Friday, February 27, 2009

Understanding God's Will

Knowing God's will is a complex theological issue debating for centuries.  It is also as simple as smiling to those who pass our way.

My dh and I have been discussing knowing God's will - reading St. Alphonsus Ligouri's "Uniformity with God's Will" for Lent (available on-line at  We were talking about how the path of knowing God's will goes from the broad to the delicate.  

Early on in our marriage God had to use a broad brush with us as we came to know and understand the Church's teachings and His will.  We had some really big stuff to bring into line - from understanding marriage as a sacrament to issues on family planning.  Over the past two decades He has continually taken a brush to our lives helping us to become more and more subtle in our lives of holiness.  

Much like our children - who first scribble with the fat crayons, move onto the standard Crayola and when ready we allow them markers.  God has been painting the life He wants me to lead.  At times I am a willing subject, others not so much.

The challenge with these delicate issues is that they can be a bit tricky.  The reality is that while were is much we all need to consent to - the hierarchy of truths - there is latitude in the some o the small stuff.  For example, while contraception is never right, TV might not always be always wrong.  

Hearing God speak of the subtleties of our soul is not easy.  We can hear the trumpets that blast in our heads with the 'big' stuff but the smaller stuff often comes with a whisper.   Make time for silence in your life so you can hear God's whispers as He delicately creates you into His complete creation.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Today's Gospel is all you need....

Luke 9: 22-25 
Jesus said to his disciples, "The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised."  Then he said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose for forfeit himself?"

If we could only do this - pick up the cross He has given us and proceed up the road.  We will fall - facing the rejection He himself endured.  We will fall, again and again.  But we will pick up and continue.  

Living a life of virtue is a struggle.  We know this.  On many days we fall into bed battered and bruised from all the mistakes we will make, but still we walk.  

The difference is loving the fight and never the fall.  He knows we will fall and sends grace and the angels to watch over and protect us when we do.  But He watches and sees if we will arise - that is our choice.  Will we rise and try again or will we stay in the muck and refuse.

Let us give Him cause for joy and rise to walk again.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday and a Restless Heart

Today we begin our return to God.  Turning from what distracts us from Him, His will and, in the end, our own joy.

This we need to remember - our joy, our deep interior joy comes only from doing His will and fulfilling our vocation as defined by Him.  When we chose to ignore that, defy that or prevent it from happening we are in truth hurting ourselves.  But this is hard to accept and believe, isn't it?

We 'think' that by doing what makes us happy, by keeping ourselves and our needs and desires met and fulfilled we will be happy.  And we are - for brief moments - but then we ache again.  This ache in our hearts, our souls and our minds comes from the prayer of St. Augustine's Confessions - "Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee".

Too often we create this restless heart ourselves.   We know what we should do but refuse to do it.  Let this Lent be one of seeking Him before ourselves, His will above our own and knowing that in doing so, we will be restless no longer.

Consider reading Uniformity with God's Will by St. Alphonus de Ligouri this Lent.

Monday, February 23, 2009

LOVE2LEARN BLOG: Catholics, Homeschooling, and Copyright Infringement

Please remember that the Little Flowers Girls' Club is a trademarked name with copyrighted material. Purchases go to allowing more materials to be available. Here is a great link to finding out more about respecting copyrights and small publishers. 

LOVE2LEARN BLOG: Catholics, Homeschooling, and Copyright Infringement

Two Items of Note

1.  Blessed Damian of Molokai is to be a saint!  This a great news.  He has always been a favorite saint of mine as I am of Belgian heritage (my Dad), my dh's middle name is Damian and my youngest son, Damian Joseph is named in this new saint's honor.  His story is inspiring and encouraging especially now in our own hard times when we can feel that what God is asking of us is impossible.  Please read (or re-read) his story for yourself and your children.  

2.  Today's gospel (Mark 9:14-29) could be our mantra on a daily basis - Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.   For we do believe, don't we?  But we also don't believe.  This is a fight we struggle with every day.  What we BELIEVE fighting against what we see and what we feel - our UNBELIEF.  Perhaps we can ask Bl. Damian to help us stay where we believe and not linger in our areas of doubt.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Stretching ourselves

Yesterday's post about the tough stuff we do as parents came from a comment I read in the newspaper.  A parent was being interviewed and made the oft-heard comment, "I'd do anything for my kids, I'd die for my kids!"

I agree wholeheartedly but I had to wonder.....How many parents will say that are willing to die for their kids but wouldn't consider praying with their kids?  How many  parents will go to extreme means to give their kids anything they ask but won't take them to church?  How many of us would buy our children whatever they want but can't seem to tell them about Jesus??

I know I use this path of questioning sometimes when I head off to confession.  What was I willing to do for my kids over the past weeks/month and what wasn't I willing to do??  I have come to realize that when it comes to my kids it is truly a fight between the sins of commission and the sins of omission.  The things I do -lose my patience, yell, grump and complain - and the things I didn't do - witness selflessness, offer to pray with them, show them Jesus fight for first on the list.

I am truly willing to die for my children but I struggle daily to die to myself for them.

God Bless,

I wrote yesterday's blog - Rachel

I will start signing my blogs so there is no confusion.  While I took some of the compliments for myself, I understand the writer believed that Joan had wrote the post and I concur w/ all of her comments.  Joan is truly worthy of all praise.

God Bless,

Thursday, February 19, 2009

When illness arrives...keeping both physically and spiritually healthy

The stomach bug has arrived in our home - taking us out slowly, one at a time.  This stealthy approach is probably better than everyone at the same time but I'm not sure.  While the illness is of the 48 hr. nature - 48 x 10 people - is a lot of time.

We have reached the full week mark today with my last child down and out - he is nicknamed "Iron Man" for his ability to resist most of the colds, etc. that everyone else gets but this bug got to him as well.  So, with Iron Man down, everyone has gotten it - for the first time.  

With large families it is always a challenge to see if the illness will come around a 2nd (or 3rd) time to revisit.  I pray not.

But we persevere with illness don't we?  What we endure as parents always amazes me.  I am not talking about the emotional stuff so much as the truly gross physical stuff - vomit, loose teeth, awful road rash from a bad fall from a bike.  The stuff that would truly make me feel physically ill before I had kids, now is part and parcel of what I have to do.  I have to do it.

How I wish I was as accepting of what is necessary for my holiness.  While I wouldn't hesitate to do all that is necessary to help myself and my children be physically healthy, I balk at what will help me (and them) be spiritually healthy.  

And honestly, it is more me than them.  I have no problem encouraging, supporting, and enhancing their spiritual lives providing time and good books but don't always take the same care for myself.  

This Lent I am praying about taking better care of me - not to the neglect of them - but realizing that while I certainly gain much from going the Stations of the Cross with them (at their level), I need to make sure I am challenging myself at an adult level in regard to spiritual growth.  Making sure I'm not keeping my faith at the St. Joseph Catechism level but moving on into the adult one.  


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lent is fast approaching....

Only a week (and a day) away - are you ready?

Lent is one of those marvelously, awful times when we can want to do so much as there is so much to do - our faith has given us so many traditions to do ourselves, share with our children and enrich our family's life.

BUT we often attempt so much that halfway through Lent we end up frustrated and either do not complete anything or we finish it with anger and frustration.  The "We will do the Stations of the Cross every Friday and you'll like it or else" conversations.  Sound familiar??

This Lent, for my family, I am being more selective in what we do.  I will not/cannot do it all so I am not going to try.  This is not a case of good vs. good enough as that should not be your attitude when it comes to holiness, but rather a mindset of doing what we can and doing it well.  
Perhaps you may will want to choose one small activity or prayer each day - perhaps the gospel or the psalm response from Mass and then perhaps one activity each week.  Perhaps it will be the Stations of the Cross or perhaps not.  There are many good resources out there - take the time now to find what you like and what will enrich you and your family's life. 

At the end of Lent, the question will not be how much did you do but rather how did you grow in love of Christ and each other, and in holiness.   

Friday, February 13, 2009

Basic Lesson Plan

Here's a Basic Lesson Plan from Rachel Watkins....

A number of people have talked about the running of meetings. While LF doesn't have a specific 'way' of running meetings - we know you know your group and its needs better than us - here is a general outline that will probably work for every group: 
Opening the Meeting: 
Greeting all the girls (and moms) who are there. Give our special welcome to girls who you may not have seen in awhile or any new girls. Make sure everyone knows each other names. 
Begin w/ a prayer. Using the Our Father, Hail Mary, the Acts of Faith, Hope and Love as well as asking St. Therese or the patron of the virtue to 'Pray for Us'. 
If you want/need a quick and easy ice breaker for each meeting use a "Ball". Get a small ball - any size, any kind. Decide on a question for the meeting such as "What exciting happened in your family since we last saw each other?" or as simple as "What is your favorite color/season/movie/place to visit?" You start w/ answering the question and then toss the ball to someone else at the meeting. You may ask them to say their name (if they don't yet know all names) and then give their answer. This isn't a time for a long discussion on anything but just a quick warm-up. Often you might find a question that fits w/ the virtue - for example for obedience you could ask the challenging - "What is the hardest thing for you to do at your house?" You could remember their answers as you discuss the virtue as good examples. 
Body of the Meeting: 
Overview of the virtue. Given in language they can understand w/ examples of how they already do it and how they can do it in the future. Read the story of the saint and talk about how they lived out this virtue. Here you can also pick out one or more of the activities for the virtue and build your meeting from that. By doing one or more together as a group they are closer to 'earning' a petal. Almost every virtue lends itself to a skit - either made up on the spot (improv) or assigned at a previous meeting for a few girls to do. 
Craft Time: 
For some groups the hardest part as their girls aren't necessarily crafty. Don't worry. Consider doing some group crafts and doing crafts that are also a form of outreach. Giving the girls ample opportunity to take their 'faith on the road' helps fulfill Christ's call for us to 'tell the whole world'! 
For example, does your parish have an outreach program? A local VA or Children's hospital? Talk to the coordinator and see if the girls could make cards to be taken to the homebound or those in hospitals. Perhaps you could make a small quantity of them to keep on hand, ask to be contacted whenever someone is in the hospital and you could mail one of the one's you've already made (love of neighbor or charity). The same could be done for a crisis pregnancy center - making knotted fleece blankets are so very easy and you could make one or two in group to send over (industry). Granted while it is very nice to have a craft tie in directly w/ a virtue that isn't always possible, and practicing love every meeting through the crafts is always good. 
Snack Time: 
Sharing this load is always easiest. 
Game Time: Another area when you think you'd love to do a game linked to the virtue but again it isn't always possible. Learning and practicing fair play, sharing and celebrating joy and each other's skills and abilities is good. Remember that virtue builds on virtue. Your girls may have a favorite they want to play again and again or want to do something new every time. Relying on familiar favorites makes it easier on the mom in charge so don't dismiss that as a possibility. Or again - assign this job to a new girl each month - perhaps they can come w/ a family favorite (even a short, quick board game) to teach each other. The same goes for a song - it need not be specifically a religious song as everyone loves singing "Bingo" or "Down by the Bay". 
Having fun as group, being with others who are striving to be holy is a good thing so don't overanalyze or worry to much! 
God Bless, 
Rachel Watkins 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Today's gospel is a nice fit w/ yesterday's post....

I've never liked today's gospel - it is from Mark 7:24-30 where the Syro-phoenician woman comes seeking a healing for her daughter and she is told, by Christ himself, that she is no more than a dog!!

How could Christ do this?  Meek and mild??!! Ha!  He's mean and nasty!  

No, he's not.  He is all-wise and knew that while the comment - the process of receiving the blessing, the healing - might not be comfortable it was necessary.  Necessary for whom is under debate and discussion .  Necessary for the woman to develop her persistence.  Was it necessary for the listeners in the house who would expect Jesus to send her off as He is a Jew - imagine their amazement to see Him not only take her 'backtalk' but give her the healing she asked.  

Was it merely necessary for us - the Christians of the 'future' who would debate and debate what it meant?  I'm not sure.

All I know is that I remember this reading when I am praying for something from God - I don't give up and I'm known to give Him some backtalk.  I also remember than my own pride often stands in my way of the blessings God wants to send.  I need to be willing to humble myself and ask for what I want..... 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why do we think blessings are easy....

The word 'blessing' brings forth pleasant thoughts doesn't it?  The blessing of a new baby, the blessing of a healing, an answered prayer, or a new job.  Blessings are good.

But let us be honest and readily admit that blessings are also hard.  At times our best blessings come from some of our worst experiences.  I have come to see that my MS is a blessing - of sorts. Matt's and mine early marriage struggles drove us to marriage counseling.  The blessing of that time extends to this day.  

Blessings are good, very good but please don't ever look at them as easy.  The blessing of a large family certainly comes with a good deal of work - rarely seen as 'easy'.   The hard work of raising good and holy kids is not easy but the blessings are seen when they go from your home to live good and holy lives.  

Blessings are good but not always easy.  So, when life becomes hard don't dismiss it as a punishment but take a moment to breathe and ask God to reveal the blessing He has hidden in the midst of the challenge.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I wrote my heart on Catholic Exchange

I wrote a piece about being the mother of a religious that is posted on Catholic Exchange today.  If you have the time read that instead of this.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Prayers and Love to Amy Welborn

Please keep Catholic author/apologist Amy Welborn's family in your prayers.  Her husband, Michael Dubruiel, was 49 and died while at the gym.  Medical people attempted to resuscitate him but to no avail.  They still have two young sons at home.

Danielle Bean has started a college fund for their boys via the Faith and Family website via Paypal.

Amy has asked that if you would like to support her, buying her husband's book would help - in particular - The How-To Book of the Mass: Everything You Need to Know but No One Ever Taught You by Michael Dubriel.   You can find via Amazon or check your local Catholic bookstore. He had already committed that all monies from that book specifically would be placed in the boy's college fund.

Thank you!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It is February which means the mid-year blues have arrived.

If you are a homeschooler (or not), February usually brings in the doldrums in life.  If you believe in the ability of groundhogs to predict the weather you now know we have 6 more weeks of winter.  It is cold, damp and muddy outside but robins and flowers are still a long way off.  

In your house, you (or your children) are bored of what you started in September.  Perhaps what you started is not longer working or hasn't every really worked.  You are considering throwing in the towel.

Don't.  This feeling you have is common and seasonal.  If you look back you realize you've had it before (and you'll have it again next year).  

Don't give up.  You can both get through this and change this.  If you are committed to making a program, menu, discipline technique work because you feel it is God's call then stick it out.  Ask God for some additional grace to get through the gray days.  But, if it is not a part of your family's vocation - pitch it!!   Is it that important to continue to use a $15 book (or even a $100 book) if it makes you and/or your child miserable?  

Do you need to stop some activities, change a schedule, rearrange something?  Do it!  Do not continue in misery, anger or frustration.  Have the courage to say no to what is not good for you and your family.  After all, that is as aspect of your role as a parent.  It is not your vocation as a parent to just keep doing what is not working because you don't take the time or have the courage to stop.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Tho' the storms rage around us...

The storm is coming, perhaps even here.  I just want to send an encouraging thought.

That while the storm rages, wether the boat is overwhelmed and capsizes is not necessarily due to the ferocity of the waves but more so due to the actions of those inside the boat.  Call out as the apostles did, Mk. 4:35-41, "Christ come to our aid."  We can endure any storm, any challenge any struggle as long as we seek the help of God who rests by just waiting for our request.

Be assured that I am in the boat with you and seeking Christ as well.