This was a fun quiz--thank you, Elena!
What good is having a blog if you can't look for sympathy on a daily basis? : ) : ) : )
As you can see, I wasn't kidding when I said things are looking worse now!
A Hint (although not necessarily a helpful hint): Today is the birthday of St. Louis de Montfort.
Thank you so much for the kind comments expressed here this week, particularly the cheering words for the "Coffers of Grace" and "Cottage Catastrophe" posts, not to mention today's Candlemas Tea and plans. After reading the Candlemas Tea Menu, my dear friend Jennifer commented:
"Simply is the key word there, I appreciate how your Teas can be done with simple, common ingredients."
This was significant and deeply gratifying to me, because the philosophy behind the Liturgical Teas is simplicity. My hope is that mothers will be able to read the suggestions, make a run to the grocery store, and have everything on the table in an hour or so. The Teas are meant to create an impression on the children, and--simple beings that they are--they are happy with sugar cubes and pretzels and cherry tomatoes, God bless them! Is it any wonder Our Dear Lord tells us to "be like a little child"? My dearest wish is that, thanks to you good mothers who make things happen, a handful of children may never look at a Mallomar or a strawberry again without thinking of something happy and holy.
Candlemas will be upon us soon. From your comments, I see that our family will not be the only one celebrating for the first time. Let's make this a great Feast and remember to pray for one another during the day. Perhaps you might consider saying the Purification Novena Prayer after grace--it is perfect for a Tea with children:
"O Blessed Mother of God, who went up to the Temple according to the law with your offering of little white doves, pray for me that I too may keep the law and be pure in heart like you.
Sweet heart of Mary, be my salvation."
--from the Novena for Purification.
To help you all with that last minute shopping trip, here is a list of the ingredients you need for the Candlemas Tea:
Tea (Look for package marked "pure tea.")
Spring water (optional)
Turtledoves (see note below)
Toothpicks (preferably swords)
Grape or cherry tomatoes
Cubes of cheese
Whipping Cream or Cool Whip
White chocolate morsels for melting
Shoestring licorice for edible tapers
A Note on Turtledoves: We are using craft store doves, but something white would work well here--try mini bagels, split in half with a bit of cream cheese, or, if you don't mind something sweet, white meringues. The brilliant Amy suggested Marshmallow Peeps. Believe it or not, this occurred to me too, but I am not sure if they are available yet. Fear not, however, the Mallomars will make up for it!
If you are feeling a bit too rushed, it might make sense to consider hosting something like this over the weekend. It will be First Saturday, after all!
O Blessed Mother of God, who went up to the Temple according to the law with your
offering of little white doves, pray for me that I too may keep the law and be pure in heart
Sweet heart of Mary, be my salvation.
--from the Novena for Purification
I have a confession to make--we have never celebrated Candlemas in our house. Candlemas, for me, is a pleasant sounding holiday with a name that makes me think of medieval times, kind of like Michaelmas and Martinmas, two other celebrations we only discovered recently.
This year a series of events led me to believe that the Holy Spirit might be prompting us to do more for this great feast of the Purification of Our Lady.
First, the Purification Novena scheduled months ago at Loreto Cottage began (prayed especially for the wonderful Theresa)--it was several days before I even realized that The Purification and Candlemas are the same Feast! (So that's what Candlemas is!) Then out of the blue, a local friend emailed a beautiful Candlemas prayer. Another friend announced she would be hosting the Loveliness of Candlemas Fair. (I could not wait to read it, but did not at first even think about participating--after all, we had *no* plan to celebrate the feast at all!) The final straw--a straw from the manger perhaps--came when a dear friend from our local homeschooling group presented me with a bright yellow folder on Friday. Tucked inside were page after page of Candlemas prayers and hymns collected from several of her treasured out of print books--all painstakingly photocopied just for me.
At that point, I knew God was telling me something!
For those of you unfamiliar with Candlemas (myself included up until about a day or so ago), it is the Feast of the Purification of Our Lady and the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. Traditionally called Candlemas because candles are blessed on this day to help us remember the words of holy Simeon who called the babe in his arms, "A light to lighten the gentiles and the glory of your people, Israel." Luke 2: 32.
As we often do with feasts, the girls and I are planning a Tea, along with a special centerpiece and craft. It is admittedly hastily planned, but we never let perfectionism stand in the way of fun!
Candlemas Tea Menu
Sugar Cubes for Our Lady
Milk for St. Joseph
A pair of turtledoves
Holy Simeon's Arms
Anna the Prophetess
Theresa's edible tapers (optional)
Reading: Luke 2: 22-40.
Recipes and Suggestions:
1. Pure Tea
I hope this will not sound too silly, but many boxes of tea are marked "pure tea." It seems to me that this might be pointed out to the children in conjunction with a discussion of the ritual of purification.
2. Sugar Cubes for Our Lady and Milk for St. Joseph
This is an idea borrowed from Our Epiphany Tea, and the explanations fit just as well here. When discussing Our Lady, I would point out that the whiteness of the sugar reminds us of her purity. Out of obedience and humility, she went to the Temple for the ritual of Purification, but she was at all times sinless and spotless from the moment of her conception.
Water is so associated with purity and purification that a pitcher of spring water for the table makes sense for this celebration. We are also planning a holy water centerpiece (below).
4. A pair of turtledoves
There are so many possibilities for this offering--anything from delicate white sandwiches to small meringues, but for this celebration, the children in our family will be preparing a small craft for the table featuring craft store doves in a basket. (I purchased the doves on Saturday, and it has been all I could do to keep the children from playing with them! I found one attached to a handwrought floral fairy's car today!)
5. Holy Simeon's Arms
Holy Simeon held the Christ Child in his arms saying, "Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to Your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation." Luke 2: 29-30. To remember the loving arms of Simeon, twisted pretzels (first invented in the middle ages to represent arms folded in prayer) will be a readily obtained and simple symbol.
As you are serving them, remind the children that Christ would later preach, "You are the salt of the earth . . . . You are the light of the world." (Mt. 5: 13-14.)
6. Piercing Swords
Simeon was moved by the Holy Spirit to declare to Our Lady, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted, and you yourself a sword will pierce, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." Luke 2: 34-35.
A simple cube of mild cheese, topped with a grape tomato and pierced with a toothpick would provide a good visual for the children. If you have a party store near you, you might even pick up the perfect box ofSword Toothpicks.
7. Anna the Prophetess
Oh, how I love Anna--worshiping in the temple day and night at the age of 84. [This would be my mother if she did not have grandchildren. : )]
Because Anna was a widow, something black might represent her well. I can think of many possibilities, but our family will pick up a box of Mallomars. They are perfect for Anna. The black outer shell shows that she is a widow, but inside you will see the purity and goodness of her devout heart represented in the white center. Note that the marshmallow stands on top of a graham cracker, and remind the children that this good woman never left the floor of the Temple day or night.
(By the way, up until recently, I would have told you I could not stand Mallomars, but I tried one around Christmas, and it was surprisingly good.)
8. Pure Hearts
Have the children dip strawberries in fresh whipped cream to represent Our Lady's pure and innocent heart. If you managed to get sword toothpicks, it would be very effective to skewer each strawberry for added significance.
We have a small fondue pot that rarely gets used. I may let the children dip the strawberries into melted white chocolate kept warm over a candle, just because I like the idea of the candle for Candlemas.
9. Theresa's Edible Tapers
Speaking of fondue pots, 11 year old Theresa made a creative suggestion we will not have time to test in advance. Cut small pieces of shoestring licorice--dip several times in melted white chocolate leaving a bit of licorice exposed as a wick. If it works, you will have tiny and adorable edible dipped tapers.
Here are some photographs of our Candlemas supplies:
On Friday morning, we will attend Mass at our parish, asking the priest to bless these floating white rose candles. The white rose seemed the perfect symbol of the Purification of Our Lady, and I plan to give the centerpiece added meaning by floating the candles in holy water, allowing the children to bless themselves (before the candles are lit, of course!)
A print of the Presentation will grace the table as well, along with a children's project--doves in a basket. We only have six doves, so, just as Mary and Joseph shared a pair of turtledoves, each pair of my children will share a pair as well.
I never did post pictures of my glorious Advent log in its fully lighted beauty. (Thank you, Rebecca!!!) Fortunately, I am a procrastinator, and the log is still on our living room mantle. I plan on replacing the red Christmas candle with a large fat white one, decorated with Marian symbols to become a Mary Candle. We will light the white side candles and sing Candlemas hymns, processing out afterward to bid a last farewell to our outdoor creche. It will be a fitting end to the official Christmas season, and for once I am glad we never got around to putting some things away!
And a word about treading water. As you know, the learning room of our cottage is soaked through. Yesterday, a workman brought me over to survey the cleanup effort, and I was shocked to see the room stripped down to the studs. The walls and ceiling were ripped out, and even part of the adjacent bathroom wall was no more. The place looked worse, if anything, so much worse than when it was merely wet with a ceiling piece hanging down. Still, I knew it had to be done if the room is to get better.
Then it occurred to me that the stripped room was a perfect metaphor for purification--in many ways, to improve our hearts and become true followers of Christ, we need to strip them down to the studs, lopping away all that is festering within us and holding us back from Him. Even Our Lady, pure and sinless though she was, was pruned and groomed in the school of suffering--told on the very day of Purification of a sword that would pierce her heart.
And so, Candlemas has come to call this year, in more ways than one.
Friday it was cold, extremely cold, mind numbingly, bone chillingly cold.
Saturday it was warmer, cheerily warmer, ice thawingly, mud meltingly warmer.
Today it was Springtime, bright blessed springtime, birds singingly, pipes burstingly springtime . . . .
It seems, horrified readers, that a pipe froze on Friday, thawed on Saturday, and proceeded to rain down on our furniture and books for, oh, about a day and a half.
The girls had been looking for a diversion this afternoon and asked permission to go next door to the cottage to make fairies. Moments later, the ill-fated party returned bellowing and breathless, barely coherent with cryptic ejaculations of "hissing sound!" "ceiling down!" and "sopping books!"
Dh and I sprang to our feet and were standing amidst the wreckage in a trice, not believing our eyes. Part of the ceiling had collapsed, the paint on the walls was bubbling, my wooden furniture was peeling, and our school books, notes and projects looked like noodles in a can of Campbell's. I think if the Superintendent of Public Schools could have shown up at that moment (preferably toting a chainsaw, or maybe just a really rusty pencil sharpener), we would have had all the elements of the perfect homeschooler's horror movie.
Here are some spine-tingling previews of the would-be flick now:
Here is a bit of melodrama for you: Do you see the soaking white pouch on top of "The Wheels on the Bus"? (Bottom Left.) It is one of the bags from "A New Beginning."
The funny part is--and I do not know why--this does not bother me! Yes, I was sorry to lose the books, particularly the children's projects (a year's worth of Agnes' artwork for example, not to mention a book of religious poetry inherited from my father), but isn't this really why Our Lord said:
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be." Mt. 6: 19-21.
Honestly, I am not at all trying to sound saintly or sanctimonious. (Truth be told, much of my calm comes from the naive belief that a good portion of this will be paid by our insurance company. Believe me, if my photo albums had been on those shelves I would have cried like a baby.) Still, maybe I am becoming a bit more mature. Perhaps, after thirty-nine years of seeing objects come and go, I am finally figuring out how not to put too much of my heart into things that are passing away with all speed. Seeing my husband set to work hauling and hefting, mopping and airing, all I could think about was the blessing it is to have a sturdy and steadfast husband--my prayer is that our problems may always be this inconsequential!
As for the books, I was starting to feel that our curriculum lacked pizzazz this year. There is no doubt--none whatsoever--that, freed from the bondage of certain Math, Language Arts, and Spelling standards, we will have more time to pursue the things we *love,* and learning will go on. It will flourish like a tree newly pruned.
I am seeing lots of Montfort, Montgomery, Shakespeare, Homer, Comstock, Caroll, and Keats in our future. Rejoice with us!
A word to MacBeth: Do you see that sopping pile of books? The ones on the very top of the right hand bookshelf in the first picture? Well, that's the Jacques Cousteau trilogy you sent home with Patrick last Halloween. We will not be returning them, but I think you will agree that at least they met a fitting end.
Most hilarious phrase choice of the day: A dear friend called to see if we would still be getting together tomorrow. I told her my sob story, and she was very understanding. "It's OK," she said, "we'll take a rain check!"
That picture says it all, doesn't it?
It happened a few days before Christmas (the 22d of December to be exact), but I hesitated to write a forlorn post just before the celebration of Our Savior's Birth. Here is my tale of woe:
Anyone who has been to our home cannot help but notice our statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Displayed in the most prominent corner of our family room, it has been our centerpiece, inspiring us through countless family rosaries, May Crownings, and First Holy Communions, a vivid reminder that the Mother of God is Queen of our Home and Hearts.
Every year, we make way for the Christmas Tree, temporarily reassigning our lovely statue to a less crowded room. She was in an odd spot on the floor awaiting the yearly move when Patrick bounded in from the living room. I was getting a few surprises ready for him and his sisters, so I said, "No, honey, don't look! These are meant to be a surprise." In his five-year-old simplicity, he decided to avoid seeing the surprises by hiding, hastily thrusting the couch forward in an effort to dash behind. It all happened in an instant, but the couch tipped into the statue, knocking it off balance. It felt as if I saw Our Lady falling in slow motion for ten minutes. I called out, "No!" but it was too late. Down she crashed with an unspeakable and sickening thud.
The girls streamed in from all directions, and Patrick looked dazed. Instantly, our jovial Christmas mood lied in ruins with our statue, and we stood dumbfounded, gazing upon the poor forlorn pieces in disbelief. A few of the girls began to sob, and I hastened to remind them that Our Lady was still with us, even if her image was beyond repair. They knew it already--that was plain--but it was the kind of comfort one gives to the victim of a flood who has just lost her wedding album. At least our dear Patrick was consoled when I assured him he had done nothing wrong, particularly because the poor boy was only trying to obey me.
Throughout that night and the next day, the optimist in me yearned to find some joy in this tale, but my thoughts seemed to fall flat. Grasping for something that would give meaning to the loss, I thought about Our Lady making way for her Son--she always steps aside for Him and would have gladly done so to help us prepare for Christmas--placing her new born Babe to the center where He belongs. Still, remembering the Mystery of the Assumption and knowing that Our Lord did not allow His mother's pure body to undergo corruption, a shattered statue seemed an imperfect symbol, at best. I pondered and sought, but my thoughts and and musings seemed in vain. We had a broken statue, and that was that.
Then, while reading late last night, I found this:
"God the Father gathered all the waters together and called them the seas or maria. He gathered all his grace together and called it Mary or Maria. The great God has a treasury or storehouse full of riches in which he has enclosed all that is beautiful, resplendent, rare and precious, even his own Son. This immense treasury is none other than Mary whom the saints call the 'treasury of the Lord.' From her fulness all men are made rich."
--St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin
It seemed St. Louis de Montfort was showing me how to think about this story. Our broken statue became the symbol of the Treasure that is Mary--abundant and bursting with graces for mankind--ready and waiting to be broken open so that she may dispense jewels and riches upon all those who ask. It may sound silly, but I began to see our battered statue as an earthly representation of the Heavenly Piggy Bank of Grace that is our beautiful Blessed Mother, and she seemed to be reminding us yet again (as she instructed the children at Fatima) that we must not neglect to ask for our share of the wealth.
In spite of a hard landing on the brick fireplace surround, Our Lady's face and hands remained beautifully intact, and we will save them forever. Margaret begged, through tears, to be allowed to keep the hands and wrapped them lovingly in a flower-flecked piece of fabric. The rest of the pieces will be buried in our garden. A friend told me recently that St. Joseph of Cupertino, the reluctant saint, once broke a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but saved the head always. Perhaps he may become a family patron.
If you have a moment to look at some old photos, you will see a few memories of our statue. I purchased her for our very first May crowning (well, at least our first May Crowning with a crowd of friends) in 2001. The statue arrived the morning of the event, and, as you will see in the next two pictures, three year old Margaret was enamored of it. All while our guests sang hymns and processed with flowers, she stood transfixed in her blue flower-sprigged dress, unable to remove her gaze from Our Lady's face:
It was Theresa's turn to crown Our Lady that first year, and she managed beautifully.
Beginning with Agnes, our First Communicants have all crowned the statue directly after Mass. This photo shows Theresa (with dh) in May of 2003, the second of our three oldest girls to have the honor of crowning the statue on her First Communion Day:
We have dozens of photos like this one, images snapped by the children with the digital camera. After all, if you get your hands on Mom's digital camera, why not photograph the most beautiful thing in the house?
Oh, and the story has a happy ending, friends, so do not feel too sorry for us. My mother immediately and insistently offered to replace the statue as a family Christmas gift. Theresa and I tried to purchase a new one this past weekend, but the face on the one in the store did not seem as beautifully painted as our cherished statue, and the new one seemed much smaller somehow. We decided not to bring it home just yet, but hopefully, we will be blessed to unveil a new beauty in time for May this year!