Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Little Oratory Chapter Four: The Liturgical Year

I absolutely love family traditions. When I think about our "family vision," half of my daydreaming revolves around what I want the Church's great feast days to look like in our home.  I mean, I have quite a collection of literature on the topic and I lurk around all sorts of Catholic culture blogs.

This, however, doesn't mean I do any of the actual execution of the said traditions very well...but I'm LEARNING!

I feel like my liturgical adventures truly started when my five year commitment as an officer in the Coast Guard was done in the summer of 2009 (service time in exchange for free college). I was FINALLY at home with my then three children and wow...there were all sorts of fun things and crafts to be doing with my littles! Except....I realized very quickly...our Church likes to celebrate...and wow...I would be finishing up All Saint's Day festivities only to take on Martinmas*.

*I LOVE putting a "mas" at the end of these feast days, so Jane Austen, no?

However, as my wise friend Angela says, "Each child we have brings us more wisdom." Liturgically, I am now in the...what works for us...season. Gift number five will be coming around Halloween (Hallowmas..ha!) and right before Advent and Christmas...and I have to ask...what is going to work for us this year?

They served cocoa & cookies after noon Mass. I love their Alaskan snow boots :)
How much is too much? What is truly necessary and what looks more like a secular jumbled mess of a holiday? Am I looking around at how others are celebrating or am I thinking about the needs of this home? The Liturgy of the Hours and the prayer table seem to be a good centering for these traditions and I think chapter four is gently pleading...ARE YOU GRASPING THE ESSENTIAL?

I LOVE LOVE LOVE that the authors point us to SUNDAY first. Before diving into the different traditions around our favorite holidays, we are pointed toward THE day of rest.

"If you put Sunday worship and Sunday rest first, all will be added unto you

She was having warm milk while I sipped my coffee.
You will finally understand life and your place in it

You will see your way clear to solutions to problems that have seemed intractable, or you will be content with the way things are

depending on what God's will for you is - which you will grasp.

When a person orients himself to Sunday and is determined to make it a different day (not another day of achieving things or getting things done), he finds that he is at peace."

Well written and so necessary...

I wrote about our Sundays a little here and what a great influence Joseph Pieper's Leisure the Basis of Culture had on my understanding of this special day (his book was recommended on Like Mother, Like Daughter).

Also from Chapter 4:

"Many parents today search for meaningful ways to convey the richness of the Faith to their children, not realizing that the celebration of the liturgical year, plain and simple, with the Church, is the best way to teach them. And it requires little more than just living along with her.

Sure, there are crafts and books and various activities, but the core of liturgical living, as practiced for two millennia now, is what we ought to be after.

In this way we start thinking with the mind of the Church, because her mind is in the seasons."

I just love it...her mind is in the seasons.


This is so fitting as I think about my dear friend Melinda. She emailed me and said she just finished reading chapter four of The Little Oratory as well, and that she has lots of ideas for her home! 

I love, however, as Catholic women, Melinda and I are sharing a season. She is growing a baby under her heart and I am growing a baby under mine, and our friend Krysten is also growing a baby. My friend Kelley is also due any day!

Littles make the world go round...

(Ready for a two night Catholic Kids Camp at the Shrine of St Therese...they had a blast!)

In this life growing season, we will manage our homes with our limits. God will give us the grace to do what is enough for the day. Our traditions will, once again, be celebrated in "the year of the baby" where we will have to maybe give up on certain laborious dinners or celebrated outings in order to keep peace in ourselves and in our home.

I love knowing I have a simple prayer space set up...and that can be enough. I love, as mentioned in this chapter, that the Liturgy of the Hours will naturally unfold the seasons for us in the prayers we say. I can breathe a sigh of relief that our Mother Church, because of her seasonal mind, has everything already taken care of!

Thank you for reading! I have come across some new blogs as a result of doing this summer book study and am so grateful for the windows into these beautiful domestic churches. You can read what others mamas are doing for their Little Oratories here.God Bless!

Summer in the Little Oratory

The Little Oratory Chapter One
The Little Oratory Chapter Two
The Little Oratory Chapter Three

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: Little Oratory Chapter Three Musings

For Fathers' Day my family celebrated Mass at the gorgeous Shrine of St Therese.


Mass is celebrated here every Sunday from May to September and the Lord blessed us with a beautiful day, so we went (and my husband could not get up for 8 am Mass at our church because of a 430 airport run with company)!

The girls ran the bells at the beginning of Mass...


And we were asked to take up the collection as a family and bring up the gifts, which was all so special and actually successful with littles (when the caretakers asked us to participate...I felt a sense of honor mixed with a fear of chaos...spilled money baskets on the floor...those kind of things).


After Mass the shrine caretaker, Jeannie, always has delicious homemade goodies in the gift shop....

More Happy

The shrine attracts many tourists (from the cruise ships) and visitors in the summer months. It truly is a holy place where one can enjoy the Lord's majesty. I let the children have their freedom. 

After indulging in our after Mass treats, I went with my four year old daughter down to the shore. There was a family enjoying the view and I overheard their conversation (I promise I wasn't snooping, they were just at the particular volume where I could hear as I walked by)

"Did you have a chance to go in the gift shop?"

"Yeah, there is a bunch of strange worship stuff."

"Oh, they ARE Catholics."


Hmmm....strange worship stuff.


I didn't actually think that our little prayer space would ever really get started. I had company from out of town the week I was reading Chapter 3 of the Little Oratory, and honestly, I didn't want to freak my guests out by building my prayer corner right in front of them. We didn't say the Liturgy of the Hours as a family either...it just would have been...too strange.

I think that is the point though...that this book is trying to drive home...is that we don't want our faith to be strange to our children...we want it to be...familiar.

And I DO want the courage Lord and the overwhelming LOVE for you to not CARE so much about what others think that our Catholic life has to be put on hold.


When I left off with chapter two, I had wanted our prayer space on this book shelf.  After reading chapter three, I decided that there wouldn't be much interaction with it so high. I was also thinking that my children enjoy the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atriums so much because they take ownership of the entire space. They may interact with the material and the beautiful items in the atrium, especially on the prayer table. 

So, I felt it should be the same way in our home so I thought that this space might do...

sorry...a little blurry
Included in chapter three is this awesome quote from Thoedore of Studite against the the heresy of iconoclasm (ninth century). 

Imprint Christ...onto your heart, where he (already) dwells; whether you read a book about him, or behold him in an image, may he inspire your thoughts, as you come to know him twofold through the twofold experience of your sense. Thus you will see with your eyes what you have learned through the words you have heard. He who in this way hears and sees will fill his entire being with the praise of God.

I have always believed that our Mother Church has been so good to her children's senses, but most particularly to the poor who are illiterate...to the little ones who can't "meditate" on the Word of God. So the WORD is brought to us in a DIFFERENT kind of writing...in beautiful art (aka...strange worship things).

Here it is so far.......(!)...

I need a crucifix under my Mother Teresa print, I just have a very small one that was my Poppi's that is next to our little rosary basket there. I would love to find a pretty linen instead of one with a moose.

But I remember this chapter simply saying..."Just start."

"Start with something, even if it seems too small, even if you can only find a bookcase or a sideboard or even a crate. Just start."

Even if it isn't with everything you want. :)

"That is the charm of the home altar or prayer table or icon corner. It is yours. It expresses your very own personality and aesthetic. Don't be afraid to explore what that means for you."

I proclaimed as we were driving to swim lessons this morning, "I can't believe I didn't yell at you guys to get ready! I'm so pumped!"

My eight year old chimed in, "Mommy it's probably because you and daddy are praying the Liturgy of the Hours."

Wow. :) 

Thank you for visiting! Please click here for more PHFR and here for more on the Little Oratory!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mother Teresa Part II: Let the People Eat You Up

On Mother's Day I wrote about Mother Teresa's inspiring examples of having complete confidence in God that if the work comes from Him, it can not fail. I also wrote about her plea for us to be cheerful in our service.

As I continue to grow in motherhood with each little the Lord sends our way, I find myself being consumed...devoured...by the needs of a home that has six people (one in the womb) and a dog depending on me. They look to me to find the yogurt in the fridge.  I put on spiderman shoes. I am best friends with my shop vac. I get excited when I can reheat leftovers and spruce it up just enough that my whole family is fooled (this is rare...that they are fooled).

I have read ENOUGH tired mommy articles floating around on facebook about these fleeting years and that we're all doing a good job, these women move in phases as their children grow and they no longer have toddlers....I'm sure these moms uplift many, but I see the "having little ones phase" as being a part of my life all the time. I am reminded by many onlookers how we keep "starting over" the time we will no longer have littles in the home each time God sends us a new one.

 I have secret to share... I always want them around.

The little ones...I want them around always.  I LOVE old sippy cups that I find with milk curdled in them...I always want them in my home (ha!).

I don't want to live the moments because I will miss them someday, I want to live the moments because they are sent by God and they are sanctifying.

Having young ones around truly is a virtue boot camp of patience and constant dying to oneself. It is so good for us, for me at least, to have the little ones helping get rid of some major kinks in my soul. Spit up on new blouse: die to the desire to wear fine things. Busted leg on the reading chair: die to the desire to own fine things. Little one with a stomach virus: die to a girls night out (lol...what are those anyway?)

Books instead of a leg
I think a family who is constantly open to life doesn't live a predictable, next step life. I'm not just meaning by having children through all your fertile years, but being open to life comes in so many ways. Being open to life means you are constantly open to the lives of others, to serving them. You have your sister's child for the summer. You pull up a chair when a neighbor stops to chat in the driveway. You make double the dinner for the new mommy down the street. You say yes to the foster child who need who needs placement immediately.

SO bringing it back to Mother Teresa...she says..

"Let the poor and the people eat you up...Let the people "bite" your smile, your time. You sometimes prefer not to even look at somebody when you had some misunderstanding. Then, not only you look, but give a smile...Learn by heart you must let the people eat you up."

Being open to life means letting people eat you up.

And not just any people...the PEOPLE the Lord puts in front of you.

I believe mothers of littles should allow their OWN littles to have their fill of you first. We have to be careful of who is having their fill of us...who is "biting our time" in this world of schedules and activities and commitments. Oh how many times this has caused some stress in my own life....

I was thinking...does this sound too harsh and demanding? Is this physically, mentally, spiritually possible to be totally consumed by littles?

I am figuring this out too.

If we are letting our people eat us up, when does the FILLING UP happen...when we are living a life of complete service to our families...when we are on empty...which ummm can feel like everyday sometimes...when does the FILLING UP happen?

Mother Teresa was fully aware of the extraordinary demands she was asking of each Sister as a Missionary of Charity, in her handwritten rules she wrote:

"As each Sister is to do the work of a priest - go where he cannot go, and do what he cannot do, she must imbibe the spirit of Holy Mass, which is one of total surrender and offering. For this reason Holy Mass must become the daily meeting place, where God and His creature offer each other for each other and the world."

She knew that with the Eucharist her Sisters could serve with total surrender.

What an awesome gift for Catholic mamas...to have the strength of the Eucharist behind our daily chores and doings. Perhaps we cannot receive daily Mass, but praying the Liturgy of the Hours can help us live in the Eucharist outside of Mass.

A good mother anticipates her children's needs and so Mother Teresa also outlined this rule in the Sisters' spiritual exercises:

"The Sisters shall spend one day in every week, one week in every month, one month in every year, one year in every six years in the motherhouse, where in contemplation and penance together with solitude she can gather in the spiritual strength, which she may have used up in the service of the poor."

Did you hear that!?!?! She is saying we SHALL spend time gathering spiritual strength. Setting aside Sunday as a day of rest in our family is a start, but I think I'm not alone when I say we have our limits and we need a time for retreat. Rest.

I have only a few suggestions on how we can do this, how we can find time for contemplation and solitude, because honestly I find it a personal challenge as the day passes striking a balance between work and leisure. Alllowing littles to eat me up but also finding ways to fill up.

Suzanne may slip into a literary classic with a nice cup of tea.

Krysten might try her hands at a new icing recipe for her cupcakes.

Jennifer might actually lay down and take a nap while her littles are napping (after she makes spruce tip jelly).

Rebekah might knit a new sweater with some pretty yarn she has come across.

Our regiment for gathering our strength may not look like what Mother Teresa outlined for her Sisters, but it is very clear...that we are HUMAN and that we may have all our spiritual strength "used up in the service of...

our littles."

Isn't this wonderful? Thank you Mother Teresa.  We learn by heart that we must let the people eat us up. We will learn to take care of ourselves by allowing time to fill up.

We have wonderful weather for Father's Day. Hope you enjoy your people my friends. Thank you for stopping by. xxoo

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real

Hello! I have company visiting this week here in beautiful Juneau! I feel bad that all my intentions for praying the Liturgy of the Hours and setting up our Little Oratory/Prayer table have been derailed with company...I feel a bit discouraged if it will ever come into existence. Here is a peek at my week...


My girls playing in the water at the Shrine of St Therese.


Celebrated ten years of marriage with my husband today (we walked the docks on Douglas Island dreaming about boats and had dinner together...no littles). It has been an amazing life, feeling so very blessed...and happy.


They start them with princess go-fish but in my family everyone eventually learns to play euchre.


We found out we are expecting another daughter today. She is so beautiful and is already so loved. I will have a son and four daughters...my very own Jane Austen novel! She is due around All Saints' Day!

Click here for more PHFR!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Little Oratory: Chapter Two Thoughts

Good evening! I am linking up again for the summer online book club being hosted at In the Heart of My Home. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the second chapter of The Little Oratory: A Beginner's Guide to Praying in the Home, the chapter is "The Family and the Home."

Summer in the Little Oratory

In the spirit of chapter two, I made sure to clean my kitchen and sink and get my dishwasher going before I touched this keyboard. The littles are all tucked in bed and we also prayed evening prayer of the Divine Office, well, my husband and I did, but the littles did this...

Liturgy of the Hours high five (slap!) thanks to chapter one!

Time for sharing:

"A loving home of our own is a fundamental need embedded in our human nature."

This quote doesn't just say a home...it specifies a "loving" home

This reminds me of a confession from roughly a year ago. I had just read the beautiful book Kisses From Katie. This is such a raw and inspiring book of a young twenty year old raising orphans in Uganda. After reading of the suffering and poverty of these people, I felt restless...I had a panic attack! This is it...I've got to figure out how to be a missionary in Uganda! My husband had nights of..."honey, we need to adopt children from Uganda!" My simple vocation just didn't seem...enough.

I'm not sure how it came to be that I was in the confessional talking about this, but I was basically seeking spiritual council on if I was being complacent as a Catholic for not doing more than "just being a mom at home."

I will never forget the almost stern look that came across my priest's face as he began to set me straight,

"When I do my ministry in the prisons, Stephanie, I witness grown men weeping. 

They are weeping about the mothers and fathers who didn't love them. 

They grieve the lack of love in the homes they came from. 

Believe me, you are doing enough

Go home and love your family."

Amen, our work in the home is ENOUGH. 

I think this chapter makes this perfectly clear. I like how gentle it is...we don't just want to stay at home, we want to be MAKING a home. We want to do this well...not in a Martha Stewart, Pottery Barn catalog way...more like a...(whiff) ahhh....this home has the essence of our Catholic call of being open to life.

"When we enter people's homes, we catch a whiff of their essence, of who they are, and of the divine."

And I love this:

"...disorder is not to be confused with simple messiness 

or normal signs of life, with children and family members in general who, taken up with their interest and vitality,

haven't gotten around to tidying up."

I love it. Love.

Thoughts on hospitality and the spirit of a particular home:

"The stranger goes away taking a piece of it in his heart, being affirmed in his own unique calling. A person doesn't lose his identity upon being welcomed into a real, loving home; rather, he finds something in himself he didn't know before. The experience of being in a happy home draws forth love in its inhabitants and in its guest."

I have to admit, I am constantly working on finding a balance between the intimacy of being our family, at leisure, and letting others "into the sanctuary of our home." Being so extroverted, there was a season of my life (that is cringe worthy to me now) where family wasn't enough, I always had to be entertaining. There is a lot of prayer and prioritizing our OWN family's needs before we let others in. 

I really did enjoy the sections on beauty and educating ourselves in beauty.

"To be educated in beauty from an early age - with that education of love that the home offers - tends to incline us to serve God and our fellow man with love. The result for those individuals who follow this path of beauty is joy."

I appreciated the examples mentioned on ways to educate our family in beauty, and I felt a firming up of our role as mothers in the home when we were referred to as the "creators of the culture who will subsequently attract the unevangelized.

Wow, we truly are evangelizing, and as mentioned in chapter one of this book, it isn't in a "hand a pamphlet out" way. We spread the light of Christ throughout the world...through our homes, yes by being hospitable to a degree, but more through the life-giving culture we have saturated our children in. Building the culture takes background work, and I like that there were suggestions in chapter two for each room. The home is ordered to serve the PEOPLE who LIVE there. 

Our homes say... 

You are loved here. This flower basket is for you...

This statue of Mary is for you...she will always have open arms for you...

I will keep your toys in the family room, because I want you to be around...I enjoy the sound of you playing...

Yes, mama, this clean area above the kitchen sink is for you...because even YOU need to think of your own need for beauty and order...

OK! This was fun to participate again! At the end of chapter two we are eased into finding a spot for our little oratory.

I'm thinking of this...I cleared the books off...I already have a statue of Our Lady there...not sure though...

Thank you for joining! God Bless!