Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Passing on the Faith onto Our Children

"Are you prepared to accept children lovingly from God and to bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?"

Priest: What names have you given your children?

Pierpaolo & Chiara: Ettore Maria, Mattia Maria, Elena Maria, Lucia Maria, Virginia Maria, Maria Bernadette.

Priest: What do you ask of God’s Church for Ettore Maria, Mattia Maria, Elena Maria, Lucia Maria, Virginia Maria, Maria Bernadette.?

Pierpaolo & Chiara: Baptism.

Priest: You have asked to have your child baptised. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training them in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him/her up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbour. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking? 

Pierpaolo & Chiara: We do.

The priest to the godparents:

Priest: Are you ready to help the parents of this child in their duty as Christian parents?

Godparents: We are.

Priest:  Ettore Maria, Mattia Maria, Elena Maria, Lucia Maria, Virginia Maria, Maria Bernadette, the Christian community welcomes you with great joy. In its name I claim you for Christ our Saviour by the sign of his cross. I now trace the cross on your forehead, and invite your parents and godparents to do the same.

When we, Christian parents, asked for baptism for our children we promise to co-operate with the Church in bringing our children up as true children of God and to teach them to love him and to serve Him every day of their life.

There are many baptisms over the year in our parish, but I wonder how many people truly recognise the weight of those words pronounced by the priest in response to our request:"You have asked to have your child baptised. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training them in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him/her up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbour. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?" This is serious stuff...we are entrusted and are given the privilege to bring up the children of God. 

Growing up as a young mother I remember being afraid of losing my children along the way, I still have a vivid the memory of the many prayers sent up to heaven for the boys to remain in and find strength in the Church.

What were we to do? How could we prevent them from leaving when they were older... that brought real anxiety at times. I was so afraid to fail that task I was being assigned. 

God has been a true Father throughout this journey of Faith. He little by little showed us that we as parents had nothing to worry about, that He had everything thought out.

In Baptism, our parents made our first 'profession of  faith' on our behalf and from that day on the Church has nourished us, has fed, enriched us, has given us values and we have found freedom in her teaching.

Do you renounce Satan, and all his works and empty promises?

 I do. 

 Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth? 

 I do.

 Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father? 

I do. 

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who today through the Sacrament of Confirmation is given to you in a special way just as he was given to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost? 

 I do. 

Do you believe in the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting? 
 I do.

This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.   

The Creed is, as St Ambrose states, the spiritual seal, our heart's meditation and an ever present guardian; it is unquestionably, the treasure of the soul.

Here was where I found the answer to my prayers and the end to my anxiety!

That profession of faith that my parents once made on my behalf, those words proclaimed not long after I was born into this world, were not meant to stay dormant. The seed planted at Baptism had to become a solid  tree with its roots in Christ.

We Christian parents are called to profess the Creed, day in and day out as a witness of that LOVE that saved us all, so that we could enter in communion with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the whole Church.

The mother Church is there to guide us as individuals as well as parents, she has the right words for the right times (even if sometimes these words seem harsh, it is is always a relief to trust in her wisdom), the right 'activities' and resources for us and our growing family.

Based on her tradition and her teaching that has been successful over thousands of years we have nothing to worry about and nothing to reinvent. It is all there ready for us to access.

So to the question 'What are you doing now in the hope of keeping your kids in the Faith?'... we are living with coherence the same Faith of our ancestors, traced back all the way to the apostles and Christ himself... 

We pray together, we receive the Sacraments together, we talk openly together, we discuss life in all 
its aspect in the light of the faith,we eat together, we celebrate together, we moan together, we argue but we never let the sun go down on our anger, we suffer but have been given a meaning to our suffering and in turn we remind one another of this.

We fully live and draw strength from the strong liturgical seasons however badly we end up living them because of  life... which shows us that no matter how imperfect, sinful, forgetful we are He still comes for us.

On Crafts and Activities:

Though we love our crafts and the odd activity here and there, I feel that the weight of the liturgical season and its focus can sometimes easily shift towards those pretty, fun and disposable projects... and these end up replacing the beautiful liturgies and the continuous life-giving gifts that the Church has to offer.

Crafts and activities are a lovely way to accompany some of the teaching especially for younger children but should never take the place of the wonderful traditions that have been passed on from one generation to another for centuries.

Children need to be part of the greatness of the Church. It is important not to underestimate the understanding and intuition of the children. Their participation will increase with age and God will slowly establish a personal relationship with them.   

Taking young children to Sunday Mass, the Triduum, Penitential Services can be very tiring and at times disheartening, but the sacrifice that us as parents (and in particular mothers if the spouse is active in the choir, or a cantor or is involved in any other kind of service) is of immense value and won't be for long... Thanks to our persistence, coherence and service, our children will little by little have access the the immensity of the Faith. 

I claim you for Christ

Our life should speak of Christ...  we are not perfect, we fall daily, we have many weaknesses but it is in Him that we find our strength, the children have witnessed this many times in us and as they grow up they are discovering it for themselves. 

So what happens if they will one day lose faith or fall away... well they have been anointed... they have been claimed for Christ... God wants to save them more than I do, so I know He will be on their case.

Friday, 12 May 2017

13 Reasons Why... We should pray the Rosary

The 13th May... 100 years ago on this day Our Lady appeared to three little shepherds in Fatima; 36 years ago, in 1981, John Paul II was shot on the same day that I turned 1.

It is a day which is full of meaning for me, a day that speaks so strongly about life, its beauty and its fragility, death and eternal life.

“Behold, your Mother!” (Jn 19:27) Jesus said to John at the foot of the Cross. The gift of such a graceful mother was not exclusive to the disciple but in pronouncing these words to John, Jesus gave us his own and entrusted us to her. 

When a baby is born his mother is the whole world, so much so that he hardly realises she is a different person. As the Christian child grows older and discover their unicity, the bond with the earthly mother is gently untied and a greater bond with the Heavenly Mother acquired.

Praying the Rosary should be at the heart of every household. It is a simple prayer that strengthen that motherly bond and ties us to heaven.

In this period running up to the 13th May when we celebrate the Centenary of the Fatima apparitions Netflix is proposing a series which gives 13 reasons why the main character chooses to commit suicide. I on the other hand, will give 13 reasons why we should pray the Rosary, reasons that will definitely bring light to our day and will give us and our family fullness of life.

Here are 13 Reasons why we should pray the rosary

  1. Because our Blessed Mother told us to!
How many times have you wished your children would do something just because you say so. To trust that we have the best for them at heart. That we don't ask them to do things arbitrarily but because we want the best for them and we want them to cooperate with us in doing what needs to be done for the whole family. Mary told the children at Fatima to pray the Rosary every day. What would be the best answer from us: why should I? Or OK, I will do my best! I know what I'd want to hear from my children.

2. Because it brings us to Christ

Everything in the Rosary is centred on Christ, the Hail Marys themselves are centred on His Holy Name. Each mystery bring us closer to the events of the life of our Lord and saviour. Mary shows us the way to Him and from Her we learn how to bring Jesus into the world.

3. Because it brings the family together

Sometimes it seems that everything around us militates against the members of the family really coming together. School, work, technology, TV, mobiles, social media, computers. The family rosary can become a moment when all of that is put to one side, all the surrogate communication is left behind and the real business of communicating with God together takes place. It's not always easy but nothing that is worthwhile ever is! 

4. Because It's a defence for the family

It may be repeated endlessly but it doesn't make it any less true: 'The family that prays together stays together.' The question is why? It's all about prioritisation. Jesus was a great management guru as well as all the rest, 'seek  first the kingdom of God and all the rest will be given you as well'. Do you want your family to stay together? Then seek Jesus first without embarrassment, we strong-arm our children to do the things we consider important, homework, washing, chores but are we willing to place prayer at the top of that list? 

5. Because in the Rosary we pass on the Faith to our children

Both of us are involved in teaching yet it's rare that we ever feel it necessary to add any explanation to the rosary. It's an eminently practical lesson. A Father leading the Rosary says more than a hundred discussions on what is prayer.  A Mother kneeling with her beads shows where she gets the strength to carry on. An older brother praying out loud for help at school shows to whom we turn in our hour of need. 

6. Because children learn meditative prayer from an early age

Think of your average children's cartoon. The colours are bright, the action is manic, the music is loud everything is screaming for your passive attention. What could be more different than the soothing, quiet rhythms of the rosary that call you out of your passivity to think of Jesus, of Mary, of the people for whom you are praying.

7. Because it forces us to come out of our selfishness

Bedtime prayers with children can quickly become a repetitive event. Children rattle off a list of friends and relations which barely changes from day to day. In our house each person can propose an intention at the beginning of each decade. We make sure that we think carefully to whom we wish to apply these powerful prayers. We make a small sacrifice of time and effort for the good of someone else.

8. Pray for Pope's intentions

The first part of the Rosary is traditionally said for the Pope's intentions. You can find out what these are every month on the Vatican website. It's important to bring our children into a relationship with the universal Church. We can end up becoming very provincial and closed in our parish preoccupations.

9.You get to know your Heavenly Mother “Behold, your Mother!” (Jn 19:27)

10. Because you can learn to rest in prayer 

A household with many children is an endlessly busy place. Every moment can be filled with something that needs doing. Sitting in one place for twenty minutes seems like a luxury we can't afford. Yet it's an important lesson. Pause for prayer and rest in the Lord.

11. Because it's effortless 

Spontaneous prayers are all very well and the endlessly imaginative prayer sessions one gets in school and parish sessions might be good in small doses but sometimes we just need to sit at the feet of Mary with a prayer which has been handed on to us perfectly formed by the great Dominicans of the past, developed by Pope St John Paul II ready for us to simply offer to God. No effort, no imagination, no invention!

12. Because it's a physical prayer

We are physical as well as spiritual beings. Our body needs to be engaged in prayer too, not just our mind. The rosary is an eminently physical prayer, we can kneel, finger the beads, recite it antiphonally, look at an image. 

13. Because we need help at the hour of our death

In a society where death is hidden and never mentioned in the rosary we speak of it over and over again. It is in the end our greatest fear and a prayer which does not shy away from helping us with what we fear most is surely worthy of regular recitation from now until the hour of our death!

Friday, 28 April 2017

Why Hope - My Guest Post on Everyday Ediths

Over at the great Everyday Ediths blog I was asked to write something a post on Hope which is something I've been thinking about for a while. Easter is a season of hope and in this post-Christian world we need it more than ever! Here's a link to my meditation on hope and the differences between hope and optimism.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Things To Do (especially) in London over the Easter Break

Here's a guest-post from my niece, Marta is a London-based mother of three lovely and lively young children... and a real activity-nerd when it comes to holiday time...

School broke up for Easter this last Friday and seeing as my children are 6, 5 and 2, and constantly fighting, I realised early on in the school year that I have to keep them super busy in the holidays.  As a result, our school breaks are action-packed.  We plan activities for every day: playdates, crafts, baking, outings into central London… Chiara asked me to share a few of the things we’ll be doing over the Easter break.

Hot Cross Buns

In England, Hot Cross Buns are spiced sweet buns that mark the end of Lent and are usually eaten on Good Friday. They’re made with raisins or currants and are marked with a cross on the top which represents the Crucifixion; the spices represent the spices used to embalm Christ at his burial.  I don’t usually eat them as I’m not a huge fan of raisins in my pastries, but my son Jude discovered a love of baking this year, and my daughter has come home the last two weeks singing the ‘Hot Cross Buns’ nursery rhyme every day, so I have decided to make the most of this and make them during the Easter holidays this year.  We’ll be using this BBC recipe http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/hotcrossbuns_397 . Hot Cross Buns are best eaten cut in half, toasted and buttered.

In the last few years it has become popular to create variations of the traditional recipe, such as toffee, orange, apple-cinnamon and coffee.  Others use chocolate chips instead of raisins.  

Foam Crosses

We’re big fans of crafts at our house.  Foam crosses are so simple to make! Using art foam (or card, or any other medium, really!) we cut out a basic cross shape.  I then cut smaller foam pieces in different colours, and stick them to the cross background to create a mosaic effect.  In the past we’ve made them at the beginning of lent, and have stuck on a mosaic tile each time I’ve observed the children being helpful, loving, or sacrificing something they want for someone else, hoping to fill the crosses before the end of Lent.

Signs of Spring

Autumn is a sad time for my children – they’re heartbroken at the idea of the flowers and the trees ‘dying’.  Because of this, the first signs of spring are super exciting for them! We walk through the park on the way to school so they can see the blossom trees flowering and the new leaf buds on the trees.  During the Easter holidays we’ll be going to see other signs of spring and of new life.

Bluebells are the UK’s best-loved wild flowers, and they flower between mid-April and late May.  They completely transform our woodland in springtime, creating carpets of intense blue.  Half of the world’s bluebells are here in the UK, and the children and I will be going to Beckenham Place Park, South-east London, to see the spectacular display there

London’s city farms are currently welcoming their newest members and we’ll be going along to see the new lambs, ducklings and chicks too. Surrey Docks Farm is a family favourite, but Godstone Farm and Christmas Tree farm in Orpington are also recommended!

For anyone planning to go and see bluebells, remember that they are protected in the UK and picking them is highly discouraged.

The Passion

We have not been to The Passion of Jesus in Tragalgar Square before, but will definitely be going this year.  It’s a Passion play put on by the wonderful Wintershall players every year.  Over 20,000 people travel to Trafalgar Square in central London every Good Friday to watch the free 90-minute production.  They have two performances on the day – 12 noon and 3:15, and large screens are provided to maximise visibility, and there are BSL interpreters. Due to its being a realistic interpretation, they advise parental guidance. 

National Gallery

One of our favourite school holiday activities is to go to the National Gallery and take part in their holiday activities. They do a Messy Monday and Talking Tuesday both of which are amazing.  They’re aimed at under-8s and the lady who usually runs them, Jacqui Ansell, is wonderful.  The sessions focus on one painting from the museum and Jacqui usually starts by telling the story of the painting. There’s soft play, sensory play, crafts, painting, dressing up…

The drop-in sessions they run on Tuesday – Thursday are incredible.  I don’t mind admitting that most of my kids’ artwork ends up in the recycling bin after a couple of weeks, but every single thing we have made at the National Gallery sessions is still in the house, and most of it is still on display.  Upon arrival you’re given a pack containing sheets of paper, colouring pencils and an information sheet which is a map of the museum with a series of paintings to go and look at and instructions to copy a particular detail from each.  At the end of it we make something. In the past we’ve made a mobile, angel wings, a horse sculpture, silhouette puppets… and they’re usually big projects that the children are really proud of.  I highly recommend it. 

They usually also run apprentice workshops, run by a professional artist.  My sister has been to several of them and has enjoyed them all! 

The National Gallery website will let you know everything they’ve got going on https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/families  

Tall Ships Regatta

The ever-popular Tall Ships Regatta returns to London this April.  We are lucky enough to live a short 15-minute bicycle ride from Greenwich, and attend this event every time it takes place.
During the Tall Ships Festival a fleet of more than 30 ships spends the weekend in the Maritime Greenwich and Royal Arsenal Woolwich riverfronts.  The crews prepare for their 7,000 nautical mile race to Canada, and those of us on dry land have four days of festivities, including cruises aboard the ships, beautiful fireworks displays every night and maritime themed activities in both town centres.

Resurrection Garden

I recently discovered Resurrection Gardens on Pinterest.  It’s a wonderful way to talk about Christ every day during Holy Week.  Every part of it is used to talk about God and Jesus, going through the Creation story, the Flood, the Nativity, Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and finally the Resurrection. This is another one we’ll be trying for the first time this year.  A quick Google search will bring up countless tutorials - there are so many different ways of doing them, depending on the time and materials at your disposal!

Easter Egg Hunt

For as long as I can remember we have had an Easter Egg Hunt at my grandparents’ house at the beginning of Easter.  I have wonderful memories of searching high and low in the garden for the small foil-wrapped eggs, competing with my cousins to find as many as possible.  Now I hide the eggs rather than search for them but I love watching my children run around the same garden that I searched in with my younger siblings and cousins.  If the weather allows, the Egg Hunt is preceded by a big family barbecue, and is usually the first of the year as the weather finally starts to improve.

I hope some of our activities serve as inspiration for you and your families.  Happy Easter to all!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Accompanying Young People in their Faith Journey

All of this week a Symposium is taking place in Barcelona in preparation for next year's Synod on Young People. The theme is "Accompanying Young People to freely respond to Christ's call." It's organised by the Council of European Bishops Conferences. 

We were contacted by the Vice President the extraordinarily dynamic Dutch priest Michel Remery and author of a great book of apologetics for young people: Tweeting With God.

He wanted a 5 minute video of a family with children of various ages, talking about accompanying young people in faith and discovering their vocation. That seemed easy enough but if you're ever doing a video, leave at least five times as much time as you think you need!

We were on a tight deadline and finished the video after about 100 takes, at 2:30am talking about the joys of family life and wanting to strangle eachother!

We had so much more we would have wanted to say and say better but we think we managed to get something of value across... you decide!

Friday, 10 March 2017

Fish Friday - 10 Minute Sicilian Courgette and Prawn Pasta

10-minute courgette and prawn pasta sauce.
Serves 6-8

This is a great recipe I learnt in Sicily from a little fish restaurant where we go on holiday. It's super quick and tasty so put the water for the pasta on to boil while you're making the sauce.

Olive oil 
Uncooked prawns
Tinned cherry tomatoes 

Cut the courgette into small matchsticks. Dice a clove of garlic and fry in olive oil until golden.

Add the courgettes and fry them quickly while stirring until they are soft.

 Add a tin of cherry tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

 Add prawns and simmer until the prawns are pink (don't overcook the prawns or they'll become rubbery)!

Serve ideally with casarecce or if you can't find them then with penne and add some chilli oil for some extra bite.

Buon appetito!

Thursday, 9 March 2017


Hi! I'm Ettore, eldest of the Finaldi clan, I'll be 17 soon and this year I was finally old enough to go to the youth conference of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child. Here's a little report on a great weekend.

Day 1

It began as any other Friday, long and labour intensive biology lesson followed by an even longer Government and Politics lesson... a two-day conference was the last thing I wanted to do after the tedious week I'd just had, but I knew it would be worth it in the end so off I went (funny the tricks the devil plays on you!) Anyway after a train, an underground and another train I finally arrived in Stoke on Trent some 200 miles from home.

Outside it was dark, dreary and rainy, the complete opposite of the atmosphere I found inside the conference. After making immediate acquaintance with three friendly Mancunians I went to check in. The room was brilliant, but I'm not here to give a review of the venue (which was brilliant by the way.) 

I arrived at the point of a quiz, it was great fun that bonded us as fellow pro-lifers, it was a perfect start. From that moment friendships were made and it set a perfect tone for the days ahead, knowledge and fun.

Day 2
Now being as lazy and a late riser I missed breakfast, Mass and the workshop. Shame, but luckily I came to what I found to be the crown jewel of the talks, 'From Pro-Choice to Pro-Life' by Dr Tony Levatino an ex late term abortionist, and if you're as aquatinted with the Pro life movement as I am, he's kind of a celebrity, so I almost screamed when I saw him the way a fan would! But jokes aside he gave a harrowing talk about the reality of abortion and his joining of the pro-life movement. 

After that inspiring talk we got to ask questions, we asked for his conversion story and he gave us a shortened version. The part that stuck out most was when an old lady said to him in his pre-christian days "it's great to see what Jesus is doing in your life.' he responded with something along the lines of "I don't really believe in the whole thing." she replied saying 'Jesus knows your name, he'll get you sooner or later.' and now he's Christian. Funny how things turn out. 

This was followed by a quick tea break and then a very sad talk by Alexandria Tompson called 'The problem with screening for down's sydrome.' This highlighted the 'unintented' eugenics of abortion, how soon we will become a world without children with down syndrome due to abortion, and how we must be willing to lose things for our views, shown through Jérôme Lejeune, the French scientist who became famous for discovering that Down's syndrome was genetic, and once his discovery was used to abort the child before birth, he fought against it and fought for their right to life, this cost him his career and countless awards, but he knew they were meaningless compared to the mass genocide that was happening. 

The thing I learnt from this sadly truthful talk, was that we must be willing to take one for the team, our views are important but if we hide them and express them in the secrecy of our own homes they are useless and will never change anyone's mind, enough of being a closet pro lifer! You may lose your job but thousands are losing their lives every day and if he did it we should follow his example (especially since Jérôme Lejeune may become a saint).

Guys be prepared to take one for team life and in the words Congressmen Henry Hyde 'As a Pro lifer when you die and you come up in front of the Eternal Judgement,  before the throne of God there will be a crowd of children pleading on your behalf, saying "Please let this person in, he did so much for me". 

This was followed Dr Anthony McCarthy's thought provoking talk on gender theory and showing what a bad position the secular world has come to, as the 'I think therefore I am' mentality has lead to things as far as 'I identify as an attack helicopter.' 

The Scots then came up to show us the work they had been doing around their glorious land, a week of pro-life activism around different towns and cities in Scotland for young people, something I would highly recommend for youths looking for adventure and empowerment.  

It was time for another tea break and a highly fascinating talk by Dr Patricia Morgan on 'The Family Under Fire.' a once again depressingly realistic talk on how the family has and is deteriorating at an alarming rate... though to every action there is a reaction, we were told WE ARE THE FUTURE and we stand in defence of the family

The talks finished, we had dinner and free time to freshen up for the Ceilidh. After a pleasant meal and a shower I joined the community of like minded people (a strange feeling, I sometimes tried to start arguments on purpose to feel more at home!) ...we danced the night away full of fun conversation, embarrassing attempts of certain steps and great music. 

It was great to be in communion with these fellow pro-lifers during these hard times. As the night progressed and the music stopped, the softies went to bed and others stayed into the early hours of the night talking about whatever and whoever, I spoke with many different people and had great fun, until words turned to music once again when we were joined by a tipsy philosopher with a guitar who told us about how 'God was love, the liturgy was the source and summit of our faith' followed by Ed Sheeran sing-songs, it was great to be amongst like minded young people

Day 3
I woke up few minutes before Mass, chucked on my Sunday best and ran to the room where Latin Mass was held, the room was overflowing with young Christians. After Holy Mass we had breakfast and checked out.

Since debates are one of my favourite things, I attended a workshop by Dr Anthony McCarthy on how argue hard cases . Once again we drank tea and moved on to our last talk, by Dr Joseph Meaney a highly uplifting talk on the the effect of our work and the reality of abortion facts, the fact that the worst human rights abuse in the history of the earth came from the worst political system on earth, communism. 

The talk ended, received thunderous applause and was followed by a great inspiring March for Life presentation, we watched an amazing video that made us feel (and rightly so) awesome! This is a pro-life march taking place in Birmingham this year... If you are reading this post in the UK... this calling is for you too...you have no reason not to attend, babies need you to go too! Even if you do nothing else, the more people there are the louder the voice, 'LIFE IS FROM CONCEPTION, NO EXCEPTION!' 

I can confirm I did not regret attending the Youth SPUC Conference after my long and tiring week and I strongly advise any young Pro-lifer to go, you will not regret it. It's great fun, teaches you loads, you make friends and equips you to fight for life. I cannot recommend it enough.