Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Writing with Lots of Kids

I was probably more efficient with my writing when I wrote in between the cracks. Now, I can while away huge amounts of time reading, not that there's anything wrong with it, except of course, when I should be writing, I still feel a little pang of guilt. Aren't I a becoming a good Catholic? :)

Well, I don't have a lot of kids, but that doesn't stop me from giving advice.  Let's see. 1. Keep a notebook and pen handy. 2. Play with words. 3. Read this book. THE PRIZE WINNER OF DEFIANCE, OHIO: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan. I saw this at a library sale and always a sucker for a good human interest story, picked it up. What a woman! Evelyn Ryan raised ten children and with her flair for words won contests that kept her family fed and clothed and housed.

Her husband, Kelly, was an alcoholic. She states in a letter, "the liquor bill has been a ruinous drain on my husband's paycheck. Drinking has wrecked his disposition and made study and homework next to impossible for our children." Yet she persevered. Kelly once accused her of "being too damned happy." Right. She had wit, wisdom, poetry and prose flowing as she ironed clothes. 

When her daughter Terry questions her about abandoning her promising career as a writer, this is what Evelyn says:

"I want you to know I don't regret any part of my life, including marrying Dad. I wouldn't trade any one of you kids for a whole illustrious career. Besides, without the ten of you, what would I do for material?"

On that same road trip (come hell or high water) Evelyn says, "There's such a thing as destiny ... Sometimes when your life seems most out of control, you know there's a direction. I don't mean you can't have free will -- in fact, that can be the most important part."

"So you were meant to have ten kids?" Terry asks.

"I feel that I'm doing exactly what I was meant to do in this life. I've never doubted it."


I am doing exactly what I'm meant to do. I've often lamented that I lost my faith, that had I not, I would probably have become a nun, but it looks like matrimony *is* my path to holiness. Maybe I would've been a terrible nun, picking fights with my fellow-sisters. Perhaps I had to have a falling away, a period (albeit too long) of darkness so that I could come back to the light. And how my children have brought me back. Every day they challenge me. And when they really try my patience, I'm fond of telling them, they're shortening my time in purgatory. Apparently, I'm shortening theirs as well :)  

Anyway, I recommend this book highly. It is very inspiring and joyful. And ... there's a movie!!!!! We are definitely going to rent this one.

Terry Ryan writes: My mother continued to write almost until the day she died, her spirit and sense of humor unflagging to the end. A week before her death, I lifted a book from a chair at her bedside, and a small handwritten poem fluttered to the floor. It contained precisely 25 words:

Every time I pass the church
I stop and make a visit
So when I'm carried in feet first
God won't say, "Who is it?"

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Feast of Our Lady of Fatima

Today we celebrate a strange feast day because it frightened these shepherd children. Mary appeared to them and allowed them to have visions of hell and the crises to come in this world if we didn't mend our ways and turn to her Son. Always, always, she points the way to Christ.  She taught them a little prayer to say after each decade of the rosary, which we also say: O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.

I came across a most beautiful reflection from Blessed Dominic of the Mother of God (+1849), who was a Passionist priest and theologian on how to face the things that are coming:

Let us have confident recourse to the protection of Mary.... We are human; we are sinful. As human beings, hell is our enemy; as sinners, heaven is our enemy. The devil unjustly wants us damned; God justly wants us punished. Thus we have heaven and hell against us and we are in the middle, exposed to both the wrath of God and the cunning of the devil.

Do not worry, my brothers and sisters. In Mary, we have a defender against the anger of heaven and the fury of hell. She can disarm the justice of God and defeat the designs of the devil ...  She has more influence with God than the whole company of saints in heaven ...

And so, let us not forget we have a Mother in heaven who continually prays for us. Our Lord's first public miracle occurred at her request! "They have no wine!" she said. Somehow I'm not surprised that it was at a wedding, given that our blessed Lord refers to Himself as the Bridegroom. Mary is a most enigmatic creature: Daughter of the Father, Mother of God, Spouse of the Holy Spirit. It's clear I just have a teensy brain :) 

Here's a place with photos, miracles, prophecies and promises and all things related to Fatima. Enjoy this well-known Ave Maria


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Books in Verse and a Happy Mother's Day

I don't know how it happens but I find myself wrapped in books written in verse. I prefer prose. And I prefer poetry that isn't free-wheeling and loosey-goosey but more structured, but I wanted to mention an extraordinary book: LIKE WATER ON STONE by Dana Walrath. I'm not sure how I came across it or why I was compelled to pick it up because I knew I'd be heartbroken to read a story about genocide, especially in light of what's occurring in the Middle East, but the book is so beautifully written, so controlled, it somehow gave me strength to face what is coming and also helped me to remember all the other terrible stories I've read throughout the years of the 20th century. The Jewish Holocaust, Stalin and Mao, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, Rwanda, and the carnage that occurs daily in mother's wombs. We have lived through the worst period in history, I believe. And we cannot forget.

The story is in multiple viewpoints but a major narrator is Ardziv, an eagle. He begins:

Three young ones,
one black pot,
a single quill,
and a tuft of red wool
are enough to start
a new life
in a new land.
I know this is true
because I saw it.

I love this opening because it gives authority. "I saw it." And it gives away the ending so that you can hang on to this hope during the difficult times. You can hang on. This historical fiction with a hint of magic realism tells the story of an Armenian family and how some of them, the young ones, survive the genocide that occurred a hundred years ago. Each poem is a carefully crafted gem.

Most of the survivors are long dead and if their stories have survived, it's because their children and grandchildren have preserved them. Ms. Walrath is the granddaughter of a survivor. Thank you for writing this beautiful and haunting book that will stay with me a long time.
I do realize why books in verse can be so powerful. Some stories are too big and too emotional to be in prose. Poems are more like snapshots. It's like going through a photo album. LIKE WATER ON STONE was the BEST book in verse that I've read out of the several very good books in the batch, including BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson, KARMA by Cathy Ostlere, and RED BUTTERFLY by Amy Sonnichsen. Each of these books were a joy to read. They were personal and gave me much food for thought, but none surpassed the craft of Ms. Walrath. Definitely a book to study.
I wish all mothers, both physical and spiritual, a happy Mother's Day, for the children you raise and wish you could have raised, for the sorrows and joys of motherhood. I leave you to the care of our Blessed Mother. Enjoy one of my favorite hymns to God's perfect creation -- Mary! Can you imagine making your own mother? Of course, she would be the most beautiful, most perfect creature of all. 

Friday, May 1, 2015


Jesus, Lily of the Valleys
Mary, Queen of May
Joseph, Patron of Laborers.
Pray for us.

A happy May day to you! We have birthdays, end-of-school, and the beginning of beach-time to celebrate. But first, time to finish some work! Here's where a little help from St. Joseph comes in very handy. 

Most of the pictures of the male saints tend to effeminate. But in my mind's eye, I picture St. Joseph to be big and strong. After all, he was a carpenter and would've had to carry beams of wood throughout Nazareth to build houses, just as His Son did. He was given the task to guard and protect Mary and Jesus, so I imagine him to be up to the task quite well. 

Although I am partial to old paintings, I fell in love with this modern painting above and bought it for our home. Love the very obvious foreshadowing. Below is a lovely prayer to St. Joseph the Worker, whose Feast Day we celebrate today. Although we grouse about the work we have to do at times, we are deeply grateful for it as well. This prayer is a wonderful reminder.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Feast Day!

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo 1746 St. Catherine of Siena

Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire. ~ St. Catherine of Siena.

Today is her feast day. She was the 24th child! Today, that'd be unheard of ... why, we'd worry that we wouldn't be able to feed the children or have room in the house or send them to college or any number of things. But this child, though uneducated, grew to love Christ and His Church to such a degree she even advised the Pope! She is a Doctor of the Church and some day I hope to read her Dialogue. I tell you, the Church has such a treasury of materials, I can't even begin to make a dent in my reading pile. Sometimes I wonder the things they write about in heaven.

Today's Magnificat had a lovely reflection from St. Catherine on not remaining in the darkness. She writes, "You know that sin can live only in a perverse and evil will. When you know you have a good will, and you know you would rather die than actually offend your Creator, then you must let go of your discouragement and walk by the light of the grace hidden within your soul, the grace God has given you in safeguarding your good will ... I'll say no more. Fly on the wings of deep humility and blazing charity! Keep living in God's holy and tender love."

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Easter 2015

Photo taken from Rorate caeli
As Easter displays have disappeared from shops, so have some churches and some Christians in the Middle East. The latest were students in Kenya, whose names are displayed above. Many remain silent as our brothers and sisters are massacred for their faith. "The stars of 148 new martyrs are shining brightly in the firmament of the Church," begins Roberto de Mattei.   

I remember at the Marian conference last year when Father Casey spoke how we take freedom to practice our religion for granted here. But it won't be for long before religion will be banned from the public square ... unless we fight for it. And the battle lines are going to be drawn on the redefinition of marriage.

The Supreme Court will begin deliberating at the end of the month on this. Pray that reason, justice, moral and natural law will prevail. For we have already destroyed the foundation of the family through the acceptance of divorce, but now the devil goes for God's creation: male and female He created them. The devil wants to destroy the very distinction between male and female, the natural complementarity between them. If marriage is redefined between two consenting people, just think of the implications. Now it's homosexual unions. Next it will be incest, polygamy, and other aberrations. Tell me how this is going to be good for the family, for the raising of children?   

So, with whom will you stand? With Jesus? With everything He taught? Or will you only pick what's comfortable and convenient? Or will you stand against Him, the one Who suffered and died for you? You have free will.

People quote John 3:16 all the time and it is indeed reassuring, but I wish they'd read a bit more. Better yet, all of John because he makes it so very clear that it was as difficult then as it is now to accept everything that Jesus taught, but that's what it takes to abandon oneself to Christ and trust in Him and His plan. By the way, just a little reminder, no matter what is happening in the world, Christ has WON!!! I leave you with John 3:16-21 and Lift High the Cross.

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Gift of Prayer

This little bundle arrived from a dear friend for Easter (of course, it was much more neatly tied). I didn't know what it was, but when I opened it up ... Holy smokes! ... it is a little oratory that I can take with me wherever I go. I love taking this out to my porch with my Bible or Magnificat. I have now added some more saints and the red cloth also is a pocket for holding holy cards. We've not made a Holy Hour at home for a while but it will be nice to spread this out on the coffee table with the censer.

My friend said she got this idea from a book called The Little Oratory. It looks wonderful and I am going to invest in a copy for myself to share with the children as they grow and raise their own families. Sometimes I feel it's too late for us because it's difficult to establish new routines. There's so much resistance. Right now we gather for a morning offering and evening prayers. Michael has added the Angelus before meals. The rosary hasn't quite caught on as a family prayer unless we want to do penance (sorry Mary). We do 15 Aves for Angelic Warfare. But I shouldn't complain. We are so grateful to be able to attend a traditional Latin Mass on Sundays and be able to go to Mass during the week once or twice. And now we have Adoration right on our island once a month. We've instinctively gravitated towards filling our home with art that lifts our hearts and minds heavenward. Our little oratory is perfect as we continue our journey. Thank you my friend!
Your turn. Do you have a special corner where you retreat to pray? If you have children, how do you encourage praying together?