Thursday, November 7, 2013

can I recommend...

...setting the table before you begin to cook?  Ladies, this has changed my life.  I don't know why, exactly.  Something about the last minute pressure to actually get the food on the table being gone makes for a great cooking experience overall.

My table is in my kitchen, so somehow being able to glance over at a neatly set table while I do the prep just keeps the end goal in mind.  We're not just throwing the slop to the pigs, you know?  We're creating an experience.  We're crafting a space to pause and be a family, and to pray for a moment.  Yes the food, yes we need to eat to survive.  But that's not the primary point when we sit down to family dinner.  Right?

Please don't misunderstand me...dinner is not perfect peace in our home.  There is a lot of practice going on every night regarding manners, keeping to one conversation and being considerate.  We have not 'arrived' by any stretch of any remotely sane imagination.  But it's all in the trying, right?  Here again we see the domestic church mirroring the Church herself...not perfect yet!  But so much grace is poured out as we sit together, laugh together, mess up the evening together, and forgive one another for it.  over. and. over.

I know that in many homes setting the table is a kid job, which is great.  For me though, if I make myself set the table with real intentionality, even prayerfully, I approach meal prep and the rest of the evening differently. I'm sure in my own weakness at that time of day (read: ready for a break, still a LOT of work to do) I just need a little discipline to get me through the transition into the evening.  Table setting is helping me do just that these days.

In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd there is a lot of focus on the contrast between the great and the small.  Our Lord tells us that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.  The more I reflect on this, the more I see its truth illumine everyday life.  Sometimes the tiniest actions are the ones that help to sanctify our time.

I will leave you with a poem that we're studying in homeschool.  It's very old, and anonymous.  I cannot find much in the way of it's history, but I gather that it's just been kicking around forever.  It's included in the wonderful collection "Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages" that Harold Bloom assembled.  (He argues that it contains what we could call the "pre-canon," or the literature that used to be a part of childhood that prepared people to more fully appreciate the Western canon...but that's another post!)

The movement of this poem is from great to small, and then out to great again.  It moves from an entire culture (a Kingdom) into the most intimate of details (a basket of flowers on a bed...death? birth? marriage?).  It then zooms back out to the Kingdom, and posits that this is the Key of the Kingdom.  The reader asks, "What?  What is the key?"

I think it must have something to do with this movement...the culture informs the tiniest details of our life, and the tiniest details of our life, in turn, form the culture.  If this kingdom is the Kingdom of God, then this has serious ramifications.  Which culture will we allow to form us?  How will the details of our life form the culture?

Suddenly setting the table before I cook the meal becomes a piece of the key.

This is the Key of the Kingdom
In that Kingdom is a city;
In that city is a town;
In that town there is a street;
In that street there winds a lane;
In that lane there is a yard;
In that yard there is a house;
In that house there waits a room;
In that room an empty bed;
And on that bed a basket ––
A Basket of Sweet Flowers:
           Of Flowers, of Flowers;
            A Basket of Sweet Flowers.

Flowers in a Basket;
Basket on the bed;
Bed in the chamber;
Chamber in the house;
House in the weedy yard;
Yard in the winding lane;
Lane in the broad street;
Street in the high town;
Town in the city;
City in the Kingdom ––
This is the Key of the Kingdom.
          Of the Kingdom this is the Key.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

summer birthdays

Eli and Jude have August birthdays, and consequently they always get the "best" party.  Somehow the November boys never have quite such a shebang, but we try to make up for it in other ways.  This party was really fun.  We raked out a 'campsite' in the woods just outside our front door.  Indian costumes abounded, in an effort to enjoy the teepee more fully.  We roasted a couple of our freshly harvested chickens on the spit, and the boys constructed an "outpost" from which to distribute birthday candy.  Oh my.  And the cake was mountainous, and covered in summer fruit and whipped cream.  Dreamy.

On this brisk almost-November night, that party feels so far off.  The house smells like the wood stove and fresh applesauce.  The Red Sox are on the radio, getting ready to win the world series (?!).  The baby is fast asleep.  Happy birthday all over again my big boys.  I can't believe you are 11 and 9.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

pet garden spider

We did have a nice summer, after all.  It's not that there's been nothing blogworthy in this life of ours.  Here begins a series of catch up posts, mostly for my own benefit (recording a few things we don't want to forget).  I realized today (I am in bed with a horrible cold), that part of the reason I have not been keeping up with this is that I'm still largely unaccustomed (and thereby overwhelmed) by this new platform.  I must conquer this!  A whole bunch of these catch up posts will surely buy me some confidence.  I hope they aren't too tedious.

This is a video of our pet garden spider.  She was enormous, and lived next to our bean bed the better part of July and August.  We loved her so.   Sorry for the use of the term 'butt' in this video.  ahem.  Next time we'll say 'abdomen,' I promise.  Actually, I wasn't around when they took this video.  We so want to remember this friend!

choir camp results...

I'm sure you knew that when I said I would post more about choir camp 'soon' it would be in October.  And I'm sure you've been checking everyday in the meantime to see what else I would blog about in the meantime.  Good for you.

The long and short of it is that choir camp was incredible.  Ms. Ray did wonders with such a large group of children in the sheer amount of songs they learned.  The children sang beautifully both at a local nursing home for a room full of enthusiastic residents, and also at Mass on Sunday.

The success of the choir camp really laid a foundation for a new style of catechesis (CCD) at St. Paul's this year.  A vast number of the the children participate in both CCD and choir, which made it possible to organize the two around each other.  This powerful combination of the great treasure we have in the music of the Church and solid teaching of the faith has become a lovely little program for the children of St. Paul's.

As far as sharing about the week, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.  Here is a host of photos of our classroom, the prayerbooks the students made during work time, and their time with the choir.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

a blessed week, in progress

This week, the children are enrolled in a choir camp that's held a the Cathedral of Saint Paul.  Benny, Eli, and Jude have been in the choir for a while now, and this year Asher has joined the camp and will start singing with the group in the fall.  Joining in the music ministry at our church as been a fruitful one for all of us, really.  It has sharpened a certain focus in the life of faith within our family.  To hear the boys singing snatches of liturgical music here and there is a blessing.  And the scripture that is memorized as they prepare to sing the songs at Mass is just...well it's just wonderful.  If I attempted to get them to memorize that much scripture as a homeschool exercise, it would not yield so much.  But when Ms. Ray asks them to memorize a Psalm that will be sung, they're all over it.

But really, that is just a tidbit of what being a Saint Paul's Children's Choir family means.  This experience is really part of the formation of the children!  The following letter (to appear in our bulletin this week), which I am honored to have helped write, says what I mean to share in a more cohesive way:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always.

It is our great joy to be singing with you this morning, after a fruitful week of choir camp. The camp was teeming with the life of young people between the ages of 6 and 13, who met each day to worship our Lord together at 9 o’clock Mass.  The 28 of us then enjoyed a full day of singing and catechesis, as well as fellowship during lunch and afternoon play.  We also visited St. Mary’s Health Care to sing for the elderly residence. 

This commitment to worship together through song and learning and prayer all week is really a glimpse at what the children’s choir aims to manifest.  The goal is not simply to train children to sing as performers for the pleasure of listeners or for the satisfaction of our egos. We are learning how to let our singing voices rise as prayer to our Heavenly Father, as taught by St. Augustine.  We are learning how to hear the Holy Spirit moving about in the life of the Church.  Sacred music is the vehicle for all of these, to be sure.  But it is not music for music’s sake.  The music is a powerful source of catechesis for us, and hopefully can be for you as well.  Music is the handmaiden of the Liturgy. Good music can teach us the faith.

In the children’s choir at Saint Paul’s the young people are taught about the beauty of the Mass in its individual parts, and as a whole.  We are exposed to the great western treasury of sacred music. We are invited to enter into the discipline and sacrifice involved in being a part of music ministry.  We discuss the Scriptures, and pray together.  In short, we are being powerfully integrated into the Liturgical and Sacramental Life of the Church through sacred music. This opportunity to grow in faith and devotion is a special one indeed.  It is just the sort of experience that will raise up strong Catholic leaders in the church of tomorrow.  

When we were baptized, you promised to help raise us in the Faith; we want to thank you for your prayers.  We invite you to join us in singing His praises and sharing your faith with us through music. 

 the Saint Paul's Children's choir

Can you see what a blessing this has been?  I hope so.  I don't have any pictures just now of the goings on of camp, but I will post some soon.  While half of the children are having their first lesson, the other half comes for over an hour of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd-style work.  We're studying this Sunday's readings all week, which happens to include the Good Samaritan.  It is truly a gift to work with these young people!  To work alongside of them as they ponder these great mysteries is such balm for the adult soul.  I will have to share some more about CGS sometime as well.

More to come!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

a return to blogging?

Since Peter's birth, I have not been blogging!  That is stating the obvious.  To be honest, much of that decision was intentional (as opposed to the perhaps suspected non-decision that often accompanies life with a newborn).  There has been a certain feeling in the air around here since his birth that is very much a call to be present.  It has felt so good.  I have been lower tech than I have been in a long time these last ten months. (ten months!  How is dear Peter almost one already?!)  It has accompanied a 'new slow' that is our life as we know it.  The pace does pick up in patches, which can get stressful, but luckily this serves only to punctuate the nicer times of slowness.  Of being at home.  I can honestly say that what I do most is feed the people.  This might mean spending time in the kitchen cooking and cooking and cooking.  Or, it might mean growing our food outside in raised beds and chicken coops.  But I don't mind.  Feed my sheep.  Feed my lambs.  Right?

The rest is creating the life of the domestic church here, homeschooling, and...well, laundry and cleaning.  This is surely the list that set women's teeth on edge not long ago and became what we now call the feminist movement.  But I'll take this list.  These things, in fact, are my favorite things to do.  I feel more whole and content doing these things than anything else.  

Please don't misunderstand, there are days I wish I had more help!  And days when I just wish we had the money for take-out.  *alas*  And days when I yell at the boys because I wish I had more time to just sit. and. read. something.  BUT, at the end of the day, I am happy to sacrifice.  And when I'm not, I know it is growing my soul to just do it anyway.

This return to blogging is fueled by a desire to record.  I'm doing a lousey job of that.  Poor Peter does not have many photographs of himself, and he's such a beautiful boy!  Ultimately I think I want the journal of our days that a blog provides, and I don't mind sharing it with family and friends at the same time, since we do not excel at Christmas cards and New Year's letters. it goes!  Let's see if adding this back in to life feels comfortable or not.