Wednesday, August 31, 2016

At the NCRegister Blog: Sigrid Undset and the Hound of Heaven

I recently finished reading Sigrid Undset’s The Master of Hestviken, having also read Kristen Lavransdattar and Catherine of Siena, and I am struck once again by her ability to understand humanity. One of the overriding themes in Undset’s works is God’s continual pursuit of a soul to the very end. She narrates nearly perfectly the interior state of her characters in all of their thoughts, experiences, desires, and inability to see truth. And, since her characters are so much like real people, they fall from grace, and live long lives of wallowing in their sins, and fleeing from a pursuing God who wants only to love them and to be loved in return.

The way she shows God’s continual, steady desire for humans to turn to him is reminiscent of Francis Thompson’s poem The Hound of Heaven, which begins with these lines:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
   I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
  Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears

And ends in these:
Halts by me that footfall:
   Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
   'Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
   I am He Whom thou seekest!

Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.'
Read more at the Register.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Blessed is She Devotion: Being Who You are Called to Be

I love that I was assigned to write about St. John the Baptist today. I have a special connection to him my whole life having been born two weeks past my due date on his Nativity in June. Today is the day in which we remember his martyrdom at the hands of King Herod. And as always happens when I write devotions, what I drew from the readings is so relevant to me today. I pray that I can be more like St. John the Baptist and allow Christ to use me despite my littleness.

Here is my devotion:

Two things stand out to me in today’s readings for the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, the first being how King Herod felt about John:

Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man,
and kept him in custody.
When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed,
yet he liked to listen to him.

King Herod knew that Saint John was a righteous man, and that he was speaking truth. But the truth put King Herod into a funny position. If he listened to Saint John, he would have to completely change his life. He would have to admit that he was wrong, and give up the women that he had taken as a wife from his own brother. He was stuck, and he was very attached to the life that he had, and because of this he was forced to kill a man who he knew to be holy and righteous.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Seven Quick Takes: Home School Plans

I am linking up with Kelly, the hostess of Seven Quick Takes!

1. People have been asking me if we started school,
and I sheepishly admit that, yes, we have. We have been "doing" the Awesome School since August 1. We needed structure. We needed routine. And two weeks of no structure after our final vacation of the summer was too much. So we started right along with two weeks of swim lessons for the two older children. The first week, all I did was 2nd grade math with G and 100 Easy Lessons with L. G did her history audio CD, piano, geography and Latin studying on her own. The second week we added science and spelling. The third week we added catechism, and this fourth week, we added on English for G and 1st grade math for L.

2. This has been our basic schedule, which I have developed as we added subjects. When G can work independently, I work with L. It has been going really well. Not in the schedule are the twice a week school time they have with their father (Latin, Geography, poetry memorization) and the painting and classical music piece per week. We are planning on doing four day school weeks this year (which is also why I started early).
3. G (2nd grade)
We are mostly continuing with what we did last year, but added a spelling and science text. And note that she did her First Communion in first grade.

4. L (Kindergarten)
L spent most of last school year making paper dolls and resisting learning to read. This year she is discovering that if we do lessons nearly everyday, "It is easy!" She also has shown an aptitude for math beyond the kindergarten level, so we are trying out Singapore's first grade curriculum and will take it as slowly or as quickly as she needs. 

5. F (Pre-K)
  • Printing: My First School Book from Handwriting Without Tears
  • Reading: If she has a desire for it, we will start 100 easy lessons once L is finished. This is a book I dislike in general to force on children until they are really wanting to read.
  • Nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and Beatrix Potter
  • Play!
  • Teach her baby brother what siblings are for
6. Fine Arts: The professor has been working with the girls on poetry memorization, but has also been teaching a painting and piece of music per week. He teaches them about the composer/artist and the period of art the work is from. We do this at dinner time. Here is the Fall semester list.

7. I am really glad we started the school year in steps. It has made it really low stress for me, and now doing a full day of school seems so doable. L is usually finished around 10am and G and I work until 11am. Then they can play until lunch. And now when September hits with the increase of commitments (piano lessons, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, Little Flowers, Co-op) we will already be well-adjusted to doing school.

Bonus take: Yesterday afternoon, after I got baby T (14 months) up from his nap (who is so much of a toddler these days), his sisters were demonstrating their gymnastics skills. L showed us several cartwheels. Then F did a few somersaults. We clapped after each physical feat. Then T seeing the floor clear, climbed off my lap, lay on the floor, and proceeded to show us how he could roll front to back to front to back across the floor. So, of course, we clapped.

*Please be advised: Some of the links are to Amazon. If you purchase anything through those links, I will receive a small percentage of the purchasing price. However, I linked mostly to the websites that we actually purchase from and have found the best prices.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

At the NCRegister: St. Benedict's Rule, the Little Silence, and Family Life

The first time I that read the Holy Rule of St. Benedict, I was particularly struck by the adaptability of the Rule to family life. This is not to say that a family should follow the Rule to a T. Rather, in our home life we should emulate the virtues that are needed for the particular roles in a monastery. Also, a structured routine of prayer, work, and planned relaxation is key for the formation of holiness. I have found that our whole family is happier when we have a routine, and that our routine helps us all learn the discipline required for forming virtuous habits.

One of our good college friends will soon be joining a monastery, and in discussing his future life, I asked him about the daily routine at the monastery. He described his day of waking early to pray, to eat breakfast, to pray, to work, to pray again, to pray more, to eat the afternoon meal, and then what they call “the Little Silence” (as opposed to “the Great Silence” at night)...

Read the rest at the Register...

Monday, August 8, 2016

Country Roads: Our Big Summer Roadtrip

We spent two weeks of July doing one of those massive road trips that we are wont to do; the kind that make we wonder if we are insane. We parred it back a bit from our Christmas trip, from three weeks down to two. And since the night weaning of T was so effective, we actually slept pretty well until he gave into his slowly emerging molars and woke several times the last night in MI. (The molars are still the cause of a 5-6ish morning wake up which requires me to feed the poor, teething baby; but this, too, shall pass.)

Here is what we did on our trip:
St. Paul to Michigan to Buffalo to the mountains of West Virgina with a stop in Pittsburgh to drop a friend off and an impulse swing by Steubenville (Hail, Alma Mater! Let your glories here be told!) back to Michigan over to Grand Rapids for a wedding back to Ypsilanti for Sunday Mass with a priest friend home from Germany and finally, finally, home again, home again...

And the best part is that for all those hours on the car, 13 month old T only was really inconsolably upset about it for the four hours between Steubenville and Ypsi.

Our first trek of our trip brought us for two nights to stay with the professor’s parents and his sister. We spent a quick 36 hours with them before shuffling off to Buffalo, NY, where we lived for four years while the professor earned his PhD. My grandparents live on the west side of Cleveland and we stopped there for a couple of hours and lunch; it was wonderful to see them and visit with them and my aunt and my two-year-old first cousin.

As we drove through Cleveland, east on down I-90, through the snow belt of Ohio, into Pennsylvania, and into New York, so many memories of our time in Buffalo came back to us. We talked to our eldest of parts of the road she always screamed through as an overtired infant at the end of long road trips, reminisced about the intense snow storms we plowed through for out Christmas visits to family, and pointed out our favorite places to stop for gas. All the emotions we felt in the instability of grad school life came back to us. We remembered our first drive up to Buffalo together to hunt for apartments. We admired the still beautiful vineyards of Western New York and admired the view of Lake Erie from the bluff that I-90 runs across.

In Buffalo, we stayed with some of our good friends from our years there who always seem to have at least twice as many kids as we do. We had none when they had three; we had two when then had four; we had our third when they had six, and now we have four and they have eight. They also live in a large, beautiful custom built five bedroom house (which is always spotless) with plenty of land for playing and exploring. In addition to hosting us for two nights, they graciously held a gathering with most of our friends that we were close to in Buffalo. It was awesome to see everyone, and we were all about the same as always with just a few more kids. I don't think I saw my older children the whole time we were there since they just were absorbed into the playing.
After two nights we drove to a resort in the mountains of West Virginia where we all felt awfully car sick rented a seven bedroom vacation home to house 11 adults and 12 children. We vacationed with these college friends three summers ago, and I wish we could do it every summer (or that we all lived in the same town). They are all so dear to us; these were the people with whom we formed a foundation of faith in our early adulthood and the kind that I can't wait to spend eternity with because they are so wonderful. (But we have also found wonderful friends everywhere that we have lived, and we love you all!)

The view from the porch of our house.

After our week of West Virgina we went back to Michigan for a cousin's wedding, and to see our dear friend who was ordained a priest for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priests last summer and was on a home visit. He has a beautiful hand carved wooden travel altar on which he said a traditional Latin low Mass in a house (just like the old days...) at which we were thrilled to assist. G requested the front row and knelt inches away from Canon (the title for priests of the institute), which was so special for her.

Between West Virginia and Michigan we made an impromptu stop in Steubenville. The campus was all set up for a youth conference, but we found a visitor parking spot and did a walk around campus. It was weird being there in some ways. We showed the kids where we had met, the courtyard between our old dorms where we had fallen in love, took them to the Port to pray, and spotted a young couple having an emotional conversation probably similar to those we used to have. It was nice to stop by and see the place.

The Marian (R) and Trinity (L) Hall courtyard that we often rendezvoused in before walks (like the one during which we confessed our like for each other).
The poured cement steeple of Christ the King Chapel next to which we met for the first time.
Where we met nearly 12 years ago.
The Portiuncula Chapel where there is perpetual adoration during the semester.
G and The Port.
The bridge between Steubenville and Weirton, WV.
We had a lovely trip, but are now savoring these warm months, easing back into school days (1-2 subjects a week), and eating all the in season foods... It is good to be home.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

At the NCRegister Blog: The Martyrs Witness to the Finitude of this Life

About two years ago, my eldest daughter at the age of four showed me a painting of St. Agatha’s martyrdom that she found in a children’s book of saints. The painting shows a deathly pale St. Agatha after the torture impose upon her of cutting off her breasts, gesturing in a pleading manner up to Heaven. A sorrowful looking woman is holding her from behind, pressing a bloodied cloth against the wound. And her breasts are being carried away on a platter. My second daughter at a similar age was fascinated by this painting and by this martyrdom, in her turn. She still has a great devotion to St. Agatha, though she has not yet asked to carry a basket of bread to the All Saints day party at our church. I will say that I have not yet been explicit with them about the details of her death.

My children’s wonder at martyrdom has always been prevalent in our discussion of the saints, and the manner of the saint’s death is often the first thing they inquire about. Christians should draw strength from the witness of the martyrs, and in my children’s youthful innocence, they see something appealing in martyrdom, in making a sacrifice.

Read the rest here...
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