This one included three different flavors, from bottom to top:
1) Bellini cake: White chocolate cake with peach champagne filling and peach schnapps buttercream frosting
2) Carrot pineapple cake with cream cheese frosting
3) Mocha cake: chocolate espresso cake with mocha buttercream filling and espresso buttercream frosting
The Mocha cake was my own invention -- I'm particularly pleased with how the espresso buttercream came out. I made a classic Italian meringue buttercream; but instead of whipping plain sugar syrup into the beaten egg whites, I made the syrup with espresso instead of water. I saved a spoonful of the espresso syrup, and when it cooled, it was a delicious hard candy. Since the top layer goes home with the bride and groom, I made a separate sheet of Mocha cake for the guests (not pictured).
All four girls were in the wedding party, and I couldn't resist a picture of the four of them, all dolled up:
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Saturday, August 30, 2008
...During the Nazi persecution, many trains full of Jews traveled from every part of Europe to the extermination camps. They were induced to get on the trains by false promises of being taken to places that would be better for them, when, in fact, they were being taken to their destruction. It happened at some of the stops that someone who knew the truth, called out from some hiding place to the passengers: “Get off! Run away!” Some succeeded in doing so.
The example is a hard one, but it expresses something of our situation. The train of life on which we are traveling is going toward death. About this, at least, there are no doubts. Our natural “I,” being mortal, is destined for destruction. What the Gospel is proposing to us when it exhorts us to deny ourselves, is to get off this train and board another one that leads to life. The train that leads to life is faith in him who said: “Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.”
Paul understood this transferring from one transport to another and he describes it thus: “It is no longer I who lives, Christ lives in me.” If we assume the “I” of Christ we become immortal because he, risen from the dead, dies no more. This indicates the meaning of the words of the Gospel that we have heard. Christ’s call for us to deny ourselves and thus find life is not a call to abuse ourselves or reject ourselves in a simplistic way. It is the wisest of the bold steps that we can take in our lives.
But we must immediately make a qualification. Jesus does not ask us to deny “what we are,” but “what we have become.” We are images of God. Thus, we are something “very good,” as God himself said, immediately after creating man and woman. What we must deny is not that which God has made, but that which we ourselves have made by misusing our freedom -- the evil tendencies, sin, all those things that have covered over the original...
...“Denying ourselves,” therefore, is not a work of death, but one of life, of beauty and of joy. It is also a learning of the language of true love. Imagine, said the great Danish philosopher Kierkegaard, a purely human situation. Two young people love each other. But they belong to two different nations and speak completely different languages. If their love is to survive and grow, one of them must learn the language of the other. Otherwise, they will not be able to communicate and their love will not last.
This, Kierkegaard said, is how it is with us and God. We speak the language of the flesh, he speaks that of the spirit; we speak the language of selfishness, he that of love.
Denying yourself is learning the language of God so that we can communicate with him, but it is also learning the language that allows us to communicate with each other. We will not be able to say “yes” to the other -- beginning with our own wife or husband -- if we are not first of all able to say “no” to ourselves...
The general intention chosen by the Pope: "That those, who because of war and totalitarian regimes have been obliged to leave their homes and country, be supported by Christians in the defense and protection of their rights."
The Holy Father also chooses a missionary intention for each month. In September he will pray, "That all Christian families, faithful to the sacrament of matrimony, will cultivate the values of love and community, so that they will be a small evangelizing community, open and sensitive to the material and spiritual needs of their brothers and sisters."
Friday, August 29, 2008
I know that less and less of my blog is original these days, but I can't say anything better than this:
The prison exhibit was the most popular at Meeting 2008 in Rimini. I kept coming back to see when the crowds would thin out to get better pictures, but this is the way it was at 10:00pm last night and all though the week.
We had a guided tour in English the other day by a young man who worked as a guard in the Padua Prison for two years. He spoke of the dignity of the prisoners, the need for rehabilitation and the freedom some find even behind bars through the community of believers in Christ. He talked about how they walked the Way of the Cross through the prison corridors, and at the end they brought the cross to the bishop and asked him to carry it.
When we entered the exhibit, we walked through these barred gates and were given passes by a guard in order to offer a small impression of prison as a place.
There were several fine art reproductions depicting prison, and this one is from Andrea Pisano of the disciples of St. John visiting him in prison. It is especially appropriate today on the feast of St. John the Baptist's martyrdom.
The faces depicted in this exhibit are friends of ours (the Communion and Liberation movement) who are currently serving time in prison. This was almost the most moving part of the exhibit (I'll explain). It seems these are people we should have known, but who have been hidden away. These portraits gave me the same impression of depth and closeness as those of the Carthusian monks who look at us in the film Into Great Silence.
The following contribution and photo are of Joshua, a friend of ours from the U.S. I am sorry I can't translate the message here. But instead, you can find a letter of his in English here offering his witness.
At the end of the exhibit, we walk into the Patisserie or Bakery. The people serving us free samples and selling baked goods are actually prisoners and guards, dressed identically as to not be distinguishable.
From my friend, Fred, at Deep Furrows:
Well, I would. But I console myself by reading back issues of Traces. Here's something from the Christmas Issue 2001: No. 10. The context and truth of this editorial ring out even more authentically now than it did when the dust was still settling in New York:
«The entreaty to Christ for the life of the world and the truth of our existence is the clearest and most useful action that we can carry out.Couldn't have quoted it better myself!
But the Christian judgment is not expressed as a pure wish, it does not float several feet off the ground without getting its hands dirty in the concrete and ambiguous workings of history. The Christian is not a comfortable observer of someone else's match, since "in any case he already knows how things stand." Christians are not persons who think they are already living in Paradise. We get mixed up in things like everybody else, in the approximations and contradictions that touch every human, personal, social, and political situation. Any position of detachment, of not wanting to get involved in facing problems, masks a presumptuousness about the Christian's mission — as if the judgment that arises from faith coincided with a devaluation of the circumstances of personal, social, and political life.»Read more from: "Getting Our Hands Dirty"
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
From the Vatican Website (here):
JOHN PAUL I
Wednesday, 27 September 1978
"My God, with all my heart above all things I love You, infinite good and our eternal happiness, and for your sake I love my neighbour as myself and forgive offences received. Oh Lord, may I love you more and more". This is a very well-known prayer, embellished with biblical phrases. My mother taught it to me. I recite it several times a day even now, and I will try to explain it to you, word by word, as a parish catechist would do.
We are at Pope John's "third lamp of sanctification": charity. I love. In philosophy class the teacher would say to me: You know St Mark's bell tower? You do? That means that it has somehow, entered your mind: physically it has remained where it was, but within you it has imprinted almost an intellectual portrait of itself. Do you, on the other hand, love St Mark's bell tower? That means that portrait, from within, pushes you and bends you, almost carries you, makes you go in your mind towards the bell tower which is outside. In a word: to love means travelling, rushing with one's heart towards the object loved. The Imitation of Christ says: he who loves "currit, volat, laetatur", runs, flies and rejoices (The Imitation of Christ ,1.III, c. V, n. 4).
To love God is therefore a journeying with one's heart to God. A wonderful journey! When I was a boy, I was thrilled by the journeys described by Jules Verne ("Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea", "From The Earth To The Moon", "Round The World In Eighty Days", etc). But the journeys of love for God are far more interesting. You read them in the lives of the Saints. St Vincent de Paul, whose feast we celebrate today, for example, is a giant of charity: he loved God more than a father and a mother, and he himself was a father for prisoners, sick people, orphans and the poor. St Peter Claver, dedicating himself entirely to God, used to sign: Peter, the slave of the negroes for ever.
The Journey also brings sacrifices, but these must not stop us. Jesus is on the cross: you want to kiss him? You cannot help bending over the cross and letting yourself be pricked by some thorns of the crown which is on the Lord's head (cf. St Francis de Sales Oeuvres, Annecy, t. XXI, p. 153). You cannot cut the figure of good St Peter, who had no difficulty in shouting "Long live Jesus" on Mount Tabor, where there was joy, but did not even let himself be seen beside Jesus at Mount Calvary, where there was risk and suffering (cf. Ibid.,140).
Love for God is also a mysterious journey: that is, I cannot start unless God takes the initiative first. "No one", Jesus said, "can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him" (Jn 6:44). St Augustine asked himself: but what about human freedom? God, however, who willed and constructed this freedom, knows how to respect it, though bringing hearts to the point he intended: "parum est voluntate, etiam voluptate traheris"; God draws you not only in a way that you yourself want, but even in such a way that you enjoy being drawn (St Augustine, Tractates on the Gospel of John, 26.4).
With all my heart. I stress, here, the adjective "all". Totalitarianism, in politics, is an ugly thing. In religion, on the contrary, a totalitarianism on our side towards God is a very good thing. It is written: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" (Dt 6:5-9). That "all" repeated and applied insistently is really the banner of Christian maximalism. And it is right: God is too great, he deserves too much from us for us to be able to throw to him, as to a poor Lazarus, a few crumbs of our time and our heart. He is infinite good and will be our eternal happiness: money, pleasure, the fortunes of this world, compared with him, are just fragments of good and fleeting moments of happiness. It would not be wise to give so much of ourselves to these things and little of ourselves to Jesus.
Above everything else. Now we come to a direct comparison between God and man, between God and the world. It would not be right to say: "Either God or man". We must love "both God and man"; the latter, however, never more than God or against God or as much as God. In other words: love of God, though prevalent, is not exclusive. The Bible declares Jacob holy (Dn 3:35) and loved by God (Mal 1:2; Rom 9:13), it shows him working for seven years to win Rachel as his wife; "and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her" (Gen 29:20). Francis de Sales makes a little comment on these words: "Jacob", he writes, "loves Rachel with all his might, and he loves God with all his might; but he does not therefore love Rachel as God nor God as Rachel. He loves God as his God above all things and more than himself; he loves Rachel as his wife above all other women and as himself. He loves God with absolutely and superbly supreme love, and Rachel with supreme husbandly love; one love is not contrary to the other because love of Rachel does not violate the supreme advantages of love of God " (St. Francis de Sales, Oeuvres, t. V, p. 175).
And for your sake I love my neighbour. Here we are in the presence of two loves which are "twin brothers" and inseparable. It is easy to love some persons; difficult to love others; we do not find them likeable, they have offended us and hurt us; only if I love God in earnest can I love them as sons of God and because he asks me to. Jesus also established how to love one's neighbour: that is, not only with feeling, but with facts. This is the way, he said. I will ask you: I was hungry in the person of my humbler brothers, did you give me food? Did you visit me, when I was sick (cf. Mt 25:34 ff).
The catechism puts these and other words of the Bible in the double list of the seven corporal works of mercy and the seven spiritual ones. The list is not complete and it would be necessary to update it. Among the starving, for example, today, it is no longer a question just of this or that individual; there are whole peoples.
We all remember the great words of Pope Paul VI: "Today the peoples in hunger are making a dramatic appeal to the peoples blessed with abundance. The Church shudders at this cry of anguish and calls each one to give a loving response of charity to this brother's cry for help" (Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, 3). At this point justice is added to charity, because, Paul VI says also, "Private property does not constitute for anyone an absolute and unconditioned right. No one is justified in keeping for his exclusive use what he does not need, when others lack necessities" (Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, 23). Consequently "every exhausting armaments race becomes an intolerable scandal" (Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, 53).
In the light of these strong expressions it can be seen how far we—individuals and peoples—still are from loving others "as ourselves", as Jesus commanded.
Another commandment: I forgive offences received. It almost seems that the Lord gives precedence to this forgiveness over worship: "So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Mt 5:23-24).
The last words of the prayer are: Lord, may I love you more and more. Here, too, there is obedience to a commandment of God, who put thirst for progress in our hearts. From pile-dwellings, caves and the first huts we have passed to houses, apartment buildings and skyscrapers; from journeys on foot, on the back of a mule or of a camel, to coaches, trains and aeroplanes. And people desire to progress further with more and more rapid means of transport, reaching more and more distant goals. But to love God, we have seen, is also a journey: God wants it to be more and more intense and perfect. He said to all his followers: "You are the light of the world, the salt of the earth" (Mt 5:13-14); "You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48). That means: to love God not a little, but so much; not to stop at the point at which we have arrived, but with his help, to progress in love.
h/t Terry at idle speculations.
Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo, newly elected to the Moscow diocese, addressed the huge crowd as one of the cielini. He recalled his own younger days of working at the meeting and setting up a stage similar to the one he was now speaking from.
He told us first that it is easy to work, to serve, to obey, as part of something bigger. Don’t tame life to make it easier. He said yes to the Mystery without being fully aware, but discovered over time the features, the face of Another. The real protagonists in history are those living a relationship with Christ.
When the Pope asked him to be the archbishop of Moscow, it was just a different task to serve the Mystery and to know whom to answer is to be free. It is to say yes to Christ just as when he was here setting up the stage. He is participating in a greater project.
We have to answer the mystery of God in the vocation of our lives, to respond constantly to the love that calls us. How can I serve the mystery or to say yes to God? We have the opportunity to remain forever young by saying yes to Christ, which is always yes to real persons and precise circumstances. These are much more than they appear as we become familiar with Christ and become certain of what is good even for those who are apparently against us. This is the ability to recognize Christ under the appearance of what is happening. We will judge persons and things in a different way. This is even to say yes to God when you’re stuck in traffic. We become more interested in finding Christ in circumstances rather than changing circumstances. This is what makes flowers grow in the most arid desert daily.
Many years ago, when he was about 13, his mother was ironing on a hot Sunday afternoon. He asked her why she was ironing when so many other mothers were at the cinema or having fun. She told him: So that I can raise you as good children according to the rule of God. Later in the movement he understood the profound answer by his mother.
Daily life is filled with arid things that are not passionate, even for a bishop, e.g. administration, bureaucracy. One can feel something like being stuck in traffic. Time elapses and it doesn’t change things. Instead, protagonism is offering, saying I offer this to you, Christ. You are the consistency of things. I don’t decide the circumstances. No matter what level you find yourself, you can always offer in any circumstance.
When the Pope appointed him as bishop of Moscow, one objection was that a foreign bishop was being appointed on Russian soil. When the objection was put to him, it was something radical. You feel foreign when you lose consciousness of Christ. Without this relation, he is foreign to myself, nothing is familiar. Familiarity with Christ makes you at home everywhere. What was asked of him was a new beginning. What does it mean to start, what is a new beginning?
A new beginning is not detachment from the past. Even if I conquer the whole world for the most just and beautiful cause, if I lose myself, if I didn’t have a place to go back, it is futile. He feels even more pressing the question how to answer God. Like Peter, Lord, I do not understand, but where can I go? This is an ingenious, profoundly human answer. Faith is an answer to the question of existence, to discover him as the constant answer to my humanity. This is a position of stupor, of the current event of Christ, the flavor of adventure, of life and mission.
He learned to appreciate that in brotherhood his vocation is completed. This is the awareness of a belonging to God that continues. When we don’t know who we belong to, we can’t touch dailyness. Then the day is a blackmail of things to do.
The Gospel of Mark says that the twelve were called to “be with him”, and to be sent daily in Christ. Otherwise living is calculation, rigidity, tiring, with a constant concern for everything. The struggle and vigilance is necessary to not give in to mundane logic.
Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of the loss of Christian identity, so that we don’t bring the reality of faith. The superiority of faith no longer emerges. So whenever there is a meeting there are the usual questions of celibacy, female priesthood. The Church continues to deal with itself. For many, mission is still something to justify, considered like a manhunt. Proselytism begins where mission ends.
Enthusiasm for Christ: I don’t propose myself but Someone Else. For the West mission means announcements, communication, gestures. For the East, mission is the transfiguration of our person with communion with Christ which draws the world to its center, learned from Giussani and others who make Christ fascinating.
After the CL meeting with the Pope last year, the archbishop wrote a letter to the Pope, grateful for how God had reached him through the Holy Father. And he offered himself to go anywhere he would be sent. What he most wants is the life of the other person, drawing people to the miracle of Communion, and this is the opposite of a solitary struggle. This is the preciseness of obedience, bending to circumstances rather than pursuing a project. This is a dramatic moment in the history of Russia.
The mission is to expand the mystery of God that makes me. In the mystery of Christ, everything consists in Him. As Solovyev wrote, what we have most dear in Christianity is Christ himself. Christ encompasses all, his wisdom and goodness. God is not extraneous. If we remove mission, what remains? Nothing. Man is his vocation, passion for the glory of Christ. The mission comes from love of Christ.
The love shown by Christ is yearning. The revelation of Christ removes all other yearning. We no longer live for ourselves but for a true communion toward which all work tends.
-- reprinted from Clairity Daily, one of my very favorite blogs
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
The prophets are a rich source for catechesis. It is best, when introducing a study of the prophets to children age 9 and older, to begin by looking together at the Rite of Baptism. Draw their attention to the Rite of Anointing with Chrism, when the celebrant prays over the person being baptized:
“God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.”
Explain that in the Old Testament, anointing was used to consecrate priests, prophets, and kings. Then take some time to explore what a prophet is:
The task of the prophet is, above all, to listen to God. Prophets live in close relationship with God, heeding the Lord, not only with their ears, but with their hearts. Prophets are consumed with love for God, and their function in the community is to communicate the fruit of this deep, loving listening, so as to ignite the hearts of the people with the same love. In reminding the community of God’s saving actions throughout history, prophets also inspire people to certain faith and hope that God will perform even mightier deeds in the future.
With the children, explore what the prayer from the Rite Of Anointing could mean: How was Christ anointed? Explore the account of Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan River (Mark 1:9-11). With what sort of “oil” was Jesus anointed? Explain to the children the meaning of the title, “Christ” and of the word, “Messiah.” Then read together Luke 4:16-21.
Reread the prayer from the Rite of Anointing, and remind the children that at their Baptism, they were anointed with sacred chrism. Point out the similarities between the words “chrism” and “Christ.” If Christ was anointed priest, prophet, and king, what does that have to do with us? How are we “members of his body”? What does this unity with Christ mean? At Baptism, what are we being called to?
Then consult the Lectionary to choose one or two of the first readings for any of the liturgies during Advent. Take some time to explore the imagery they contain:
What is a “shoot” and have we ever seen one sprout from a stump? What does Isaiah wish us to understand with this image? What is dead and “chopped down” in us? What is the “bud” that the Lord will cause to blossom from the roots of this dead stump? Why do we think of new shoots and blossoming buds during Advent, the darkest, coldest time of the year?
Why do the prophets speak of God’s “mountain”? What does a high mountain make us think about? What are swords and ploughshares? What are they used for? What is the difference between them? What is the “garden” or “farm” that the Lord wishes us to plow and prune?
What is the Light that the prophets tell us that we should walk in? What can we see in this Light?
What is this “desert” that the prophets describe? Do we know of anything in our own neighborhood that is like a “desert”? What would it mean for this desert to “bloom”? What sort of “water” will makes something grow in this desert?
When the prophet says, “we are the clay and you the potter,” what is he trying to express about our relationship to God?
Then take some time to reflect on Isaiah 11:1-10 (the First Reading for the Second Sunday of Advent, Cycle A):
How can the wolf be the guest of the lamb? What do wolves usually eat? What is like a “wolf” in our experience? What does it eat? How could this “wolf” change its diet? Who is this “little child”?
Explore the reading for the Second Sunday of Advent (Cycle B), Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11:
Who is “Jerusalem”? Perhaps you can make reference to the new Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation, to help the children see that while “Jerusalem” is a reference to the Church, it is also a name for the Church of the future, the heavenly Church of the Parousia. Look together at the image: “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low.” What are these “valleys” and “mountains”? What purpose does it serve to make the “earth” so flat? If the whole surrounding country were flat, would that make it easier to “see” the Mountain of the Lord? Finally, take some time to examine the image of the shepherd that appears in the final verses of the reading. Why does the prophet describe the Lord as a shepherd? Who are these lambs and ewes he speaks of? What other Scriptures do these verses call to mind? Perhaps examine the parable of the good shepherd from Luke 15 and John 10, if there is time.
In all these reflections with the children, make certain that they have seen and recognize the overwhelming images of joy and new birth that run like a golden thread through them. To conclude the meditation, ask them why, during Advent, we should be invited to look ahead, to these joyful realities that have been promised. Ask them to consider what this may mean for the season of Advent.
Just prior to Advent is the perfect time to introduce children to biblical geography. Use a globe that doesn’t take batteries, so there are no sounds or lights to distract the children from the lesson. With a red permanent marker, place a dot over the land of Israel. When presenting the globe to the children, indicate where they live and trace the outline of their own country with a finger. Then turn the globe and ask them if they can find the red mark. Notice, with the children, how tiny Israel is compared to most other countries, and announce to them that God’s greatest gift to humanity was given in this small, obscure place. Ask them if they know what this amazing gift is. They will likely be able to name Jesus, but enrich that answer by announcing, “Yes, God gave us his very self, in the person of Jesus Christ.” With older children, ask them to consider why God might have chosen such a tiny land for this most wonderful gift. Reflect with the children on other things of great value and importance that are sometimes “hidden” or easy to overlook. Some things to consider are seeds, babies, or even hope.
For another possible lesson in biblical geography, show the children a map of the land of Israel (from the time of Jesus). Point out the bodies of water and the land. Explain that the Dead Sea (located at the southern end of the Jordan River) contains so much salt that nothing can live in it. Tell the children that Jesus spent much time with his friends on the Sea of Galilee (at the northern part of the Jordan River) and that he was baptized in the Jordan, by John the Baptist. With the smallest children (ages 3 to 6), only point out the three most important cities: Nazareth, where the angel visited Mary and told her she would have a most wonderful baby; Bethlehem, where Jesus was born; and Jerusalem, most precious of all the cities in the land of Israel, where Jesus died and rose from the dead. If possible, mark these three cities with a dove or flame for Nazareth, a gold star for Bethlehem, and a gold cross for Jerusalem. An added activity could be to provide each child with a Xerox of the outline of the land of Israel and three small paper symbols for the cities. After coloring the land brown or green and the water blue, they could paste the three symbols in the appropriate places.
With older children, point to several cities that were significant in the life and ministry of Jesus. Provide the children with Xerox copies of the map of the land of Israel with many of these cities marked with dots and blank lines. Perhaps have the children work in pairs to find each city in a biblical atlas, and then they can write the names of the towns in the blanks on their maps; then, on a separate sheet, they can write down why the town is significant and what happened there. Or provide Bible citations that each refers to a verse that mentions a given city, have the children look up the Bible verses and then locate the cities in their biblical atlases. Some verses to use are: John 1:28-34, Mark 1:9-11 (Bethany across the Jordan), John 2:1-2 (Cana), Luke 2:41-43, Luke 4:16-21, Luke 19:45-48, Mark 11:7-11, Matthew 27:50, Mark 16:1-6 (Jerusalem), John 4:5-7 (Sychar), John 11:1-2, Matthew 26:6-8, (Bethany of Judea), John 19:38 (Arimathea), Matthew 8:5-7 (Capernaum), Matthew 20:29-30, Luke 19:1-3 (Jericho), Matthew 21:1-2 (Bethphage), Mark 7:24-25 (Tyre), Mark 8:27-29 (Caesarea Philippi), Luke 1:26-28 (Nazareth), Luke 24:13-15 (Emmaus).
Not only is the geography of the holy land important for understanding the scope of Jesus’ ministry and for visualizing the location of each of these towns mentioned in the gospels, biblical geography helps the children begin to grasp the mystery of the Incarnation, by placing the events of Jesus’ life in specific locations. From these exercises, the children may begin to realize that Jesus walked on the same planet they walk on. The gospel writers mention these towns in their accounts for a reason. They provide documentary evidence of Jesus’ life and work.
To catechize the children to participate more deeply in the liturgy, challenge them to listen very closely to the gospel readings during the next several weeks, and ask them to notice how many of these towns they hear about. Each week, provide the children with the opportunity to share what they have heard and to find the towns in the classroom biblical atlas.
During the fall, as the days end sooner, and the apples and pears are ripe for harvest, and the Church begins to reflect on the end of time, it is useful to meditate with children on the abundant gifts that God showers on us and on how these gifts are given to us within the context of time, the mystery of time.
Find a medium-sized wooden box and collect treasures to fill it. Following the first account of Genesis, begin by collecting objects that reflect the gifts contained in the heavens: clip photos of planets, stars, our sun, galaxies from magazines (old National Geographics are perfect for this). Place all of these photos into a folder. Then, in a smaller box, collect rocks, mineral, salts, and other non-living objects that come from the earth. In another box, place plant specimens and photos of flowers and fruit bearing plants. Then collect photos of animals into yet another folder; it is best to choose one example of a working animal (seeing-eye dogs, oxen), one example of an animal we use for transportation (horses, elephants), one example of an animal that is a companion to human beings, one example of an animal that gives us food or material for clothing (goats, chickens, sheep), one animal that is simply beautiful (peacocks, tropical fish), and one animal that serves as a companion to people. The next folder should contain photos of people: family members, friends, doctors, people making music, working, and playing. Then, in a special box or beautifully decorated folder, collect one beautiful depiction of Jesus (an icon is perfect for this), a small standing crucifix, two candles, and a small paten and chalice (or include a photo of these objects if it is hard to find them in miniature). Finally, in a small box of its own, include a photo of the earth from space with a golden cross imposed over it so that all four arms of the cross extend over the borders of the earth’s perimeter (to represent Parousia, when Christ will be all in all).
Then gather the children. Light a candle and read the first two verses of Genesis. Explain that all of history, from the deep past into the future, contains gifts, given by God to us. We learn about this history, of the gifts of God, through reading the Bible. Slowly open the first folder, which contains the images of objects in space, and meditate with the children about how each of these things is a gift for human beings. When examining the rocks and minerals, speak about how the earth was formed by God to contain all these elements: iron to build with, precious metals to create decorative items, stone to build with, etc. Next show the children the box with the plant specimens and pictures; discuss the ways in which each item represents a precious gift. Do the same with the images of animals. Before opening the folder that contains the images of people, announce to the children that after preparing the earth with everything that we would need to build, to eat, to survive, and also to enjoy life, human beings were created last, and arrived as guests at a banquet at which everything had already been prepared. And linger over what a gift it is for us to have one another for all the aspects of our lives. It is even possible to ask the children what would have happened if God had created human beings before plants or animals?
But, after preparing a beautiful world that contained all we need, and after giving us other persons like ourselves for companionship and to care for one another, God was not satisfied. He wanted to give us even more; he wanted to give us an even more wonderful gift. He wanted to give us his very self in the person of Jesus Christ. Bring out the special box and show the children the icon of Christ. Then ask the children to ponder how Christ gives himself to us. Show them the crucifix and the candles (which represent the Resurrection); then the paten and chalice. Linger over these objects and wonder together about how each thing represents an important of Christ’s gift of himself to us. Then explain that there is another gift we are still awaiting. Explain that the Bible also promises us that Christ will return to fill the entire world with his Light. On that day, God will be “all in all” and there will be no more tears and no more death.
Then, looking at all the objects that have been unpacked, meditate together on how all of history is a series of gifts, each more wonderful than the last, that God has given to us so that we can live lives of joy and fullness. You might want to end with a song of thanksgiving, such as “For the Beauty of the Earth” or a song about Parousia, perhaps “Soon and Very Soon.”
In communities where Confirmation is sometimes viewed as the “end” of the road, or “graduation” from religious education, how do we help children and families to understand that this Sacrament is actually a new beginning in the confirmandi’s search for knowledge and understanding of God and his Church?
A most effective approach is to introduce the children to Scripture passages that reveal those moments in sacred history when the Holy Spirit descends and enlivens the hearts of those entrusted with a sacred task. The prayer used to consecrate the Chrism during the Chrism Mass provides an excellent guide to several privileged moments in salvation history, when the Holy Spirit’s intervention sparked new beginnings.
The first event that the prayer recounts is as follows: “In the beginning, at your command,/ the earth produced fruit-bearing trees./ From the fruit of the olive tree/ you have provided us with oil for holy chrism.” Ask the children: Did God have in mind, when he first created the olive tree, that it should provide us with oil to use in Baptism and Confirmation? Isn’t it amazing how God has prepared everything for us, everything that we would need to receive his grace?
The prayer of consecration continues: “The prophet David sang of the life and joy/ that the oil would bring us in the sacraments of your love.” It is particularly beneficial to devote at least one meeting time to a close reading of the Psalms that we use during the Rites of Initiation, concentrating particularly on Psalm 23 and the verse, “You anoint my head with oil”: What does it mean to a sheep to be anointed? Why would a shepherd place oil on a sheep’s head? If the children get stuck, explain the healing and protective properties of oil, as well as how precious and expensive a gift this is, to the children. Why would a shepherd want to protect or heal his sheep? Why would he spare no expense in caring for them? When a sheep is healthy and strong, what can happen? The sheep lives, and lives well? And it can produce wool for the shepherd to use? How is this simple anointing like a parable for what will happen when you receive anointing with chrism, at your Confirmation?
Next, turn to the biblical account of what happens in Genesis 8:6-11, after reading the following lines from the Chrism blessing: “After the avenging flood,/ the dove returning to Noah with an olive branch/ announced your gift of peace./ This was a sign of a greater gift to come.” Explore this moment with the children: Why was it significant that the dove returned with an olive branch in its beak? What was Noah hoping to discover by sending the bird out of the ark? Why does the prayer say that this branch represents God’s “gift of peace”? Is it important that the branch was from an olive tree and not some other tree? Why is the olive tree so important? Do you remember what God had in mind when he first created this special tree? How does the anointing you will receive bring you the gift of peace? What is the source of our peace? Why do Christmas cards sometimes show a dove with an olive branch in its beak? Conclude this reflection on Noah by reading and discussing the following lines of the prayer: “Now the waters of baptism wash away the sins of men,/ and by the anointing with olive oil/ you make us radiant with your joy.” How are the waters of the Flood like the waters of Baptism? What is being washed away? Is this washing enough? What else is needed? Why do we need to be radiant with joy? What lies ahead of us after Confirmation?
The following lines from the Chrism blessing reveal a pattern in God’s way of calling humanity: “At your command,/ Aaron was washed with water,/ and your servant Moses, his brother,/ anointed him priest./ This too foreshadowed greater things to come.” Show the children how this event echoes the last one: First a “washing” and then an “anointing”: was it like this with the Flood, also? Why was Aaron anointed? What was the special task entrusted to him? Did the anointing come at the start of his work as priest, or when it was over? Why would Aaron need to be washed with water and anointed in order to do God’s important work? What is “foreshadowing”? Why would God give us hints and clues about the future? What are these “greater things” that the prayer mentions? We shall see...
Now, we can begin to wonder with the children about whether Jesus also received anointing and why: “After your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,/ asked John for baptism in the waters of Jordan,/ you sent the Spirit upon him/ in the form of a dove/ and by the witness of your own voice/ you declared him to be your only, well-beloved Son./ In this you clearly fulfilled the prophecy of David,/ that Christ would be anointed with the oil of gladness/ beyond his fellow men.” Have the children read the biblical account of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. Ask them, How is the descent of the dove like an anointing? Explore the meaning of the words “Christ” and “Messiah” with the children. Why should the fact that Jesus is anointed by God be the most essential thing about him? What does it signify? What happened after Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan? Did his work on earth come to an end? No, the Baptism signified a new beginning, one that was made holy and powerful through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Orienting the children to these particular moments in sacred history will help them to understand that their Confirmation represents a beginning, not an end, in their journey toward Truth.
Many children hardly notice that before preparing the altar and the gifts, the priest prepares himself and the assembly through a ritual hand washing, called the Lavabo. If the following catechesis is offered at the start of Lent, then paying attention to this particular moment in the Mass can become part of the children’s Lenten observance.
On the first day of Lent that you meet with the children, place a small glass bowl, a small towel, and a glass pitcher half-full of water on a low table decorated with a purple cloth. On a large index card, in your best handwriting, copy out the following prayer:
Lord, wash away my iniquity, cleanse me from my sin.
Gather the children around the empty glass bowl. Remind them of the moment during Mass when the priest washes his hands. Explain that this hand washing is a gesture, a silent prayer that the priest does with his hands. Announce that this prayer is called the Lavabo. Then ask for a student volunteer. Have the child hold his or her fingertips over the bowl and pour a few drops of water over them; dry them with the hand towel. When you are finished, ask the children what this prayer might mean: What is the priest asking God to do? Why would the priest wash his hands at this moment? After the children have had a chance to reflect on the meaning of the gesture, suggest that the priest is not only asking for clean hands and ask: What else would the priest like God to clean? Then bring out the index card with the prayer on it. Explain that this is the prayer that the priest says as he washes his hands. How can the priest wash away his sins by having someone pour water on his fingers? Finish your reflection by going around the table and practicing the gesture with each other, taking turns being the one who pours the water and being the one whose hands are cleaned. Ask the children if they think that the priest is the only one who needs to have a clean heart to approach the altar of the Lord.
With children under ten by singing a verse from one of the following psalms: Psalm 51, Psalm 63, or Psalm 23. With older children, the lesson could continue with a solemn reading of the first twelve verses of Psalm 51. Ask them if there are any lines that sound familiar. Draw their attention to verse 4 (RNAB) or verse 2 (NRSV) and then invite one child to reread the Lavabo prayer. End with the children’s spontaneous prayer and singing.
...and finally my first tomato is ripe:Moments after I snapped this shot, Sylvie plucked it and gobbled it up! Here is the next likely candidate for ripening:
It is a Cuore di Bue, and it has been green like this for weeks. I now have hundreds of yellow tomato flowers and bunches of green tomatoes. How I'd love to have a late frost this year, but something tells me winter will come fierce and early this year.
This morning at breakfast, my husband Stephen, told me some details from a witness given by Cleuza and Marcos Zerbini at the Communion and Liberation Responsibles' International Assembly, in La Thuile, 2008:
In São Paulo, the Zerbinis had made an arrangement with a local university to provide reduced tuition for the landless students in their movement. The university also provided them with a room in which to meet. Then, suddenly, the university reneged on this arrangement. The Zerbinis had a contract with the university that stated that even if it wanted to raise the tuition for movement members, it would allow those students already enrolled to complete their studies at the reduced rate and would also allow the movement to continue to use the room until all those students graduated, but now university officials were insisting that the tuition rates would change for all the students, even those enrolled, and they were demanding that the movement vacate the meeting room.
Cleuza and Marcos had planned to go on a short vacation that weekend, and they decided that they might as well go because it takes so long for anything to happen in the courts of São Paulo that nothing would change while they were away, but during that weekend, they received a call that the clerk of the court had arrived at their meeting room with the police and they intended to remove all the chairs.
Marcos suggested that they call someone to go there to deal with the situation for them, but Cleuza insisted that they leave immediately and go there themselves, saying, "Are all the hairs of my head counted or not?"
When they arrived at the room, the clerk of the court was in the process of removing the chairs. Cleuza told him he must stop, immediately, because each of those chairs represented a human being, and it was wrong to treat them like things.
The clerk asked her where she got the authority to tell him not to move the chairs, and she laughed and said, "It took me 15 years to discover the answer to this question for myself, and now you want me to explain it in two minutes?" But she began speaking with him about the history of the Landless Workers Movement of São Paulo, and then about meeting Communion and Liberation. Somewhere in this explanation, she told him about the ten lepers, cured by Jesus.
Then the lawyer for the university arrived and insisted that the clerk of the court continue to clear out the meeting room, but the clerk, pointing to Cleuza, said to him, "Oh no! It's clear to me that she's the one in charge around here."
Then he began to tell Cleuza that he had done many bad things in his life, but that he wanted "to be a leper, too." Since that day, he and Cleuza have been speaking weekly.
Meanwhile, she and Marcos knew that they had to find another room in which to meet. They owned another meeting room in the city, but it was too small to meet with all the students from the university there. Next door to this room, there was an evangelical church that was for sale -- evidently, the church wanted to move out of that location because too many of their congregation were attending the School of Community next door! The church had been on the market for some time, but they were asking too much for it. The Zerbinis offered to pay them a more reasonable price and to give them the money right way, if they could begin to use the church space that weekend. The church leaders agreed to the sale, the Zerbinis knocked down the wall between their meeting room and the church, and the new space was even larger than the meeting room they'd had at the university.
Friday, August 22, 2008
With Jesus you cannot not be middle-of-the-road. Either he is what he claims to be, or he is not a great man, but rather a great lunatic lifted up by history. There are no half-measures. There are buildings and structures made of steel -- I believe that the Eiffel Tower in Paris is one -- made in such a way that if you touch a certain point or remove a certain element, everything will come down. The edifice of the Christian faith is like this, and this neuralgic point is the divinity of Jesus Christ.
But let us leave aside the responses of the people and consider the nonbelievers. Believing in the divinity of Christ is not enough; you must also bear witness to it. Whoever knows him and does not bear witness to this faith, indeed even hides it, is more responsible before God that those who do not have this faith.
In a scene in Paul Claudel’s play “The Humiliated Father,” a Jewish girl, beautiful but blind, alluding to the double meaning of light, asks her Christian friend: “You who see, what use have you made of the light?” It is a question that is asked of all of us who claim to be believers (from a meditation by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Pontifical Household preacher. The readings for this Sunday are Isaiah 22:19-23; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20).
If Sen. Obama is making a poor judgment by claiming not know when life begins and permitting unlimited abortions anyway, then Sen McCain, in addition to not knowing how many houses he and his wife own, or the difference between Shi'a and Sunnis, is just as confused. When answering the same question that was above Sen. Obama's pay grade, which evasion on such an important issue comes dangerously close to disqualifying him from leading, McCain boldly asserted that life begins at conception. My question here is, If life begins at conception, then how can you support embryonic stem cell research?
Michael Sean Winters, writing over on America magazine's In All Things blog observes:
"So, if he truly believes that human beings acquire rights at conception, he is evidently willing to overlook the rights of some unborn children on behalf of research to assist other already born adults. And, let us be clear here. The right he is overlooking is the right to life which he purports to be championing."When it comes to life issues, if conscience is acting in accord with knowledge, it seems that Sen. Obama needs to do some research and Sen. McCain needs to act consistently on the basis of his correct judgment about when life begins.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
From Faithful Citizenship. Click on each image to enlarge. To listen to podcasts and pray along:
|Novena Intro |
Novena Day 1
Novena Day 2
Novena Day 3
Novena Day 4
|Novena Day 5|
Novena Day 6
Novena Day 7
Novena Day 8
Novena Day 9
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
McCain singing "Bomb Iran."
Obama: Babies, like venereal disease, are a punishment he doesn't want his own daughters to endure.
If I vote for either one, grant my yes to either one, then I am sure to have innocent blood on my head. Archbishop Chaput says that it is fine for me to vote for Obama, so long as I am prepared to explain myself to the victims of abortion I will meet in the next life* (I should be so lucky to make it to where they are for the interview), but what about the civilian children who will surely be casualties if this other insensitive man should be elected? What about the children who have already been victims of U.S. bombing attacks who were witnesses to McCain's "joke"? They will meet me with their questioning eyes, too.
* "But [Catholics who support pro-choice candidates] also need a compelling proportionate reason to justify it. What is a “proportionate” reason when it comes to the abortion issue? It’s the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life—which we most certainly will. If we’re confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed" (from Thoughts on “Roman Catholics for Obama ’08” By Charles J. Chaput)
After reading a very insightful post called "A few brief thoughts on chastity and teens" over at Deacon Scott's blog, Καθολικός διάκονος (I highly recommend it -- check it out!), I've been thinking a lot about parenting teens and parenting in general.
When I was in grad school for social work (before I was married), I went through a period where I was working in the field of child abuse and thus I read a lot of Alice Miller, a PhD in Philosophy, Psychology, and Sociology. Dr. Miller approaches the question of Christ as an atheist would (and thus she has serious blind spots), and yet her writings and her advocacy for children leads her to make reference to Jesus and the Holy Family:
So, we see her greatest blind spot: she is incapable of recognizing that Jesus' (or anyone's for that matter) person and character are more than the result of personal experiences in childhood. Still, she has an interesting point, one that I thought about long and hard in those days: what if, as parents, we approached our children as though they are indeed children of God? What if we had the same attitude toward them that Mary and Joseph had toward the Son of God? What if we saw them as holy? What if we were approach them with all the reverence we reserve for the Eucharist? Because, in fact, from the moment of their Baptism, they are one with Christ, as we all are.
Long before his birth Jesus received the greatest reverence, love, and protection from his parents, and it was in this initial all-important experience that his rich emotional life, his thinking, and his ethics were rooted. His earthly parents saw themselves as his servants, and it would never have occurred to them to lay a finger on him. [The Truth Will Set You Free, pp. 190-191]
Jesus grew into a strong, aware, empathic, and wise person able to experience and sustain strong emotions without being engulfed by them. He could see through insincerity and mendacity and he had the courage to expose them for what they were. [The Truth Will Set You Free, p. 191]
Children are temples of the Holy Spirit. What if, as we bathed them, fed them, spoke to them, listened to them, we did all these things as if in the Presence of God?
Monday, August 18, 2008
Precisely from this comes the great responsibility of the ecclesial community which is called on to be a house hospitable to everyone, both sign and instrument of communion for the entire human family.
How important it is, especially in our time, that every Christian community should always deepen its awareness of this in order to help civilian society and overcome every possible temptation to racism, intolerance and exclusion, and to organize itself with choices that are respectful of every human being!
One of the great conquests of humanity is in fact overcoming racism. Unfortunately, however, new manifestations of it are taking place in different nations, often linked to social and problems which nonetheless can never justify racial scorn and discrimination.
Let us pray so that respect for every person may grow everywhere, along with responsible awareness that only with the reciprocal acceptance of everyone is it possible to construct a world of authentic justice and true peace. (Pope Benedict Angelus message 8/17/08)
[...] Intellectual humility is the primary rule for whoever seeks to penetrate the supranatural realities, starting with the sacred Book. Humility obviously does not exclude serious study, but to make it spiritually profitable, allowing one to truly enter into the profundity of the text, humility is indispensable. Only with this interior attitude can one listen and finally perceive the voice of God.
On the other hand, when it comes to the Word of God, understanding means nothing unless it leads to action. In the Homilies on Ezekiel can also be found that beautiful statement according to which "the preacher should dip his quill into the blood of his heart; this way, he will be able to reach the ear of his neighbor."
Reading his homilies, one can see that Gregory truly wrote with the blood of his heart and therefore speaks to us even today.
[...] The principal inspiration that links the various discourses can be summarized in the word "praedicator": Not only the minister of God, but even every Christian, has the task of making himself the 'preacher' of whatever he has experienced intimately in following the example of Christ who became man in order to bring the good news of salvation to all.
The horizon of such a commitment is eschatological: the expectation of the fulfillment of Christ in all things is a constant thought in Gregory the Great and ends up as the inspiring motive for his every thought and action. This, his incessant calls for vigilance and for commitment to good works.
[...] The great Pontiff, nonetheless, insists on the Pastor's duty to recognize daily his own poverty, so that pride may not render in vain, in the eyes of the Supreme Judge, the good that he has done.
Thus, the final chapter of the Rule is dedicated to humility: "When one is pleased at having achieved many virtues, it is good to reflect on one's insufficiencies and be humble: instead of considering the good one has achieved, one must consider that which one failed to achieve."
[... Gregory expressed a] profound conviction that humility should be the fundamental virtue of every bishop, and more so, of a Patriarch. Gregory had always remained a simple monk at heart and therefore was decisively opposed to grand titles. He wanted to be - and this was his expression - servus servorum Dei, servant of the servants of God.
This expression, which was coined by him, was not just a pious formula from his lips, but the true manifestation of the way he lived and acted. He was intimately struck by the humility of God, who in Christ, made himself our servant, who bathed us and washed our dirty feet. Thus he was convinced that a bishop, first of all, must imitate this humility of God and thus follow Christ.
His desire was really to live as a monk in permanent conversation with the Word of God, but for the love of God, he made himself the servant of everyone in a time full of tribulations and sufferings - he knew how to be the 'servant of the servants of God'. And because he was this, he is great and shows us the true measure of greatness. (From a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis at the General Audience 6/4/08, in which he spoke about the writings of Pope St. Gregory the Great, provided by Papa Ratzinger Forum)
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
We drove out to pick up the girls from band camp. What an experience they had! A lot of hard work, a lot of drama, and not much sleep. They don't look in the least bit tired, do they?
The band gave us a concert before we took the girls home. I don't know what it is about marching bands and parades -- I think it is because they are quintessentially American, the America that I missed so much growing up overseas -- but they always make me go all trembly, and I'm in constant danger of crying for as long as they continue playing. Even if my own daughters weren't playing in the band, I would have this sentimental reaction, but with the girls out there, the effect is only intensified.
The four girls, reunited:
I am SO happy that they're home again!!!
I posted a big block of text yesterday -- a fascinating account of the Assumption of Mary from an apocryphal text attributed to Joseph of Arimathaea. What strikes me the most in this text is the way that Thomas receives a pretty harsh rebuke from St. Peter: "And seeing and kissing each other, the blessed Peter said to him: Truly thou hast always been obdurate and unbelieving, because for thine unbelief it was not pleasing to God that thou shouldst be along with us at the burial of the mother of the Saviour."
Now, if it were me, I think I might have said something like: "Come on, Pete! I repented of that. Get over it already! You wouldn't want me to be constantly reminding you of how you denied our Lord, would you? Besides, you don't know what you're talking about, because I might not have been with the rest of you at that burial, but I witnessed something pretty darn amazing myself..."
But dear Thomas only responds thus: "And he, beating his breast, said: 'I know and firmly believe that I have always been a bad and an unbelieving man; therefore I ask pardon of all of you for my obduracy and unbelief.' And they all prayed for him."
This is how I want to respond, too! It's so much more attractive, so honest, so much saner. And so counter-cultural, I might add!
And then the whole truth comes out, and Thomas is vindicated: "And the apostles seeing the belt which they had put about her, glorifying God, all asked pardon of the blessed Thomas, on account of the benediction which the blessed Mary had given him, and because he had seen the most holy body going up into heaven."
What did Thomas say to this? Did he proclaim, in triumph, "Ah, see! I'm not so bad after all! I'm just as cool as the rest of you... You better never look down on me again, because I rock!"? No, the text says, simply, "And the blessed Thomas gave them his benediction, and said: 'Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!'"
Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
Dearest St. Thomas, please pray for all of us because if we want to dwell together in unity, so much needs to be sacrificed! Help me to be this in love with destiny, Lord!
Dumbstruck by the Mystery
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."