Saturday, May 25, 2019

How Our Garden Grows

The kids aren't the only ones around here growing. Look at our garden!!! Michael was inspired to start hydroponic gardening after touring Vertical Roots. We had to dismantle our old gardening space because of termites. As much as I find them fascinating, I don't want them anywhere near our house. They'd eat it! Also, we had lot of trouble with all sorts of worms and bugs eating our plants. Michael is an engineer so you can see the appeal of a system that you can control and regulate. There's a lot of information on it online but we are old school and like having books to consult. Hydroponic Food Production by Thomas Resh is the most comprehensive one we found. 

Michael set up an Aerogarden first (to start plants from seeds). Then he set up buckets and bags filled with pebbles that would support the plant and hooked them all up to a tank of water with nutrients and a pump that would cycle the medium several times a day (it's on a timer). He strung up line to which the plant can take support from as it grows. We are already harvesting cucumbers and squash and soon tomatoes and okra, maybe even eggplant. Obviously, we can't grow root vegetables in this system but having our garden on the porch keeps it safe from the critters. 

This system takes quite a bit of babysitting--the pH (acidity) has to be adjusted and now that it's hot, we have to add about 5 gallons of water daily to the tank due to evaporation. Every 2-3 weeks the medium has to be drained because the nutrients get used up. The expense has been about the same for this as building the fence/raised beds for the garden in the backyard. But playing with hydroponics has been a lot more fun and we think we can tweak the system to produce year round. We'll probably set up something indoors for the winter. 










  
 

We have another bucket system that's quick and dirty for the lettuce. Basically, you start the lettuce in the Aerogarden, then transfer it to a mesh cup that fits in the lid of the bucket. You prepare the medium, balance the pH, and let it be. The roots keep growing down as the water evaporates and you just cut the tops of the lettuce as you need them. You can set up a bucket every week for continuous leafy greens.  


Just like the kombucha brewing has become automatic that we no longer have to take notes, we hope our hydroponic gardening will become more automated. The only danger is that if the electricity fails, our plants could die--it's a risk we take with high-tech gardening. I love that Michael is willing to spend the time experimenting. I love all the fruits of his labor! On our walk the other day we saw these grapes growing--we might have to start our own to make some wine!


Monday, May 20, 2019

Growing, Growing, Gone


Here's Max having a last cuddle with Jules. Time seems to both dilate and constrict in relation to the kids. They are growing up so fast, we only have adults in the household now. And Max is already gone to DC for his internship at the Dept. of Education. I'll be very interested in what he learns there because I've spent quite a bit of time overseeing and supplementing our kids' education and coming to the conclusion that home-schooling might be superior than even Catholic schools. 


And here's my darling girl--18 now--I'd forgotten she always had a thing for coloring until this birthday card arrived from my dear friend Colleen (why yes, the Colleen in Bound is modeled after her and another friend!) I was so happy Max was here to celebrate her birthday and Mother's Day, too. We had trick candles for her birthday but she did manage to blow them all out after much smoke and sparkles and laughter! 






And here are the girls, all dressed up for prom. So lovely!


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

My Most Beautiful Art

My daughter! A friend made this beautiful portrait of her (and yes, it will be framed!). She's been the best gift of all to us and also to her big brother. I have no words to describe all the emotions and longings of my heart...from the very moment we knew of her existence (I suspected I was pregnant while on a hiking trip with my girlfriend) I was in love. And how she's grown!!! Best of all, she is a beloved child of God. My dear Dagny, may God bestow all His blessings upon  you, grant all the desires of your heart, and make you a saint. I love you so much.   

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Winners

Everybody who left a comment on A Conversation with Michael Seagriff is a winner! Thank you, Michael. I know it will be a great blessing to each of you.

It's May and my Max is home from Ave Maria for a short time before he leaves for an internship in DC again. What a homecoming--the dog is deliriously happy but the cats are nowhere to be found.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Hoppy Easter!

Some of you probably know that I sign my book with a Hoppy Easter! If only I could draw cute bunnies, I would. I had a wonderful time at my reading and book-signing at Barnes & Nobles in Mt. Pleasant, Holy Sat. The police officers drew in the big crowd and I piggybacked after them. They're the BEST!

This beautiful weather (and my neighbor's pretty flowers) makes me hop and skip and the lingering sadness goes away for a while. It has been an unusually somber Easter for us with Notre Dame in flames on Monday of Holy Week and just a month prior, another fire at St. Sulpice. I subscribe to Catholic news agencies and GetReligion published an excellent piece on the increase in vandalism and desecrations of Catholic churches. Alas, he points out that it's not reported. Newsweek reports that officials do not know the reason why. Oh please! France is a secular state; they have turned their back on their Catholic heritage. And just as God used Israel's enemies to punish them for turning their backs to Him, unless we repent and return to our dear Lord Jesus, we too shall perish at the hands of our enemies. Arise, O sleeping Catholics! And come home to Holy Mother Church! When the French president spoke about rebuilding ND, I wondered, for what purpose if it isn't to worship in? As a convert, I feel the loss of faith very, very deeply. Where is the France of the Little Flower? Of Bernadette? Of Catherine Laboure? Of Rene Goupil? Of Joan of Arc? Wikipedia mentions 147 of them and these are just the ones who are known! Oh pray for us, all ye angels and saints! My own response is to pray, pray, pray unceasingly for conversions. And look at these beautiful gifts from the Holy Land from my sister to keep me focused!


After all the beautiful liturgies of the Sacred Triduum and Easter Masses, it was a shock to come home Sunday afternoon to the news of the bombings of Catholic churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. They were killed solely for their faith. I consider them martyrs and their blood will be the seed of the church's growth. Already the West has a declining population of religious--priests from Africa and Asia come here to evangelize. Fr. Dwight Longenecker has a good article about it. 

My mother always said we are an Easter people. Even at Christmas, she kept in mind why He was born. To suffer and die for us--the perfect Lamb; to save us all from our sins. And He will be with us until the end of time. He assured us of this on Holy Thursday when he gave us His own Body and Blood and instituted the priesthood. And so I share this beautiful motet with you: Ave Verum Corpus by Josquin, which we had the delight to sing! We only recently learned to sing the chant and although I love both the Byrd and Mozart versions, you can almost hear the chant in the Josquin. I hope we get to sing this again. 

We're having a wonderful Easter break, sleeping in daily, cooking, harvesting the first of our lettuce, reading, writing, watching movies. I pray you all have a very happy Eastertide!


  
 
Ah vanity, vanity! It makes me post these extra pictures :) It *is* a hoppy Easter!

 
 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Conversation with Michael Seagriff and Giveaway

Dear Michael, I received a copy of STIRRING SLUMBERING SOULS for my birthday last year. And here I am, more than a year later, and far richer. It’s the BEST companion for Adoration. I love it. So, thank you for writing this book and for taking the time to have this conversation.

Please share something of your background. Did you always have a love for our Eucharistic Lord from your childhood or is it something that grew as you grew older? Did you ever have doubts? 
I grew up in the public projects in Brooklyn, New York in an Irish Catholic Family. My parents had seven children; two of my brothers died shortly after my twin sister and I were born. My father, who did not have a high school diploma, worked multiple jobs to support the family and to send us to Catholic school.

My earliest recollection of my childhood all centered around Church. I was an altar boy as soon as I met the minimum age and mastered the Latin Mass responses. While I was too young to fully appreciate the magnificence of the Eucharist, I treasured it as a child and fondly remember many a Holy Hour spent on my knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I particularly recall the magnificence of the Holy Thursday liturgy.

YES!!! It never ceases to amaze me: the bells at the Gloria, the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood—they go hand in hand.


I entered a minor seminary and left two years later. After graduating from high school and spending half a year in college, I dropped out and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, serving a tour in Vietnam. Foolishly I walked away from my Eucharistic Lord and His Church. God in His infinite mercy spared my life.

Deo gratias! I know exactly how you feel—tremendous gratitude—I’m always thanking my guardian angel for keeping me alive; now I have the hope of heaven! 

I “returned” to the Church just long enough to get married, to have our first two children baptized and then again when it was time for First Communion preparation. But it was not until my Mom died that I gave God any meaningful thought. I remember being angry with Him over her suffering and death and recall a visit to the local Catholic Church. There, for the first time in my life, in front of the tabernacle, I actually spoke to God. I poured out my heart to Him. And in an instant, I saw very clearly how He had chosen to spare my life during those years when I had foolishly turned my back on Him. It was time to return permanently and take my Faith seriously.

Your mother must be smiling from heaven. Mine too!

God placed my family in the hands of a wonderful priest and fellow parishioners who  encouraged us to grow in our Faith. We progressed from Sunday Mass attendees to participants in RENEW, Cursillo, the Charismatic Renewal, and a Prison Ministry.
But it is was not until an elderly Italian matriarch and friend from our parish approached my wife and I before Mass one Sunday that an overwhelming sense of love for the Eucharist manifested itself in our lives. She simply said: “I have the perfect time for you.” 
“What do you mean?” we asked. 
“Adoration at 2 AM on Friday mornings.”


I love this! Her confidence that you will do this! 

For 10 years my wife and I shared a holy hour on the First Friday of every month. We came to treasure that time with God, and never during the 10 years of First Fridays were we ever tired or unable to complete our normal routines the following day.

My interest in and attraction toward the Eucharist only increased. After a year of persistent promptings, I got the courage to ask our Pastor if we could start Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. “We can’t even fill 12 hours on the First Friday of each month,” he said. “How do you expect to cover 168 hours a week?” 

“I have no idea Father, but am convinced God wants us to try.” It has been more than 17 years since our Chapel of Perpetual Adoration opened. We are struggling now to cover all the hours but know God will provide. If there was ever any doubt about our Lord wanting this Chapel in our little town of 8,500, it was removed when a total stranger approached us and offered us a monstrance blessed by Pope St. John Paul II on the Sunday before he died if we would place it in our Chapel.

That is beautiful! We are building a new church—St. Clare of Assisi on Daniel Island—and are so excited at the possibility of having Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration! See https://www.clare.church/ for details.

You are a lay Dominican. Please tell us how this came to be. 

I had never heard of the Lay Dominicans. I had lived in the Syracuse, New York area for more than 25 years and did not even know there was a Monastery of cloistered Dominican nuns there. That is not until I met a unique soul at a preparatory meeting for a Prison Retreat we were planning. At the time, this gentlemen was living out of his car. He told me that he had always wanted to visit and perhaps join the Lay Dominican community in Syracuse but lacked transportation. He asked me if I would take him to their next meeting. I did. He never joined the community but I stayed. Astonishing how God works. How thankful I am that God placed this man in my life. He was the vehicle through which it has been forever changed.

My Dominican vocation has nourished an insatiable hunger to know, live, share and defend the Truths of our Catholic Faith; to love and treasure the Eucharist;  to make it the source, center and  summit of our daily lives; to promote greater belief in and reverence for this magnificent Gift; and to have zeal for the salvation of souls, not only our own, but the souls of every one whom we encounter on this earthly journey. It provides a framework through which we can effectively live out our vocation as lay Catholics. I never would have had the courage to pursue Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration had it not been for the graces I have receved as a Lay Dominican. Your readers can find out more about the Lay Dominican vocation here. https://laydominicans.org/

How long did it take you to compile the 250 Reflections? How did you go about sorting and sifting through what I imagine an immense treasure trove?

It took me nearly a year to complete this book. I have been collecting quotes on the Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration since at least since May of 2011 and have hundreds. I printed all the quotations I had saved and prayerfully reviewed them, deciding at one point to select 250 of them. I prayed and tried to assemble those quotes that would really challenge our hard hearts and which were hopefully words that were not overly familiar to the book’s readers. I truly believe, as did St. Vincent Ferrer, O.P., that we cannot be timid when addressing problems in our Church and the lukewarm manner in which many of us live out our faith. St. Vincent was direct and confronted people with the Truth since it is only the Truth that will set hearts and souls free. 

While the response to this book has been overwhelmingly positive, I have received two conflicting types of criticism:  there are not enough quotations or 250 quotations are a bit much. 

Ha! Everybody has an opinion! Please share a couple of your favorite quotations and the reason why.

Wow, every time I reread the book, I find another favorite. 
Grin! This is why SSS will remain in my Adoration bag at all times. 
Let me share four.

The following words reminded  me that it is only by and through God’s grace, not by our devices, that we will be able to do anything of value:

“All you have loved in me comes from the time I spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament. All that has disappointed you in me comes from the time I should have spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament.”  (From Could You Not Watch with Me One Hour?)

The next three quotations address the problem of man’s ingratitude for the Gift of God’s Presence. This is a Truth we have been afraid to share for fear of offending the listener. But these are exactly the words that we must share if we are to reawaken so many lost souls:


“Ah, how it hurts to see in what manner our Savior is treated! There He is in the tabernacle, the Prisoner of Love, waiting for souls to come and visit Him. But whoever gives Him even a thought, one only thought? …It would cause so very little trouble to go to Him...for just a sweet moment. It would be so very easy to cast a tender glance upon that tiny door...to send a loving thought a-speeding towards that tabernacle...to breathe a few whispered words of affection...but, alas! When it comes to doing something for Jesus that something, no matter how small, becomes at once irksome and grievous-so weak are we!”” (Eucharistic Whisperings - Father Winfrid Herbst, S.D.S.) 

“How many among the best Catholics never pay a visit of devotion to the most Blessed Sacrament to speak with Him from the heart, to tell Him their love? They do not love our Lord in the Eucharist because they do not know Him well enough. But in spite of knowing Him and His love and the sacrifices and desires of His heart, they still do not love Him.

 What an insult!   Yes, an insult.

 For it amounts to telling Jesus Christ that He is not beautiful enough, not good enough, not lovable enough to be preferred to what they love.
What ingratitude!" (St. Peter Julian Eymard) 
“Why art Thou left alone in this Most Holy Sacrament? Where are Thy adorers and Thy friends? Has Thy Church failed to announce Thy Gospel to the world, and to make Thy presence known? Why art Thou so ignored, forsaken, and left alone in Thy tabernacles, without honor and with no one to thank Thee for the gift of Thy Real Presence? Why is the world kept in the dark concerning Thee in this Most Holy Sacrament, when Thou art all that this world needs, and all that souls desire?” (Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, OSB the author of Vultus Christi)
Ouch! You are right! These are hard to read; they convict me. You will see from my favorites that I am still a newbie when it comes to loving our blessed Lord. 

The first by St. Peter Julian Eymard (p. 109-110): Go to our Lord just as you are. Make a simple meditation. Exhaust your own fund of piety and love before you make use of books…Remember that our good Master prefers the poverty of our heart to the most sublime thoughts and affections borrowed from others… This reminds me how much God loves me just as I am and He will bring me to perfection. 

The second by Rev. Mateo Crawley-Boevey (p. 125-126) shed so much light on our Lord’s Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. See, I always thought my sins made Him weep. But there’s even a greater reason.  For centuries, I have carried in My Heart a sorrowful cross. How many souls are there redeemed by My Blood, yet, definitely lost! …My Heart was breaking in the Garden of Gethsemane, for they were all My children! It makes me pray more fervently for conversions knowing how close I was to choosing hell in my youth. I can’t thank you enough for writing this book. Not only has my prayer life deepened, but you’ve introduced me to new saint-friends and I look forward to getting to know them better. 

Your choices are excellent. Your words of support are most humbling.

I think my next book will be In Sinu Jesu—I finally realized (because of SSS) that the beautiful blog Vultus Christi is maintained by the same priest. What a treasure! How did you get to know him? Have you made a retreat with him?

Vijaya, you must read In Sinu Jesu. Every priest and every Catholic must read that book. It is an absolute treasure trove of Truth. I would love to make a retreat at the Silverstream Priory in County Meath Ireland but don’t see that becoming a reality. In lieu of meeting Dom Mark Daniel Kirby. O.S.B and his community personally, I will reread his book and visit his blog, Vultus Christi, regularly. I highly recommend Father’s blog to your readers. It was there that I first discovered excerpts from In Sinu Jesu before it became a published book.  
Over the years I have contacted Father via e-mail seeking his permission to use some of his work. He has always been most generous in giving me permission to do so. I cannot more highly recommend a priest or a religious community than Father Kirby and the Benedictine Monks of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. It has also been my privilege to share a portion of the proceeds realized from the sale of I Thirst For Your Love with them.

I've just begun! Is there anything else you would like to share, Michael?

Please let us love God as we ought and as He deserves. Let us come to Church to worship and adore Him and to reverently, with great humility and gratitude, receive His most precious Body and Blood. Let us do everything within our power individually and as a Church to reinstate reverence, sacredness and silence in our Churches. Let us visit and spend time before and with our loving Lord in the Blessed Sacrament every week. And let us quench His thirst to be loved and adored.

There are so many devotionals to bring to Adoration but SSS will remain my favorite. 

Vijaya, you have been so kind and helpful in promoting Stirring Slumbering Souls. I pray that you will also find I Thirst For Your Love, a fitting addition to your devotional collection. If either of these books have any value, it is because of the wise souls whose words and entreaties I have shared. To God forever be the Glory!

AMEN! I sing Non nobis Domine!!!
God bless you and your readers!

Thank you, Michael, for sharing your life and work so generously. God bless you for all you do! My friends, you will find a wealth of devotional aids on Michael Seagriff’s blog: https://harvestingthefruitsofcontemplation.blogspot.com/  To have a chance at winning your own copy of STIRRING SLUMBERING SOULS, leave a comment before the end of this month. I also urge you to make a Holy Hour Maundy Thursday. Many Catholic churches will have an Altar of Repose until midnight.


My dear readers, I conducted this interview before the terrible fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and couldn't have known how timely it would be. Just like the Jewish people were chastised, so are we, for turning away from God. "Yet even now," declares the LORD, Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning;" ~ Joel 2:12 
Abelmontf [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Monday, April 15, 2019

Art, Music, Mass

These are two of the luckiest girls--they're both taking AP Art, the only two students this school year--and what a joy to see some of their work. Their teacher is so dedicated and devoted and my hope is that they never stop making art, that no matter how busy, they make the time for it. We need it for our soul. Thank you, Mrs. Johnson, for all you do for the kids. The pieces below are Dagny's. I remember a story about an art contest. The first painting of a flower was so realistic, a bee alighted on it. The second was of grass so realistic, a cow tried to eat it. But the third, a curtain in a window was so realistic, the judge tried to draw it aside. Guess who won?   
 
 
After the Art Show we were able to go for our baptism anniversary Mass. It is the best gift in the world as I remember God's promises. Friday night we had the wonderful opportunity to listen to Bach's Mass in B-Minor performed by the Taylor Music Group. Words cannot express how beautiful it was to listen to it live. I wondered whether it's ever been played in the context of a Mass, but I don't think it ever has. Bach compiled bits and pieces composed earlier to have a complete Mass that his son would perform. Of course, if you added in the propers of the day, Mass would go for 3 hours or more and I think most people would have a fit. But it's glorious! My favorite movements were the Christe eleison (11 min), the Sanctus (1:38) and Benedictus (1:48), and the Agnus Dei (1:57). Such a wonderful way to end this Lent. Blessings to you this holiest of all weeks.