Sunday, September 30, 2018

NCRegister:6 Prayers to Help Unite Your Suffering to Jesus Christ

After dealing with several chronic local infections this past summer, I was bit by a tick in late July and contracted Lyme disease. The Lyme targeted my right ankle and knee, making it impossible for me to walk without crutches and without extreme pain for nearly two weeks. The pain persisted even when I was lying down, and I insisted to my husband that this was more extreme pain than my four natural childbirths. It was the kind of pain where you would rather have the diseased limb cut off than wait for it to heal. I do not think I would have been able to bear the pain mentally, emotionally, or physically had I not taken my illnesses to prayer and offer them as sufferings united to Christ’s one sacrifice.

The initial shorter-term severe pains and the constant minor pains that have lingered on over many weeks have given me much opportunity to embrace redemptive suffering. I have heard much about “offering up” my sufferings throughout my life as a cradle Catholic, but it is something I did not really understand until I was given an opportunity to practice it.

This idea of our suffering being raised to the level of the Redemption is such a beautiful part of our Church’s tradition. I am focusing on physical suffering here, but it rings so true for other sufferings as well. There are several prayers and Scripture passages that I have found helpful to meditate with and rest in throughout my time of illness.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register...

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

NCRegister: There is Always Something More to Give Up

I sat on a blanket beside my friend on a warm summer morning as we watched our children participate in a soccer camp. We were reflecting on motherhood and how it had changed us over the long, but short, years that we had been mothers. My tenure as a mother is just shy of a decade, so really, not that long.

I explained to her how I had been reading the Institutes of St. John Cassian as part of my research for a (very, very) long term project, and that I have found his instructions to monks about growth in virtue very applicable to my life as a laywoman. Not that I am called to the austerity that the desert fathers lived, but that the austerity that they are called to is parallel to that which a mother and wife is called.

I brought him up to my friend, because, Cassian, when talking about covetousness made a point that rang so true to my experience of seeking to grow in holiness in my vocation: “[T]here is no one who has not something to give up.” (Book VI, Ch. 27)...

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register...

Friday, September 7, 2018

Life These Days

 Somehow we have hit a rhythm that is working this semester. Maybe it is working for me because I get to sleep until my Lyme diseased body is ready to wake up, and the professor is doing the work of getting the children up for the day. But I think that perhaps he is okay with things as well, especially since we put our feet down earlier this year and made all the children ages 5 and up responsible for getting themselves ready and fed in the morning.

I have been waking up around 8 am most days to the sound of my children laughing and playing outside my door. By the time I am dressed and out of my room, the school aged children are hard at work at the dining room table, and the professor is working beside them. His sabbatical has become a semester of studious contemplation for us all. Once I am able to manage the school and teach the subjects that need teaching (about half of their work is independent requiring very little one on one instruction), the professor disappears to do his work away from the chaos of four children.

I guide the children through school until lunchtime at 12:30pm. We have fourth grader, second grader, kindergartner, and a three year old bundle of energy this year. Mostly the younger two entertain themselves with continual reminders to play somewhere else when they intrude upon school space. I do make time to work on math, reading, and handwriting with my kindergartner, and my preschooler is gleaning all sorts of things like counting, colors, playing blocks, building duplos, coloring, from his older sister.

We have found our rhythm in the elementary school level as well. I am used to our curriculum for each subject now (though fourth grade singapore math is getting intimidating--I can't remember at what grade level I learned the order of operations...but we just covered it!), so teaching is going smoothly.

Lunchtime has become super easy as well since we instituted the "make your own lunch" rule. To clarify, we have guidelines about this for them--they choose from a small variety of healthy options. The older children then move the dishwasher along after lunch while listening to a fairy story from the Andrew Lang Fairy Books (which we learned recently were actually compiled by his wife and some of her friends!).

After lunch is nap time for the three year old and quiet time for the rest of us. The girls and I start of each quiet time with a short prayer time where I read the daily Mass readings to them and then we reflect quietly (or look through saint books or children's Bibles) for ten minutes. They go off to their quiet time spots for an hour and I settled into reading theology for about an hour (trying to get through St. Gregory the Great's Morals on the Book of Job before Christmas), and then whatever writing or editing work I need to do for that day.

We have streamlined dinner meals to be shorter an easier these last few years, so I can usually get away with working until 4:30 or so before I cook dinner (which I have been able to do these past two weeks...this Lyme will be beaten!).

At dinner we will often have a discussion topic. We cover one painting and one work of music a week. Lately, we have been reading through the Constitution and discussing it. About once a week we watch Ken Burn's National Park's documentary with dinner, and that sparks discussion as well--our kids are turning into environmentalists! Sometimes we will discuss a question from St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae. Then the professor reads to us from the Bible--a chapter of the Old Testament and a chapter of the New Testament in order. We have been doing this for over three years and it is so great to hear it, and for the children to learn salvation history in a family setting.

After dinner, I take my crazy amount of meds (had a morning dose as well), and help the professor clean the kitchen.

We get the kids to bed in a leisurely way with family prayers, stories, and lots of "last drinks" and visits to the bathroom. The professor reads to the older kids from a chapter book. They just finished Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, and are reading The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle. It is the second time through for King Arthur, but the younger kids do not remember it.

Once everyone is in bed, the professor and I have been indulging in Star Trek: Enterprise. We were both into Star Trek in high school, gave it up in college, and tapped back into it our first years of marriage. This series is new to us, and has been a good way to enjoy the evening quiet while I have been sick. We usually have time for reading as well. I just finished Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray, and am now plowing through my second reading of Framely Parsonage by Anthony Trollope.

So, despite the annoyance of being sick since we got back from our wonderful trip Out West, I am finding a peaceful enjoyment in the studiousness of our life these days. I think it is good for the kids and for us to spend our days in study, even if my two afternoon hours does not seem like that much, it does wonders for me. This is the home school life I dreamed of, and I wish the professor's sabbatical would last forever...and maybe we could avoid all the extra curricular activities that have not yet started...
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