Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I was talking with a friend recently about the need for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or what old-fashioned Catholics might refer to as Confession. This friend of mine is not a Catholic, and so has never personally experienced this Sacrament up close. However, she told me that even if she were a practicing Catholic, she would not go to Confession. I disagreed, because I told her that if she were a practicing Catholic, that she would recognize the spiritual benefit of celebrating this Sacrament.
Technically speaking, it isn't *necessary* to go to Confession unless you have committed a mortal sin, which is a sin grave enough to completely cut off the life of God's grace within. However, for most Catholics, it is understood that the bare minimum requirement is to go to Reconciliation twice a year, once before Christmas, and once before Easter. Many parishes encourage the faithful to instill this habit by offering penance services with individual Confessions during Advent and during Lent.
Back to the conversation with my friend. She claims that she wouldn't need to confess to a priest because she can talk directly to God. This is the most common justification for not celebrating this Sacrament. It isn't only non-Catholics who use this argument. Many Catholics also justify their lack of participation in this Sacrament in the same way. While it is true that anyone at any time can and should talk to God, it is not a replacement for the very personal encounter we experience during the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
As I thought about her argument later, I thought of an analogy. Many times we tend to justify things to make them seem excusable. For instance, when a person gains five pounds, they can easily tell themselves that they will "work it off". It is easy to justify it by saying "it's the holidays, I'll lose it next month" or whatever it is a person says to themselves when they want to put off doing something. However, five pounds can turn into ten, then fifteen and pretty soon the clothes aren't fitting right, or at all. We can tell ourselves that we will get on that treadmill tomorrow. We try easy things like diet pills or hypnosis. The easy way is easy because it doesn't work. You can't wish it away, deep down you know the only way to lose that weight is with some hard work.
Well, it is the same with Confession. It is hard work preparing yourself to receive this Sacrament. It requires an examination of conscience, wherein you look deep inside your heart for all the ways in which you are failing in the Christian walk. It is very difficult to be honest with ourselves and admit to ourselves much less another person all the things that weigh on our hearts. It is so much easier to just think we can talk to God and bypass this Sacrament altogether.
My analogy of the need for a priest to hear our Confession is much like going to a gym. When we take the time and money to go to a gym, we are serious about our goal by placing ourselves in the company of other people who are also trying to better themselves. We are motivated by their example and encouraged by their presence. Just the atmosphere of the gym helps us to believe that our goal is attainable. We can do this. This is the similar to the function of the priest in Confession, who spiritually motivates and encourages us. The priest is like a personal trainer, who can help us individually and personally with whatever it is that we struggle the most with. He can't do that if he doesn't know what is wrong to begin with. We must recognize and articulate our problems in order for someone to help us. When we take the time to go to the Church and talk to the priest, we are serious about our spiritual goal, which ultimately is Heaven.
"Sure," my friend says, "but I could tell my problems to anyone and have the same benefit." Well, not really. Because no one but a priest has the authority to absolve sins, which is the primary purpose for going to Confession. This is based in Scripture. The Bible tells us that Jesus appeared to His disciples after the Resurrection and, breathing on them, said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit! Whosoever sins you forgive are forgiven, whosoever sins you retain are retained!' This authority is given to all Catholic priests through their Ordination when they receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
After we have celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation properly, with intent of purpose and repentance, we are able to go in peace. We leave the confessional with the ability to "take up our mat and walk", and most importantly, we know that we are forgiven our sins. We are able to leave the weight of sin behind. Most people even say as much after experiencing the grace of this Sacrament. They leave with a spring in their step and feel as if a great weight has been lifted from their shoulders. There is a reason for this. The sins which were formerly binding them, having been loosed, they are now free. It is Lazarus emerging from the tomb. Remember the saying, "The Truth shall set you free." This is the essence of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is a physical and a spiritual freedom.
So yes, Confession is good for the soul. Confession to a priest who is able to absolve sins.
My friend doesn't know what she's missing.
Monday, December 29, 2008
This is bug isn't so bad!
The Cricut!I have been wanting one of these since I first saw the infomercial about a year ago, but the price was keeping me away! Then, we kept looking at them but still I couldn't part with the money to buy it until hubby told me that I HAD to get it because it was his Christmas present to me. There is a learning curve to it but so far it is very user friendly, and I cut out my first images with the cartridge that was included.
I also found some new very creative friends who have also been bitten! They call themselves "Cricuteers!" Just look at what you can do with this thing:This was made and posted to the Cricut forums by crazy scrapper-- her first card! Isn't that cool?
This was made by another Cricut enthusiast, using vinyl and a glass block:
I can't wait to start creating my own projects!
Friday, December 26, 2008
My boys were always fascinated by St. Stephen, a man who showed great courage to go to his death rather than renounce his faith. When you think about how horrific a death stoning was, you realize the extent of the bravery which St. Stephen exhibited. He showed great trust and perseverance as a model of Christian faith. According to a historian, death by stoning usually meant that they threw the person from an elevation with their hands bound. If the initial fall didn't kill them, then from above would be cast stones down upon them. The person being stoned would not be able to shield himself and would be completely defenseless. The rocks that were cast down were not tiny stones but rather more like boulders. It only took about three blows from those huge stones to cause death, a quick but very agonizing way to go to Heaven.
Even in his final moments, St Stephen begged God to forgive those who were responsible for killing him, emulating Jesus to the very end of his life. The Bible says that St. Stephen's face appeared like that of an angel, so serene was he in his last moments despite the circumstances.
The next time I feel unforgiving toward someone, I'm going to think of St. Stephen, a true model of Christian charity and forgiveness.
St Stephen, first martyr for the Christian faith, pray for us!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Luckily we haven't had anywhere really pressing to go, except a few minor outings to the grocery store and the post office. After busy woodshop hubby dug out our mile long driveway all by hand (why would anyone around here have a snowblower?), we took the car with chains down to the main street post office to mail our Christmas cards, which for the most part will arrive at their destinations sometime after Christmas depending on how far they have to travel.
Also fortunately, I had gone to Costco in preparation for this big storm, braved the crazy Christmas crowds (thank heavens for Executive Membership at least!) and stocked up on pantry items and our Christmas dinner.
And I didn't forget entertainment. Thinking ahead to days stuck in the house I bought a 550 pc puzzle, which I have been putting together by myself. The boys ditched the project before we even got all the straight edge pieces sorted out. I won't quit, though and I have it almost finished. All I have to say about puzzles is not to start one on your dining table unless you have somewhere else to have dinner for a couple days.
Today, we are expecting more snow, they are saying 1-3", which really doesn't sound like that much until you have to shovel it. Then again tomorrow morning, Christmas day we will be getting even more snow. We will be having a very white Christmas this year!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Suddenly, a man came out of a corner bistro, approached us, pointed up the hill and simply said to us, "Your car is right there." We looked where he pointed and sure enough, it was there. It was at that point when we looked at each other in amazement and wondered how this stranger knew that we were looking for our car, and, more importantly, the location of the car. How did he know? We had been there all day! It would be impossible for someone to just happen to know this information, so we decided to ask him. In the time it took for us to look up the hill and see the car, and look back at each other, we turned to ask him how he knew but he was gone. Just like that. It was then that we realized he had been dressed all in white. Our friend tour guide had previously told us about a mysterious man who appeared seemingly out of nowhere at times in his life when he needed help, but we had dismissed the stories as fiction. It was then that this friend said to us, "That was the man I was telling you about." We were simply astonished!
On the drive home, we were discussing the possibilities of whether it was logical that someone would be at the bistro all day and approach us at our moment of need, or whether more possibly that this was not a person at all but actually a real angel. It was the only conclusion that made sense! He was wearing all white, he seemed to appear out of nowhere, he had information about something we needed and as soon as he helped us he was gone. It had all the earmarks of a true angel story! After thinking about all that happened, I can never be convinced of anything else.
I am forever grateful that we have angels to help us, even if it is just a small task of finding a parked car! There is no telling how long we might have wandered around looking for our car without his help. San Francisco is a big city!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Nana was also the perfect grandmother. She knew when we needed a hug, she made the best grilled cheese sandwiches in the whole world, she always had a jarful of candy just waiting for us to get into, there was always a cookie jar stocked with the kind we liked best (mine were the frosted circus animal cookies), and she kept a special toy drawer in her kitchen for us to keep busy when she was baking. Somehow she made everything better. She knew what each one of her grandchildren liked and didn't like, and made sure that we knew that each one of us was special and unique. For instance, I didn't like fruit in my jello, so she always made a special mold that was fruit-free just for me! When Nana was around, all the world was right.
Nana could always be found in the kitchen, making something wonderful. When I think of her, I mostly remember the box of Christmas cookies she made for our family every year. We really looked forward to that box, which contained an elaborate array of every kind of Christmas confection-- it was truly like opening a box full of love! Inside, I would find the sugar cut-outs I loved so much, decorated so elaborately. There were Santas, reindeer, Christmas trees, ornaments, bells and stars. There were dancing gingerbread men (and women!). They were almost too beautiful to eat. I say almost because we always did eat them! That box was more than just cookies and candy, though. It was full of a tradition of Christmas baking that spanned all the way to my mother's childhood. It was the bridge that connected us to her at this special time of year.
So, many years later, as I'm standing in my own kitchen, with flour on my face and cookie dough in my hair, I suddenly had an enormous appreciation of the gift God so generously gave to us in our grandmother. She was loving and kind; always thinking of others. She was generous with her talent as she was happy to pass on her love of baking to her grandchildren. Even though I now had in my possession the recipes and the very same cookie cutters she used to use every year, I still had doubts whether I would be able to carry on this special tradition in the same spirit as my grandmother had. Nana wasn't with us anymore, having passed away when I was in my early twenties. I missed her so much. When she died, it was like losing my mom all over again.
I pushed aside these thoughts and decided to give it my best shot. I got back to work, mixing, baking, frosting, decorating, packaging and wrapping. Later that afternoon, I would get a sign that could only have been orchestrated by Nana herself, that my efforts were good enough to keep the tradition alive. Maybe it was a little Christmas magic, maybe it was my imagination. You can decide.
Here is what happened.
Finishing in the kitchen, I set about cleaning the cookie cutters and putting things away when I opened a cabinet and my eyes came to rest right on an old Avon Santa Claus figure, which had been a gift from Nana when I was a little girl. Each Christmas, along with the cookies, Nana would send something from Avon. This Santa was from many Christmases ago, but yet here he was sitting on my shelf, looking me right in the eye and maybe even smiling. I thought so, anyway. I picked him up, laughing at the coincidence of finding him on this day, and as I turned the decanter over to read what kind of perfume was in it, it was then that I realized that Santa was delivering a message that was meant just for me. The bottom of the container read,
Thank you, Nana, for reminding me that we are never farther than a heartbeat from those whom we love.
Nana and the Santa message
(I wrote this at Christmas about seven years ago, and decided to post it here for Emily at Sugar and Meringue, who tagged me to write a holiday memory. Emily's site originally attracted me because of her beautiful cookies which remind me so much of the ones my Nana used to make)
Monday, December 15, 2008
Come on in and have a look around:
And with the flash:
The front porch, ring the doorbell and hear a Christmas jingle, courtesy of NuTone:
We wrapped lighted garlands around the stair rails:
This is my little white "Mom" tree in the dining room, this year we made it a candy cane theme:
(don't mind the packages on the floor!)
The tree in the parlor, decorated by the kids:
Pinnochio came all the way from Italy!
The nativity set, on the kitchen counter, under the Jesse Tree:
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
(Words of Our Lady to Juan Diego)
Today we commemorate Our Lady of Guadalupe. The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a fascinating one. In the year 1531, between the 9th and 12th of December, in the early hours of the morning, "A Lady from Heaven" appeared to St. Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac as he was on his way to Mass. She spoke to him in his language and requested a chapel to be built on that site in her honor. When Juan Diego went to the Bishop with this request, the Bishop asked for a miraculous sign as proof of the authenticity of the request. Our Lady instructed Juan to gather flowers on Tepeyac Hill, even though it was winter and there were no flowers blooming at that time. He did as she requested, finding Castilian Roses in bloom which were not native to that area, but they were native to the area the Spanish Bishop was from.
Juan Diego gathered the flowers in his tilma and set off to the Bishop. When he arrived, he opened his tilma to show the Bishop the roses, and that is when they discovered that the miraculous image of Our Lady was on his tilma.
The image itself still remains to this day. It can be seen at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The image has been studied by scientists, most recently in our time and has been found to have some peculiar qualities. The native's tilma, a poor quality cactus-cloth, should have deteriorated in 20 years but shows no sign of decay 477 years later and it still defies all scientific explanations of its origin. The face, hands, robe and mantel appear to have been imprinted in one step. The coloring itself is a mystery as it has been determined that it is not a mineral, vegetable or animal source. It has survived the centuries despite being exposed to heat, humidity, and even a bomb without wearing down and without discoloration.
Another interesting discovery in more recent times with the help of modern technology by several opthalmologists, have found that there are images reflected in the eyes of the Virgin. After magnifying the photographs 2,500 times, it can be seen that the pupils reflect a group of Native Americans and Fransicans, purportedly those who were standing there at the moment when St. Juan Diego opened the tilma, the roses tumbled out and they all saw the miraculous image.
An article, The Mystery in Our Lady's Eyes, explains this in detail.
The effect of the sacred image upon the people was profound. It was more than a beautiful portrait, it was also a message from heaven that they could read. The sacred image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is rich in meaning. It expresses, in a way that words cannot, the tender love and goodness of God. It is a gift from heaven especially to the First Nations, and to all those who live united in this land, and to all of mankind.
In looking for links and information for this post, I came across this wonderful resource put together by Kay Murdy at her Daily Word of Life site. Please click over and read this concise yet filled with fascinating facts account of the history, symbolism and meaning of the image.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, radiating God's Love.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I made a lot of friends that I have never met in person, and never will, but that doesn't stop me from thinking of them even today. Many I only knew by their screen names, but I still can remember the ones who left an impression on me and they will always have a special place in my heart. After Storksite disbanded, I found another wonderful place called Moms Online, which also had a lot of forums in which to meet like-minded people. This is where I met some of the best Catholic Moms in the whole world. I still laugh when I think of those early days of the internet how my hubby would think that these people I met could somehow not be as real as I thought they were. I would tell him stories about 'so and so' and whatever the latest news in their life happened to be. He looked at me like I was crazy. But, then one day I had the chance to meet almost all of the moms I came to know only online, in person. They were not only real but even more wonderful than I imagined.
Since I "discovered" blogging, I have found that I am drawn to the stories of people's lives. It is like driving through the neighborhood and "peeking" in the windows of other families. Haven't you ever done that? Whenever I see a house that looks so cozy and inviting, I can't help but wonder what they are like, what were are doing. How many kids do they have, and what was their family story?
Well, I still do this today. I do it when I visit a blog that just speaks to my heart, and then I bookmark it (I have more bookmarks than time to read them).
I do this every time I read the paper and turn to the obituaries and wish that I had known these wonderful people that I am meeting after the fact.
I do it when I think about the people in the cemetery, whenever I see a tombstone I always have to calculate how old they were when they died. Then I wonder what kind of person they were, what did they die of and all manner of questions that I will never really have the answer to. I don't even have to be in the cemetery, just driving by one to think about the people there.
I do this when I am driving my car and wonder where the people speeding past me are going in such a hurry? What kind of occupation do they have? Are they going to work, a doctor's appointment, the airport?
I can literally meet someone and know details of their lives within minutes. I tell my husband that the Starbuck's barista just got married as I hop in the car with my latte, and he just marvels at how I manage to find that out. Then I tell him that the checker at Safeway just sent her youngest child to college. I don't know why, but people tell me things. One day at Target I met a nice elderly man who shared precious pictures of his family with me, and told me about his wife who had recently passed away. I was glad I had the time that day to stop and listen. He missed her so much. I am amazed that people trust me that much with their heart when I just met them. My husband just shakes his head. I guess not everyone understands.
I am a people person, I especially like to read biographies of people. I people watch when I'm at the mall, or an airport. Try it sometime. Thank goodness for blogs. The blogs satisfy my curiousity about others in a way that is more personal and meaningful. Strangers talk about their day to day life on the internet! I remember thinking how crazy that was, but since I starting blogging, I've been bitten by the blog bug! This is my way of finding people that are interesting and I have a reason to turn on my computer to see how they are doing. I have a feeling that most people who have a blog are somewhat the same way. Reading blogs for me is like reading a never-ending story. I keep checking back to read the next chapter and find what happened next. It is truly fascinating.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
the year we moved here through the school when our oldest son was in second grade. It seems that Cinnamon bear has a lot of adventures in Maybeland. Along the way, he meets Crazy Quilt Dragon, Queen Melissa, Wintergreen Witch (a bad witch-- every story has to have a bad witch), Captain Taffy and the Candy Buccaneers, Jack Frost and Santa Claus.
As we cruised down the river, we heard the story of Cinnamon Bear as told by Queen Melissa:
Then we were treated to a magic show by Presto the very talented magician.
He's quite funny too!
meeting a fairy
The children had a chance to steer the ship courtesy of Captain Taffy, become candy buccaneers and then they had the most important task of helping Crazy Quilt Dragon find the missing star:
Where is the Silver Star?
While the kids were being entertained, we were looking on the shoreline at these amazing houses. Here is one of the fabulous waterfront properties that we saw:
Do you think this house ends up on a lot of blogs? (I do!)
me and the busy woodshop hubby:
Here's the whole gang:
Bye Cinnamon Bear and friends! See you next year!
We had a great time on the Cinnamon Bear Cruise!