Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How Our Garden Grows and Other Things Too

May has flown. It's been full of surprises, some good, some not, but nonetheless, with many blessings! 

Michael built us a garden space over Easter holidays and we've been planting a few things, seeing what comes up, what doesn't. Note, many of our old seeds did not germinate, also some of the newer seeds. But the ones from St. Clare had a very high germination rate. We've also moved our jasmine down and the breeze wafts the lovely scent as I hang out my clothes or write on the back porch.

Michael saw a couple of deer a week or so ago by our driveway early in the morning so made sure to get the rest of the fence up! The last thing we need is for them to think our garden is a feeding place ... and look Ma, at the perfect height too!


The cucumber plants are growing so quickly and I love the little feelers they send out. As soon as they touch another surface they begin bending and make a tendril that's really a spring. And now I might even have a clue as to how that might be regulated, thanks to my time at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding in Cologne, Germany.

Plants always surprise me at how quickly they go from seed to a fully grown plant, or from what might look like dead sticks to a lush tree in the space of a month! Just look at the amount of structure that has to be produced and it's all from sunshine, air, water, and minerals. It's truly miraculous. Like the newest baby in our family!!! That's my sister, my nephew, and his first baby!!! Such a sweetie!!!

We had a beautiful Baccalaureate Mass at Blessed Sacrament and I will not forget what Fr. Babick said: remember to lay down your lives for others every once in a while. Sacrifice. That's what love is all about. Max made his first full fast this Ash Wed. and then again on Good Friday and I am confident he will grow in making voluntary sacrifices for those he loves. I'm writing this a day after Memorial Day and I can't help but think of all the men who've given their lives so that we might be free. And freedom is really about being free to do the right thing, not just anything.

I wish Dagny could've come to this Mass but she was quite sick, with a case of the pox -- we thought chicken pox at first because the blisters on her hands reminded me of them -- but it turned out to be hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD). It's in a completely different family of viruses. She had a very severe case of it, especially on her hands. Poor girl. She'd had a mild fever so I kept her home from school but then she insisted upon going to give her presentation for her English class. And I am so glad I allowed it because the next day I took her to the Dr. and we didn't know what in the heck the little bumps on her hand were, some which were beginning to blister. We had to assume she was contagious until we knew otherwise. She was already exempting all her exams (it pays to have good grades!) so all she missed was a week of school and a couple of parties. There was hardly any new material being taught so the teachers waived the last quizzes. All she had to complete was her digital art design project. 

But then Max caught it. Thud! He's been pretty much done with school after taking his AP exams so it wasn't a big deal to stay home but he couldn't wait to get started at his second job at Dashi ...  Patience. It's a difficult thing to cultivate. We had a lovely time at home together. I was grateful for this because he's going to be busy juggling his two jobs for the rest of the summer.

I've gone on and on (and I didn't even talk about the cats!), but May's been a month of tremendous growth. God is so good to us. All the time. And we can't wait for June!!! I hope it's beautiful for you too.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Reading Lots of Books on FORMED

Our Catholic home library is growing, growing, growing and it's an embarrassment of riches, especially with the nonfiction. Our bookshelves are overflowing and we have piles of books everywhere and we just can't seem to stop. There's so much. Last Christmas Michael got a subscription to FORMED, a website that gives access to books, CDs, DVDs with great Catholic content. For $10/mo we can access all this. We easily spend twice as much so we're very happy. And they have audiobooks as well. I'm not the greatest fan of audiobooks because I often have to stop and ponder and there's something about being read to that prevents me from hitting the pause button, but Michael, with his cloudy eyes, enjoys them and has managed to listen to more books in the past six months than he could read. He's even listened to books that he's already read because they are that good.  

His favorites: He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Czisek; Be a Man by Fr. Larry Richards; Theology for Beginners by Frank Sheed, and so many more.

These are some of the books I enjoyed and I'm cross-posting these reviews to Amazon:

As soon as I saw Awakening by Claudia Cangilla McAdam I knew I had to have it. Many years ago, when I was judging the Magazine Merit Awards, I read an article set in Australia of an underground town and she brought it to life. Similarly, she brings Jerusalem during the Triduum to life through the eyes of Ronni, a typical Catholic-lite young girl who is transported back in time. I loved how cleverly the author inserts Ronni and the people she knows in the familiar stories of the Gospel. The book moves quickly through Ronni's healing (she's the girl Jesus heals when he says, "Talitha koum"), the Last Supper, and Crucifixion. She tries to stop it because she doesn't think Jesus should die but her plans are always thwarted. Not only that, she's in peril as well. And there's a nice bit of romance too. Although the message is a bit heavy-handed I didn't mind. This is a great book for any kid who is wondering whether there's anything worth dying for (our Lord and Savior certainly did). 

The Devil Hates Latin by Katherine Galgano was an action-packed book about an American family whose Catholic faith increases as they are unfairly attacked. The action begins in the US, moves to Rome and Scotland, and ends in the beautiful Italian countryside with an exorcism. There's also a good car chase. The author has a lot to say about the current times about the breakdown of the family to the point that young people don't even want to marry. I loved that the Chair of Peter was occupied by an African (why yes, I had hoped Cardinal Sarah or Cardinal Arinze would be elected last time). He invites an American Dominican exorcist to train priests in this ancient rite given the need for battling evil. And the bad guys, some of them priests, are really bad but the good ones exemplary. There was a fair bit of church bureaucracy that my eyes glazed over but all in all, I enjoyed the story of both the American family and the Italian family (with a nice romance). It was well plotted and would make a good movie, but I had a difficult time empathizing with many of the characters because the author head hops too much. And of course the devil hates Latin. It's the official language of the Church. 

I'm looking forward to reading a few more books that I've downloaded by Fr. Thomas Dubay, Scott Hahn, and Michael O'Brien. And this July I'll go to the Catholic Writing Conference held in Schaumburg, IL. The registration is ridiculously cheap, though not the hotel. The schedule is being finalized; take a look. If you're in the area and would like to meet, please contact me. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Totus Tuus

Tomorrow is Consecration Day!!! We've been doing Nineveh 90 and what a blessing it has been. Many are preparing to make their total consecration to Jesus through Mary on May 13, the anniversary of the first apparition at Fatima to the little shepherd children. I have the great privilege of walking with the new consecrators, praying for them, and reconsecrating myself (I made mine on the Feast of the Annunciation 5 years ago). I often go through my little book by St. Louis de Monfort but this time I picked up Fr. Michael Gaitley's 33 Days of Morning Glory. I love it as a companion book because it has some of the reflections of 20th century saints who had consecrated themselves: St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Mother Teresa, Pope St. John Paul II. He beings with St. Louis de Monfort and I will forever be pondering Mary's relationship with each of the Persons of the Holy Trinity: Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son, Spouse of the Holy Spirit. I was completely blown away by the richness of St. Kolbe's reflections, especially on the Incarnation (O Jesus, living in Mary!) and what it means to be the Spouse of the Holy Spirit.  And Mother Teresa, in her simple way asks us to exchange our hearts with that of Mary's. And the great St. JPII, whose motto was "totus tuus."

Michael and I are so thankful to Fr. Heilman for starting this extended period for physical and spiritual exercises. I didn't do very well on the physical part but I have gained some strength doing ballet exercises. We've also gotten better at fasting. Prayer life has improved somewhat. But, I must admit that there was much resistance too. So not an easy time, but not impossible either, and now we have some good tools at our disposal.   

I highly recommend this devotion and to take the full 33 days the first time. But if you've fallen away or behind, or just feel like being in a hurry, there is also a novena based on St. Maximilian Kolbe's writings. The next Marian feast day is the Feast of the Visitation (May 31st) so what are you waiting for?  

I'm copying these daily prayers from the novena:

St. Augustine's Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe in me O Holy Spirit that my thoughts may all be holy;
Act in me O Holy Spirit that my works, too, may be holy;
Draw my heart O Holy Spirit that I love but what is holy;
Strengthen me O Holy Spirit to defend all that is holy;
Guard me then O Holy Spirit that I always may be holy.

Sub Tuum Praesidium Prayer

We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.

Miraculous Medal Prayer

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee, and for all who do not have recourse to thee, especially the enemies of the Church and all those recommended to thee.

Prayer that the angel taught the three children at Fatima one year prior to Mary's appearance.

My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee! I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love Thee.

Mary herself gave the children this prayer to be recited at the end of each decade of the rosary.

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

May Moments

I love May. It's full of joys: Mary's month, singing Salve Regina at the conclusion of every Mass, Dagny's birthday month and our current pets' too -- Sunny St. Helen, Benny and Jules. School is coming to an end and with it, the end of school books, with time for personal reading and playing. Dagny is named after the main character in Atlas Shrugged so she's already begun reading it. There is no saint of that name so I tell her she can be the first :)

My little girl is sixteen! It's unbelievable how quickly the children grow up. Now she's driving *us* to church! I will always be grateful for being able to stay home with them and enjoy the many phases they went through, never to be repeated. And they taught me to look at everything with joy and wonder, essential attributes for a children's writer. 


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We have the best friends!!! Just look at this beautiful card, one of a kind for Dagny!!!

Happy birthday Dagny!!! May God bless you and make you a saint! May you always be blessed with good friends on your journey to heaven. Love and prayers, always. Mom and Dad.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Hum of Angels

This title appealed to me because I have always believed in the guiding hand of angels and wanted to learn more. In THE HUM OF ANGELS: Listening for the Messengers of God Around Us, Scot McKnight gives a Biblical basis for belief in angels and their role.

His main question is that if angels exist, and most of us believe in them, then why are we not more aware of it? He compares them to hummingbirds. Once we learn to pay attention, we are able to tune into them. I'm not sure I believe that reasoning. I believe that God decides if and when we experience them.

The book really shines in compiling many of the Biblical references that show what angels do. For example, the good angels come to console, instruct, guide, announce, fight, intercede and worship. I would recommend this book to anybody who is interested in angels. However, the McKnight is repetitious and often confusing, in that he plays the devil's advocate and then comes to the proper conclusion. A better book is Angels of God by Mike Aquilina.

As a Catholic, I am used to asking my guardian angel to guide, protect, and pray for me. I thought it funny that Scot McKnight includes many Catholic ideas about angels from the Church Fathers, like what goes in Mass, but doesn't like the idea that there's a personal angel for each of us, even though it's Biblical.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for a review copy. This is cross-posted to Amazon.

And in related stuff, check out Distracted Angels, Max's ad for safe driving. He didn't make the final cut he was hoping for (thinking outside the box for scholarship $$$) but I thought it both creative and funny and better than some of the other ads.