All parents have the primary responsibility to educate their children. This is a duty that parents cannot in good conscience shirk off or place on others. They are obliged to find a good school for their children or educate them at home. For Catholics the duty of education especially includes teaching their children the precepts of the Catholic faith and showing them how to live as faithful Christians. But religious education from a textbook, as it has been traditionally done, has a danger of becoming either completely shallow and soppy, or at the other extreme of becoming entirely cerebral. A true religious education is that of the whole person — the heart, mind, soul, strength, and even the body — but primarily the heart.
Yet, how does one go about educating their children in the faith?
The easy answer is to send them to a Catholic school where they will have religion or catechism class, sign them up for CCD if they go to a non-Catholic school, or teach them their catechism at home from a curriculum. These days there are a wide variety of books for educating our children in faith.
Still, studies show that young Catholics are leaving the Church as teenagers. A diocese I worked for had a problem of families coming to Mass only on the Sundays when their religious education program required it for their children to receive the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation. And the one hour per week that catechists spent with the children was spent reading a religious text that neither delved into actually explaining the faith nor taught them how to talk to God in prayer. Everything was superficial. My husband, who teaches philosophy at a university in the Catholic tradition, has had students who were raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools, but who never learned that one could use reason to come to the knowledge of God’s existence. Sadly, this poor state of catechesis is one that the Church has been striving to remedy for decades.
As a parent who is raising children in the Catholic faith and as one raised in a family where all four children are devout, practicing Catholics as adults, I hold that learning one’s catechism from a book or going through an unsystematic, light religious textbook is not enough. My experience in home schooling shows me that children need more.
There has been a lot of discussion in the online world of “Catholic Twitter,” podcasts, and in the blogosphere about men and women — their complementarity, whether or not they are equal, and how they are different. Podcaster Timothy Gordon stated on The Matt Fradd Show that the Church has taught against married women working, and he said that the New Testament and natural law point to the idea that “men and women are utterly unequal,” though equal in dignity. He did not, however, go on to explain how they are “utterly unequal,” except to state that men are “bigger, stronger” and have a “different forebrain.” He holds that natural law proves, and Christian tradition supports, that a husband is the boss of his wife. Yet, the only argument he gave for this is that in all of human history this has been the case, and only since the feminist movements has the trend of men having authority over women and of men being seen as higher than women been questioned.
The problem with these statements about the inequality of men and women is that they overlook that, since they are human beings, members of the same species, men and women have all of the same powers. Thus, one cannot say that they are “utterly unequal.”
Women and men are first of all rational animals, human beings, made in the image of God. All humans have an intellectual power to reason, learn, understand and know God. Both men and women have wills where they can freely choose good or evil. They have passions and appetites that influence these choices and must be ruled over by reason. These abilities to do things are called their powers. Men and women have the power to love God, love others, see, speak, eat, walk, have conversations, make plans, teach others, use and create tools, and so many other things. They are the same in all of these things.
I have moved three times in my adult life. I have picked up and left one city, moved to another, and have had to make new friends. Making new friends was the hardest yet most important part of each move and has required great effort. I have had to step out of my comfort zone, go to events where I knew no one, extend hospitality to others, and take any opportunity I could of seeing my new friends. I found that with each and every new friendship the ones that were based in our Catholic faith where we prayed together and gave generously to each other of our time and energy were the friendships that were the strongest and most meaningful.
Today begins the novena to St. Jude, Patron of Hopeless Causes and Desperate Situations. Last year my intention was for baby T’s teeth to come in and him to start sleeping in longer than 45-90 min stretches at night because I was desperate for sleep. St. Jude has been a dear patron of mine since that time. I ask for his help a lot.
In this year’s novena I am praying that enough citizens decide to vote third party or write-in a candidate for president of the United States that neither Mrs. C nor Mr. T win the presidency. Or that neither of them is elected by some other means.
This presidential election is truly a hopeless cause and desperate situation.
I recently finished reading Sigrid Undset’s The Master of Hestviken, having also read Kristen Lavransdattar and Catherine of Siena, and I am struck once again by her ability to understand humanity. One of the overriding themes in Undset’s works is God’s continual pursuit of a soul to the very end. She narrates nearly perfectly the interior state of her characters in all of their thoughts, experiences, desires, and inability to see truth. And, since her characters are so much like real people, they fall from grace, and live long lives of wallowing in their sins, and fleeing from a pursuing God who wants only to love them and to be loved in return.
The way she shows God’s continual, steady desire for humans to turn to him is reminiscent of Francis Thompson’s poem The Hound of Heaven, which begins with these lines:
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
And ends in these: Halts by me that footfall: Is my gloom, after all, Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly? ‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He Whom thou seekest! Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.’ Read more at the Register.
Today, in the Traditional Roman Catholic calendar, is the octave day of the Nativity of John the Baptist and the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. The professor recently came across this website which has the Divine Office dating back to the pre-Tridentine church. This morning, since the Feast of the Most Precious Blood is not in the New calendar, the professor suggested we pray from the old breviary. And in the old office was this beautiful hymn to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. The professor wrote his own thoughts about the feast and the hymn on his blog.
This hymn speaks to one’s soul about the mercy of God, the out-pouring of the Blood of His Son for us. The part that particularly struck me, but all of it is so, so, beautiful, is the stanza towards the end:
In full atonement of our guilt, Careless of self, the Saviour trod— E’en till his heart’s best blood was spilt— The wine-press of the wrath of God. The stanza evokes an image of the crushed Body of Christ, His Blood gushing forth, and for what, for us. And then there is the image of bathing in that precious Blood which is gushing forth, and receiving healing and mercy.
Come, bathe you in the healing flood, All ye who mourn, by sin opprest; Your only hope is Jesus’ blood, His sacred heart your only rest.
What more can I say, my only hope is Jesus’ blood.
From the film Thérèse (1986) directed by Alain Cavalier
I had a crisis of faith over the past few weeks. I was not questioning any points of doctrine or doubting God and His existence, but I was doubting whether or not I, as a middle class American with so many comforts, could ever really live life of heroic virtue. The doubt came from a combination of circumstances, the first being the bleakness of a winter that has no end in sight, the second being the deaths of a number of people close to me or close to those I know, the third being considering the lives of a couple of saints through film.
The winter is self-explanatory. It is getting pretty long here in Minnesota, even though it has been mild compared to last winter. But when the 20s seem warm, you know you have a winter problem. The glumness of winter wears a person down, and opens one up for doubts. Further, Lent is looming on the horizon and as I think about what to do for Lent, all of my faults and tendencies towards sin stare up accusingly at me.
Then there are those who have died. The first was a neighbor, an elderly man of Christian faith, leaving behind his kind widow. They have been great neighbors, and for my children he is the first person that they knew personally to pass away. They pray for his soul daily, just as they prayed for him to overcome his cancer daily. The second was the father of a good friend. This also affected my kids, since he is the grandfather of some of their friends. The third was a young husband and father, whom I never knew personally, but was friends with many people I know from college. He had a month-long battle with advanced cancer and left behind three children and a pregnant wife. The final death was that of one of my parents’ dear friends, a woman whom I have known my entire life. She was a woman who always served, always loved, and always prayed. I pray and hope for all of their salvations, but it made me think about my own death and realize that I am failing to live a fully Christian life in so many ways. Would people hope for my salvation in the same way that they hope for these people?
On top of this, I saw a powerful movie about the life of St. Vincent de Paul, Monsieur Vincent (1947), directed by Maurice Cloche. St. Vincent de Paul had a comfortable life of ease serving a wealthy family, but, being unsatisfied with what he was doing there and with the comfort of his own life, decided to devote his life to the poor. He served as a bridge between the rich and the poor, always calling the rich to do more for the poor, and never seeing himself as doing enough. “I must do more,” was his continual realization.
Then there was the movie The Flowers of St. Francis (1950), directed by Roberto Rossellini, and based on the classic book The Little Flowers of Saint Francis. The film focused on his life after he established his first community of brothers. You see his desire for simplicity, his serving of the poor, and his calling on of his others to holiness. You see that he was a passionate person, who always felt that he had too much. He stripped himself of all material comforts, keeping the bare minimum. His brothers did the same. These lives of the saints made me realize that I am not doing enough and that I take too much pleasure in my bourgeois middle class comforts. The hours I spend reading articles online, socializing, enjoying my sturdy, warm house, eating good food seem extravagant compared to the lives of the poor who barely have enough clothing, whose homes are in disrepair, who live have no way of living within their means for their means are so limited. Why am I so blessed materially and they are not? It made me wonder if I should be making radical changes with my life, like those of St. Francis or serving the poor endlessly like St. Vincent de Paul. Can someone living a comfortable life like mine really become a saint?
Then my husband and I saw a beautiful movie, Thérèse (1986) directed by Alain Cavalier, about St. Thérèse of Lisieux. And just as she always does, St. Thérèse showed me how I am to live a life of holiness. My realization that even a person raised in the middle class with bourgeois values can live a real life of holiness, was similar to the epiphany Thomas Merton had when he first read about St. Thérèse:
“It was never, could never be, any surprise to me that saints should be found in the misery and sorrow and suffering of Harlem, in the leper-colonies life Father Damian Molokai, in the slums of John Bosco’s Turin, on the roads of Umbria in the time of St. Francis, or in the hidden Cistercian abbeys of the twelfth century…
But what astonished me altogether was the appearance of a saint in the midst of all the stuffy, overplush, overdecorated, comfortable ugliness and mediocrity of the bourgeoisie. Therese of the Child Jesus was a Carmelite, that is true: but what she took into the convent with her was a nature that had been formed and adapted to the background and mentality of the French middle class of the late nineteenth century, than which nothing could be imagined more complacent and apparently immovable. The one thing that seemed to me more or less impossible was for grace to penetrate the think, resilient bourgeois smugness and really take hold of the immortal soul beneath the surface…
She became a saint, not by running away from the middle class, or by the environment which she had grown up: on the contrary, she cling to it in so far as one could cling to such a thing and be a good Carmelite. She kept everything that was bourgeois about her and was still not incompatible with her vocation: her nostalgic affection for a funny villa called “Les Buissonnets,” her taste for utterly oversweet art, and for little candy angels and pastel saints playing with lambs so soft and fuzzy that they literally give people the creeps…” (Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain, pp424-425)
St. Thérèse showed me that it is possible to have a deep spiritual life, but to have my days spent serving my family, cleaning, and cooking. She showed me that the key to holiness in my vocation is not to sell all I have and give it to the poor (though serving and caring for the poor I must do as I can), but making all that I do part of my prayer. I must allow God’s grace to penetrate every aspect of my life. I must be mindful of Him in everything that I do. I must live my vocation of wife, mother, and teacher of my children. This is the life I have chosen, this is the life I have been given, this is where God will make me holy. Most of us are called to be holy where we are. Few of us are called to lives like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Vincent de Paul. This does not mean that we should ignore the poor, but part of living out life as Christians is to serve the poor as we are called. And as a wife and mother, my caring for my family must not be neglected.
God’s grace has the ability to penetrate the least likely of places, and if He has put us in a specific place, called us to Him, and is not calling us to leave where we are, we must trust that He is going to make us holy where we are as long as we continually seek lives of grace and discern whether we are doing enough Originally posted at Truth and Charity…
Welcome everyone coming over from Truth and Charity! For the giveaway, scroll to the bottom. ___________
One of the most difficult parts of praying the rosary is keeping focused on the mysteries. Most of the time, I name the mystery and immediately get distracted. However, I have found that praying with beautiful images of the mysteries is a good way to focus. My cousin-in-law, Will Bloomfield, was inspired by a beautiful painting that he saw in the Metropolitan Museum of Art to put together a prayer book for individuals to use to pray the rosary.
I asked him several questions about the book, and will let him do the explaining.
Susanna: What inspired you to put together the rosary book?
Will: About a year ago, my sister, Emily Ortega, published her first book I’m Bernadette. [I, Susanna, reviewed the book here.] About the same time, my brother, Benjamin Bloomfield, edited his first book, A Collection of Christmas Carols. I soon was inspired to begin my own publishing project: a version of the Gospels for children, featuring a story-by-story format, large font, and beautiful images of sacred art. That project has evolved over the last year into The Sacred Art Series, the flagship product of which will be released this Advent, The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John. This book will feature a leatherette cover, gilded pages, a sewn binding, and a ribbon.
In the midst of editing The Holy Gospels and discussing the project with printers, I happened to take a trip to New York City for a conference for work. While there with my wife and baby, we seized the opportunity to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was thrilled to see some of the very paintings that I had already included in my early manuscript for The Holy Gospels. But while there, I also stumbled across The Fifteen Mysteries and the Virgin of the Rosary by Goswijn van der Weyden. The painting was created for devotional use for a member of the Habsburg royal family. I immediately thought that this beautiful public domain image, which was designed for royalty, would make an excellent devotional aid for families and individuals. And since I was already in the midst of a publishing project, it was quite easy to add another product to the Sacred Art Series. It was also about this time that I joined the Confraternity of the Rosary, and thus had been praying the rosary more both individually and with my family. And I had recently read St. Louis De Montfort’s The Secret of the Rosary, and was impressed by St. Dominic’s promotion of the rosary, described by De Montfort, as the most effective means of converting sinners. So the Rosary Book is really the convergence of many things that all came together at the right time. You might say that it was a perfect storm of grace.
What remains strange to me is that something like this did not already exist. But to my knowledge, the Sacred Art Series Rosary Book is the first of its kind. So your readers are on the cutting edge!
S: Would you tell me about the painting used? Are rosary panels common in sacred art?
W: The Metropolitan Museum of Art attributes the painting to Netherlandish Painter, possibly Goswijn van der Weyden (c. 1515). I like the painting because it includes an image of each of the traditional 15 mysteries of the rosary, and each image is the same size, includes figures that fill each scene, and thus provides a complete set of rosary images. I also like the image of Mary in the bottom panel because it shows her crowned with 55 roses, recalling that when we pray five decades of the rosary, we offer Mary a beautiful rose for each Hail Mary and for each Our Father.
In my searches, I have not found any other similar rosary paintings. It’s, of course, easy to find beautiful images for individual mysteries, but I have yet to find any other complete sets of a similar quality. This is also strange to me, because one would think that rosary images would be readily available. Also, from my own personal experience, I know that the stained glass windows in many Catholic churches include the mysteries of the rosary; but for whatever reason, complete sets of rosary paintings seem to be rare. (And I will gladly be proven wrong if anyone can tell me otherwise.)
S: We usually pray our family rosary in the car (the children cannot get up and run around); do you have any tips for a peaceful family rosary with little ones?
W: Pray the rosary with a Sacred Art Series Rosary Book! Your children will enjoy the ability to have a picture to look at and to take turns flipping the page for the next mystery. Apart from that, I have also found the car to be a decent place to pray the rosary with the family. Every Sunday morning, during the 15 minute drive to Mass, we pray one decade of the rosary, followed by the Angelus. Our kids (ages 1, 2, 4, and 6) are so used to this routine that it never occurs to them to question it. The three older ones participate quite well. (Although getting the pacing of the words right has sometimes been a challenge for them–and consequently, for their parents!) So I think that consistency is important. Also, it’s probably better to focus on one decade prayed well, than five decades prayed poorly. Once the kids have mastered one decade, it’s easy to add more decades. And for families that are just beginning the rosary, it may help to begin the devotion during an appropriate liturgical season, such as Advent, or Lent, or during the Month of May for Mary, or during October, which includes the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7) and is the month of the rosary.
This book comes with a metal spiral binding on top and has a fold out cardboard easel. It is available in two sizes, 4×5 inches and 8×10 inches. We have the 4×5. The front page has the entirety of the panel while the inside pages feature each of the panels of the painting close up, showing the individual original 15 mysteries of the rosary.
As for the paintings themselves, just looking at them outside of praying the rosary leads to meditation on the mysteries. In each painting there are tiny details of the scene that give an opportunity for deeper meditation. As Will mentioned, all of the panels are the same size and the people are all to scale with each other. This being the case, the artist had to be very creative in fitting all the characters into the scenes. You can especially see this in the painting of the Ascension, where Our Lady and the apostles are painted in their entirety, but we only see the feet of the ascending Christ.
We have had the rosary book on the family altar for about a week now, and while I think the bigger size would be better for seeing detail, our family altar is pretty packed as it is. The children have been paging through it from time to time, and they seem to enjoy the images. My (almost) four year and I looked through it the other day, talking about each mystery, and while she was familiar with the events, she could not match the picture to them. That is perhaps one of the failings of the family car rosary, but I now see ways that our children’s catechesis can be improved.
I highly recommend the rosary book as something to display in the home or on a desk, and to pray with. You can purchase it through this website, and receive a discount of $3 off each book when you use the coupon code ROSARYBK through October 30.
Further, you can enter the below giveaway of a new 4×5 rosary book which ends Tuesday, October 28 at 12am CT. a Rafflecopter giveaway
My family and I were running just on time for the early Mass last Sunday. Well, actually, we were on track to be about 2 minutes late. We were going along, stuck behind some slow-going cars. Just as we were coming to an intersection ,we witnessed an SUV drift into the bike lane and hit a bicyclist from behind. He went flying forward and landed sprawled on the ground, legs tangled in his bike. The driver of the SUV stopped her car, and jumped out to see if he was okay. My husband pulled over, parked the car, and ran out dialing 911. I sat in the car in a bit of a shock as I explained to the children that we needed to pray for the man. I prayed out loud with the kids until the emotion of it all reduced me to sobbing and internal prayer.
Within seconds, people noticed the emergency situation and came over to lend a hand. One man led the group around the bicyclist in praying the Hail Mary. A nurse came over and did basic first aid for him while they waited for the ambulance. Another lady attempted to calm the woman who had hit the cyclist. A man brought a blanket out of his house to cover the injured man. An Episcopalian minister, on his way to church, stopped at the scene to see what he could do.
All around us, early on a Sunday morning, people were coming to help this injured man, and I could not help but feel that we were apart of a community of good people. The ambulance came and took the still-conscious bicyclist to the hospital, and only then did the crowd disperse. I went over to the police to give my account of the accident, and then we continued on to church to hang out until the next Mass and to pray for the cyclist. We never found out the extent of his injuries, but we are still praying daily for his recovery.
As I reflect on the incident, I see how we and all the people who stopped immediately acted out the works of mercy for this man and for the woman who struck him. I can think of at least seven of the fourteen that were exercised by all of those involved in that one incident. I give a complete list of both the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy.
The Corporeal Works of Mercy:
to feed the hungry
to give drink to the thirsty
to clothe the naked
to shelter the homeless
to visit the sick
to visit the imprisoned
to bury the dead
The Spiritual Works of Mercy:
to instruct the ignorant
to counsel the doubtful
to admonish sinners
to bear wrongs patiently
to forgive offenses willingly
to comfort the afflicted
to pray for the living and the dead
In extreme situations it is easy to see how we are to exercise the works of mercy, but the reality is that we are called to exercise them in small ways as well. (Two years ago Andrew Sciba wrote about a very sweet event that took place between his then two year old and then crawling baby, where the two year old was giving of his own food to the hungry baby. He realized that his son was doing one of the works of mercy.)
If I think about my own children, I see them doing the works of mercy for each other daily. When my one year old visits a sister who is being punished, she is visiting the imprisoned. When my eldest helps me put socks and shoes on the baby, she is clothing the naked. They help each other with food and drink. They are each others’ comfort when we are confined at home due to illness. They are only vaguely aware of what the works of mercy are, but they are already learning to show mercy. And they do so according to their own capacity.
We are all called to do the works of mercy according to our state in life. And while it may seem like we need great moments to do works of mercy, in reality we are called to do them everyday. We show mercy in the daily dressing, feeding, and care of children. We show mercy as teachers. We show mercy as doctors and nurses. We show mercy when we are kind to the customer having a rough day. We show mercy when we take time to listen to the problems of our coworkers. We show mercy when we share some our lunch with the man holding the cardboard sign on the street. We show mercy when we make sacrifices so that we can afford our home and food. We show mercy by giving of our money to a family in need. We show mercy when we give of our excess and unneeded clothes to a society that gives to the poor. We are called to show mercy everyday. And when we do these things, we do them for Christ.
Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25: 37-40
1) Cook what your husband likes to eat. 2) On eating what your wife cooks: Give it your best shot. 3) You can only change yourself. 4) If giving each other haircuts causes problems, then just don’t do it. 5) Watch out for “modern rest areas” that are actually casinos. 6) Know the right time for talking. 7) Bring enough frozen custard from St. Louis for everyone. 8) Get the help your marriage needs…
For my more detailed and not quite the same suggestions, head on over to Truth and Charity…