Saturday, 4 April 2020

The Domestic Church - Making the Stations of the Cross for our Domestic Liturgy

Last night we tried something new. Something we had never needed to do before or ever planned to do. We took it for granted that our Churches would always be open! Although we have always immensely valued the Domestic Church, we had never imagined that it was going to be (at least for a time) the exclusive centre of our Faith.

So here we are with a community of people, small and big, depending on us parents, to guide them through this desert, holding on to us, holding on to the Faith passed onto to us from our parents,  knowing that  where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I  among them.” – Matthew 18:20

As it was Friday in Lent we would have attended the "Stations of the Cross' devotion in the Parish...Instead we put up our handmade stations around the house, beginning in the kitchen and ending in the little girls’ bedroom, and set off on a journey around our domestic Jerusalem. 

The younger children learnt the responses and Pierpaolo, - the Bishop of the Domestic Church-  led the liturgy and sang the verses from the Stabat Mater. 

Lucia held a candle in front of each station as we moved through the house. 

It was a beautiful moment of prayer and one we’ll do again on Good Friday.

How we made the Stations of the Cross:

I wanted something easy for the children to put together, something they needed little help to do but where the final result would be nice and tidy! So as we had been learning about Stained Glass window techniques I thought that kind of pattern could work.

I ordered some downloadable  patterns  and we started this project hoping for a good result as well as finally learning the order of the Stations.

We printed the pattern to fit an A4 Sheet and the children then traced the image with a black Sharpie onto (let's call it side B) of a piece of tracing paper.

We tested a great number of types of paint but decided that children's liquid Acrylics worked best. We also painted on side B

It took the girls a very long time to paint them all, and everyone - or most of us - had to, at some point, help with the painting as we had to finish them in time for our family liturgy (so make sure to give yourself 3 days to complete this project or a whole afternoon with no interruptions).

Once the the paint was dry, we turned the pictures over to the side you are meant to see (Side A) and I applied a very thin layer of gold leaf glue to the halos and swords and after a few seconds applied gold leaf to each picture (Gold paint would also work). I did the same with swords using Silver leaf instead. This really lifted the pictures and brought the colours to life. 

We cut the pictures following the circle of the pattern and glued them onto some brown card, I had laying around, where we had pre cut a smaller circle than the picture to allow light to come through the tracing paper from the back.

Elena, wrote the number of each station directly below the picture on the brown card with a Gold Sharpie. We then applied gold leaf on the Roman Numerals as well as the borders, once again, applying a very thin layer of glue, waiting for a few seconds and applying the leaf with the intent to have an 'antique look' of Gold coming off and missing in some parts.

The Family Liturgy was very moving and because it wasn't static and was done by candlelight the younger ones found it fascinating. 

We started from the kitchen, at the heart of our domestic life, and went around the downstairs rooms then up the stairs to calvary. We strategically finished the procession in the yourger children's bedroom, naturally accompanying them to bed. 

The girls were put in bed, the candle was blown out and we experienced a sort of bitter sweet joy, longing for something we never knew would be hidden from us for a time.


Monday, 2 March 2020

Coronavirus, Lourdes and St Damien of Molokai

Last night as part of our Lenten routine with the children we decided to watch 'Molokai: The Story of Fr Damien' , the story of an ordinary priest who truly gave everything and more for the love of Christ and the pastoral care of the flock that he had been entrusted.

Damien knew that by boarding the ship to that little island full of Lepers he was probably signing his own death sentence but nevertheless the call to serve those who most needed the love and comfort of Christ was stronger.

As he arrived in Molokai two actions mark his mission...  As he enters the Church he kneels down by the crucifix and offers himself completely to God with no reservation and second looking at a young leper in the eyes, seeing his suffering he shakes his hand almost as a sign of agreeing to bear their cross with them.

In the pit of death, in the darkest hour, when everything was lost and despair was waiting to conquer, Fr Damien comes to bring a ray of light. He comes to restore the dignity that belongs to every human being which no human authority was willing to grant to these people doomed to die.

Christ, through Damien, comes with power in Molokai, people are converted, are fed with both spiritual and natural food, they start praying, singing, farming, children start playing again... joy is restored, suffering embraced and a community of people walking towards heaven established little by little.

We went to bed truly thanking God for the great example of the Saints and asked Saint Damien to pray for us...

We awoke to see the headline that the baths in Lourdes had been closed for the foreseeable future to avoid the spreading of the Coronavirus. This came as a total shock to us and as we got ready to attend Sunday Mass we could hardly articulate what we were feeling...

Firstly how ridiculous it all was... Was this really happening? On what grounds? ... on the grounds that some 'might be ill'? Wasn't it Our Lady herself who told Bernadette to "Go to the Spring, drink of it and wash yourself"? For over a century people with all sorts of illnesses have gone with the hope of being healed, whether spiritually or physically to these waters.

I have been to Lourdes so many times over my 40 years and my first memory of it was when I was 3 or 4 years old... I remember seeing so many pilgrims - disabled, disfigured, blind, with skin diseases - all queuing up to be bathed in those waters where Our Lady had invited the faithful to wash. No one was ever refused, no sinner, no cripple, no matter how unwell they were! No one was ever denied entry and no one ever got ill from bathing in the same waters as a 'leper.'

So what has changed? We have changed, the Church has perhaps changed! As Fr Lawrence Lew pointed out this morning in a Facebook thread we started "our official reactions to the threat of this pandemic reflects our loss of faith, and an absence of both the sense of the supernatural and of the value of redemptive suffering."

Has Europe completely lost her faith? Why does the Church feel the need to constantly lower herself to the people and play by the law of the world rather than raise her people up closer and closer to God through Christ our Redeemer?

Yes we have become lukewarm Christians and a people who doesn't believe that Christ is alive and that having Heaven as our ONLY goal is where our happiness and fulfillment abides. We invest in education, career, possessions, fame, success...  We can't put up with the slightest discomfort and everything is done for ourselves. We have become selfish. We have replaced Christ with our SELF. We are afraid to die and we are trying to do anything possible to live longer... we perhaps live with the illusion that we WILL live forever.

Europe has lost that sense of the Supernatural ... Where have most of the miracles of newly Canonised Saints taken place? Certainly not in Europe... St Gianna Molla, Brazil, St John Henry Newman, America, and the same goes for the soon to be Blessed Fulton Sheen... Not a single one happened here!! Why? Because we do not believe... and it seems as if Jesus is almost saying 'I am done here' ... 'you refuse to believe...I can't force you to'.

But this is not who Jesus is... He does not give up on us.

Damien of Molokai was a man who placed the Sacraments and the other above everything else, above the fear of contagion. He is a Saint of the same Church standing here today. Why do we forget these examples?

The Coronavirus 'incident' in Lourdes comes as a wake up call that the world does not need the Church to be yet another institution that will do what it is expected of her according to common sense... but rather a Mother who comes with authority and with fearless strength calls her children to real heroism, to go out there, to not be afraid...  to reach out to those who need to encounter Christ. To live for Christ knowing that we are in this world but are not of this world!

The world needs Saints and this calling is for us, today, now and if the Church as an institution has lost faith in herself, the example of the many Saints who have gone before us stands firm and is more than ever asking of us to follow in their footsteps reminding us that:

"whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it". Matthew 16:25

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Motherhood. Our Path to Holiness

No photo description available.

As the end of October approaches the arguments over Halloween start up again year after year without fail…but as the sun dawns on the next day, Catholic Mothers all over the world unanimously agree on celebrating together with the community of Saints their feast.

Sleepless nights, sick children, younger and older children, stressful days, long days with husbands away for work, or with constant long working hours... stay at home mothers, working mothers, single mothers. Mothers of many or mothers of none… 
Motherhood is the greatest challenge of our time.

In a world that encourages instant gratification and everything for the pleasure of the self… motherhood comes almost as a form of masochism… why would anybody give up their life and comfort for another person who is going to require one’s full commitment … body and soul for 20 years minimum? 

All Saints’ day comes as a reminder that we were not made for ourselves but for God’s Glory. The life of the many Saints who have gone before us witness that ‘there is no greater love than to give your life for your friend” it might suggest that in a way mothers have been given a preferential path, not an easier one, but certainly a clearer one towards heaven… a path that, daily, asks everything of themselves, unceasingly. And without rest.

St Therese of Lisieux once said that ‘God is amongst the pots and pans’... but most days that is very hard to believe. Will the neverending folding of the washing and the continuous mess truly bring a mother closer to God? In the suffering of labour, she clearly finds herself close to Christ …physical pain seemed almost easier to bear than the real struggles of a hard unchanging routine of a house that’s too small to contain the life of a family. There is no glamour in the hidden life of a mother and this path to holiness seems to lack heroism.

It is too easy to fall into the trap of feelings of worthlessness and desire of a ‘ higher’  life, of holiness and contemplation. It is almost inevitable for 
Mothers to feel isolated and disheartened … alone in their vocation. In this world that often rejects life, the bearers of it are the ones who feel the struggle most keenly.

Following the life of the Saints one can’t fail to notice the wonderful connection between them all and how holiness is so attractive to the point of becoming contagious. One only needs to look back at St Francis and how his outpouring love for Christ touched the lives of so many around him.

It was to support mothers, strengthen them in the Faith and journey together towards holiness that, Catholic Mothers, a little online community based in London was founded in 2014. Within a few years the facebook community has blossomed into an incredibly active international group.  With members from every nation, the group never sleeps, the wall is filled day and night with prayer requests, requests for practical advice and support as well as encouraging scripture passages and of course some good old Catholic humour.

The Catholic Mothers Facebook group has also become a place where more serious questions are addressed, a place where serious moral or marital issues are raised and where members and moderators ensure that proper answers are delivered.

Mothers are helped in suffering, encouraged in virtue, sin is called by name and members see miracles happen before their eyes knowing that there is no irregular or complicated situation that cannot be solved because the Church is a wise and older mother who has the answers.

Seeing and sharing as much or as little as members want to, helps mothers to see that they are not alone in their struggles and that the path of holiness on which God has placed them, though unique, shares some common grounds. Ours is a calling to give ourselves completely, without holding anything back like Our Lady did … So it happens when a Saintly mother pops up in the group, makes a comment, shares a picture and in her written words the light of Christ is reflected, the entire community rejoices and the desire of holiness is lit in those who touch that life.

To reach out to more and more mothers and transmit the need to truly finding Christ in our vocation Catholic Mothers has lately joined the  vibrant prayer community Hozana, with the same aim to bring people closer to Heaven.

With the upcoming feast of all Saints, the Catholic online community joins forces to remind mankind that God wants to make us holy where we are and that together with the Saints who have gone before us, if we truly believe and abandoned ourselves to the will of God, we too one day will share in (no longer virtually but in the most real way possible) the heavenly banquet.

Buy tickets for our Conference here

Book a place for our Iconography Course here 

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Stay Connected - Book Review

The daily struggles of life are many and we all bear crosses that sometimes seem to crush us and  don't always seem to give us any glimpse of the Resurrection, yet one can't have a taste of that same Resurrection unless we go through the cross.

I grew up knowing that in order to develop a deeper relationship with Christ, in order to get to know the Father and to discover who I was, I had to grow closer and closer to the Scriptures. The Bible was not a collection of books retelling stories and events of the past but that among those pages not only would I find my own past but my present and my future as well. That Word was alive and active and  brought life and straightforward answers (most of the time).

The other day for instance it was one of the many days of discomfort and difficulty I have been experiencing during this pregnancy... I was upset and I was complaining to God, telling him how I wished that I had that ideal mother living next door who would alleviate all my sorrows and would take over for just one day so that I could rest, and moaning that I wanted the ideal father would just turn up and provide for what I needed without me asking because he just knew what I was going through ... 
As I started my Lectio Divina with my mothers group, God was quick to console me and in various passages of the Bible He presented me with Mary as my mother and He clearly showed himself as THE Father I needed! NO! I refused to listened ... I KNEW THAT...but  I WANTED PRACTICAL HELP... nevertheless I carried on... The more I went from one parallel passage to another, the more He clarified who He was and what I really needed....  I found peace, even if for just that day, went home refreshed, the daily battle began and I was reminded of the importance of being closer to the Scripture when the times are bad as well as when they are good, because the Word is vital to my life as a Christian.

I know I was very lucky to be brought up to lean on the Sacraments as well as the Word and for this I thank my parents, the catechists who formed me and Christ himself, yet sometimes the busyness of life blinds you so much that you start to think that you have no time to spend some quiet moments with the Word of God.

This is where 'Stay Connected' comes in. A book that doesn't ask too much of you but that will give you a taste of the treasures that Scripture contain.

The 'Stay Connected' journal for Catholic women by Allison Gingras is a perfect friend to help you discover the joy we Catholic can find through the Word of God.

Allison shares her own Faith journey as she guides the reader towards a closer contact with Christ and with the inner self constantly struggling and yet wanting desperately to connect with God.

Each chapter starts with an 'opening prayer', offers plenty of points to reflect on, helps you to relate and reflect on around half a dozen scripture passages and by asking some practical questions offers the opportunity to develop that sought after deeper relationship with the only One who can give us life. The chapters end with discussion or sharing points and a closing prayer that summarises the themes, the feeling and the experience of that particular chapter. 

If you are not familiar with Lectio Divina this journal is a great starting point and a good tool to lead you through uncharted waters. If, however, you are used to doing regular Lectio Divina this book could work perfectly for a study group as it presents a very clear structure to follow as well as practical questions that will lead the group to interesting and thought provoking discussion points.

As St Jerome said: 'Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ' if up until now you thought getting to know the Bible was something that only belonged to other Christian denominations perhaps it's time you get with the programme and start discovering and enjoying that life-giving gift we Catholics have been given ;-).

Allison Gingras, Author 

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Pull Up A Pew #9 ~ Meet Kimberly Hahn

The 16th of March arrived very quickly and it was time for us at last to enjoy a lecture given by Dr Scott Hahn in person on the occasion of the inauguration of the Holy Rosary Shrine in Belsize Park, London. Here in England, we don't often have the privilege to listen live to the great Apologists of our time and have to make do with YouTube videos and podcasts so as you can imagine the excitement was high. I knew I would not be able to talk to him but I was determined to deliver a parcel with a letter on behalf of my Catholic Mothers addressed to Kimberley, his beloved wife.
I had nothing to lose...I had to try and see if I could arrange an interview with her for my group of mothers. After having managed to reach Fr Mike, thinking he would NEVER agree to be interviewed, my attitude of 'I have nothing to lose ...I can but try!' has become even stronger and more fearless!
( I hope to interview Bishop Barron too sooner or later... I have already spoken to him face to face at the Adoremus conference and am on the case... Will God surprises us once again?... I will keep you posted.)
So I prayed and asked my friends, the Saints and JPII in particular to help me somehow deliver the little Catholic Mothers tote bag I had carefully packed for Mrs Hahn.

My hopes were low as we arrived at the church a bit later than I had planned ... but as the doors opened and we were asked for our tickets, I realised one of the organisers was an old friend of my husband's... so I asked him kindly to deliver the bag... all my hope was in that bag and with him.
A few weeks passed and to my surprise (God never stops to surprise me when it comes to this) I was put in touch with the wonderful Kimberley Hahn whose kindness and patience towards me and my crazy little projects was infinite considering I was just a mother running a tiny group in the virtual Catholic world... and she a well known author and speaker. Yet again I was touched by the humility and spirit of service of these 'famous' Catholics, 'wasting' some of her valuable time for the littlest of their brothers and sisters.

Many members of the Catholic Mothers Facebook group submitted questions for the interview and I put some of them along with my own to Kimberley Hahn!

1.    There are many Catholic Mothers out there who are waiting and praying for their spouse to join them in this journey of Faith to be able to walk this path together as one.  What was your husband’s approach towards you in those 4 years as he waited for you to join him?

Briefly, he prayed a lot, shared when he could, begged God for insight, and challenged me. It was the most difficult time in our marriage. If faith matters to you – and it mattered SO much to us both – our differences were exceedingly painful. It was a time of a loss of dreams without seeing how we would ever be united truly again.

I’d recommend people read “Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism” which goes chapter by chapter through the same time frame from Scott’s perspective and then through mine.


2.    How many children did you have at the time and how did they react to the transition and what did you do when only one of you was in the Church?

When Scott became Catholic, we had two little boys, ages 3 and 1 ½. I became pregnant soon after with our daughter, Hannah. When I became Catholic, they were the only children we had, ages 7, 6 1/2, and 3. I don’t know how much they picked up on the intensity of our struggles, but we presented as united a front as we could. Scott let me know the week after he became Catholic that he had committed to raising the children Catholic, but that he wouldn’t press that immediately. By the time our oldest was 5, he no longer wanted us to attend a Protestant service though I was free to go when I wanted. By the time our eldest was 6, Scott signed him up for classes for First Confession and First Communion. Again, it was my decision to remain Protestant or not, but I faced being the only Protestant in my Catholic family.

There are many more details about this journey in “Rome Sweet Home.”

3.    What did you do to try to incorporate the Faith into your daily lives and to incorporate the Liturgical calendar too - Easter, Lent, Advent, Saints' days etc? (Patricia)

I talked with Catholic moms, gathered ideas from books, and tried traditions to see what would work well given our children’s ages, whether or not I was pregnant, and what Scott could assist us with. There are so many beautiful traditions – you can’t do them all. You want to do what can be meaningful without feeling like someone’s going to judge you for doing it differently than your neighbour. In my book “Graced and Gifted” I give more concrete ideas for liturgical celebrations.

4.    How do you deal with and keep teens faithful when they pull away for independence? (Maureen)

Our youngest of 6, David, is now 19, so we’re almost through the teen years. I think they are a great age – full of deep thoughts about life, love, Godk, the world… Dads are key – they coral them for daily Mass and after-dinner Rosary. The dads help demonstrate that religion is not a “kid” thing. We emphasize how essential it is for them to reach for heroic virtue, to know their faith well so they can defend it, and to give Christ everything! Too often, teens are short-sold on faith, begging them to come with us to Mass rather than telling them what time we’re going. This is true for daily Mass while they are under our roof. We just decide to go and take them. If someone says, “Do we have to go to daily Mass?” I counter with, “We don’t have to, we GET to!” Often they chime in with me with a small smile and a shrug. Afterwards, they have been grateful they went. It’s a limited time offer, while they live under our roof. Don’t miss the opportunity to help them form habits which will help them in later life.

My husband always had a rule: If you need to go to Confession, just ask, and I’ll find you a priest to hear your confession, no questions asked. That was a great rule. And Scott followed through.

5.    How does one "know" for certain that the number of children you have is it?

You know for certain when you hit menopause and can’t have any more. I’ve never heard of anyone saying in later life they wish they had had one less child – but I’ve heard countless people lamenting they were not open to one more.

Seriously, think about your whole life – how long will you live? How long will you be married? Of those years, how many times will you conceive? And how many of those children will you get to bear to delivery and raise? Again, it’s a limited time offer. I would really encourage you to get a copy of “Life-Giving Love: Embracing God’s Beautiful Design for Marriage” which I wrote years ago. The first half of the book explains the Church’s teaching and how beautiful it is. The second half deals with many difficult situations and how we can respond well to miscarriage, stillbirth, infertility, secondary infertility, and sterilizations, as well as quick answers to the 58 most common objections to being open to one more child.

How do you know you're done, or you've accomplished God’s will for family size? (Glynis)

God’s will is tricky to understand – he knows and we don’t. We pray, we seek counsel, we talk with our spouse to understand each other’s hearts, and then we act in good faith, only using Natural Family Planning if we believe we are not led to be open to another child at this time. Contraception for the purpose of not conceiving is always serious sin. No exceptions. That’s NOT God’s will. Ever.

6.    How did you find your homeschooling journey? What would you do differently? (Annalisa)

I first heard about homeschooling from a radio broadcast called Focus on the Family. I looked up that author and began reading about it when my youngest was 1. I went to a conference to learn more and to see what materials were available. It was amazing!

I homeschooled all 6 of our children, most of them all the way through high school, for 26 years. It has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I highly recommend it.

7.    If a parent does not have the option to homeschool or send their children to Catholic school, what are some things that parents can do? (Leanne)

You’ll need to really pay attention to what your children are being taught. Discuss it with them. Find out if Planned Parenthood (or some such organisation) is coming to your child’s classes to give them information and require your child not be present. They go to classes as young as kindergarten! They are the largest abortion provider networks in the US and as such, use their classroom presentations to work toward their future clientele for contraception and ultimately abortion.

8.    “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of sons is their fathers.” (Proverbs 17:6) What role do Christian grandparents have in their grandchildren’s life?

Grandparents have a wonderful role to play – to delight in your offspring as parents and be their major support; to delight in their offspring and enjoy them without feeling the burden of disciplining them; to pray for them every day.

I have a journal for each of my grandchildren that I write in periodically. I didn’t have the time to do that for my children, but that’s something I can do for my grandchildren. I’m so grateful to be able to write about meaningful bible verses, challenge them in their faith, comment on funny things they’ve said or done, speak words of love and encouragement to them, and share how God is teaching me. I plan on giving them their journals sometime after they turn 18.

9.     How do you support your husband as head of the family when you are a leader yourself?

Your husband is the head of the home; you are the heart of the home. Which is more important? Neither. You are both greatly needed. Yet in the dance of marriage, someone needs to lead, and the Lord has designated that role for the husband. In fact, the example is Christ and the Church – do they co-lead, or does the Lord lead the Church? This is not something that squelches a wife, because the husband’s leadership is to demonstrate the kind of service Christ demonstrated for the Church as he laid down his life for her – for us.

Both husband and wife are to submit to Christ and then work out the details of life together in a supportive role with a servant spirit.