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

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 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


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? 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Kennedy Book List: Catching Up

I have been meaning to talk about all of the great books we have been reading around here, but I have been overwhelmed by the desire to tell you all about each one (without giving anything away, of course!). I finally just decided to make a quick list and let you find out for yourselves. So, here we go, in no particular order and linked at the bottom.

We have tapped into the Living History series found at Bethlehem Books (though I bought most of them on Amazon).

Right now, we are reading Red Falcons of Tremoine, about a fifteen year old young man in late 12 century England. Leo was raised in a monastery only to find out he is heir to two different, and rival, castles. His journey to manhood is filled with tests that challenge is patience, his wisdom, his self control and his charity. Though sometimes harsh (he is treated quite badly by his uncle) the book is an exiting adventure and an illustration of how to grow in virtue.

We also learned about the resistance effort of the Dutch during World War II in The Winged Watchman. Told through the eyes of a young boy, it is a beautiful, hopeful, though sometimes heartbreaking, look into the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. 

Before that, we got an insider's look at the life of St Thomas Beckett in If All The Swords in England. This was yet another story about a young man on his path to adulthood. Along the way he must learn to deal with a disability, discern the right path for himself, and strive for self control. A great read aloud!

Hilda Van Stockum
Sold by: LLC

Barbara Willard
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The links (if they work) are all to Amazon. I should soon have an Amazon widget in the sidebar if I can get it to work!
I have more to share soon!
Have you read these or any of the Living History books? 
Happy Feast of St. Therese!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Don't Find Your Soulmate: What Jane Austen Heroines Aren't Looking For In a Mate...

...(and What They Are). 

This is the title of chapter ten of The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Kantor
(Don’t run out and get the book before you read all the way to my one warning)

Jane Austen

When I was a thirty year old single woman looking for love and studying theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, our friend, Karen, invited a bunch of us single gals (and a guy or two) over to her tiny apartment to watch a new mini-series on BBC America called Pride and Prejudice. At that time I had never read a Jane Austen book (such was my impoverished education in the literary classics) and so I knew nothing of Miss Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy. I am not sure how many girls in that crowded little apartment were as ignorant as I was, but I am sure there were a few. 

However, it didn’t take long for all of us to be hooked. We gathered in that little spot every night of that mini series, sighing over whether or not Mr. Darcy really loved Elizabeth Bennett, and moaning over the smarmy Mr. Collins (we decided that he was the personification of “smarmy”). 

For me, it was just the beginning. I followed up with reading or watching every Jane Austen novel or movie I could get my hands on. Many times I did both (read and watch), but not all. Recently, I began listening to the Librivox versions of many of these books. We are also watching the BBC versions of Emma and Pride and Prejudice with the kids on weekends. We finished Emma and they all loved it, and now we are starting PandP, with mixed reviews so far (one eight year old can be heard to complain that “all they ever do is dance and talk”). 

Then, as I was reading a great blog post on teen dating by the ladies over at Like Mother, Like Daughter I found a recommendation for The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Kantor. 

Now, I have long since found my own Mr. Knightly, but I have also always been interested in the workings of the heart and the ways in which men and women relate and interact. Back in the day, I loved to sit around and talk through these things with my girlfriends, and I was quick with my opinions, though I had little experience in the dating scene. I especially like to discuss the distinction between “dating” as a state of being (or “being in a relationship), and “dating” as an action (as in going out on a date with this guy). Kantor’s book helps flesh out why those two things are very important to distinguish. 

I can say with conviction that this book would have been a great help to us girls back then. As it turns out, I may have learned a bit subconsciously from my Jane Austen obsession, but Kantor’s book spells it out so clearly. It has given me a renewed respect for Jane, not just as an author of romantic books (to be distinguished from “Romantic”—you’ll get it if you read the book), but as a sage in the realm of relationships. Jane Austen had what the author would call “a fine-tuned sense for relationship dynamics” and so did her heroines. 

In her introduction, Kantor claims that the character of Jane Austen’s writing is “neither romantic illusion, nor Victorian repression, nor modern cynicism.” In Austen’s novels women are not subject to the matchmaking abilities of their elders, nor are they slaves to their own passions. They independently choose whom to love and when to give way to that love in their own hearts. They know (or learn) the difference between true character and delightful manners (which any guy can master). 

Kantor ends each chapter with three short, bullet-pointed sections: “Adopt an Austen Attitude”; “What Would Jane Do?” and “If We Really Want To Bring Back Jane Austen”. Each section is filled with practical advice for the modern Jane Austen Heroine Wannabe (Janeite), or those who hope to guide them. 

She also has extensive footnotes. I read EVERY SINGLE ONE…because I wanted to!! They were great, many fun asides or little stories or quotes from the books that complete the picture. I can imagine her debating her editor: 

Editor: Okay, this section is a little long, do you really need the story of your high school boyfriend here, or the quote from Knightly about picnics, or the bedtime prayer that Jane Austen once wrote. Kantor: Yes!! It is important and illustrative! Can I put it in a footnote? 

Anyway, not only did I read every footnote, I read the introduction (which I hardly ever bother to do) AND the acknowledgements (because she seemed such a kindred spirit I thought I might find someone I know…I didn’t). 

Kantor's target audience appears to be your average young single Jane Austen fan who may or may not have a clear view of proper Christian morals when it comes to dating. She certainly assumes an awareness of the hook-up culture and will reference some TV shows, websites and articles that express that culture. Some of it is in footnotes, and all is referenced for you to peruse on your own if you wish. But the general tone of things would not be scandalous to anyone on most of this country’s college campuses. It may, however, be a bit too much for a more sheltered young woman of high school (or even college) age. As I said in the warning below, if you are on the right page when it comes to sex before marriage, you will be fine. If you aren’t and need convincing, she does not directly addresses it as a moral issue but hits towards the end as an issue of prudence. 

So..down to brass tacks: 

WHO SHOULD READ The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After: 

1. Anyone who loves Jane Austen and has read her major books (or is at least familiar with her movies*)

2. The mothers of young women (or young men)** who are not ready to marry, but hope to, and are ready to read Jane Austen. The book could help you organize a literary study unit about Jane Austen and the world of friendships, manners, proper behavior, savvy interacting with the opposite sex, etc. 

3. Any single gal (or guy) who believes she (or he) is ready to marry and hopes to find (or thinks they may have found) the right person. (NOTE: if you have not read (or seen the movies I recommend reading the books first—thanks to my good friend Laurie who forced me to finish reading Emma in the parking lot of the movie theater before we went in to see it), especially Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion, and maybe even Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park you may learn more about what happens in those stories than you want to know prior to reading them, AND you may not get the points the author is making as well. 

4. Anyone who knows a single woman in want of a husband, or a single man (of great fortune or not) in want of a wife. 


Lots of great advice like: 
Don’t try to be a good wife before you are a wife.
Having a bad temper means living at other people’s emotional expense. 

You will learn how to identify and diagnosis men who are “afraid to commit” and what you can, or should, do about it. 

You will learn to be a discerning judge of real quality in human beings (including yourself).

You will learn how NOT to give up your freedom to choose a man from a position of independence. (for example: don’t “work on your relationship.” Work on figuring out whether you are going to—and should—have a relationship.)

In short, it was a delightful, informative read, and I highly recommend it! 

Notes and stuff: 

*Though I would avoid the most recent version of Mansfield Park specifically, and perhaps others. See my list of my favorite movie versions below. AND, consider reading the books anyway first. 

** Though women tend to be more inclined to Jane Austen, men could certainly benefit from the examples of Mr. Darcy, Mr Knightly, and Captain Wentworth (among others) as well as the examples of the heroines who give them a good pattern to look for in a wife. 

WARNING: I am just going to quote Auntie Leila over at Like Mother, Like Daughter because she says it simply: *I really recommend The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After. For girls it is a great discussion-starter – if they are very familiar with the books (and only if — no use ruining for them the best books ever written). When all is said and done, I think it’s good to be clear on one thing the book somewhat forgets to mention, which is that it’s a sin to engage in premarital sex. But with that as a given, it’s an intelligent exploration of what how to attain happiness with another person, Jane Austen–style.

My favorite movie versions of Jane Austen books….as long as you have already read them…:

Pride and Prejudice BBC (This one isn't too bad either, and this one was better than I expected) (Oh! And this take-off is kind of fun!)
Emma, as well as the Gwyneth Paltrow version,( though I prefer longer ones, more to enjoy!)
Sense and Sensibility (I have not seen the BBC version of this)
Persuasion (I have only seen this one, there are others though)
Mansfield Park (though I don't love it as much as some of the others above. Definitely avoid this one. It was not at all accurate and actually offensive)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Seriously! It's Just A Game!

Soccer. Maybe I am naive, but I never thought I would hear such vitriol about a sport from people with whom I generally agree about some of the the big things of life (like politics and religion). 

And the criticisms are pretty lame (in fact much of it boils down to "a lot of liberals like soccer so I must hate it.")

I know, I know. Most of these rants are meant tongue-in-cheek. 

Seriously though, the criticisms are revealing. They reveal people who are  uninterested in liking soccer. Which is fine! There is no reason why they need to. I can rail on and on about basketball being boring because I have no desire to watch it. 

But if you are going to criticize it, at least learn a little about the game. Most have not spent any time understanding the game. They are thinking primarily of the kid’s version of the game. 

Take Ann Coulter for example: 

Baseball and basketball present a constant threat of personal disgrace. In hockey, there are three or four fights a game -- and it's not a stroll on beach to be on ice with a puck flying around at 100 miles per hour. After a football game, ambulances carry off the wounded. After a soccer game, every player gets a ribbon and a juice box.  

She is comparing little kid's soccer games to professional hockey. Really? She has obviously never watched Clint Dempsey break his nose on someone else’s head (or was it a shoulder?). Not to mention that Brazilian player that cracked his vertebrae. 

I am not bragging about the brutality of soccer, I am just pointing out that you can’t make her argument if you have spent any time paying attention to the grown up version of soccer. 

Which leads me to MY criticism of soccer…and all other sports in this country and around the world. And Ann Coulter actually hits on this pervasive and troubling issue. She says: 

Most sports are sublimated warfare. 

So most sports involve men channeling their war-like tendencies into play. Fine. I get that at a certain level. The problem is that we are tempted to then raise the symbolic meaning of those sports to something noble (if we hold the soldier in high esteem) or we are tempted to be fearful of sports and moralize about how inhumane they are (if we hold the soldier in low esteem). 

Either way, we are taking sports too seriously. We are forgetting that sport is play. Watching it is entertainment. Pure entertainment. A distraction. Not a religious event (though some of the ceremonies and celebrations have all the marks of liturgy). Not a clash of civilizations or ideologies (though the intensity with which the fans defend their team and sport would lead you to believe otherwise). 

They are just play. Highly paid play. 

Perhaps Ms. Coulter would have been better off comparing kid’s soccer to kid’s hockey and kid’s football. And remind herself that the professional versions of those sports (all of them) are merely examples of society being willing to pay full grown men and women to play for their own diversion. And American football is no better than soccer at doing that. 

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with diversion or entertainment. Lets just remember that while sports can serve some good purposes, it is really all about fun.