The One Reason I Don’t Veil at Mass

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Veiling.

As a relative newcomer to the Church, I usually like to stay away from those lively, in-house hot buttons. I feel like a newly adopted kid giving her new family relationship advice – what do I know about it, anyway? I haven’t been part of the conversation that started so many years ago. Even for subjects that I do know some things about – like say feminism – the whole conversation has been reframed in a new and completely different context, and I just need to sit and listen for a while before I say a word.

But veiling.

I keep coming back to this one.

You see, as a Protestant, I practiced veiling – only, we called it “covering.”

Image result for desiree hausam headcovering
Summer, 2013

Same difference. Here’s a shot of my girls and I outside our old Presbyterian church (before we got banned – but that’s a different topic).

Sola Scriptura

We adopted this practice because of Sola Scriptura. Our personal interpretation of the Bible (informed by a variety of Bible teachers) was that women should veil in worship, and so we did. At times, a couple of other women in the congregation covered as well, but it was a minority position and tended to cause some in-house tension. At the end of my time there, I was the only woman who practiced it – along with being part of the only family who didn’t sing the hymns. Every Sunday felt like my own personal protest, staged against my brothers and sisters whom I dearly loved and desired unity with. But I could not deny what I saw in the Bible. Ultimately this path led to our complete breakage from our church home of 14 years.

By the time we later washed up on the shores of the Catholic Church, I was exhausted and heartbroken from the conflicts we had been through.  Week after week, I still faced the choice: continue to veil? Or set it aside?

Well, when I learned that the official position of the Church on veiling is that it is no longer Canon Law, and is an optional practice (want more meat? Try this one), I decided to lay my veil aside, for one reason only.

I don’t veil because 99% of the ladies in my parish also don’t veil. I’ve done my time as a Protestant; I protested until it broke my heart, for the sake of my interpretation of the Bible. That’s the fate of a Protestant who takes Sola Scriptura completely seriously. But I hung all that up when I chose to submit to the inspired guidance of the Magisterium of the Church.

The Priceless Unity of the Church

For those ladies that do veil, I have nothing but respect. It’s a beautiful, reverent devotion, and it is affirmed as valid by the Church. My heart warms to see the ladies who do it. We all come from different places, and are blessed by different devotions. I am often encouraged to see the same attitude from the veiling folks:

“Whether you join us in the devotion of wearing a chapel veil or not, we are your sisters. Let us truly be in communion. Let us pray for one another.” – Birgit Jones

But I am saddened and troubled when I occasionally encounter the attitude that it is irreverent not to veil – in Facebook threads, usually.

One thing I love about the Church is that she permits so many varied expressions of true spirituality without division. We have many different vocations, devotions, practices that are approved, and we have to accept one another under the shelter of Rome. Differences exactly like the question of veiling routinely sunder the Protestant world – yet Catholics hold together, because we all agree that the Church, not us, decides who is Biblical and reverent, and who isn’t.

The unity of faith and practice that the Catholic Church has is a priceless treasure. For a former Presbyterian, used to the endless shattering of denominations, it is simply a miracle. It IS a miracle, friends – the only reason we can all hold together is through the inspiration of the Spirit to the Magisterium of the Church.

Conclusion

So, for me, with my background and experiences, to veil in a parish setting where nearly no one else does disrupts my sense of finally belonging to a community with whom I have no quarrel. To lay it aside was an act of trust in the Church – a setting aside of my Sola Scriptura conviction in favor of submitting to the Church’s conclusion on the subject. I would don my veil again in a heartbeat if the Church asked me to, but until then, I go bareheaded in trust that this, too, is reverent.

Do you veil at Mass? Why or why not? Grab some coffee, let’s chat!

If you are thinking of starting to veil, remember that Ebates members get 5% cash back at The Catholic Company!

 

Catholic Piety for Protestants No. 3: St. Patrick’s Breastplate

(This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.)

Welcome to the third post of my series on Catholic piety for Protestants and converts; in this series I am delving into some of the classic prayers of the Church. Catholic piety is not typically well understood in Protestant circles, and as a convert I found this to be an area that was both fascinating and also deeply important to my changing perceptions of the Church.

Other posts in the series: The Anima Christi, and The Peace Prayer of St. Francis.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate (or the Lorica of St. Patrick)
The Prayer

Full text:

I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through belief in the Threeness, Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism, Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial, Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension, Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today Through the strength of the love of cherubim, In the obedience of angels, In the service of archangels, In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward, In the prayers of patriarchs, In the predictions of prophets, In the preaching of apostles, In the faith of confessors, In the innocence of holy virgins, In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through The strength of heaven, The light of the sun, The radiance of the moon, The splendor of fire, The speed of lightning, The swiftness of wind, The depth of the sea, The stability of the earth, The firmness of rock.

I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to save me From snares of devils, From temptation of vices, From everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and near.

I summon today All these powers between me and those evils, Against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and soul, Against incantations of false prophets, Against black laws of pagandom, Against false laws of heretics, Against craft of idolatry, Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards, Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul; Christ to shield me today Against poison, against burning, Against drowning, against wounding, So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

***Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.***

I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through belief in the Threeness, Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

***The starred portion is often used alone as an abbreviated version. Text from Our Catholic Prayers.

Impact:

There is a common Protestant misconception that Catholics don’t know Jesus, aren’t Christians, or are so distracted by Mary and the saints that they don’t think about Jesus that much.

This is maybe the #1 misconception that needs to be overcome (either that, or Sola Scriptura). Our Protestant brothers and sisters love Jesus, and they need to find out that we do, too! I have said before that conflict and confusion drove me to the doors of the Church, but Jesus pulled me inside. All I had to do was darken that door with a truly open mind, and I recognized that Jesus was there in a way that I had not found before. For me, that open mind was caused by the collapse of my previous views and my forcible ejection from my former community, but it might not have to be that way for everyone. Some of us might be a little more stubborn than others. Maybe.

There are lots of ways in which Jesus is present in the Church, but prayers like this are so accessible. It is hard to say that a Catholic doesn’t care about Christ when she is reverently praying, “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me...”

The Facts

Our Catholic Prayers says:

“St. Patrick’s Breastplate is a popular prayer attributed to one of Ireland’s most beloved patron saints. According to tradition, St. Patrick wrote it in 433 A.D. for divine protection before successfully converting the Irish King Leoghaire and his subjects from paganism to Christianity. (The term breastplate refers to a piece of armor worn in battle.)”

The prayer is also known as The Lorica of St. Patrick, and the Cry of the Deer. There have been a number of musical adaptations, including the one included below.

Further Resources

Musically, I may be in a bit of a rut, but I am finding that John Michael Talbot has sung so many of these prayers, and I have known these songs for years before I knew them as anything else. Do you have a favorite musical version?

In Defense of Being Busy

“Oh, I’m so busy!”

We have a love-hate relationship with being busy, don’t we? Wherever we are in life, there are voices that will try to make us feel guilty about it.

On the one hand, we have a lot to do.

We have families, jobs, responsibilities, hopes, dreams, hobbies. Our days fill up fast. One part of the culture tells us to do it all, or we’ll miss out. Worse, our kids might miss out. (But miss out on what? There are people working three jobs who might miss out on having a roof over their heads.)

On the other hand, we know that constant busyness isn’t that good for us.

We all resent that stereotypical super-busy executive that doesn’t have time to stop and say hello (unless we’re her. Then we just feel guilty about it). We read blog posts that tell us that in being too busy, we’re missing what life is really all about. Our kids are missing out on a carefree childhood. If we’re too busy, we’re told, it’s only because of our own choices. We made our bed, now we’ll have to lie in it or make some changes.

Making Choices

I’m not a naturally busy person. I’m the type that, left to myself, will spend a large part of a vacation doing pretty much nothing. I like to have blank spaces in my daily life, free to be filled by whatever needs and adventures pop up; free to sit and play with the toddler, cook something adventurous, or just watch the clouds.

When I was in college, I didn’t sign up for much in the way of extra activities or ministries. I made a conscious choice, that my main ministry while I was there would simply be the people around me, to be an ear and a friend who had the time to sit and talk for hours, if need be. I’ve never regretted that choice.

Seasons Change

But, that was a long time ago, and my life has changed a lot since then. As we’ve welcomed more children into our lives and been hammered by the storms of life, we’re in a place now where we are very, very busy. It feels too busy sometimes, overscheduled and overstretched, as I have guarded against becoming for so many years. The kids have grown, and my slow, measured pace has sped up all on its own.

But for our family right now, the only other choice is to let ourselves become too closed in, too insular, so home-centered that we don’t give ourselves or the kids the opportunity to form real relationships outside the family. When we do that, our gifts and talents stagnate from disuse as we begin to feel that we are treading water, instead of giving ourselves room to grow and change and serve. Kids don’t do well with too much scheduled activity, it’s true, but they don’t thrive without any of them, either. (At least, mine don’t. Maybe yours do!) We know this – we’ve done it, in pursuit of that un-busy life. It wasn’t good for us.

While this creates a dissonance in my heart between the slowness I value and the many duties of my current vocation, I believe that this is a sacrifice I am called to make in this season, for the good of all of us. Just as busyness isn’t always good or virtuous, it’s also not always bad. It doesn’t always mean that you have made wrong choices or failed to say no when you should have. It might just mean that God has given you a lot to do for a while.

Is being busy good? Or bad?

Neither, friend. It just depends on why we’re so busy.

Sometimes, our lives require much busyness just to fulfill our basic duties. The saints have been there too – just read this quote from St Francis Xavier, written to let incoming fellow missionaries know what to expect:

“You won’t have time to pray, to meditate or contemplate, nor will you have time for any type of spiritual recollection. You won’t be able to say mass, you will be continually busy answering their questions. You’ll have little time to pray your breviary, and less for eating and sleeping.”

From Cartas de San Francisco Xavier a San Ignacio de Loyola, Translation from Regnum Christi

Sometimes, our duty does call us to set some things aside and slow down. We’ll know we’re there, if we really can’t fulfill our duties to God, those around us, and ourselves. Then it’s definitely time to step back and take stock. If we’re busy because we’re chasing the world and competing with our neighbors, that probably isn’t healthy.

Neither busyness or un-busyness is inherently good or bad, holy or unholy. We pass through seasons of both in our lives. We have to learn to prayerfully discern the best way to manage the responsibilities in front of us. 

No guilt needed.

Gift Ideas for Catholic Converts & Reverts

(This post contains referral and affiliate links. I receive a small commission through my affiliate and referral links at no impact to your shopping experience. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.) 

Welcome to my Gifts for Converts and Reverts Roundup!

With the Christmas season just barely peeking around the corner and the RCIA/Religious Ed. year getting into full swing, this seems like the perfect time to pull together a gift guide. When a person is new to and still unfamiliar with the Church, there are specific items and resources that would be very helpful and welcome as gifts.

Small Catholic Businesses and Artisans
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Sweet Little Ones Shop

First off, I would like to introduce you to some small Catholic businesses and artisans that create and sell Catholic gifts online.

These are wonderful places to find handmade rosaries, beautiful prints and printables, liturgical calendars, jewelry, dolls, and more. I love to support Catholic artisans and small businesses anytime I can!

Many of these fine shops can be found on Etsy.com, so I do want to pass along that Etsy participates in Ebates! Woot! If you are not familiar with Ebates, it is a free membership that offers cash back when you shop online at hundreds of major stores including Target, Amazon, eBay (!), The Catholic Company (!!), and Etsy.  There are also in-store rebates to be had.

I have been a member of Ebates for several years; I’m not much of a shopper, but even so, I’ve gotten over $150 cash back so far – and they did pay it out. I think the minimum payout threshold is $5, so they don’t sit around on your money, either.

Finally, Ebates is currently offering a $10 Welcome Bonus to all new members who make a qualifying purchase of $25 within 90 days of signing up. So, if you choose to shop on Etsy (or just about anywhere else online) this season, check out Ebates to get some cash back on your purchases, diffuse the Christmas shopping bills, and support small businesses too.

Without further ado, ready to meet some awesome artisans?

Liturgical Calendars, Prints, and Art

Rose Harrington Shop – A variety of prints, including botanical mysteries of the Rosary.2017-2018 Liturgical Calendars

Telos Art – The liturgical year is confusing when you aren’t used to it! These beautiful calendars would make amazing gifts for someone new to the Catholic Church.

Miscellaneous Handmade
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Happy Nest Home Goods

Peter’s Square – This is not an individual seller but a “community of Catholic makers.” There are currently nearly 100 different sellers on there with a dizzying array of goods. (I am especially fond of the “Heretical Nonsense” book stamp!I love that all sellers donate at least 5% of proceeds to the Church and her ministries. Grab some coffee – you might be there awhile!

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My Little Felt Friends

Hair Bows 4 Life – Beautiful handmade hair bows including bows featuring saint medals, bows for baptisms and First Communion, bows for holidays and feasts, bows honoring the Blessed Virgin, and much more. 10% of all sales are donated to the Pro-Life community.

SaongJai – Rosaries, jewelry, cards, printables, and more.

Happy Nest Home Goods – Embroidered goods, wall art, and awesome diffuser jewelry.

My Little Felt Friends – Adorable handmade saint dolls, bookmarks, headbands, keychains, Jesse Tree ornaments, Nativity scenes, DIY nativity+scenekits, and finger puppets. Custom orders welcome!

Arma Dei – “Equipping Catholic Families.” Great selection of craft kits, books, cards, all with catechetics in mind.

Kidderbug Kreations– Christmas ornaments and a wide variety of made-to-order items.

Printables

Sweet Little Ones Shop – Religious art is important and uplifting, but it can be expensive for a convert to update the artwork in their home to reflect their faith. This shop offers beautiful printable artwork, uplifting words, and quotes from saints to affordably add to the beauty of the Catholic home.

Handmade Rosaries, Jewelry, Etc.

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AveMariaFaithcrafts – Rosaries, necklaces, earrings, saint necklaces, and more.

Relics by Rose – Handmade bracelets, necklaces, rosaries, keychains.

Additional Gift Ideas

Some other good possibilities might include:

  • Books. There is so much to learn! Check out my Reading List for an exhaustive list of books for converts.
  • A wall crucifix. We were so happy to receive one from our sponsors!
  • Prayer cards. I think a little collection of prayer cards would be a thoughtful gift; converts often don’t know the classic prayers by heart.
  • Art and home decor. Like I mentioned above, sacred art is an important and uplifting thing. If a family is starting from zero religious art and decor, this can be an appreciated and lasting gift.
In Closing

I hope this little gift guide was helpful as we head toward the holidays and through the RCIA year. The final, and really best, gift suggestion I have to make is this: time. Converts can be lonely. They may have recently lost friends and been rejected by family over their conversion. They can feel confused, out of place, worried. In short, they need a friend! Go have coffee. Invite them to dinner. Say hi to their kids. These things can be a cup of cold water to someone who is walking an unfamiliar road.

Remember to sign up for Ebates before you shop to get a $10 Welcome Bonus and cash back on your shopping!

Marian Virtue Series: Constant Mental Prayer

This post is a part of a Marian Virtue Series, running every Wednesday and Friday. It will conclude on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. If you are just joining the series now and want to learn more you can start here: Introduction to Marian Virtue Series.

Previous Blog Article: Surpassing Purity at The Lemke Lodge.

Next Blog Article: Universal Mortification at Coffee and Pearls.

This post features a giveaway from Sancta Bovina. Please keep reading to find out more!

“Won’t you take me as your child of light? Break me if you must, I do not care, ’til every breath I breathe is a song of praise, every heartbeat is a prayer.” Randy Stonehill, Every Heartbeat is a Prayer.

Coram Deo. 

That was the theme for orientation week when I was a freshman at an Evangelical college, pretty much forever ago now. Someplace, maybe at my parents’ house, I still have my bright yellow name tag with that phrase splashed across it in a bold, jazzy black font. A lot has changed since I wore it; marriage, 8 children, and a faith journey I did not expect. One thing that is the same since those days, though, is my desire and struggle to live out that theme: Coram Deo.

Coram Deo means “in the presence of God.” The idea is to live before the face of God, aware of His presence and in constant fellowship with Him. This is the same foundational concept as the fifth Marian Virtue in our series: Constant Mental Prayer.

Constant Mental Prayer

Constant prayer can sound a little intimidating if you are thinking of a narrow view of prayer, of simply verbally addressing God. Once, I heard someone refer to constant mental prayer as the activity of going through your day, continually mentally reciting a prayer such as the Our Father or Hail Mary.

If that works for you, well, you do you, friend. If I didn’t die of monotony, I’m pretty sure I’d burn the pork chops, get into a car wreck, or yell at some miscreant child, “BLESSED ART THOU! I MEAN KNOCK IT OFF!!” Mom points: 0.

I don’t think that’s what is meant by constant mental prayer, thankfully.  In an interview with Zenit, Fr. Jacques Phillipe describes mental prayer as being more properly thought of as interior prayer, an interior attitude of desire and confidence in God, and the humility to accept our poverty before God and wait for Him in all things.

St. Therese of Lisieux says:

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and love, embracing both trial and joy.”

And, Padre Pio says this:

“Prayer is the oxygen of the soul.”

Our bodies are not always consciously breathing. But we live in an oxygen-rich atmosphere, upon which we always depend. This kind of prayer is the same – we’re not always talking, not always thinking. But we should be always striving to live in an atmosphere of love, friendship, and devotion to God as we go about our other activities.

Prayer in Mary’s Life

Constant Mental Prayer is, of course, a gift of grace – something that we strive for and ask for God’s grace in our hearts, and cooperate with that grace when we find it.

Fr. Phillipe’s thoughts on mental, or interior, prayer also help me understand how Mary, a wife and mom with daily earthly responsibilities, could still possess this virtue without neglecting her family. Her moral perfection means that whatever else was going on, she was aware of and happy in God’s presence, like we might enjoy the presence of a friend or spouse even when we are consciously focused on another task. We can know for sure that the graces given to Mary filled her with those three principles of interior prayer that Fr. Phillipe mentioned: a true desire for God, confidence in God, and her profound humility.

Constant Mental Prayer for the Rest of Us

So how can we cultivate this virtue in our lives?

Practice. While the idea at hand is one of a constant state of interior prayer, that doesn’t exclude other forms of prayer. In the book Ordinary Path to Holiness, R. Thomas Richard compares stages of prayer to stages of growth and development in other areas of our life, with spoken prayers being the first stage (but a stage that we never outgrow!). A regular practice of spoken prayer is absolutely necessary to our being able to begin to live Coram Deo – before the face of God.

Accomplishing this can be really hard. We’re all busy, some more than others, and it can be really, really difficult to squeeze that time into our day. That’s legit. I’m not going to guilt trip anybody and say that you need to be devoting such-and-such an amount of time to be truly striving after this amazing virtue. That’s between you and God. Listen to the Spirit, and if that doesn’t get you where you want to be, chat with your priest. He might have some good ideas.

Time isn’t the only challenge to pursuing prayer. Unconfessed sin, dryness, laziness, and even heartbreak can cause us to shrink back from trying to connect with God. We all have these problems, but don’t live there. That’s like trying to save yourself from strangling by holding your breath.

One way in which I try to pursue this virtue is to try to say a Morning Offering first thing when I get up, devoting everything that happens that day to God and offering it up to Him.  This frames my whole day, and helps me remember what it’s really all about. (Psst – I offer a free printable of a Morning Offering prayer as a free gift when you join my email list! 🙂 )

Mary, Untier of Knots, pray for us!

One lucky reader will win a Love like Mary coffee mug from Sancta Bovina. The mug will be a great reminder to love like our blessed mother. 

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Congratulations to Chastity F! Thank you for reading and entering the giveaway! Don’t forget to check out the rest of the posts in this series!

Sancta Bovina or “Holy Cow” in Latin sells modern Catholic gifts. Because it’s okay to have fun while striving for the good, the true, & the beautiful.

Please support this amazing Catholic artist (and convert!), and continue to join us in this Marian Virtue Series.  

Vanity, Faith, and Hard Times: Believing in God’s Love When Everything Goes Wrong

“Eight kids!? Wow, that’s great. As long as you can support them, that’s great.”

Preparing for my daughter to be released from the hospital after a long and exhausting week, I was chatting with one of the nurses. Making conversation, she had asked me how many kids we had.

I might not have really noticed her reply, other than that it was said (all unknowing) shortly after my husband had lost his job, and therefore hit me like a punch to the gut. We were in a terrifying place of uncertainty and insecurity at that time.

Let me just toss out there that no one knows, when they have a baby or two, what the next 20 years will bring. No one knows if the economy will crash, wipe out savings, and gut the field where the breadwinner is competitive. No one knows if a job will be lost and hard to replace, or a disability or injury will run up medical bills and limit employability, or a spouse will die, or a child will have special needs that preclude that second job and rack up bills.

No one knows if a shift in the political landscape will send your insurance premiums through the roof, or eject you from your policy altogether. No one knows if, after you lose your insurance, somebody will get cancer.

No one knows. So we try to prepare, as best we can, for all of them. And some of us win. Our preparations are on point, and we get lucky and evade the disaster we couldn’t have withstood.

And, some of us lose. Some plan for all the wrong contingencies, and get slammed by the crisis no one saw coming.

Then, if we “did it right” and remained self-sufficient through our kids’ childhoods (or maybe never had any kids for fear of not being able to support them), we can have a lot of pride and self-righteousness wrapped up in our “success,” as though it came from us, and not from Providence.

And for someone with kids and financial problems, there can be a lot of shame – but, paradoxically,  that shame can really be another form of pride. Our vanity is stung by our condition, and we can respond in two ways.

  1. Our problems might be “ALL our fault.” We can review every choice we ever made in the harsh light of hindsight, and become bitter against ourselves and those who counseled us.
  2. Or, we make excuses. We take our mistakes and missteps, and pretend that NONE of them were our fault, and that none of them could have possibly caused our problems.

I believe both of these responses are caused by vanity. If we allow ourselves too much pride when we land that job or promotion, buy the house or car, pay the bills and the debts, even give generously to charity, if we believe that we really did cause these things ourselves (rather than realizing that God blessed our labors, and that we may have had advantages that we didn’t earn), then conversely when we lose them, or can’t achieve them, we’ll feel the sting of shame and anger. Our wounded pride will turn on us like a treacherous friend.

And if we hit on hard times and focus too much on our shame and loss, then we are still viewing the situation through the self-centered eyes of vanity.

We might feel like we’re being humble by focusing on our humiliating circumstances, but it’s a trap, friends. Pride is sneaky like that. When we do this, we’ve made our world about us, about our own dreams or about how others view us, not about fulfilling God’s dream for us. In her excellent post on the profound humility of Mary, Chloe at Old Fashioned Girl says this:

“We often think that humility is about thinking less of ourselves, or thinking that we are not worthy. But the reality is that humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.”

The only escape from this net of pride and vanity is through grace. The grace to embrace a holy resignation to the will of God, and to trust that things are as they should be, though we feel that our very soul may bleed out from the pain, fear, and disappointment we face. The grace to know that when a well-meaning stranger says that kids are great if you can support them, that the reality is that sometimes you might have to get help, and kids are still great anyway. The grace to know that “success” in the eyes of God has nothing to do with your credit score, whether you are debt-free, or your level of financial independence (which is largely imaginary, anyway. All of us are highly dependent to one degree or another on the social network in which we live).

Shame isn’t always a bad thing, of course. Shame as part of repentance for sin is completely appropriate. But even then, as Fr. Mike Schmitz mentions in his video on learning from the past that I put up on Facebook the other day, dwelling on these things too much and refusing to move on after we repent can also be a form of self-centeredness.  As St. Teresa of Calcutta said:

“Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.” 

Catholic Piety for Protestants No. 2: The Peace Prayer of St. Francis

(This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.)

Welcome to the second post of my series on Catholic piety for Protestants and converts; in this series I am delving into some of the classic prayers of the Church. Catholic piety is not typically well understood in Protestant circles, and as a convert I found this to be an area that was both fascinating and also deeply important to my changing perceptions of the Church.

If you missed the first post in the series, check it out here.

The Peace Prayer of St. Francis
The Prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
 
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

Impact:

My conversion happened at a crisis point in our lives. As I mentioned in my Reflection after the Easter Vigil, I was feeling pretty crushed by life when I first darkened the door of the Church. This prayer spoke to my soul, that in crisis, in rejection, in sadness, loss, and even despair, with Jesus in me, I could sow joy. I did not have to be a victim of my circumstances, always reacting, always on the defensive, but I could forget myself and serve others, even coming from a place of great lack in terms of both material goods and also emotional stamina.

In conflict with our previous church leaders, I could sow peace and pardon. In a place of despair regarding our financial future, I could lean on a strength not my own and sow hope to others.

In a place in my life where I deeply felt need of consolation and understanding, I could find purpose in offering these things to others, and forget my own craving for the comforting of my wounds. Jesus was strong enough to do these things in me, without my needing to be strong enough first.

None of these ideas were really new to me, as a believer from a Protestant background. The impact on me of many things I found in the Church didn’t always come from a place of striking difference from Protestant piety, but by an unexpected similarity met by a difference in tone and fueled by the hidden power of the Eucharist. Truths that I knew in my head and strove for in my soul sprang to life before the living reality I encountered each Sunday at the Mass.

The Facts:

Welp, friends, the first thing you find out when looking into the history of this prayer is that it didn’t actually come from St. Francis

Am I the only one that didn’t know this?

The prayer originated in France in the early 1900’s, published anonymously in a little spiritual magazine entitled La Clochette.  It became associated with St. Francis by virtue of having been published on the back of a holy card bearing St. Francis’s image, but without being attributed to him. (Dr. Christian Renoux, Franciscan Archive, 8/22/2017, 10:30 am).

The association with St. Francis makes a lot of sense, regardless of authorship; the spirit of the prayer is very much in accord with the life and spirituality of St. Francis. In the words of Jack Wintz, OFM: “Francis of Assisi may not have written the words of the prayer attributed to him, but he certainly lived them.”

Further Resources:

In closing, a musical rendition of the Peace Prayer, by John Michael Talbot. I love prayers set to good music!

 

Linked up at Reconciled To You.

A Desert of Busyness

Life gets complicated, sometimes.

First off, we did move again, so here we are in a new state. We actually left North Carolina on the very day that we traveled there last year, in an odd, unplanned coincidence. Now, we’re in the middle of all the unpacking, the tortuous paperwork, and errands involved with relocating the entire existence of ten people. Again. And I’m learning to navigate a new city. Again.

I’ve mentioned before (more than once!) that we are in the middle of a lot of transition. A major faith change from Protestant to Catholic, two cross-country moves in a year, a new job landed and lost, multiple child health issues, a new high school graduate, a house bought and now on the market out of state, and looming financial issues as a stopgap job cuts our already-tight budget in half. My two oldest are learning to drive, too. (Gulp.)

If that weren’t enough upheaval, we might not be homeschooling all the kids this year, for the first time ever. We have gradually felt more and more overwhelmed with the homeschooling, what with all the other craziness, and we’re feeling like perhaps a different path would be better for our family at this tumultuous point in our lives. And so, in a last-minute scramble, we are trying to get our 4 elementary aged kiddos into the local Catholic school, in a town we just moved to a week and a half ago. School starts next week, and they probably don’t have spots for all of them, but it’s likely that at least the younger ones will get in, and Rebecca may homeschool a while longer and enter whenever a spot opens up for her. I’m more than a little nervous, though, about how this new schedule may bring even more upheaval and busyness to our lives as we adjust. Will it be harder or easier? I don’t even know. I just think it’s the road we’re being led to.

So I have kind of found myself longing for just a little blank space in my life. My days are packed full, every minute, every day. But, as I went to bed the other night lamenting to myself about my lack of down time, rest, vacation, about my breakneck firehose life that won’t seem to let up for the last few years, I thought of the Israelites complaining in the desert.

In the desert, God was leading Israel from enslavement to the Promised Land. In between lay the desert, with all its uncertainty, privation, and discomfort. The Israelites did what we all do in such a place, of course – complain. Rebel, even. They were probably really tired and no little afraid. But God wasn’t honored in their complaints, let alone their rebellion.

This long season of nonstop busyness is, for me, a kind of desert – and not the one I’m still homesick for back in Utah, either. I don’t thrive on this kind of thing – I like to smell the roses, rock my babies, and drink tea.  I like to change the diapers, do the laundry, cook tasty things, and mind my own business. I tear up a little, actually, thinking of years past when that is exactly what I did with many of my days. Those quiet days seem so long ago. Simplicity, hygge…these are the things I thrive on.

But, I have to be present where I am. God has put me in this season, this wasteland of an over-crammed schedule and endless crisis management. I can’t change this busyness, right now; all these things I’m doing have to happen, and they have to happen now. They can’t be responsibly set aside. In this my desert, I can only be faithful each day, fulfilling the responsibilities and needs before me, keeping Jesus at the center, attending to my own care as best I can, and trusting God that His manna is on its way, and that he will make a road for our sojourn here.

How about you, reader-friends? If you are in your own desert journey, leave a comment and let me know how I can pray for you. 

 

 

 

 

 

Catholic Piety for Protestants Series Part 1: The Anima Christi

(This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.)

If I had to choose the single most striking thing about our transition from conservative Presbyterianism to the Catholic Church, it’d be a tough call. There are quite a number of things I have changed my mind about, and it all adds up to a different, better religious life than what I had before.

But the thing the had the biggest personal impact on me is probably not what I would have expected. Changing my mind about Sola Scriptura, Mary and the saints, the Pope, images…these are not small issues. But the thing I least expected is far more subtle, and yet had an enormous impact on my conversion. What is this mighty thing?

Catholic piety.

Protestants have a lot of different perspectives on Catholics, and so if I seem to paint with a broad brush, forgive me. I speak from what I know and where I was. And where I was, I didn’t understand Catholic piety and spirituality at all, or even really believe it existed. I looked at the Church and her strange (to me) ways, and saw scary, creepy heresy. I saw layers of medieval superstition, instead of the clean, spare brightness of the Reformed tradition. I saw people enslaved to the outer trappings of an empty tradition.

In other words, I saw a fantasy concocted in my own mind and imbibed from the world in which I moved.

As I mentioned in my Reflection after the Easter Vigil, a memory that had a huge impact on me was that of hearing a gentleman behind me at Mass in our early days of visiting; he was participating in the prayers, and his voice overflowed with genuine faith. That moment has since struck me as a turning point in my attitude toward the Church and toward Catholics. It was the moment when I really internalized the fact that I had been dead wrong about the question of whether Catholics possessed a living faith in Jesus.


Tweet: I had been dead wrong about the question of whether Catholics possessed a living faith in Jesus.


There was so much more to the journey, and so many questions that had to be explored. This could never have been “The Reason” I converted, but that experience has become symbolic to me as that time I recognized the presence of my Lord, and could never look back.

So, I want to start a series on Catholic prayers and piety; a basic rundown of some of the classic Catholic prayers and how they reveal the heart of the Catholic Church. These prayers are a wealth of spiritual truths, and I think I am not the first nor the last Protestant to be surprised at the depths of love and faith that the Church has to share with the world.

First up:

The Anima Christi
The Prayer:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Separated from Thee let me never be 
From the malicious enemy defend me 
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That I may praise Thee with Thy saints 
Forever and ever
Amen
Impact:

Praying and reflecting on these ancient words pulls the mind and heart to Christ. To someone who didn’t understand that the Catholic Church is all about Jesus, listening to the entirety of a large parish recite such a Christ-centered prayer with feeling was an experience that contributed to my changing perceptions of Catholics. 

The Facts:
  • Also known as The Aspirations of St. Ignatius Loyola.
  • Dates from the early 14th century
  • Often mistakenly ascribed to St. Ignatius Loyola, but predates him. St. Ignatius often references the prayer in his Spiritual Exercises
  • Often used as a communion hymn or prayer – sometimes in responsorial fashion

(Source: New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia)

Further Resources:

In closing, I’d like to share with you a beautiful rendition of the Anima Christi by John Michael Talbot (whose music is very worth exploring). I was familiar with John Michael Talbot before I knew much of anything about Catholicism, so I knew this song long before I knew where it came from.

I plan to make this an ongoing series. Do you have a favorite prayer that you’d like me to write about? Comment and let me know!

 

Catholic Piety for Protestants Series Vol. 2: The Peace Prayer of St. Francis

Linked up at: www.theologyisaverb.com and www.reconciledtoyou.com/blog.html

Math U See vs. Ray’s Arithmetic – A Review

(This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.)

Our family has been homeschooling for 13 years now; we even have a brand-new graduate on our hands. Crazy, huh? Complete madness, really.

I’d be lying if I said it’s always been easy. Math has been my Achille’s heel for my entire life, and homeschooling has been no different. It’s been essential for me to find resources that circumvent my un-mathiness to provide an excellent education to my kids. I’ve used four different math curricula over the years, from K-12, with varying results – Ray’s Arithmetic and Math U See for the elementary years.  We did Ray’s for about three years, and then changed to Math U See. It’s been nine years since we made that switch and we’re still using it. Here’s my take on both:

Ray’s Arithmetic

In the beginning, way, way back when my new grad was just a little thing and the unwitting guinea pig to her inexperienced parents, we used Ray’s Arithmetic. I don’t really recommend this curriculum unless both teacher and child are very mathematically minded. It looks fine in the beginning, but I was lost by second grade. (Lest you think that’s me and not Ray’s, I may not be a math gal but I DID get a B in high school Calculus, to the wonder of all. So I’m not completely hopeless). I’ve heard that some math naturals love it, and I’ve seen other families get good results, but if you’d rather parse verbs than untangle equations…maybe move on. There are also some newer helps out that I didn’t have, so definitely check those out if you try this one.

When I finally realized that Ray’s wasn’t working for us, we’d been slogging through it far too long. Homeschool pro tip: if it isn’t working, change it. Don’t pussyfoot around. Identify the problem and change things up to address it.  These dang kids grow up way too fast. (Um, but don’t panic either. Be chill. Enjoy the ride and all that. Just don’t torture yourself for years with a curriculum that doesn’t fit you or your kid, that’s all).

Anyway. Sorry. Having my first grad is something of an existential mom crisis. Bear with me. Thank you. If you still want to consider Ray’s after my less-than-shining review, here’s some pros and cons:

Pros of Ray’s Arithmetic:
  • Classic. This is the classic arithmetic from the American schools of the late 1800’s, around the same time as McGuffey Readers. It’s a reprint and essentially unchanged from the original.
  • Progresses through the three developmental stages of math: Manipulative, Mental, and Abstract. This is a classical approach, which I’m all about.
  • Inexpensive. You can pick up the first book on Amazon for $8.99 new, or cheaper used. You can also find the lessons free, along with free video instruction, at this Ray’s Arithmetic website.
  • New teaching aids. This might be a game-changer on these. There are more resources available for teachers and parents using these books now than when I used them. In 2012, Cathy Duffy put out a Parent-Teacher Guide for Ray’s Arithmetics, which has good reviews and would certainly be a help in navigating the material. I haven’t personally seen it, though.
Cons of Ray’s Arithmetic:
  • Material is presented differently than most of us grew up with, presenting a learning curve for the parent/teacher. I don’t have a lot of time for teacher learning curves, these days.
  • I had no teaching aids when I tried this; it was 2008, I think when we hung up our Ray’s. I strongly recommend checking into the Parent-Teacher Guide to get the most out of it. The book itself is just the student text, no helps. In its time it was used in the classroom by teachers who were trained to use it, but I’m no Laura Ingalls.
  • The way story problems are used.The way the problems were presented ended up being a roadblock. The curriculum is touted as making kids good at story problems, but Erin, my grad, was the kid who used the most Ray’s and to this day she hates story problems with a fiery passion.
  • No key for Primary Arithmetic, which covers the first couple of years. I may be able to solve a pageful of second-grade math problems, but I do have other things to do. Even with a calculator, it’s tedious and time-consuming.

Next up after we freed ourselves from Ray’s: Math U See.

Math U See

Math U See is pretty sweet. We’ve been using it for elementary math for 9ish years now, and I have never regretted the change. The curriculum makes use of a set of base-10 manipulative blocks which are used to teach basic arithmetic all the way up through fractions and introductory algebra. Fraction and algebra lessons use additional overlays with the blocks.

We have used the Primer Lever up through Epsilon (fractions) so far, and have been delighted with the results. Like absolutely any other curriculum out there, though, it’s not for everyone. Here are the main pros and cons:

Pros:
    • Video Instruction. I’m no math teacher, friends, but Steve Demme absolutely is, and I get to pop him in the DVD player at will. Ideally, the parent and student watch the DVD lesson together and work through some practice problems before the student settles in to work on her assignment solo. (Less ideally, the parent can slap on a new (or review) lesson while she goes to help another kid with another lesson, change a diaper, stop the chicken broth from boiling over, and change the laundry. This method takes a little longer to make progress, but we get there in the end, and I have a grad to prove it.)
    • Teacher manuals. This is important for me. Have a mentioned I’m not a math teacher!?
    • Built-in hands on. Beyond the manipulatives, lessons will also take you to the kitchen or other parts of the house to study measurements, etc., hands-on.
    • Integrated Manipulatives. The lessons integrate the manipulative blocks right in. You don’t have to try to figure out how to do that yourself, it’s just part of the lesson and the practice pages, which works very well.
    • Good for different learning styles. So far, I have used Math U See with 5 kids. We have: the practical non-academic who hates math, the super-studious kid who loves math, the verbal dancer/artist who really hates math, a budding engineer who doesn’t care about school much but breezes through his math, and the seven year old who begs for school and seems to know most of his math already, somehow. They have all done well on Math U See, through calm and stormy periods in our family life. Each student can go at their own pace; in some chapters, we use all the worksheets, and some we don’t. It’s simple to go to mastery and then just move on without excessive, repetitive work. (Now and then for a tough lesson I might print up some practice sheets from the website. They’re keyed to the lesson numbers, and access is free.)
  • Systematic and Cumulative – each level primarily covers one topic, so you will be covering adding one year, subtracting the next, then multiplication, then division, then fractions, etc. Every lesson includes review and practice sections to keep everything fresh.
  • Reusable – mostly. The manipulative kit is an up-front investment, but it is used with every level. I figure that since I use 7 or 8 levels per child, for 8 children, it comes out to about $1 per year per kid if I use the used-on-Amazon price for the starter kit, or $1.50 per year per kid if I got the bigger, newer set from MathUSee.com. (If I had used it from the beginning for my oldest ones, anyway. Also, the lesson DVDs and Teacher Manuals are a one-time purchase that can be used over and over, year after year, and also have a respectable resale value if you are so inclined. Any homeschooling parent of more than one kid knows that reusable curriculum is the key to keeping expenses down. Which leads me to my first con…
Cons:
  • Consumable Workbooks. Yeah, this is a real downer. I’d love to see them switch away from this model, to a completely reusable format. I used to have the kids copy their answers into a notebook so I could reuse the workbooks, but then I found out this is illegal. I was crushed to learn this, so I hope I’m not ruining anyone’s day, but yes, it really is. So I stopped. There’s no way around this problem unless you use a curriculum that doesn’t require a workbook, like maybe Saxon, which some love and some hate. Any Saxon-lovers (or -haters), drop a comment and let me know your experience! So, yes, every year we buy new workbooks, and sometimes the test book too. Since I don’t test on every single chapter, the test booklet lasts me a few years.
  • Hard to bargain shop. I am a relentless bargain hunter by both nature and necessity. Amazon has good prices and middling selection; Math U See has everything, of course, but prices are higher and shipping prices are not cheap. Sometimes you can really score on Ebay, but you have to plan ahead and not be shopping for curriculum three days before your school year starts. Ahem.

There you have it! Our experiences with Ray’s Arithmetic and Math U See. Have you used either or both? What did you think?