Beauty and The Beast

Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder.

Let me say that in another way. In liturgy, in our sacred worship, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder.

A “beautiful” liturgy is not one that satisfies the taste of the consumer. It is not a marketing promotion. It is not a consumer good…God forbid that we see the liturgy of the Church as a supermarket, where we can pick and choose elements according to our taste and will!

The liturgy is, first and foremost, the work of God, of adoration, reception, bestowal of grace, of Christ Himself. It is a mistake, really, to apply secular and cultural standards of aesthetic taste to the liturgy.

The spiritual beauty of the sacred liturgy transforms the lives of Catholics. As the Pope (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) said in an August 2002 message “The encounter with the beautiful can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes.”

When the spiritual beauty of the sacred liturgy has transformed a soul, man can then create things of beauty…. art, architecture, poetry, and music.

As we approach Holy Week, as we help in our parish and prepare for the Easter Triduum, we reflect on the importance of the sacred. In our liturgy. In our music in our Church, our icons, our art, our tabernacles, our statues, the vestments of the priests, the candles, the chant, the architecture.

Sometimes, the banal and vulgar invade our sanctuaries…, in what Pope John Paul II called in Ecclesia de Eucharistia a misguided sense of creativity.

As we restore the sacred, the beauty, the objective beauty of the sacred liturgy, we restore man’s faith; we set an example to the world; we inspire men in faith and life and art.

By objective beauty, I mean not following a fashion in liturgy but holding the sacred to a time worthy non secular other words..what has been done by the Church in the past? Why? Does this lift our hearts and minds towards God? Does this teach the faithful?

Is this a sacred action surpassing all others (Sacrosanctum Concilium) ?

Beginning with external fidelity to the rubrics, and leading to internal union with Christ, for those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:24).

If the beauty of vestments, tabernacles, statues, chant, the words and gestures of the mass, if this beauty is not of grave importance, if it is inspired by passing fad or whim or personal taste, then why has the Church invested so much of its history to fostering these ..this liturgy, these sacred arts?

God has placed a desire in the human soul to create beautiful things. God wishes for man to share in His masterpiece of creation… that which is good and beautiful. We can foster this excellence, we can seek beauty in Holy Week, in Maundy Thursday, the Chrism Mass, the Altar of Repose, the Passion, the Stations of the Cross, the Easter Vigil, in the celebration of the sacred liturgy, by the enhancement of the sacred arts.

We can be sure that whoever sneers at Beauty’s name . . . can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love. Hans Urs von Balthasar, preface to The Glory of the Lord

Beauty in the liturgy results from order. This is why the liturgy, by its very nature, demands order.

Order in externals, in sacred arts. Order in the liturgy.
Not in sacred arts that attempt to mirror art in the secular world, that appeal to me (or worse..speak to me) . If a priest is asking someone to buy candles and candle stands from the two dollar shop, for the altar of repose, isn’t something awry? There is very little beauty in the cheap, utilitarian plastic of these items. No time or trouble taken to polish brass for God’s glory.
Am I picky? I hope not. I just know, from Church teaching, from experience, from reading, that the sacred should be sacred..that is to say, special, set apart, beautiful, uplifting, food for the soul, that sursum corda..and of God and not of man. Even if work is required to produce the sacred arts. Pray and work. Ora et labora. For the glory of God.
A homily I heard talked about the church building in a parish. How it was beautiful but, when the people left, it was empty. The point being that we, the people, are the Church.
But our local parish church, the building, isn’t empty, is it? We have the Blessed Sacrament, the Real Presence of Jesus, in our tabernacle. And thus, Jesus, the mystery of God, not, we the people, should be the focus of our worship.
The practice of goodness is accompanied by spontaneous spiritual joy and moral beauty. Likewise, truth carries with it the joy and splendor of spiritual beauty. Truth is beautiful in itself. Truth in words, the rational expression of the knowledge of created and uncreated reality, is necessary to man, who is endowed with intellect. But truth can also find other complementary forms of human expression, above all when it is a matter of evoking what is beyond words: the depths of the human heart, the exaltations of the soul, the mystery of God. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2500

The sacred arts can enhance our understanding of this teaching..teaching on the Blessed Sacrament, on worship, the experience of being inspired and pulled away frorm our every day world towards love and adoration of Our Lord…so inspired by Christ, by Beauty, that we leave the church, leave the building that is filled with Christ’s presence, and spread our faith, our love, our adoration of Christ with others.
Sacred art is true and beautiful when its form corresponds to its particular vocation: evoking and glorifying, in faith and adoration, the transcendent mystery of God – the surpassing invisible beauty of truth and love visible in Christ, who “reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature,” in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”[296] This spiritual beauty of God is reflected in the most holy Virgin Mother of God, the angels, and saints. Genuine sacred art draws man to adoration, to prayer, and to the love of God, Creator and Savior, the Holy One and Sanctifier. CCC 2502


We must no longer reckon this time as our own; we should feel that God will have the right to call us to account for it unless we render it entirely to Him. St Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection.

We give our time to God. We also make time for family and friends.

I am fresh from a time out. A weekend in Melbourne, for work (great Kumon conference), for catching up with friends (time out from every day life) , for prayer ( Stations of the Cross).

St Teresa of Avila talks of taking time for lawful duties; to be honest, most of my usual week is spent in these duties , busily trying to sandwich prayer into and amongst those duties.

But you know, as the Saint says, God is not exacting; He is liberal, not exacting about His dues; however heavy our debts may be, He easily remits them in order to win us.

As we love God, give him His due, give Him our time and our life, we realise that He is generous ..He gives us time to do all we ought..time for lawful duties ..and for some recreation, too.

What a great favour God does to those He places in the company of good people…St Teresa again.

We learn a lot from conferences..and from prayer..and from friends. I have been blessed to be given the company of good people, people who love me as I am but who also encourage me to grow and to be more. People who don’t let me off the hook.

We talk, we laugh, we cry…and we encourage one another in our vocations.

In Melbourne, I went to Stations of the Cross with a friend. And we talked of family and life and liturgy. I went to the Kumon conference and learned more about instructing children to reach their potential, reaching every child. And talked with other Supervisors about their centres, about children and learning..and, late at night in the bar, about life and work and the balancing act.

I went to see the movie Blind Side. And cried and laughed .

I shared my life and listened to the life of a friend.

Beth You’re changing that boys life.
Leigh Anne Touhy No, he’s changing mine. (From the movie.)

Yes, our friends, our good company, change us and our lives.

I try to give my time to God; and He has blessed me by placing me in the company of good people. With love.

It is love alone that gives worth to all things. St Teresa of Avila.

Mid Lent

Last Sunday was Laetare Sunday.

Mid Lent. Rose vestments. Rejoice!

Time to pause in our Lenten observances. To think. To reflect. To rejoice, with the prodigal son, rejoicing in the Father’s mercy.

During Lent, we often try to choose a penance, to draw closer to God, to practice self denial, to pray more.

But you know what?

Often, our Lenten sacrifices, our Lenten crosses as it were, end up being not those of our own choosing. Instead, the Lenten penances often seem to be chosen for us.

We suffer a little. We learn a lot. Through the Lenten sacrifices that we, perhaps, didn’t choose but which are sacrifices that are real…with a cost…that draw us to Our Lord…to the Sacraments…rather than those Clayton sacrifices that we may have chosen for ourselves, those sacrifices-you-make-when-you-are-not-really-making-a-sacrifice.

I started Lent, typically, with Big Plans.

Then…Life Happened.

Yes, I am praying the Stations of the Cross. Yes, I am undertaking extra spiritual reading ( but not that which I thought I would do!). Yes, I am observing fasts. And praying. And almsgiving via Project Compassion.

But more than this, I am being brought to my knees..with tears but also with a sense of joy..brought to my knees because of relationships..and realising that maybe this is what I am to learn durng Lent.

What am I to learn?

With the prodigal son, with the woman who committed adultery and was brought to Jesus, I am learning more of God, of His mercy, His love.

This is what Lent is about. For Christians of all churches, to walk, at least these forty days, more closely with God.


Eat Pi

Because March 14 was Pi Day…So today son Thomas is making a pie…Searching through Nigella’s book How To be A Domestic Goddess for ideas and recipes…talking about Pi..while Mum does Kumon prep ..driving mum to a Kumon meeting to get his hours up…with Anthony tagging along….praying at Mass in the Extraordinary Form…all before work at Kumon this afternoon/evening….another great homeschooling morning, don’t you think?

Relevant quotes?

You know I am the Quote Queen.

This is what baking, what all of this book, is about: feeling good, wafting along in the warm, sweet-smelling air, unwinding, no longer being entirely an office creature; and that’s exactly what I mean when I talk about ‘comfort cooking’. How To be A Domestic Goddess

It’s Pi Day again; the annual celebration of the ratio of any circle’s circumference to its diameter in Euclidean space. Which in the real world equates to a day spent walking in circles around shrines dedicated to Pi, while eating pie. Naturally. Pi Day is celebrated on March 14 every year. Why March 14? Because 3/14 equates to 3.14, the first three digits of Pi. March 14 also just happens to be Albert Einstein’s birthday. So a celebration of his life and work also comes into play. The first Pi Day celebration was held at the San Francisco Exploratorium in 1988, with staff and public marching around one of its circular spaces, then consuming fruit pies. The museum has since added pizza to its Pi Day menu. Pi Day

Unschooling provides a unique opportunity to step away from systems and methods, and to develop independent ideas out of actual experiences, where the child is truly in pursuit of knowledge, not the other way around. Writer, Earl Stevens


We’re through..

We’re through!

Has anyone ever said that to you..or perhaps you have said it yourself?

I’m through being nice.

I’m through this, I’m over it.

We’re through.

It is often said in anger or hurt, isn’t it?

And you get that sinking feeling..that knot in your stomach..because, if you are like me, you
know it is your fault.

Maybe you should have tried harder.

Or We’re through is shouted with joy..we are through that exam, that hurdle, that last leg of a trip.

For Christmas, I gave Thomas a (possible, sort of) sequel to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The almost sequel is by Eion Colfer while we all know the delightfully funny, wise, quirky originals were written by Douglas Adams.

I see a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide lying around the someone must be reading it.

It is one of those quoteable books/movies/TV series.

You live and learn. At any rate, you live.

Isn’t that true? Sometimes I just don’t learn stuff, I keep repeating the same mistakes..over..and over. But I am living and trying to learn and praying.

But when someone says to you We’re through, in their hurt they can’t see your learning and prayers..just your living, your life, just you. You, and your life, which is really not good enough, not a great example.

Perhaps I’m old and tired, but I always think that the chances of finding out what really is going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say hang the sense of it and just keep yourself occupied. ~Douglas Adams again

I keep feeling like a failure but that is self indulgence, isn’t it? it is not all about me.
I keep wanting to eat junk but that is escape, isn’t it?
I act wild and silly with visitors and friends because that is the mask, the keeping occupied part.

Lest you think this is all too personal or dark for a blog post, I will add that it is okay. Life and blogging is like that. Not always serious. Not always funny. Not always neat and tidy and wrapped up in little impersonal, breezy posts. Or even theological posts (laughs at self here..).

The bottom line is that blogging is like sex. You can’t fake it. You can’t fake passion. You can’t fake wanting to engage with the public. If you do, it will ultimately be an unsatisfying experience for both the blogger and their readers. (Kevin Anderson)

Everything I learned in life, I learned through blogging.

Or something like that.

I believe the term “blog” means more than an online journal. I believe a blog is a conversation. People go to blogs to read AND write, not just consume. (Michael Arrington)

Blogging helps me sort out things but also helps me become part of the conversation. I value the emails ( and occasional comments) that I get, the discussions I have with IRL friends, over blog posts. And I think and write. I read the blogs of others, especially those blogs of friends.

And I live my life.
And pray.
And try to learn.

In at least one way we are atypical bloggers. That’s because we just keep on posting. The typical blogger, like most people who go on diets and budgets, quits after a few months, weeks, or in many cases, days. Stephen J. Dubner

So why do I keep on blogging? Because I have always chosen writing as the medium for expressing my thoughts and ideas. Always. Journals. Poems. Now blogs and Facebook. And because I am a social person. I love keeping up with the thoughts and lives of others through blogs and emails and facebook. I love sharing.

Which is part of my We’re through problem. Because I love to write, have an inner need to write about things and to think and figure stuff out, because I love people, love hanging out with people,because I have a need to pray, to go to daily mass when I life, then, makes others feel less special. Like they are one of many.

So, I need to die to self.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Mat 16:24-26)

And, yet, what do I do? I come back here and blog.

How much of myself do I give up? Do I give up others outside my family, including my blogopshere and Facebook friends? Do I give up extra masses and my daily reading of the psalms?

It is a truth generally acknowledged that we are all longing to escape. I escape always to my favourite book “Pride and Prejudice”. I’ve read it so many times now the words just say themselves in my head and it’s like a window opening, it’s like I’m actually there. It’s become a place I know so intimately I can see that world, I can touch it. I can see Darcy. Amanda Price, from Lost in Austen ( a series Greg and I want to see …again)

Is blogging an escape? Are my friends and my social stuff escapes? Do I use praying at mass as a form of escape?

I don’t think so. I think these enrich my life, they are my life, with my family, of course…all these are part of who I am.

So, in being present in the We’re through, how much do I change?

When you feel the assaults of passion and anger, then is the time to be silent as Jesus was silent in the midst of His ignominies and sufferings. — St. Paul of the Cross

Therefore, I keep silent on some issues and in some situations. I blog. I work. I spend time with family and friends. I pray. And I try to learn while living. I try to change. I try to cut others some slack but not let myself make excuses for my actions.

Hey, blogging has no calories, right? It is better than eating junk.

Laugh, love, pray, work. Breathe.

Breathe. Know that the Internet has no eraser.Liz Strauss

And ~ Nothing in your life can prepare you for this, except everything in your life.

religion, Unschooling

A Christian Funeral

Since I moved to Sydney I have been to more funerals than ever. Funerals for people I have met through church; relatives of friends; fellow parishioners.

I Corinthians 15:51-58 “Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall all indeed rise again: but we shall not all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall rise again incorruptible. And we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption: and this mortal must put on immortality. And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? Now the sting of death is sin: and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast and unmoveable: always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

Some of these have been solemn funerals, beautiful if one can call a Requiem Mass beautiful. Sad but reverent and prayerful, remembering the dead, remembering to pray for the dead. With the priest using this opportunity to catechise the faithful on the Church’s teaching on repentance, purgatory, heaven.

After a recent funeral, a funeral that I attended with my youngest two still homeschooling sons, a funeral at which one son served, well, while eating a late lunch at a coffee shop, we talked about funerals. About praying for the dead. And we made up little verbal lists of things we don’t want at our funerals. No power points, no eulogies, no modern music, no platitudes, no slide show…just the requiem mass, please.

My kids laughed and I laughed. But we all got the point.

The thing to remember is that, at funerals, we are not celebrating life and loves, we are praying for a soul; our relationship with our dead Christian loved ones isn’t dissolved by death; we pray for our dead in case they are in Purgatory for a while, and we ask them to pray for us.

If anyone wants to eulogize the dead, the Vigil or, especially, the after-burial gathering are the times to do it; eulogies really are not allowed at a traditional Requiem Mass.

This seems to anger some people but eulogies in a church often lead to serious problems. Really. I mean… the word, “eulogy,” means “high praise” — but what if the deceased wasn’t so holy and wonderful and especially wasn’t repentant? Should we speak the truth of the dead by speaking ill ( not a good idea, I guess, at such an emotional time) , or should we lie, in a church, for the sake of politeness and decorum?

I am not a puritan when it comes to lying in general and outside a church service..a little white lie is sometimes, almost, a god-send. But lying in church? Glossing over sins? And encouraging a theologically incorrect thought.. with typical words that imply that the person is most definitely, without a doubt in Heaven, right now, even though we know that may not be the case..not that we judge the state of another’s soul …

Eulogizers are often theologically incorrect , saying things that are simply not consistent with Catholic doctrine or that can lead the congregation to believe that Purgatory and Hell do not exist.

And, to be honest, eulogies are often quite personal , personal and weird, with the deceased having requested in life that pop music be played , and similar things, things that are best left for the intimacy of a wake or post-burial gathering. Not to be present in the liturgy, for the public worship and an act of the Church.

Ultimately, of course, how can we give “high praise” to an unglorified human being when, in a church, we are in the presence of the glory of the Blessed Sacrament?

A traditional Catholic funeral consists of three main parts: the Vigil ,the Requiem Mass, and the Burial …and then, perhaps, informal after-burial gatherings.

The kids and I have decided that we would prefer sticking to this traditional formula, for our funerals.

Sounds morbid but actually it was a good discussion, over steak burgers and chicken and avocado sandwiches.

Better to talk about these things now, of heaven and earth and hell, than to tuck the topics away until later..a later that may be too late.

Better to talk about liturgy and Church teaching than to hope that such things are picked up by osmosis.

To have some humour,. some food, some family time and discussion …these make up our homeschooling.

And then we remember to pray for souls.

Domine, Jesu Christe, Rex gloriæ,

libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum

de pœnis inferni et de profundo lacu.

Libera eas de ore leonis,

ne absorbeat eas tartarus,

ne cadant in obscurum;

sed signifer sanctus Michæl

repræsentet eas in lucem sanctam,

quam olim Abrahæ promisisti et semini ejus.

Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,

free the souls of all the faithful departed

from infernal punishment and the deep pit.

Free them from the mouth of the lion;

do not let Tartarus swallow them,

nor let them fall into darkness;

but may the sign-bearer, Saint Michael,

lead them into the holy light

which you promised to Abraham and his seed.

Hostias et preces tibi, Domine,

laudis offerimus;

tu suscipe pro animabus illis,

quarum hodie memoriam facimus.

Fac eas, Domine, de morte transire ad vitam.

Quam olim Abrahæ promisisti et semini ejus. O Lord, we offer you

sacrifices and prayers in praise;

accept them on behalf of the souls

whom we remember today.

Let them, O Lord, pass over from death to life,

as you promised to Abraham and his seed.