ADVENT

ADVENT
Christmas is Coming! Christmas is coming! Christmas is coming!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Reflecting On A Happy Death

Back in 2003, shortly after the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, I wrote this short article about the Catholic teaching on death. It was brought to mind this morning by a tragic event in our local Parish. Yesterday afternoon, Deacon Mike Mims lost his life in a helicopter accident. Though we did not know him in a personal way, he was obviously a man who knew, loved, and served God in this life. We know only the barest of facts from the tragic crash that claimed his life, but the circumstances suggest that the Deacon may have had some awareness of what was about to happen to him, and this gives us some hope, as I have explained in the article that follows. As we mourn the loss of his presence in our parish and we pray for the comfort of his family, we can also reflect on our own impending death. 


“60 seconds of fear”

When I saw the headline declaring that the Columbia crew may have had as much as one minute knowing what would happen before their ship exploded, my Catholic mind sighed with relief. But this was not the response of the writer of the article, or of the world. Why is this? Is it because I am some sort of masochistic fanatic who wants others to suffer? Or is it because the world has little idea of the importance of those last sixty seconds before death. 

Happy Death


Catholics have a habit of praying for a happy death. For a long time, growing up, I thought this meant a painless death, one with little suffering. But this is far from the truth. The truth is closer to what a good friend used to say: the best way to die would be on a plane you knew was going down sitting next to a priest. In the Catholic mind, a happy death is one in which we have the opportunity to meet death with a willing heart, and a recently cleaned soul.

Suffering is Good


It is common for the loved ones of those who have died to console one another with the fact that the deceased “didn’t suffer”, “went quickly” or “died in their sleep”. And in many ways these phrases can be comforting. No one wishes that a loved one will suffer. However, imagine that loved one has things in his life that he regrets but has never asked for forgiveness. Or perhaps he has behaviors and habits that turn him from God and he has stubbornly held onto them. 

Let’s face it, none of us is without sin, and all of us have neglected our relationship with God in some way or another. It is only in this life that we can freely turn to God and ask for healing and forgiveness. Once we have died, our fate is sealed. 
We all know that we will one day die, but seldom do we have a chance to know ahead of time when that will be. Most of us imagine, or at least hope, that we will die at a ripe old age, after those final years of contented retirement during which we spent a lot of time in contemplative prayer. 

Necessary Things


However, our death could come today, tomorrow, in ten years, 30 years…or in 60 seconds. Think of the great gift of one small minute when an untimely death comes upon us. In that sixty seconds I can quickly bring to mind the ways in which I have offended God, and ask him for forgiveness. I can recite the Act of Contrition—a perfect formula for getting right with God. I can even offer my suffering, both mental and physical, in reparation for my sins or for a loved one whom I will leave behind. 

Sixty seconds could be enough to get me a free pass straight to heaven, without a moment’s lingering in purgatory. Not only should we thank God when others have had those final moments, but we should pray that we, too, have the gift of time to face death willingly, and with true contrition for our sins. And perhaps a little final suffering would come in handy…but only if necessary. 

Dear St. Joseph, Patron of a Happy Death, pray for us

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Second Annual Oor Wullie Day


In honor of all invented holidays with little to no real meaning, I present to you 
OOR WULLIE DAY, December 31, 2014!

Imagine a 1940's, Scottish Bart Simpson/Dennis the Menace. That is Oor Wullie. With his spikey hair and dungarees he gets into, and often neatly out of, messes and then philosophizes about them from his seat on his trademark upturned bucket.

Jim grew up getting Oor Wullie Annuals every year from his Aunt in Scotland, and now our kids read Oor Wullie. I learned early on that they can't be read aloud....at least not be this non-Scottish Mama. I'm raising Scotsmen but I don't speak it.

Here is D's Oor Wullie imitation. And you can see the books all over the floor. 

See how hard it is to read? "It's a sait fiche" means literally "It's a sore fight" but figuratively "It's a hard life". 

"Oor Wullie Day" began in 2012 when the kids got an Oor Wullie comic book for Christmas and they got so absorbed in it that, several days later we had to put it away. That was when we decided that a once a year Oor Wullie marathon would be a good way to balance it out.

So, New Years Eve 2014 was the first actual Oor Wullie day. The kids had a ball pretending like Oor Wullie was going to come down the chimney and leave them food, or books or something. They made a sign and left him cookies. In the morning all the collected Oor Wullie and The Broons (a sort of companion comic strip) annuals were set out on the hearth and they had a few new ones.
This is from Oor Wullie Day 2014.
Then the fun begins:

Hour 1

Hour 3


Hour 5

Seriously. They read pretty much all day. D was the most absorbed, reaching his goal of reading every Oor Wullie Annual we own. He decided that next year he would read all the Oor Wullie and two of The Broons. M is a Broons fan and A just likes to find funny pictures to show everyone. 

It was the most peaceful, relaxing day we have had all year. Jim and I wanted to try and bottle it up...how can we set aside some special things and keep them from becoming old and boring, or obsessions? How can we better foster a love of reading, or other non-screen activities that we can do as a family? We will be pondering these questions in the new year. 

Happy New Year! 
And remember, only 364 more days until Oor Wulle Day!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Past

As we approach this last week of Advent 2014, I am taking a walk down memory lane on my blog. While this has not been a big year for blogging, and it may seem that I am really not very dedicated to GIKids, I still see this as my place to record our little life and share my thoughts with whomever wants to read them. I write for myself, for my kids (I imagine them reading this someday as a record of our family life), for my husband (Jim is often the one saying "You should blog about that!") and for you--the faithful remnant that still come back to see what I have to say. Thank you for reading and commenting over the past four years.

Here are the links along my memory lane stroll. It looks like late 2012 was my low point of blogging since there is no year in review post for that year. This year's Christmas card post is a page linked up at the top just under the close-up of our Christmas tree with the St. Nicholas Ornament. Enjoy!

Christmas Card 2013
Fontanini Traditions from 2013
Christmas Card 2011
The Scandal of the Incarnation from 2011
Reindeer Games from 2011
A New Church Year from 2011
Christmas Card 2010
An Accounting of Christmas from 2010
We do that every year too from 2010
We do that every Advent from 2010

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Thanks to Mom....

It is all thanks to my Mom that this video gives me joy. I got it from Dan Lord at thatstrangestofwars.com and, as he says, don't turn it off until you get a look at that bass player (though I have to say I can't hear the bass at all---but it could be the Premier League soccer in the background here). I hope it puts a smile on your face too.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Bonding With the Baby Jesus

Unlike the jarring noise of an alarm clock, which only drives me further into my pillow, the cry of a baby in the middle of the night was always enough to get me out of bed quite easily. I may have staggered a bit to the baby’s bed, with half closed eyes and a grumble on my lips, but I would be there just the same. The younger the baby, the swifter my response. 

Even today, with bigger kids, the sound of a child calling at 1AM will still cause me to sit up and probably head upstairs to the bedroom.

But, in the absence of those sweet, needy, voices calling my name, I am most likely to stay in bed as long as possible, assuming I am not hugely impacting the day’s schedule. 

I am not the mom up early and dressed before the kids rise with my Bible in my lap. I am more likely to be the mom still in bed while my kids come in wondering what’s for breakfast. 

Then, during the first week of Advent I was reading a meditation in my Magnificat and the writer talked about the natural, human, specifically motherly response to the cries of a tiny infant. We are drawn to comfort the baby, especially if they are our own. We will rise from a very comfortable sleep and stumble barefoot down the cold hall to comfort that baby. 

And the Christ Child comes in the dark of winter, in a cold, uncomfortable stable and calls to us. 
We can’t help but draw near. 

That reality has moved me this Advent!

The Christ Child wakens me each morning before my early-rising children so that He and I can spend a few moments together. I ask Him each night to wake me early, and He has. 

I may not be a morning person yet, but, so far, I have been able to rise and stumble to my chair, jammies still on, turn on the lights of the Advent Tree, and spend some time with the Babe in the Manger. 

May your Advent also be filled with quiet moments bonding with the Christ Child. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Anniversaries

52 years ago today my Mom and Dad were married.
14 years ago today Jim and I met for the first time in person (prior to that we had talked on the phone and exchanged emails since we "met" online)
and 4 years ago today I wrote this blog post.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Fall Festival Problem

So modern man
one day--any day--gets up and says, "Let's celebrate!" And without any warrant, he decrees that his town from now on will have a festival on, let's say, August 18th; and as he can dance and eat and drink on any day between January 1st and December 31st, the most he will experience is "a good time." But he will never be able to "celebrate a feast."
(From Around The Year With The Trapp Family by Maria Augusts Trapp )

I love fall. And I love the idea of visiting a cider mill (like I did once in Michigan) or heading to an apple orchard (like we did in northern California), or even the occasional pumpkin patch with the big corn maze (well, maybe not the maze, that included lots of tears). 

However, I have become increasingly saddened at the Fall Festivals at Saint So-and-So's that dominate the local events calendars. 

Why are Catholic parishes always putting all of their celebration momentum into a fall festival complete with pumpkins, scarecrows and even haunted houses (I once helped build one of those at my parish festival some 30 {gasp!} years ago!)...especially when we have the perfect fall FEAST to celebrate?

Why are we not having huge All Saint's Day celebrations? We could still have games and rides and raffles and raise money. We would just do that with a focus on the saints. 

You see, as Catholics we have such a great heritage of celebration and yet we seem to forget this when everyday parish life sets in. 
Nobody could stand a Thanksgiving Day dinner every day of the year. There
can only be mountains if there are also valleys....that wonderful, eternal rhythm of high and low tide that makes up the year of the Church: times of waiting alternate with times of fulfillment, the lean weeks of Lent with the feasts of Easter and Pentecost, times of mourning with seasons of rejoicing. Modern man lost track of this.
(From Around The Year With The Trapp Family by Maria Augusts Trapp )

I did a little Google search and found a couple of parishes who have had an All Saint's Day Fall Festival in the past, but I couldn't tell how focused on the Faith it was. To be honest, I can't recall even one of the many parishes I have attended making a big deal of their patron saint's feast day, or of their patronage at all. I can remember doing some things at one of the parish Catholic schools where I worked, but even then, it was downplayed. The patrons were martyrs and the teachers were concerned that the stories (even explaining the reason for the red uniforms) was too gruesome to mention to the kids. 

Our current parish mentions their patron at the end of every homily and often at the end of daily Mass, which is great! But there was very little (if anything) done to celebrate his feast day. Yet, they have a big Fall Festival which occupies lots of time and energy from parishioners and from the school. I am sure it brings in money as well. Yet I still don't understand, outside of the money, what is the point? 

It would be so easy to transform the Fall Festival into and All Saint's Day Festival. Back in the day, when I worked at the Spiritus Sanctus Academy in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the school had an All Saint's Day festival. It was held in the school gym and the games all had clever saint names and themes like St. Peter's Fishing Pond, or St. Francis of Assisi Shooting Gallery (just kidding...maybe it should be St. Francis's Petting Zoo?), and the kids dressed as their patron saints, and candy was the prize at most of the games. There was usually a parade and some prizes for the best costumes. 

All of those things could happen at a parish All Saint's Day celebration. The day could start early with the St. Teresa of Avila Mud Run. A special Mass including the Litany of the Saints could be followed by St. Matthew's Silver Dollar Pancake breakfast. 

Then the Festival would begin. In addition to the games (like St. Bernadette's Sweeping Contest or St. Philomena's Dunk Tank), just think of all the great ethnic food that could be served thoughout the day in the name of various saints! St. Stanislaus' Kielbasa, St. Anthony's Calzones, St Andrew Kim's Korean BBQ, St. Joan of Arc's Stakehouse (yes, I meant to spell it that way), St. Lawrence's Grill for hotdogs and hamburgers. And each booth could have a brief explanation of the connection to the saint, especially for the less obvious ones. 

Of course, there will have to be a grand procession at some point. And the church could be open all day and maybe special images of the saints placed around the edges, especially if it does not already have many of these. 

Actually, you it doesn't need to be fall to have a proper parish-wide feast! If the parish opts for a fair during some other season, why not make it honor of their patron!

See how easy that was? I can't be the only one who has thought of this. Sure, it can get corny, but that is a fall thing too! 

Why should the St. Joe's Parish Fall Festival look just the same as the one at the local public elementary school? 

Why opt for "a good time" when you can have a FEAST?

What do you think? Does your parish do anything like this?