Sunday, November 9, 2014

+J.M.J.+

Last weekend I didn’t post, and I apologize for the lapse. But I got to experience something last weekend that I wanted to share with you all. As you already know, last Saturday was the Feast of All Saints. We go to Mass about two hours away, and so one of the families from our parish graciously took my boyfriend and I in for Saturday night so we could go to Mass again the following morning. This family has six children, the oldest of which is 15, the youngest of which is 21 months. You see, my boyfriend and I grew up in either a Protestant home or a somewhat indifferent home when it comes to religion. We’d never seen or experienced a traditionally Catholic home. So coming into this home truly opened our eyes and showed us a few things about what it means to be Catholic in this day and age.

Besides our initial awe at the beauty of their home, one of the first things we noticed was the absence of a television. There was no television in the large and welcoming great room, nor in the living room, nor in any other room that we could see. Instead, the walls were covered with bookshelves sporting literature of all varieties (good varieties, of course). And the eldest girl, when she was finished with her supper, asked very politely if she could be excused from the table so she could continue reading her book. I tried not to gawk at her and thought to myself, Wow! So polite, and seeking such good recreation! Rarely do we meet children with both of these qualities!

Next we noticed their lovely classroom, probably a converted den. A big whiteboard covered the wall, and four clean little desks sat ready for their pupils in the center of the room. More shelves with lots of instructional books lined the walls; my boyfriend, being the teacher-in-training he is, was most interested in this room and the curriculum they taught.

When I was shown upstairs to the room where I’d be sleeping, and where all the bedrooms were, I peeked inside the open doors of all the children’s rooms. The oldest and youngest children were both boys, but all the children in between were girls. Amidst all the pink and flowers that decorated their rooms, I could see sacred images on their walls; of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, and various images of Our Lady.

Probably the most touching part, and the part of their house I hope I will have the space to create, was their prayer chapel, which they’d converted from a side room. Inside was a little family altar and a kneeler, with many lovely figures and statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and prayer sheets made up personally for each of the children with their names on them.

After our ‘tour’ of the home, my boyfriend and I spent a few moments in the great room with three of the girls. The eldest chatted politely, holding her book, and the two middle girls sat close to one another on the other end of the sofa, making conversation with another friend of ours who’d been invited to stay for Mass on Sunday. It was a bit overwhelming to be in the company of so many Catholics, and such well-behaved Catholic children. Keep in mind here that the eldest girl was middle-school age.

Then, of course, the 21-month-old boy ran through the house, babbling and shrieking as infants do, and the girls kept a patient and watchful eye on him, not calling him names, not sighing or complaining, just simply watching him, getting out toys for him to play with, talking to him. The mother, this whole time, was upstairs helping her husband pack for a business trip. She didn’t have to worry about her youngest, or the younger girls. They all knew their duties to be her helpers, and it was a wonderful thing to watch.

I also noticed that even their at-home attire was modest—though the girls were all in their nightgowns, they were long-sleeved nightgowns with an appropriate neckline, and most of them wore leggings beneath.

This was my first experience in an established Catholic home, and it was a strikingly different atmosphere than most homes that I’ve ever walked into. My boyfriend and I discussed everything we’d seen and learned, as we are taking our cues from the Catholic families who have gone before us. Hopefully God will give us more opportunities to discover what being a truly Catholic family looks like, and how we can implement these lessons no matter what our own circumstances may be (because it’s not looking like we’re going to have much to work with financially!). We do know a family closer to our age who have just had their second child, and we’ve visited their home before, so we know it’s possible even on a low income to make a home that is warm and welcoming and full of faith and prayer. I am thankful that God has given us this opportunity—we will need all the lessons we can get!

+Deo Gratias! Maria Gratias!+

Sermon in a Sentence: St. Thomas Aquinas (March 1, 2014)

“Faith introduces eternal life into us, for eternal life is nothing else than to know God. Thus our Lord said, “This is eternal life, to know Thee, the only true God.” This knowledge of God begins in us by faith, and is perfected in the life to come, when we shall know Him as He is.” –From “Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life; Vol. 5: St. Thomas Aquinas”, pg. 122, Selected and Arranged by John P. McClernon.

***I just received this book from my godmother on the occasion of my Confirmation! So, in an effort to keep the commitment to read and reflect upon just one sermon-sentence a day, I am going to try to post my reflections each day. I hope that these little sentences are helpful to any of my readers out there! May God bless you all!

+J.M.J.+
To think…great men such as St. Thomas Aquinas fulfilled their days on earth in the study and contemplation of the truths of the faith, the mysteries of God. This was their portion and happiness. How content, how happy we, too, would be, if we could find our chiefest and greatest happiness in this contemplation of the things of God! To find joy in them, we must first believe them and hold them to be true. It has been said that the moments here on earth where we are filled with the love of God and swept away, seemingly, to the heights of heaven, are few and far between. What if we could snatch this joy each day, by practicing the virtue of faith, thinking a little on these marvelous truths, on these bite-sized morsels of the truth? How might this change us? Even if for only a moment, a very small portion of our day, we could be completely absorbed in the things of God? Short time is the lot of many people who find themselves very busy in the service of God, in the secular life and otherwise. There are errands to be run, meals to be cooked and eaten, children to be raised and taught, papers to write, books to study, ensembles to practice for. But amidst all of these, if we could lay aside one precious moment to at least ingest a sentence such as the one above, a sentence of great value and worth, even if we are distracted or busy or distressed, we can snatch a moment of great peace by feeding our minds on these words. How great a joy to learn something new about God! How wonderful it is for the soul to advance towards perfection, be it an inch at a time! Even so little distance as a centimeter, the distance contemplating on a little sentence might cover, is of great value to the soul seeking God. Why not steal these opportunities while we can? We are, after all, only guaranteed the moment we are currently in. If one little sentence contains so much worth (and it contains as much worth as we wish to give it, should we truly feed our minds and souls on it!), why do we shun such a small little commitment? To read one little sermon sentence a day, to learn more and strengthen our faith in God, gives us a little foresight into what eternity will be–knowing God as He is! And this knowledge starts with faith–clinging to God’s truths that He has revealed to us–“and is perfected in the life to come.” Let us listen to Our Lord, Who tells us that our happiness, our eternal life, is to know God, and seek it in practicing the virtue of faith here in this life, that we may be found worthy of the perfection of it in the life to come. +Deo Gratias!+