Thursday, June 4, 2015

How to Freak Out Your Friends

A lot has been going on around here lately.  School is pretty much done, although one child is still finishing up math for the year.  I'm in full out VBS planning mode.  Soccer season is so close to being done that I can almost imagine what a house that doesn't smell like dirt or grass will be like.  In my scarce free time I'm pouring over lesson plans for the upcoming school year while trying to compile study guides. Bryan is just hours away from having his ankle sliced open to repair a tendon he had the misfortune of snapping off two and a half weeks ago and I am just trying to stay sane in the midst of it all.

So tonight I stopped by a friend's house to drop off something, and I managed to freak her and her son out a bit.  I was talking about Bryan's upcoming surgery and the fact that he's going under general anesthesia, something neither of us is thrilled about.   I'm of the ilk that always seems to go to worst case scenario in just about any situation.  Not in the pessimistic sense, but more or less just acknowledging the reality of what could happen.  So when asked if Bryan was ready for tomorrow and talking about how he's just ready to get it done so he can get on with the four weeks of life on crutches followed by another two weeks in a walking boot, I had made an off handed remark that you should always be prepared to die.  Now, I didn't mean that I think or expect that he will have any complications but rather, that one should always make sure their soul is in such a state that you're ready to die.  I know not everyone thinks or feels that way.  But I do and I feel so strongly about it.

You can well imagine that my friend was probably more than a little stunned at my words.  So I had to explain how I feel that one should take care to make sure their soul is in a state of grace.  Is my approach off?  I'm really not sure that it is.  I feel like the biggest tragedy that can befall a person is to be so lax in caring about the state of your soul that you would be willing to take the chance of dying while not in a state of grace.

Perhaps I'm too scrupulous, too focused on dotting i's and crossing t's, but I certainly make it a point to be sure that I get to confession regularly in my journey towards eternity.  I would not want to spend an eternity in hell going over the should've could've would've's that would have saved me from an eternity of total separation from God.  My end goal is sainthood, anything less than that would be tragic.  Until then, I will continue to strive for sanctity.  Will I fail along the way?  You bet!  But, the point is I'm not about to give up.  As many times as I fail,  I'm determined to dust myself off and seek reconciliation with Our Lord so I can try again.  I figure eventually, I've got to make some progress on the road to perfection.

My friend did raise an important question that is certainly worth pondering.  Is anyone ever really ready to die?  I suppose some are, like those who have suffered through a long terminal illness who know that death is imminent.  But I would imagine that most, like my friend and even me, have that unprepared not quite ready feeling.  Until any of us really, honestly and truly knows where we stand with Our Lord,  how can we be?  But, really, it all boils down to hoping and trusting in God.  One thing is certain.  We're all going to die, so the least we can do is try to be at least somewhat prepared.  Acting like you have years or even decades to go before you need to ponder this inescapable reality is likely not the best approach.

My advice is simply this.  If you haven't been to confession in ages, just go.  Why chance an eternity of misery; and more importantly, why deny yourself the mercy Our Lord so ardently desires to bestow on you if only you humble yourself and ask?

Monday, May 18, 2015

On My Mind

It's been such a long time since I've been able to just sit down and write.  I really miss it, but it seems in any given day a small plethora of things just wind up taking precedence over me being able to blog.

Without fishing through previous blog posts, I have no idea how much I've shared about the kids.  I had started to write about Katie and her being assessed for speech (which insurance frustratingly denied us coverage).  We were told back in October or November that she's likely just a late talker.  This past month has been very promising with Katie beginning to talk more.  She uses sentences pretty frequently and people who don't live with us are starting to understand the things she does say.   I'm in an odd place of feeling thrilled and excited about the words she can say, and yet still feeling frustrated and impatient that she isn't further along with speaking.  It's a challenge, but I'm so grateful anytime she utters words I can understand.  About two weeks ago she kept asking me "Why?" on a ride home from Target.  With my older children the whys got on my nerves after so many iterations of it, but with Katie, I'm rejoicing that she's asking me a question with an actual word.  It's interesting how perspective can change.

Anthony is a year old!  It's crazy how quickly that first year passed.  He's been walking since around Easter, but had started taking his first steps back in February.  He's presently on a mission to slip by us and scale the stairs anytime he's sees an open gate.  He claps, he waves, he shakes his head no, and tries to tackle me by throwing himself at my legs.  Today he almost succeeded in knocking me over.  He says words, for which I am very thankful.  He can say Mama, Dada, Daddy, no (I'm not exactly thrilled he learned that particular word.), uh-oh and something that sounds remarkably like bye-bye.

The girls are pretty much done with the school year.  They both have a state history test to complete and we still need to take a field trip and then we can call History done.  Ellie has everything else for the year completed.  Math and Madeline just shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence.  I made an executive call last week and decided that even though she had just finished the final lesson in her math book that we were going to have to start over at the beginning of the fourth quarter and do it again.  She wasn't retaining the information and when she would get stumped on classwork, she would go back to whatever lesson the problem was from and look at the example to figure it out.  The problem with that was she would get the work done and it would be right, but when it was time to take a test, there was no book for her to look at to see how to do the problems.  I'm sure I wasn't her favorite person when I told her we had to start over.  Right now I'm going over two lessons a day with her and hand selecting the problems she struggles the most with to make sure she really understands how to do them so she won't have a problem when it's time to take the test.

Soccer season is still going.  We had a lot of bad weather in March so three weeks of games that should have happened got cancelled or rescheduled for later in the spring.  So while soccer should have wrapped up this past Saturday, it won't be done until June 6th.  So that means that twice a week soccer practices will also keep going for the rest of this month and into June.

I came to the realization a few weeks ago that I've been praying for a specific intention for over six years now without seeing the result I'd love to see.  Perhaps Our Lord is helping me to learn to be patient.  Here and there I've seen articles and what not that say things to the effect that when a prayer isn't answered in the timing that you expect, it's because your heart isn't yet prepared to fully appreciate it.  So on those days when I feel a bit like this is a hopeless cause and I feel like I'm on the brink of despair, I think maybe, just maybe that's it. It's also in those moments where I think that I should have a better relationship with St. Monica.  I know she knows how I feel.

Since it's been over two months since I last wrote anything I suppose I should also mention that Madeline was confirmed last month.  She chose Maria for her confirmation name to honor the Blessed Mother.  I have every intention of putting together a post with pictures soon, I hope.

The VBS program had reached the max number of children we can take two months before hitting the registration deadline.  I think registration was open for only about seven or eight weeks.  Either the program has gained a really good reputation over these past few years, or the parents are really eager to get fifteen hours of kid free time for just $40 per child.  Right now I'm working on making sure I have all of the volunteers that we need and I'm trying to pick out the music for the program.  I'm almost there.  Instead of stressing about it as I have in years past, I've just been focusing more on praying about it and seeing where the Spirit leads me.

The little man has just woken up from his nap.  If all goes well, I'll find time later to add some pictures.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Book Review: Saint Ignatius Loyola The Spiritual Writings

Have you ever started to read something and almost instantly felt overwhelmed?  That's pretty much how I've felt when reading the writings of Saint Ignatius Loyola.  Reading just little chunks of his writings leaves me with that feeling of spiritual indigestion I had only felt previously when reading too much by St. Augustine in a short period of time.

Initially I was near incredulous that I was having such a tough time reading St. Ignatius Loyola's writings.  Then I talked to a friend of mine who told me that he wasn't surprised because he had also arrived at the same conclusion a while back.  That's when I told him that I was about to delve into Saint Ignatius Loyola The Spiritual Writings annotated by Fr. Mark Mossa.  At that point he perked up and told me how awesome an annotated book St. Ignatius book sounded.  I'm not exactly someone who likes bouncing back and forth between a passage and then commentary on the passage, so reading this book still wasn't easy for me.  It took me a little bit of trial and error, as well as some emails to Fr. Mark asking his opinion of how I should best approach the book before I found what worked best for me.

Ultimately, I found that reading the complete selection from St. Ignatius first and then reading Fr. Mark's commentary was the best way for me to get the most out of this book.  In many cases, I found myself rereading the selection a second time after reading Fr. Mark's take on the passage.  His commentary was very helpful in alleviating the Saint Ignatius induced headaches.

My take aways from this book are simply that I like Saint Ignatius's approach to the spiritual life but I find his writing style difficult to digest.  I had begun the task of delving back into his writings using this book after having just finished reading St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life.  I feel like they're very similar in many ways, but I found St. Francis to be more approachable.

If you are looking to jump into the writings of St. Ignatius, I'd suggest picking up a copy of this book where you'll have excellent explanations of each of the selections.  Reading this book made St. Ignatius's writings seem less daunting.

I was provided with a review copy of Saint Ignatius Loyola The Spiritual Writings Selections Annotated & Explained, by the publisher, SkyLight Paths, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Amazon to take a peek inside this book or to purchase a copy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Book Review: Now What?

Fifteen years ago I was preparing to enter the Catholic Church.  At that time, I was a mix of excitement at finally becoming Catholic and more than a little worried that I stuck out like a clueless Lutheran in a Catholic church.  That feeling of being a bit lost didn't magically go away once I was Catholic.  In fact, it took me years to really feel like I wasn't sticking out like a sore thumb.  Something tells me that if Patrick Madrid's Now What? A Guide for New (And Not-So-New) Catholics had been around in 2000 and a copy had found its way into my hands, that I would have felt a lot more at ease and would have had a far better understanding of what it means to be Catholic.

This book really is the answer to that "Help!  I converted to Catholicism and now that I'm here I have no idea why Catholics do half of what they do!" feeling that I'm sure many of my fellow converts have also felt.  I can recall different practices being addressed in RCIA, like why we genuflect, or what's the deal with the gesture everyone does before the gospel reading, but there was a lot that just wasn't covered.  For example, I had been a Catholic for nine years before I had ever heard of Eucharistic adoration.

As a jumping off point, this book is a wealth of information for someone who is in RCIA or has just been received into the Church.  It will help to fill in the gaps that may not have been covered in an RCIA class.  But this book isn't just for new converts.  Let's say you're a cradle Catholic who spent eight years in CCD pencil fighting when you should have been, I don't know, paying attention during class.  Well, this book will help to bring you up to speed on those things you missed while you were busy learning that the made in China pencils were stronger than the others.

In short, this won't be the only book you'll ever have to read if you are serious about practicing your faith, but it's an excellent start.  If you know someone who is in RCIA, do them a big favor and buy them this book.

I was provided with a review copy of Now What? by the publisher, Servant Books, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Amazon to take a peek inside this book or to purchase a copy.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Book Review: The Joyful Spirit of Padre Pio

Over the years I've read several books about St. Padre Pio, and while I like him a lot, he's yet to become on of those saints I could say I feel connected to, at least, not in the way I feel connected to some of my favorite saints.  I have, however, found him to be more approachable since reading Patricia Treece's The Joyful Spirit of Padre Pio.  The book is a collection of stories, letters and prayers.

I've had this book sitting out for the past several months and I find myself picking it up nearly every day to read a bit of it.  The book is arranged in such a format that you could really just open it up to any page and find a short piece that is either a recollection about Padre Pio or a quote or excerpt from on of his letters.  These little sections can be read in a few minutes or less.  Reading it is like grabbing a little spiritual recharge.

This book has left me wanting to read more about Padre Pio.  After reading through this book, I can see why Padre Pio appeals to so many people.  If it weren't for this book, I don't know if I would have realized that he actually had quite a sense of humor.  My perception of him prior to reading this book was that he was on the more serious and rigid side, but apparently, that's not the case.  I was pretty surprised when I found a few stories or quotes that left me chuckling.

I was provided with a review copy of The Joyful Spirit of Padre Pio by the publisher, Servant Books, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Amazon to take a peek inside this book or to purchase a copy.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Book Review: Adventures in Assisi

Adventures in Assisi is another lovely picture book by Amy Welborn.  It's the story of a brother and sister who tour Assisi with their great uncle, a Franciscan brother.  As they tour the city, they learn about St. Francis of Assisi.

The story book is filled with beautiful watercolor illustrations that will surely captivate young children as they listen to the story.  After reading the book to my children we went and looked at pictures online that a seminarian from our parish who is studying in Rome had taken when he visited Assisi.  So the book not only tells the story of St. Francis of Assisi, but it also connects the story to actual places.  My kids liked that after reading through the book that we were able to then see actual pictures of Assisi.

The story is a bit lengthy, so it seems to be better suited to younger elementary students.  My three year old who typically sits through longer story books became antsy as we read through this book; so given how she responded, I'd say a good target audience for this book would be 1st-3rd graders.  The length of the book might be too much for pre-schoolers-Kindergarten aged children to sit through in one reading.  While the book is a bit long for my younger daughter, she certainly enjoyed looking at all of the beautiful illustrations.

This book would be ideal for reading to children leading up to St. Francis of Assisi's feast day, or as part of a feast day celebration.  It's a good pick if you are looking for a book that will let you teach children about St. Francis and Assisi.

I was provided with a review copy of Adventures in Assisi by the publisher, Franciscan Media, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Amazon to take a peek inside this book or to purchase a copy.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Review: Saint of the Day

Reading about the saints is something that I enjoy immensely.  I draw a lot of inspiration from reading about how they pursued the path of holiness and obtained heaven, so a book filled with short accounts of the saints is always nice to have laying around where you can pick it up and spend a few minutes here and there reading about them.  The updated and expanded Saint of the Day book offers a wealth of information on the saints and various feast days that are celebrated throughout the year.

The book is arranged by month with a saint or feast day for nearly every day of the year.  Some days have multiple entries and there are a few days that have no entries.  The saints are featured on the dates their feast days are celebrated liturgically.  After a brief biography of the featured saint, you'll find a related comment and quote.  The comments and quotes are often good jumping off points for reflection.

The book is useful not only as a daily devotional, but also as a reference on the saints and various feast days.  The table of contents lists the saints by date.  If you are looking for a specific saint, the index will be the most expedient way to find the saint if you aren't already aware of the date for his or her feast day.

We have several different saint of the day types of books on our bookshelf and I think I like this one the best.  The other's are intended for kids, but I find a lot of the stories in those books seem like they were written with adults in mind.  This book seems a bit more accessible than some of the other ones.
I was provided with a copy of Saint of the Day by the publisher, Franciscan Media, in exchange for my honest review.  You can take a peek inside this book or purchase a copy at Amazon.
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