Saturday, February 27, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
1. I am absolutely overwhelmed and humbled at the same time by this quote from Margaret, so appropriate for this week's challenges.
2. These wise words from my copy of Imitation Of Christ are sticking with me due to this year's word. It is a reflection after Book III Chapter I:
"When the soul is wholly given to the senses, agitated by the passions, and entirely taken up with exterior things, it is itself incapable and unworthy of the operations of God. We should therefore resolve to think and to speak but little to creatures, and to love silence and retirement, to nourish our minds with God's presence, and our hearts with His love, and to do all for Him and in His sight, if we would become interior men, living in God, and for God, as every Christian should do who would be saved."
3. And, I'll definitely share my thoughts soon on this quote from my Blaise Pascal research:
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
We opened with our usual prayers of an offering, a few spontaneous words, a Hail Mary, and the St. Therese song. Then, I spoke to the girls about Prudence. Initially, I thought this would have been really hard to explain to elementary-aged children, but I think it went pretty well.
I shared that prudence basically means choosing carefully the right thing to do. I mentioned it is a cardinal virtue, a gift given at Baptism, that we can use or lose as we grow up. Since our next virtue is Wisdom, I explained how Wisdom is a tool to help us be prudent. I named other tools and had the girls identify which were virtues we have already practiced in Little Flowers (obedience, love of God, truthfulness).
Then, I explained why I thought the African Violet was such a good choice to go with this virtue. None of the other virtues can be practiced without Prudence, and the African Violet is known as the world's most popular houseplant. So, Prudence must be present in our daily lives and watered every day, just like the flower!
Using the Little Flowers Leader's Manual, I identified the three parts of Prudence - think
Think means look at the consequences of our actions. It is important to stop and think before acting. This is where we need to think about what Jesus would want us to do and ask either "What Would Jesus Do?" or "Will this help me as I seek eternal life?" Decide means make a choice. Sometimes this means being obedient to rules. Act means do what we decided. I gave a silly example about thinking about having chocolate cake for breakfast and deciding to have cereal instead but finally taking out the chocolate cake and eating it.
Next, I shared two stories with the girls, two of Jesus' parables that illustrate prudence. First, I used this object lesson to try to demonstrate the Parable of the Wise Man. I had a pan with a rock and a mound of sand, but my cup-houses were too big. So, the one built on rock kept tumbling off when it rained, and the one built on sand sunk into the sand instead of falling. We laughed, but the girls remembered the Bible story and correctly identified which man followed the three steps of Prudence.
Finally, I read the Parable of the Ten Virgins from The Parables of Jesus by Fr. Lovasik, and the girls again identified the three steps of Prudence. This story went along with our craft, so we moved on to making these Tissue Paper Votive Holders from Oriental Trading Company. They turned out so cute, with the older girls making elaborate patterns and the younger ones making collage-style ones. I gave each of them an unscented tea light to put inside, too!
Next, we played two versions of a common game. I had the girls sit in a circle, and we imagined we were taking a trip to Antarctica. Each girl had to make a prudent decision on something useful to take with us and name each of the previous girl's items as we went around. It was fun to see what they chose. My favorites were "ten pairs of pants" and "a tent with a heater." The second time around, we imagined we were going to the beach instead and each girl prudently chose something to take that started with the next letter of the alphabet as we went around the circle. These were simple but fun games that had the girls thinking about making good decisions.
Snack was next, and then we divided into our three rose groups based on age for a short discussion. Each group had a copy of these two (1 2) stories to read and discuss. I instructed the moms in each group to stop where it says WWJD and ask the girls what prudent decisions could be made in each situation. The youngest girls only did the first story. Afterwards, I pointed out that there are often more than one prudent choice, so we should not feel like there is always one answer.
We gathered back in our large group, so I could share about St. Angela Merici, the saint chosen for Prudence. Once again I used my wonderful Sixty saints for girls book by Joan Windham. These stories are SO wonderful! To keep the girls' attention I had made a few quick and easy felt board pieces that went along with the story. I printed images on card stock at home and stapled felt to the back of them. I am so glad I did this, because this was the fifth story the girls heard. You can see them below (although I have tried three times to upload this after rotating it - sorry for the neck strain!): young St. Angela, three headstones, hayfield, moon, ladder, and nun St. Angela.
To wrap up, the girls made their Prudence virtue pages to add to their collection. One of our families brought their collection of craft scissors that cut all kinds of fun edges, so most of the girls used those to spruce up their page. My sample below was made at home, and I forgot we even had some of those scissors! I'll have to pull them out for our next meeting.
As usual, we sang the Scripture song for Prudence, an easy, short one, and talked about our patch projects (you can download our idea sheets below). I had the girls who wanted to share tell us what they were sacrificing for Lent and reminded them that every time they make that sacrifice, they are practicing Prudence. Our closing prayers were the St. Therese prayer, intentions the girls wrote down, and asking for the intercession of the Wreath II saints. Finally, I distributed patches.
If you are a part of our group, please note that I have changed our meeting dates for the remainder of Wreath II, so check your email. With a baby coming the first week in June, I have planned to complete all of our virtues by the end of April and just have a party in May, which means meeting every 2-3 weeks instead of once a month.
Monday, February 22, 2010
As I wrote earlier, I have longed to find something to share with you about this holy season of Lent and where I feel the Lord is leading me. Up until yesterday, however, I did not feel the Lord leading. I was clearly distracted by other things: a trip, my children's Lenten traditions, our Little Flowers meeting, ideas from an inspiring book, etc... Regretfully, I had not taken the time to clearly reflect on my own needs for Lent.
In fact, every time I thought about what personal improvements I wanted to focus on during Lent, I was overwhelmed by the choices, by the sheer volume of change I would like to see in myself. Reading this post and the following excerpt from The Easter Book by Father Weiser quoted in the section on Lent in my copy of Around the Year with the Trapp Family:
Public sinners approached their priests shortly before Lent to accuse themselves of their misdeeds and were presented by the priests on Ash Wednesday to the bishop of the place. Outside the cathedral, poor and noble alike stood barefoot, dressed in sackcloth, heads bowed in humble contrition. The bishop, assisted by his canons, assigned to each one particular acts of penance according to the nature and gravity of his crime. Whereupon they entered the church, the bishop leading one of them by the hand, the others following in single file, holding each other's hands. Before the altar, not only the penitents, but also the bishop and all his clergy recited the seven penitential psalms. [Psalms 6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129, 142.] Then, as each sinner approached, the bishop imposed his hands on him, sprinkled him with holy water, threw the blessed ashes on his head, and invested him with the hair shirt. Finally he admonished ("with tears and sighs" as the regulation suggests): "Behold you are cast out from the sight of holy mother Church because of your sins and crimes, as Adam the first man was cast out of Paradise because of his transgression." After this ceremony the penitents were led out of the church and forbidden to re-enter until Holy Thursday (for the solemn rite of their reconciliation). Meanwhile they would spend Lent apart from their families in a monastery or some other place of voluntary confinement, where they occupied themselves with prayer, manual labor, and works of charity. Among other things they had to go barefoot all through Lent, were forbidden to converse with others, were made to sleep on the ground or on a bedding of straw, and were unable to bathe or cut their hair."Such was the public penance (in addition to the general Lenten fast) for "ordinary" cases of great sin and scandal....For especially shocking and heinous crimes a much longer term was imposed.
And so, these thoughts were on my mind in Mass yesterday when our associate pastor mentioned Blaise Pascal's writings on diversion or distraction. He made a very brief comment about how Pascal wrote that we fill our minds with diversions to avoid focusing on what is truly important...God. Thus began my rabbit trail.
I came home and Googled "Pascal distraction diversion." Interestingly, out of the first four results, two were different writings about iPods. Since I do not have one of those yet (my husband calls them Personal Isolation Devices but I'm planning for speakers), I kept clicking. I found a great deal of profound statements by this wise Roman Catholic philosopher (of course, he was influenced by Jansenism, so be careful as you read him) which I have saved to ponder more fully in the coming days (and of course, share with you how the Lord touches my heart through them).
The Holy Spirit, however, clearly wanted me to reflect on my own distractions and to find a way to focus more on God and let Him refine me. I have already seen amazing results in staying off of the computer until after lunch each day (the small sacrifice I decided would begin my Lenten observance). Our schoolwork is getting done, and my children are getting ready in the morning without fits. Taking away this one small distraction from my mornings helped me to focus on the children and simple things like starting a load of laundry and unloading the dishwasher.
Of course, I had to laugh when I realized that indeed my children are often a distraction to my prayer life, but since I have no plans to rid my days of them, I must look elsewhere. I need to create space in my days, something mentioned in the same homily and again towards the end of Mass in a beautiful explanation by our pastor of why the recessional in Lent is ideally done in complete sacred silence. We all know that "In the silence of the heart, God speaks," (Blessed Teresa of Calcuttta) and eliminating distractions can only help me to embrace my word for 2010.
What other distractions are in my days? What keeps me from being so inconsistent in my devotions, chores, and daily activities? How can I build in bubbles of peace? How can you?
...to be continued.