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Caitie Faith Formation Ink Slingers Mass Spiritual Growth

CDs and Handshakes

There’s something about getting and listening to a new album that makes me think about the way I was able to appreciate Mass last Sunday…

First, you should know that I’m a total 90’s girl and Sam Goody would be proud because I am still an avid CD buyer. Admittedly, many times they end up scratched on the floor of my car and I have to buy new copies- I can’t tell you how many Shania Twain’s Woman in Me albums I’ve bought over the years.

Do you listen to new CDs the same way I do? I usually rush through it, finding the radio hits that made me buy the thing in the first place to play them over and over until I get sick of them and move on to the other songs. I come to know and love the ones that never made it to the radio and then inevitably, there are always a few duds; songs that just don’t speak to me. I skip over these. Eventually I find a groove, a rhythm to the album that makes it mine.

But every so often, something changes. Somewhere along the way one of those duds catches my ear, comes alive, and touches me in a new way. I stop hating it. Stop skipping it. And I start loving it. There’s a beautiful scene that captures this just perfectly in one of my favorite movies, Mr. Holland’s Opus. Watch it…

Like Mr. Holland with John Coltrane, suddenly the album opens up in a new way and the parts I didn’t appreciate at first mean more to me than the songs that made me buy the album in the first place. I absolutely love it when this happens!

So where does the Mass come in, you ask? Well, there’s something else you should know about me…

I am not really a “stand-up-and-greet-the-people-around-you” kind of gal. It always seems a little forced and awkward to me. I’m usually running late to Church anyway and it’s distracting to turn to the people in my pew and shake their God-only-knows-where-they’ve-been hands.

But last week I was at Mass and something changed. I had gotten there in plenty of time, spent time looking over the readings, praying, watching people come in and kneel down. When we got the “greet people around you” cue, for the first time, it didn’t actually bug me. I stood up, smiled, shook hands and tried to remember the names of those who introduced themselves. Something about the practiced changed and, like finally listening to one of those dud songs on a CD, my heart opened up to it.

Later on in the Mass, when the couple in front of me was clearly having trouble finding the readings, I quietly showed them what page we were on. My “peace be with you” felt a little more authentic. And when I entered the pew after receiving Communion and bumped into the guy in front of me, I whispered, “So sorry, Jerry!” and patted his shoulder.

All through Mass, my heart was so open and I felt incredibly relaxed. I wasn’t worried about how holy I was looking or even if my mind wandered a little. I felt connected with my community and, more importantly, was able to completely focus on Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I felt like I was at a soul spa, closing my eyes at the readings and letting the words of the hymns wash over me. I found myself smiling all through Mass! I could even appreciate the infant wails from the back of the Church and the little girl behind me who kept pulling my hair accidentally (at least I assume).

At the end of Mass, as he always does, Father asked if anyone was visiting and at the parish for the first time. Jerry and his wife looked at each other and back at me, a little scared. I hadn’t realized they were new, but I laughed and whispered, “Go ahead! Raise your hand! They give you a CD of our choir!” The priest came over to them, gave them a CD and told them he was happy they’d come to the parish that day. My heart was so lifted as we sang the Recessional hymn and I was thanking Jesus for such a warm experience of the Mass, knowing that we shouldn’t have to be prompted to greet the people around us. That is part of coming together as the Body of Christ and it is fortifying.

After genuflecting, Jerry and his wife were waiting in the aisle. “We aren’t Catholic,” they said. “We came here on a whim and were pretty nervous about knowing what to do at a Catholic service. But we have never felt so welcome at a Church. This was wonderful!” My eyes welled up and I told them how glad I was to hear it. They said they couldn’t wait to listen to the CD.

And there it was- that feeling of adventure when a new CD is received! As excited as I was for them to find their favorite tunes on that album, I was even more excited for them to come to love the ones they’d passed over at the start; to grow in intimacy with the songs and make it their own.

And when they told me they would be coming back to the parish, I felt the exact same feeling… excited for them to come to know our Holy Mother Church, but thrilled for them to fall in love with Her; to push through and explore the teachings they won’t understand right away; to open up to the varied charisms in the Body of Christ; and to grow in love for our beautiful faith and our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Categories
Christi Homeschool Ink Slingers Motherhood Parenting Vocations

Diary of a Homeschool Mum part 3

homeschool diarySeptember 6th, 2016- My first two posts in the Diary of a Homeschool Mum have been set in the past as I shared the beginnings of why we started homeschooling, the when, and the how. I am deviating this month from writing about the past and am focusing on the now, as well as my future, as a homeschool mum of what is now only a few.

This has been the toughest beginning of a homeschool semester ever. For years I was adding to my homeschool registry. Many school years saw the addition of a nursling who was traveling from arm to arm in the school room  whilst we were also accommodating a preschooler or toddler who created his or her own commotion to the schooling scene in our home.

Then in 2001 we reached a stage where we maintained a status quo in classroom numbers because as one child would spread their wings and leave home, another joined the family. So for years the number of children at home hovered around 10. Finally back in 2008, the year our 13th entered the world, we actually dropped to nine children at home when one flew the coop and another returned to college after taking a year off to help with the family business. We held steady at nine until we dropped to eight in 2012 but, with the youngest just barely a preschooler and several children still in the single digits, I wasn’t fazed. At.All.

Then this summer happened.

Two left home for college. 

going going gone2

We organized a good bye party for the two leaving for college and gifts began to arrive in the mail for them from family out of country. It was so much fun watching for boxes as the postman drove up. But then it was time to actually pack all of that stuff into the back of our mini-van since our big van is nearing retirement and decided to loll about the yard this summer. This meant not all of us could go so I got to take the pictures of them leaving and then have a good cry every time I walked by the piano the 18 year old was always playing.         Yes.         Every. Single.Time.       All day!

But then a few belated boxes arrived and I had an excuse to go visit…

bearing gifts

That was mid August and we were down to six children still at home.

Lonely, only, six.

When was the last time I had  ONLY SIX? That was in May of 1995 just before I gave birth to our seventh child, third son… That’s a long, long time ago – though I remember it like yesterday.

And then today….. today we dropped to five! When were we ever only five?  Twenty three years ago – that’s when. And ironically it is our fifth beautiful child who left today to begin the biggest journey I think a person can ever begin – the giving of oneself entirely to God through a religious vocation.

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
— St. Augustine

That was the quote from the source of daily readings that I use. I actually couldn’t read it aloud as it caught in my throat because truly – could I have asked for better reassurance of what my child is doing? Finding her heart’s rest within the heart of Jesus for whom she will live the rest of her life? My 13 yr old daughter, Emma, had to read it aloud, along with today’s Mass readings to our small group gathered at the breakfast table. 

So once more we loaded the back of the mini-van but with far less belongings then when we moved our two children to college this August. An hour later we arrived at the airport where we dropped off our precious daughter, and much loved older sibling and said our hurried goodbyes before having to leave and make room for other harried travelers. The tears began to drop as we pulled away from the curb while Gabby wheeled her two suit cases towards the revolving doors.

I have known this was coming for such a long, long time – this drop in numbers. These huge changes have been looming in front of me for the past couple of years. As the big 5 0 crept up on me and no more new babies joined the classroom, I faced the inevitable truth- our family had reached its zenith. We are still growing, but in a different way. This summer we watched as our ninth grandchild was welcomed into the church in the same gown many of our children and other grandchildren had been baptized in.

baptismal gownWhile there are still children at home, I have found myself longing for the past as I began to count down instead of up. In addition I have had to face the truth that my youngest child’s firsts are my lasts- last first tooth, last first bike ride, last first Holy Communion… I have been filled with dread over this. Absolute dread. I’m experiencing empty nest syndrome before the nest is empty. I’ve been almost paralyzed by it.

My challenge now is to accept that “I’m entering a new season in my life.” I find myself grimacing as I type that because I do not like that expression. Most likely because I have loved so intensely THIS season of new babies, new personalities developing, talents explored and found. Being a mother of a large and growing family has been my vocation and my complete and total identity for thirty plus years.

 And now, as I help the last five of my beautiful children find their wings and watch them prepare to leave the nest, I too need to find new wings so that I can fly with the future. After all, next year the only adult child still at home while he studies locally for a year will be leaving for his college of choice and I will be down to four and I don’t even want to think how long it’s been since I only had four.

I need to find a new me.

Over the next year when I pop into Catholic Sista’s every few months to keep up my “Diary of a Homeschool Mum” I will continue to share the memories of over two decades of homeschooling while I enter into my last decade of teaching children at home. But I will also begin to include where I see my future taking me. I will share as I explore my talents that got left in the dust while I changed diapers, chased toddlers and helped teens and tweens find pencils so they could do their math. I am already tackling an even bigger challenge – rebuilding my body that has been ravaged by 13 births and hypothyroidism, among other health issues.

Until next time – God Bless!

Christi

PicMonkey Collage

Categories
Current Events Ink Slingers Michelle Prayer Pro-Life Issues Respect Life Spiritual Growth

The Heart of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter

Friends, unless you’re living in a cave, you have heard, and more than likely seen on the news, about the upheaval in our country these last few weeks, particularly a week ago with the murders of five Dallas police officers at a Black Lives Matter protest. The senseless violence, the anger, the contempt, the fear, the uncertainty, the belittling of others, the calls for deaths of the “opposition”, and the misrepresentation of those on both sides are driving wedges between many in our communities and throughout our nation. They divide us and control us. They grip our lives and harden our hearts.

There are calls for reform, calls for overhauls, calls for heads to roll and jobs to be eliminated, calls for civil disobedience, calls for arrests, and calls for stricter enforcement of laws. And there are many who call for peace.

But how can we find peace in such a divided world? How can we repair what seems to be so broken? Where do we start? Is it even possible?

To find peace, we must get to the heart of the matter at hand.

When we stop seeing people for who they truly are- children of God- we lose sight of their inherent worth and dignity. We begin to see them only based on their color, their financial status, where they live, what job they hold, if they hold a job, their nationality, their immigration status, their sexual preferences, their tattoos and piercings, their education level, their politics, their disabilities, their faith or lack thereof, their gender, or any other number of characteristics. We judge their worth on criteria that we have made up in our own minds based on our upbringing, our biases, our prejudices, and our personal experiences. Instead of seeing people through God’s eyes we see them through the dirty lenses of the societal glasses we have affixed in front of our eyes. These lenses cloud our vision and keep us from seeing a person for who they truly are.

The Heart of the Matter

We must begin seeing people for their true worth. We must begin seeing the beauty and the importance of our diversity. We are all different; thankfully so! We each bring something to our society that no other person can bring. Our differences are our strengths! However, as we are celebrating our differences, we must also begin to see how and why we are the same.

We are each made in God’s likeness. (Gen 1:27) He didn’t just make some of us in His image; He made all of us in His image. We are each fearfully and wonderfully made. (Ps 139:14) This means that He loves us each so much that He carefully thought out and molded together every single aspect of our being. We are so special to God that He created our bodies, our minds, and our souls in such a way that we are able to reflect His love back to others. Talk about wonderfully made!

While we are different for many, many reasons, we are more alike than we are different. We only have to look to Scripture to know this is true!

If we wish to change our society and the moral wrongs that are griping our nation, we first must change our own hearts. We have to honestly look at our own lives to see where hidden prejudices or judgments might be. This means everyone must do this because every person harbors some sort of preconceived notion or prejudice whether they’d like to admit it or not. We each must actively seek to eliminate these thoughts or actions from our lives. We must see others through God’s eyes instead of our own. We have to open our hearts and allow God to transform us in a way that only He can.

It is easy to say that our society can be “fixed” through protests, debates, enacting laws, reading books or blog posts, or through affirmative action and other programs designed to help “level the field”. But the truth of the matter is that unless we begin by changing our own hearts and seeing all people through God’s eyes, no program, no debate, no protest, and no vigil will ever help.

Until we are willing to admit that every person has worth, we will continue to see violence and inequality. We will see division and unrest. We will each feel it is dangerous to simply be who we are. This isn’t confined to black men and women nor is it confined to police officers and their families. Instead it includes all people.

Our hearts must be the first to change.

The Heart of the MatterMahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  If we wish to see an end to racism, violence, retaliation, and hate, we must begin by changing ourselves. However, we can’t change on our own. We need God to help us transform our hearts.

Before you look at everyone else and judge their sins, look first at your own life. How are you perpetuating hate? How are you instigating discord? How are you contributing to the problem instead of helping?

It’s easy to take sides at times like these. It’s easy to see how “wrong” others are and how “right” we are. But we aren’t called to be pitted against one another. We are called to be on God’s side… a side that espouses love of neighbor; that sees the beauty in every person despite the sinful nature that we each have; that calls us to forgive those who trespass against us; that clings to hope and never forgets Christ’s sacrifice and the redemption it brings for each and every one of us.

I choose to belong on God’s side. I choose to look long and hard at my life and work to change my own heart first. I choose to love those who look at me as if I am the enemy. I choose to forgive those who harm me and I beg for the forgiveness of those whom I’ve harmed. I choose to love.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Help me to change my heart so that I can see each and every person through your eyes. Let me be a beacon of your light and your love. Guide me, inspire me, and change me O Lord.

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Ink Slingers Michelle Spiritual Growth

The Magnificent Tree: A Transformation Fable

The Magnificent Tree

There once was a magnificent tree standing tall and strong in the middle of the forest. Its trunk was wide and sturdy and reached toward the sky with branches heavy with large leaves that soaked up the sunshine. Throughout the summer they provided much needed shade for anyone who wished to stay a moment beneath them. In the fall, those same leaves turned scarlet and adorned the landscape with their fiery beauty. In all the forest there was nothing more grandiose or nobler than the majestic tree.

The tree could not imagine a more splendid life.

It happened one day that a man visited the forest. Surveying the trees before him, he chose the mighty oak that stood tall and proud. Marking it, he left. The tree wondered what the man had wanted. He supposed that the man had seen its beauty and had been in awe. It stood proudly, thankful it was so glorious.

The man returned the next day with other men. He pointed to the tree and then approached it. They each looked over the tree with awe and approval. The tree was pleased with their reactions to its splendor.

Without warning they began cutting down the tree with sharp axes. Oh the pain the tree felt! It couldn’t understand why the men were doing this to it; why they were causing this pain.

It was tiring work for the men. They took turns delivering blow after blow, often pausing to sharpen their blades. Each impact reverberated through the tree. Soon their blades found their way straight through the trunk of the tree.

Once the most majestic hardwood in the entire forest, the tree fell upon the woodland floor; no longer regal or imposing. Instead, it was broken.

When the men took it from the forest they began to dispatch it further. Soon it was in pieces- it no longer resembled what it had before. Its splendor, its glory, its pride were all gone. It could not make sense of what had happened. It felt despair.

house in the woodsIt wasn’t long until the man began to take the pieces of the tree and fashion them into something else. The work was slow and tedious. But still, the man labored. Soon the tree could see that the man was fashioning a house out of its parts. As the walls were constructed, it could see how sturdy they would be. Just as its trunk had supported the branches, the walls would support the house. As the roof was built it could see how they would protect the man from the elements. Its branches and leaves had done the same for those who stopped underneath them in the forest.

Finally the man was done. He stood back and looked at the home he had built out of the majestic oak. The man knew it would serve his family well. As he moved his family into the house suddenly the tree also understood the importance of its transformation.

Once the most majestic and imposing figure in the forest, now the tree was a simple and practical home for the man and his family. It would provide safety and warmth as well as a place for the family to grow in love and happiness. The tree had to endure a dramatic and painful transformation to become more than it was before.

We are often like the tree. We stay firmly rooted where we are, complacent with who we are and what we are doing. We are proud of our accomplishments and who we’ve become. We are thankful that others see our beauty, our grace, and our worth. We stand like the oak, majestic and proud, not realizing that we can be something more.

Many times God is like the man who came and chopped down the tree. He looks us over, sees our true worth, marks us, and then begins His work on us.

Oh it can be painful! We may even be caught off guard at the intensity of the pain we go through. We are brought to our knees just as the magnificent tree was toppled. But the work and the pain don’t stop there.

While we can’t see the full picture, God has a blueprint laid out in front of Him. He knows what plans He has in store for us (Jeremiah 29:11) and why this transformation is so important. He wants what is best for us. He knows what it will take for us to become the best version of ourselves.

We may look around and not understand a single thing. We may cry out asking for mercy. We may even doubt that God’s plans are the best ones. We may long for the person we were before. It is not until God is done molding us during this time that we can see how much better we’ve become.

God looks at us and sees our worth. He sees what we can become and He initiates life changing moments that will help us transform into something more than we are. There are times this is painful and we don’t understand. But if we trust Him, He will transform us into something more than we ever could imagine.

Often we must first become broken, a mere shell of what we were previously, before we can understand how God is calling us to become better… to become more.

jeremiah 29:11

 

Categories
Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Michelle Spiritual Growth

The Quietest Month in the Garden

quietest month in the garden

A while back I was looking for a quote to reflect the gloominess of winter. Life had been difficult, I had made some hard decisions, and to be honest, I just wanted to find a quote that would sum up the despair I was feeling.

I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I did find something that God knew I needed to read. It was a quote by Rosalie Muller Wright, the editor of Sunset Magazine, in January of 1999.

It read-

“January is the quietest month in the garden… But just because it looks quiet doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. The soil, open to the sky, absorbs the pure rainfall while the microorganisms convert tilled-under fodder into usable nutrients for the next crop of plants. The feasting earthworms tunnel along, aerating the soil and preparing it to welcome the seeds and bare roots to come.”

It seemed that God was trying to tell me that the gloominess which not only covered the skies outside, but my heart as well, served a greater purpose. Yes, it was dark and it seemed like everything was dead, but really there was a plethora of activity taking place just under the surface. The trials I was going through had the power to change me, if only I would allow them to.

I went into Lent still feeling overwhelmed by life. My heart downtrodden and sad, I wondered why we have to suffer so much. But then I remembered this quote and decided to incorporate it into my Lenten journey.

lent giving upYou see, during Lent we often focus on what we are giving up or even what we may be adding. We think about how difficult it is to abstain from meat on Fridays and we may even visit our church to walk the Via Dolorosa by participating in the Stations of the Cross. Most of us try our hardest to pray more and to connect with Christ. Sometimes we focus simply on “getting through” Lent.

What we often fail to recognize is that during this time our hearts, minds, and souls are like the soil in the garden. While we may grumble about how hard Lent is and it may appear as if nothing is happening on top of the surface, the sacrifices we are making, the changes we are adding, the prayers we are saying, and the quiet reflections we make are all aerating the soil of our hearts. They are preparing them to accept the new seeds of life and the bare roots that Christ will plant as He rises on Easter.

Many people dread the Lenten season. It’s a time where we are called to take a long hard look at how we are living our lives. We must admit where we are failing and we are called to make the changes necessary to live according to God’s commandments. This is hard. It’s giving up what we want and instead accepting what God wants. It goes against our sinful, human nature.

But it is necessary.

farmer scattering seedJust as a garden whose dirt is never tilled under or who has no earthworms aerating the soil and adding important nutrients to the earth, when we refuse to allow the changes to take place in our hearts and souls the garden that is planted will never bloom. Like the parable of the farmer scattering his seeds, if we don’t allow the seeds to be planted on fertile and well-tended ground our garden cannot grow. However, when our hearts and souls are fertile, then like the farmer in Jesus’ story, our harvest will far exceed our wildest dreams.

As we continue through this Lenten season I pray we each will allow our hearts and souls to become well-tended gardens waiting to receive the seeds of faith, hope, and love that only Christ can sow.

garden plant