Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Mother's Mass


We are headed to Mass, and inwardly, I am a little anxious.  I was able to get to Confession last week, but it was after Mass.  It has been months since I received the Eucharist.  I was weary.  Empty.  I needed spiritual strength.  “Please Lord, let it be this week.”

After our 2-hour drive, we finally arrive.   Harried and hurried, missals in hand, veils on heads or ties straightened, some make a beeline for the Confessional while others head into Mass which has just begun.  I carry Brigid down the hallway as she wildly flails her arms in excitement.  “Jejus!  Jejus!  Our Laaaaaady!” she shrieks at the top of her lungs. 

“Lord help me,” I mutter, “I will be missing You again.”  Armed with my book, Mother Love, I begin praying the Mass as I head to the cryroom.

The priest goes up to the altar: Jesus ascends the Mount of Olives with His disciples.  “O my Jesus, Thou dost ascend the Mount of Olives, to begin Thy sufferings for us!...” 
Thankfully, I am able to finish this first prayer.  Excellent!  It will be a fruitful Mass!

I enter the cryroom, already occupied by another mother quietly nursing her baby and watching Mass on the TV screen.  My daughter, always the life of the party, immediately changes this calm to chaos.  She pulls out some books off the shelf.  OK, she pulls down ALL the books from the shelf, and proceeds to explain to anyone in earshot that every Saint is either Jejus or Our Laaaaaady. 

Unable to follow the rest of the prayers associated with each portion of the Mass, I attempt to at least read the titles and must add my own quick prayers instead of the beautiful ones offered in my little book. 

The priest prays at the foot of the altar: Jesus agonizes in prayer and sweats blood. 

Dear Lord, You knew the sufferings that were to come.  And I can tell, this Sunday will most likely be like last week.  And the week before.  Help me resign myself to Your will, not mine, this Sunday afternoon.

Brigid occasionally does the Sign of the Cross.  “Fa Son, Fa Son, Fa Son.  Aaaaaamen….”  Then jumps up, heads to the holy card basket.  And rips St. Anthony in 2.

OK, no way I am even going to get quick prayers at this rate.  Just the titles…

The priest returns to the altar: The enemies of Jesus take Him prisoner. 

I watch as the other mother serenely leaves the room, leaving Brigid and me alone.  Glancing at the cryroom door, I am feeling rather like a prisoner myself. And so is Brigid.  She bolts out the door before the woman could get the door closed and heads full speed down the hallway towards ‘the donut room’.

Denied donuts, she rebels.  Loudly.  I take her out to the van for about 10 minutes.  We sing.  We take a lap around the parking lot, and I try to bring her back inside.  She protests. But I have to at least try to get close to the Mass, right?  So I drag her back to the cryroom and past other parents with better behaved children who were able to actually partially participate in Mass as they quietly instructed their little ones in proper Mass etiquette.  Some children, mouths agape, watch me as I march by them, carrying Brigid in a football hold.  And only the Good God knows what the parents are thinking.

What did I miss? I see on the screen that everyone was already standing for the Gospel. I pick up my book, which I had violently tossed aside when Brigid made her escape.  

The priest says the Kyrie, the Gloria, the epistle and Gospel: Jesus is led before Annas, Ciaphas, Pilate, and Herod. 

Yup.  Been there, done that, Lord.  Just now.

The sound system only picks up what the priest says when he reads the Epistle and Gospel in English, and the homily.  Brigid has respect for his booming male voice and settles down to a simmer for awhile, allowing me to hear but still kept me too distracted to really have a chance to understand. 

2 mothers enter the cryroom at about this time which, to me, felt like a mixed blessing.  Maybe she will play quietly with the toddler?

The priest returns to the middle of the altar and says the Credo: Jesus, in the white robe of derision, is led back to Pilate.


The priest uncovers the Chalice and offers the Host: Jesus is stripped and scourged.

Brigid decides sharing is a skill she does not yet have to master.  And lets the toddler know.  Loudly.

The priest raises the wine and water as an Offering: Jesus is shown to the people as a mock-king.

I try to distract her.  “Let’s say some prayers,“ I whisper loudly.  “Sign of the Cross?”  

See?  See?  I can have a good child too!   Or not…

The priest washes his hands: Jesus is condemned to the death on the Cross.

The mothers and their children leave us, deciding wrestling their own little ones is easier without the added distraction of the old lady and the hyper baby in the cryroom.

At the Preface and the Sanctus: Jesus carries His Cross and sinks three times under its weight.

Shoes on.  Shoes off.  Shoes on.  Shoes off.  Throw books.  And peek-a-boo at full volume.  I am on my knees.  Exhausted. 

The priest raises his hands at the beginning of the Canon: The executioners tear Jesus’ garments from His wounded shoulders.

Brigid climbs up me – her human jungle gym.  I hold her, hugging her, feeling love, and a lump in my throat.  She whips my veil off my head and starts messing my hair.

The priest prays for those present and for those absent: Jesus sympathizes with the sorrow of His faithful followers.

Thank you, Father.  I guess I fall under both of those categories.

And now we prepare for the highest point of the Mass…

The priest makes the Sign of the Cross 5 times over the Host and Chalice: Jesus is nailed to the Cross.

Miraculously, Brigid is quietly looking at a book next to me.  I am able to meditate a moment on the associated prayers.

The priest utters the words of Consecration over the Host and raises it on high for the faithful to adore: Jesus is raised on the Cross and hangs between heaven and earth.

My Lord and my God!  I give you this moment.  For 90 seconds I can focus on You – we are alone in here, she can’t really get into too much trouble.  Brigid’s Guardian Angel, watch her.  My Lord, be with me.  See me at the foot of Your Cross as the Consecration begins… 

A soft popping noise.  I resist the urge to glance at Brigid.  My eyes riveted on the screen.  This moment is for You, Lord.  Not Brigid. 

The priest utters the words of Consecration over the wine in the Chalice: The blood of Jesus flows profusely to the earth

And the canister of formula dumps onto the carpet as a father comes in to change his baby’s diaper.  Brigid bolts.  And I utter a blasphemous phrase through clenched teeth as I chase her down the hallway once again.  Horrified.  I am beside myself over the sin I just committed.

We go outside to the van.  I am crying.  “You K?  Mama?” she pats my shoulder, imitating how I tend to one of my children if they get hurt.  “K?” I hug her. 

I miss a lot of the rest of the Mass.  We finally reenter the church, hand in hand, and return to the scene of the crime.  The spilled formula, now covered with a blanket, hides my shame.  

The priest covers the Chalice: The tomb of Jesus is closed.

I try to figure out how to make it right.

The priest leaves the altar: The friends of Jesus, after a last sad and loving glance at His tomb, return to their homes.

I anxiously wait just outside the cryroom door for my husband.  He comes out, takes one look at me and quickly takes Brigid from my arms.  “What happened?!”

Unable to say anything to him, I head to the supply closet and quickly vacuum up the powder and head down the hallway to Father’s office where the Confessional is.  “Bless me Father, for I have sinned!” I sobbed, startling the poor man. 

I confessed the blasphemous phrase I uttered at the Consecration.  And he counseled me: “You feel as though you never have the frame of mind to attend Mass with your heart, and unworthy to receive Him because of it.  I assure you that He knows very well what your situation is.  You do the best you can.  Offer it all to Him.  Keep close to those meditations.  Find your comfort in joining your sufferings with His and know that this is how you are called to participate in Mass at this time in your life.”  He said many more things which I will treasure in my heart and will recall frequently as I participate in future cryroom Masses.

As I left Father’s office, Brigid came running up to me, all smiles and bubbles.  “Mama!” she called and I scooped her up.

And the words "Ite, missa est," came to mind.

Deo gratias.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Feast Day Planning


Celebrations and Feast Day Festivities – I love living the liturgical year, but when I get bogged down with the daily grind of homestead living, homeschooling and housework, sometimes I forget to celebrate as I should.  Most Catholic families have some sort of traditions revolving around the liturgical calendar that they would like to pass along to future generations.  Use this section to remind yourself of special feast days coming up and your plans for making it memorable for your family.  Our family has always made St. Patrick’s Day a huge event, so in this section, I would remind myself to prepare for the party, who to invite and remind myself of any new ideas I had come across and would like to try.  This section is also good for general celebrations and events, like planning for birthday parties, Advent, the Christmas season, Lent and Eastertime.

The Celebrations page is the Feast Day Ideas page.  This is the page you will want to make many copies of and begin your feast day journal.  Each page will be dedicated to a feast day you want to make special.  Keep track of books, websites, recipes and games that help you plan your feast day celebration.

And now - have some fun!

Save these pictures in a 'yearbook' to review each year.  Make notes on creative ways to celebrate the Feast Days of the Saints your child seems drawn to, and keep it fun as you learn about your faith along side your child.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thy Will Be Done: Gluttony


'Love, self-restraint, contemplation and prayer accord with God's will, while gluttony, licentiousness and things that increase them pander to the flesh. That is why "they that are in the flesh cannot conform to God's will" (Rom. 8:8). But "they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh together with the passions and desires." (Gal. 5:24)' 
St. Maximos the Confessor

Most Catholics seem to have a ‘thing’.  Some have a ‘thing’ for a specific devotion.  Others have a ‘thing’ for Saints, or a specific Saint.  And others, still, have a ‘thing’ for the Holy Ghost.  As for me, I have a ‘thing’ for the phrase ‘Thy will be done.’

This ‘thing’ of mine began well before Fulton’s accident, but it was solidified in my soul as I suffered alongside my son.  Understanding that everything that happens in our lives – good and bad – is either God’s will or is allowed by God serves as a huge comfort to me.  Once understood, it is, in fact, a great source of joy.

But that is not the reason for this article. 

I have been pondering the many ways in which Our Lord has made His will known to me and am forever grateful for every Cross He has placed upon my shoulders.  And I am well aware that despite all the trials I have carried in life, I still fall far short of what He created me to be.  So far from holiness.  So far from sanctity.

And this makes me sad.

But it has also made me determined.  Determined to remove what remains of myself and replace it with My Lord wherever He wants to be in me.

And today, as I stepped on the scale and have found that I have yet to lose a single pound since the birth of my daughter a year ago, I realize where He wants to be in my life.
He wants to be in my stomach.

Before you laugh (or as soon as you are finished) please hear me out. 

It is a well-known fact that conquering your base desires, such as the body’s temptations to overeat, is a simple way towards dying to self.  Simple in thought – but difficult in practice, as the number 174 proves on my bathroom scale.  We need food to live, to function, to fulfill God’s will in our daily duties.  And so we eat.   Yet the sin of gluttony is only one extra serving of mac and cheese away.  It is a fine line between eating to live and eating for self-pleasure.  15 bites of food is good and can be holy.  But the 16th bite could very well be an unholy thing.

I am no theologian.  I am not a doctor.  But I see how my poor eating habits effect me both spiritually and physically.  And because of all He has given to me, I believe I am obligated to give to Him more of myself back to Him in return.  I am ready to hand over to Him my will over food. 

While there are a few different ways in which we can fall into the sin of gluttony, I will only mention the 2 ways that seem to pertain to most of us who fall to this temptation.

1) Gluttony can occur when we try to derive from food a level of pleasure that was not intended.  How many memes do we read about wine, chocolate, bacon, or any other food where the food itself is raised to a status of a god?
 We crave union with these edible gods.

We celebrate them. 

We even covet or hoard them at times.

I also include eating non-food items under this category because – let’s face it – do we eat Cheeze-puffs for its nutritional value?  Or strictly for taste?

2)  Gluttony can also occur when we become overly concerned about the quality of that which we eat.  (Please note: I am not referring to people who have legitimate health issues with food, of course.  Nor am I referring to food that was prepared in an unsafe way.)  Refusing to eat something that was not cooked the way we like, or being a food snob, is not only a form of gluttony but also crosses the line in other ways as well.  It is a special form of pride and leads to uncharitable behavior towards those preparing or serving us food.

With this in mind, I decided that the best way for me to tame the glutton-beast within was to put all my food through my ‘thing’.  Thy will be done.

What does this look like?  It is really very simple.

Anything I am about to eat must first pass the question, “Does God want me to eat this?”
Sometimes it is not so clear, so I have set certain rules for myself to help me discern. 

I have set meal and snacktimes.  If it is not breakfast, lunch, dinner or 3pm snacktime, I should not be putting anything in my mouth.

Is the food considered healthful?  No matter what the occasion, I do not think Our Lord wills us to eat food considered harmful to the body He created.  Therefore, Cheeze-puffs are no longer on the menu.  *sigh*

Am I truly hungry or just bored? If it is snacktime and I am NOT hungry, I do not need to eat.  And most times, I wander into the pantry because my mouth is bored.  Or grumpy.  If I am grumpy, I need to consider whether I am running low on energy.  If so, a few almonds or a slice of cheddar cheese may fix the problem.  But not a bowl of ice cream.
And if my eating has passed the above tests, the following rules are then also applied:

Prepare a place to eat.  Get a plate or bowl.  Get a napkin.  Sit at the table and appreciate the food I am being permitted to eat.

Say grace before eating.  No matter what it is or where I am.  Yes.  I say grace over the 8 almonds and prune I ate at snacktime.  St. Jean-Baptist de la Salle tells us "The most efficacious means of keeping in mind the rules of temperance, and obtaining strength to follow them, is to say, piously, the prayer before and after meals. By this we shall draw down upon ourselves the blessing of God, and obtain the grace not to offend Him."  Which leads me to....

Say the aftermeal prayer after everything I eat.    This one seems to really drive home what I had just done (eat) and what I am now fortified to do (do God’s will).  Suddenly a handful of Cheeze-puffs does not seem to be worthy of such a role in my life and in my body.

We give Thee thanks for all Thy benefits, O Almighty God, Who livest and reignest forever.  And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

Is the amount I just ate sufficient to sustain my body?  If so, do not take seconds.  And only take what you need to begin with.

Have I offered the best to others instead of taking it for myself?  Make sure you do not receive the perfectly cooked burger, the crispiest piece of fried chicken, etc.  Let the best pass you by.  Always.

Please note that I am not asking you to fast for 40 days.  Our mortifications must be within our ability and means.  Even Our Lord says to St. Bridget of Sweden:  

'Your new food is prudent abstinence from gluttony and from delicacies, as far as your natural constitution can endure it. Acts of abstinence that go beyond the capacity of nature are not to my liking, for I demand rationality and the taming of lusts.' 

Consider this exercise as a mini examination of conscience.  After doing this for about a week, it will pretty much happen at the same time you are eating and will hopefully become a habit.  But until then, lets use the above questions to help us overcome this common vice!   

Remember – this is not a diet.  This is simply a method of learning to die to self for love of God and to conform our wills to His.  
One vice at a time.  

And when I am comfortable with my attack on gluttony, my next battle will be over SLOTH!

Won’t you join me on this journey?  Let me know how you are doing!  And check in from time to time and watch for my announcement when my new blog will be created!

Monday, January 11, 2016



A picture is worth 1000 words so this may be my longest post yet!  LOL
Praise God - Brigid Zelie' Rose is here!  Sorry it took so long to get the pictures up!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Frosting Friday: Rustic Vanilla


Hello friends!  My blog is not really a cooking blog.  It is really has no theme at all, actually!  But since I enjoy writing about things I love, I thought I should post about my favorite food: Frosting!

Now before I begin, I am going to talk a little about my ingredients and why I use what I do, and one ingredient you will never find in my recipes.

FIRST  Butter.  Never the fake stuff.  I use Kerrygold because it is the healthiest you can get while also being the most readily available, yet cheaper than organic.  More on butter here.  And also, because, you know - Ireland.

SECOND  Homemade vanilla extract.  Yes, the store bought stuff is stronger so you don't have to use as much, but the store vanilla also has a strong alcohol taste and smell that can alter the final product if it is not cooked.  I use the store stuff too, from time to time, but prefer my own.

THIRD  I am going to insist on C&H powdered sugar.  Powdered sugar has an aftertaste I do not care for, but when used properly, this brand's aftertaste is almost undetectable.

FOURTH  Heavy whipping cream instead of milk.  The heavy whipping cream has a creamy taste which helps tone down any other aftertastes you may get from my frostings.  My husband finds it rather amusing that I whip the frosting so much the butter loses its buttery texture yet beat it so much that the whipping cream turns to butter.  Yeah - I see his point but when you feel the texture (if done right) you will understand.  It is a well coordinated dance.

FIFTH  Pink Himalayan salt instead of regular salt.  Pink Himalayan salt does not dissolve the same way as regular salt, and with so much sugar and the fact that you will be eating these frostings straight out of the bowl, it is kind of nice to get a subtle 'zap' of salt every once and awhile.  Besides, apparently this salt is super healthy for you.  I am told is so healthy, in fact, that it practically negates anything unhealthy that may find its way into my recipes.  Really.

SIXTH  Corn syrup.  Just no.  Never.  Ever.  And while some swear by the 'wonderful' things it does to frosting, there will never be enough pink Himalayan salt you have to add to your frosting to counteract the harmful effects of that nasty goop.

1/2 C softened butter
2 C powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean
1tsp vanilla plus more if needed
4 T heavy whipping cream
3/4 tsp pink Himalayan salt

The jar on the left is my homemade vanilla extract.  Remember - mine has a little weaker vanilla taste so I have to use more.  My recipes assume you do not have homemade extract.

 Cut the vanilla bean into quarters, then slice the quarters lengthwise.
 Use a knife to scrape out the vanilla pulp

 and measure out 1 tsp vanilla extract.
 Combine softened butter, 1 C powdered sugar and vanillas and 1 T heavy whipping cream.  Beat until fairly combined, then add the second cup of sugar and 2 T heavy whipping cream.  Beat for 3 minutes.  Add last T whipping cream

 and the pink salt.

Beat on medium for at least 10 minutes.  I am not kidding.  AT LEAST!  Minimum.  No less.  You will be amazed at the final product - trust me. 
The final look you are shooting for is a pearlized sheen which is hard to photograph but as you get used to my frostings and have achieved it, you will know what to look for.  Add more vanilla extract if it is not strong enough. And beat again.
Please be patient with my frostings.  They usually require a lot of beating but the final texture should be no texture at all.  This frosting, when put on the tongue, will feel cool and taste sweet.  It will melt quickly but feel so silky smooth it is almost like eating nothing at all.  A sweet, vanilla-y, high caloric spoonful of nothing!  (As always, first day freshness is the yummiest - store in the refrigerator, rewhip and add a touch of fresh vanilla extract if you have to use it a day after you make it)
Now I have heard people say they like frosting on cupcakes as pictured above, and while I am always ready to try something new, I prefer to eat my frosting with a spoon!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why Must We Continually Keep Our Heads in the Sand?


Our world, in many ways, has begun to crumble.  Even the most level headed of my friends are beginning to question the sort of future our children may have.  ISIS is on everyone’s mind these days, as are their numerous atrocities.  Confusion among matters of the faith among Catholics. Escalating number of natural disasters.  Trouble in our own government.  And sometimes people closest to us seem to be turning on each other like vicious dogs, ready to devour anyone who dares express different opinions.

Unfortunately, with all of this happening in the outside world, it is hard to keep the stress of it all from seeping into our own hearts and homes. “I wake up in the morning, and all I can think about is ‘What will happen today?” one friend confided in me. “It is enough to make one want to hide one’s head in the sand.”

Which is exactly what we as Catholic mothers must do.

For quite some time, the ostrich has gotten a rather bad reputation for sticking its head in the sand as trouble looms.  And on the surface, that seems like a bad thing to do.  It reeks of denial and purposeful ignorance and to be accused of such behavior has always been viewed as a sign of stupidity or weakness.  But do you know why the ostrich does what she does?  Let’s take a closer look.

An ostrich nest is actually built just beneath the ground’s surface.  Her eggs are safely nestled below ground level, and require frequent turning with her beak to keep the eggs viable.  Her nest, full of her most priceless treasures, is almost impossible for predators to see from afar.  But should a predator start sniffing around, the mother ostrich lowers her head and quickly buries her precious eggs beneath the sand before running away, distracting the predator and leading it away from her home.

I can’t help but think God has been trying to teach us a lesson through these magnificent birds.  But we have been too proud or too blind to hear Him.  You see, while most seem to think that being up to date and fully informed of the terrifying events taking place in our world is a good thing, it is not necessarily our role to do so.  In fact it may be harmful.  Horrific images come to our minds throughout the day.  Fear, worry and undo stresses fill our hearts, distracting us from what really matters: home. 

We cannot properly tend to our God given duties when we are trying to solve the world’s problems by debating others online.  Or shushing a 4-year-old’s joy over a newly painted picture because we are engrossed in a news article.  As we fill our time with researching these disturbing world events, anxiety crowds out faith, hope and charity at an alarming rate.  We grow tense, short tempered and depressed.  We suddenly realize how out of control we really are.  And how vulnerable.  We get scared.  And our family suffers.

But I now ask you - could it be that for all the terrible things that seem to be unfolding, much grace is also given?  Could it be that Our Lord is trying to tell us something through these natural and man made disasters?  What is He asking of us today?  To worry?  To involve ourselves in heated debates about matters of which we have no control?  To exercise our 'right to be right' at all costs?  Or are we simply called to trust in Him and know that our ultimate sanctification is what He desires above all things?  And pass our love and trust of God along to our children?

"In our ignorance of what the future holds, how can we be so bold as to question what comes about by God's permission? Surely it is reasonable to think that our complaints are groundless and that instead of complaining we ought to be thanking Providence."
St. Claude de la Colombiere

Yes, there are many scary things out there in the world.  But they are not for us to worry about.  In fact, the scarier things get, the more important it is that we keep our heads in the sand.  Not to deny the harsh realities of life.  But to tenderly care for our loved ones as Our Lord wishes.  Surround them with love.  Shield them from as much harm as possible.  And when it feels as though the predators are at your door, draw the negative influences far from your nest, that your children may continue to look to your home as a safe harbor to continue to grow in their faith, unhindered by fear and distrust of God.

As mothers, we are truly the heart of the home.  And as such, we have been blessed with this loving, nurturing ability to keep our homes a happy and safe refuge from the rest of the world.  Bring your children up in the love of God through your example.  Teach your children to trust in Him in all things by remaining unruffled and unworried.  And no matter how terrifying the world may become, may your children rest easy knowing that you, without fail and for their sakes, will always have your head deep in the sand.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

All Saints Day. Or Not.


I do not have the energy to coordinate a full-scale All Saints Day party this year.  So instead, I have decided that the kids will simply dress as Saints and attend a local Catholic church's Trunk-Or-Treat party.  Sure, it is not nearly as exciting or fortifying as an All saints Day celebration, but the kids still get to dress up and Mom will still get a few bites of chocolate!

Meanwhile, here is a link to an article I wrote about All Saints Day, describing a time when I was a better Catholic mother....

Lets Celebrate the Saints!