School of the Home

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"Back to School!" How that phrase used to fill me with dread when I was a child. I have to say [as a parent] the thought of the children returning to the daily/weekly routine of school timetables and repetition is somewhat of a relief after 6 weeks of a fair degree of disorder and random activity [depending on the weather] around the home. For all of that though, I shall miss something of the "school of the home" atmosphere we have all enjoyed as a family since mid July.

Classroom and home, hearth and assembly hall have got to be synergised in the cherishment of Christian values and faith if the family/school; parent/teacher partnership is to bear the rich fruit it is called to bring forth in grace. For that, there really has to be fresh standards of mutual appreciation and support but especially I feel, for the sacred space that is the Christian home.

I was reflecting on this over the last few days as I was immersed in [of all things] the painting of our humble garden shed. A somewhat mundane task but one which we all enjoyed contributing to [though I had the lion's share] as a family. What's this got to do with my point above? Well, some years ago I addressed an international conference at the University of Torun in Poland on the dignity and purpose of the family. In my talk I reminded the audience of the unique phrase to this island nation of ours; "An Englishman's home is his castle." 

It was established as common law by the lawyer and politician Sir Edward Coke (pronounced Cook), in The Institutes of the Laws of England, 1628:

"For a man's house is his castle, et domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium [and each man's home is his safest refuge]."

This enshrined into law the popular belief at the time, expressed in print by several authors in the late 16th century. It was even used as an argument to say that outlawed English Catholics still enjoyed the protection of this maxim, at least culturally if not always technically. The Stage of Popish Toyes: containing both tragicall and comicall partes, by Henri Estienne wrote in 1581:

'The English papists owe it to the Queen that "your house is your Castle."'

The English have had a passion for the sovereignty of hearth and home for more than a millennia. The English have the widest variety of chimneys in the world as well as more garden sheds than anywhere else. (Which is why I felt obliged to smarten our's up!)

Seriously though, if the home is meant to be sacred then the family, and the wishes and conscientiously held beliefs of that family [consonant with Gospel values and Catholic teaching] who reside in that home ought to be fully respected and served by all sectors of society and ecclesiastical life. The former grows less and less but the latter [especially the parish and school] must be something the Catholic family can depend upon; if not then something is very drastically wrong. There is no need for me to enunciate the many and diverse risks facing the family. The message of the 2008 World Day of Peace puts it succinctly;

'Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace.

So as a new academic year begins I pray the Holy Spirit will pour afresh on parents, teachers, clergy, and catechists a new and deep sense of mutual respect, Christ-like love and dependence upon the Lord to fulfil their shared task of passing on the Faith.

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Seeds of NFP

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Lately, the readings of the liturgical cycle have been focusing on the parable of the sower. And since last week was Natural Family Planning (NFP) Awareness week, I wanted to follow up with some reflections on sowing the seed of NFP.

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Lessons in Love

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Before I got married, I thought I was the perfect catch. I was confident in myself, loved adventure, was disciplined in my job,  went to daily Mass, and frequented the adoration chapel. I was intelligent and happy and was surrounded by good friends.

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Bonding Bucket List

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The other night my husband and I were discussing our bucket lists. Mine went something like this: go to the Grand Canyon, go to the Sand Dunes, go on a cruise, travel to Europe…
His bucket list was a little different: go heli-skiing, go skydiving, go parasailing, get a motorcycle…
Since I am deathly afraid of heights and he gets motion sickness, it doesn’t sound like we will be accomplishing many of our bucket list items together.

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Why?

WHY

Children have the remarkably annoying habit of interrogating us don’t they? They’re obsessed with the fundamental nature of things, why the world is the way it is, and how to logically connect it all together. The endless “why”? questions. It can be maddening at times. 

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A short Message

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Earlier this week the news of the Duke of Edinburgh deciding to step away from his public duties at the age of 96, made big headlines. One commentator said that on a personal level the Duke would really be baffled by all the fuss over it. After all he is 96! But more than that; there was one quote recalled about the Duke which really struck a chord with me.

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He might not give you a million dollars, but God will provide

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In a discussion about NFP, a couple in our marriage prep course told us this:

There’s also the fear of having a child before being ready. And no, God is not going to give me millions of dollars because it will help me prepare for the child. So don’t tell me that god will provide. He provided me with intellect, and abilities to survive and make something of myself. With my intellect, I will be using birth control.”

Well, if we all had to be “ready” to have a baby, not many of us would have children at all! 

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Praying While You Work

Praying While You Work

My 5-year old son was standing quietly watching me steam clean our floor one evening, which I just figured was amazing in itself since I do it so infrequently. But after a few minutes he said, “Hey mom, if you say a prayer and then steam comes out, then your prayer can rise to heaven on the steam.” I was floored (pun intended) that he would make such a connection between work and prayer. “Yes,” I replied,  “Steam cleaning the floor can become a prayer to God!”

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Growth Spurts

Growth Spurts

For those of you who follow the blog regularly, you know that last fall I wrote a lot about being pregnant. Then, at the end of December we welcomed our baby girl into the world and now I have to write a post about nursing.
 



Because sometimes it feels like feeding the baby is all I ever do anymore! Last week, I nursed this chubby child for two days straight minus sleeping. I couldn’t get anything else done and the other three children were starting to be seriously unsupervised. It felt like I’d never be able to do anything but feed the baby ever again! But that’s the funny thing about growth spurts: they come in spurts. Intense eating is followed by intense sleeping, and it’s a constant adjustment as our bodies grow and change.

Just like growth spurts, life is always changing and no two days are ever the same. Growing has a lot of ups and downs on the way. So whether you are raising kids, learning to live with your spouse, trying to have children, or working hard at your job, we all work through growth spurts where things are always changing. The goal is to press on and take what God has to teach us through these ups and downs.

I find that a baby’s growth spurts are similar to the growth of my soul. Prayer is the way our souls grow, and there are some days where I get good prayer time in, and some when I don’t. On good days, I have patience and quality time with the kids, and the house gets cleaned. I thank God for these days. Because I know there are other days when it’s all I can do to get everyone fed and beg God to get me through the day.

Some times my prayer life is rich. I have a growth spurt on which I’m feeding on the Word of God and listening to the Spirit in my heart. Like a tree planted beside the water, my faith is rooted deep and I grow closer to God.

Other days all I can say is, “Jesus, help me. I’m hanging on.” The world can start to spin around and I don’t know which way is up or how I can keep my head above water. But if my roots are deep from the times of rich prayer, they can get me through the times of dryness and desperation.

Bad days keep me humble and remind me of my need for God. Good days are ones that I can be thankful for seeing God’s presence in my life.

So the one thing I can tell you from my experience of these growth spurts: even when things are bad and I feel desperate and overwhelmed, I never tell God to go away.  I make sure to go to Mass each Sunday, no matter what state I am in (physically or emotionally) because I know that my short spurts of prayer and the grace of the Eucharist are my lifeline. I can survive without a shower or a hot cup of coffee. But I can’t survive without grace. I need Jesus daily (even if its in a short cry of help), and I need to at least get to Sunday Mass (even if it’s in the cry room).

So even when you are feeling overwhelmed and far from God, one thing is for sure: never give up. The worst thing you can do is give up on God (because He never gives up on us!) There’s always hope that we can do better, pray better, and that tomorrow can be different. If you’ve not tried praying in a while, or you’ve missed Sunday Mass a few times, there is always the present to start over: get yourself to confession (it’s Lent!) and get a brand new start. God meets us where we are and wants to grow with us.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

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"Lest We Forget...!"

"Lest We Forget...!"

"Lest We Forget...!"

The phrase above is one we adopt and use year in year out to recall with gratitude and solemnity the countless war dead who sacrificed their lives to defend and preserve our freedoms
 

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