The First Sunday in Advent.

Blessing of the Advent Wreath

This starts at the evening meal on the Saturday before the first Sunday in Advent with the blessing of the wreath. (One person is designated to say the prayers, following which various members of the family light the candles. ) The following prayer can be used.
Leader: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
Leader: O God, by whose Word all things are sanctified, pour forth Your blessing upon this wreath and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from You abundant graces. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.
The wreath would then be sprinkled with water

We didn’t do this last night – I had to pop out to Coles after Mass, to get a new wreath to add bits to, as last year’s wreath had died. But we will do the blessing tonight…as always, we follow the liturgical year with our own twist!
religion, Unschooling

A Paradox

A paradox, a paradox, a most peculiar paradoxGilbert & Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance.

Life is sometimes paradoxical.

Parodoxical in the sense of exhibiting inexplicable or contradictory aspects.

Or maybe it is just me who exhibits these contradictory aspects.

I wrote a bit about this in a post last year, the irony of blogging.

And in the comments of a recent post ~ I write something, and it inadvertantly sounds like I have it all together. Which, as anyone who knows me can attest, I don’t …Then, I usually find something happens that proves my writing wrong, anyway.I write about learning all the time – the kids then veg out. I write about helping others – then think something uncharitable. I write about happy marriage then argue with dh.It is the paradox of blogging – one writes and then the converse happens, the converse of that of which you have written…I got off the computer yesterday, after writing of self gift, and had a fit over a child’s grumpiness and complaining – we had a big argument. Totally not giving of self.

Another paradox I exhibit? In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I admit to swearing more often than I should. I listen to counsel. Only to have trouble opening the door on my way out and saying Oh sh** under my breath.

I was reading about Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers Movement. Apparently some of her life and actions have been considered paradoxical .

Dorothy Day died in 1980, at the age of 83. She was one of the greatest religious figures of the century, and one of the most paradoxical. She was a Catholic and she was an anarchist. She condemned poverty and she advocated it. She founded the Catholic Worker, a loose aggregation of ”houses of hospitality,” communal farms, newspapers and round-table discussions for ”further clarification of thought” — and called her memoirs ”The Long Loneliness.” The movement was wary of authority, yet revered her as its leader. She humbled herself before God and sat for a portrait by Richard Avedon.

”Don’t call me a saint — I don’t want to be dismissed that easily,” she once said, to no avail. A year ago, to mark what would have been her 100th birthday (today would have been her 101st), John Cardinal O’Connor of New York, a lifelong admirer, announced that he would take up the cause for her canonization. ”If anybody in our time can be called a saint, she can,” he said. It was an honor, and it was another paradox. The Patron Saint of Paradox ~ The New York Times

Of course, the paradoxical life of Ms Day portrays the paradox of living life as a follower of Christ. The balance between seemingly warring ideas.
My paradoxical behaviour, however, shows lack of self control.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says ~ 1830 The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

1831 The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David

They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations. Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God . . . If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ

1832 The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: “charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.”

Ah, don’t you love unschooling? My lack of self control can become a family discussion, something I can work on during Advent with the help of my kids and something I can use to inspire conversation on living as a Christian.

Homeschooling. A Family’s Journey

I just finished reading this book by Gregory and Martine Millman.

I liked it. A good read. I enjoyed their personal story, their analogies, the way they combined their knowledge of journalism and of the financial world with their homeschooling experience. I found most of their conclusions on homeschooling to be relevant, to be generally descriptive , if sometimes a bit smug.

I hope smugness, or complacency, isn’t a problem for homeschoolers. Like me.

Yet, living daily with our children , having our faults drawn to the light, seeing our interactions sketched in their lives, this living often forces us on our knees. Into prayer and not complacency.

Definitely challenges us. Takes us out of our comfort zone.

Br. L. mentioned challenging ourselves spiritually during Advent, at the parish Advent programme last night.Homeschooling challenges us spiritually. If we let it.

The Millmans write ~

We found in the course of our homeschooling that the most important part of education is a close personal relationship that folds a child in arms of love and deep respect. This is a relationship in which the parent makes a perpetual self-gift. It means that the parent never has a moment for herself ( or himself), never tries to take anything just for “me”. …

Parents can make it easier or harder for a child to live and choose and love. Many of our social institutions, and especially schools, make it harder to live and choose and love in freedom. We homeshool so that our children will be able to live and choose and love, to seek the truth in freedom.

Let me first clarify. I do have moments to myself. My workout. My morning prayer time. My time with dh. My time with friends. It is just that these moments are usually enjoyed with the kids present, around, being there…Occasionally, dh and I will go out together. Alone. Or I go out with my friends sans kids. Homeschooling is all about self giving but not really always about self sacrifice .

That said, it is the self gift that makes homeschooling work. Not the lesson plans,books, curricula.

The giving of self in presence, in discussion. And these discussions or teachable moments come not when planned but when guided by the minute, the time taken to pick up on something and talk and clarify and share.

Yesterday we had a no formal work, typical unschooling day. I could write in my homeschool log that the kids played with a friend, played computers,went to the dentist, read, watched DVDS. Making it sound like a do nothing, learn nothing day.

But I am an unschooler. I see learning everywhere. I know it is impossible to stop learning, especially the often hidden agenda of learning in the affective realm, the learning that happens inside, the thinking, the touching of the soul, the formation of the character, the learning how to be with others, how to live.

So, on our no formal schoolwork , typical for us unschooling day we also got into a long philosophical discussion on actions that are morally right or morally justified. This was over a game – my four teens, including my 13 year old, and me and one of the kids’ friends. We talked about what the Church teaches and then our friend asked, simply because he is not Catholic – but how could what the Church teaches apply to me? So then we talked about truth, about absolute truth, about logic, about the Bible…

Truth is a relation which holds (1) between the knower and the known — Logical Truth; (2) between the knower and the outward expression which he gives to his knowledge — Moral Truth; and (3) between the thing itself, as it exists, and the idea of it, as conceived by God — Ontological Truth. In each case this relation is, according to the Scholastic theory, one of correspondence, conformity, or agreement (St. Thomas, Summa I:21:2). the Catholic Encyclopedia

I couldn’t have planned a better religious and philosophical discussion had I tried. We didn’t do our usual Wednesday religion reading. But we did discuss Truth. We researched. We debated.

I stopped working on a carols booklet in order to discuss and research. Yes, I gave my time. So what? That is what I am called to do. There is no extra merit in stopping one thing to do what I am supposed to do, as a homeschooling mother. Giving of myself. And yet I still received blessings, the blessing of discussion. Of being with my sons and their friend. Of sharing faith.

Love. Saint Josemaria Escriva said ‘Love is deeds, not sweet words.’ When we say love we do not mean tender feelings and we do not mean tough love. We mean self-sacrifice and self-gift. This love that can only come from faith and trust. Give yourself. Sometimes giving yourself means being tender and sometimes it means exercising discipline to help a child grow in strength and character. Always examine yourself to make sure that the choice you are making is not for yourself but for your child, so that your child will grow in freedom and truth.” To quote the Millmans yet again..

Baby, you’re heaven and hell..

Baby you’re heaven…heaven and hell
Yeah, you’re heaven…heaven and hell
U2 Heaven and Hell

What brings us to God? Is it fear, fear of hell? Or it it love?

Perhaps the answer differs, as our personalities differ.

Fear is something that turns me away. When I am fearful of things, I tend to withdraw. I pretend they are not there, not important. I pull away from that thing, that person, that event. Unless I make myself face that fear with some tough love…

It was not fear that brought me to God.

I know this is a personal response but it was faith and reason, love and intellect, research and history and a tug at my heart, that brought me to God. To the Church. Not fear of hell.

Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. St Francis of Assisi

I hope, too, that it is my love and concern, my friendliness, who I am and how I live, as well as my knowledge of and practice of my faith, that will bring others to God.

It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching. Another quote from St Francis.

This is not to deny that hell exists. Of course hell exists.

A lot of people have questions about heaven, hell and purgatory. To better understand hell, let’s review a bit. Everything about God and us centers on relationship. Heaven is complete and perfect union with God for eternity. Purgatory is union with God (through sanctifying grace), which is imperfect and incomplete. Purification from our sins then brings about a perfect union with God. In contrast, hell is complete, total and absolute separation from God for all eternity. Don’t think of heaven, purgatory and hell as physical places. View them as states of existence. Think of the time you fell in love and the total exhilaration you felt. Consider the moment a loved one died unexpectedly and the shock, loss and disorientation you experienced. Each brought about an internal experience that touched your whole being..
St Anthony Messenger

During one of his weekly general audiences our previous Pope, Pope John Paul II said that hell “is not a punishment imposed externally by God but a development of premises already set by people in this life….It is the ultimate consequence of sin itself, which turns against the person who committed it. It is the state of those who definitely reject the Father’s mercy, even at the last moment of their life….
The images of hell that Sacred Scripture presents to us must be correctly interpreted. They show the complete frustration and emptiness of life without God.
Rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy….The thought of hell—and even less the improper use of biblical images—must not create anxiety or despair, but is a necessary and healthy reminder of freedom within the proclamation that the risen Jesus has conquered Satan, giving us the Spirit of God who makes us cry ‘Abba, Father!’ (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’ The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs” (CCC 1035).

Eternal separation from God. A horrible thought to be sure. So, now in this time of Advent, we can look at ourselves. At our relationship with God. And our relationship with others.

Preparation for Christmas is an important theme for Advent, but more is involved. Advent gives us a vision of our lives as Christians and shows us the possibilities of life.

The vision of life that Advent gives us is twofold; it looks back to the first coming of Christ at Bethlehem, and it looks to the future when Christ will come again. In the interval between these two events we find meaning for our life as Christians.
Advent is a time to draw closer to God and, perhaps, to help others, including our families, draw closer to God.

Advent is a time of joy tinged with penance. Joy, because we can imagine nothing more sweet than the Christ Child and His Mother happiness at His coming to light. Penance because we must strive to be properly disposed to receive so great a gift of His presence. In the millennial tradition of the Church, we faithful have done penance before great feasts. Christmas and Easter each have their penitential seasons in anticipation, Advent and Lent. The liturgical colour used in the Church for the liturgy during both Advent and Lent is purple, a sign of penance. Advent is a time of great joy, because we look forward to the beautiful feast of the Nativity, but it is joy stitched with focused spiritual preparation by doing penance.

Our family traditionally creates-an or buys-an or drags-out-the-previous-year’s Advent wreath on the first Sunday in Advent. This Sunday in fact. We choose our spiritual reading for the Advent period. We talk about giving up things for Advent, for others, for ourselves. Doing something extra, spiritually , practically. We start to think ahead to Christmas and the Nativity.

We remember heaven and hell. And peace on earth. And goodwill to all men ( ouch, my thoughts have not always been so charitable lately).
Baby, you’re heaven and hell.
I hope not!

Life According To Abba

Singing to Abba Singstar. Listening to Abba in the car. Being surrounded by the music of Abba makes me see how the lyrics are often appropriate for my life.

Pop music descriptions that fit my life?
Oh yeah.

Mamma Mia
here I go again…

This week there was some unpleasantness. No, not from my sweet family! Some other people not-playing-nicely. Some unjust comments and criticism. And probably some just criticism, too. Hey, I’m not perfect. I’m no saint.

Thinking I belonged there
I figured it made sense
Building me a fence
Building me a home
Thinking I’d be strong there
But I was a fool
Playing by the rules

We’ve spent many years moving around. Lately, I’ve thought that perhaps the time has come for us to stay in one place. Live in one city or area for the rest of our lives. But I realise now that I don’t fit in. That’s okay. If God wants us to move, I know we can be happy anywhere.

Take it now or leave it
Now is all we get
Nothing promised, no regrets
And here we go again,
we know the start,
we know the end
Masters of the scene
We’ve done it all before

No regrets. I have a pretty cool life, I am who I am, always growing and learning and trying to be better for sure. But still me. Like it or not. I can’t please everyone. Experience has shown me it is best to pray, trust and move on.

You can dance,
you can jive,
having the time of your life
See that girl,
watch that scene,
diggin’ the Dancing Queen

I play music, I dance and sing with the kids. Life is too short to be down! As Billy Blanks ( Taebo) says Every day above ground is a blessed day! I am blessed with a good dh and nice kids and with homeschooling and spending time with friends and with a job I love. And a prayerful parish. Who can ask for more?

Tonight the Super Trouper
lights are gonna find me
Shining like the sun
Smiling, having fun
Feeling like a number one
Tonight theSuper Trouper
beams are gonna blind me
But I won’t feel blue
Like I always do
Cause somewhere in the crowd there’s you