To Love

I have written before of St Bernard of Clairvaux,and how the saint’s writings on Mary helped me to understand the role of Our Lady, something I found difficult on my conversion to Catholicism.

We remember St Bernard today, August 20.

Late last night I did several internet searches and read, read, read more of the Saint’s writings. This time on love, love of God.

A homeschooling wife and mother’s vocation is centred on love, isn’t it? We love Our Lord; this love, in turn, helps us love our spouses, our children, our family, our friends.

Homeschooling, itself, is an act of love.

And those like me, who love imperfectly, can benefit from the writings of St Bernard. This knowledge becomes practice, over time; the reading and the exercise of faith become infused with love, God’s love, and with wisdom, God’s wisdom.

You want me to tell you why and in what measure God is to be loved. I reply, the reason for loving God is God himself, and the measure, is to love without measure. St Bernard,

On Loving God


Earthly Dearest

Earthly Dearest. Not Mommie Dearest. Although I may seem to be like Joan Crawford in some ways!

When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do nowC.S. Lewis

I think there is a ring of truth here. If I can love God more, be open to His graces, then I will love others more. My husband. My kids. Others.

The grace of the sacrament of marriage helps us, helps spouses, to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children. ( Catechism of the Catholic Church 1641)

I asked a priest once, awhile ago now, how it was that one should co-operate with the grace of this sacrament of marriage. Of how one should be open to these graces. Daily.

This priest admitted that this is a hard one, that daily co-operation with God’s will, making rational choices.

And, I thought, what role does love play in this? Is love an emotion? Or a choice?

I didn’t expect an answer from that priest, then, at that very moment. Our lives and our experiences of grace are not like that are they…not like two minute noodles, where we open the packet , add boiling water and microwave. And have a finished product.

We might be open to grace and add prayer and the sacraments but there are no instant actions or answers and really no finished products. We work on stuff, on ourselves, all the time. With the gift of salvation and the gift of faith

Although faith does also require a response. Our response.

A response to go to Christ, to His Church, with frequent reception of the sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation. For Christ is the source of grace.

Christ dwells with us and this indwelling, I guess, becomes the means of that daily co-operation with the graces of the sacrament of matrimony. So that , as Christ dwells with us, he helps us, helps us to take up our crosses, to follow Him, to pick ourselves up each time we fall and to keep on following, to forgive one another and to share burdens.(see CCC 1642).

It is the forgiving that can sometimes be hard. Or maybe it is the forgetting that may be hard.

It is easier, too, I find, to work on forgiving an other than it is to forgive oneself.

But that may be my Mommie Dearest experience bearing fruit. (SCRUB, Christina, SCRUB.)

Husbands and wives should live peacefully in their union of marriage; they should be mutually edifying to each other, pray for one another, bear patiently with one another’s faults, encourage virtue in one another by good example, and follow the holy and sacred rules of their state, remembering that they are the children of the saints and that, consequently, they ought not to behave like pagans, who have not the happiness of knowing the one true God. St John Vianney

religion, Unschooling

An unschooler’s wish

We who homeschool, and who also homeschool differently, we who are different, are sometimes considered freaks.

That’s okay with me. I probably am a freak.

But just leave me alone, okay? I wouldn’t presume to tell you how to educate your children. Cut me the same slack. ( Tones of Pink Floyd here…We don’t need no education..)

Read The Bitter Homeschooler’s Wish List.

I especially like ~ 10 We didn’t go through all the reading, learning, thinking, weighing of options, experimenting, and worrying that goes into homeschooling just to annoy you. Really. This was a deeply personal decision, tailored to the specifics of our family. Stop taking the bare fact of our being homeschoolers as either an affront or a judgment about your own educational decisions..

The Church states that education is a matter for the family, the Church and the State. (See Gravissimus Educationis and Divini Illius Magistri.) Homeschooling matches these criteria. As do Catholic schools. There is no competition.

Also ~ 20 Stop saying that my kid is shy, outgoing, aggressive, anxious, quiet, boisterous, argumentative, pouty, fidgety, chatty, whiny, or loud because he’s homeschooled. It’s not fair that all the kids who go to school can be as annoying as they want to without being branded as representative of anything but childhood.

My teens are nice, naughty, fun, boring, well behaved, social, anti social, all at one time,depending on the day, their mood, the circumstance. Like you and me. This is not an effect of homeschooling. It is life.

Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators.(11) This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied where it is lacking. Parents are the ones who must create a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God and man, in which the well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered. Hence the family is the first school of the social virtues that every society needs. It is particularly in the Christian family, enriched by the grace and office of the sacrament of matrimony, that children should be taught from their early years to have a knowledge of God according to the faith received in Baptism, to worship Him, and to love their neighbor. Here, too, they find their first experience of a wholesome human society and of the Church. Finally, it is through the family that they are gradually led to a companionship with their fellowmen and with the people of God. Let parents, then, recognize the inestimable importance a truly Christian family has for the life and progress of God’s own people. See Gravissimus Educationis.

Children learn how to behave from the school of home and family, the school of life, the school of church and of community. They make mistakes and are guided, gently and with love (and in our house with friendly banter and sarcasm) to that which is right and good.

This is unschooling at its best.

And it happens in our unschooling home. All the time. Day in and day out. Simply because we spend so much time together.

And while we are on my unschooler’s wish….14 Stop assuming that because the word “school” is right there in homeschool, we must sit around at a desk for six or eight hours every day, just like your kid does. Even if we’re into the “school” side of education — and many of us prefer a more organic approach — we can burn through a lot of material a lot more efficiently, because we don’t have to gear our lessons to the lowest common denominator.

My older sons are doing well at university and at work, having learned from our learning-from-life-and-interests approach to homeschooling. My younger two sons are still learning in this organic fashion.

It works. It even has the backing of the Church and of educational philosophy.

Emergent curriculum is a way of planning curriculum based on the student’s interest and passions as well as the teacher’s. To plan an emergent curriculum requires observation, documentation, creative brainstorming, flexibility and patience. Rather than starting with a lesson plan which requires a “hook” to get the children interested, emergent curriculum starts with the children’s interests. This is not to say that the teacher has no input, in fact teachers may well have a general topic they think is important for children to study and they may purposely include certain materials or experiences related to it as jumping off points. Elizabeth Jones points out:We are the stage directors; curriculum is teacher’s responsibility, not children’s. People who hear the words emergent curriculum may wrongly assume that everything simply emerges from the children. The children’s ideas are an important source of curriculum but only one of many possible sources that reflect the complex ecology of their lives. This process requires a great deal of flexibility and creativity on the part of the teacher. Carolyn Edwards notes: “The teachers honestly do not know where the group will end up. Although this openness adds a dimension of difficulty to their work, it also makes it more exciting.”

As Suzie Andres says, in her book, Homeschooling With Gentleness: A Catholic Discovers Unschooling, the Church allows for unschooling and even places it in line with its tradition.

Pope Pius XI said ~ If any of these terms are used, less properly, to denote the necessity of gradually more active co-operation on the part of the pupil in his own education, if the intention is to banish from education despotism and violence, which, by the way, just punishment is not, this would be correct but in no way new. It would only mean what has been taught and reduced to practice by the Church in traditional Christian education, in imitation of the method employed by God Himself towards His creatures, of whom he demands active co-operation according to the nature of each. See Divini Illius Magistri

This could almost be a description of unschooling ( ie involving the active co-operation of the learner; banishment of despotism in education).

So, this unschooler’s wish is to not be nagged about unschooling. Or homeschooling. Ask questions. Discuss. Or just leave us alone. But don’t assume that we know nothing of education or of Church teaching. Don’t assume we need your advice on good schools.

And, from that Bitter Homeschooler’s Wish List above, 23 Quit assuming that I must be some kind of saint because I homeschool my kids.

Rest assured. I am not. I am working on the virtues, with God’s grace and the sacraments, every day of my life.

Like you, perhaps, I swear, get cross, drink too much sometimes, talk too much, comfort eat.

And I homeschool. Still.


From the Letters of St Jane de Chantal

And from my Facebook profile….

I used to have a problem with St Jane de Chantal. I couldn’t understand how a mother could leave her children and join a convent.

Then, I read more of her life. I read of her spiritual director, St Francis de Sales. I read of her life of holiness; of how her children came to appreciate and try to emulate her holiness; of her great love of God and of her children; of her children’s love for their mother and, inspired by her her example, their love for God and for the Church.

And, yesterday, I read some of the Saint’s letters to the nuns in her convent. I saw her strength of character, as a wife, as a mother, as a nun, as a Mother Superior.

I was inspired once again by her faith.

Who was this saint?

Jeanne Francoise Fremyot was born into a non-noble but leading family of Dijon. Before she was two years old, her mother died; a year later, her father remarried. At 20, Jeanne was married to Baron Christophe de Rabutin-Chantal; he was eight years older than she and in serious debt. Jeanne administered his estates, cared for his dependents, and gave birth to six children, four of whom survived infancy. Two weeks after the birth of her last child in 1601, her husband was killed in a hunting accident. To protect her children’s inheritance Chantal agreed to live with her father-in-law, where she continued her work at the estates and among the poor. On a 1604 visit to her father, she met Francis de Sales, five years older than she and bishop of Geneva — urbane and experienced in providing spiritual guidance to laywomen. They corresponded regularly and met occasionally. In 1607 Chantal went to visit Francis at Annecy. There Francis proposed the establishment of a new religious community for women whose health and age made them unsuitable for the more rigorous traditional orders. They would take simple rather than solemn vows, focus on internal prayer rather than on the canonical office, eat and dress as the poor did rather than fast and wear a habit as traditional religious did. They would perhaps also go out to visit and help the poor and the ill — hence the group’s name of Visitation of Holy Mary. Chantal herself would have preferred a more austere life, but her years of administrative experience at the estates of her husband and her father-in-law, together with her enthusiam for his vision, made Francis see her as the ideal foundress. Chantal convinced most of her family to approve her decision. In 1610, she and four other women moved into a house in Annecy; in the following year over a dozen professed their simple vows. By the time papal approval was granted in 1619, the several Visitation houses had become a traditional order of enclosed nuns. By the time of Francis’ death in 1622, there were 13 foundations. Five years later, there were 28; when Chantal died in 1641, there were 86. In 1616 Francis turned over almost all of the affairs of the Visitation to Chantal, while he continued his writing and preaching. She showed herself fully capable of establishing and supervising the foundations, but she also suffered from the loss of his companionship and his personal guidance.

And excerpts from her exhortations?

– “Oh, all those who are on their knees are not praying!” [From an informal discussion, on the desired simplicity of their devotion:]

Oh, all those who are on their knees are not praying!… The setting of the mind on God is the most useful occupation that the Daughters of the Visitation can have. They are not to trouble themselves about the considerations, conceptions, imaginations, and speculations of others, although they should honor them as the things of God and which lead to God Himself: it is enough for them to be with God in the simplicity of their hearts. [p.257]

“I… tormented him so, that at last I used to… make him get out of bed.” [Chantal occasionally used stories of her own married life to make her point. In 1629, on how God reaches out to the soul:]

There occurs to me on this subject a similitude, which is somewhat amusing, my dear Daughters. I remember that Monsieur de Chantal was very fond of lying in bed of a morning; I, having to look after the affairs of the house, was obliged to rise early to give all my orders. When it began to be late, and I had gone back to the bedroom, making noise enough to awaken him, so that Mass might be said in the chapel, and afterwards the remaining affairs might be seen to, I became impatient. I went and drew the bed curtains and called to him that it was late, that he must get up, that the chaplain was vested and was going to begin Mass; at last, I used to take a lighted taper and held it before his eyes, and tormented him so, that at last I used to awaken him and make him get out of bed. What I mean to tell you, by this little story, is that our Lord does the same with us. [p.276]

“…answer them boldly.” [In 1631, one monastery’s confessor had ordered the nuns not to say a prayer that was in their Book of Customs. Chantal was not about to let that occur again. In 1632:]

What, Sisters, are you weathercocks, that you thus let yourselves be turned about at the wish of others, and because of what they come and say to you?… Whatever they come and say to you, look at your Rules, your Directories, and your Customs, and keep to that…. If someone comes to the parlor and says: “Do not this or that, in this way, or that such a thing must not be done,” answer them boldly: “Our Rules and our Book of Customs order us to do so;” or else say nothing, but go on as usual, without yielding in anything of your Customs. [pp.322-23]

religion, Unschooling

To Be A Woman

What does it mean to be a woman, a mother, a homeschooling mother today?

My son Thomas has been cleaning the kitchen while I have been at the computer, after mass. And he said to me ” I think I have a different idea of mums and work to some of my friends.”

He discussed how we see things like doing a household job as anyone’s responsibility, not necessarily mum’s job. Mum is the overall organizer, the one who fits the jigsaw pieces of life and family and work and calendars and respsonsibilities, together.

Mum is the glue – sometimes, sticky, sometimes flaky, but there, helping to hold stuff, family and things, together.

And as I turn the page of my diary and am reminded that today is the feast of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, I take five minutes myself to reflect on the meaning of motherliness, of Woman. From the Saint’s writings ~ the book Woman, on education, on the feminine genius. From the Saint’s perspective as a convert, as an educated woman, a Christian woman. Strong in faith and in capabilities. A Christian feminist.

Everywhere the need exists for maternal sympathy and help, and thus we are able to recapitulate in the one word motherliness that which we have developed as the characteristic value of woman. Only, the motherliness must be that which does not remain within the narrow circle of blood relations or of personal friends; but in accordance with the model of the Mother of Mercy, it must have its root in universal divine love for all who are there, belabored and burdened.

There is a sympathy in St Teresa Benedicta’s writings, and this is coupled with her ability to write clearly on philosophy and ethics.

The teacher thus needs a basic education in dogma and asceticism. Apologetics is certainly also good, but the former seems more important to me: ready arguments, as right as they may be, often do not have penetrating force. But she whose soul is formed through the truths of faith — and I call this ascetic formation — finds words which are proper for this human being and for this moment respectively.

St Teresa Benedicta consecrated herself in full to whatever she undertook, to Our Lady, to our Faith, to her religious order, to education. She used the spoken and written word not only in teaching at school and at teacher’s college but also in bringing about educational reform. Her influence was through her work, yes, but also strongly through her personal example.

At school. And at Auschwitz.

The children in not need merely what we have but rather what we are.
The entire educational process must be carried out with love which is perceptible in every disciplinary measure and which does not instill any fear. And the most effective educational method is not the word of instruction but the living example without which all words remain useless.

Who we are as women and as mothers, the way we act, what we do, speaks volumes to our children , and to others.

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

St. Leo the Great said in a sermon … In this mystery of the Transfiguration, God’s Providence has laid a solid foundation for the hope of the Church, so that the whole body of Christ may know what a transformation will be granted to it, and that the members may be assured that they will be sharers in the glory which shone forth in their Head.

God revealed more fully, to us, in the Transfiguration, the Sonship of Jesus. And , by grace we see, revealed in Jesus, our own sonship. We are sons of God; we are disciples or followers of Jesus. Jesus is Son by nature; he is truly God; we are sons by grace.

By grace we are sons; but is this sonship complete?

God’s grace is still at work within us and we, too, have to do our part.

Oh, my, that is daunting. Do I always do my part? Even when I am sad? Even when I feed my sadness with food, handfuls of peanuts and a cup of chocolate ice cream; two squares of chocolate; a piece of crusty bread with vegemite?

What is this, a litany of comfort food and not a litany of prayer?

Yes, I am a son of God, a disciple of Jesus. God has put his seal on me, I am adopted as a son. But I need, we need, to persevere in faith throughout life…to be obedient…even at cost.

St Peter, at the Transfiguration, did not quite see this at first, did he? We, too, don’t always see the need for obedience and perseverance in faith, especially we in the post modern age. We who feel we have information at our tips and can make our own judgments and decisions, perhaps discounting the counsel of others. of those to whom we should listen and consider, our spiritual directors, our Bishops.

Peter did not yet understand this when he wanted to remain with Christ on the mountain. It has been reserved for you, Peter, but for after death. For now, Jesus says: “Go down to toil on earth, to serve on earth, to be scorned and crucified on earth. Life goes down to be killed; Bread goes down to suffer hunger; the Way goes down to be exhausted on his journey; the Spring goes down to suffer thirst; and you refuse to suffer?” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 556)

We (still) have work to do here, on this earth, on ourselves, with those we love, even with those whom we may find hard to love at this time…

The Transfiguration, then, is a solemnity of hope. God has made us His children, we can more fully understand the relationship of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost. With this knowledge and understanding, we can build our relationship with the Trinity. We can grow in love and in faith and in obedience.

We are partakers of the eternal inheritance.

On the Transfiguration, I can revel in the, yes, old fashioned word that it is, in the splendour of the transfigured Lord. And come to know Him more fully. And thus come to know myself. And my calling.

As I pray at mass tonight, as I receive the Eucharist, I can be transformed. By God’s grace and Love. By the virtue of the sacrament.

As I receive Our Lord in the sacrament, my heart and soul can be transfigured, transfigured by God’s glory, by His Presence, His Gift, His Life, His Love.

No one, however, is permitted to live “on Tabor” while on earth. Indeed, human existence is a journey of faith and as such, moves ahead more in shadows than in full light, and is no stranger to moments of obscurity and also of complete darkness. While we are on this earth, our relationship with God takes place more by listening than by seeing; and the same contemplation comes about, so to speak, with closed eyes, thanks to the interior light that is kindled in us by the Word of God.

The Virgin Mary herself, among all human creatures the closest to God, still had to walk day after day in a pilgrimage of faith (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 58), constantly guarding and meditating on in her heart the Word that God addressed to her through Holy Scripture and through the events of the life of her Son, in whom she recognized and welcomed the Lord’s mysterious voice…POPE BENEDICT XVI ANGELUS Saint Peter’s Square Second Sunday of Lent, 12 March 2006


Liturgical Discipline

Driving in a car. On a long car trip. Drives me nuts.

In the first one and one half hours of the trip I cleaned my jacket, planned my week, planned my diet, planned my Kumon, texted, went on Facebook, read some of Cardinal Newman, chatted to my dh, prayed my rosary.

So then I was, well, restless . And I pondered how others live; how do they fill their time if they are not always doing two things at once?

When my turn to drive came, I enjoyed the road, singing along with Madonna and Fleetwood Mac.

Then circumstances meant that I had time to sit in the car and think.

I thought about a homily I heard last Saturday morning. Fr pointed out , on the feast of St Charbel, that true enculturation begins with the Church and the public worship of the Church. The Church is one, catholic ( as in universal), holy, apostolic. We celebrate this universality in our prayer, our worship, our liturgy that spans all cultures and brings us united as one, before God.

As Fr said, it is superficial to assume that adding a few different languages to our celebration of the mass, throwing in a few liturgical dancers from another culture, asking people to wear their national costume to mass, means that we are celebrating the universality of the Church or that we understand the concept of enculturation.

Instead, Fr gave us the example of St Charbel and a life of prayer and of thus being an example of the Gospel to others

Let’s be honest here. Celebrating costumes and dance and a part for everyone in the liturgy up-the-front ends up as self idolatory, the self idolatory that Archbishop Ranjith of Colombo warned against in a recent letter on reverence in mass.

The Archbishop wrote of liturgical discipline. And, really, when we pray at masses celebrated with liturgical discipline , that is to say at masses celebrated with reverence, according to rubrics, then we come on our knees to adore Our Lord and not each other. And true enculturation means this prayer together, bringing the Gospel to every culture and within each culture.

The Church has given us the example of the Saints, of those who have walked before us, living lives of holiness, within different cultures, different times, different vocations.

When we read of the Saints, we are inspired to live as Christians, wherever God has placed us, Western, Eastern, male, female.

As I heard in another homily, we are called to emulate the saints who ” did extraordinary things within their ordinary lives.” Or, in other words, they lived ordinary lives in an extraordinary manner, with prayer throughout the day, with giving their day to God, with offering up joys and sorrows, prayers and penances, good and bad, virtues and, yes, vices or faults.

Pope Paul VI, writing of St Charbel, said ” May he make us understand, in a world largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God…”

This is true Gospel living, true universality…spreading the Gospel news first through our lives as Christian, where we are at.

And liturgical discipline, true reverence, true worship and adoration, are the tools that help shape us as Christians.

All this, pondered during and post a long…long…car trip!