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3 Devotions for Advent

Advent is such a beautiful season of anticipation and preparation. There are so many wonderful saints to celebrate and devotions to practice.  Over the years we’ve observed the passage of Advent using the Jesse Tree and an Advent Calendar. We’ve joyfully celebrated the feasts of Saint Nicholas, Saint Lucy, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the Immaculate Conception. My family loves the traditions associated with each of these devotions. As I’ve learned more about many of the older, lesser known traditions we’ve added more to our Advent observances.  Three absolutely lovely traditional devotions are observing the Advent Ember Days, attending a special advent mass dedicated to Our Lady called a Rorate Mass, and praying the ancient O Antiphons before our evening family rosary.

Ember Days

Basically, Ember Days occur four times a year and roughly coincide with the change of seasons. The Ember Days of Advent fall the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following Saint Lucy’s feast on December 13th. Ember Days are marked by voluntary, partial fast and abstinence from meat (full abstinence on Friday, of course) as penance, by prayerful gratitude for God’s abundant gifts, and in especial prayer for the priesthood.  If you have access to a Traditional Latin Mass parish you can attend mass in which the Ember Days are particularly observed in the readings and propers for the day. For a more in-depth look at the observance of Ember Days, check out the link at the end of this post to an article I wrote for Catholic Sistas a few years ago.

Rorate Mass

A special mass found only in the Extraordinary Form is the Rorate Caeli Mass or Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary for Advent. It honors the Blessed Mother as the vessel which bore the Light of the World. Celebrated in the early morning before dawn and lit only by candlelight the church progressively grows brighter as the sun begins to rise. The symbolism of awaiting the dawn and arrival of the Light of the World is palpable. What a lovely way to honor Our Lady and what a deeply transcendent way to celebrate Advent meaningfully. I attended my first Rorate Mass last Advent. It was so incredibly peaceful and breathtakingly beautiful. With the times we are living in, if you are blessed enough to have access to a Traditional Latin Mass parish this devotion is definitely one with potential to raise your observance of Advent to a new level.

O Antiphons

Praying the O Antiphons on the days leading up to Christmas Eve is probably the easiest and most accessible of the three devotions to implement. Over a thousand years old, the O Antiphons are the seven antiphons recited preceding the Magnificat during Vespers. They are so named because each antiphon begins with “O”—O Sapientia (Wisdom), O Adonai (Lord), O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (Key of David), O Oriens (Rising sun), O Rex Gentium (King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel (God with Us).  You may recognize each of the 7 titles of the Messiah from the familiar Advent hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel

You can easily pray the O Antiphons at home with your family. Beginning on December 17th and ending on December 23rd recite the appropriate O Antiphon, then the Magnificat, and then the O Antiphon once again. Family Feast and Feria has a lovely free printable prayer booklet you can download to assist in observing this beautiful devotion. For your little ones; Look to Him and Be Radiant has coloring pages for each of the O Antiphons. It’s a wonderful devotion that draws us into the mystery and prophesies of Christ.

If you end up adopting one of these traditional devotions this Advent, let us know in the comments. May you and your families have a most blessed and fruitful Advent and may you be well prepared to welcome the Christ Child into your hearts and homes this Christmas.

References and Resources

What are Ember Days

Rorate Caeli Masses in Honor of Our Lady

Praying the O Antiphons

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Domestic Church Erika D Homeschool Mass Motherhood Raising Saints The Latin Mass

10 Steps to Selecting a {Catholic} Homeschool Curriculum

Selecting a curriculum can be a truly overwhelming task each year for homeschooling mothers.  So many times I have said to myself, “if I could see that book, I’d know if I want it!”  Right?  Then you hop online look through blogs of perfect homes, with perfect mom teachers, that have the perfect school rooms, and then there is Pinterest…then you are headed to Confession, jealousy is a lousy sin.  No seriously, is it not just frustrating?  😀  How do these women just *KNOW* that’s the right Math book?  Why did it not work for *MY* child?  🙂  Well, here’s why:  There IS NOT one set curriculum that is perfect for everyone.  There I said it.  So here’s another secret that lady that introduced you to homeschool forgot to mention, the beauty of homeschooling is that you are able to create a custom curriculum that is beneficial to *YOUR* family.  What works for another family may not be the best fit for another, or *gasp* what works for one of your children may not work for another.    Okay, so now lets take a deep breath and investigate how these ladies on their blogs look so with it.  I confess many times I have said, “when I grow up I want to be just like Jessica from Shower of Roses.”  Don’t laugh, I have said it..even to her. 😀

Over the years our family has tried a variety of things – ranging from being an eclectic homeschooler, to using a complete curriculum package to creating things to use, and it has morphed into a combination of pieces that we now use together as a family and components that we use individually to round out the various subject areas.  So how do you decide what is the right fit for your family/homeschool?

10 Steps to Selecting a {Catholic} Homeschool Curriculum:

  1. Think about your educational philosophy or teaching style. There are several methods of teaching, depending on the method that both you and your children are comfortable will also determine which books you will select for your homeschool.  There are several homeschooling methods to pick from, if you haven’t you might want to look back at our previous articles in this series.

  2. Consider your children’s learning styles. Every child is different in their learning approach and may process information differently. Some pieces of curriculum are tailored to meet the needs of various learners, so this is very helpful to know.  Some children will need a particular style of curriculum to help them succeed.  Again, weighing in what homeschooling method you have selected would be helpful.

  3. Write down and decide on the educational goals have you set for your children and family. This is another area that is important to look at because you want to have a long range plan in each subject so that you feel confident that you are meeting these goals.

  4. Do you have a spending budget? This is really important and I strongly advise setting a budget and knowing your spending limits.  Start off by making a list of the books you select and then finding out what their retail rate is.  It is important to think long term within your budget.  If the book fits your needs and you can reuse it with subsequent children, it’s a long term savings!

  5. What subjects can your children work together in? Some families focus on specific grade levels and books while other families work on certain subject areas together as a family. Subjects like Science and History are great examples of working as a family on a particular topic with varying expectations depending on the child’s abilities. This will help you save money as well.

  6. What works for your current life situation? There are some programs that are more labor-intensive than others, searching for living books when you are about to give birth to baby number six and all your children are eight and under might not be a realistic goal.  Do not set yourself up to fail by doing this.  Also, if you cannot afford certain programs do not put so much pressure on yourself.  I have seen families with financial burdens homeschool for almost nothing.
  7. Do you have access to a good library system?  Before you start spending money, check your local library.  A lot of times they carry those wonderful books and you can reserve them ahead of time and even have them delivered to your local library.  Sometimes you can go to the children’s section and make suggestions on certain books.  Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of times they are willing to purchase these recommendations.
  8. Have you asked others for their opinions?  Warning.  This is a great thing with this day and age of technology BUT the warning comes in not becoming overwhelmed with so many suggestions.  There are groups on Yahoo and Facebook that can be gem or a burden, if you ask a curriculum question in a group, take the good from what others suggest.  Do not be afraid to ask questions you will find other homeschooling mothers who have become experts at certain curriculums and can be very helpful.  You can also visit a homeschooling conference near you to listen to speakers and also get to see the books first hand.
  9. Did you check your own bookshelf?  Starting with what you already have saves you time and money.  Sometimes we homeshcooling moms might pick up a book that was on sale, or someone gave us and forgot about.  {I know it never happens to you, but it does me.}  You should also make a list of the books you own and keep this list handy so that you do not purchase duplicates of books you already own.
  10. Have you checked out SWAP groups or thought of borrowing?  Once you have selected a product you like, it is much easier to buy things used or online.  Yahoo Groups has a group and so does Facebook Groups where you can post WTB (Want to Buy) and ISO (In Search Of) threads looking for a used book to avoid paying retail.  You help another homeschooling mom and she helps you save money.  Oh, also, if you have books you don’t use anymore, SELL THEM!  They don’t need to be collecting dust on your shelves.  Sometimes, you can even borrow books from other families.  There is a family at my church that has a son in 11th and 9th, I have a son in 10th, I give her my books for her 9th grader, she gives me her books from her 11th grader.  We both win!  🙂

With all that said, there are times that you find out part way through the year that something you thought would be perfect just isn’t. Sometimes you discover that curriculum is just not working. The tweaking involved in the process, and while it’s frustrating – it’s ok, and good. The first bit of homeschooling involves a learning curve where you are discovering your areas of comfort in teaching and your children’s learning grooves.

So with all that said, I have spent the last six weeks in the arduous task of getting my children’s curriculum together.  As we enter our fifth year of home education, I am finally feeling pretty good about all of our curriculum selections for our children.  We will have a kindergartner, second grader, third grader, and a tenth grader, oh yes, and of course our little tag along three year old toddler.  I don’t promise this won’t change one more time, because it might, and it’s okay.  But as of now, this is our 2013-2014 curriculum selection:

Frequency: Daily

 


Grammar {Daily}

Spelling {Bi-Weekly}

Writing {Daily}

Reading ~ {Daily}

Kindergarten Core

For the bulk of our year we will be using 26 Letters to Heaven by Sarah Park as our core. Technically Noah is kindergarten this year, although he is academically ahead in a few areas, so we are adjusting things accordingly.

Phonics ~ {Daily}

Handwriting {Daily}

Frequency: Daily

Frequency: Twice a Week


Frequency: Twice a Week

Art {Once a Week}

Music {Bi-Weekly}:

All Children:

Latin {Bi-Weekly}:

Spanish {Bi-Weekly}

Electives for our High Schooler (in addition to Latin, Art & Music):

 

 

Other articles in this Raising Saints Homeschooling series.

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Apologetics BirgitJ Evangelization Faith Formation Ink Slingers Marriage Mary Mass Prayer Rosary Sacramentals Sacred Scripture Saints Testimonials The Latin Mass Vocations

Veiling Through the Joyful Mysteries

In June I shared ‘Lifting the Veil…’, a post about my decision to begin veiling. In reading the subsequent comments, I found renewed vigor in my resolve to veil and gained insight into addressing many of the questions that arose concerning my reasoning behind this devotional act. Contrary to the objection that veiling is an act of drawing attention to oneself, my logic is much more personal and spiritual. It was also edifying to note a comment relaying that, after she noting my personal reasoning, it occurred to a reader that it was legitimate to consider personal piety as outweighing cosmetic vanity. Equally heartening was a comment from the male perspective. Evidently some priests and other males see veiling as…

“one of very few symbols that manages to say something good and positive about the dignity of Christian women and girls”.

For those of us who often worry about what others think, being the rare veiler in your parish also presents an opportunity for mortification. Contrary to some popular assumptions, drawing attention to oneself is not the intent; it is actually a hurdle to overcome. Neither is veiling relevant to location. Veiling is certainly more prevalent at the Vatican, Latin Mass, or EWTN but isn’t it the same Jesus present in each and every sanctuary? With this acknowledgment comes the revelation that veiling is purely in submission to and respect for the Presence of God – wherever He is.

The reading from Ephesians we heard recently also gives great insight into this aspect of respect – as a two-way street. We wives are called to be subject to our husbands even as they are admonished to love us as much as they love their own bodies. Men are also called to honor their wives as God honors the Church. The full message is to “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ”. As our priest explained, sacred scripture is not to be taken one line at a time and misused with the intention to abuse someone. It is to be taken as a mirror of God’s relationship with us. When both man and woman (Jesus and Church), employ their proper and complimentary roles, there is equal dignity and harmony for the good of all. Therefore, when I veil, I show respect not just for Jesus present in the Eucharistic Sacrament but also for the dignity of my role as a woman.

Returning to scripture, we can call to mind how, when Saint Veronica encountered Jesus carrying His cross, she took off her veil and He wiped His face with it. When He handed it back to her, the image of His face remained and gave a special blessing to the practice of veiling. This event is still honored in most Catholic Churches in the form of the Stations of the Cross. The name Veronica – vera icon (true icon) – comes from this occasion. We can also look to Our Blessed Mother for the symbolism of humility and submission to Christ. Statues of her appear in all Catholic Churches as well and we are called to emulate her ‘yes’ to the call from God. This leads me to meditate on veiling as I pray the Rosary.

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Veiling Through the Joyful Mysteries

The Annunciation (Humility) – Mary learns from the Angel Gabriel that God wishes her to be the mother of God and humbly accepts. (Luke 1:26-38)

When I first felt the call to veil, it was a tiny whisper. I didn’t know why I wanted to veil or even if my desire was pure. After prayer, discernment, and discussion with my husband, I felt ready to commit and say my own ‘yes’ to God. Veiling is not as much about the outer sign as it is about the inward resolve to be a better daughter of God, sister of Jesus, living with the Grace granted by the Spirit.

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The Visitation (Love of Neighbor) – Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth and is praised by her as “blessed among women.”(Luke 1:39-56)

When I wear my veil, I hope to be a comfort to others. I strive to display modesty and the unique feminine qualities that only women and girls possess. In a world that is stark in its lack of respect for the unique gifts of women, I want to be there for my sisters in Christ and give them comfort and solace and maybe the courage to look deeply into their own femininity and thus strive to praise God in stature, dress, and voice.

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The Nativity (Poverty of Spirit) – Mary gives birth to Jesus in the stable at Bethlehem.(Luke 2:1-20)

With the dawning of every new day, we are born again to a new opportunity to live as a child of God. All distractions, failings, and fears from yesterday are gone and we are invited to strive for sainthood anew. With the donning of my veil, I say to Jesus, that I am ready to take on the challenge – of being the best me I can be, regardless of history or failures in previous attempts.

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The Presentation (Purity of Mind and Body) – Mary and Joseph present Jesus to His Heavenly Father in the Temple of Jerusalem forty days after His birth.(Luke 2:22-39)

We present ourselves to God upon entry into His house. We go there to seek Him out, to ask His blessing, to petition for our most basic needs, and to honor and glorify Him. When I place the veil upon my head, I am signaling to myself and to anyone who cares to take notice, that my intention is to humble myself in His presence.

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Finding the Christ child in the Temple (Obedience) – After searching for three days, Mary and Joseph find the twelve-year-old Jesus sitting in the Temple discussing the law with the learned doctors.(Luke 2:42-52).

We find ourselves in body of Christ. We did not ask to be brought there but are instead drawn there by answering our Father’s call. He wants us for Himself and when I veil, I find it to be a sacramental way to show that I am His.

 

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Fruits of the Mysteries of the Rosary – http://www.rosary-center.org/joyful.htm

Scripture references – http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/prayers/rosary/annunciation.htm#ixzz24foLoG31

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BirgitJ Crafts Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Mary Mass The Latin Mass

Lifting the Veil…

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…onto my head

I have been contemplating wearing a chapel veil to Mass for a while now. At 54, I am just old enough to remember going to Catholic school and being instructed to cover my head by the religious sisters who taught us. My mother, sister and I also wore veils on Sundays. As with other traditions of our beautiful Catholic faith, this sign of reverence and humility was cast aside, however, when Vatican II was introduced to the people in the pew. While there were quite a number of good things that came from properly implementing this Church council, there were also some abuses from those who were attracted to the novelty of making changes for the sake of change. Some practices were mistakenly altered or eliminated while others were mistakenly (or blatantly) introduced. Examples of the former: some religious sisters stopped wearing their habits (and women their chapel veils). Another was the total abandonment of abstaining from meat, without the substitution of another act of piety, on Fridays outside of the Lenten Season. The latter could be illustrated by ‘feel good’ homilies instead of firmly instructional ones and the introduction of holding hands during the Our Father – which is not in the Rubrics…ah, a topic for another time!

Similar to the calling I received from God before making the decision to homeschool, this latest whisper had been persistent even as it had been subtle. Little nudges in the form of blog posts, such as A Call to Veil: The Mysterious Unfolds, brought that little niggling thought back to my consciousness time and time again. My adult daughter and I had casual conversations about veiling but still, I never felt strongly enough to commit. The final pull came from a very dear friend of mine with whom I had lost touch. We spent years together in the pro-life trenches. Poor health on her part forced a sort of ‘retirement’ from active duty. Her carefully researched and thought-out articles for newspapers and pro-life publications were treasure troves of information. Before Mary Lou says anything, she studiously pauses and makes sure only well thought out words come from her lips. I have tremendous respect for both her opinion and her research. When we ran into her at the 65th anniversary Mass of one of our priests, I commented about the chapel veil she was wearing. Her reply, simply stated, gave me the courage to strengthen my resolve.

Mary, the mother of God, covered her head as did many pious women throughout history. We are warned time and again by scripture about 1) prideful actions 2) blurring of lines between the genders 3) immodest attire and actions 4) submission to the Will of God. It should also be noted that a visit to the Vatican would hold the expectation of wearing a veil as well as a sleeved dress. Armed with this re-enlightenment and after careful consideration, I gratefully accepted her offer of borrowing one of her veils and giving it a try. She told me that, once I began to veil, I would feel bare without it. My creative side won out, though, and I soon found myself at the fabric store, purchasing lace and thread to make my own. On the ride home, my husband and I discussed the idea and challenged my reasoning. In the end, the decision was made. Along with my daughter and her two year old, I would begin to explore this tradition on Mother’s Day.

Although I am still getting used to the practice, I find it unexpectedly calming. I feel more ‘in tune’ with what is happening at Mass. His presence is more vivid with this outward demonstration of my intent to ‘let go and let God’. It will take a few more weeks for veiling to become a deeply entrenched habit but I am seeing the benefits already. As for my two-year old granddaughter, she is a natural. Quite an energetic and precocious little girl, it is surprising how she eagerly keeps her little veil in place. One Sunday, she actually resisted removing it after we left church. All in all, I am confident that the correct decision (for me) was made. I find veiling both humbling and comforting, each of which are welcome feelings. So from now on, I will lift the veil onto my head before I enter His house!

Rachel’s cut-lace veil attached to a satin headband.

Post Script:

I certainly did not want our veiling to become a distraction by constant adjustment, so I sewed my granddaughter’s veil onto a satin headband (using a slip stitch). This way, she can simply slip it on and it stays in place much better than trying to use clips or hair pins. She is quite active and replacing the veil/headband is something that even a two-year-old can do.

Since Mother’s Day, we have all continued to veil and I am grateful that we were led to this devotion by the whispers on our hearts!

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A Call to Veil: The Mysterious Unfolds

When I look online for information about veiling at Mass (or anywhere in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament), it makes me sad to see that this is such a controversial topic. To me, veiling is a beautiful devotion, like the Rosary, that has the potential to edify the entire Body of Christ by drawing attention to both the sacredness of women and the magnificence of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

My journey to wearing a veil began as I read a discussion thread about this very topic among several good friends of mine. For months, I had been attending daily Mass and was finding myself quickly falling head over heels in love the same Eucharistic Lord I had nonchalantly received hundreds of times since my First Holy Communion in 1995.

When my friend Elaine mentioned why she veiled, she noted that the Church is rich in symbolism. She said, “The Church veils holy things—the tabernacle is veiled, behind the veil is the Body of Christ, and I am a vessel of life. A living tabernacle.”

This veiling of sacred things speaks to a kind of hiddenness that doesn’t seek to conceal in the negative sense, but rather draw us into the depths of mystery, allowing for the mysterious to unfold. In the Old Testament, Moses veiled his face. The Holy of Holies was veiled. Brides are often veiled before the “veil is lifted.” Even Jesus, the infinite God whose glory is revealed in heaven, is “veiled” before us by the accidents of bread and wine. As a wonderful priest puts it, “Like the effect of the virtue of modesty, by the very fact that something is hidden, it is allowed to become that which it is: mysterious and beautiful.”

Elaine also mentioned that veiling represents the desire to humble oneself before God: “When a man walks into church he removes his hat as an act of humility. Men show their bald spots and all of that in this act. When a woman covers her hair, her glory, she is similarly humbling herself before God.”

My heart heard that. I was absolutely in love and in awe with the magnificent reality of the Eucharist and Christ’s perfect act of self-giving—He, the God of the universe, wanted to be in such intimate union with me, yes, ME! that He wanted to physically enter into the very depths of my being and consume me with His love! And I just wanted to be His.

I admit, I also wanted to really feel like the precious child of God I’d been told so many times I was. Up until recently, I had never really believed it. I understood that God loves us…“us in general,” but not necessarily me in particular. After all, I had heard so many times from my loved ones how I had failed to be what they wanted me to be (most notoriously, thin and perfectly in control of my emotions), that I figured I was nothing special. I was nothing for someone else to die for, let alone God himself. So as I discovered the intimacy of the love of God, I longed to feel just how precious I was in His eyes, in spite of my sins and imperfections.

The first time I wore my veil before the Lord, I recalled Elaine’s words. “I am a living tabernacle.” In my heart, my longing to be His, wholly and completely, felt like fire. It reminded me of the fire I could see emanating from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I was that precious child of God, and I just wanted to be His.

Now, before I enter the sacred space that houses the Blessed Sacrament, I pause. I remind myself that the mystery I am about to enter in the Mass transcends time. I carefully slip my veil on over my head, ready to enter that sacred space and longing ever so intensely to allow Christ to marry me in the Eucharist. I am His bride.

* * *

If you are thinking about beginning this beautiful devotion, remember that it is God before whom you wish to humble yourself. Like a religious habit, your veil is a public proclamation of your desire to submit to the will of God for your life and to answer the universal call to holiness and continual conversion. Your veil is also a sign of the great dignity that is due to a woman, who has the potential to receive life within herself… both human life and the supernatural life of God. This is an important message the world needs to hear, now more than ever! Above all, wear your veil for the greater glory of God.

Lily is a full-time, homeschooling mother of three (soon to be 4, in February 2012) with a special love for veiling in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Looking to promote a deeper reverence to the Blessed Sacrament, Lily founded Veils by Lily in August 2010 and now spends most of her spare time filling orders and returning inquiries about veiling. She blogs occasionally at The Catholic Wife.