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At our house, breakfast is one of those events that happens every day with no fail, right after the kids wake up and stagger downstairs. Still clad in their pajamas, bed head and all, the kids mostly fend for themselves, rummaging through the kitchen for their usual. Sometimes I intervene and push a fruit or egg, or help someone with something high up, but mostly, everyone is doing their own thing with my voice in the background (“Please get a plate. Don’t leave the knife in the butter. Do you have a hair tie for your hair – the peanut butter is getting all over the ends…”). From start to finish, maybe fifteen minutes. Twenty if someone’s particularly distracted or determined to whip up something fancy.

One day, after consulting the iPad for the day’s weather (“Ok guys, today is a sweater, fall coat, runners kind of day.”), the idea of clicking over to EWTN for the day’s readings floated in my mind. I was already trying to see when in the busy day something like that could be squeezed in, but had so far come up with a blank. I looked across the table at the kids and wondered if now would be a good time… and I chickened out.

I’m not sure how many times I chickened out after the idea presented itself.

“Winter coat, guys.” And nope. I am not going to read today’s Mass readings.

“You’ll be fine with just a hoodie today, everyone.” Nope. Not reading them.

One day, I didn’t chicken out. What’s the worse that could happen if I read some readings as they were eating breakfast? They all run screaming? Unlikely. The don’t listen? Probably. But maybe they’ll catch something. Maybe.

So I did it. I told everyone to feel free to keep eating but to try and stay put for a bit and listen (as opposed to get up and microwave their milk right at that moment). It took about… thirty seconds? No one ran screaming. Bonus.

I’ll take it. We did it again the next day. And the next.

We’ve been trying this for a few months now, with gaps due to forgetting and laziness here and there. I have hope that it might stick. It seems to start discussions that we would otherwise not have. They are hearing pieces of the Gospel that they would otherwise not hear. Their minds wander to Jesus’ life for a few precious seconds in their busy day. Seems like a small step in the right direction.

“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14

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I have many memories of my grandmother singing to us when we were little. Maybe she wasn’t particularly singing to us, but when putting us to bed, while cutting vegetables, she was always singing. Mostly, only fragments of the songs remain with me. Well, June being the month that the Church traditionally dedicates to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, imagine my suprise when I heard the lovely people at daily Mass singing one of my grandmother’s songs, O Sacred Heart, O Love Divine. It’s really the sort of gentle, lilting thing that will get stuck in your head — which may not be a bad thing since there are still some days left to June to join the Church in her devotion in our own little way. I only knew the refrain, so I Googled and found a lovely instrumental rendition on Youtube as well as the full lyrics. Happy singing!

 

 
 

O Sacred Heart! O Love Divine!

O Sacred Heart! O Love Divine!
Do keep us near to Thee;
And make our love so like to Thine
That we may holy be.

Heart of Jesus hear!
O heart of Love Divine!
Listen to our Prayer;
Make us alway Thine.

O Temple pure! O House of gold!
Our heaven here below
What sweet delight, what wealth untold,
From Thee do ever flow.

Heart of Jesus hear!
O heart of Love Divine!
Listen to our Prayer;
Make us alway Thine.

O Wounded Heart, O Font of tears!
O Throne of grief and pain!
Whereon for the eternal years,
Thy love for man does reign.

Heart of Jesus hear!
O heart of Love Divine!
Listen to our Prayer;
Make us alway Thine.

Ungrateful hearts, forgetful hearts,
The hearts of man have been,
To wound Thy side with cruel darts
Which they have made by sin.

Heart of Jesus hear!
O heart of Love Divine!
Listen to our Prayer;
Make us alway Thine.

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Sometimes there’s a little less water in the flower vase and a little more water in the crayon tray.

In the heat of the noon day sun, my five-year old, looking debonair in his chocolate fondue mustache, sighed and said, “Mama? I love Pentecost.”

At Mass today, Monsignor Zimmer invited us to look back and trace the tell-tale signs of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. I looked around me in the pew and I was surrounded by wiggly, distracted little people and thought, “Well, if that isn’t the Holy Spirit at work…”

Because I think if it were entirely up to me, my life would not be as rich and beautiful as it actually is when I’m looking at it properly. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for being involved. Please help open my heart to you and fill me with the fire of your love.

Happy Birthday, Church!

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Trinity, Rublev

If you remember from yesterday’s post, the little kids and I are singing a fragment of the song Come, Holy Spirit as our little mini novena. It’s day 2 and we managed to remember again! Yay, us. Will we remember tomorrow? Hopefully.

We’ve also tried saying the first version with the bigger kids (who now have a Brand New Super Exciting Later Bedtime, perfect for things like saying short novenas with mama and daddy).

Day 2
(This version comes from the lovely people at Pray More Novenas.)

Joy

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate.

Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Joy within us.

All of the Saints are marked with an uncompromisable Joy in times of trial, difficulty and pain. Give us, Oh Holy Spirit, the Joy that surpasses all understanding that we may live as a witness to Your love and fidelity!

Amen.

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 shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord,

Amen.

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Ascension by Giotto

Did you know that there are ten days until Pentecost? Did you know that today marks the first day of the oldest novena, when Jesus, before ascending into heaven, commanded his disciples to pray in preparation for the descent of the Holy Spirit? Have you vaguely heard the world novena before but have never done one? Perfect! Join me!

So many options…

Last year, the kids and I sang this Holy Spirit song for nine days and we dubbed it our own:

Little Mini Starter Novena

Come Holy Spirit, we need you.
Come, Holy Spirit, we pray.
Come with your strength and your power.
Come in your own special way.

I think it is only a fragment of a song that my grandmother used to sing for us when helping us get ready for bed, but it’s all I remember by heart. It’s simple and the kids love singing it. My grandma used to sing it with her eyes closed and both hands raised slightly. I don’t… yet.

(Update: I found the tune! Here’s a Youtube video of a young man singing the song.)

   

So far, my inbox has two versions of the Pentecost Novena from two different people and I thought I would share them with you, along with their sources. There appear to be countless versions available online.

Pentecost Novena, Version 1

Novena to the Holy Spirit Day 1
Charity

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate.

Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Charity within us.

The great charity of all the the host of Saints is only made possible by your power, Oh Divine Spirit. Increase in me, the virtue of charity that I may love as God loves with the selflessness of the Saints.

Amen.

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 shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord,

Amen.

(Find the Original Here: http://www.praymorenovenas.com/novena-to-the-holy-spirit/#ixzz3aDa3QBqa )
  
Pentecost Novena, Version 2

TEN DAY DEVOTION TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
FIRST DAY

Introductory Prayer [1]

Come, O Holy Spirit! Enlighten my understanding in order that I may know your commands; strengthen my heart against the snares of the enemy; enkindle my will. I have heard your voice and I do not want to harden my heart and resist, saying, “Later…tomorrow.” Nunc coepi! Right now! Lest there be no tomorrow for me.

O Spirit of truth and wisdom, Spirit of understanding and counsel, Spirit of joy and peace! I want what you want, because you want it, as you want it, when you want it.

Consideration [2]

Pentecost: the day when the Holy Spirit
Came down upon the Lord’s disciples

Having just read in the Acts of the Apostles about Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit came down on the Lord’s disciples, we are conscious of being present at the great display of God’s power with which the Church’s life began to spread among all nations. The victory Christ achieved through his obedience, his offering of himself on the cross and his resurrection — his triumph over death and sin — is revealed here in all its divine splendour.

The disciples, witnesses of the glory of the risen Christ, were filled with the strength of the Holy Spirit. Their minds and hearts were opened to a new light. They had followed Christ and accepted his teachings with faith, but they were not always able to fathom the full meaning of his words. The Spirit of truth, who was to teach them all things, had not yet come. They knew that Jesus alone could give them words of eternal life, and they were ready to follow him and to give their lives for him. But they were weak, and in the time of trial, they fled and left him alone.

On Pentecost all that is a thing of the past. The Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of strength, has made them firm, strong, daring. The word of the Apostles resounds forcefully through the streets of Jerusalem.

The men and women who have come to the city from all parts of the world listen with amazement. “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, Jews as well as proselytes, Cretans and Arabs, we have heard them speaking in our own languages of the wonderful works of God.” These wonders, which take place before their own eyes, lead them to listen to the preaching of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit himself, who is acting through our Lord’s disciples, moves the hearts of their listeners and leads them to the faith.

St Luke tells us that after St Peter had spoken and proclaimed Christ’s resurrection, many of those present came up to him and asked: “Brethren, what shall we do?” The apostle answered: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And on that day, the sacred text tells us, about three thousand were added to the Church.

The solemn coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was not an isolated event. There is hardly a page in the Acts of the Apostles where we fail to read about him and the action by which he guides, directs and enlivens the life and work of the early christian community. It is he who inspires the preaching of St Peter, who strengthens the faith of the disciples, who confirms with his presence the calling of the gentiles, who sends Saul and Barnabas to the distant lands where they will open new paths for the teaching of Jesus. In a word, his presence and doctrine are everywhere.

Concluding Prayer

Holy and divine Spirit! Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, your spouse, bring the fullness of your gifts into our hearts. Comforted and strengthened by you, may we live according to your will and may we die praising your infinite mercy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

[1] Cf. Postulation for the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of Msgr. Josemaria Escriva: Historical Registry of the Founder (of Opus Dei), 20172, p.145
[2] The homily: “The Great Unknown,” in Christ is Passing By, by St. Josemaria Escriva, is reprinted here and divided into ten “Considerations.”

The kids are particularly looking forward to collecting up all the leftover Easter chocolate for the annual Pentecost Fondue Extravaganza.

Come, Holy Spirit!

Our second daughter is eight. Eight is old. (At least, at our house it is.) And, eight? Eight is great!

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It means someone that you can send to the craft cupboard to “upgrade” the Jesse Tree ornaments, mostly by themselves and unsupervised. Ok, maybe a bit supervised.

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It means being able to reach the Jesse Tree above the piano without help.

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It means being able to start muddling through the missal during Sunday Mass. To muddle through seems to be defined by the Mirriam-Webster dictionary as “to achieve a degree of success without much planning or effort.” Tell me about it. I’m finding that doing a quick run through the missal before Mass greatly increases the chances of Missal Success and decreases the Great Sadness Caused by Missal Failure and Confusion. But maybe this is just my daughter.

It means being able to follow along with the hymns using the hymnals. Even if it takes almost the entire song in order to find the number in the book.

It still means needing to be reminded to be reverent by kneeling up or standing up straight at Mass, to listen and not get distracted, but it seems to mean not needing to be shushed as much. And she doesn’t throw down the hymnal, run down the aisle or need to be taken to the foyer. Praise. The. Lord.

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It means a more advanced version of the Faith and Life book that her little siblings are using. This yellow book is for kids in grade three. Smaller type, more detail, wonderful artwork.

It means a small session with Mama or Daddy after bedtime prayers to work through a simple examination of conscience before going to sleep. I was kind of hoping this would work itself out without any supervision – along the lines of “Ok. Don’t forget to examine your conscience before going to sleep.” But it worked just as well as “Ok. Don’t forget to brush your teeth before going to sleep.” They seemed to need a bit more hand holding and instruction before they could a) do it themselves when prompted, and b) develop the habit and remember to do it without prompting.

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It also means that they’re not likely to rough-house beside the ridiculously breakable Advent Wreath Situation and break the candleholders. No, that would be the six-year old. In cahoots with the five-year old.

Sigh.

Everyone has always told me to cherish these moments when the kids are little because it goes fast. And boy am I ever finding that it does. It goes very fast.

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Saint John Bosco, image from saintbosco.org

Much more difficult that remembering to read Bible stories,
much more difficult than finding Advent candles in storage,
much more difficult than teaching littles how to genuflect,
much, much more difficult…
(but maybe way, way more important)
… is being patient with my kids when they mess up.

I’m not talking about firm vs lax parenting, or having vs not having boundaries, or following through with proper consequences vs not. I’m talking about treating that little person with all the love that God has poured into me, with the patience and mercy that God has shown me, all the love that I am capable of giving, but really really not wanting to right this very minute. Not right now. Not while I’m so angry and frustrated and tired…

Sigh.

So many saints have, time and time again, reminded us that yelling in anger doesn’t really help a situation improve, doesn’t really motivate a little person (or any of us) to do better. In this post, Saint John Bosco reminds us that “there must be no hostility in our minds, no contempt in our eyes, no insult on our lips.” It doesn’t help: the hostility, the contempt, the insults. And really, if others treated us that way, we would feel horrible. And it doesn’t help.

Among the more powerful ways I can bring my children to Jesus is to show them in my face, His face: just how much He loves them. When they see me controlling my temper, or apologizing when I cross the line, they remember. On the other hand, when they see that time and time again, that this is how Mama gets things done when it’s “important,” then I will find a ten-year old speaking to her baby brother that way, when it’s “important.” Unless I work hard to curb it in myself, I might find myself in a horrible household where yelling is the main mode of discourse: a situation that will partly be of my own making.

God calls us to treat the littlest as we would treat Him. I try and I pray. Maybe you can pray for me, too. It’s such a humiliating and slow process for my pride to take, but he promises he will help and I have hope that, in time, it will get better. My path is littered with His reminders and I will keep on trying.

Must remember, St. John Bosco says:
no hostility in our minds,
no contempt in our eyes,
no insult on our lips

Difficult, but worthwhile.

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Right before bedtime, after the kids are in pajamas and all the teeth have been brushed, there’s some time for reading books. Sometimes they choose. Sometimes we choose. While the reading kids are now off in their own corner with “big kid” books, the non-readers (or the not quite reading) are still willing to snuggle and listen to a story or two.

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Sometimes I choose this book. I say that I’m only going to read just one chapter.

Our Heavenly Father is actually a grade one religion textbook, from a series called “Faith and Life” that is popular with many homeschoolers. The kids don’t seem to mind, and I find that I can simply read it without having to paraphrase it to make it more engaging and understandable. The level works well for my current SK and grade one little persons. Each chapter is pretty short and is accompanied by a beautiful image.

Sometimes it’s the first time they’re hearing it, but sometimes the kids know the story already. Where did they learn it? From us, from school, from the nice people who run the Time with God programme at the parish, from Mass itself. It’s neat to see them get excited when they put it all together, all these great stories that form our faith from different parts of their life, from different people in they know.

“Read the next one!”
“You mean, ‘Please read the next one.'”
“Please read the next one?”
“For sure.”
“And the one after that?”
“Maybe.”

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Serpent and Forbidden Fruit, from TheBashfulDaisy

I found TheBashfulDaisy, another seller on Etsy, who is selling these cute Jesse Tree ornaments made out of clay.

On her description of the ornaments, she adds a few words about the Jesse Tree: “Today, the Jesse Tree has found renewed popularity. With an ornament and Scripture reading for each day of December, it vividly highlights God’s hand throughout the Old Testament as He made way for the coming Messiah.”

The story of Adam and Eve is so powerful that even the littlest of my children will start firmly and loudly and passionately warning Eve about the serpent’s evil intentions. It doesn’t ever work, and Eve and Adam ultimately end up disobeying their Creator. It doesn’t end there (thankfully) and God promises a Saviour and Redeemer, who “makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience, of Adam.” [from the Catechism. Read that bit when you have a moment. It’s cool.]

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Check out this Fra Angelico painting: with Adam and Eve on the left, sadly leaving the Garden of Eden, and the Angel Gabriel and Our Lady on the right (bonus points if you find the Holy Spirit), right in the middle of the line described in the Angelus, The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary: And she conceived of the Holy Spirit. And between these two events are all the people, famous and featured on the Jesse Tree or otherwise, waiting waiting waiting for God’s promised Messiah.

O Emmanuel, Jesus Christ,
desire of every nation,
Savior of all peoples,
come and dwell among us.
(the Advent Wreath prayer for the first week)

The season of Advent starts on Sunday, November 30. Hanging each of these ornaments (or even just thinking about hanging these ornaments) is helping me revisit Bible stories that I take for granted and discover layers of meaning that they have for me. It’s also a chance my husband and I have to share them with my children, during a season that’s perfect for that very thing: tracing through the great stories of the Bible in anticipation of Jesus’ birth.

Super duper good news: it’s not even Advent yet! This little-known often-overlooked liturgical season which helps us prepare for Christmas only starts on November 30 and continues until December 24, the day before Christmas. So, for the perennially-late and forever-procrastinating sorts like me, we’ve got TIME. I usually get hit by the reality of the Advent a few days before it starts, if I’m lucky. My hint is usually that the rest of the world gets into full Christmas mode and I think Ha! The radio stations are playing Christmas music and the malls are shiny and decorated… it must be… Advent! But since the malls and the radio stations are getting started earlier and earlier, it means that I get a bit more time.

Time to do what?

Well, at Christmas we celebrate the birth of Christ. Advent is the period of waiting and preparing that happens beforehand. Sometimes called “little Lent,” it is a time that involves increased prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

For us, the prayer part of Advent has involved three very old yet simple traditions: lighting candles of an Advent wreath each night at dinner along with a little prayer, and hanging an ornament on a Jesse tree (usually at night before bedtime) along with a little Bible story, and setting out the Nativity scene (without Jesus, because… he’s not there yet.).

Basically, I need to buy/make a wreath and four candles, and find the Jesse tree ornaments and the nativity scene somewhere in storage. Seems so simple…

Advent wreath. Image by Andrea Schaufler.
This is what we’re going for.

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This is usually what happens. No wreath. Candles don’t quite stay in candleholders. Fatter candles?

E for effort, I say. Also, I’ll need to hunt down the card that has the Advent prayers for when we’re lighting the candles of the wreath.

The ornaments of a Jesse Tree represent the descendants of Jesus form the Old and New Testaments. It’s such a great way to get familiar with the Bible characters and their stories.

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We made these simple Internet-downloaded and kid-coloured ornaments a few years ago. I’m sure these are somewhere. Probably near the Nativity scenes. Behind the sleeping bags? Beside bathing suits and flip-flops?

OR you could make your own felt ornaments.

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Or buy fancy ones from Etsy. At all price points. (from InspiredTraditions on Etsy)

Some kind people have put together the accompanying Bible readings to go along with each ornament here or here. Or sometimes we just use the Bible story books that we already have around. Or sometimes we just say, “This is Noah’s ark… ok, time for bed.”

It’s not yet Advent! There’s time!

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Sometimes I make a big mess of things. A really big mess. Sometimes the messes I make are the work of several awful days that finally pile up to create an overwhelming avalanche of terrible, and sometimes I do just one swift awful thing and them BAM. There I am, spiritually face down in the dirt, having failed the very people that God gave me to take care of. And when I’ve done something awful, I find it near impossible to get up and do the next thing. Unload the dishwasher. Say sorry. Anything. Move on and try again. I find it hard to do that. I’m just so awful, I think. I should just stop because I’m just going to keep doing awful things. There’s really no hope for me or for these sad people who need me.

Flashback to the mid-nineties…

During what may have been my last bike ride, my front wheel slipped on a steep bit of road and I flew off, head first. If it were one of those extreme sports competitions, I would have gotten all sorts of points for how high I was. I landed roughly on the dirt and gravel and when I finally stopped skidding, I lay there for a bit, face to the ground, dazed. I stayed there for a while, painfully covered in cuts and bruises.

Fast-forward again…

That’s what a spiritual faceplant feels like to me: humiliating and awful and you just don’t want to move. For a while. A long while. Everything hurts and maybe, maybe they’ll all just let you stay down here, in the dirt (or mud, if you’re crying).

After typing all that, I wish I had something profound and practical to share about what to do in these situations. Most times, and for longer than I would admit, for longer than I need, I just wallow. Feel bad for myself. And boy is it hard to do good things in this state. But sometimes, SOMETIMES, I remember to turn to God and say Help me, please! through my tears, or anger, or humiliation. I feel really silly saying that, if I really thought about it, thought back to all those really terrible times, God hasn’t failed me yet. All those moments have ultimately worked out for the good. God hasn’t failed me yet, and still I linger in the dirt before asking Him for help. Sometimes I don’t even remember to ask at all. He is all-merciful and all-powerful. And He loves me more than I can imagine. Even if I’m a very slow learner.

After the 9:00 a.m. Saturday Mass, while the Rosary is being recited and as the Confession line slowly grows then shrinks, I’ve noticed that there is always someone carefully going through the entire church, dusting.

It’s not a trivial task.

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It isn’t a small church.

Now, if you are the sort of person that has always existed in a dust-free house, dusting all the corners as often as needed like breathing (i.e. automatically and without fuss), then this might not be that big a deal. You might think, Of course someone dusts all of St. Clements! But to me, dusting is a recent discovery. The realization that it is possible to have a home that does not have a thick layer of dust on all of the infrequently-used surfaces (and some of the frequently-used ones) is new new new.

It was exciting to do it the first few times. Look at me! I’m dusting! Look at my house! It’s dust-free! But the 27th time? The 38th time? It was losing its excitement. (Isn’t that what housekeeping is all about? Excitement? Haha.)

As I watched that anonymous St. Clement parishoner carefully run the duster through the Stations, St. Michael, the Tabernacle, carefully, carefully working through all the nooks and crannies, I was inspired to take up my duster again, even without the initial enthusiasm. I suppose some of the more humble tasks associated with loving those placed in our care get to this point – where there is no more excitement. I am usually surprised that, when it fades, a different sort of fuel takes its place, allowing me to keep on keeping on. I have a sneaky suspicion that it is Grace.

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Things that one might do today for the greater glory of God:

1. Empty the dishwasher.

2. Take out the smelly garbage.

3. Cheerfully register for Fall extra-curriculars. Or cheerfully fail at registering for Fall extra-curriculars.

4. Not lose one’s temper at the child who tries to enter the refrigerator.

5. Not lose one’s temper at the child who is yelling at the other child trying to enter the refrigerator.

6. Smile at the neighbours walking their dogs, despite being shy.

7. Wash the school lunch thermos line-up before they get crusty.

8. Listen attentively to the after-school stories.

9. Make dinner.

10. De-crustify the high chair.

(As far as I can tell, in order to do something for the greater glory of God, one turns to God and says, “God? I think you would like me to do this and I’m doing this for your greater glory.” And I think there are bonus points if you really don’t want to do it.)

Good days, Bad days
Two days ago, I had one of those Terribly Bad Days. Or rather, my toddler had a Terribly Bad Day (reason: unknown) and there’s nothing like a tantrummy toddler to send your mood spiralling South. Nothing went right. By the end of the day, my nerves were a wreck and I was snarling at everyone. Blech. I went to bed with my eyes narrowed at God, praying, “God? Where are you? What are you thinking?” Yesterday, on the other hand: the sky was blue, the toddler was smiling (reason: unknown) and everything fell easily into place. Same me, same toddler, same God. Same God who loves me and my toddler more than I can ever imagine, as much two days ago as he did yesterday. Some days are good days, some days are bad days – and we keep on keeping on. Blest be the name of the Lord.

The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. -Deuteronomy 6:4-7

I love how it specifies when one should talk about this. You could make a little to-do list in your mind to make sure you’ve covered all your bases:

Have you talked about how the Lord our God is one Lord, and that you should love him with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might:

a) With your children?
b) When you’re sitting?
c) When you’re walking?
d) When you lie down?
e) When you rise?

And then, at some point, we could say: Check, check, check, check and check! Doesn’t everyone enjoy crossing things off lists?

Sometimes parties run late and sometimes you might find yourself ushering droopy toddlers or crazy wired toddlers from their carseats to their beds a bit after their usual bedtime. You’ve placed their tired bodies into pajamas and wrestled a toothbrush through their birthday cake-filled teeth. (Or not. Tomorrow morning might just be as good.) If they’re absolutely done, you carry them to bed, you might ask them to whisper, “Good night, Jesus.” as you point at the crucifix. Or you might say it, since they’re already asleep. Maybe they have been since the car.

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Maybe they’re still in their party clothes

But if they’re awake and have a bit left in them, you might sing just the refrain from this song, complete with actions. You might do this a few times, or more than a few times. When everyone learns it really well, you might try going faster and faster until you’re all giggling, or then slower and slower until it’s like a lullaby. Kind of like Taize, but for toddlers.

The Super Easy Lyrics
Jesus Christ,
You are my life!
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Jesus Christ,
You are my life!
You are my life!
Alleluia!

The Super Easy Actions
Jesus: Point to the middle of your palm (at Jesus’ wound)
Christ: Point to the middle of your other palm (at Jesus’ other wound)
You are: Point out with both hands
my: Point to yourself with both hands
life: Cross both hands over your heart
Alleluia: Trace enthusiastic circles, pointing upwards with both index fingers (i.e. Woohoo! Party!)

(Kind of like this, but the non-Lent version.)

flowersfromscarborough

“What is this maternal love? It’s a love that sees beyond my failures and mistakes to the good in me. It’s a love that is able to see who I really am, and what I could be. It’s a love that is willing to sacrifice for me, so that, I, too, can come to believe that possibility. The experience of maternal, spiritual love cuts right through the subconscious fear that can lurk in hearts, that deep down, there is something un-loveable about me. Maternal love brings the other to life and sets him or her free to join the living chain of heroic love.”

“We’ve come to learn that this spiritual love is not about doing more but about allowing oneself to first be moved in delight by the good of the other, and then outwardly manifesting that delight. This idea can sound simple enough, but do we truly life in this way? Do we love like this? Are we open to receive another person, allowing our hearts to be moved by some goodness we see and notice in them – such as beauty, strength, vulnerability, generosity? And then do we mirror that back to them, before acting, giving advice or stepping in to help, so that they experience being confirmed in their own goodness?

The emphasis is so important, otherwise the other person may feel as if I love them only because I am good (or because I “have to” since I am his or her parent), and not because of any goodness I see within them that is moving me. It is the goodness of the other which is the cause of my delight.

This true affirmation of another is not always easy. It takes faith, courage and fortitude. Sometimes I have to work to let go of myself in order to be open to receive the other and allow my heart to be moved in delight. Sometimes I see the beauty, but it takes the other person a very long time to see what I’ve seen in them. It takes commitment to consistently look beyond repeated mistakes and to love another with constancy, perseverance, courage and delight. But it’s worth it.”

– Mother Agnes Mary, SV, Superior General of the Sisters of Life

(I randomly picked up a brochure from the Sisters of Life in Toronto from the lobby of the Newman Centre, at the heart of the University of Toronto, to pass the time. I read the letter at the front from Mother Agnes Mary, SV, their Superior General, and it was just too wonderful not to share. As a mom, it made me feel like a superhero, able to blast “right through the subconscious fear that can lurk in hearts, that deep down, there is something un-loveable” about them. Ka-POW! Pretty cool.)

mess
What a mess.

I’m a terrible baker. Actually, that might be overstating it, since I’m not a baker at all. At. All. The amount of times it occurs to me to take the trouble to bake is shamefully close to zero. I’m not sure why this is – maybe I never did it before I got married? I didn’t do well in Chemistry? I prefer a chicken leg to a piece of cake any day? My mother is an awesome baker? So many excuses, so little time.

The thing about kids – or, maybe my kids in particular – they seem to really enjoy the fruits of baking. To them, being given something freshly baked is one of the greatest acts of love they can ever imagine. I can’t wrap my mind around it. Let’s be honest: they wouldn’t sneeze at a lovely piece of Costco-bought pastry. But freshly baked? By a person that they know? Who will even let them help? And lick the bowl? And the spatula and the floor? That’s heaven on earth.

My husband bakes. And let’s the kids help. And lick things. And together they wait in front of the oven and watch the magic of baking soda and baking powder in action. I take pictures of them as they make memories together and then go away and hide.

I don’t know about you, but it’s been a tough Lent. Tough for all sorts of reasons but look:

jesus

There he is and he went through all sorts of tough and awful and heartbreaking things because he loves me so… I’m doing my best to hang in there. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. The stats are not so great.

So it occurs to me to Offer It All Up and make a Super Big Sacrifice and conjure up an Act of Love for my little people. It is Lent after all. I decide to make Banana Muffins. While the one-year old was napping of course (I’m not a saint yet – baby steps).

I toil. I lose a few years of my life stressing that the baby will wake up at the critical Spooning of the Batter into the Muffin Cups stage. I even Clean Up Afterwards. The smell of freshly baked muffins fill my house. My shoulders relax. Thank you, Jesus. I really needed that.

The school bus arrives and crew marches into my house. They smile when they notice the smell.

“MAMA! Did DADDY make muffins?!”
“No… I did.”
“Did Daddy HELP you?!”
“…”

09_sep_ladyofsorrows
Our Lady of Sorrows. I can talk to her. She understands.

This was the hymn of the mid-morning prayer over at iBreviary. I had never heard it before and found this YouTube video to share with you.

At the parish
Kudos to the St. Clement School kids and their teachers and the folks at the parish office for putting together yet another powerful tableaux-style Stations of the Cross! You guys did such a good job! My husband only had to take the one-year old to the foyer (where he continued to compete with the presentation). The bigger little kids were enough engaged and were able to stay still and watch wide-eyed as Jesus carried his cross (“Is that really heavy, Mama?”). And afterwards?

One child: That was REALLY short, Mama. That was shorter than Mass!
Another child: That was WAY longer than Mass!
Another child: Was that a Mass? (Um, no.)

At home
At home, we’ve been trying the same format that we’ve been using for the past couple of years. We can only do about seven stations (max, sometimes much less) at one go before certain individuals get the giggles and then it’s over. Then we just start from where we left of when we get a chance again. One day, everyone will be so mature that we’ll get to the stations in the double digits… in one evening!

In other news
The one-year old is learning the Sign of the Cross! Right now it resembles Tarzan thumping his chest, but it’s PROGRESS.

tarzan

Maybe the baby is having a morning nap or just be happy to wiggle on a blanket for a few minutes. Maybe you’re between tasks at work. Maybe you’re in the middle of a task. Anyway, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, maybe you can take a tiny, little break. Maybe you can say the mid-morning prayer (I think it’s called Terce) with me? Five ten minutes. Tops.

We even have some options here…

This translation is from the the folks at iBreviary. (Whenever there’s a choice, look for the parts labeled “midmorning”)

or this one from the folks at Universalis.

In celebration of the fact that it’s warmish and no one had to wear snow pants this morning. Although some of us insisted in bringing their snow pants in a plastic bag, just in case. Because NO SNOW PANTS? That’s just weird…

What is this?

Here a volunteer parishoner at St. Clement shares her personal experiences as her young family tries to keep the Catholic faith alive in their homes, living out the promises of their Baptism. Thank you for stopping in and be sure to share some of your stories as well!

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