Sunday, March 31, 2013

Saturday, March 30, 2013

What Damage to Hell

Holy Saturday always brings to my mind two distinct images: the passage of the apostles' Sabbath in quiet, stunned grief, never imagining the secret glory that awaited them in a few hours' time; and the incredible joy that erupted into the world of the dead. The righteous souls who awaited God's promised One were the first to see his glory.

And when he was at deepest of the darkness, like as a robber shining and terrible to the tyrants of hell, they beheld him and began to demand and enquire: Who is he that is so strong, so terrible, so clear and so shining? The world, which is to us subject, sent to us never such one dead, ne he sent to us never such gifts into hell. Who is he then that is so constant that is entered into the furthest end of our parts, and he doubteth not only of our torments, but yet he hath unbound them of their bonds whom we held and kept? And they that were wont to wail and weep under our torments, assail us now by their health. And now not only they fear us, but now threaten and menace us. And they said to their prince: What prince art thou? All thy gladness is perished and all thy joys be converted into weepings. When thou hangedst him in the cross thou knewest not what damage thou shouldst suffer in hell.
From The Golden Legend, Jacobus de Voragine

bosch Christ in Limbo Holy Saturday

A detail from Christ in Limbo, Hieronymous Bosch. 
The full image is one of those truly terrifying medieval depictions.

Related: Brandon Vogt has an ancient Holy Saturday homily I printed out once years ago. So glad to see it online. Go read it and ponder.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Black jellybeans

black jellybeans

...Because they're my favorite.

Because Holy Thursday is a solemn yet joyous feast day.

Because gorging on jellybeans on Good Friday is wildly inappropriate, even if they're the liturgically correct color and you're not technically required to fast.

Because I'm having that kind of week.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More hurried and haphazard thoughts: on hope

lot of love in a big family
that there's a lot of love on that loveseat—and room for more

I don't write much about the ins and outs of having a large family. Generally, I have a tendency to think that in practice I'm not a great example. But I believe so strongly in the love and life that are present in a large family as a witness to God's love for man, that just the fact that we exist is enough of a witness. "Whatever is worth doing is worth doing badly," and all that.

On that note, I read these two articles and found them juxtaposed in my head, opposite sides of the same coin. The first is from Msgr. Charles Pope, who had some of the exact same thoughts I found myself thinking this Sunday at Mass:
Yes, the days are here when most people cry out: blessed is barrenness, blessed are small families. Life it would seem, is a terrible burden to be contracepted and aborted away and some awful threat. It is an age that cries out “Blessed the career women who has not stymied her life and progress by the terrible and terrifying prospect of children.”

Yes, said the Lord to those ancient women, in effect, “You think this is bad? The days are actually coming when things will be so bad and so dark that people will celebrate NOT having children, will celebrate barrenness.”

But the Lord does not stop there. He goes on to describe quite well the culture of death so literally lived out in our times: people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’

One may argue that this is just a Jewish way of speaking that indicates despair. Perhaps. But we live it out quite literally in our times, for it is the refrain of the culture of death. And what is the culture of death? It is the mentality that increasingly sees the death or non-existence of human beings as the “solution” to problems. In our times there has arisen a group of radicals who see human beings as a hindrance to their ecological goals, and they seek population reductions and even dream of a pristine earth without humanity. They peddle History Channel programs such as “Life after People” as a kind of fantasy of their vision and advocate contraceptive and abortive policies that see mankind as the problem that must be eliminated. In effect they cry to the mountains “fall on us” and dream of a world that is “post-human.” They even peddle disaster movies as though they were longing for it all.
If life nowadays is so much better than fifty or a hundred or two thousand years ago, when the life expectancy wasn't so long and the quality of life was so comparatively limited, why does there seem to be so much suicidal nihilism in today's world? (I have my theories: words like "control," "fear," "surrender," and "will" float around in my mental attempts to get a handle on the collective mindset of today's mankind. Nothing new.)

In contrast, this piece about why most people have only two children is a beautiful encouragement to reject that despair. It is sympathetic but gently forthright about where such leanings come from.
Really, who would do this again and again? You are so tired and overwhelmed that you know that God doesn't want someone to exist in such a way. You will say, "I'm not being a good mom to the two I have, why would I have more?" "I can't imagine feeling this way the rest of my life." "I can use my talents in much more productive ways besides having more children." "I was much more patient before I had children." "I am of no use to anyone in such a state." This little voice in your head is not from God. It is the devil trying to discourage you from THE MOST IMPORTANT WORK you will ever do.
Read the whole thing—especially if you are a young mother—about how children, and motherhood, and love and time shape you, and beautify you, and eventually allow you to change the world.

It's a good dose of hope, and hope is always the point of the journey through Holy Week.

A Sample of Spring

spring first flowers picked wild still life

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The media's blind-eye complicity

I wanted to write about this last week, but time wouldn't allow me to devote the attention I needed to make any new points. It's still worth reflecting on, and so I offer, with one or two concurring thoughts, the following.

One of my favorite short stories is a piece that appeared in Dappled Things a few years ago, called "Pear Trees". It's not actually about abortion or the press, but it does touch on how the press is complicit in covering for abortion simply by looking the other way.
She ordered another martini and studied the yellow rose in the center of the tiny black lacquered table, dainty and delicate, looking oddly contained in a sleek stainless steel vase. Patrick had sent her a dozen roses last fall from New Orleans when she'd had the abortion. He was there to write a piece on the racism of the Bush administration being responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. He hoped for a Pulitzer on that one, but there were too many others like it, too much competition. There were two dozen deep red roses. Jenn put them in her bedroom on the dresser, but she moved them out to the living room. They looked like blood, a great blood clot. Just a blood clot, a living one, yes, but just a clot. When Patrick called, she told him about the Women's Clinic, how they told her it would be painless, how excruciatingly painful it was, how there were little cell-like rooms all in a line down a long corridor, each one just big enough to contain a treatment table, a stool for the doctor, and a vacuum apparatus. So many, many little rooms, the doctor rushing down the corridor to spend a few minutes in each little room for the procedure, like an assembly-line operator. She thought Patrick might want to write about it--no one ever did, so he wouldn't have the competition he was having with the Katrina disaster and Bush administration. He wasn't interested, though. The steel vase was like a piston chamber, but where there should be a piston, there was a rose.
As a whole, I'd say that those in journalism pride themselves on the service they perform for society—informing the public about vital issues and events, shedding light on hidden truths and worthy causes. They consider themselves champions of such ideals as feminism and human rights. The Kermit Gosnell abortion story should have been low hanging fruit for any news media outlet and its intrepid investigative reporters.

But the reporting on this story has been pretty much a concert of crickets. Elizabeth Scalia writes a powerful indictment of the media's betrayal of the public trust by their silence.

The Gosnell story—a story that by any measure deserved in-depth coverage, some serious discussion about regulation and responsibility, and a few features forcing the nation to consider just when a “late-term” abortion slips into the category of “infanticide” or what our leadership and politicians really think of all of this—proved too big and too messy for the mainstream media.

They did not want light shed on dark truths that cannot be prettied up with euphemisms and nebulous notions of “choice.” They did not want to have to ponder the likelihood of Gosnell’s stinking, body-piled-and-bloodstained rooms being replicated in other cities, in other states, where other authorities chose to look away from the carnage, rather than address it.
The media turns a blind eye, handling the distasteful subject as little as they can possibly get away with, for the sake of a "greater cause." Sound familiar?
So, allow me to ask the impolitic question I have hinted at elsewhere: in choosing to look away, in choosing to under-report, in choosing to spin, minimize, excuse, and move-along when it comes to Kermit Gosnell—and to this whole subject of under-regulated abortion clinics, the debasement of women and the slaughter of living children—how are the press and those they protect by their silence any better than the Catholic bishops who, in decades past, looked away, under-reported, spun, minimized, excused, moved-along, and protected the repulsive predator-priests who have stolen innocence and roiled the community of faith?
People, no matter where they are, are all too prone to congratulate themselves on how enlightened their ideas are, or how honorable their intentions, how noble their pursuits.  Meanwhile, when something truly evil rears its head to threaten that self-image, they send some token roses, wash their hands of the ugliness, and move on.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Quick Takes


Habemus Papam! It's still such a joy. Everyone is talking about it. I love it. Even Nameberry, my favorite baby name source, showed the signs. By the end of Wednesday, "Francis" and "Frances" were the most widely viewed names, according to the name cloud on their home page. Thursday morning, "Francis" was still holding for boys names, "Frances" had been replaced by "Francesca," and "Francine" was bigger than both.  
(My oldest has gone on the record as wanting to name a baby sister "Francesca," since I won't tell her the name we already picked.)


I would guess that our pope has a devotion to Our Lady that, though it may not be of the same character as, say, that of Blessed John Paul II's (who was probably much more, shall we say, extroverted in everything that he did than this pope looks to be) is solid, and deeply rooted in both prayer and imitation. His archdiocese's motto, "Lowly but Chosen," is reminiscent of Mary's song of praise in Luke 1. Now, I think, will be a good time for us to memorize the Magnificat as a family, right in time for May. 


I think in honor of the new pope, I'm going to read my favorite Flannery O'Connor short story, "The Enduring Chill." (Here's a tiny taste.) It features two different Jesuit priests. One, spoken of mostly in expository back story, is an urbane, intellectual man who appeals to the protagonist for his sophisticated worldliness. The other is, well, an Irishman from Georgia and works to put the fear of God back in him (the protagonist). Rather entertaining, and a timely story, I think.  (Not necessarily because of any similarity to our pope other than the Society of Jesus, but just one of those stories that shows O'Connor clearly has a handle on contemporary human nature.)


And now for something serious. Will you spare a prayer for my cousin and her unborn identical twins? They have been diagnosed with Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, and they have undergone surgery to correct the problem and are responding well so far. But they are all still in the hospital, and my cousin will be on bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy (she's about 21 weeks along right now). She and her husband have three children at home, so prayers for the whole family, but especially for her and the twins.

Thank you so much.


Anybody else slacking on their garden this year? It's already halfway through March, and it doesn't feel to me as if I ought to be working on a garden yet. Here in Georgia, though, it's time for seed-starting and I've pretty much missed the pruning time for flowering shrubs. Oh, well. I can still dream. And make grand plans for "later."


I read this last week. I think I need to read it again. And think about it a little longer. Confession is tomorrow...
And the internet is it’s own resistance machine. “Have you finished the internet yet?” my husband sometimes asks me at night, when I’ve been at it for long enough, and the end of the internet is nowhere in sight. It’s like the “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” book that my kids brought home from the library, full of tattooed women and men with long fingernails. One never tires…

All of these things, food, sleep, time, technology, are like one big sacred cow at whose bovine teats one can suckle all day long. When I come off of her I cry and ask to nurse again until I am pacified. But I am never pacified.


Father Barron has noted that if will is the problem, then will is not the solution. I want to say that I should be able to pull myself up by my own bootstraps. Quit doing the things I hate, and do the things I love instead. Combat my lack of will power, with willpower!*

The problem is I don’t really love what I ought to love yet–I still love my sacred cows. And I love the delusion that I can by my own efforts, correct every ill in my life (I love being the Sacred Cow).
Read the rest at Betty Duffy's blog.


Since I mentioned Pride and Prejudice the other day, I'll offer this bright little bit of joy from the Hollywood rom-com/Bollywood musical hybrid, "Bride and Prejudice." It's a fun little cross-cultural take on Jane Austen's novel. It always cheers my eyes, and who couldn't use that on a Friday in Lent? My apologies if I've showed it before—I didn't have time to check.

There's a slightly longer one here, with the end of the dance, but this one has subtitles. You're welcome.

And share your Quick Takes at Jen Fulwiler's blog!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

He Leads the World in Prayer

Bergoglio new Pope Francis on balcony profile

Of all the things now being reported about out new pope, it's what I saw myself that is most striking to me.

First he led us in prayer for Benedict XVI. Then he asked for our silent prayers for himself, and bowed his own head and gave us time to do likewise.

Pope Francis leads us in prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Our Father Hail Mary Glory Be

Maybe it's having had so many small kids, but it reminded me of nothing so much as a father teaching his children how to pray. Those three simple prayers, often the first prayers a child learns, are foundational to a Catholic prayer life. And once we know them, sometimes we must learn, and learn again, simply to pray.

Pope Francis blessing on balcony

There's already been plenty of cyber ink spilled about the new pope—naturally, he are eager to learn more about him. Here are a few of the links I've enjoyed so far.

Here are 10 facts about the pope to get you started. You can read this one for a little more information—like did you know he taught lit and psychology? :-)  And here's a take inspired by Pope Francis's motto: "Lowly but Chosen."  This oldie but goodie at the Catholic Herald is thoughtful and informative. A hat tip for that one goes to Mark Shea, whose continuously updated thoughts on the new pope are (as always) illuminative and delightful.

Pope Francis blessing on balcony profile

 (Please pardon the quality of these pic. The kids insisted on lots of screen shots while we watched a live feed of the announcement and blessing.)

Pope Francis on balcony with cardinals

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Five Favorite Things


I have been listening to Pride and Prejudice on LibriVox for the past few weeks, and it has been such a pleasure. Admittedly, a more high-end production would have less distractions (for instance, every reader seems to pronounce "Derbyshire" differently, and some styles of reading aloud are more, shall we say, amateur than others). In all, though, I actually look forward to doing some chores now, just so I can press play on the next chapter. LibriVox is a treasure trove of material—everything there is in the public domain, so there are a lot of classics. I'm sure I'll find something else once I run out of Austen (and maybe go through Jane Eyre). Any suggestions?


We came upon this sight a few nights ago at bedtime. The play kitchen had been moved from the playroom to the little boys' room to the nursery here, and here were the two little girls, quietly pouring and sipping "tea," long past when they were supposed to be tucked in bed. Honestly, late bedtimes are no infrequent occasion around here—but they were just so quiet, we didn't know what they were doing! They've since acquired a little toy table and a number of frequent guests in their brothers. 

I love to watch them. 

There's nothing better than a toddler tea party. 


For the past few days I've been wearing this necklace, which my husband bought for me several years ago. It's part of the Vatican Library Collection, jewelry inspired by art from the Vatican. (It doesn't look like this one is available anymore.) He got me a few little pieces, whenever he happened to see something at Dillards while they were carrying the line; this is probably my favorite. It has been a little act of devotion to wear it and pray for Mary's intercession during the conclave. 

So I'm behind in my blog reading (I'm perpetually behind in my blog reading) and I just discovered this Pinterest board by Rosie at Like Mother, Like Daughter. I love quilts. I have plans for making at least 20 of them—designs, fabrics—despite the fact that I have never put together a single quilt in my life. I can't help it. Aren't they beautiful? 


I haven't figured out whether I can safely use some pictures on my blog or not, so better safe than sorry. You'll have to go to the listing at Etsy to see this beautiful ceramic honey pot that I put on my wishlist. I've been wanting a glass or ceramic honey pot for my kitchen counter for a year or two. This one is homey and adorable. I can't help but think of Winnie the Pooh. 

Go see Hallie for more Five Favorite Things!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Hidden in History

(I'm sorry if this comes across as anticlimactic at this historic moment.)

Today at noon I have a powerful impression of how, in obscurity over 2,000 years ago, occurred one of the two most life-altering, world-changing moments.
The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit...
"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
Be it done unto me according to your word."...
And the Word was made flesh,
And dwelt among us.

The other, which we will celebrate in three weeks, though it began quite publicly and stretched over three days, also culminated in obscurity.

Thank you, Lord, for hidden treasures and secret places.

Here we go again!

At about this time 8 years ago I was at just about this point: the last weeks of pregnancy, and awaiting a new papa with the rest of the world. This time the pope will be announced a little earlier, and the baby a wee bit later.

All the same, I do have a small, happy sense of déjà vu. It's one of anticipation, some small anxiety, but mostly excitement and trust. Tomorrow the conclave begins; I feel that Mother Church is gestating a new alter Christus, and I can't wait to meet him.

I can't get these words out of my head:

Even now the tears well up when I watch this. I don't think it's just the pregnancy hormones. It's just those words: "Habemus papam!"

I didn't have a horse in the last race, so to speak, but I was familiar enough with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to be thrilled when he was elected. I am, maybe, even less certain about the chances of the various papabiles this time around, even though I know more names. But whomever the cardinals choose this time, I am confident I will love him.

Come, Holy Spirit,
Fill the hearts of your faithful,
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth.

Lord, you are our eternal shepherd and guide.
In your mercy grant your Church
a shepherd who will walk in your ways
and whose watchful care will bring us your blessing.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

(Our parish offered this prayer or a similar one for the faithful to pray every day until the new pope's election, but I lost it. I found this one at St James Cathedral's website.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Baking and Breaking Bread

"40 Loaves" would be a misnomer, and is also misleadingly Lenten sounding, but that's what I'm calling this little effort. Actually, it's for the whole year, and and it's not limited to actual loaves of bread, but goes for any bread-type food I can bake up. And I'm thinking I'm not stopping once I hit 40 recipes.

I have this mindset which makes starting the hardest part of a project, cooking or otherwise. I've done pretty well so far, turning out six recipes, including the French bread that kickstarted the resolution. I've made the French bread recipe several times; it's probably my favorite so far in the bread machine manual, which you can dig through, if you're so inclined.

So, you can see I'm not limiting myself to only new recipes (although I count each recipe only once for this little experiment). Here's another one that I recently made that's not new to me. Several times I've had these 30 Minute Rolls when I don't have a bread for dinner and it's too late to use the bread machine. It takes me closer to an hour, because I'm slow. But they're good, and they're big enough that the dozen the recipe makes is sufficient for my family.

This rosemary bread is the bread that, years ago, taught me to love my bread machine. When my carb-loving son, who has survived on bread alone (just about) for five years, asks me to make bread, this is usually the one he wants. And it smells divine.

This Sweet Hawaiian yeast bread recipe caught my eye because we love Kings Hawaiian around here, especially the Hawaiian Sweet rolls with Sunday Chicken. To be honest, (maybe it's my bread machine, and/or my lack of breadmaking skills,) this bread really isn't like the rolls much at all— it's denser and it's not as sweet. But it is a good, yummy bread— I think it would be a good sandwich bread. The kids loved it.

Speaking of sandwich breads, I found this recipe on a search after deciding to make more of the bread we use for lunch. One lunch uses up a whole store-bought loaf, so I was thinking I might be able to stretch our grocery budget a little if I could find a way to make it ourselves. This honey wheat bread machine bread recipe is promising, if I could just cut it thin enough... Maybe I need one of those bread-slicing boxes? No matter. We've only had it for dinner anyway, where everybody liked it well enough.

bread machine corn bread
Picturesque loaves are not the bread machine's strong suite.

Today's bread is a corn bread, from the manual. It wasn't what I was looking for to go with the corned beef stew we had last night for dinner—it used quite a lot of bread flour and not nearly enough cornmeal—but I decided to go ahead and try it anyway, and just whipped up some corn muffins from a boxed mix for dinner. It smelled so wonderful as it baked. But bread always does, doesn't it?

sliced corn bread
Mmm... get the butter.

I'm pulling some more ideas that I can't wait to try. Caleb (the carb-lover) and I have found a "beginner's bread" recipe that he wants to try all by himself.  I have three Irish soda bread options lined up for St. Patrick's Day. And St. Joseph's feast day is after that, although I'll probably fall back on my French bread recipe for our St. Joseph table. Do you have a favorite recipe?


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