Categories
Christmas Ink Slingers Maurisa Prayer

Reflections on the Nativity

 

Notes on Guided Meditation According to Saint Francis de Sales

I’ve been reading Saint Francis de Sales Introduction to the Devout Life and applying some his proscribed practices to my prayer life, especially during my weekly holy hour.  One exercise I’m particularly fond of is following his plan for focused meditation upon individual scenes from Christ’s life.  The recommended steps condensed into the simplest terms are:

  1. Place yourself in the presence of God, recognizing He is everywhere and seeking Him within your heart; praying for Him to make His presence felt.
  2. Recognize your own unworthiness to be in the presence of God; humbling yourself before Him.
  3. Using your imagination place yourself in the midst of the particular mystery from Christ’s life on which you desire to meditate. Here a work of religious art can be especially helpful.
  4. Having spent some time placing yourself within the scene begin to make reflections upon it; seeking the lesson to be learned.
  5. Turn these reflections into firm resolutions for spiritual growth and for amending of your life and humbly ask for the graces you need to accomplish such.
  6. In concluding your meditation make acts of thanksgiving, oblation, and intercession

When I practice this method of meditation it helps if I write out my reflections and resolutions. 

Meditation and Reflections on the Nativity

Taking the Nativity as my subject and using the beautiful painting by Gary Melchers above to help me focus, my reflections from a recent meditation were as follows:

Having concluded their arduous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph suffer the indignity of not being able to find a place to stay within the city.  Seeing that Mary is so young, so near her time, and so exhausted from the journey, an empathetic inn keeper takes pity upon them (God bless that inn keeper!) and offers them space in a stable not far  from the inn.  Mercifully for the weary travelers, the space is safe, dry, clean (as stables go), warm and offers them privacy as the Child’s birth approaches.

I imagine a midwife or experienced housemaid assist Mary as she labors through the night. What a blessing to have been the one to assist such a birth! In some theological circles, there is debate regarding whether Mary experienced actual labor pains or was she spared this suffering due to the merits of her Immaculate Conception and perfectly conformed will.  For me, it helps to think Mary did indeed labor in pain. It helps me to identify more closely with her. (Up-dated to include a link explaining why my perception here is actually contradictory to Tradition)Mary is finally delivered and Jesus is placed in her arms.  As much as I adored each new life placed in my arms as a mother, I cannot fathom the pure love Mary feels for the infant Savior.  She and Joseph are filled with joy.  The stable is filled with warmth and light.  To be present at such a miracle had to have been euphoric.

Spent and relieved, exhaustion over comes the Blessed Mother, as so beautifully depicted in Melchers’ painting.  She slumps upon the floor, leaning against a contemplative Joseph for support.  It is here I most commiserate with her.  Her vulnerability and sacrifice can be deeply felt in her posture and expression having spent her last bit of energy in delivering the Messiah. It is a blessed relief to have completed bearing a child, but there is a sense she knows her labors have only just begun.

This nativity is fairly bare compared to most.  Melchers chooses to depict Mary, Joseph, and the babe alone.  The stable is dark, save for the preternatural glow from the Child and the light from the doorway signaling dawn has arrived.  The scene is pensive, tranquil, and filled with hope. 

Dear sistas, may you find peace, joy, and hope this Christmas season and may God bless and protect you in the coming year.

Information on the artist

Julius Garibaldi Melchers (1860-1932) was an American Artist whose most famous works include the murals War and Peace and are now part of the Library of Congress collection.  He lived and did most of his painting in Europe where he was honored with several awards. As with many of the artists of the day, he favored naturalism and later in his career adopted a more impressionistic style.  He painted The Nativity in 1891. No further information on the painting could be found.  

Categories
Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Motherhood Nicole B Single Parents Vocations

Striving, Growing, Rejoicing: Be Your Own Holy Family

A few weeks ago we celebrated the Solemnity of the Holy Family. It is a beautiful celebration of the Blessed Mother, Joseph, and the Christ Child. Unfortunately, in the past few years since becoming a single mother, it has become a solemnity of bitterness and disdain for me. Deep inside I saw it as nothing but a feast to enhance my shortcomings. A reminder of how he left us and continues to destroy my Catholic vision of family life.

Fortunately, this year there was a change in my thinking, a shift in my heart that encouraged me to celebrate the solemnity as the paramount liturgical celebration that it is meant to be.

In the Gospel for the day, one hears the customs of the time – Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple, as was the tradition – and it may seem like an easily forgettable passage. However in Luke 2:40 it states, “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him”.

Growth. From verse 40 it screams to me. I think about the growth I have experienced in the past three years. I think about the growth of my children and how they are thriving. I think about the wisdom I have gained. I think about how we may not have the look of the Holy Family in our living room, yet in our home, we are growing closer to God each day.

Coupled with the Gospel, I heard an exceptional homily on that day as well. It is was one of those moments where the priest was speaking directly to me. He said, “Our own families truly can be holy families. All we need to do is strive. To grow ourselves. One step at a time. And to rejoice when we see growth.”

Striving. Growing. Rejoicing. How beautiful is this message of the Holy Family? How important is it to teach our children that no matter the situation we must continue to strive, grow, and rejoice in the Lord?

No family can compare to the Holy Family. It is laughable for me to think that I can. And, for me to focus on the shortcomings of my own beautiful family is detrimental. Instead, I must continue to strive, grow, and rejoice in our faith-filled life no matter the circumstances.   

Categories
Ink Slingers

Moving with Little Ones


While I wish this was a post about getting exercise with children, it’s not. (Although maybe someday, I’ll write about that.) For now, I literally mean packing up everything and moving to a new home. And did I mention with an almost three year old and nine month old?

Here, I am going to outline eight practical tips for moving with children.

  1. It seems so obvious, but sometimes we forget to do it when it comes to events that aren’t religious, per say. Entrust your move to St. Joseph and Mother Mary. They had to flee to Egypt right after Jesus was born so they know how to move on a dime. Ask them to take care of the details; to help keep peace during this time and to let God be glorified through it all. Wouldn’t it be amazing if at the end of the move day, you could say, “Wow, God, that was wonderful. Thank you!” Let us ask St. Paul to intercede for us so we can give thanks in everything.
  2. Get movers. We live in an age of DIY and yes, you can rent a UHaul and yes, you can summon family and friends to help you, but having movers eliminates many worries. Especially with little ones because one parent still has to be all hands on deck, so that leaves one parent doing most of the physical work. Moving is exhausting. Parenting little children is exhausting. Get the movers. You can still be cost-efficient by being prepared and have everything packed so you only have to use them for the minimum time.
  3. Make a packing schedule and list, and start earlier than you think you need to. You can start with the non-essentials and do one box a day. As moving day gets closer, check your schedule often so that you stay on track. Sometimes it’s the littlest things that can take the longest––for example, taking down curtains and curtain rods. A seemingly 20-minute project can be an hour plus once you wash the curtains because in taking them down you realize they were quite dusty! Gradual packing is like spiritual life in that we need to be working on it daily as to not be rushing at the end.
  4. Accept help. If family and friends offer to watch your kids so you can pack before or on the move day, say yes. It’s amazing how much you can pack in one hour uninterrupted as opposed to two hours interrupted. If a friend from church wants to help with a couple boxes, let them. Sometimes we try to keep people away when we don’t feel our home is presentable or that we ourselves aren’t presentable, but it’s humbling to let people see us when we’re less than our best. Let go of the pride and let people in.
  5. As you pack things up, think about if you really use it, want it, or need it. Moving is a good opportunity to declutter and simplify. Do you really use that panini press? Is that second hand coffee table really practical with children? Make the time for deciding now, because we think we’ll have more time once we move, but the truth is that we’ll be getting settled and we won’t want to be deciding about our things then. We’ll end up putting them in the attic and dealing with it later. We all know that later could be in 10 years, at which point we’ll donate or discard them. So save the hassle of moving them and the mental space of keeping of them. Only keep the things you use, want or need.
  6. Lower your expectations. Not to get confused with getting rid of expectations altogether, because that’d be chaos! Lowering expectations is about accepting that things won’t go as you planned, but they’ll still go. Frozen meals for a couple nights will be fine. Boxes overflowing into the living spaces add character to the rooms. Running out of clothes because you sold your washer and dryer makes you thankful for the one you’ll have in the new home. Having lower expectations lets you accept the present state with joy even though it might seem disastrous!
  7. Take pictures. This move is part of your family story. In the future you might have more kids who won’t realize you lived in a different home. They’ll want to know what it was like. They’ll want to see what you were doing before they were born. Pictures always serve as a great record-keeper.
  8. Give tasks to your kids. They like to help and they like to be included. Maybe it’s giving them a marker to label a box with their own writing. Or asking them to hold the tape down as you pull it across the box. They like to see the changes happening around them too. Moving is a family effort and there is something for everyone to do (except the babies, of course), but even they can “supervise” from their high chair.

If you’re moving, you probably want this to end here so you can get started on your packing schedule, but I have just one more thing to add. Moving reminds us that we are pilgrims in this life. Our true home is in Heaven. The home we are moving to won’t be perfect, but we’re thankful nonetheless for what God has provided. May our move be an opportunity to reflect on our eternal dwelling place with the Lord. May it stir in us a deeper desire for Heaven and the things of Heaven.

Holy Family of Nazareth, pray for those of us moving.

Categories
Ink Slingers Karen

February: The Month of the Holy Family

Attacked on all sides, the infrastructure and value of the family has crumbled in our society. High divorce rates, lower marriage rates, increased acceptance of gay marriage, and a society based on the wants of the individual rather than the needs of the family, have all contributed to this sad decay.  On top of the morally problematic issues of today, families are also increasingly separated from extended family members, and having to forge their own ways without help or guidance as to a good, genuine way of rearing their children and navigating marriage. Thankfully the Church, in her wisdom while dedicating the months of the year to specific devotions, gave us a month to dedicate to the Holy Family, February.  February: The Holy Family

The Holy Family is the ultimate example of how each family member, acting in holiness and accordance to God’s divine law and plan, can create an environment that glorifies God. Through self-sacrifice and selflessness, the individuals create a beautiful family structure. Looking at each of the members of the Holy Family, you can easily see how this yielded good fruit.

Mary, in her acceptance and welcoming of God’s will for her to become the mother of Christ, gave life to the Christ Child. She fed him, loved him, raised him up to follow the laws of God, and showed him how to function as an individual.

Joseph is the ultimate example of fatherhood. He helped raise Jesus, provided for his family’s needs, and shared his carpentry skills with Jesus.

The child Jesus followed Mary and Joseph’s examples of good behavior and listened to what they instructed him to do until he was an adult and ready to accomplish his mission as Savior.

May we all follow the example of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in their roles within the Holy Family.

++++++++++++

Resources for the Month of the Holy Family

Crafts
To help little ones understand a bit about the Holy Family, Catholic Icing has a few nice craft activities to depict the Holy Family here

Prayer
Consider joining me and others in praying this prayer to the Holy Family from the Missionaries of the Holy Family

The Holy Family PrayerThe Holy Family Prayer
JESUS, Son of God and Son of Mary, bless our family. Graciously inspire in us the unity, peace, and mutual love that you found in your own family in the little town of Nazareth.

MARY, Mother of Jesus and Our Mother, nourish our family with your faith and your love. Keep us close to your Son, Jesus, in all our sorrows and joys.

JOSEPH, Foster-father to Jesus, guardian and spouse of Mary, keep our family safe from harm. Help us in all times of discouragement or anxiety.

HOLY FAMILY OF NAZARETH, make our family one with you. Help us to be instruments of peace. Grant that love, strengthened by grace, may prove mightier than all the weaknesses and trials through which our families sometimes pass. May we always have God at the center of our hearts and homes until we are all one family, happy and at peace in our true home with you. Amen.

++++++++++++

For more on the Dedication of the Twelve Months of the Year, click here.

Next month’s dedication: St. Joseph

Categories
7 Quick Takes Christi Domestic Church Ink Slingers Matrimony

Seven Quick Takes for January 2016 borrowed from 2015

blank-January-2016-calendar

January is here and with it, of course, comes a new year. So I thought it would be fun to do a quick review of some of Catholic Sistas’ posts from 2015. The how and why each post was chosen is a secret and will not be revealed. Ok, ok – you twisted my arm – with the exception of quick take 7, my selections were based simply on stats.

So here goes – in order of when they were posted and not by number of comments they received we have from 2015:

Quick Take one: Your Number One Job as a Wife (It’s Not What You Think) Published October 15th

Quick Take two: White Martyrdom, Red Martyrdom, and a Rainbow Published June 30th

Quick Take three : Bruce Jenner: What Does Love Demand? Published June 4th and June   Read Part one here  and part two here.  

Quick Take four: What to Do When Your Mother Betrays You   Published May 18th    

Quick Take five: Why Settle for Shades of Grey?  Published February 5th 

Quick Take six: 50 Shocking Things {Im}perfect Catholic Women Admit Published January 23rd 

Quick Take seven: Here is my seventh pick from the our past posts – this one is not from 2015 but rather from 2014 but it is seasonally appropriate so I am  including it as my last Quick Take review. A day in the Holy Family Published January 1st 2014 

While this is probably the briefest quick take seven post I have ever written I just might have given you way more to read than I ever have in the past, especially if you become inspired to sift through the hundreds of great posts previously published by Catholic Sistas.  Don’t forget to pop over to This Ain’t the Lyceum and peruse the other Seven Quick Takes on this first day of the new year. 

Until next month I pray that you have a fruitful beginning to the New Year and a peaceful New Years day weekend.

 

seven-quick-takes-friday-2