Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Reading

I am doing so much better this month, but there are gifts to count even while one is incapacitated.
1. soft pillows
2. purry cat
3. good books
and much, much more ...

One Thousand Gifts: a Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp: Her name is so familiar, I must have read some reflections of hers in other books, so when I chanced upon this in the thrift-store I had to pick it up. I challenge you to do as she did -- name a thousand gifts -- one thousand blessings, ways you realize you're the beloved of God. I guarantee you, even in your hardest moments, you'll be able to thank and bless the Lord.

What I loved about this book is how poetically Ann writes about the ordinary things -- laundry, cooking, playing with children. She's a pig-farmer's wife, raising their six children. I'll share this with Dagny when she's a bit older. Ever since we saw that episode on Little House where Nelly runs off to marry a pig farmer, we've joked about her marrying one as well (for all the bacon). I'm afraid that the modern woman is often left feeling "is this all there is" because she's not been trained to embrace her vocation -- marriage and motherhood. And without that, the daily work of feeding and caring for children and home become a chore, instead of a calling from God to bring souls to Christ. Gifts. Offerings.

"Eucharisteo -- thanksgiving -- always precedes the miracle."



Dancing on the Head of a Pen: the Practice of a Writing Life by Robert Benson: I received this as a little freebie from Waterbrook Press and what a joy it was to spend some time with a person who is both deeply spiritual and loves writing. It's not a how-to book per se, but rather a why-to book. I'm at a creative low right now and it's helping me to examine why I write. This book reminded me very much of my dear friend Mel Boring, who taught at ICL and who used to encourage me much the same way before his death a few years ago.

But some advice is spot on: "O begin." Like Linda Sue Park, he writes 2 pages a day (600 words). Keep a journal. "A journal provides a place for him to learn to speak truth to himself about himself or discover his capacity for disingenuousness. A place to discover when he writes too fast of too glibly, too carefully or too safely. A place to discover his voice slowly over time so that when the real game is afoot, he can trust it."

Read good books; they are our best teachers. "A direct relationship exists between the caliber of the writing you read and the caliber of the writing you make."
 

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke: This book has popped onto my radar many times over the dozen years I've been writing so I finally felt compelled to get a copy. I'm not disappointed. The advice in the first letter itself is worth the price of the whole book. Ex.

"Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of the night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must" then build your life in accordance with this necessity ...."

"... Then take the destiny upon yourself, and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what reward might come from the outside."

"...have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answer, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."

Alas, reading this book also made me realize that I am in the category of Herr Kappus, whom the letters were written to. Has anyone heard of him? No, I didn't think so ...

Friday, January 29, 2016

Coping with Pain and Sorrow

I came across a wonderful article with some advice from the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, on alleviating pain and sorrow.

1. Do something pleasurable
2. Shed tears; groan or speak your sorrow
3. Rely upon the compassion of friends
4. Contemplate Truth
5. Sleep and take baths

I am sleeping and resting a lot (well more like writhing in pain and finally falling asleep). My prayer is reduced to crying and taking the name of Jesus. I ask for mercy. I offer this up. I give thanks. But oh Lord, when will this end? 

It's hard to take pleasure right now, but writing affords me some, as well as the beautiful hymns and psalms that play in my head silently. I ask for your prayers to be strong and not give in to the pain. I already failed yesterday ... I have so much to learn about letting go of any and all expectations.

Looking at these pictures from the Christmas excursion in NC makes me happy.

 


Monday, January 25, 2016

My Mom's Feast Day

I do believe my mother is in heaven right now, interceding on our behalf and offering thanks and praise to God Almighty with all the saints and angels. It's hard to believe I am the same age as my mother when she died. Fifty-one feels too young. When I turned 41 I thought I would never want to die at 51 but what a difference faith makes. Death has lost its sting. When Michael and the kids were baptized, I gave them back to Jesus and their souls are indelibly marked as His possession. This Easter we will celebrate our 7th anniversary of being received into Holy Mother Church. God is so good to us even when we're not.

My mom did well. She instilled her strong faith in us and even though I strayed -- for 30 years -- I returned home stronger than ever. Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ, but my own free will. But I choose Jesus.
 
Pray for us, Ai, that we may fight the good fight and persevere to the end. And just in case you are still being purified, I pray for you too.
 
Note: Today is also the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul on the road to Damascus. It really brings to mind the mystical Body of Christ.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Early Lenten Season

This picture is in my St. Andrew's Missal. Lent is early this year and we prepare three weeks prior, cutting the season of Epiphany short. Christmas is all put away in our household ... even the cards.

My current detox program fits this preparatory period perfectly. Before I have a second round of Botox injections, I am weaning off all the painkillers. This means no aspirin, Tylenol, Motrin, triptans, sleeping aids, coffee, tea or chocolate. You see, I live day to day and try never to take the same thing twice in a row, but I still take something most days because there is always some pain. Things have just gotten worse over the past 12 years. Although I tried detoxing several years ago, I failed miserably. I was in so much pain (we're talking a 9-10 on a scale of 1-10) that I ended up having to go to ER. My neurologist and I decided that the best we can do for me is to manage the pain. However, now that we have Botox to help us, we have a good chance of teaching the brain not to rely upon the painkillers. My new neurologist says it takes anywhere from 2-12 weeks to detox completely. It's HARD folks. This self-denial.

It's funny, I thought I would miss my tea the most -- I have a cup of minty black tea every morning and afternoon -- but a crunchy apple works just as well. What I miss most is not being able to even take an aspirin, the wonder drug. So, a great deal of mortification here, but I pray the fruits will be great.

Pray for me and I will pray for thee.

ETA: I don't mean to alarm anybody. It's perfectly fine to take painkillers on an occasional basis.

Friday, January 22, 2016

God Bless America?

At the Republican debate, what Mike Huckabee said really resonated. How can we say God bless America when the soil is saturated with the blood of a million babies each year? 

Parce Domine!

The good news is that abortion is on the decline in spite of the fact that we've had the most pro-abortion president ever.

I think the sanctity of life is one of the most important issues to address. All other rights stem from this fundamental right to life.
 
Recently we watched a lovely movie, Bella, that addresses why women have abortions and what we as a society must do to help. It's a great story with a beautiful cast of characters. A story to dissect and study. The same team made Little Boy, which I also enjoyed very much.  

Sunday, January 17, 2016

FREE Traditional Catholic Books

GOLDMINE! I came across this on Rorate Caeli. What a tremendous resource of free, traditional Catholic books, both in English and Spanish. Although I have a preference for printed books, having an e-reader has made it easier to read some amazing Catholic books without breaking our budget.

I hope you will find many titles of interest.


http://www.traditionalcatholic.co/free-catholicbooks/

http://www.traditionalcatholic.co/free-catholic-books-ii/

I love the sidebar with all the blogger's favorite saints. Fancy, they are some of my friends too!!!

Right now I'm reading Story of a Soul by the Little Flower on my kindle and I could just weep from joy, how tenderly she writes about her family, her joys and sufferings, and her love for Jesus. Pray for us, St. Therese!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Choice of the Family

We celebrated the Feast of the Holy Family last Sunday, so it’s a pleasure for me to share some thoughts about The Choice of the Family: A Call to Wholeness, Abundant Life, and Enduring Happiness by Bishop Jean Laffitte.

In a series of interviews conducted by Pierre and Véronique Sanchez, Bishop Laffitte explains how the family is the bedrock of society. This is the vocation most of us will have, so it’s important to do it faithfully.

For people familiar with St. John Paul II’s work, this will not be new. However, it always helps if the same ideas are reiterated in different ways. JPII’s book on Love and Responsibility is heavy reading. This book is far more digestible given the Q&A format, though at times, the questions felt too convoluted or leading. But most of the time one has the sense of sitting comfortably with the Bishop, possibly having some tea and biscuits, as he delves into the intricacies of family life. I especially liked that the interviewers spent some time on Bishop Laffitte’s background. He’s the youngest of a dozen children, raised in a faithful Catholic home. The example of his own family is lovely, with a father who leads the family and a mother who nurtures the gifts of her children. He drifted away for a while after Vatican II but adopted the faith he had received and answered the call to the priesthood eventually. He was among the “first generation” formed by the JPII Institute and now serves as the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

The rest of the book is devoted to marriage, family life and the raising of children. As parents, we bear the responsibility towards our children to transmit the faith and it’s very clear that we cannot give what we do not have. So it’s essential for parents to practice the faith. He stressed the importance of marriage preparation. Most people forget that it begins in childhood (this is called remote preparation). You pray for your future spouse, you practice chastity so that you can make a total gift of yourself to the one with whom you will become one flesh. He advises against co-habitation because it is a lie to live like husband and wife when you have not made that commitment. He notes that it is much more difficult and damaging for the woman than it is for the man in a situation like this. The other effect of premarital sex is that the couple contracepts, but if it fails, they end up killing the baby. In the case that the couple eventually marries, there’s a higher likelihood of divorce. This is because the couple does not understand that marriage is forever.

Bishop Laffitte then speaks of proximal preparation, what we formally think of as marriage preparation, where the priest counsels couples preparing for marriage, and teaches them the true meaning of marriage, not as a contract that can be broken when things begin to go downhill, but rather as a covenant the man and woman make with each other and with God! One cannot undo what God has joined. Unfortunately, many people marry thinking that they can divorce if things go badly. This mentality has to change and it begins in our homes and families.

Once the couple is married, they need to be open to new life. This is God’s plan for marriage – for a child to enter the world with a mother and a father who love each other for the rest of their lives. Even Jesus came down to earth as an Infant in a family. That Mary and Joseph were chaste spouses was because they had given themselves totally to God and in His service.

He discussed at length how the contraceptive culture is damaging families. Increasingly more importance is placed on material wealth than the blessings that children bring to our lives. Instead of trusting in a providential God, we take matters into our own hands and sever the power He has given us in being co-creators with Him. Not every intimate act results in a child. God is the author of all life and He decides when the time is right for a child. And He will give all the necessary graces to raise that child!

The flip side of this is thinking that God owes us a child and then engaging in reproductive technologies that create a baby in a test tube. That is also sinful. A couple should never separate the unitive and procreative aspects of sex. A result of the entitlement attitude is that couple ends up treating the child as a commodity. It is big business that is bad for families. It has opened doors for people to make babies for themselves, babies they couldn't possibly have naturally.

He discusses pastoral care for the divorced and remarried, and for those who suffer from homosexual attraction. The bottom line is that we are all called to chastity. And we cannot present ourselves to receive the Holy Eucharist if we are not in a state of grace. So, it is still important to hear Holy Mass, but a couple that is not in a valid marriage must abstain from Holy Communion.

In today’s world, where people are confused about what marriage is, and how it should be lived, this book has many of the answers. You can tell that Bishop Laffitte is very much a shepherd and takes his vocation seriously in keeping the sheep on the right path. I highly recommend it.

Disclaimer: I am thankful to have received this book from Blogging for Books for an honest review. I have posted it on Amazon as well.