Friday, November 16, 2012

Thinking of Dad

Today is his birthday. So I am just thinking about him. I reread my blog post from two years ago about a quintessential Steve Puccio story.

A favorite picture of D walking with his Grandpa on Hermosa Beach pier. 
Happy Birthday Dad! I still owe you a game of tennis, I think.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ulterior Motives

Boy: Mama, when the dryer buzzes I'll take the clothes out for you.
Me: That would be great, but I usually fold them when I take them out.
Boy: Oh, okay. I'll fold them then...
Ecstatic Me: Great!
Boy, overheard walking down the hall: ..and I can search the pockets for money as I take them out.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Texas Way

I wish I had a picture. 

But you will have to just imagine our first night in Texas
Think great hospitality, a drawl, and a tall cowboy 
(with hat and boots). 

We entered Texas this afternoon and are spending the night in Amarillo.

On our way to the hotel we spotted a Red Robin restaurant from the freeway. 

Red Robin is a Kennedy family favorite. During our last relocation (back to California from Aberdeen, Scotland) we stayed across the street from one and ate there so often we had our own table. So it seemed fitting to continue the tradition here in Texas

So, hours after crossing the border from New Mexico into Texas we set out for the Red Robin in Amarillo. 

The GPS didn't seem to know where it was, but we just kept driving in the general direction we thought we had seen it. 
When we pulled up, the parking lot was full and we were worried about the wait.

We were greeted by a young lady with a clip board. 
She asked if we had a confirmation number? 
A reservation? 

Then she attempted to politely explain that they were doing something (I didn't get what it was) that required reservations only for the weekend. She suggested we make a reservation for the next night. We said we were only in town tonight. We were disappointed but ready to go find something else. As we gathered the kids from the pinball machines a manager came up and said they would seat us. She said "We have tables, we won't turn you away." So we sat, and ordered. 
Jim ordered a Guinness 
(one of his favorite things about Red Robin is that he can order a tall Guinness). 

A minute later a tall man in cowboy boots and a cowboy hat with a thick Texas accent approached our table and asked Jim if his Guinness had a lot of foam on top. 

It seemed a strange question, but it turned out he was the owner, Bobby Reynolds, and wanted to make sure he hadn't shorted Jim two ounces of precious Guinness. 

As we talked with him we found out that he was the new owner of that particular restaurant, that he owned about a dozen Red Robins throughout Texas and that it was their "Mock Service" night---basically practice time for all the new employees (and the food was practically free). We all marveled at the irony that got us there that night, on their first night open, when we normally would not have been given a seat, 
an hour after they branded the restaurant 
(yes, he has a huge branding iron with his company name and they "brand" the side of the building on their opening night.) 

It turns out most of Cowboy Red's (the name of his company) Red Robins are in the Houston area 
(double irony)
and so he gave us his card with a note on the back signed by him. 

You can bet Red Robin will continue to be a Kennedy family favorite in this new chapter of our life. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Forever Connected (A Ten-Minute Tuesday Post)

A in Ardmore, Ireland, home of St. Declan. We prayed for these folk as we passed by them.

Last week we were on our way to an early appointment when traffic began to get very slow. Even in the carpool lane. I was annoyed. I was sure that there were whole bunches of carpool-lane-jumpers jamming up my lane. As I sat there fuming it occurred to me it could be an accident. Better pray. “Kids, say a prayer there may be an accident ahead”. I am not sure they heard me. 

Then I noticed the other side of the freeway was empty. Totally and completely empty. Now I was sure this was a very bad accident, or something worse, and it just happened. My mind went back to the clock, my appointment, would we make it? I fretted and prayed (both for our schedule to not be ruffled and for whomever was ahead and might need prayer.) An ambulance went by on our side. I could see some flashing lights ahead. 

As we crawled along I began to try and get over towards my exit. One mile to go. How long would this take me? Still no traffic in the opposite direction. Then things began to free up a little and I saw it on the other side. Lots of police cars. Yellow police tape. 

This didn’t look like an accident, this was something different. A police action of some kind. Too late to looky-loo, off my exit and only five minutes late for my appointment. 

A half hour later the traffic on the streets warned me not to try and get home right now. There aren’t many non-freeway choices in this area and they are all one lane each way. So, we trashed our schedule for the day and went to hang out at a nearby Barnes and Noble. With snack in hand I checked the iPad for news of the accident. 

That was when I learned that a police officer had been shot. He and the man who shot him were both in critical condition and the freeway was closed in both directions, indefinitely. We settled into wasting time at B&N, walking around town, and having lunch out. A major inconvenience turned into a nice day. 

Finally, we took the LONG way home and arrived about 4 hours after we originally had planned to get home. Inconvenience over....for us. Many were still stuck in traffic. 

And, as we learned later that night, one wife and her four children were mourning the death of their policeman husband and father. 

As I struggled with being late and annoying traffic, a man was meeting his maker. 

A week later we were in that town again and entering the freeway near the spot where he was shot. A news report at that moment told us of a memorial for the police officer that morning in a nearby town. Seconds later we passed the road-side display of flags, flowers and crosses in his honor. As we sped by the spot I began to tear up. I felt connected to this man and his family. I was there. I wasn’t aware at the time of what was going on, but I was on that freeway, caught in the consequences of the act that led to his death. Forever connected. 

Was it by design? Was I there to offer prayers at the moment of his death? It reminded me of 9/11. That day, eleven years ago, I was walking into early Mass, pregnant with my first born, having just heard that the second plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. It occurred to me that at that very moment people were dying. Souls were facing the ultimate interview. And I prayed for them, in front of the God that they would face. 

Sometimes it feels as if we are anonymous in this world, except to the few family and friends with whom we have contact. But in eternity we are all connected. We all depend upon each other. Kenyon Youngstrom. The Victims of 9/11. A college friend, John Leal, who died just after college. Mrs Slingsby, a classmate’s mother in elementary school These are some of the names that come to mind when we are asked at Mass to pray for those that have died. Souls forever connected to me via life’s experiences...little and big. 

May these souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. May their friends and family find peace and healing in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Join Ten Minute Tuesday at Testosterhome

Breakfast Conversation with a Boy

Mama, I know a fighting technique that the Syrians use that we might use. 

(this moment courtesy of Jim Weiss and his storytelling....and Steve Jobs and the iPod)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Literary Reference

A: Mama, remember that black spinny thing that was named after a character in Narnia?
Me: Huh?
A: You know, it was a Lucy something.
Me: Huh?
long, long pause
Me: OHHH!!! The Lazy Susan?
A: That’s it!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

WHAT IF....First Communion Edition

Guiseppe Sarto...future Pope Pius X. 

"... the fact that in ancient times the remaining particles of the Sacred Species were even given to nursing infants seems to indicate that no extraordinary preparation should now be demanded of children who are in the happy state of innocence and purity of soul, and who, amidst so many dangers and seductions of the present time have a special need of this heavenly food." 
 Decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Discipline of the Sacraments on First Communion August 8, 1910   Pope Pius X

Within a month of the 100th anniversary of this important document my two oldest received their First Holy Communion. At the time I attributed to Pope Pius X the extraordinary circumstances in which my six year old was invited to receive for the first time. I didn't, however, realize that the year 2010 marked 100 years since Pope Pius X had opened wide the doors to young children to approach Jesus in this intimate way. 

We are currently reading about this amazing man's life in The Farmer Boy Who Became Pope by Walter Dietelm. Just a few days ago we read about the promulgation of the document on First Holy Communion and the author suggested that children should celebrate this day in a special way. Of course the best way would be to attend Mass, which we hope to do today. We may also add a special dessert and maybe a craft or coloring page. 

Most of all, this anniversary gives me another opportunity to reflect on the wisdom of the Church, specifically in the person of Pope Pius X, in correcting the error of making children wait until they have jumped through so many hoops--think of St. Bernadette of Souburous who was made to wait until age 14 for her First Holy Communion because she could not articulate the teaching on the Trinity! 

Though this was done in an effort to safeguard the sacrament, as the Holy Father said at the time: 
It happened that children in their innocence were forced away from the embrace of Christ and deprived of the food of their interior life; and from this it also happened that in their youth, destitute of this strong help, surrounded by so many temptations, they lost their innocence and fell into vicious habits even before tasting of the Sacred Mysteries.
I can't help but think of our times--the 21st century-- when he speaks of "so many temptations" and "vicious habits". Do we risk the innocence of our children when we make them wait until they have reached a certain age, or grade level, or until they have been enrolled in at least two years of our precious parish programs? 

What if we truly believed in the power of this sacrament? What if we truly believed Jesus when He said "Let the little children come to me"? What if our priests said to parents "Bring your children to me when you see that they understand the difference between Sacramental Bread and ordinary bread and desire to receive Jesus in this way"?

I can hear all the DRE's crying out in objection here. But...but MOST parents won't/can't/will fake it/need to be forced to jump through hoops...

Why do we make policy based on those who abdicate their responsibilities....therefore punishing those who take their job as primary educators seriously? I am not talking about homeschoolers---I mean those who see that their child's growth in faith is in large part the responsibility of the parent. The First Communion class of 20 kids taught by someone else's mom should be the exception, not the rule!!

What if I could bring my six year old daughter to Father and say "I believe she is ready to make her First Confession and then go to Communion" and he would say "Lets meet next week and see what we can do." WHAT IF? 

THAT should be the norm. In my humble opinion. 

Oh...and also in the humble opinion of Pope St. Pius X who quotes the Roman Catechism in his document:

"At what age children are to receive the Holy Mysteries no one can better judge than their father and the priest who is their confessor. For it is their duty to ascertain by questioning the children whether they have any understanding of this admirable Sacrament and if they have any desire for it."

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Kids Are Alright?

As we sat down on Saturday morning to watch the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics in London, we were anxious to see the festivities in our temporary homeland. The landscape in the center of the arena was just what we hoped to see: a celebration of all that we loved about England. Kenneth Branaugh was in full costume ready to recite (which he did--from the Tempest). It was beautiful. There were children’s choirs from each of the “Isles” as well as costumed folks enjoying themselves across the countryside. 

Then, things began to change. Men and women rose from the green hills to transform the countryside into a dark industrial landscape. It was eerily Tolkienesque, but instead of monster-like creatures tearing up nature, you saw people working and sweating, dirty faces and clothes. The image painted was Industry with it’s boot on the neck of the people. 
The message portrayed was that factories controlled the means of production. But, in reality individuals controlled the means of production. In fact, the rise of industry marked the transformation of the economy, fueled by free market capitalism and providing  a rich soil for the growth of entrepreneurship. By the end of the Industrial Revolution, quality of life made a huge jump for most people. 
The rewriting of history didn’t stop there, though.   
First, the show skipped over World War II completely. Never mind Winston Churchill's words:  'This was their finest hour.’ Nope. Sorry Mr. Churchill. Apparently it wasn’t your finest hour. That was yet to come.
The scene then turns to a celebration of what 21st Century Britain apparently sees as their true crowning achievement: the National Healthcare System (NHS). A perfect example of government owning the means of production.

We saw nurses and doctors wheeling in old fashioned hospital beds (which, by the way, looked just like the ones we encountered when we lived there 6 years ago---minus the lights and the trampolines). On each bed was a child in pajamas. As the lights dimmed each child had a “nurse” to read to him, with JKRowling reading a few lines from JM Barrie’s Peter Pan (whose main character is an unintentional foreshadowing of things to come for Great Britain--the boy (the country) who didn’t want to grow up.) The story ends and the children reluctantly go to sleep, the nurses watching over. 
The image: the children of the nation left to the care of the government nurses.
Then comes the nightmare, or more exactly the beginning of the nightmare. Storybook villains seem to rise out of the beds, accompanied by some really freaky creatures that look like beefed up versions of the Flying Monkees from the Wizard of Oz. Just as the nightmare becomes overwhelming, the most famous Nanny of all time floats in on her umbrella. Mary Poppins to the rescue. 
Ahhh...Mary Poppins! Wise, sweet, fun, Mary Poppins. Remember that movie? We recently watched it with the kids and I was struck by something that I found quite sad. The parents. They were mostly absent from the day to day lives of the their children. True, Mary Poppins brings them back in and they end up flying kites with their kids....but  who do we remember? Who do the children in this celebration of Great Britain look to in the midst of their nightmare? The Nanny.  Is it Mary Poppins? Or is it really the government, symbolized by the all encompassing NHS, that takes over the parenting of a nation of children?
In fact, this scene ends with a giant baby in a giant bed surrounded by the NHS nurses and doctors. A symbol of a nation cared for by Nanny Government.

But, keep watching. Because, as I said, the nightmare is not over. The next scene shows us the age of mobile phones, texting, the internet and a generation of young people with a life driven by finding the next party. The commentators repeatedly mention the partying, and the unhappy parents who find the kids flash mobbing their homes. Youth are pitted against an adult world that tries in vain to get them to take life seriously. The nightmare. 
But, in Great Britain at least, it is a reality. 
Youth unemployment is up to 21% since 2007. What are those young people doing? How do they live? For many of them, they have been under the care of THE NANNY from age three. If they go on to university they still have no financial obligation until they are making at least 21,000 pounds a year, and then the price per month is 7.50. 
So, for you folks in Rio Linda, if you are one of the 21% that are unemployed or are in the half of the population that makes less than 30,000 a year (median gross income in the UK in 2011 was under 30K) then you have no school debt, no responsibility for those years. University was free for long as you aren’t too successful. 
What then? Life is a party. Gone is the hardworking world of young adults who built the London of the modern era. 
When we lived in London, and later in Scotland, we were struck by the party culture that seemed commonplace among the 40 and under set. You sit in an NHS waiting room surrounded by posters exhorting you to “stop drinking too much,” “check your ‘partner’ for STD’s,” and  “beware if you dare to cheat on your benefits--we will catch you.” If the warnings are any evidence of the perceived problems of the adult population, there are far too many people with nothing better to do than binge drink, sleep around and cheat on their Income Support benefits. 
THE NANNY is still in charge, but the kids aren’t behaving. 
The Opening Ceremonies went on to get darker and more confusing, we ended up fast-forwarding through most of it (the kids were watching, after all), but the lasting image was of a country who has completely embraced their dependence on a nanny government. 
The NOW that the UK celebrated that night is our FUTURE if we don’t stop the drift towards THE NANNY: Obamacare, rising unemployment, unprecedented numbers on welfare....need I say more?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Bones of St. Peter: In Which I am Still Telling the Same Story

And for the finish...are you still listening Michelle? 
(FYI: My niece spent the last few days telling my kids stories so it is only fair that she gets one too!)
Rome , June 2007. Looking out onto St. Peter's Square. Look how young those kids are!!!!!

And now for the rest of the story.....

Then, after years of waiting, the report was given: the bones were definitely from the first century and they were the bones of two different men and one woman. Both men, however, died in their early thirties. The bones could not possibly belong to St. Peter. It seemed as if, somewhere along those 2000 years, Peter’s bones had been lost. I was crushed!

But, Father continued his story. The excavations had not stopped when the bones had been found in the monument. One of the scientists still working on the excavations was a young female doctor of ancient Greek who had been called in to decipher the writings on the retaining wall built against the ancient Roman monument. Working from a picture, she found the name Peter written in Greek and a picture of what looked like keys. The woman asked to see the real wall and was granted a visit to the excavations. A security guard took her to the spot under St. Peter’s and stood by, holding a lantern, while she looked. The lady doctor looked at the wall and inside the hole near where the writing was found. At one point she said, under her breath, “I wish I could see what was in here.” The guard said proudly, “You can.”

Father Landry explained that it just so happened that the guard was one of two men present when the items in the hole were discovered years earlier. At the time of the discovery, the original set of bones was being tested, and excavations were continuing in surrounding areas. However, a water main broke and caused all officials to leave the site of the wall immediately, leaving the guard and one official who noticed the contents of the hole. Inside the wall were some bones and a slab of rock, which the official and the guard carefully boxed and stored.

The guard recounted the story and took the doctor to the warehouse, where they tracked down the box, containing bones and a slab of rock. Upon looking at the rock, the doctor immediately saw the name Peter in Greek.  Closer inspection revealed the phrase: Peter is here.

Our little tour group stood in silence. The damp, musty walls surrounded us, holding on to their secrets. Father continued the story. In the meantime, Pope Pius XII had died and Pope Paul VI was given the responsibility to continue the search. After some discussion and deliberation, it was decided to call the doctor who had tested the first set of bones. Again, they had to wait for him to be free, but eventually the bones were tested. Father paused while I held my breath. Were the bones really those of St. Peter? I knew that it wouldn’t shake my faith if they weren’t. I believed that Peter was martyred and buried there and that the basilica was built on his grave. However, if the bones were really found under the altar of St. Peter’s, my trust in tradition (not Tradition) would be strengthened.

Father Landry continued: The doctor’s report came back to the Vatican. The bones found in the retaining wall indeed dated to the first century and were all from one man, who died in his 60’s. In addition, the bones had purple die in them, indicating that they had been wrapped in very expensive royal cloth usually used to wrap the bodies of kings or emperors. If the body had been wrapped, the die would not have sunk into the bones, but would have disintegrated with the cloth and the flesh. It must have been the bones themselves that were wrapped, perhaps by Constantine as he prepared to build his large monument on the site.

My heart, which was at that point still in my throat, began to beat even harder as I realized that I was at that point standing just a few feet away from the bones of St. Peter. As Father had told us early in our tour, we were like those first century Christians who secretly visited the Roman grave yard on Vatican Hill, just to be near the great Peter.

In 1964, Pope Paul VI announced that the bones of St. Peter had been discovered. It was his job to decide whether the relics should be put on display for the veneration of the faithful, or left in their original spot—in the wall, under the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Pope decided that when Christ said, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church” (Mt. 16:18), He meant that spiritually (since the Vicar of Christ is the foundation on which the Church stands) AND he meant it physically—the Mother Church of all Churches stands on the bones of St. Peter himself. And there, to this day, those bones remain.

The Basilica of Peter is not just a beautiful building, though it is very definitely beautiful. It is, in fact, a visible, tangible symbol intended by God to point us to the deeper realities of our Faith. Christ founded His Church on the institution of the Papacy, beginning with the man Peter. That institution stands in tact, having been protected by the Holy Spirit for two millennia, as a means of protecting and passing on Divine Revelation. And the building built on Peter’s bones stands as a visible sign of Christ’s intentions for His Church.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bones of St. Peter: In Which I Tell The Same Story Again

This picture was taken in 2007 with M and D. 
In 2010 we lost a chance to visit one of our favorite places on earth, Rome, to an Icelandic Volcano. Don't feel too sorry for us though, since we have been three times before (not including the times both Jim and I went before we met). 
However, twelve years ago this month I made my first trip to that city. I was single (that state of being was soon to end....a story for another day) and traveled alone. 
Just this weekend we were treated to stories and pictures from my niece's semester in Rome. Since she too was able to take the incredible Scavi tour I decided to repost what I wrote after that first trip to Rome in 2000 about my own tour. This story is in large part why Rome is my favorite place on earth. 
Since it is long I will post it in two parts. 

In the summer of 2000, the great year of Jubilee, I had the privilege of taking a pilgrimage to Rome. Before I left, many more experienced pilgrims gave me their advice for my trip. Though I didn’t know it at the time, the best advice I received was to “go on the Scavi tour”.

At first, I didn’t know what a Scavi tour was. My friend graciously informed me that it was a tour of the excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica and then gave me the e-mail address for that office. I e-mailed and received my reservation for a tour. This was the extent of my preparation for what would be the highlight of my pilgrimage.

On that day, my friend and I arrived at St. Peter’s Basilica and proceeded to walk up to the Swiss Guards, as we were told. They stopped us with a raised hand and a stern look. I merely uttered the words: “Scavi Tour” and we were beckoned forward and directed to a small office where we waited for our guide and the rest of our group.

The guide was a young American priest, Fr. Roger Landry, who was just three days away from the first anniversary of his ordination. This would be one of the last tours he would give for a long time, since he was returning to the states.

The tour began and Fr. Roger set the stage. We were to imagine ourselves as first century Christians. He pointed his finger to a barely noticeable square of concrete in the center of the asphalt driveway on which we were standing. Father told us that this square marked the spot where the ancient obelisk was located in the center of the circus. He emphasized that this was the location of martyrdom for many of the early Christians. In fact, one very famous Christian was crucified upside down there a little less than 2000 years ago. Due to this person’s fame among Christians, a Roman guard saved his body from cremation and secretly buried it on Vatican Hill, the spot on which now sits St. Peter’s Basilica. I knew when I heard that the mysterious martyr had been crucified upside down that Fr. Roger was referring to St. Peter, the first pope. This was my first clue that the tour had anything to do with this famous early Christian.

Fr. Roger led our group through a hallway and into a small rock-walled room. It felt much like a museum in this room. There were several glass boxes with models of different buildings. We gathered around one such glass box and Father continued the story. St. Peter’s gravesite became an instant pilgrimage site and was secretly visited by many Christians who risked their lives to be near him. They would bring pieces of cloth to touch to his grave and bring back to their sick relatives. These were some of the first relics.

Eventually, Father explained, these Christians began to secretly bury their dead in the abandoned Roman graves of this graveyard in an effort to lay their loved ones close to St. Peter. At one point, Peter’s grave was disguised as a Roman grave with a small monument that usually indicated a military hero. Fr. Roger showed us a detailed model of this small monument.

The story says that when Christianity was legalized, Constantine built a large monument on the spot. Later the Basilica, which is the mother church of the worldwide Catholic Church, would be built. Apparently, this story of St. Peter’s bones had been passed on from generation to generation, but not since the third century had anyone actually seen the bones. I wondered what was the likelihood of Peter’s bones actually being under the basilica. Then Father Roger caught my attention with the next key to the story.

In 1939, while burying Pope Pius XI in the crypt under St. Peter’s, Vatican officials uncovered an ancient Roman wall. This was all the impetus they needed to begin excavations and see if they could possibly discover the bones of St. Peter somewhere under the Basilica.

Now I was fascinated. The story had become a great mystery since I had no idea that there had been any attempt to uncover the actual whereabouts of Peter’s bones. I couldn’t help but think of the incredible sign given by Christ Himself, if those bones were actually under the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. When Christ said “On this rock I will build my Church”, maybe He meant it both figuratively and physically!

My attention went back to Fr. Roger. He was explaining about the publicity surrounding these great archeological possibilities. Though the search for Peter’s bones was originally widely publicized, during World War II there was some fear of Hitler attempting to steal the bones-- if they were found. So, Pope Pius XII decided to take his project underground, so to speak. He staged a mock closing of the excavations, and secretly continued them throughout the war.

I followed Fr. Roger down dusty hallways with many twists and turns. The air was humid and an occasional rope blocked off an area where archeologists were still working on restoring a tomb. As I said above, this Roman graveyard had been slowly taken over by Christians some time in those early centuries. There were small rooms in which we could see ancient urns and early Christian mosaics intermingled with the Roman symbols. Fr. Roger commented on the fact that certain hallways that were open last week, were closed this week, and visa versa. All of these facts contributed to the excitement that was building in my chest. I felt as if I were there in the 1940’s, digging with archeologists and wondering if St. Peter’s bones would be found.

Father stopped our group in certain spots to continue the story. I stood as close as possible because I wanted to hear every word. The suspense kept building and I am sure that my mouth gaped open as my heart jumped to my throat.

He told us that eventually, the archeologists uncovered what looked like an ancient Roman monument and it was located directly beneath the altar of St. Peter’s, just as the tradition told them it would be. Reminding us of the model we saw at the beginning of our tour, he showed us that beyond a roped off pathway, through a small hole on the wall, we could see parts of that monument. I could see the edge of a small column.

He told us that some time in the forties, bones were found in the center of that monument, just where they should be. Excitement filled the little room in which we stood, much as it must have filled that same room some sixty years earlier. The Vatican quickly found a world-renowned doctor to test the bones and see if indeed they belonged to a first century man who died in his 60’s, as Peter would have. However, the doctor needed time to clear his schedule and set aside the many months it would take.

Pope Pius XII believed the bones of St. Peter had been found and had brought some small fragments to his chamber in a reliquary. He and all the archeologists and the few Vatican officials in on the search awaited the doctor's word. Then, after years of waiting, the report was given: 

Were these the bones of St. Peter?
Think you know the rest of the story?
Stay tuned to find out....same blog-time, same blog-channel......

(click here for part 2)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Proof of Life and Dirt

 This blog post is proof that I am still out there in cyber space.
And these pictures are proof that I let my kids play with dirt yesterday!
How very earth-mother of me, don't you think?
Farmer A.
Those little mounds of dirt and grass are bricks. We are studying California and they discovered that the Indians made adobe bricks out of mud, so why can't they do it too?

M is trying to hide from the sun and find some mud under the mulch. 

So, his plan is to make enough bricks to build a small house and then use it as a little prayer chapel. 

Aren't kids great! They see something done, and they automatically think "I can do that" and then they set out to do it. And soon enough they will discover they can't actually build a building with the materials at hand and they will either downsize their expectations (to a small wall, or maybe just playing in mud) or they will be momentarily disappointed and then on to the next project. 
For the record, we were NOT celebrating Earth Day (at least not on purpose) and my dirty kids were met at the door and dusted off, stripped of dirty shoes, socks, and pants and sent upstairs to change. Letting kids get dirty is all fine and dandy, but I have my limits.


These pictures have nothing to do with dirt. But we did have St. George's Flag Waffles for breakfast today in honor of his feast.
 The plan is to make a dragon cake for after dinner. Here is our cake from two years ago...think we skipped it last year.

No doubt she was being a dragon. I should post some pictures of all her dragon art someday soon. Also notice the big gapping hole in her smile...two lost teeth in less than a week! And both times the Tooth Fairy had to be reminded the next morning. She was gracious and offered to act surprised after I put in under her pillow. 

Happy Feast of St. George!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Moment of the Incarnation

The Incarnation of Jesus by Piero Di Cosimo

I first saw this image in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. I was there on a personal pilgrimage to see another work of art in a Dominican Church nearby. I discovered this painting during my cultural afternoon walking the famous gallery. I am not an expert on art or art history, but I wanted to soak up as much of Florence as I could. 

I remember the sun shining into the gallery that afternoon and it struck the painting right about the spot where the Holy Spirit hovers over the image of Our Lady. I stood and stared, and examined the light fixtures nearby, but I was never sure if that luminous feeling I got from the painting was the sunlight shining on it, or the artist's expert hand in painting it. I just recall being transfixed. 

I was also fascinated by the title: The Incarnation of Jesus. My first reaction in looking at the painting was to recall the Annunciation. Just barely visible in the upper left corner is the scene with Mary and the Angel Gabriel. Opposite you can see Mary being led on the donkey by Joseph. You can also identify the Adoration of the Magi, and the angel's announcement to the shepherds. In the center of course is a very pregnant Blessed Mother with the Dove, recalling the Holy Spirit, hovering above her. And around her are saints, including St. Catherine, St. Peter and John the Evangelist. I also noticed the book on the floor and wondered if it was meant to recall the moment that the Angel Gabriel interrupted her prayer (Mary is often  depicted as reading the Scriptures when the Angel appears). 

Then, I thought about the fact that as she said "Be it done unto me" she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and the most incredible event in the history of mankind took place silently, invisibly, in her womb. The Incarnation. I had never seen, that I could recall, an artist attempt to depict the moment of The Incarnation. 

I have been mesmerized by this picture ever since. Of course copies can never recreate exactly that experience of seeing it in person in that famous gallery. 

I have since seen the image titled "The Immaculate Conception with Saints" which I thought was a very unfortunate title since it perpetuates that myth that the Immaculate Conception refers to Jesus being conceived in the womb of Mary, rather than Mary's sinless conception in the womb of Saint Anne. It is possible that this name is meant to refer to Mary under her title as "The Immaculate Conception", but, since this was painted some 400 years before the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was declared I think it does not do the artist's intent justice. I will always call it The Incarnation

I have a framed print of this image in my kitchen, next to my Kitchen Madonna. The picture came from a calendar I found a few years back (and it had the unfortunate title under it, not to mention having the sides chopped off to fit into the page it was on...if ever I find a good print of it I will buy it!). I will place it on our table today as we unpack the great mysteries contained in today's feast. 

This morning at Mass I was having one of my usual whispered theological discussions with six year old A who wanted to know how God created fire. I was telling her that God creates by His Word, that He says "Let there be.." and then it is. I listed some of the "Let there be"s from the creation story and I ended by saying "And then one day He said 'Let there be Annabellle' and you began to grow in my belly". She smiled at this and it seemed to end the discussion. But, I kept thinking...

Today we celebrate the "Let There Be" that changed the world: The Incarnation. We also recall Mary's response, speaking for all mankind: "Let it be done unto me". Each of us has been created by a "Let There Be" and we each must make our own response: "Let it be done unto me". The Word is spoken and we must respond. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Hill, A Rock, A Well, A Beer

Below is last year's St. Patrick's Day post with pictures from our trip to Ireland (which was in 2009). Reposting in honor of St. Patrick's Day 2012!

Since we are still eating our green rice krispie treats, I think it is still okay to post about St. Patrick...right?

A little over a year ago we had the great privilege of traveling to Ireland. Though our original intent was to connect to St. Declan (a special family saint for us and a predecessor to St. Patrick), we found ourselves very taken with the story of the more famous Saint of Ireland.

The view behind M is what can be seen from the Hill of Slane. This is the spot where St. Patrick lit his famous Paschal Fire to challenge the Druid Kings and convert the local people to the One True God. As you can see, it would have been visible for miles around.

D poses among the ruins of Slane Abbey. There is a graveyard there as well, with some very recent graves. Somewhere along the way we read that, to this very day, a local priest and his congregation gather on the Hill of Slane each Holy Saturday night to light a Paschal Fire. 
Hidden amongst the dandelions that A is clutching is a real live shamrock. The kids found the three and four leaf clovers all over the hill, which made for some fun catechesis. The dandelions were supposed to be for Grandma and Grandpa (no matter to her that we wouldn't see them for months....she held tight to them just the same. And I have no doubt there was a small tantrum had someplace along the Irish countryside when they were lost or wilted)

We also visited the Hill of Tara, sometimes called the Hill of the Kings which was the seat of the Druid kings of St. Patrick's day. Once a year the Druids lit a fire on this hill that was meant to stand out as a beacon to all within eye sight of the hill. All other fires were outlawed on that night. And on one such night, in the 5th century, the Druid Kings were shocked to see anther fire burning bright on a nearby hill.
It was the Paschal fire lit by St. Patrick. 

Now there stands a statue of St. Patrick on the Hill of Tara.
St Patrick, pray for us!

Another famous St Patrick spot is the Rock of Cashel with its ancient ruins and stormy weather 
(well at least it was windy and rainy the day we were there....I'm sure it isn't EVERY day!)

 This spot was the traditional seat of the Kings of Munster since St. Patrick converted King Aenghus to Christianity, which is why it is also called St. Patrick's Rock.

And if you have the energy, you can walk from the Rock of Cashel to Ardmore, were St. Declan began the Christianization of Ireland some years before St. Patrick. 

You can see the ruins of St Declan's Church in the background, and his famous well with it's healing waters is still there at the base of that wall. The blue water and beautiful beaches explain why Ardmore is a resort town. 

And speaking of healing waters, no pilgrimage to Ireland would be complete without a trip to that other famous Irish well, the Guinness warehouse. 
Which, by the way, if you ever get a chance to go, is a great little field trip. 
It was a high-tech, multi-sensory lesson about barley, hops and barrel making.
Seriously....the whole family loved it!
And not just because of the free beer at the end...only Jim loved that part.