Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Within the Octave of the Nativity

Seventh Day Within the Octave of the Nativity of Our Lord.

And the Commemoration of St Sylvester, pope.

And the last day of 2008.

From the St. Andrew Missal, 1961 ~

Soon after the peace of Constantine which set free the Church from her shackles (313) , Pope Sylvester governed her for more than twenty years (314-35). The organization of worship in the first great Roman basilica, the assembling of the first ecumenical Council at Nicea at which the Arian heresy was condemned, are the principal events of a pontificate which began for the Church entirely new conditions of life.

INTROIT. John 21: 15-17; Ps 29:1.

Si diligis me, Simon Petre, pasce agnos meos, pasce oves meas. Ps. Exaltabote, Dominie, quoniam suscepisti me, nec delectasti inimicos meos super me.

If thou lovest Me, Simon Peter, feed My lambs, feed My sheep. Ps. I will extol Thee, O Lord, for Thou hast upheld me; and hast not made my enemies to rejoice over me.

In Bulgaria, they celebrate St Sylvester's Day. On the evening before young men go to “propose” to the young lasses and to demonstrate that they are capable of keeping house. They enter the stable and shovel out the garbage. The hosts leave a bag full of food – sausage, bacon and a bottle of wine as a treat, hanging the bag on a nail behind the door. The young woman secretly puts in a branch of box-tree for her beloved, tied with a bright red thread and wrapped in a multi-colored cloth - a sign that she is waiting for the matchmakers to come.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Skinny B**ch

Skinny Bitch? The title of a book I am reading.

Okay, everyone knows I am memorable, something exceptionally good - at least, that is one dictionary definition of bitch . Ha!

But skinny? Not.

Not that I have to be. As the website says ~ A Skinny Bitch is someone who enjoys food, eats well, and loves her body as a result. It has nothing to do with how much you weigh or what size you are! Skinny Bitches come in all beautiful shapes and sizes!

But I do feel the need to get back on track with healthier, mindful eating. Which is precisely why I am reading Skinny Bitch.

In some ways, this book goes over the top. No alcohol. No caffeine. No meat. No dairy.

I can handle the no meat and no dairy.

However, as with a buffet dinner, one doesn't have to sample everything. One can take bits here and bits there.

And it is the advice that helps me. The mind stuff, not mind-boggling lists of have-tos and eat-nots.

Okay. Use your head. You need to get healthy if you want to get skinny...The first thing you need to do is give up your gross vices. Don't act surprised! You cannot keep eating the same shit and expect to get skinny.

I like the tough love, tell it like it is approach. I hate beating around the bush and never let myself do that mentally. No mental rationalisations, please. I try to cut others some slack and try not to cut myself too much.

You can either continue plodding along in your life feeling like you're not living up to your glorious potential or you can dedicate yourself to creating the life you want. F*ck excuses about not having the time..You spend forty hours a week working, or more if you're a full-time mom. Certainly your health and your body, and you are important...

Now that you are a Skinny Bitch, don't turn into a skinny bitch...Smile a lot, give compliments out whenever you can, and be nice to everyone...

Now we know we keep encouraging you to look your best but, for the love of God, don't associate your worth with your appearance...Our insides are much more important than our outsides. So don't you f**king dare measure your worth by the amount of attention or validation you get...It's nice to be appreciated, but it is not a necessity.

So, there it is. Some guidelines for me re working on my eating and my attitude towards fitness in the new year. Working on my mind and the whys and whats .

The fitness component of my new year resolutions.

Still thinking abut the mental and spiritual and relationship components.

Something I Read Today

"No one heals himself by wounding another."

St. John Chrysostom

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Good Wife.

Hmm. Not nodding in agreement. But I have been pondering the meaning of Proverbs 31. For me.

10 Who shall find a valiant woman? far and from the uttermost coasts is the price of her.
11 The heart of her husband trusteth in her, and he shall have no need of spoils. 12 She will render him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.

The Holy Family. And Mass.

Yesterday was the Feast of the Holy Family.

The Feast of the Holy Family is not just about the Holy Family, but about our own families too. The main purpose of the Feast is to present the Holy Family as the model for all Christian families, and for domestic life in general. Our family life becomes sanctified when we live the life of the Church within our homes. This is called the "domestic church" or the "church in miniature." St. John Chrysostom urged all Christians to make each home a "family church," and in doing so, we sanctify the family unit.

Fr.'s homily at Mass centred on sanctifying our families and specifically on the role of the husband and wife.

This inspired discussion at lunch wth one son. And added to my ponderings.

We are very blessed in our parish. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated reverently.

Yesterday's Mass being a prime example. The prayers of the Canon, the devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the beauty of the liturgy.

Josef Cardinal Ratzinger ( now Pope Benedict XVI) has often remarked that today the priest must, like John the Baptist, "decrease." The show is not about him. He is not there to call attention to himself, expound his own ideas, or entertain the people,.... The Mass is not a staged drama at which we applaud the talent of the performers. There really is room for quiet and awe. The priest is there to do what the Church asks in the way the Church asks.
"The authority of the Pope is not unlimited," Josef Ratzinger wrote in The Spirit of the Liturgy; "it is at the service of Sacred Tradition. Still less is any kind of general ‘freedom’ of manufacture, degenerating into spontaneous improvisation, compatible with the essence of faith and liturgy. The greatness of the liturgy depends — we shall have to repeat this frequently — on its unspontaneity" (p. 166). Reflections on Saying Mass

Quiet and awe . The awe of receiving Our Lord. Within a liturgy of prayer and reverence. This we experienced yesterday during Mass for the the Feast of the Holy Family.

As I said, we are blessed in our parish.

Blessed in the celebration of Mass. But also in our catechesis. Catechesis during homilies.

"The entire Liturgy is catechesis -- the homily may be the only time some Catholics receive instruction in Scripture, Tradition, or moral instruction relevant to current events......What the laity is missing -- and what we thirst for! -- is concrete instruction in the Faith and the significance of the Liturgy, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the ten commandments, the latest writings of the pope, ....the perennial issues of contraception, homosexuality, abortion, and the marriage covenant ... just to name a few topics. The homily or sermon is probably the single-most effective way to significantly boost the laity's understanding of and love for our Faith."
Adoremus Survey Report

The homily yesterday at Mass was on one of those perennial issues. Marriage. I mentioned above that Fr. discussed the vocation of marriage, of what it means to be a good wife, a good husband. Fitting discussion for the Holy Family. Fitting for me, as I have been thinking about this lately. Yet again. What is a good wife? One who makes her husband happy?

But that is another post.

Suffice to say that I am given strength and hope and peace and joy and am provoked to love more and to think, by the celebration of the feast days of Chritmastide in our local parish.

I am encouraged in my vocation as a wife.

The Feast of the Holy Family gives one hope. And help.

As does praying at Mass. And listening to the priest's instruction.

What do priests know about marriage?

One may ask how a priest might be capable of giving marriage instructions. After all, he is not married. How does he know the joys, the sufferings and the problems in marriage? To answer this objection, may we point out that a priest is capable because of four factors: 1) his training, 2) his experience, 3) his objectivity and 4) the grace of Holy Orders.

1. His Training: During his minimum of 8 years of college and seminary, he was given a well-rounded education, including an in-depth study of marriage.
2. His Experience: During his lifetime, a priest comes into contact with a countless variety of marriages. He has known newlywed couples as well as golden jubilarians. He sees the young and the old, the rich and the poor. He sees the happy homes and the unhappy homes, the successful marriages and the failed marriages. Thus, whereas the priest does not personally experience the joys and problems of this sacred union, he does obtain a wide understanding about it. One must realize that it is not necessary to experience intimately every phase of life in order to understand people and their situations. Certainly surgeons do not need to have gone through the experience of, let us say, a brain tumor operation in order to understand its ramifications. A client who hires a lawyer does not require that the lawyer have been convicted of a crime or have spent time in prison. Personal experience is not the only teacher, and in fact, it is not necessarily the best teacher. For example, criminals often do not learn from the experience of arrest, trial and incarceration. Many fall back into the same crimes despite repeated punishment. The experience that the priest possesses is vicarious, but richly varied and is buttressed with a knowledge of human nature and a grasp of true religious teaching.
3. His Objectivity: The priest is neither husband nor wife and is able to look at marriage from an objective point of view. He can step back, in effect, to get an overall view of the institution of marriage. One cannot always see the forest because of the trees. That is, when one is caught up in a situation, he or she often loses perspective. A famous monastic once said that in order for him more clearly to understand religious life, he would from time to time walk to a hill about one half mile from the monastery. From that vantage point, he could grasp the whole picture of monastery life and its purpose. Similarly, the priest is able to “step back” and examine the nature of marriage in an objective and detached manner.
4. The grace of Holy Orders: On the day of ordination, a great Sacrament is conferred upon a man. He is given Holy Orders. Not only does this Sacrament elevate Him to the status of Alter Christus— “Another Christ”—but it guarantees him the graces to fulfill the various functions of his state of life. One very important function is to instruct and counsel couples before and during marriage. The priest is given many graces from God, as part of his very priesthood, specifically to enable him to perform the duties of his exalted state of life.
Husband and Wife

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Its Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas....

Okay, it is 4.25 a.m. Christmas Eve. And I can't sleep.

Not sleeping is nothing new. Welcome to my life.

I'm adding items to a Christmas to do list.

And getting so excited about Christmas tomorrow. The Midnight Mass tonight. The Nativity of Our Lord.

In the liturgical year there is a historical progression, beginning in Advent with the waiting for the coming of the Messiah.

Followed by the remembrance of His birth at Christmas.

During the Sundays after Epiphany, the Holy Childhood is commemorated, while during Lent we are reminded of the fasting in the desert and the Passion of Our Lord.

The sacred cycle is completed at Eastertide, when we celebrate the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord and the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles.

Notes from the Roman Missal (1962): Christmastide (The Christmas Cycle)

II. CHRISTMASTIDE (from the Vigil of the Nativity [December 24] through the Baptism of Our Lord [January 13]).

During the Season of Advent we longed for the coming of Christ. In Christmastide we experience the joy of His coming into the world.

The Church is full of the Mystery of the Incarnation of Christ. Jesus as God, begotten of the substance of the Father before all the ages and born of the substance of His Mother in the world, is given to us. ‘And His Name shall be called the Angel of Great Counsel.’

By the union of our souls with Jesus born to human life, we are born to the divine life. ‘As many as receive Him He gave them power to be made Sons of God.’ (St. John)In the birth of Jesus we learn to know God as His Father: ‘All things are delivered to Me by My Father. And no one knoweth the Father but the Son and he whom it shall please the Son to reveal Him.’ (St. Matthew)

During Christmastide, the liturgy shows us the Messias as the Son of God, clothed with humanity, glorified by the humble surprised shepherds, and adored by the Magi from the East.

Let us fall down before the Child and bless God, for the birth of Jesus is the beginning of our Redemption through grace to the supernatural life.

Christmas is the only day of the year which keeps the custom of celebrating its Feast at midnight. At this hour we call to mind that Mary in her spotless virginity gave to the world its Saviour. In the midst of the darkness, the Light was born. Therefore the Church celebrates Christmas on December 25, the time of the year when the days begin to lengthen.

Whereas Advent is the season of the ‘absence of Jesus,’ Christmastide is a season of great joy in our possession of the Saviour.

I love the history, the significance, the outward expression of our Christianity, seen in our celebration of the liturgical year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cui peccare licet peccat minus

This was posted at the Unschooling Catholics email list.

A quote from Ovid, roughly translated as He who is allowed to sin, sins less.

Now, the poem deals with a husband wishing to restrain a young wife and points put how she must own her chastity and that this ownership would make her chaste without spousal restraints.

Among other things.

We have discussed how this may, or may not, apply to our children. And to our relationship with our children.

I found the statement to be true in my own growing up.

My mum was very liberal . I had no curfews, no rules about under age drinking, no dress codes, no rules about bedtimes or books or movies.

I ended up being the most conservative of my friends. I used to make sure I’d be home at a reasonable time, while my friends wouldn’t get home to the minute of their curfew. I felt I had to be responsible so as to not betray my mum’s trust and because I was in charge of myself, I ended up acting as a grown up.

Now, I grew up in a single parent home and as the eldest child, always felt responsible for my mum. I felt I had to protect her. I felt that I had to be better than average, as a justification of sorts for our then unusual lifestyle choices.

So, freedom to sin ( or not) is not the whole story. I had freedom to sin yet I chose not. Because of the freedom? Or because of family dynamics?

Or because of who I am . A reader. Someone who was a bookworm as a child. I devoured the classics and children's stories alike and ended up being heavily influenced by some favourite authors. I learned about virtues, about Christianity, about virtuous conduct, about warm family life, from books. From novels. As writer Maya Angelou said ~ When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading,just as I did when I was young.

Some of this experience has flowed onto my relationship with my children. I have always read aloud, strewed books, shared books, talked books. I have tried to have few rules, to discuss the whys and wherefores, to give my sons freedom to choose, while hoping that sharing my life and faith and books will help form their consciences.

The kids have never had set bedtimes or curfews, for example. I try to offer guidance not rules for dress and music and books and friends.

I try to keep in mind St John Bosco’s words to educators –Love what the boys love and they will come to love what you hold dear.

And St Philip Neri to the boys in his care– Do as you wish, I do not care so long as you do not sin.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Three Years

Three years. We will be in Sydney another three years.

Dh has received a transfer, to another position here in Sydney. This posting is for three years. So, here we are. Here we stay. Hopefully, this is right for us. What God wants.

A super nice thing about staying in Sydney is being with friends. We've made some NICE friends, very nice....And some of these friends gave me the blue willow soup tureen above, as a Christmas-and-thank-you present ; a thank you for organising Homeschool Teen Group. Love blue willow. Love my friends.

Another of the really, really good things about living in Sydney is the chance to experience various exhibitions. Like the Monet Exhibition in November. And the Star Wars Exhibition this week.

We came straight home from the exhibition and strew our Star Wars books. Wanna catch up on the Star Wars movies again.

Right now we are strewing Advent, Christmas and Star Wars!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mary Mackillop

I am reading Mary Mackillop Unveiled as part of my Advent reading. A bit of Australian history mixed with the story of Blessed Mary Mackillop.

Reading of her spiritual life, I am struck by the the strength of her friendship with Fr. Julian Woods. Fr. Woods was Mary's friend, mentor, spiritual director, confidante.

They shared correspondence. They shared jokes and made light fun of each other.

Fr Woods wrote to Mary ~ " I think I have told you about 100 times that if I have much to do and cannot write, you mustn't think that I am in a huff. I think also I have said, say half as many times, that if I should be offended with you, I should tell you so without loss of timee...Think of me up to my knees in unopened letters, up to my elbows in ink, up to my eyebrows in postage stamps - obliterated of course - and out of my wits trying to understand where I am, who I am, and how I am to satisfy all. But an end must come. Who knows but I shall be found lifeless at my desk with an epitaph just finished - he answered his letters, the mail is now closed"..Thinking that Mary may take his letter too seriously he finished "I give
you leave to read this to your sister Maggie, for perhaps you may misunderstand and she will laugh

Reading this letter, makes the Saint seem more real.

And I am reminded of the strong connection between many Saints, many holy people, and priests, as spiritual directors and as friends.

Margarita Tuchkova , a holy woman of the Borodino community in Russia, who built a memorial church, a women's community, and a flourishing monastery ~ with the encouragment of her priest, friend and mentor.

St Elizabeth of Hungary and Conrad of Marburg.

St Peter of Alcantara and St Teresa of Avila.

Many, many others.

We are lucky to have our priests in our Church. Their role is important and yet can easily be taken for granted.

Why must there be a Catholic priesthood for the survival of the Catholic Church? Listen. In the times of convolution over the past centuries notably in the sixteenth century the Catholic Church disappeared where the necessity of the Catholic Priesthood was denied. There is no Catholic Church without the priesthood instituted by Christ.
To understand this necessity is to have laid the foundations for a correct appreciation of the Church’s ordained priesthood. We may think well of – we may respect – what is useful but we prize we hold onto with all the force of our being with what we think is necessary. We hold onto with our life's blood what is necessary and the priesthood is necessary for the life's blood of the Church. There is no Catholic Church – underline, encircle, emblazon the word, “NO” – there is no Catholic Church without the priesthood. It is the faith realization of the absolute necessity of the Priesthood that justifies the place, the dignity of the priest in Roman Catholicism. And why the people who may be both torn between their faith and their experience, will respect, honor a priest no matter how humanly speaking, how dishonorable he may become.
It is this necessity that justifies the deep concern of the Church at large and of the faithful for having holy priests because then their sanctity is the visible expression of their necessity. It justifies the conviction of the necessity of the priesthood. Justifies the crusade of prayers and sacrifices by religious and the faithful for priests, for the conversion of priests who have strayed away, and for their continued and ever growing sanctification.

Fr. John Hardon ~ The Necessity of the Catholic Priesthood.

What makes a priest different or special? Fr. Hardon goes on to say ~

There are people who are more intelligent than priests – I know I have taught too many priests and lay people too. There are people who are holier than priests, there are people who are better qualified as leaders, leaders in society than priests. But that is not the issue,.... having a long conversation with the Lutheran Chaplain while teaching at the state university – we knew each other well. He had his doctorate in theology like I had mine. We talked over a period of months on what is or is there any difference between an ordained minister like himself and a Catholic priest.....Do you know what the word ontological means? He said sure, ontological has to do with (ontos) the Greek word for being. When you were ordained as you say to the Lutheran ministry were you ontologically different than you were before? He said no! Well, I did!

There is a change in being, a change in ontos, and in its own way as different a change in being as a child before being baptized and then is baptized. It is just not the same person.

Now what is it that the sacrament orders confers on the priest that gives the priest the power to do and changes him not only in time but as faith tells us into eternity?
A priest receives the power of offering the sacrifice of the Mass. A priest receives the power to forgive sins. The priest receives the power of exercising authority in Christ's name.
So, if we recognise the importance of priests in our Church, how should we then act? Act towards these priests, those in our local parish, for example? How should we treat all religious?

Well, we should treat everyone with respect. Adults, children, priests, religious, old, young...

In particular, we should treat our priests and religious with extra courtesy.


I will paraphrase some of Fr. Hardon's suggestions.
*Promote vocations .
*Pray, pray for priests and religious.
*Sacrifice for priests. A priest is one who is to sacrifice. The hard part of the priesthood is not the offering of the sacrifice of the Mass. It is the self-sacrifice that a priest is called upon to make and the more priestly a priest is the more the people of God will use him, will wear him out. Priests need the merits of our sacrifices.
*Assist priests.Help, assist, provide services. Help your parish.
*Encourage priests and religious. Our parish women's group has committed to pray daily for the friars in our parish and we hope to encourage them in their vocation by our talk and by our deeds.Don't you love it when someone notices something you have done, gives you a gift or says something nice, helps you when you need it or when you are feeling less than happy? How nice to do that for others..

Definitely. Something for us to think about as Christmas approaches.