Impediments to Spiritual Progress – Counsels of Perfection

by Marie Spartali Stillman 1885

From Counsels of Perfection for Christian Mothers

My daughters, I seek an answer to a most important question: Why do we not advance? The subject is too broad to be treated in one chapter, so we shall divide it.

Here is the first answer: We do not advance because we are ignorant of the things we ought to know. We do not advance because our intelligence is not sufficiently enlightened, that is, we do not possess, in an adequate degree, the science of the things of God.

Are you fully aware of the importance of light in the spiritual life? If you ask me what relation there is between clear knowledge and progress in the matter of spirituality, I will tell one simple sentence: Knowledge always precedes love. Suppose, for example, that you have before you the most beautiful picture in the world; if you close your eyes so as not to see it, or if, on account of some distraction, you see it obscurely, will you love it? Never! It would be impossible for you to love it under these conditions.

Again, if after partly opening your eyes you close them again, or direct them towards some other object, will you love this picture? Perhaps, but how superficially! You have not sufficiently regarded the object before you; you are not well enough acquainted with it to admire it, to say nothing of loving it.

Let us apply this principle to our subject. However admirable and worthy of love God may be in Himself, and whatever admiration and love the things of God may merit, you will love God, and the things of God, only when you know Him and then in the measure in which you ought to know them.

Here I must anticipate a false interpretation of my words. From what has been said pray do not conclude, that spiritual progress is intended only for the learned, and that in order to strive for perfection, it is necessary to possess a mighty intellect and profound learning.

There are two kinds of knowledge. The one resides in the mind and consists in merely knowing one’s religion. This sort of knowledge is worth little or nothing. If it does not stimulate the heart and direct the conduct, it will be a source of condemnation.

The second kind of knowledge is that which is acquired by meditation, that is to say, by fixing the mind on the things of God and contemplating them seriously and profoundly; but above all, it consists in loving them. Now the poorest servant who knows neither how to read or to write is as capable of acquiring this knowledge as the most learned doctor.

Certain geniuses like St. Bonaventure, or St. Thomas, have possessed this knowledge in all its fullness, but a poor menial in their convent could have attained it as well as these princes of the Church. For example, it is related that a poor servant to whom St. Bonaventure had expounded the truth that I have just set forth, ran to every one whom he met, crying out in his excess of love: “Do you know that I can love God just as much as our great theologian, Brother Bonaventure?”

This humble servant loved God as much as the great Bonaventure, because he had acquired that knowledge of God which is founded on prayer and meditation.

My daughters, we are all capable of acquiring this knowledge, regardless of our degree of intellectual culture; and if your progress in the spiritual life has been slow or insignificant, it is due to the fact that you have not sufficiently known God nor the things of God.

Let us now consider the principal points of this knowledge. Do you reflect profoundly on your dependence upon that God who has given you life, who conserves it, and in whose hands you rest like a crystal globe which would break into a thousand pieces were that hand withdrawn?

How important it is for you to know your true situation relative to God, you must remember that he has every right over you, and that in relation to Him you have only duties!

How necessary it is for you to be convinced that His presence envelops you on all sides, that His eye follows you everywhere, and that nothing of your inmost life, thoughts, desires or affections, can ever escape that infinitely penetrating eye!

My daughters, do you consider well what your lives would be, what a great change they would undergo, if these fundamental truths were profoundly engraved on your minds? Do you not know that they would direct your conduct, and hold you unceasingly in your place relative to God?

Are you well acquainted with Jesus Christ? Do you meditate on His mysteries? Do you study that Heart which inspired all His actions? Are you convinced that the Incarnation, the Redemption and the Holy Eucharist are proofs of His love?

Do you center your thoughts especially on the Eucharist? Does It arouse an immense gratitude in you? Oh, if we had a profound knowledge of what the Eucharist really is, we should be astonished that the entire universe does not bow down in adoration before the tabernacle.

But alas! is not Jesus in the Sacred Host a stranger to many among you, my daughters? Is not the manner in which you treat Him after Communion a sad fulfillment of the words of St. John: “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not”?

Permit me to acquaint you with a very important subject for meditation. I refer to the supernatural life, the life of grace that is within you. The angels contemplate with ecstasy the marvelous operations of grace in your souls. They are astonished at the goodness of that God who gives to His creatures the treasure of all treasures, divine life. And do you ever give it a thought?

Seldom if ever do you reflect on the fact that grace has deified you, and yet more seldom do you center your eyes on those marvels of grace which are continually taking place in your souls.

How astonishing it is that you take so little pains to augment divine grace in your souls? How strange it is that you do not use all the prudence necessary to guard and protect this treasure.

My daughters, let us now make a serious examination of conscience, and be convinced that if we have not advanced in the spiritual life, it is owing to the fact that our knowledge of God and divine things has been very insufficient.

Let us promise our Lord that we shall strive to acquire this knowledge by serious meditation on all the great truths which have just been expounded. Let us strive to know God better, so that we may love Him more ardently.

Be sure to treat all alike. Nothing is so disrupting to home life as favoritism for one or the other child. The same measure for all! – Christ in the Home, 1950’s, Fr. Raoul Plus, S.J

Thank you so much for the prayers for my mom. She is still having a rough time so please keep her in your prayers! She loves to sit outside among her flowers and listen to the birds sing and feel the warm sunshine!

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A wonderful book showing how the angels have visited people innumerable times in the past, how they do so today, and would do even more if we asked them. Also, how they prevent accidents, comfort us, help us, and protect us from the devils. Contains many beautiful stories about St. Michael, St. Raphael and St. Gabriel; plus, angel stories from St. Gemma Galgani, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John Bosco, etc.

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A very optimistic book showing how an “ordinary” Catholic can become a great saint without ever doing anything “extraordinary”–just by using the many opportunities for holiness that to most people lie hidden in each day. Written with an assurance of success that is totally convincing and infectious. Many easy but infallible means of reaching great sanctity.

 

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Examination of Conscience – How To Raise Good Catholic Children

Teach Your Child to Pray: Examination of Conscience

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How to Raise Good Catholic Children, by Mary Reed Newland

The first thing, after “Dear Blessed Jesus,” or whatever children like to call Him best, is their examination of conscience, because it’s easier to settle down to a really good talk with God after we get our sins out of the way.

This is why the Mass starts with the penitential rite. The important thing about a child’s examination of conscience is that he be assured that his parents will not scold him if he reveals some carefully concealed guilt of the day.

His sins are sins against God, not his parents, and he will not hesitate to drag out the most jealously guarded secrets if he’s certain his parents understand that he’s confessing to God, not to them, and that they will resist the temptation to lecture.

For instance, in the summertime we have a problem called “dirt in the hair.” Every night the children turn up at bedtime with their heads gritty with topsoil. The culprit is conspicuous, if at all, only by his silence — until he examines his conscience.

“I poured dirt on everybody’s head because I felt like it.” The immediate reaction of any normally weary mother facing a lineup of shampoos is at least mild rage, but in the face of such a confession freely made, the only permissible comment is, “Are you really sorry?” to lead the self-accused to a sincere act of contrition.

“I am sorry, and please help me not to do it again.”

Here they learn to guard against presumption. The inclination is to vow solemnly that they will never do it again (O happy day!), but sanctity does not come that easily. Unless they beg for the grace to reform, they are apt to do it again and again.

Some days are quite good, and they will charge into night prayers loudly with, “I was very good today, God!”

With presumption again in mind, it is better to say something like, “I tried to be good today, but if I did anything to offend You, I am sorry. Please help me never to offend You again.”

Not all children are shouters at prayers, but we have had some who were, and their attempts to make themselves heard way off in Heaven certainly robbed their prayers, while not of sincerity, at least of privacy.

Learning that God is near, is here, is everywhere, and can hear even the whispered prayers and secret thoughts, is a wonderful discovery for shouters and non-shouters alike and, incidentally, covers one whole lesson in the catechism: Where is God? If God is everywhere, why don’t we see Him? Does God see us? Does God know all things? Can God do all things? Is God just, holy, and merciful?

The answers to all these questions can be learned in the course of the many interruptions to night prayers. “How can He hear me if I don’t even see Him? When did He come in? Did He come in the door? Can He come through the wall? Could He see a mouse in the wall? A mosquito on the ceiling? If I just think my prayers, can He hear them?”

If the question about God’s being just, holy, and merciful seems a bit difficult, it fits in when we explain that confessing the sins of the day is something entirely between them and God, and is the reason — when correction and punishment are a mother’s and father’s concern elsewhere — they do not belong at night prayers. One sins against God, who can already see the sin, and see the sorrow for it, and will reward a sincere confession with forgiveness and the grace to do better next time.

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“Religious have no need of particular friendships, but those living in the world need them as a mutual strength and aid in the many difficult passages that have to be crossed.
For those who live in the midst of the world and yet strive for true virtue, it is necessary to ally themselves to one another by a holy and sacred friendship through which they stimulate, assist and encourage each other toward good.Those who walk on level ground do not need to hold hands, but those who climb steep and slippery roads need to hold on to each other in order to progress more securely.” -St. Francis de Sales
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Come and visit Meadows of Grace for some good book suggestions…..

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A masterpiece that combines the visions of four great Catholic mystics into one coherent story on the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Based primarily on the famous revelations of Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich and Ven. Mary of Agreda, it also includes many episodes described in the writings of St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Elizabeth of Schenau. To read this book, therefore, is to share in the magnificent visions granted to four of the most priviledged souls in the history of the Church.

In complete harmony with the Gospel story, this book reads like a masterfully written novel. It includes such fascinating details as the birth and infancy of Mary, her espousal to St. Joseph and her Assumption into Heaven where she was crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth.

For young and old alike, The Life of Mary As Seen by the Mystics will forever impress the reader with an inspiring and truly unforgettable understanding of the otherwise unknown facts concerning Mary and the Holy Family. Imprimatur.

He was called the man of his age, the voice of his century. His influence towered above that of his contemporaries, and his sanctity moved God himself. Men flocked to him–some in wonder, others in curiosity, but all drawn by the magnetism of his spiritual gianthood. Bernard of Clairvaux–who or what fashioned him to be suitable for his role of counseling Popes, healing schisms, battling errors and filling the world with holy religious and profound spiritual doctrine? Undoubtedly, Bernard is the product of God’s grace. But it is hard to say whether this grace is more evident in Bernard himself or in the extraordinary family in which God choose to situate this dynamic personality. This book is the fascinating account of a family that took seriously the challenge to follow Christ… and to overtake Him. With warmth and realism, Venerable Tescelin, Blesseds Alice, Guy, Gerard, Humbeline, Andrew, Bartholomew, Nivard and St. Bernard step off these pages with the engaging naturalness that atttacks imitation. Here is a book that makes centuries disappear, as each member of this unique family becomes an inspiration in our own quest of overtaking Christ.

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Feast of the Ascension – History and Liturgy

by Father Frank Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs

On Thursday of the sixth week after Easter ( forty days after Easter Sunday ), the Church celebrates the Feast of the Ascension. According to the Bible, on that day the Lord commissioned His Apostles to preach the Gospel to all nations; then, having blessed them, “He was lifted up before their eyes, and a cloud took him out of their sight” ( Acts 1, 9).

ORIGIN • The feast is of very ancient origin. As a mere commemoration of the event it certainly dates from apostolic times, since he Bible expressly mentions the day and its happenings. However, it seems that the Ascension was not celebrated as a separate festival in the liturgy of the Church during the first three centuries, but was included in the Feast of Pentecost.

The first one to mention it as an established and separate feast is Eusebius, Bishop of Nicomedia (341) At the end of the fourth century it was universally celebrated in the whole Roman Empire. Saint Augustine (430) attributed its origin to the Apostles themselves, probably because by his time it already was of such high traditional standing that it ranked with the greatest liturgical celebrations. He mentions as “solemn anniversaries” of the Lord the “Passion, Resurrection and Ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit.”

In the Greek Church, Saint Gregory of Nyssa (394) and Saint John Chrysostom (407) preached sermons on Ascension Day, which proves that at the end of the fourth century the feast was well established in the East, too.

From those early centuries the festival has remained a holyday of obligation up to this day.

CELEBRATION OF THE FEAST • As with the other feasts of the Lord, the early Church celebrated not so much the memory of the historical event of Christ’s ascension, but its theological significance. Saint John Chrysostom expressed it in these words: Through the mystery of the Ascension we, who seemed unworthy of God’s earth, are taken up into Heaven. . . . Our very nature, against which Cherubim guarded the gates of Paradise, is enthroned today high above all Cherubim.”

A similar thought is expressed in the words of the festive Preface in the Mass: “Christ was lifted up to Heaven to make us sharers in His divinity. ”

Perhaps the same theological aspect, in preference to the merely historical one, explains the interesting fact that in Jerusalem the earliest celebration of Ascension Day (in the fourth century) was not held on the Mount of Olives (although Saint Helena had built a splendid basilica there ), but in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, as if the end of Christ’s visible presence on earth would have to be honored in the very place of its beginning.” By the eight century, however, the Ascension feast in Jerusalem was solemnly kept on the Mount of Olives.”

PROCESSION • From the very beginning of its observance as a separate festival, the Ascension had a distinctive feature in the liturgical procession which went outside the city, and usually to the top of a hill, in imitation of Christ’s leading the Apostles “out towards Bethany” (Luke 24, 50).

In Jerusalem it was, of course, the original path that Christ took to the summit of the Mount of Olives. In Constantinople the suburb of Romanesia, where Saint John Chrysostom had preached his sermons on the Ascension, was chosen.

In Rome, the pope was crowned by the cardinals in his chapel after the morning service, and in solemn procession conducted to the church of the Lateran. From there, after the Pontifical Mass, toward noon, the procession went to a shrine or church outside the walls. The Epistle of the Ascension was read and a prayer service held.

This custom of the procession was introduced as a fairly universal rite in the Latin Church during the eighth and ninth centuries, but finally was replaced by the nonliturgical pageants of the High Middle Ages.

The only relic still extant in our present liturgy is the simple but impressive ceremony in every Catholic Church, after the Gospel of the Mass has been sung, of extinguishing the Easter candle.

In some sections of Germany and central Europe, however, semiliturgical processions are still held after the High Mass. Preceded by candles and cross, the faithful walk with prayer and song through fields and pastures, and the priest blesses each lot of ground.

ASCENSION WEEK • The Feast of the Ascension received an octave only in the fifteenth century. Before that time, the Sunday after the Ascension was called in the Roman books “Sunday of the Rose” (Dominica de Rosa).

On that Sunday the popes preached and held the solemn service at the church of Santa Maria Rotonda (the Pantheon), and, in token of the Lord’s promise that He would send the Paraclete soon, a shower of roses was thrown from the central opening of the church immediately after the pope’s sermon.

Even today, the Mass of Sunday is mainly devoted to the thought of the coming Feast of Pentecost. In the Epistle, Saint Peter describes the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit, the virtue of charity (1 Peter 4, 7-11); and, in the Gospel, Christ promises to send the Paraclete (John 15, 26-16, 4).

In the Greek Church this Sunday forms the Feast of the Three Hundred and Eighteen Holy and Godly Fathers of Nicaea. It is a solemn commemoration of the great council of 325 in which the Arian heresy was condemned and Mary’s title as “Mother of God” was unanimously confirmed.

Some hermits and ascetics in the early centuries claimed (against the general practice of the Church) that from Ascension Day on they could and should return to their penitential exercises and fasts, because Christ was with the Apostles for only forty days.

Thus the Octave of the Ascension was turned by them into a period of fasting and penance. The Council of Elvira (about 303) condemned this claim and insisted on the universal practice of keeping the time of joy (without fast and penance) up to Pentecost.

NAMES • All Christian nations have accepted the liturgical term of “Ascension” for the feast (Ascensio in Latin, Analepsis in Greek). The German word Himmelfahrt has the same meaning (Going up to Heaven). The Hungarians have a popular term, “Thursday of the Communicants” (Aldozo esiitortok), because in past centuries Ascension was the last day for receiving the annual Easter Communion in that country.

A second liturgical title is used in the Byzantine Church: “Fulfilled Salvation” (Episozomene in Greek, Spasovo in Slavonic). This term signifies what Saint Gregory of Nyssa expressed in one of his sermons: “The Ascension of Christ is the consummation and fulfillment of all other feasts and the happy conclusion of the earthly sojourn of Jesus Christ.”

FOLKLORE ASCENSION PLAYS • During the tenth century some dramatic details were added to the liturgical procession on Ascension Day in the countries of central and western Europe.

In Germany it became a custom for priests to lift a cross aloft when the words Assumptus est in coelum (He was taken up into Heaven) were sung at the Gospe1.

From the eleventh century on, the procession was gradually dropped in most countries and in its place a pageant was performed in church. These “Ascension plays” have never been accorded official approval or liturgical status by the Roman authorities.

By the thirteenth century it had become a fairly general custom to enact the Ascension by hoisting a statue of the Risen Christ aloft until it disappeared through an opening in the ceiling of the church.

While the image, suspended on a rope, moved slowly upward, the people rose in their pews and stretched out their arms toward the figure of the Savior, acclaiming the Lord in prayer or by hymn singing. Hundreds of reports in old books from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries contain vivid descriptions of this ancient custom.

One of the most charming examples is the Ascension play of the Bavarian monastery in Moosburg, recorded by the priest and poet Johann von Berghausen (1362).

In the center of the church, directly underneath an opening in the ceiling, a platform decorated with colored cloths and flowers was erected. On this platform stood a little tent, open at the top, which represented the Mount of Olivet. Inside the tent was placed a statue of the Risen Christ, holding high the banner of victory.

A strong rope that hung down from the ceiling was fastened to a ring on top of the wooden image. After Vespers (in the afternoon), a solemn procession moved from the sacristy to the platform. It was led by two boys in white dresses. They impersonated angels; on their shoulders they wore wings and on their heads little wreaths of flowers.

They were followed by a young cleric who represented the Blessed Virgin, “dressed in the robes of holy and honorable widowhood.” To his right and left walked clerics enacting Saint Peter and Saint John.

Behind them came ten other clerics in Oriental gowns; they were barefoot, and on their foreheads they carried diadems inscribed with the names of the Apostles. The altar boys and priests, vested in festive garb, concluded the group.

In front of the platform, the deacon sang the Gospel of Ascension Day, and the choir intoned the antiphon, “I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20, 17).

The priests then venerated the image of Christ with inclinations and incense. Finally, while the choir sang Ascendit Deus in altum, alleluia (God rose on high), the statue was slowly pulled aloft.

As it rose higher and higher, a few figures of angels holding burning candles came down from “Heaven” to meet the Lord and to accompany him on his journey.

From a large metal ring that was suspended below the opening, there hung cloths of silk representing clouds. Between these “clouds” the image of the Savior slowly and solemnly disappeared. A few moments later, a shower of roses, lilies, and other flowers dropped from the opening; then followed wafers in the shape of large hosts.

The schoolchildren were allowed to collect these flowers and wafers, to take them home as cherished souvenirs.

Father Berghausen explains this custom as follows: “The little ones collect the flowers which symbolize the various gifts of the Holy Spirit. The wafers indicate the presence of Christ in His Eucharistic Body, which remains with us, under the species of bread, to the end of time.”

While the congregation stood with eyes raised to the ceiling, the two “angels” intoned the final message of Ascension Day, which predicts the triumphant coming of the Lord on the clouds of Heaven, for the great judgment at the end of the world: “Why do you stand looking up to heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, shall come in the same way as you have seen him going up to heaven” (Acts 1, 11). The celebration was concluded with solemn Benediction.

OTHER CUSTOMS • It was a widespread custom in many parts of Europe during the Middle Ages to eat a bird on Ascension Day, because Christ “flew” to Heaven. Pigeons, pheasants, partridges, and even crows, graced the dinner tables.

In western Germany bakers and innkeepers gave their customers pieces of pastry made in the shapes of various birds. In England the feast was celebrated with games, dancing, and horse races.

In central Europe, Ascension Day is a traditional day of mountain climbing and picnics on hilltops and high places.

It is difficult for a child to be better than his home environment or for a nation to be superior to the level of its home life. -Fr. Lovasik, The Catholic Family Handbook

Painting by Mark Keathley

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The Troubles of Life and The Fear of Being Without

Painting by Alfredo Rodriguez

from Searching For and Maintaining Peace by Father Jacques Phillipe
Searching for and Maintaining Peace

The most common reason for which we could lose our sense of peace is a fear caused by certain situations which touch us personally and in which we feel threatened, apprehensions in the face of present or future difficulties, fear of lacking something important, of not succeeding in such and such a project, and so forth. The examples are infinite and touch all sectors of our lives; health, family and professional life, moral life and the spiritual life itself.

In fact, in each instance, it concerns a good of an extremely variable nature, material goods (money, health, power) or a of a moral nature (human capabilities, esteem, the affection of certain people) or of a spiritual nature; goods that we desire or consider necessary and are afraid to lose or not acquire, or which we in fact lack. And the restlessness generated by this lack, or the fear of lacking, causes us to lose our peace.

Faced with such a situation, what, then, could allow us to remain always at peace? Human resources and wisdom, with their precautions, their expectations, their reservations and assurances of all sorts certainly will not suffice.

Who can guarantee himself the assured possession of any kind of good, whatever its nature? It is not by making certain calculations and preoccupations that one is going to find a solution. But who of you can add any time to your life by all his worrying? (Matthew 6:27).

Man is never assured of obtaining anything, and everything which he hold in his hands can easily slip from his grasp from one day to the next; there is no guarantee on which he can count absolutely.

And this is certainly not the way that Jesus teaches us. He says, on the contrary, whoever would save his life will lose it (Matthew 16:25).

One could even say that the surest way to lose one’s peace is precisely to try to assure one’s own life solely with the aid of human industry, with personal projects and decisions or by relying on someone else.

In what state of anxiety and torment does one place himself who thus seeks to save himself, given our powerlessness, our limited forces, the impossibility of foreseeing so many things and the deceptions that can come from those we count on.

To preserve peace in the midst of the hazards of human existence, we have only one solution; We must rely on God alone, with total trust in Him, as Your heavenly Father knows what you need (Matthew 6:32).

That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, not about your body and how you are to clothe it. Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the sky. they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Are you not worth much more than they are? But which of you can add any time to your life by worrying?

And why do you worry about clothing? Look how the lilies of the field grow; they neither work nor spin; yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his glory was robed like one of these.

But if God so clothes the grass of the field which is here today and thrown into the oven tomorrow will He not clothe you much better, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying,’What will we eat?’ or, ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘What will we wear?’ It is the Gentiles who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them. (Matthew 6:25-32).

Evidently, Jesus does not want to forbid us to do whatever is necessary to earn our food, to clothe ourselves and to provide for all our other needs. But He wants to deliver us from the worry that gnaws away at us and causes us to lose our peace.

Nevertheless, many are shocked by these words and do not fully welcome them; they are even scandalized by this manner of viewing things. Still, what useless suffering and torment they would save themselves, if they would only take seriously these words which are God’s, and words of love, of consolation and of an extraordinary tenderness.

Our great drama is this: Man does not have confidence in God. Hence he looks in every possible place to extricate himself by his own resources and renders himself terribly unhappy in the process rather than abandon himself into the tender and saving hands of his Father in heaven. Yet, how unjustified this lack of confidence is!

Isn’t it absurd that a child would thus doubt his Father, when this Father is the best and most powerful Who could exist, when He is the Father in heaven? In spite of that, it is in this absurdity that we most frequently live.

Listen to the gentle reproach that the Lord addressed to us through the mouth of Saint Catherine of Siena:

Why don’t you have confidence in me, your Creator? Why do you rely on yourself? Am I not faithful and loyal to you?

Redeemed and restored to grace by virtue of the blood of my only Son, man can then say that he has experienced my fidelity.

And, nevertheless, he still doubts, it would appear, that I am sufficiently powerful to help him, sufficiently strong to help and defend him against his enemies, sufficiently wise to illuminate the eyes of his intelligence or that I have sufficient clemency to want to give him whatever is necessary for his salvation.

It would appear that I am not sufficiently rich to make his fortune, not beautiful enough to make him beautiful; one might say that he is afraid not to find enough bread in my home to nourish himself, nor clothing with which to cover himself.” (The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena)

How many young people, for example, hesitate to give their lives entirely to God because they do not have confidence that God is capable of making them completely happy. And they seek to assure their own happiness by themselves and they make themselves sad and unhappy in the process.

This is precisely the great victory of the Father of Lies, of the Accuser: succeeding in putting into the heart of a child of God distrust vis-a-vis his Father!

It is, however, marked with this distrust that we come into this world. This is the original sin. And all our spiritual life consists precisely in a long process of reeducation , with a view to regaining that lost confidence, by the grace of the Holy Spirit Who makes us say anew to God: Abba, Father!

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“Painful trials strengthen our faith and make it purer, more supernatural; the soul believes, not because of the consolation that faith gives it, not because it trusts in its feelings or enthusiasm, not even in the little it does understand of the divine mysteries, but it believes only because God has spoken. When the Lord wishes to lead souls to a more intimate union with Himself, He almost always makes them undergo such trials; then is the moment to give Him testimony of our faith by throwing ourselves, with our eyes closed, into His arms.” – Divine Intimacy
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The saints have often praised the humility of Our Lady… unsurpassed by any saint. A Benedictine monk wrote in the 700’s: “Oh, truly blessed is Mary’s glorious humility! Blessed, I say, because she became the gate of paradise and was made the stairway to heaven! Surely, the humility of Mary is the heavenly stairway by which God came down to earth” (Ambrose Autpert in Mary in the Middle Ages, Gambero, p. 47). The saints have often noted that it was Blessed Mary’s humility that drew the Lord down from heaven to enter her womb. God finds humility irresistible and He will not be outdone in humility…

Do you need some good reading suggestions. Visit My Book List.

Painting by Alan Murray

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Preparing for Pentecost – Maria von Trapp

Ascension Thursday is just around the corner….Thursday, May 21st. Then follows Pentecost Sunday….May 31st.

The following is a lovely excerpt from Maria von Trapp’s Around the Year with the Trapp Family. It is an excellent way to prepare your family’s hearts for the coming of the Holy Ghost! 

On Ascension Day begin the nine days of waiting and preparing, together with the Apostles and Mary, the coming of the Holy Ghost.

These are the days when families should discuss the “Gifts of the Holy Ghost” and the “Fruits of the Holy Ghost” evening after evening.

As I look back over the years I marvel at how different these discussions were every year, always full of surprises, partly because there were different people participating–guests of the family or new friends of the children–who do not ordinarily hear the workings of the “Gifts of the Holy Ghost” discussed around the family table.

We devote one whole evening to each one of the gifts. First is the Gift of Knowledge, offered to help us in our dealings with inanimate and animate created nature, with things and people.

It teaches us to make use of them wisely, and to refrain from what is dangerous for us. As we consider a typical day, we discover that this gift is needed from the very moment of awakening, when we have to part from the created thing “bed.”

The younger ones discover that the Gift of Knowledge helps them to remember that they have to make use of such created things as the toothbrush and the shower. In fact, there is hardly a moment of the day in which we do not have to make decisions about using something or dealing with somebody, and when we do not need the immediate help from the Holy Spirit to carry us safely through the day.

The second evening is devoted to the Gift of Understanding, which is extended to us for the understanding, with mind and heart, of revealed truth as we find it in Holy Scripture and the liturgy, and in the breviary.

This gift we need for our hours of prayer and meditation. It fulfills the Lord’s promise: “The Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things” (John 14:26).

The third evening is devoted to the Gift of Counsel, which helps us to distinguish, in every moment of our life, what is the will of God. This gift we also need when someone turns to us for advice.

It is most necessary to parents and teachers, priests, and all persons in authority. But above all it should help us to make the right choices in everyday life–even in such minor matters as “Should I do my homework now or later? Should I see this movie or not?”

The Gift of Fortitude helps us to overcome our own will. This may start with such seemingly small matters as jumping out of bed the moment we had intended to do so; with giving up smoking or candies and cookies for certain times; with keeping silence when we might have a sharp answer ready; with doing little things for others at the cost of our own comfort; and it may lead to the ultimate test–aiding us in joining the thousands of contemporary martyrs who are called to lay down their life for God. Again, a gift that is needed throughout the day!

The Gift of Piety does not sound particularly attractive, until we realize that it infuses our hearts with a special kind of love, directed toward everything belonging and related to God all persons consecrated to His service–the Holy Father in Rome, bishops and priests, missionaries, nuns, and lay brothers–and all things set aside for God only, such as church and altar, chalice and monstrance, vestments, and the sacramentals in our home–rosaries, holy water, medals.

This precious gift also makes us eager to devote time to the service of God. It helps overcome morning laziness when it is time for Mass. It makes us want to visit our hidden God once in a while in church. In other words, it instills the interest for the supernatural in our souls. How could we do without it!

When we come to the Gift of the Fear of the Lord, there is always someone to raise the argument “This I don’t understand. That is the spirit of the Old Testament, of the chosen people who were trembling before Jehovah so that they said to Moses, `You go up the mountain and talk with Him–we are afraid.’ But the New Testament teaches us to say `Our Father,’ and Our Lord says, `I don’t call you servants any more, I call you friends!’ One isn’t afraid of one’s father or one’s friend! What do I need the Gift of Fear for?”

It is then that something very tender and beautiful comes to light. If a person loves another one very much, you may often hear him say: “I’m afraid to wake him up, he needs his sleep”; or, “I’m afraid to disturb him.” In other words, love is afraid to hurt the beloved one.

The Gift of Fear should lead us to a state of mind which makes us afraid to sin because it would hurt Him.

The Gift of Wisdom, finally, seems to sum up all the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, just as charity sums up all His fruits. If we ask throughout all our days for the other Gifts of the Holy Ghost and cooperate with them, if we examine our conscience every night about the use we made of them–wisdom will grow in our hearts.

This wisdom has nothing to do with ordinary human intelligence, with knowledge learned in schools and from books. One doesn’t even have to be able to read and write in order to become wise.

Once in a while one meets an old lay brother or lay sister, an old farmer in the country, or some bedridden person, who may not be learned in the eyes of the world, but may impress us deeply by a true wisdom expressed in all simplicity.

At the end of the seventh day we have all renewed our conviction that we cannot lead a truly Christian life without the special aid of the Holy Ghost, that we have to ask for it as we start each day, and be faithful to it as we go through the day. Children, with the generosity of young hearts, are remarkably responsive to this suggestion.

The eighth day of the novena is dedicated to the “Fruits of the Holy Ghost” as they are enumerated in St. Paul–especially the first three love, peace, and joy.

On this day we always call to mind the admonition of one of our dearest friends, Reverend Father Abbot, to take the word of Our Lord literally, that “by their fruits thou shalt know them.”

In every individual soul, in every family or community we should watch whether the fruits are the fruits of the Holy Ghost, whether love, peace, and joy prevail.

On the last day of the novena we meditate together on the two great hymns, “Veni, Sancte Spiritus” and “Veni, Creator Spiritus.”

Through our previous discussions, these texts are seen in a new light, and the repeated “Veni, veni” (“Come, Holy Ghost, come”) really rises from longing hearts. And when, during High Mass on Pentecost Sunday, priest and community kneel down at the solemn text of the Gradual, “Veni, Sancte Spiritus,” we feel the miracle of the first Pentecost repeated in our hearts, filled by the Holy Ghost in response to the intensity of our “Veni.”

In the old country, ancient Pentecost customs are still alive. On the

Saturday before Pentecost Sunday the young men go out with long whips, cracking them with special skill to produce a noise called “Pfingstschnalzen.”

This is followed by “Pfingstschiessen,” done with the same ancient guns that are used for shooting on Easter and other festivities.

In some valleys people walk barefoot up into the mountains through the dew, calling for the Holy Ghost. In the Alps, cattle decorated with wreaths and garlands are sent up to the high pastures, accompanied for a little way by most of the villagers.

Many of the old churches throughout the Alps have a hole in the ceiling above the altar through which, on Pentecost Sunday, during High Mass the “Holy Ghost dove” is let down into the church.

On Ascension Day, the statue of the Risen Lord is lifted on wires after the Gospel to disappear in the same opening, which brings the mystery of the day very close to all children, big and small. In some parishes the Risen Lord, at the end of the Mass, sends gifts down from heaven–apples and cookies and candies for the children, and flowers and green branches for the grownups, and everybody tries to take at least a leaf or a petal home.

This brings us to the end of the holy Paschal season. The octave day of Pentecost, known as Trinity Sunday, is dedicated to the Blessed Trinity. While in the first centuries the Easter Communion had to be received on Easter Sunday, the Church later extended “Easter Time,” which now begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Trinity Sunday.

Once a family has celebrated the year of the Church faithfully from the First Sunday in Advent, feasting and fasting together, until the fullness of the Holy Ghost crowns their efforts throughout the days of Pentecost, it will be a very happy family indeed.

He has ascended…yes, He is gone. And yet He is ever nearer. We need not run hither and dither to find happiness. “The Kingdom of God is within us”. Let us listen for His Voice. 🌸🌺

“Why do you stand there looking up toward heaven?” He hasn’t left us. Sermon on the feast of the Ascension with quotes by St Augustine.

Penal Rosaries!

Penal rosaries and crucifixes have a wonderful story behind them. They were used during the times when religious objects were forbidden and it was illegal to be Catholic. Being caught with a rosary could mean imprisonment or worse. A penal rosary is a single decade with the crucifix on one end and, oftentimes, a ring on the other. When praying the penal rosary you would start with the ring on your thumb and the beads and crucifix of the rosary in your sleeve, as you moved on to the next decade you moved the ring to your next finger and so on and so forth. This allowed people to pray the rosary without the fear of being detected.

Available here.

To the modern mind, the concept of poverty is often confused with destitution. But destitution emphatically is not the Gospel ideal. A love-filled sharing frugality is the message, and Happy Are You Poor explains the meaning of this beatitude lived and taught by Jesus himself. But isn’t simplicity in lifestyle meant only for nuns and priests? Are not all of us to enjoy the goodness and beauties of our magnificent creation? Are parents to be frugal with the children they love so much?

The renowned spiritual writer Dubay gives surprising replies to these questions. He explains how material things are like extensions of our persons and thus of our love. If everyone lived this love there would be no destitution.

After presenting the richness of the Gospel message, more beautiful than any other world view, he explains how Gospel frugality is lived in each state of life.

“This book calls on Christian men to man up and fight for our faith, it is an excellent read. Should be required reading in every Christian school in the nation, the book is written for young men, usually the teenage years and is refreshingly unapologetic in its exhortation for young men to stand up for what they believe.” -Chris M. https://amzn.to/30SZbh9

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T-Shirt Makeovers – A Look at Revamping T-Shirts!

A repost for your Thursday…..

Virginia (Gin) is our seamstress around here.DSC_0071

Virginia has been delving into the art of T-Shirt makeovers! It’s pretty neat that, for pennies on the dollar, you can go to your local Goodwill,  pick out a t-shirt from the multitude hanging on the racks, and transform it into an integral and lovely part of your wardrobe!

There are  ingenious ways to use simple t-shirts that are too tight, too big, too low or just too plain! We want to share with you some links and some photos of  creative ways used to enhance your wardrobes.

Here is Gin’s Pinterest Page if you would like to follow along on her journey.

Here is a tutorial on Shirring. You will see what can be done with this technique in our picture gallery.

This is a Sizzix machine and here is a tutorial on using one. The price is variable on these machines (depending on what quality you want) so one doesn’t have to invest a ton in it. Virginia uses hers to cut shapes out of material (examples in the gallery) and she also uses it on scrapbooking paper to make some lovely flowers on top of my rosary/jewelry boxes.IMG_3637 IMG_3638

Before you look at our little gallery I have one more website to share that I just stumbled on. It is called Tea Rose Home. You may notice that her home page has interior decoration projects but stop and look at some of the side links!! This woman has some wonderful tutorials on makeovers from Thrift Store purchases…tutorials on making a ruffled t-shirt out of two simple t-shirts, a t-shirt makeover with some lovely simple flowers, a pleated pretty shirt with buttons,  a fabric flower and revamping a sweater into a “garden of flowers” cardigan! There is more so have fun with this site…I think you will get much inspiration from it!

Do you have any favorite websites to share to help us along our sewing venture? We’d love to hear about them!

The following gallery has examples of Virginia’s projects that maybe can inspire you to try some yourself. Lately I have been the lucky recipient of most of these makeovers, so my t-shirts that have been sitting too long in my drawer have come to life once again!  Click on the first picture to view gallery.

Avoid Unkind Words and the Harm They Do – Father Lovasik

Speak Kindly

Kind words are a great blessing. They soothe, quiet, and comfort. When a kind word proceeds from your lips, it blesses you and fills others with gladness.

If you greet your family with kind words and a cheerful disposition, even though you are at times weighed down by trials, you will put your worries to flight and lift your spirits.

As hatred breeds hatred, love creates love. There are many dispositions in people, but there is no one who will not respond to kindness and sympathy. Kind words have converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.

Your spouse or children may sometimes betray bitterness toward you and expect unkindness. Respond with a word of kindness, and the rebellious one will be defenseless and often return the kindness. Each kind word will cost you only a moment in this world but will have an important bearing on how you will spend eternity.

Avoid Unkind Words and the Harm They Do

~ Unkind words put others down. By detraction, you make known the hidden faults of another without a good reason; by slander, you injure the good name of another by lying; and by harsh words of ridicule or contempt, you undermine the trust and confidence that should be the basis of family life.

~ Some of the worst sins in this matter are committed in the home by gossip. Children hear their parents using abusive language to condemn their neighbors, to discuss their peculiarities, and to enlarge upon their shortcomings.

It is a wicked thing to teach innocent children to become gossips. Gossip is all the more harmful when it has to do with a member of the family.

Do not listen to gossip about your spouse, much less be easily influenced by it. Gossip is often started by malicious informants who secretly hope to awaken jealousy.

Mutual trust is a great aid toward the preservation of love and harmony in the home.

~Harsh words more than harsh deeds are the termites that can undermine the foundation of a marriage. Even though words seem like little things, so quickly and briefly spoken, does not minimize the power that lies in their bitterness.

What you do is often easier to forgive than what you say. Moreover, when an angry word provokes a quarrel, each party soon has a position to defend.

A “principle” is at stake, you think, when in reality vanity and pride are the only principles involved.

Reinforcements in the form of in-laws enter the picture; soon both sides are mobilized for an all-out war.

People will at least consider almost any suggestion made in a friendly manner. But they will bristle with resentment if it is shouted at them in ill temper.

Not only words but even an angry tone can slam the door of understanding. In disagreements, abusive words crowd the mouth, the doorway way of the heart.

Then stubbornness gets its chance, and the peace that a simple, kind word of apology could have quickly restored is rendered exceedingly difficult.

Too many marriages end up on the rocks because of little words and phrases. Many divorces could have been avoided if husband and wife had refrained from angry bickering and talked over their differences in a spirit of mutual understanding and goodwill.

Uncharitable talk should cause you deep concern, because it may be the source of great harm to your family. You have only to think of God’s judgment and the account that you will have to render on your observance of the Eighth Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

If you thoughtlessly wag your tongue or make it the tool of anger or hatred; if you permit yourself to be swayed by bad temper, selfishness, and vanity; if you judge and blame rashly, try to begin to improve today for the love of God and your family.

The following remedies may curb uncharitable talk in your family.

~ Learn to be silent, especially when you are angry or disturbed, because silence is one of the great helps to avoid sin, to safeguard virtue, and to grow in close union with God. Do not repeat gossip and slander, even if by so doing you can hold the interest of your spouse, children, or friends. Carefully sift the talk you hear. Speak your mind, if you will, but mind what you speak.

~ Openly oppose uncharitable talk or counteract it by eloquent silence. It is a great work of charity to show by your conduct that uncharitable talk disgusts you as much as impure stories do.

~Have a sense of humor, which comes to the rescue in many a trying situation. It enables you to see the funny side of a situation when your attention had been previously engrossed on the distressing side.

Do not save your sense of humor for parties; put it to work in your home, where it is needed most of all. The ability to see humor in a situation often enables you to extricate yourself from a predicament quickly.

A good, hearty laugh will encourage a cheerful spirit in your family. But good humor does not mean ridicule.

A certain amount of good-humored kidding between husband and wife is usually a sign that they are getting along well. But if ridicule is used to sting and hurt, it is a sign that one has lost respect for the other.

~Speak of events, not of people, because a good name – that is, the esteem in which a person is held by his fellowmen and the mutual confidence resulting from this esteem – is a sacred thing, and everyone has a right to it.

If you cannot say anything good about someone, one, say nothing at all.

~ Do not deceive yourself by false excuses for unkind talk, such as, “It’s not so bad or important,” “What I said is true,” or “I told him to keep it confidential.” Consider the damage that might be done to a person’s good name even in what you consider a trifling matter.

~ Avoid harsh and disrespectful words. They wound the heart and disturb the soul. Wisecracks can hurt others, arouse resentment in them, and even engender hate. Avoid personal remarks and bitter sarcasm.

If you wish to keep those you love close to you, laugh with them, not at them. You can destroy love by making scornful, sarcastic, belittling remarks to others, or by telling your friends jokes and humorous incidents that make a laughingstock of your spouse or your children.

At social gatherings, you can offend your spouse’s and friends’ sensibilities by displaying a form of rudeness that you would never tolerate from your children.

How often do you interrupt a conversation to correct someone or to give your interpretation of what he is saying? How often do you contradict him?

~ Make a promise never to speak an angry word to your spouse. Difficulties will arise between you and your spouse, for you are only human. Yet there is no difficulty – no matter how serious – that cannot be settled if you talk it over in a calm, friendly manner.

If you are angry with your spouse, talk it out together. You should share your grievances against each other in loving sympathy: in this paradox lies a precious secret to happiness.

Psychiatrists testify that there is healing in unbosoming ourselves to a sympathetic and friendly listener. It restores peace of mind and a normal healthy outlook. Troubles shared are troubles halved; troubles hidden are troubles doubled.

True psychology is expressed in the Christian teaching that we must make peace with our adversary quickly, by coming to an understanding with him.

What the heart cries for is not an explosion but a release, and the healthy way to achieve that release is for one person to make feelings of injury or injustice clear to the other.

The words most difficult to say are: “I was at fault…. I’m sorry…. Please forgive me.” Yet the person who utters them first proves superiority in character and in magnanimity and wins the greater victory.

Of course, it is destructive to swallow grudges and nourish them quietly. You can rid yourself of resentments without letting them boil up inside you. The best way to approach such situations is to prevent them from developing.

If not nipped in the bud, the tendency to quarrel can become chronic.

~ Be kind and considerate in speech. Substitute expressions of kindness for quarreling and bitterness. Be quick to praise and commend, but slow to criticize. Take particular pains to see that you use your tongue for good, not for evil; to console, not to condemn; to build up, not to tear down; to rejoice at the good fortune of others, not to begrudge them success.

Reassure each other of your love in words of gratitude, appreciation, admiration, sympathy, comfort, and encouragement.

Love needs and thrives on frequent assurances; it dwindles when it is rarely put into words.

Avoid idleness and gossip, remembering our Lord’s warning, “I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

As long as you devote yourself fully to your work, you will have neither the time nor the inclination to take part in unkind talk.

Above all, pray for each other. If you prayed for the members of your family half as much as you talk about their faults, how many sins would you avoid and how much happier your family life would be!

“When the results of life are all gathered up—it will probably be seen that the things in us which have made the deepest and most lasting impressions in our homes and upon our children—have not been the things we did with purpose and intention, planning to produce a certain effect—but the things we did when we were not thinking of training or influencing or affecting any other life!” -J.R. Miller

All 5 Maglets! Catholic Young Lady’s Maglet, Catholic Wife’s Maglet, Sunshiny Disposition, True Womanhood and Advent/Christmas Package of 5!

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A must-read for the married and those considering marriage! This guidebook to finding a happy marriage, keeping a happy marriage, and raising happy children has been out of print for over 50 years…until now! From the master of the spiritual life, Raoul Plus, S.J., it contains loads of practical and spiritual advice on family life. Have you been looking for a handbook on marriage and raising children that is based on truth? You’ve found it!

The saints assure us that simplicity is the virtue most likely to draw us closer to God and make us more like Him.

No wonder Jesus praised the little children and the pure of heart! In them, He recognized the goodness that arises from an untroubled simplicity of life, a simplicity which in the saints is completely focused on its true center, God.

That’s easy to know, simple to say, but hard to achieve.

For our lives are complicated and our personalities too. (We even make our prayers and devotions more complicated than they need be!)

In these pages, Fr. Raoul Plus provides a remedy for the even the most tangled lives.

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Can Love Be Acquired? When is Kissing a Sin?- 1955 – Fr. Donald Miller, C.SS.R

From Questions Young People Ask Before Marriage, Fr. Donald Miller, C.SS.R., 1950’s

Can Love Be Acquired?

 Problem:

For several years I have wanted to get married and have a home of my own. Now at last a man of good character has asked me to marry him, but I do not feel that I am in love with him.

Yet I am afraid that if I do not accept him, I won’t have another chance to marry. Tell me, is it possible to fall in love with a man after you have married him? Or is it possible to have a happy marriage without being very much in love with your partner?

 Solution:

The answer to this question depends entirely on the character, training and spiritual maturity of the girl involved. If a girl has a false, movie-inspired ideal of the glamour and excitement of being wildly in love, if she is of the immature type that day-dreams of being swept off her feet by love, there is reason to fear that she would be dissatisfied with a marriage in which her feelings were more or less commonplace.

It is very probable that the lack of romantic feeling on her part, in conjunction with the ordinary disillusionments that arise in married life, would make her think she had been cheated out of something.

She would still be foolishly day-dreaming of romance after marriage.

However, it may be remarked that a girl with excessively romantic ideas about love is usually a poor bet for happiness in any marriage.

But for a girl who is well aware that the movies, romantic novels, and love story magazines present a false picture of the importance of being madly in love, for one who knows how often marriages built on this kind of love collapse after a short time, for one who has learned to make her feelings subordinate to her will, there can be a very happy and successful marriage without the wild kind of romantic love.

History is full of examples of such. If a girl wants to marry, and knows what marriage entails, and has character enough to do her part to make her marriage happy, come what may, she is an excellent prospect for a successful marriage to a man whom she respects, and whose principles are as high as her own.

We make only one reservation. A girl should not marry a man for whom she feels some real dislike or antipathy. The intimacy of married life intensifies such dislikes or antipathies if they are present from the beginning.

We are speaking above of the case in which there is a real liking for a man, community of interests, union in principles, and readiness to do God’s will, no matter what it demands. If what the world calls romantic love is not present, in such a case, it will not matter too greatly.

When Is Kissing a Sin?

 Problem:

Is kissing a sin?

 Solution:

Almost wherever there are young people who go out on dates, this question is posed to those who take an interest in their welfare both spiritual and temporal. It is obvious that the customs and fashions of the world in which they live have made it a serious problem that must be faced.

In answering it, we shall consider the moral angle first, and then add considerations of prudence and common sense. There are two different kinds of kissing that can be referred to in the question.

The first is the ordinary kiss of greeting and farewell, the kiss that people are not ashamed to give in public or in the presence of others, the kind of kiss exchanged between a mother and son, brother and sister, relative and relative.

It is a salutation, a symbol, a sign of love and respect for a person to whom one is bound by the more sacred ties of human relationship. Clearly this kind of kissing is not sinful, not sinful even between a boy and girl in love.

Usually when this much has been explained, young people answer rather scornfully: “Oh, we don’t mean that kind of kissing.”

Or they will cry out with still greater scorn: “How can you expect us to kiss like a brother and sister if we are in love?” This is very revealing.

It means that what such young people have in mind when they ask “Is kissing a sin?” is not the mere symbol or salutation of affection, but something inspired by and bound up in some way with passion.

They are referring to close and protracted embraces; the kisses that gratify, in some way, the yearning for bodily union with another that can lawfully be fulfilled only in marriage. Sometimes they do not realize that this is the origin of their desire for protracted kissing experiences, but the fact remains that it is just that, and in many cases it leads them straight into the great sins that beforehand they would have said they abhorred.

That is why such kissing, prolonged, passionate, exciting, is a sin in itself. It is a sin in so far as it springs from and leads to indulgence in sinful passion.

On the prudential side, even the kisses that are merely symbols of affection should not be made common, cheap and promiscuous. Kisses should be reserved for the more strong and sacred relationships in life. The boy and girl who make them cheap will almost invariably cheapen even nobler and more important things.

To Kiss or Not to Kiss?

 Problem:

Most boys expect to be permitted to kiss a girl at least after one or two dates. Is it permissible or advisable to go along with their wishes? Some girls with whom I have talked say that if you don’t permit it you will lose every boy-friend.

 Solution:

Let’s bring this question down to some fundamental principles and reasoning, leaving out of consideration for the moment whether “most boys expect it” or “all girls advise it.” Little of value for one’s happiness is ever learned from what “everybody happens to be doing.”

The purpose of dates between marriageable young people is that they may become acquainted with each other’s characters and so find out whether, when the question comes up as it should eventually, there is a good chance of their being happily married.

Let it be noted that the purpose of dates is not primarily and exclusively “a good time”-with no further implications. Of course, every boy and girl want to have a good time on a date, but this should be subjected, in their minds, to the more serious purposes that justify company-keeping and its dangers.

It is because so many young people think of dating as just a means of “having a good time” that so many fall into sin on their dates. A decent boy and girl will never think of a good time as permitting anything contrary to God’s law; nor will they be unmindful that on their dates they are making a test of each other.

Passionate kissing, it has been shown in this column, is forbidden to unmarried people. There are different kinds of kissing, and the above problem can only be considered as pertaining to that kind which is not gravely sinful.

There is no question about the other. Even that, however, we say, indulged in on a first or second or third date, is a serious obstacle to the fulfillment of the purpose of company-keeping.

Kissing, even though it be quite modest, stimulates physical attraction to another. In proportion as it does so, it lessens the ability of intelligence to judge the fitness of a companion for marriage.

Many a girl who permitted a boy to kiss her on short acquaintance has been swept into marriage by her feelings, only to find that he was anything but the person to make her happy.

Many a girl who permitted kissing to a near stranger has been swept into sin and into a forced marriage.

The above principles are so true that even if all boys expected a girl to consent to kissing, and all girls advised it, (which is not true), they should still be followed by an intelligent, self-respecting, God-fearing girl.

Following them is the only known way of finding an intelligent, self-respecting, virtuous boy for a partner in marriage.

How many opportunities do we, as wives and mothers, have each day to do God’s will, not our own?? Many….many. We do not need a retreat to figure this out. A wife and a mother’s journey is laying down her life for those she loves. And we prove it each time we tend to the needs around us. We learn that most important life-lesson that the hermit in the desert is learning…..to lay down our lives for Christ.-Leane Vdp, Painting by Trent Gudmundsen

Little Lady’s Charming Crocheted Garden Party/Church-Going Hats!

Your little special lady will look charming in this beautiful handcrafted Crocheted Hat! Every flower, petal and bow is hand made with care. The unique combination of colors will add the final touch of elegance to your little girls outfit! Available here.

For great books for the young people, visit My Book List for the Youth!

 

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SavWith his facile pen and from the wealth of his nation-wide experience, the well-known author treats anything and everything that might be included under the heading of home education: the pre-marriage training of prospective parents, the problems of the pre-school days down through the years of adolescence. No topic is neglected. “What is most praiseworthy is Fr. Lord’s insistence throughout that no educational agency can supplant the work that must be done by parents.” – Felix M. Kirsch, O.F.M.

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Necessary advice to Catholic parents building a Catholic home. Reliable advice that is almost completely lost today, from people who know how it’s done. How to make it. How to live it. How to keep it. This book covers every aspect of Catholicizing your home–from spiritual matters like prayer and catechism to nuts and bolts topics like Keeping the Family Budget, Games and Toys, Harmony between School and Home, Family Prayers, Good Reading in the Home, Necessity of Home Life and much more

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Tidbits for the Youth – The World’s Recipe/God’s Recipe

Photo by Allan Grant, 1947

From Youth’s Pathfinder, Rev. Fulgence Meyer, 1922

“Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the time of affliction come, and the years draw nigh of which thou shalt say: They please me not” (Eccl., 12, 1).

“I am young but once: hence I will make the most of it.” No proposition is more obvious than the one expressed in the first part of this sentence; and no resolution can be more warranted than the one contained in the second part. But there is a great divergence of opinion and practice regarding the manner of making the most of one’s youth.

The World’s Recipe

There are those who say: “Come, therefore, and let us enjoy the good things that are present, and let us speedily use the creatures as in youth. Let us fill ourselves with costly wine, and ointments: and let not the flower of the time pass by us. Let us crown ourselves with roses, before they be withered: let no meadow escape our riot. Let none of us go without his part in luxury: let us everywhere leave tokens of joy: for this is our portion, and this our lot” (Wisd., 2, 6-10).

Invariably, however, the same persons are soon forced to confess ruefully: “We fools have erred from the way of truth, and the light of justice hath not shined unto us, and the sun of understanding hath not risen upon us. We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity and destruction, and have walked through hard ways, but the way of the Lord we have not known. Being born we forthwith ceased to be: and have been able to show no mark of virtue: but are consumed in our wickedness” (ib., 5, passim).

God’s Recipe

     The inspired writer, on the other hand, gives this recipe for the wise exploitation of youth: “Rejoice, therefore, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart be in that which is good in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thy heart, and in the sight of thy eyes: and know that for all these God will bring thee into judgment” (Eccl., 11, 9).

If there is a period of life which particularly lends itself to happiness, optimism, and joy, it is the season of youth. But as there is, according to the common saying, but one step from the sublime to the ridiculous, so there seems to be, too, but one step from the highest joviality to the deepest gloom; from the finest optimism to the crassest pessimism; from the keenest desire to live forever to the haunting bent towards self-destruction.

An Epidemic of Suicides

     Just now we appear to be having in our country an epidemic of suicides among young people of both sexes, of various classes and professions. It is an indication that not only they, but also many others like them, were and are very unhappy. And why should young people, in the most exhilarating and promising time of life, be such utter strangers to happiness?

God plainly gives the answer in these words of the Bible; “My people have done two evils. They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, and have digged to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer., 2, 13). In other words, these unfortunate young people have forgotten their Creator in the days of their youth.

The only way for young persons to be wholesomely, substantially and lastingly happy, is to reverse this process, and to remember their Creator in the days of their youth. Then, whatever may befall them, their happiness will not suffer from it, grounded as it is upon God, Who is always the same in His love, goodness and bounty.

The days of affliction will come upon them also sooner or later, and the years will draw nigh of which they will say: They please me not. Yet they will be fortified against them in such a manner that the peace of their mind will not be diminished, and the joy of their heart will not be dampened.

Here we may paraphrase the words of St. Paul (Rom., 1, 17), and say: “The young person liveth by faith.” Faith in God will enable him or her to meet every difficulty victoriously, and to endure every test triumphantly.

The One Expert on Happiness

God is the only expert on human happiness and the manner of its acquisition. He made the human heart and gave it its irresistible craving for happiness. He alone knows how this craving can be satisfied.

From the method He has established there is no escape if one is going to achieve happiness at all. The one and exclusive way, therefore, for a young person to be happy is to follows God’s own prescription and remember the Creator in the days of youth.

Moreover, God wants what He wants. And He is not indefinite in telling what He wants. “My son,” He says, “honor the Lord with thy substance, and give Him of the first of all they fruits” (Prov., 3, 9).

If God wants the first fruits in other lines, He especially wants the first fruits of human life, namely the days of youth. He will allow no one to defraud Him of these with impunity. Whoever attempts it, pays dearly for it by the emptiness, anguish and misery of his life.

Solomon in His Youth

Perhaps no man in the history of mankind had greater opportunities to seek happiness in his youth, and no one sought happiness with more avidity and intensity in the things of this world, than Solomon, the king of Jerusalem.

He relates of himself: “I said in my heart: I will go, and abound with delights, and enjoy good things….I surpassed in riches all that were before me in Jerusalem….And whatsoever my eyes desired, I refused them not: and I withheld not my heart form enjoying every pleasure, and delighting itself in the things which I had prepared: and ….I saw in all things vanity, and vexation of mind, and that nothing was lasting under the sun” (Eccl., 2, 1 sqq.).

And after all his experiences this wisest of men ends by exhorting: “Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is all man” (Eccl., 12, 13).

St. Augustine, one of the leading Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and one of the greatest thinkers of all times, is another striking witness to the inability of things created to give to the human heart the contentment it craves, and to the soul of man the happiness it wants.

As a young man, before his conversion to the faith, he had tried for over fifteen years to sate his hunger for joy and peace in the amusements of the world and pleasures of the flesh, in which he indulged without restraint. Far from rendering him happy, however, these worldly diversions and fleshly gratifications merely made him more miserable from day to day until under the impulse of grace he turned to God, in Whom he finally found all he was looking and yearning for.

And in the warmest gratitude and most blissful love he cried out: “Thou has made us for Thyself,  O Lord; and our heart is restless until it rests in Thee!”

Sacred and secular history of ancient and modern times are replete with instances of men and women in mature life deploring the follies and sins of their youth. You find no instance, however, of an elderly man or woman ruing the fact, that they spent their young years in virtue and goodness.

The Devil exults most when he can steal a man’s joy of spirit from him. He carries a powder with him to throw into any smallest possible chinks of our conscience, to soil the spotlessness of our mind and the purity of our life. But when spiritual joy fills our hearts, the Serpent pours out his deadly poison in vain. – St. Francis of Assisi

Painting by Robert Duncan

First Communion Veil!

Girl’s Lovely and Lacey Crocheted Veil! This is a beautiful girls hand-crocheted veil made with care and detail. It will fit a girl from age 3 to a young lady.

Available here.

 

This booklet contains practical advice on the subjects of dating and choosing a spouse from the Catholic theological viewpoint. Father Lovasik points out clearly what one’s moral obligations are in this area, providing an invaluable aid to youthful readers. Additionally, he demonstrates that Catholic marriage is different from secular marriage and why it is important to choose a partner who is of the Catholic Faith if one would insure his or her personal happiness in marriage. With the rampant dangers to impurity today, with the lax moral standards of a large segment of our society, with divorce at epidemic levels, Clean Love in Courtship will be a welcome source of light and guidance to Catholics serious about their faith.

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A Frank, Yet Reverent Instruction on the Intimate Matters of Personal Life for Young Men. To our dear and noble Catholic youths who have preserved, or want to recover, their purity of heart, and are minded to retain it throughout life. For various reasons many good fathers of themselves are not able to give their sons this enlightenment on the mysteries of life properly and sufficiently. They may find this book helpful in the discharge of their parental responsibilities in so delicate a matter.

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A Tribute to Mothers

Happy Mother’s Day to Mothers Everywhere…..to mothers who give and give and then give some more. It is what we were made for, it is what we live for and it will be what we die for. Once a mother, always a mother. We watch them come into the world, we nurture them, try to solve their problems, and then watch them as they leave and embark on their own journeys.

We pray for them, we hurt for them, we rejoice for them. Whether they are near or far, our hearts are entwined with theirs. It is bittersweet…..more sweet than bitter!

“A mother will never desert her boy. For she loves him with a love that is as strong and deep as life itself.”

Angelo and Mom (me)

My Mom

A Tribute to Mothers by Rev. John A. O’Brien, 1953

By universal proclamation our nation has added another memorial day to her calendar – Mother’s Day.

It is a day on which we pause to pay the tribute of our love and reverence to our mothers if living, to their memory if dead. It is eminently fitting that we should thus pause for a brief moment in the turmoil of life to give explicit expression to sentiments which have been latent in the hearts of each of us throughout all the days of the year.

It is good psychology to give fitting expression to such sentiments. For instead of allowing them to wane, we thereby strengthen and intensify them.

Such considerations are, moreover, wholesome and salutary for us because they render us more clearly conscious of the debt we owe our mothers.

“Motherhood,” says Frederick A. Stowe, “is the Gethsemane of nature.”

When the child is born the mother begins to die—die for the new life dearer than her own, die in service for another, die in dreams of peaceful valleys she shall not enter, die upon battlefields whose shouts of victory she shall not hear.

No sacrifice for the young is begrudged by the mother. Toward the sun of a new life, all nature turns. The springtide bursts with prodigality but there is not a drop of sap for the autumnal leaf. At the meridian declination begins. Reproduction is the inexorable ambition of the material world.

“In its spiritual aspects, motherhood is isolated because it is great. There is no speculation as to mother’s status. Conceded eminence is as lonely as some crag which lifts its head above the fugitive clouds and defies the furious winds below.

Youth loves to dwell in the warm valleys of patronage. It is eager for adventure and the conquests of blood. It rushes toward prospects and is ever willing to take a chance.

Reflection is the fruit of maturity. We do not begin to bear sense until passions are spent, and Time, which is a strict accountant, demands an audit.”

Various Kinds of Love

There are various kinds of love on this earth. There is the love of a friend for a friend, of a chum for his chum.

It is a beautiful sentiment and one which all the world admires. But friends fall out at times; the love cools and even turns to hatred.

There is the love of sweethearts. It is beautiful and tender and sweet. But sometimes the fancy changes, the romance fades, and sweethearts part.

There is the love of husband and wife, tender true and sanctified by divine grace. But the world witnesses at times the separation even of husband and wife, the pitiful tragedy of a broken home.

Then there is the love of a mother for her child. It is the climax of all human love – as strong as the great rugged Alpine Mountain peaks, as tender as the breath of an angel, as infinite as the measureless waters of the ocean, as changeless as the stars that shine eternally in the skies.

Friends may fall out, the romance of sweethearts may fade, husband and wife may separate, but a mother will never desert her boy. For she loves him with a love that is as strong and deep as life itself.

Aye, it seems to rise above all human love, and to burn with a spark that was caught from the flame of the love that is eternal and divine–the love of God for man.

I like to think that God has given us a foreshadowing and a foretaste of His own infinite love for human souls in the love He has planted in a mother’s breast.

From the Prayer Book Precious Blood and Mother:

There are soft words murmured by dear, dear lips,
Far richer than any other;
But the sweetest word that the ear hath heard
Is the blessed name of “Mother.”

O magical word! May it never die,
From the lips that love to speak it.
Nor melt away from the trusting heart,
That even would break to keep it.

Was there ever a name that lived like this?
Will there ever be such another?
The Angels have reared in Heaven a shrine
To the holy name of “Mother.”

 

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Mother Songs:

This first video/song was the song for our Mother and Son Dance at my son’s (Colin’s) wedding.

Colin and I, Mother-Son Dance

It has beautiful words and brings tears to my eyes each time I hear it. 🙂

This song is beautiful, also. A Mother’s song by Celtic Thunder.

“For years, while raising children, a mother’s time is never her own, her own needs have to be kept in second place, and every time she turns around a hand is reaching out and demanding something. Hence, a mother raising children, perhaps in a more privileged way even than a professional contemplative, is forced, almost against her will, to constantly stretch her heart.”

 

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In With God in Russia, Ciszek reflects on his daily life as a prisoner, the labor he endured while working in the mines and on construction gangs, his unwavering faith in God, and his firm devotion to his vows and vocation. Enduring brutal conditions, Ciszek risked his life to offer spiritual guidance to fellow prisoners who could easily have exposed him for their own gains. He chronicles these experiences with grace, humility, and candor, from his secret work leading mass and hearing confessions within the prison grounds, to his participation in a major gulag uprising, to his own “resurrection”—his eventual release in a prisoner exchange in October 1963 which astonished all who had feared he was dead.

Powerful and inspirational, With God in Russia captures the heroic patience, endurance, and religious conviction of a man whose life embodied the Christian ideals that sustained him…..

Captured by a Russian army during World War II and convicted of being a “Vatican spy,” Jesuit Father Walter J. Ciszek spent 23 agonizing years in Soviet prisons and the labor camps of Siberia. Only through an utter reliance on God’s will did he manage to endure the extreme hardship. He tells of the courage he found in prayer–a courage that eased the loneliness, the pain, the frustration, the anguish, the fears, the despair. For, as Ciszek relates, the solace of spiritual contemplation gave him an inner serenity upon which he was able to draw amidst the “arrogance of evil” that surrounded him. Ciszek learns to accept the inhuman work in the infamous Siberian salt mines as a labor pleasing to God. And through that experience, he was able to turn the adverse forces of circumstance into a source of positive value and a means of drawing closer to the compassionate and never-forsaking Divine Spirit.

He Leadeth Me is a book to inspire all Christians to greater faith and trust in God–even in their darkest hour. As the author asks, “What can ultimately trouble the soul that accepts every moment of every day as a gift from the hands of God and strives always to do his will?”