Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday-After-Thanksgiving Dispensation!

For my American* readers who follow the traditional Friday abstinence I offer a reminder that Pope Pius XII granted us a dispensation to refrain from abstinence on the Friday following Thanksgiving Thursday.

Enjoy those turkey leftovers today!


*My blog stats show me that I do indeed have international readers dropping in now and then!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I love Thanksgiving. The time of year, the chill weather outside, the cozy warmth inside, the delicious smells emanating from the kitchen, the delightful sounds of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker filling the air, it all comes together in such a comforting way! It's how I remember it growing up, and it's now what our boys expect each year.

I especially love the day before Thanksgiving when all the preparations begin. Our Thanksgiving is usually small, with just the four of us plus Grandpa, but we put on a feast like we're cooking for a crowd, because who doesn't love lots of leftovers?!

Spiced Cranberry Sauce is always the first dish I make. The simmering and popping berries with the spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and cloves; can you just smell my house?!

Next we'll bake the pumpkin pies, chop-ahead all the stuffing ingredients, and boil the sweet potatoes for a sweet potato casserole that is more like dessert than a side dish. The rest of the menu will be taken care of in the morning, along with the setting of the table complete with my turkey candle-holders. The table would not be our Thanksgiving table without them.

By the way, I do make my own stuffing, but I never stuff the bird. I have used this excellent stuffing recipe for years and like it for many reasons. It is cooked in the crockpot so once it's in the pot, it can be forgotten until dinner is served; it doesn't take precious oven space; and finally, after cooking as it does for hours it tastes just like it came out of the turkey! It is so flavorful, especially topped with homemade gravy made from those delicious turkey drippings.

This day before Thanksgiving also gives me pause to be thankful for all of Our Lord's blessings on us. We have our health, we have each other, and most of all we have our beautiful Catholic faith and a traditional church and school in which to freely raise our family in the Faith. And in these days, more than ever before in my lifetime, we cannot take these things for granted. Indeed, we must redouble our prayers for our Church and our nation, that we will continue to have the freedom to worship as Catholics, upholding and living by our Creed. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

Let me say too, I am thankful for these men in my life, big and little! Without all three of them I could not begin to put on our Thanksgiving feast, for when my own are not equal to the task, my boys and my husband are my arms, my legs, my hands..... my heart, my soul, my life. God love 'em, I sure do!

And so, on this chilly, foggy day before the holiday, I want to wish each and every one of you a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving.

C'mon, boys, let's get cookin'!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Feast Day of St. Elizabeth of Hungary--Our Story

Every year when this feast day rolls around I consider blogging about my 'St. Elizabeth' story here. I've never waxed eloquent--nor lengthy!--on the whole story. And so, with hopes it will inspire others, here we go......

Eighteen years ago, at about this time of year, as an assignment for my RCIA (Catholic converts) class, I was researching the saints in order to find one whose name I would take at my Confirmation. This was a task I took very seriously because I wanted to find THE saint on whose prayers I could depend for a specific intention I had at that time in my life.

I was 31 years old and single. All of my life I had only desired to be married and to raise a family, and so I wanted to find a saint who knew what a good, loving, God-centered marriage was. Not marriage for the sake of getting married, but marriage to the right man, for the right reasons, not someone who I could live with, but someone who I could not live without.

In perusing the saint books, I came upon St. Elizabeth of Hungary. I learned that in her very short life of 24 years she had a lovely marriage. She was betrothed to her husband at a very young age, but she had a depth of love and devotion for him that was to be admired, and their marriage was known to be a happy one. They had three children before he was killed on a Crusade to Palestine. It is said that when she learned the tragic news of her husband's death she cried, "The world with all its joys is now dead to me."

I knew I had found my saint. And thus began my prayers to her, asking her intercession for me.

I came into the Catholic church at Easter, 1995. In the summer of 1996 I purchased a computer and for the first time in my life I began surfing the 'net. I had AOL at the time and it was not long before I found a Catholic message board there. I decided to post something about myself, just to see what would come of it. I received several responses, mostly just friendly people with whom I'd exchange one or two emails.

Then Thankgiving Day, 1996 came. My whole family had spent the day together celebrating the holiday. Two of my brothers had their young families there, and I wanted to be like them, going home to my own house with my own family. That night I knelt down beside my bed, tears filling my eyes for that which I so-desired--but at age 33 had still eluded me--praying and asking yet again for God to answer my heart's desire.

Before I got into bed I decided to check my email one last time. I logged on and heard those three familiar (at that time) words:

"You've Got Mail!"

I opened it up and it was a response to my AOL post af a couple of months back. But this one was different than any I had received before.

We began writing daily, he and I, sharing stories about ourselves in a manner so easy, so comfortable. There was just something in his letters that drew me to click the reply button and to respond to whatever the topic of our discussion was.

As we became more acquainted with each other I offered the story of my conversion to Catholicism. As I relayed it to him I told him I chose St. Elizabeth of Hungary for my Confirmation saint (being careful to EXclude my reason for choosing her!) In his email back he wrote, "My jaw about hit the keyboard, I go to St. Elizabeth of Hungary parish! What a coincidence!"

Umm, his jaw nearly hit the keyboard? Mine was on the floor! But cautious girl that I always have been, I kept my surprise to myself, not wanting to jump to premature conclusions. With that 'coincidence' on my mind, we just kept writing each other.

Weeks turned into months and emails were added to by sending each other .wav files of our talking to each other (remember, folks, this was only 1997!) Next we added weekly phone calls. This went on for many months until October of 1997, nearly a year since our first letter, when he made a business trip to the west coast and tacked on a leg to Portland, where we finally met each other in person.

From this time on we began seeing each other every couple of months when business trips brought him west or took me east, or vacations provided a little extended visiting.

Our relationship was not free from possible challenges though. Early in our correspondence I had told him of my then-recent MS diagnosis. He was unshaken though and our relationship only grew, though my symptoms were slight at the time and pretty easy to forget about. But on New Years Day 1998, on a rainy walk along the Oregon coast my legs decided to give out and he had to carry me back to the car. And yet he was undaunted. The coming months proved it further as he was also there for me when I experienced my first side effects from a potent MS drug that I tried for a time. He was my rock, even then.

Our long-distance relationship, long letters, lengthy phone calls, all worked together to help us get to know each other without the distractions of dating and being entertained, as nice as it would have been to have had that. With the exception of our infrequent visits, all we had was communication. And over the months and years it was very apparent to us that this relationship we shared was certainly no coincidence, but that we were destined to be together.

And so, on Labor Day of 1998 at Multnomah Falls, OR, in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, he who was to be my husband asked me to be his wife. And on April 10, 1999, at the ages of 39 and almost-36 respectively, he and I were married at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church. We have been and still are truly blessed.

I will never be able to sufficiently thank St. Elizabeth for her prayers for us this side of eternity. But hopefully the telling of our story will inspire another young (or not-so-young) lady's devotion and prayer to this great saint for this worthy intention. Do not despair, God knows your heart. Yes, it IS worth waiting for. And I believe you have an advocate in St. Elizabeth of Hungary!

* * *

Thanks be to God for the saints in heaven who pray for us if only we will ask them!
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, thank you for your prayers; pray for us!

Happy Feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Woo Hoo!! Look what came in the mail today!

We have been looking forward to this all year!!  If you had the distinct pleasure of attending St. Francis deSales' First Annual Gaudete Benefit Gala, then no doubt you have been looking forward to this too.  It is Catholic Culture at its very finest with the grandest of music, food, and Catholic fellowship.  From St. Louis Catholic blog on last year's event:

From the jazzy welcome which greeted the first arrivals at the cocktail social, to the resounding “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” that closed the evening, this “magical evening” was a delightful interlacing of skillfully performed music and a delicious banquet. The overture, “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” captivated the audience just before the first course, Winter Beef Soup, was served. Thereafter, choral and instrumental pieces by classical masters as well as contemporary composers were enchantingly interwoven with the elegant dinner, served in a joyful atmosphere.

Who can forget the Chocolate Oblivion Flourless Torte paired with timeless Christmas carols, sung with energy and expression by the Oratory’s choristers?

The Second Annual Gaudete Gala will be held Saturday, December 15.  If you are able to attend this year, act now and get your tickets - they will surely go quickly.  For more details, call the Oratory at (314) 771-3100.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween/All Saints Day/All Souls Day

It's been a fun week for the boys at school. (I know, I've never posted about our switching from homeschooling to putting the boys in a traditional Catholic school this year. Perhaps I'll do a catch-up post one of these days; we'll see....)

Anyway, with the Holy Days this week there has been a party at school including pizza, costume contests, home-made angel contests, and games and goodies for All Saints, a day off school for the Feast of All Saints, and a  half-day today for All Souls/First Friday with an all-school visit to the nearby cemetery taking up much of the half-day. That's the kind of week all school kids love!

Our boys dressed up as St. Louis IX, King of France and St. Acasius, Martyr (patron saint of soldiers) for their All Saints party. They had a great time! St. Acasius (pictured above with Fr. Kurtz and Fr. Pieroni) won for both best costume and best angel for his age group! 

Just as an aside, if you're ever in need of good saint costumes and lack the time or energy to pull them together, here is a great link for Catholic saint costumesI've used them several years and have always been very pleased. Ideas, saint info, costumes, props, it's all there.

On Halloween night, 'St. Louis IX' decided he'd rather use last year's outfit and go trick-or-treating around the neighborhood as "The Scream". Fine... St. Acasius kept his costume and went as a gladiator. And they made a haul. Our neighborhood does Halloween well; one house puts on a pretty elaborate haunted house, and there are many fire pits blazing (reminding me of the Beacons of Minis Tirith--"Gondor calls for our aid!!", but I digress...) and  lots of very corny joke-telling.

And speaking of that... joke-telling. I didn't grow up here, so this was a Halloween custom unknown to me when we started taking the boys around. Where I grew up, out in Washington state, we rang the doorbell and when someone answered the door we simply said "Trick or Treat!", they gave us our candy and on to the next house. Here, though, the kids have to be prepared to tell a joke before receiving their treat. Huh?! Never heard of that! But it is a fact. At most houses we go to, the candy bowl holder asks, "You got a joke for me?" 

This year we had to come up with a couple of jokes last-minute. "The Scream" told this gem that I still remembered from one of my brother's joke books from when I was about 7:

Q: "What is the difference between here and there?"
A: "The letter 'T'!"

Gladiator told this one (with a hat-tip to Fr. Kurtz!):

Q: Why did the scientist put a knocker on his door?"
A: Because he wanted to win the Nobel prize!"

Nobel... 'no-bell'...ok, you get it....

It's really kind of a fun custom, the whole joke-telling thing. The kids enjoy it and it's enjoyable to stand back and watch/listen. Last year our #2 son did a variation on the "impatient cow" joke:

Q: Knock-knock.
A: Who's there?
Q: Impatient Ghost
A: Impatient Gho....

Often in our neighborhood there is quite a line of kids at each door, so we parents stand and wait out at the sidewalk. But we always knew when our boys were at the door because out of the relative quiet we'd hear a sudden, "BOOOOO!!!!" On to the next door....

For post trick-or-treat fun, each year our next-door neighbors light up their fire pit and all the neighbors in our cul-de-sac sit around and eat roasted hotdogs and snacks. It's a good time with us all together at once sitting and chatting together. That actually only happens this one time a year, so it's always kinda nice.

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of All Saints, known and unknown, and today our thoughts are on All Souls, those dearly departed who have gone on before us. In fact, there are indulgences available for the next 8 days (octave) for visiting a cemetery and praying for the dead and indeed, the Church dedicates this entire month of November to the remembrance of the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Fisheaters website is a good resource for more information about praying for the dead and indulgences in general.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


* * *

And so, the leaves are past their vibrant color and are rapidly filling our yards, the temperatures are crisp, justifying those cozy evening fires in the fireplace, Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and Advent is on its heels, ringing in a new Church year and the glorious coming of Our Savior. Every season of the year has its own unique beauty, but Fall into Winter has to be my favorite.

God bless you all during these and the coming Holy Days!