Thursday, January 29, 2015

Learning Virtue From Jane Austen

This baby needs to be rebound...
Every couple of years (usually during pregnancies) I pull out our tattered volume of the complete works of Jane Austen and read it from cover to cover. And with each reread of her novels, I discover more about how she saw human nature. This past reading I was struck with her exploration of her characters’ natural inclinations. We all have them, an inclination to certain sins like sloth, gluttony, selfishness, or over-indulging various pleasures. But we also have inclinations to good things. Some of us are more inclined to quiet prayer, while others are inclined to a long run, and others to friendliness. And while we are to spend our lives overcoming our weaknesses, we do so with the aid of our good inclinations.

In Austen we see her heroines and heroes overcoming their natural weaknesses, and her villains succumbing to them. The villains of her stories, such as Mr. Wickham in Pride and Prejudice or Mr. Crawford in Mansfield Park, have no guidance or inclination to seek virtue, and often they are influenced by others with the same weaknesses to lead a life of vice. A character that is inclined to self-indulgence often has been raised by someone of the same character or been spoiled in their youth by a well-meaning adult. Those who overcome their weaknesses, such as Emma in Emma and Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, are encouraged to do so by a good upbringing or by another character who is self-aware enough to see the need to overcome weakness. In Austen we see these good influences in the forms of a mentor or of a romantic interest who sees more clearly the other’s faults. Clearly, one cannot form oneself in virtue alone.

Austen has very little conversation about God in her novels, and her characters' attempts to overcome their weaknesses do not include prayer. In fact, about half of her clergymen, such as the unforgettable Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice or the prideful Mr. Elton in Emma, are inclined to various vices that they do not overcome. I imagine that Austen did not want to preach to her readers, but was merely making obvious the importance of forming ones own character and the character of young people for the best.

Despite her lack of attention to the importance of prayer, her emphasis on improving upon our natural inclinations reminds me of St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life. Early in this beautiful and practical spiritual work, de Sales discusses the importance of overcoming our sins so that we can become holier. He explains that the more we pray, the more we open ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit
As the Holy Spirit enlightens our conscience we perceive more clearly and distinctly the sins, inclinations, and imperfections, which hinder us in attaining true devotion. The same light which discovers to us these tares and weeds, also kindles us with the desire to cleanse and to purify our hearts from them.”
If we don’t want to end up like Mr. Wickham or Mr. Crawford in Austen’s novels, we must seek a life of prayer, and in that life of prayer work to weed out our natural inclinations to evil. And while Austen does not teach us to seek God to overcome our weaknesses, she does warn us that if we do not seek to form ourselves in virtue, we will make bad choices and surround ourselves by vicious people. The only way to ensure a good life of virtue is to seek to overcome our weaknesses and seek out others who are doing the same.

Originally posted at Truth and Charity...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Happy Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas and a Quick Note

Happy Patronal Feast day to my philosopher husband!


And a quick note: I am now an Amazon affiliate, so if you have any Amazon shopping to do and want to support me and my blog come here first and do your searching through the widget in my sidebar-->

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

3 Missals for Small Children

One of the things that is a constant struggle with little kids is helping them be quiet and if they are able be attentive at Mass. Something that has worked for us so far is to just keep things simple. Since M and I have a missal for Mass (for both the Ordinary Form and the Traditional Latin Extraordinary form), we decided that each of our children should have their own personal missals appropriate for their age. The key to encouraging children to use hand missals is to use them yourself.

By small children, I mean children who are not yet reading or not yet reading enough to actually read along in a missal. I like these ones for their simplicity and pictures.

1) Ages 4-8: Marian Children's Missal

While originally printed in 1958, Angelus Press has reprinted. We got our very old copy from some really sweet friends at our TLM parish in Buffalo, NY. What I love about it is the photographs of a priest celebrating Mass at the high altar. The photographs give your child a close up look at what is happening at the altar, to help familiarize her with the parts of the Mass without actually being in the sanctuary. Actual photographs are way more interesting than drawn illustrations, at least in my book.

My almost six year old uses this at both OF and EF liturgies. The great thing about children's missals is that they focus on the key parts of the Mass which were maintained in the New Mass. This one has a lot more detail than the other ones that I am showing you today, so it is actually more appropriate for the EF Mass. This does not stop my daughter from using it at the daily OF Masses we attend.

The Marian Missal has a photograph and accompanying page with simplified prayers for: the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the Introit and Kyrie, The Gloria, The Collect, The Epistle, The Gospel, The Credo, The Offertory (Host), Preparing the Chalice, The Offertory (Chalice), Washing of the Hands, Prayer to the Trinity, Orate Frates (Pray Brothers), Preface and Sanctus, Te Igitur, Prayer for the Living, Hanc Igitur, Blessing of the Offering, Consecration (Host), Elevation, Consecration (Wine), Elevation, Blessing Host and Chalice, Minor Elevation, Pater Noster (Our Father), Breaking the Host, Prayer for Peace, Prayers-Holy Communion, Domine non sum dignus (Lord I am not worthy), Priest receives Host, Priest receives Sacred Blood, Communion of the People, Communion and Post Communion prayers, Blessing, Last Gospel.

Following the photographs of the Mass are summaries and illustrations of the Gospels for Sundays and Holy Days.

Following that are the parts of the Mass in Latin and English. On each page of the photographed parts of the Mass are page numbers for the text of the Mass, so a child who is reading well could flip between them. (Our copy once had a ribbon, but a baby pulled it out):

I highly recommend this missal, and would probably purchase another once my four year old is a little older.

2) Ages 3-8: My See and Pray Missal

This little gem of a book is short and sweet. It is published by Tan and very reasonably priced. The only thing it has against it is that it is paperback and the bindings are stapled, so it is not really good for a destructive child. We once had a printing with red and black illustrations inside. It got left in church one day, and the one we have now is just black and white. The illustrations are reminiscent of the Baltimore catechism, but not as cool as the photographs in the Marian Missal.

 The Missal based on the EF Mass, but this one more than the last is very usable for the OF Mass.

The book starts with guide to the altar, and a reminder to pray to Our Blessed Mother.

The headings of each page explaining the Mass pictured with brief prayers are: The Sign of the Cross, I Confess, Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Epistle, Gospel, The Sermon, Creed, Offertory, Washing of Hands, Sanctus, Get Ready, The Consecration (Host), The Consecration (Wine), Jesus is Here, Our Father, Agnus Dei, Jesus is Coming, Holy Communion, Thank You, O God, Last Blessing, Last Gospel.

 It has the simple words SEE, HEAR, PRAY where it is appropriate, so a child does not have to be super literate to understand the prompts.

My four year old has been following this book with ease since she was about 3.5, and since she is a very active child it really helps for her to have something in her hands. I also love that the girl is pictured with a head covering, which you do not see in children's missals featuring the OF Mass.

3) Ages 3 and under: We Go to Mass

Our copy has seen a lot of Masses with toddlers.
This is the best board book I have found for toddlers to follow the Mass. It is simple, straightforward, and the priest is young and reverent. That being said, if I were to make a board book missal for children I would use pictures like the Marian Missal, have the women and girls with head coverings (or at least some of them since that is fairly standard where we go to Mass), and the priest celebrating Ad Orientem (facing the tabernacle and crucifix).

This sweet little book, with a nice handle, has a page for the following parts of the Mass: Procession/Introit, Epistle, Gospel, Offertory, Sanctus, Eucharistic Prayer, Consecration of Host, Consecration of Wine, Minor Elevation, Our Father, Agnus Dei, Lord, I am not Worthy, Holy Communion, Closing Procession.

My two year old never follows the Mass in its entirety in this book, but she does like to see the pictures of Jesus and pretend to each the hosts. So, we get what we can in good behavior from her. One of my children at age three did use this book to follow short, daily Masses in their entirety. I like that it is simple straight-forward and durable.

So, there you have my top three missals for small children. I would love to hear of other great missal-like books for children. One last thought is that my five year old, when we attend the EF Mass often just grabs one of the red books provided by the church and uses that.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Blessed is She: Surrender to the Change

In case you have not had a chance to reflect on today's daily readings, I am linking over to the devotion I wrote for today on Blessed it She.
Also, in case you have not heard, BiS is selling a journal for Lenten devotions. You should check it out!

From today's devotion:

I need a deeper transformation. I need a life long transformation. But it is so easy to become comfortable where I am. I forget that the laws have been written on my heart. It is the fact that they are there that draws me back to God. The indelible mark of Baptism will never go away. My restless heart draws me back to God, and He is waiting there. He is always steadfast...
Read the rest at Blessed is She...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Something to Hope for...

My heart is heavy this week, hearing of so many who have passed away. I have been praying for everyone who has asked, but still there always seems to be someone else. With the world made so small through social media, there is always something sorrowful to hear about.

Then there is the March for Life in D.C. on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. I was asked to write a pro-life piece for ChurchPOP, and all I could come up with was another reflection on miscarriage.

Despite all of these things, there is still hope. The people I know of who passed away are people of faith, and have so many praying for the repose of their souls and for the comfort of their families.

We celebrated on Sunday the one year anniversary of my Dad's nearly fatal aortic dissection. He is alive and better every day.

And last week I got to see this:

Our little baby is growing and kicking, and the gender is still a surprise, if you were wondering.

I drove to the ultrasound alone, since one child had a fever, and we could not leave the kids with a friend as we had planned. I was leaving, the two year old really wanted to come. I told her that she could not come, but that I would bring back some pictures of the baby. Then I asked her if she knew where the baby was, gesturing toward my growing belly.

"At the doctors," was her solemn response. Well, I guess it might seem that way to a two year old...

Friday, January 16, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, January 16

I finally found a use for the hooks between those partitions...
 1. Happy Season After Epiphany! We like to celebrate Christmas until Candlemas (February 2) in our home, so I spent the 3 days after our three weeks of out of town visiting with family unpacking our suitcases and getting up the last of our decorations. This meant putting Christmasy things on the front door wreath, changing the Advent candles for red ones, and hanging the Christmas cards up for display. It just feels more right to me to have the tree up for all of January rather than in the middle of Advent. I have been playing the Christmas music still as well. Being raised an Advent purist, it is nice to listen to Christmas music well after Christmas day without guilt!

2. We started the "spring" semester at the Awesome School this week. This meant that we attempted some of our normal school things everyday, but did not cry if we only got to one or two subjects. I feel pretty accomplished considering that G was recovering from a touch of the flu she had on Saturday. L (4) has decided that she wants to start Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and my goodness, there is huge difference between my children and how easy they are to teach...

3. I am hoping that we stay healthy, since we have not really seen anybody since we got back to town. It will be nice to get back into the routine of play dates, mom's group at church, and our home school co-op. So far G is the only one who had any symptoms of the flu and it has been almost a week since she got sick. Maybe it helped that she quarantined herself in her room for three days with the Chronicles of Narnia radio plays.

4. We are starting potty training on Monday with F (26 months). She has been interested for months. Since we told her that we are going to start training her on Monday, she is obsessed with the bathroom and talks fairly continually about it whenever anyone uses it. It would be nice to have diapers used only during nap and bedtime... plus our toddler size prefolds are pretty useless at this point. They are more like rags than diapers.

5. I made an attempt at movie reviewing on Truth and Charity this week. M and I went to Exodus: Gods and Kings on our date last week in Michigan, and while we had lots of commentary on the movie, I limited myself to one theme in my review.

6. Gee, it is nice to be in the rhythm of writing again. Vacation always takes from my writing time which is generally nap time or in the evenings. I was pretty wiped out every afternoon, which I attributed to being pregnant, but also may have been from a lingering cough/sinus infection which I finally got treatment for this week. I hope to be more on the blog than I have been and maybe on some other sites soon.

7. In your charity, please remember in your prayers our elderly next door neighbor who is on hospice and dying of cancer. He does not have much time left. Please also pray for his wife and children. While we have only lived here a year and a half, they have been very helpful and kind neighbors.

Linking up with the lovely new host of Seven Quick Takes, Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Home again, Home again...

Meet me in St. Louis, Louis, well not for awhile. We would rather you meet us in St. Paul these days.
These nearly three week tours of the Midwest get long by the end. Though I think we thoroughly enjoyed every stretch of the trip. We started off heading to St. Louis with a one night stop in central Illinois to see my sister's family (the cousins). In St. Louis we crammed all our favorite local foods into the first day because the next two days were Christmas Eve and Christmas. We saw all the St. Louis family at a large family gathering, my sister's family came to town for presents and way too many people in a tiny house. Everyone had fun and my mom managed to seat ten adults and seven children in her kitchen/dining room. (Go MOM!)

Our next step was the western suburbs of Cleveland to see the awesome relatives there and have our traditional New Years Eve party at my aunt's house a few days early to accommodate the maximum number of cousins. She slept 20 plus people in her house that night (it is a large house). We went on for a quieter day with my grandparents in the house my grandfather built in the 1960s. It was lovely, and the kids loved being there. I always feel like a little kids again when I sleep in their house.

From Cleveland we made our way over to Ann Arbor area in Michigan. We saw the extended family there, our college friends in the area (M's friendships with them date to early high school), and stayed up late just hanging out with his sisters. The highlight of the trip was the 22 hours M and I got away together, leaving the kids with their grandparents. Everyone fared well, and M and I had amazing beef tenderloin at our favorite Ann Arbor restaurant, The Earle. We finished our trip with a stop in Western Michigan to see M's grandparents.

The last day of the trip was the most trying. You may have heard of the 190 plus vehicle accident on I-94 near Battle Creek in Michigan. Well, we were on that stretch (on our way to the grandparents) just 18 hours before the accident. The next morning there were two accidents involving 10 vehicles on the Indiana tollway near South Bend about 40 minutes before we got to South Bend. The police directed us off the tollway and we found our way on US-20 to I-94 about 40 miles outside Chicago. (This is why we travel with AAA maps.) Did I mention that the whole morning was full of lake effect snow? It was pretty bad out there. We inched along, remembering a similarly treacherous drive through Eastern Ohio the day after a snow storm when we lived in Buffalo, NY. Well anyway, once we got to the Western side of Lake Michigan, the roads we fine, but then there was Chicago traffic. All told, we had driven about 2.5 hours longer than we should have to get home on Friday. Wisconsin was smooth sailing, and we got home 12 hours after departing. It was supposed to be a 9 hour trip, which we were expecting to take 10 with our normal stops. I suppose it could have been worse. We could have left a day later and been caught in an accident. We could have left earlier in the morning and been in a different accident. Instead, we arrived home safely but exhausted.

My favorite geological feature of Wisconsin, which we were really happy to get to after the morning events.
Yesterday we worked on unpacking, but were slightly delayed by a feverish child. The said feverish child is out of bed today with a very low temperature and no one else has a fever (yet). So, I am hopeful this virus will pass on quickly.

Coming home after so long is familiar but strange, and when I look out our back window, I can't help but feeling that even living in the largest metropolitan area of Minnesota, we do live in a sort of wilderness (I know it is not the REAL wilderness).
The view from the back window (this is from last January, we have less than a foot on the ground currently).
The untamed cold of the winter, the often intense heat of the summer, and the wildlife we witness in our "civilized" backyard, tells me that Minnesota is just the beginning of the West. It is a beautiful state, even in the wintertime. And it is starting to feel more and more like home.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Missing Mediation in Exodus: Gods and Kings

Last week, my husband and I got out to the movies to see Hollywood’s latest adaption of the Exodus story, Exodus: God and Kings, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Christian Bale as Moses and Joel Edgerton as Ramses II. The movie was full of striking imagery, and the music was reminiscent of the 1998 soundtrack of the Prince of Egypt. It followed the basic plotline of the Exodus story, while taking artistic license in the interpretation of the story.

The director, Scott focused largely on the brotherly rivalry between Moses and Ramses, starting the movie off with a battle against the Hittites in which Moses is a hero. Their relationship plays a key role in the progression of the movie. When Ramses discovers Moses’ true origin he banishes Moses to the wilderness. In the wilderness Moses meets Jethro and his family, and eventually marries one of Jethro’s daughters, Zipporah. Through his relationship with Zipporah, we learn about Moses’ lack of faith in any god. When Moses encounters the burning bush, it is unclear to him whether it was a dream or whether God is really asking him to do something. Through further subtle urging, Moses decides to go back to Egypt and see about freeing his people. He believes that God wants him to be a military leader. Throughout the rest of the movie, Moses spends a lot of time trying to figure out what God wants him to do and acting according to his own judgment. It seems that God has left Moses to free the Israelites through guerilla warfare. Only when Moses attempts fail, does God step in. And when God acts, He does not use his servant, Moses, He does it on His own. Moses responds to the actions with anger towards God. Pharaoh is given no explanation. And the Israelites just sit back and watch.

Scott missed the whole point of Moses’ relationship towards God and the Israelites. He missed the fact that Moses was not just a leader, but was also a mediator. As Catholics we know that God relates to us through human mediators, beginning with the prophets and fathers in the Old Testament and ultimately through Christ.In the book of Exodus, the Lord, hearing the cries of His people, chooses Moses to be His mediator. The role of a mediator is one goes between one party and another. Moses hears and understands God’s plan, his only doubt being that he is not worthy of this role. Moses speaks the words of the Lord to Aaron, and Aaron in turn speaks them to Pharaoh and the Israelites. When the Israelites have a complaint to make to God, such as when Pharaoh increases their workload, they tell Moses and Aaron, who in turn go to God. For each and every plague God tells Moses to warn Pharaoh, and has Moses perform a physical action to bring the plague about. When Pharaoh considers allowing the Israelites to go out into the wilderness to worship he tells this to Moses and Aaron, who then speak to the Lord asking Him to bring an end to each plague. In the Scriptures, God explains the entirety of His plan to Moses, how He ultimately will take His people out of Egypt, how Pharaoh will resist, how He will smite Egypt, and how Moses will do the signs for Him. There is a clear understanding between God and Moses, a clear line of communication, and the Israelites go to Moses when they need to speak to God.

This role of mediator is almost entirely missing from the movie. While in Scripture, God tells Moses clearly what He desires him to do, in the movie Moses is left with a lot of guesswork. In Scripture Moses relies entirely on God as to what he is to do next, and in the movie Moses spends a lot of time seeking God’s help for decisions and not getting any help.

There are three instances where Scott demonstrates a slight understanding of the importance of Moses acting as a mediator between God and the Israelites and Pharaoh. The first is before the final plague, the Death of the First Born. There God reveals His plan to Moses, Moses instructs the Israelites in how to protect themselves through the blood of a Lamb, and Moses warns Pharaoh that the final plague will be the worst. The second instance is at the Red Sea. While in Scripture, Moses is told to raise his arms so that the sea will part, the movie shows Moses making an act of faith that the Israelites will be able to cross the Red Sea. He falls asleep at night trusting that the Israelites will be safe, and wakes the next morning to see that the sea is parting. The final instance is in the last scene where Moses and the Lord are together on Mount Sinai and Moses is writing down the law, finally in agreement with what the Lord is doing.

Maybe Scott intended to use the story of Moses to tell a story of a person growing in faith overtime, but in doing so he missed the point of a mediator. As Catholics, mediation is a crucial part of our practiced faith. Moses is a type of Christ prefiguring Christ and revealing what Christ will be like. Christ, while He is God, also is the definitive mediator. He became man to mediate salvation to us. He established for us the mediation of his mother and that of the Church. The Church mediates God to us through the Magisterium and the Sacraments. Mediation is at the foundation of how we relate to God, and when you take the role of Moses’ mediation from the Exodus story, you miss the crucial way in which God relates to humanity.

Originally posted at Truth and Charity.

Friday, January 2, 2015

12 in 2014

And to rejoin the internet world after two full weeks of traveling and family parties, I am joining a linkup at House Unseen, Life Unscripted hosted by Dwija to review 2014. And looking back I realized that it has been a tragical, but hopeful year. (We are listening to Anne of Green Gables on our road trip, and tragical has entered my vocabulary.)


January began with a nice visit in St. Louis, and we returned to St. Louis a week later when my Dad had an aortic dissection and emergency, lifesaving surgery. Besides that it was way too cold for anything.


February was surviving the winter through pancakes, sunshine coming in our windows, reading books, and staying inside. Nothing too exciting happened. We probably did some preschool, and got ready for Lent.


In March we continued to monitor the snowmen on the blog. The ones that lasted from December to April. We had a thaw that brought a bit of water into our basement, which we quickly solved. M and G had their back to back birthdays. We went to St. Louis again to see Dad since he could not come to see us. And I discovered that I was pregnant with JP, and had ridiculous fears about having more children. I also shocked some Traditionalists by claiming things about the new Mass.


 April brought another sad event for our family, and that was the loss of our unborn baby. It was a very hard event for all of us, but we had the hope of Easter week to carry us through, and my trip to the ER ended well for my health. We also got more of our garden prepped for planting.


May brought resolution as I spent a lot of it resting and recovering from postpartum hemorrhaging on the couch and we buried JP. Spring finally came! The girls and I stalked the baby bunny that lived in our yard from the kitchen window. Our well fenced garden began to sprout, and I got better enough to bake lots of cookies for M's students.


In June, a creeping postpartum depression hit me again, but we nipped it in the bud with some progesterone supplements. M and I had a fun anniversary date with delicious food. The garden had its first harvests. And we had an amazing peanut butter chocolate pie for my birthday. We also began our summer canning with strawberry picking and jam.


 In July, I took a small vacation break from normal blogging and hosted a beautiful novena for marriage to Bl. Louis and Zelie Martin. We took a road trip to visit family in Georgia, Ohio, and Michigan and came home in time to can Georgia peaches. I also broke my little toe on the right, which was annoying. 


August brought more visiting with family, as my sister and her family came to play and then we went to St. Louis again, because I needed my fix of Ted Drewes Frozen custard. We continued to harvest the garden, and had some good times with friends. M decided to repaint the exterior of the house, and boy did it need it!



In September we relished the food. We grilled several times a week. We canned tomatoes, jam, and apple sauce. We tried new recipes. We really lived up the best month weather-wise in Minnesota. We also started school for an hour every day. We kept up with our kindergarten for a whole semester.


 October consisted of more canning and waiting for the 7 week ultrasound of our growing tiny baby. We shared our joyful news of a new baby on the way. School went well, but my appetite got more picky. M traveled to two conferences, and we had several out of town family visitors.



November flew by with two birthdays and Thanksgiving. It suddenly got cold, and the snow came. The kids loved the snow for about two weeks. I gave up on all things too mind consuming and decided to reread all of Jane Austen. By Thanksgiving, I was getting over most of my nausea.


December I wrote like crazy for about a week, and then the full brunt of Advent preparing hit me. I did a lot of making gifts (dying scarves, sewing scarves). We sent out Christmas cards. M finished his semester, and did lots of grading. I was tired all the time. And we went to see family for Christmas.

And I leave you with this, Merry Christmas!

(This was the best shot I got)

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