the track on iTunes a while ago and introduced it to my kids at bedtime. Now they frequently ask for it; I'll play it softly on repeat and they go to sleep listening to it.

Today's Five Favorites link-up is at Camp Patton today. Go check everybody out!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May Procession

Cora helps decorate our Mary statue. She really needs her own garden!

May is Mary's month, and one of the sweetest memories I have of celebrating it is my elementary school's May procession. The First Communicants would dress in their suits and white dresses, and the whole school and their families, and the members of the church, would fill the school parking lot, carrying their rosaries. The Irish sisters of our school would lead the congregation in a rosary over a loudspeaker, as we slowly walked a path from the school to the church. At the head of this joyful but stately parade was a great statue of Mary on a platform-like altar, carried (by the Knights of Columbus, I think) above the shoulders of the crowd and decked thick with live flowers of all kinds, so that Mary seemed to travel with us on a cloud of blossoms. Behind her were two children, one chosen to carry her crown and one to crown her. At the end of it we sang Marian hymns and the crown was placed on the statue's head.

Our current parish has had a May procession for several years but I have never been able to attend it myself. Last year I decided that if I couldn't attend our church's procession, we would do our own at home. I highly recommend that if you belong to a parish that practices this delightful piety, participate in it! For that matter, there's no reason you can't do both. 

Here are my notes for what you need.

1. A statue of Mary. Ours is an outdoor statue made of concrete, but a small one in the house will be fine. Use what you have and make it work for you. Make a litter out of a serving tray or a baking sheet, or pull it in a wagon like a parade float. You can even use a framed picture if you don't have a statue, and make a garland or swag to drape around it in lieu of...

2. A crown that fits the statue. I like flower crowns. The American Girls Handy Book has some instructions for making flower crowns, and anything viney can be wound ino a wreath and studded with blooms. You can cut and tie them from your rose garden, make a tiny wreath of dandelions or wildflowers, or glue or weave together artificial flowers for a crown you can use year after year. Or you can make a crown like this

3. A path to process along! It doesn't have to be long, just pick a starting point and an end.  If you have a May altar, you can make a ceremony of placing her statue there. You might like to have stations, especially if your path is short. Make five stops for each of the joyful mysteries, or pick your three favorite hymns and sing each one at a different point on your walk.

4. Flowers. It's what May is all about. 

5. A ritual. So many possibilities, but really all you need is a prayer. For more, consider hymns ("Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above," "O Most Holy One," and "Sing of Mary" are my favorites), praying a rosary, and scripture readings (Luke 1:46-55—the Magnificat!).

Postscript: This was supposed to be for May 1, but my pregnant brain forgot to click "publish," so here it is. Then, the next day I saw this post about planning a May crowning which would be great for larger groups of kids, so I'm passing it on. 

Also, I'm getting some weird formatting issue trying to edit this post right now, so my apologies if it looks weird.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Conundrum of Kermit Gosnell for Pro-Choicers

What do Kermit Gosnell and pro-life activists have in common?

Baby feet. They're worth something to each. But what that is—well, the difference is as stark as night and day.

Pro-life people often wear pins shaped like the well-formed feet of 10-week-old fetuses to demonstrate the lie that babies in the womb are merely clumps of tissue.

Kermit Gosnell prefers the real things—that is, the actual, severed feet of fetuses. God knows why—the prosecutor of Gosnell's case speculates that they are trophies of some kind. In case you're only just now hearing about it, Gosnell is on trial for the murder of seven babies and one woman at his abortion clinic in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Now that he's finally heard of the story, Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic gives a rundown of the case so far (and why it should be on the front page):

Inducing live births and subsequently severing the heads of the babies is indeed a horrific story that merits significant attention. Strange as it seems to say it, however, that understates the case.

For this isn't solely a story about babies having their heads severed, though it is that. It is also a story about a place where, according to the grand jury, women were sent to give birth into toilets; where a doctor casually spread gonorrhea and chlamydiae to unsuspecting women through the reuse of cheap, disposable instruments; an office where a 15-year-old administered anesthesia; an office where former workers admit to playing games when giving patients powerful narcotics; an office where white women were attended to by a doctor and black women were pawned off on clueless untrained staffers. Any single one of those things would itself make for a blockbuster news story. Is it even conceivable that an optometrist who attended to his white patients in a clean office while an intern took care of the black patients in a filthy room wouldn't make national headlines?

But it isn't even solely a story of a rogue clinic that's awful in all sorts of sensational ways either. Multiple local and state agencies are implicated in an oversight failure that is epic in proportions! If I were a city editor for any Philadelphia newspaper the grand jury report would suggest a dozen major investigative projects I could undertake if I had the staff to support them. And I probably wouldn't have the staff. But there is so much fodder for additional reporting.

There is, finally, the fact that abortion, one of the most hotly contested, polarizing debates in the country, is at the center of this case. It arguably informs the abortion debate in any number of ways, and has numerous plausible implications for abortion policy, including the oversight and regulation of clinics, the appropriateness of late-term abortions, the penalties for failing to report abuses, the statute of limitations for killings like those with which Gosnell is charged, whether staff should be legally culpable for the bad behavior of doctors under whom they work...

There's just no end to it.

For just a moment, let's leave aside some of the lurid details about this story and look at the issue of what Gosnell routinely did at his clinic. He is alleged to have frequently performed illegal late-term (past 24 weeks) abortions, often by causing a live birth and killing the infant afterward with a snip to the spinal cord. The Alisa Snow/Planned Parenthood controversy of late showed anew that pro-abortion people (like our president) are okay with deciding to kill a baby born alive during abortion, as long as it's between the woman and her physician. Planned Parenthood, backing away from the position in a show of upholding the law, called such an event as a live birth during abortion "extremely unlikely."

Unless that's the way you do abortions. Testimony in trial puts the number of babies killed at Gosnell's clinic over 100. That would put him in the top five serial killers in US history by victim count, according to this graphic post by Jill Stanek. Terry Moran of Nightline calls him "probably the most successful serial killer in the history of the world" (H/T Hot Air).

It's those lurid details—bloody conditions, disease, racism—that lead Moran and others to say such things. gives a point-by-point of the top atrocities revealed by the trial. Steel your stomach and read them.

Why would anyone choose to get an abortion—I mean, health care—at a horrible place like Gosnell's clinic? A partial answer is that many of them didn't. But they were "served" anyway. One woman, a minor at the time who was forced to the clinic and should have been protected by several mechanisms of the law from an unwanted abortion, was instead physically wrestled and drugged into it. Another woman changed her mind after seeing the conditions but the staff ignored her, sedated her, and aborted her child.

Some pro-choicers rightly denounce the Gosnell debacle as a grotesque caricature of health care, an exploitation of the disadvantaged, the antithesis of choice. But, as pro-choicers, they maintain that, even if abortion is not what they would choose, it's a legitimate choice that must be kept available. Meg McArdle writes about the dilemma of the pro-choice media:
Moreover, surely those of us who are pro-choice must worry that this will restrict access to abortion: that a crackdown on abortion clinics will follow, with onerous white-glove inspections; that a revolted public will demand more restrictions on late-term abortions; or that women will be too afraid of Gosnell-style crimes to seek a medically necessary abortion. 
The problem is that that's exactly the mentality that enabled the horrors of Gosnell's operation. The grand jury report indicates that "officials concluded that inspections would be 'putting a barrier up to women' seeking abortions." Meg McArdle speaks honestly when she says that legal abortion is necessary for this to have happened. "Gosnell was able to harm so many women and babies because he operated in the open." Indeed, as says, "Back Alley Abortions Are Now on Main Street."

Some pro-choice people ignore Gosnell because (Jill Stanek again):
Truth be told, I don’t think these people consider abortion survivors as real people – or Gosnell a mass murderer.

Calling Gosnell a “mass murderer” for completing abortions outside the uterus brings them too close to pro-lifers who call abortionists mass murderers for completing abortions just a few inches the other way.

Yes, geography is an added problem for abortion supporters in this case. Being argued during the Gosnell trial is whether babies were legally aborted inside the uterus, or illegally murdered outside – and likely within a 30-second window of time. This sort of conversation makes the other side run.
The difference between a fetus inside the womb and an infant outside it is arbitrary. The problem for pro-choicers is, so is the difference between a 10-week-old fetus and a 24-week-old fetus. They either lie to themselves that it is not, or they lie to us that it doesn't matter either way.  No surprise. The abortion industry and advocates have for decades used euphemism, redirection, and outright deception to convince otherwise decent people that abortion is a good, or at least a necessary thing.

But the Gosnell case may force eyes open. Lord God, may it be so.

Image credit: Dora Pete


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