Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Paradox

A paradox, a paradox, a most peculiar paradox - Gilbert & Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance.

Life is sometimes paradoxical.

Parodoxical in the sense of exhibiting inexplicable or contradictory aspects.

Or maybe it is just me who exhibits these contradictory aspects.

I wrote a bit about this in a post last year, the irony of blogging.

And in the comments of a recent post ~ I write something, and it inadvertantly sounds like I have it all together. Which, as anyone who knows me can attest, I don't ...Then, I usually find something happens that proves my writing wrong, anyway.I write about learning all the time - the kids then veg out. I write about helping others - then think something uncharitable. I write about happy marriage then argue with dh.It is the paradox of blogging - one writes and then the converse happens, the converse of that of which you have written...I got off the computer yesterday, after writing of self gift, and had a fit over a child's grumpiness and complaining - we had a big argument. Totally not giving of self.

Another paradox I exhibit? In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I admit to swearing more often than I should. I listen to counsel. Only to have trouble opening the door on my way out and saying Oh sh** under my breath.

I was reading about Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers Movement. Apparently some of her life and actions have been considered paradoxical .

Dorothy Day died in 1980, at the age of 83. She was one of the greatest religious figures of the century, and one of the most paradoxical. She was a Catholic and she was an anarchist. She condemned poverty and she advocated it. She founded the Catholic Worker, a loose aggregation of ''houses of hospitality,'' communal farms, newspapers and round-table discussions for ''further clarification of thought'' -- and called her memoirs ''The Long Loneliness.'' The movement was wary of authority, yet revered her as its leader. She humbled herself before God and sat for a portrait by Richard Avedon.

''Don't call me a saint -- I don't want to be dismissed that easily,'' she once said, to no avail. A year ago, to mark what would have been her 100th birthday (today would have been her 101st), John Cardinal O'Connor of New York, a lifelong admirer, announced that he would take up the cause for her canonization. ''If anybody in our time can be called a saint, she can,'' he said. It was an honor, and it was another paradox. The Patron Saint of Paradox ~ The New York Times

Of course, the paradoxical life of Ms Day portrays the paradox of living life as a follower of Christ. The balance between seemingly warring ideas.
My paradoxical behaviour, however, shows lack of self control.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says ~ 1830 The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

1831 The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David

They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations. Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God . . . If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ

1832 The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity."

Ah, don't you love unschooling? My lack of self control can become a family discussion, something I can work on during Advent with the help of my kids and something I can use to inspire conversation on living as a Christian.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Homeschooling. A Family's Journey

I just finished reading this book by Gregory and Martine Millman.

I liked it. A good read. I enjoyed their personal story, their analogies, the way they combined their knowledge of journalism and of the financial world with their homeschooling experience. I found most of their conclusions on homeschooling to be relevant, to be generally descriptive , if sometimes a bit smug.

I hope smugness, or complacency, isn't a problem for homeschoolers. Like me.

Yet, living daily with our children , having our faults drawn to the light, seeing our interactions sketched in their lives, this living often forces us on our knees. Into prayer and not complacency.

Definitely challenges us. Takes us out of our comfort zone.

Br. L. mentioned challenging ourselves spiritually during Advent, at the parish Advent programme last night.Homeschooling challenges us spiritually. If we let it.

The Millmans write ~

We found in the course of our homeschooling that the most important part of education is a close personal relationship that folds a child in arms of love and deep respect. This is a relationship in which the parent makes a perpetual self-gift. It means that the parent never has a moment for herself ( or himself), never tries to take anything just for "me". ...

Parents can make it easier or harder for a child to live and choose and love. Many of our social institutions, and especially schools, make it harder to live and choose and love in freedom. We homeshool so that our children will be able to live and choose and love, to seek the truth in freedom.

Let me first clarify. I do have moments to myself. My workout. My morning prayer time. My time with dh. My time with friends. It is just that these moments are usually enjoyed with the kids present, around, being there...Occasionally, dh and I will go out together. Alone. Or I go out with my friends sans kids. Homeschooling is all about self giving but not really always about self sacrifice .

That said, it is the self gift that makes homeschooling work. Not the lesson plans,books, curricula.

The giving of self in presence, in discussion. And these discussions or teachable moments come not when planned but when guided by the minute, the time taken to pick up on something and talk and clarify and share.

Yesterday we had a no formal work, typical unschooling day. I could write in my homeschool log that the kids played with a friend, played computers,went to the dentist, read, watched DVDS. Making it sound like a do nothing, learn nothing day.

But I am an unschooler. I see learning everywhere. I know it is impossible to stop learning, especially the often hidden agenda of learning in the affective realm, the learning that happens inside, the thinking, the touching of the soul, the formation of the character, the learning how to be with others, how to live.

So, on our no formal schoolwork , typical for us unschooling day we also got into a long philosophical discussion on actions that are morally right or morally justified. This was over a game - my four teens, including my 13 year old, and me and one of the kids’ friends. We talked about what the Church teaches and then our friend asked, simply because he is not Catholic - but how could what the Church teaches apply to me? So then we talked about truth, about absolute truth, about logic, about the Bible...

Truth is a relation which holds (1) between the knower and the known -- Logical Truth; (2) between the knower and the outward expression which he gives to his knowledge -- Moral Truth; and (3) between the thing itself, as it exists, and the idea of it, as conceived by God -- Ontological Truth. In each case this relation is, according to the Scholastic theory, one of correspondence, conformity, or agreement (St. Thomas, Summa I:21:2). the Catholic Encyclopedia

I couldn’t have planned a better religious and philosophical discussion had I tried. We didn't do our usual Wednesday religion reading. But we did discuss Truth. We researched. We debated.

I stopped working on a carols booklet in order to discuss and research. Yes, I gave my time. So what? That is what I am called to do. There is no extra merit in stopping one thing to do what I am supposed to do, as a homeschooling mother. Giving of myself. And yet I still received blessings, the blessing of discussion. Of being with my sons and their friend. Of sharing faith.

Love. Saint Josemaria Escriva said 'Love is deeds, not sweet words.' When we say love we do not mean tender feelings and we do not mean tough love. We mean self-sacrifice and self-gift. This love that can only come from faith and trust. Give yourself. Sometimes giving yourself means being tender and sometimes it means exercising discipline to help a child grow in strength and character. Always examine yourself to make sure that the choice you are making is not for yourself but for your child, so that your child will grow in freedom and truth." To quote the Millmans yet again..

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Baby, you're heaven and hell..

Baby you're heaven...heaven and hell
Yeah, you're heaven...heaven and hell
U2 Heaven and Hell

What brings us to God? Is it fear, fear of hell? Or it it love?

Perhaps the answer differs, as our personalities differ.

Fear is something that turns me away. When I am fearful of things, I tend to withdraw. I pretend they are not there, not important. I pull away from that thing, that person, that event. Unless I make myself face that fear with some tough love...

It was not fear that brought me to God.

I know this is a personal response but it was faith and reason, love and intellect, research and history and a tug at my heart, that brought me to God. To the Church. Not fear of hell.

Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. St Francis of Assisi

I hope, too, that it is my love and concern, my friendliness, who I am and how I live, as well as my knowledge of and practice of my faith, that will bring others to God.

It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching. Another quote from St Francis.

This is not to deny that hell exists. Of course hell exists.

A lot of people have questions about heaven, hell and purgatory. To better understand hell, let’s review a bit. Everything about God and us centers on relationship. Heaven is complete and perfect union with God for eternity. Purgatory is union with God (through sanctifying grace), which is imperfect and incomplete. Purification from our sins then brings about a perfect union with God. In contrast, hell is complete, total and absolute separation from God for all eternity. Don’t think of heaven, purgatory and hell as physical places. View them as states of existence. Think of the time you fell in love and the total exhilaration you felt. Consider the moment a loved one died unexpectedly and the shock, loss and disorientation you experienced. Each brought about an internal experience that touched your whole being..
St Anthony Messenger

During one of his weekly general audiences our previous Pope, Pope John Paul II said that hell “is not a punishment imposed externally by God but a development of premises already set by people in this life....It is the ultimate consequence of sin itself, which turns against the person who committed it. It is the state of those who definitely reject the Father’s mercy, even at the last moment of their life....
The images of hell that Sacred Scripture presents to us must be correctly interpreted. They show the complete frustration and emptiness of life without God.
Rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy....The thought of hell—and even less the improper use of biblical images—must not create anxiety or despair, but is a necessary and healthy reminder of freedom within the proclamation that the risen Jesus has conquered Satan, giving us the Spirit of God who makes us cry ‘Abba, Father!’ (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’ The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs" (CCC 1035).

Eternal separation from God. A horrible thought to be sure. So, now in this time of Advent, we can look at ourselves. At our relationship with God. And our relationship with others.

Preparation for Christmas is an important theme for Advent, but more is involved. Advent gives us a vision of our lives as Christians and shows us the possibilities of life.

The vision of life that Advent gives us is twofold; it looks back to the first coming of Christ at Bethlehem, and it looks to the future when Christ will come again. In the interval between these two events we find meaning for our life as Christians.
Advent is a time to draw closer to God and, perhaps, to help others, including our families, draw closer to God.

Advent is a time of joy tinged with penance. Joy, because we can imagine nothing more sweet than the Christ Child and His Mother happiness at His coming to light. Penance because we must strive to be properly disposed to receive so great a gift of His presence. In the millennial tradition of the Church, we faithful have done penance before great feasts. Christmas and Easter each have their penitential seasons in anticipation, Advent and Lent. The liturgical colour used in the Church for the liturgy during both Advent and Lent is purple, a sign of penance. Advent is a time of great joy, because we look forward to the beautiful feast of the Nativity, but it is joy stitched with focused spiritual preparation by doing penance.

Our family traditionally creates-an or buys-an or drags-out-the-previous-year's Advent wreath on the first Sunday in Advent. This Sunday in fact. We choose our spiritual reading for the Advent period. We talk about giving up things for Advent, for others, for ourselves. Doing something extra, spiritually , practically. We start to think ahead to Christmas and the Nativity.

We remember heaven and hell. And peace on earth. And goodwill to all men ( ouch, my thoughts have not always been so charitable lately).
Baby, you're heaven and hell.
I hope not!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A gift from my dh

He knows I love flowers on the dining table. Around the house. So came home early from work with these.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Life According To Abba

Singing to Abba Singstar. Listening to Abba in the car. Being surrounded by the music of Abba makes me see how the lyrics are often appropriate for my life.

Pop music descriptions that fit my life?
Oh yeah.

Mamma Mia
here I go again...

This week there was some unpleasantness. No, not from my sweet family! Some other people not-playing-nicely. Some unjust comments and criticism. And probably some just criticism, too. Hey, I'm not perfect. I'm no saint.

Thinking I belonged there
I figured it made sense
Building me a fence
Building me a home
Thinking I'd be strong there
But I was a fool
Playing by the rules

We've spent many years moving around. Lately, I've thought that perhaps the time has come for us to stay in one place. Live in one city or area for the rest of our lives. But I realise now that I don't fit in. That's okay. If God wants us to move, I know we can be happy anywhere.

Take it now or leave it
Now is all we get
Nothing promised, no regrets
And here we go again,
we know the start,
we know the end
Masters of the scene
We've done it all before

No regrets. I have a pretty cool life, I am who I am, always growing and learning and trying to be better for sure. But still me. Like it or not. I can't please everyone. Experience has shown me it is best to pray, trust and move on.

You can dance,
you can jive,
having the time of your life
See that girl,
watch that scene,
diggin' the Dancing Queen

I play music, I dance and sing with the kids. Life is too short to be down! As Billy Blanks ( Taebo) says Every day above ground is a blessed day! I am blessed with a good dh and nice kids and with homeschooling and spending time with friends and with a job I love. And a prayerful parish. Who can ask for more?

Tonight the Super Trouper
lights are gonna find me
Shining like the sun
Smiling, having fun
Feeling like a number one
Tonight theSuper Trouper
beams are gonna blind me
But I won't feel blue
Like I always do
Cause somewhere in the crowd there's you

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Day

A Day. Today.

I held a morning tea for all the morning tea ladies at church ~ we serve morning tea once a month after the 10.30 a.m. Mass . I thought, for a change, that we'd sit and chat and I'd serve them. Instead of us all serving others.

It was lovely to talk together .

Oh, and we picked up ABBA Singstar. WOO HOO! So, tonight, at 10.00 p.m., after work and after Women's Group at church, when I finally arrived home, what did the kids and I do? Sing ABBA of course!

Have had a pretty fraky week ( to quote Battlestar Galatica). Enjoyable time at the Monet Exhibition, definitely, but also some gerneal unpleasantness with some other people. Things that left me feeling dirty. Violated even.

But God is good. Some little things helped, little things that meant a lot to me. Sweet people. Thoughtful actions. Nice things.

Including ABBA Singstar.

I do, I do, I do, I do, I do...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

At the Monet Exhibition..

Today we ( homeschool French class ) went to the Monet and the Impressionists exhibition, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.


Perspective Light. Shades. Observation.
Monet captured the feeling of the wind, the waves, the sun smiling down.
People .
Standing. Looking. Talking.

Awe. We wandered around in awe.

Longing . We longed to visit Monet's garden in Giverny ourselves.

But we made do with the grass and trees of Sydney's Domain, near the Art Gallery. The kids and I had a lot of fun, climbing an impressive, archaic Moreton Bay Fig tree.

I loved climbing up, I love seeing the world from another perspective, from a tree, feeling like Pippi Longstocking, one of my childhood heroes. Climbing down is always a bit trickier! A friend's son slipped and hung on until we helped him; he was very brave...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thinking About Advent

Abut preparing for Christmas and preparing our hearts as we remember the birth of Our Lord.

I was thinking of doing an Advent Spiral.

The Advent spiral, a beautiful spiral of Light which symbolizes the Light of Christ.

The first Sunday in Advent is the first of the four Sundays preceding Christmas. Advent then is a period of time, not a single day or moment. It is a time of quiet preparation.

Basically, the idea is this: a large spiral created of greenery and interesting branches. It is decorated with flowers, pine cones and other items from nature. In the centre on a flat surface stands a large candle, lit. Outside of the spiral someone stands with a tray with one red apple per person. The apples need to have been cored and a small candle put into each. Test out the apple candles to ensure they stand firmly - discard any which have a tendency to fall over. One adult carries the tray and hands an unlit apple candle to each as s/he in turn comes up to the spiral.

The room with the spiral is dimly lit. Someone might be playing or singing Christmas carols. Each approaches the candle in the centre and lights their candle. Then each turns back and finds a good place to put the candle amongst the greenery. A pleasant way to create a family Advent memory.

Thought we might pray the O Antiphons.

The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah.

Tonight I re-read The Twenty Four days of Christmas by Madeleine L'engle. A children's book. A book written in the early sixties, that has been inspiring me since I was a young mum. It was out of print when my older childlren were little, it is still out of print, but I borrowed it from the library. I bought an old original copy last year. . I yearned for the kind of family life described in the Meet the Austins series of books; I knew I was making choices even then as to what we would do as a family; I started our Advent traditions then and there.

Gregorian Chant

Gregorian Chant is a musical repertory made up of chants used in the liturgical services of the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, the liturgical tradition which the Church has given us is a vocal, monophonic music composed in Latin using sacred texts from the Ancient and New Testaments. This is why Gregorian Chant has often been called a "sung Bible". Linked intimately to the liturgy in this way, the goal of the Gregorian melodies is to favor spiritual growth, reveal the gifts of God and the full coherence of the Christian message. Abbay de Solesmes - Histoire de Chant Gregorien

The name Gregorian chant points us to Pope St Gregory the Great (590-604 ).

One thing I find sad about our family's now irregular participation in Mass in the Extraordinary Rite ( aka the Latin Mass), is the lack of Chant in our lives.

We used to attend Sung Latin Masses regularly. I have to admit that chant in Mass touches me spiritually, helps feed my soul.

It became conventional wisdom that listening to Gregorian chant increased the production of beta waves in the brain, reinforcing the popular reputation of Gregorian chant as tranquilizing music Wikipedia

I understand that peacefulness of Gregorian Chant. Today has been a quiet Kumon morning. I have free time. It is fairly leisurely, for us at any rate...Usually, however, mornings before Kumon work afternoons are hectic. Frantic even. Definitely busy.

I had such a busy, busy morning last Thursday before Kumon. At lunchtime, while still working and before going to work, while the kids were creating and eating their lunches, while I was naughtily skipping lunch due to time restraints, I put some Gregorian Chant in the CD player.

We own quite a few CDs of Chant, my dh also has a special fondness for Chant. But I chose to play the CD that comes with the kids' Christian Latin Course - Lingua Angelica. Not only Mass parts but also Christus Vincit, Veni Creator Spiritus, Pange Lingua, Panis Angelicus. Amongst others.

The music brought calm and peace. Even the nineteen year old son came down stairs and said - that's peaceful.

Pange lingua gloriosi Corporis mysterium

Sing my tongue of the mystery of the glorious body and precious blood.

The rhythm of Pange Lingua is said to have come down from a marching song of Caesar's legions. Ecce, Caesar nunc triumphat qui subgegit Gallias.

Adrian Fortescue said - there is not, nor is there ever likely to be any religious poety in the world worthy to be compared to the hymns of the Latin office. These were created in what has been called The Age of Faith, which began in the first century. This music is the heritage of all modern Christians.

I may be listening to David Bowie on CD in the car. I may like the tune of the following song, and sing with the youth choir at Mass last night, Heart of Worship ~

I'm coming back to the heart of worship And it's all about you All about you Jesus. I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it When it's all about you, All about you Jesus.

Ultimately, however, I find peace, spiritual food, a satisfaction of a nameless longing, in what we commonly call Gregorian Chant.

Sounds weird, esoterical, pretentious even, I know..But at least someone else shares my thoughts and experiences -

We have gone from solemnity, sacred awe, songs that every generation could recognize, or even sing from memory, to trendy clap trap, liturgo-pop, and Whoopi Goldberg songs that change every six months as they fall off the liturgical top 10 list.

As a child, I remember going from the solemn and sacred, haunting tune of "Tantum Ergo Sacramentum" to the tom-tom beat of "They Will Know We are Christians by Our Love".

What was going on? What is still going on? ...The Sacred Liturgy is the source and summit of our faith. Is it God-centered or "us"-centered? Is the Mass a Christian pep rally to make the troops feel good about themselves? Or is it the most holy, sacrosanct act of worship that any human being could ever give to Almighty God? Do we sing a new and beautiful song to the Lord? Or do we sing the Gathering Hymn to ourselves? Do we create the liturgy or is it given to us and to which we must join ourselves and be uplifted to the Eternal One?....

Sacred music must immerse us in the holy and the divine. It should lift our hearts, souls and especially our minds to God. It should use sacred texts and sacred language. Its role is not to exhilarate us emotionally, but to draw us into the divine action that is the true worship of God.

Monsignor Richard Schuler, pastor of Saint Agnes in Saint Paul, Minnesota and former editor of Sacred Music says, "Church Music is sacramental. It is sound that has become holy through dedication to a sacred purpose, the worship of God; sound that is most closely connected to the Word of God; sound that is created and performed by persons dedicated to God's praise and adoration. It is sound and words that bring the listener to a relationship with God. Church is (should be) essentially prayer, the raising of the heart and mind to God". (Sacred Music, summer 1993, Vol. 120, No. 2, p.4)....

Gregorian chant, the Mozart "Coronation Mass", Palestrina's "Missa Assumpta est Maria", or modern religious music like "If I Were a Butterfly", "Kumbaya" and "They Will Know We are Christians by Our Love" -- which expresses the Sacred, the Eternal? ... excerpts taken from Adoremus Bulletin - From "Tantum Ergo" to "They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love"

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Been Baking...

Bread pudding ( English).

Shortbread ( Scottish).

Marrying the English and Scottish cultures ~ as St Margaret of Scotland aimed to do....

Fun to spend some time baking today. Couldn't find any helpers, everyone else was off, busy..but it was still a good way to spend some time this afternoon. Yes, I was tired and made some baking mistakes - but who's to know?
I love cooking on feast days, cooking our way through the liturgical year. Yes, I am a hopeless cook but the activity and the idea is fun!
Tomorrow is St Elizabeth of Hungary . I am planning on putting Hungarian Goulash in the crockpot in the morning, ready to eat after work tomorrow night.
St. Elizabeth is remembered for her charitable works, especially for the establishment of hospitals. Today, dozens of hospitals and medical centers are named for her, several of them founded by the Sisters of St. Francis. Elizabeth lived at a time when the combined disasters of climate, war, pestilence, and poverty caused great suffering, and she became devoted to helping those who had nowhere to turn.

Elizabeth was born in Hungary in 1207. She began life as part of the Hungarian nobility, daughter of King Andrew II. At age 14, she married the 21-year-old Ludwig IV, of Thuringia (Germany). He was appointed regent of Meissen and the East Mark and who soon became employed by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II as a soldier and diplomat.
Elizabeth was religious since her early years, and Ludwig supported her in this, including her acts of charity. While he was away for missions under Frederick II, Elizabeth took charge of local affairs and distributed alms in all parts of her husband's territory.Ludwig died on one of his military campaigns, succumbing to illness not war wounds. Their third child was born shortly after his death.

Elizabeth then became associated with the Franciscans. They established their first settlement in the region in 1221 and she obtained spiritual instruction from them. The ideals of St. Francis appealed to her: chastity, humility, patience, prayer, and charity. Because of her royal position, the vow of poverty that Franciscans took was not easy to pursue and her retention of funds made the charitable work she pursued more fruitful; over time she distributed everything she had. It was with her financial aid and spiritual support that the Franciscans in 1225 founded a monastery in Eisenach. Conrad of Marburg, who had been held in high esteem by Ludwig, became her spiritual advisor. It is said that he treated Elizabeth with all the severity of his nature, for which he had a considerable reputation, but through this led her to new levels of sanctity and charity; after her death he was very active in her canonization.

On Good Friday, 1228, in the Franciscan house at Eisenach, Elizabeth formally renounced the world; she received from Conrad the dress of the Third Order of St. Francis. In the summer of 1228 she built the Franciscan hospital at Marburg and on its completion devoted herself entirely to the care of the sick, especially to those afflicted with debilitating and disfiguring diseases.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

St Margaret of Scotland

St Margaret of Scotland. Feast day tomorrow. Thomas and I are thinking of making shortbread, in her honour. A Scottish delight.

"When [Margaret] spoke, her conversation was with the salt of wisdom. When she was silent, her silence was filled with good thoughts. So thoroughly did her outward bearing correspond with the staidness of her character that it seemed as if she has been born the pattern of a virtuous life" (Turgot, St. Margaret's confessor).
I need to work on my conversation...the salt of wisdom??

Margaret was married to Malcolm, the royal Malcolm mentioned in Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Margaret was born in 1046 and was a member of an ancient English royal family. She was a direct descendant of King Alfred and was the granddaughter of King Edmund Ironside of England through his son Edward.

Along with her family Margaret had been exiled to the eastern continent when King Canute and his Danish army had overrun England. Beautiful and devout she was also intelligent receiving her formal education in Hungary.

The Scottish King, Malcolm III, known as Malcolm Canmore (or Great Head) offered his protection to the royal family.

Malcolm was particularly protective towards Margaret! She initially refused his proposals of marriage, preferring, according to one account, a life of piety as a virgin. Malcolm however was a persistent king, and the couple finally married in Dunfermline in 1069.

Their union was exceptionally happy and fruitful for both themselves and the Scottish nation. Margaret brought with her some of the finer points of current European manners, ceremony and culture to the Scottish Court, which highly improved its civilised reputation.

Queen Margaret was renown for her moderating and good influence on her husband and also for her devout piety and religious observance.

Under Queen Margaret's leadership Church councils promoted Easter communion and, much to joy of the working-class, abstinence from servile work on a Sunday. Margaret founded churches, monasteries and pilgrimage hostels and established the Royal Mausoleum at Dunfermline Abbey with monks from Canterbury. She was especially fond of Scottish saints and instigated the Queen's Ferry over the Forth so that pilgrims could more easily reach the Shrine of St. Andrew.

Mass was changed from the many dialects of Gaelic spoken throughout Scotland to the unifying Latin. By adopting Latin to celebrate the Mass she believed that all Scots could worship together in unity, along with the other Christians of Western Europe. Many people believe that in doing this, it was not only Queen Margaret's goals to unite the Scots, but also Scotland and England in an attempt to end the bloody warfare between the two countries.

Read more at The History of Scotland.

Social Capital

Social capital.
An idea that refers to the connections between individuals and entities that can be valuable for a community. Social networks that include people who trust and assist each other can be a powerful asset. These relationships between individuals and organisations can lead to a state in which each will think of the other when something needs to be done. Along with economic capital, social capital is a valuable mechanism in growth.

Social capital describes the value created by elements, intangible elements, such as trust, reciprocity, communication, community.

Why am I talking about social capital? Well, I was reading Homeschooling : A Family's Journey ( the Millmans). In this book, a memoir of a family and its unschooling life, was mentioned Bowling Alone. Another book I found I wanted to read.

I love these sort of book meanderings.

In Bowling Alone, author Robert D. Putnam describes social capital and the deterioration of such social capital via the gradual decline of involvement in community groups, groups such as churches, political organisations, volunteer groups...even bowling leagues ( hence the book's name).

The Millmans, author of the homeschooling book above, hold that homeschoolers defy the trend towards less volunteerism and towards the erosion of social capital. They write ~ Homeschoolers pitch in, volunteer, carry their fair share, help one another, and succeed together.

True. Very true, in most situations.

Yet, when I read of social capital I thought not only of the local homeschool network and not only of homeschool volunteerism. I thought also of the social capital that is being built, has been built, in my local parish.Local church.

In the time that the members of our family have been members of this parish, well, since Easter 2005, in this time I have seen the growth of social capital before my very eyes.

The parish has long term volunteers, long term networks. A history of community.

And these are in a growth state, not stagnant nor declining. New members, new helping hands, new ideas, new families are seen in the parish. Our own family, to be sure , but many others. People who will come for working bees. Or form a women's or young men's group. To serve drinks or salad at a barbecue. To help with morning teas. To clean the church.

I knew we had joined a large parish. I thought it was going to be a daunting task to meet others, to help out, to share, to grow with others.

The reverse has been true. The longer I am in this parish, the more groups I seem to find. Or that I seem to see someone starting. That people are invited to join, to help out with...and they do.

We had more helpers this year for the parish barbecue than last year. And more last year then the previous year, our first year.

Isn't that cool? An example of the growth of social captial.

A powerful asset not just for our family but for all families involved. For the parish community. For the wider community of Kellyville. Even for the wider church.

However, there can be negatives to this idea of social capital. Social capital is A Good Thing when it works in an atmosphere of goodwill. But the possible negatives are
Exclusion of outsiders;
Excess claims on group members;
Restrictions on individual freedoms; and
Downward levelling norms

Do I see this sometimes in homeschool networks and in the different parishes in which I have lived ?

Yes. To be brutally honest.

In our current parish, however, we have an advantage, something that helps to counteract any possible negative social capital experiences.

The friars.

WT# ? Friars?

Yes, friars; our parish is under the care of the Conventual Franciscans and the work and prayers of these friars provide a safeguard against the negatives mentioned above. In fact, their mission, their service, their prayers and masses and their example, who they are and what they do, help build and re-inforce social capital as an asset in our church.

I also think that each individual in a group, a homeschool or church or other group, plays a role. If social capital can be an evolving, grassroots kind of thing, then changing a negative into a positive is best done on an individual basis. One person making a change, then another and another. To promote the Good Things of social capital. Namely,

Participation in local community;
Proactivity in a social context;
Feelings of trust and safety;
Family/friends connections;
Tolerance of diversity

I see these traits in individuals in our parish. Amongst my close homeschool friends.

Actually, this whole concept of social capital reminds me of the principle of subsidiarity, as mentioned by the Church, by the catechism, by popes. Particularly its mention in Rerum Novarum, the encyclical by Pope Leo XIII. Subsidiarity assumes that human persons are by their nature social beings, and emphasizes the importance of small and intermediate-sized communities or institutions, like the family, the church, and voluntary associations, as mediating structures which empower individual action and link the individual to society as a whole. "Positive subsidiarity", which is the ethical imperative for communal, institutional or governmental action to create the social conditions necessary to the full development of the individual, such as the right to work, decent housing, health care, etc., is another important aspect of the subsidiarity principle.

Such interesting connections. One idea, one activity, one person helping out, leads to another idea, another connection, another helping another.

Reading one book, on homeschooling, leads to reading another, on economic and social growth. To thinking. To blogging. To talking about these ideas with some sons.

A form of mental capital?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

St Martin of Tours

Yesterday we ( a couple of visitors and I) had some wine in honour of St Martin of Tours.

Chardonnay. As you can see...

The kids and I had read about St Martin earlier in the day and thought his early military career fitting to discuss on Remembrance Day , when we remember not only the Armistice of World War 1 but also those who have died serving our country.

And woo hoo! I have received another blog award. From Grace. This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day.

I love blogging; through blogging I have met many new friends, some of whom I have come to know in real life. I have connected with many others online. Their thoughts and experiences have influenced me, have helped me, have inspired me. I am often delightfully amazed to find that someone reads my blog, someone I don't yet know but someone I hope I will get to know, via comments or other blogs.

Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications said :

(The) Internet is "the Areopagus of our time, the instrument to spread the Christian message" ...."But it is necessary to educate in its use, as with every reality that surrounds us, the positive element is opposed to the negative, creating confusion and false values."

"Yes, God can be found on the network. And among the millions of people who surf the Internet every day, many may find words of hope, come across other cultural and spiritual experiences, bringing down ideological barriers to discover new horizons."

If "God continues to dialogue with humanity through the Church," then "the Church must assume her own responsibility vis-à-vis the new means of communication," the Vatican official said.To accomplish this, he continued, there must be "precise criteria of discernment and a pedagogical intention, so that both those who operate in the sector as well as those who use the network are able to choose with maturity in an ever broader context of information and disinformation." ZENIT 2005

I don't pretend to believe that my blog acts in lieu of a council of elders; nor placing me as the older woman described in Titus Chapter 2 * ~ the one who teaches others; or as a storyteller or an instrument, telling of faith and life to others. That is a pretty lofty task, I think. But blogging is a means of sharing and of communicating. For a people person like me, it is simply another way of keeping-in-touch. Of continuing education . And of being a life long learner.
And, okay. Maybe with an occasional pedagogical twist . ( I am a mother, teacher, homeschooler, Kumon Supervisor after all!).

So, fellow bloggers, I encourage you in your blogging adventures! lol! All the blogs I read are personal stories of values and faith. So, I award this blog award to all my blogging friends - those linked on the sidebar and those regular readers and bloggers. You know who you are!

The rules to follow are 1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person that has granted the award and his or her blog link.2) Pass the award to other 15 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment.

But who could stop at 15??
* Titus Ch 2 ( from the Douay-Rheims) 1 But speak thou the things that become sound doctrine: 2 That the aged men be sober, chaste, prudent, sound in faith, in love, in patience. 3 The aged women, in like manner, in holy attire, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teaching well: 4 That they may teach the young women to be wise, to love their husbands, to love their children. 5 To be discreet, chaste, sober, having a care of the house, gentle, obedient to their husbands: that the word of God be not blasphemed. 6 Young men, in like manner, exhort that they be sober. 7 In all things show thyself an example of good works, in doctrine, in integrity, in gravity, 8 The sound word that can not be blamed: that he who is on the contrary part may be afraid, having no evil to say of us. 9 Exhort servants to be obedient to their masters: in all things pleasing, not gainsaying: 10 Not defrauding, but in all things showing good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. 11 For the grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men: 12 Instructing us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly and justly and godly in this world, 13 Looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity and might cleanse to himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works. 15 These things speak and exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Great St Leo

Today's Saint. My ( sort of ) name day.

Leonie-Ann equals St Leo and St Anne, don't you think?

Leo is from the Latin and is related to the name lion.

I blogged about St Leo the Great last year.

Today we read about why St Leo is a Doctor of the Church.

Last year Anthony made me low fat chocolate muffins, in honour of St Leo. No low fat muffins to celebrate today this year - no time, and I'm feeling too fat!
ETA ~ at 11.15 p.m. ~ Jonathon phoned dh. Told him it was the feast of St Leo and told him to get some cheesecake for me to celebrate. So, guess what, I broke my diet. My healthy eating plan.
But weren't they nice??

Sunday, November 09, 2008

History and Faith

After Mass, after junk mail delivery, after talking to a family friend about chicken, well, I craved KFC.
So, we trotted off to Dural KFC for lunch - it's okay, I didn't have chips and had a burger no mayo! Whew! You thought I'd over eaten again , didn't you?

On the way home, we called into Castle Hill Cemetery. To pray for souls in this month of November, this month of remembering those who have gone before us; followed by a walk around, reading some of the older, interesting tombstones. We recognised some names from families at church and from streets in our area.

History in tombstones?

For centuries, people have marked graves and commemorated the dead. Stones were originally used by prehistoric man to keep wild animals from digging up the gravesite. Today cemetery markers are artifacts, and when studied like an artifact, will reveal historical information. In addition, the inscriptions and accurate dating on the tombstone disclose even more insight to the past. From the lesson plans of the History Detective

Collect (from Masses for the Dead):

Merciful Father,hear our prayer and console us.As we renew our faith in Your Son,whom You raised from the dead,strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters will share in His resurrection,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Heavenly Father,

You sent Christ Jesus your Son to wash away the sins of all mankind through His perfect sacrifice,and you cleansed our departed brothers and sisters in the waters of baptism. May His perfect sacrifice free them from the power of death and give them eternal life. In your mercy, O Lord, grant them eternal rest, and may perpetual light shine on them forever. Amen.

Eternal Rest

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.May they rest in peace. Amen.

Requiem Æternam

Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine,et lux perpétua lúceat eis.Requiéscant in pace. Amen

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wow. A. Really. Cool. Quote.

May no one ever come to you without going away better and happier.

~Blessed Mother Teresa

Something that is inspiring for me. Something for me to work towards...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

My Fair Lady

Our agenda for today. An excursion , with other homeschoolers, to see the musical, the stage show production of My Fair Lady. at the Theatre Royal. Super!

Professor Henry Higgins: I know your head aches; I know you're tired; I know your nerves are as raw as meat in a butcher's window. But think what you're trying to accomplish. Think what you're dealing with. The majesty and grandeur of the English language, it's the greatest possession we have. The noblest thoughts that ever flowed through the hearts of men are contained in its extraordinary, imaginative, and musical mixtures of sounds. And that's what you've set yourself out to conquer Eliza. And conquer it you will.

Eliza Doolittle: The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Hey look at this..

..a gift from the Northern Territory.

It is a tea towel ~ but wouldn't that material make a great skirt? Or a cool mini- dress? Reminiscient of the Mod era, of Agent 99 from Get Smart...

Anthony wanted to use this tea towel this morning, while making his biscotti.

Hang on, I said. You can't use that yet - it's new!

A shame to wreck that material so soon...

Our unschooling table

Well, really it is our dining table. Yet, as part of the centrepiece, with our missal ( open at the Litany of Saints for All Saints), our little statues and rosary beads ( also for All Saints), well, with all this, we have strewn some books on Monet.

The Art Gallery has a Monet Exhibition and we are planning on going to see Monet's art. In. Real. Life.

Probably with some families from homeschool French class. It fits, doesn't it?

Anthony has already started looking through and reading some of these this morning, while eating Cheerios for breakfast...
Gotta love unschooling!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

All Saints and Souls..

I love these days.... We remember the communion of saints, the Church Militant, Suffering and Triumphant.

We try to always do something special around the feast of All Saints. And try to remember to spend extra time in prayer, too.

I blogged about All Souls and black vestments and of the meaning of All Hallow's Eve last year...Nothing much changes here, really, does it?...