Custody of the eyes

Custody of the eyes.
A traditional, even old fashioned term for being careful about what you look at, what you gaze upon, what you see, what you watch.
For we can be formed, we can be tempted, by what we see. And so we should exercise care in this area. As in others.
We should especially practice custody of the eyes during Holy Mass. Looking at Our Lord, praying, following the prayers in our missals, rather than looking at our friends, the priest, the altar servers, the hairstyles, the shoes…. Or is that only me?
So that our focus is Our Lord, our exterior dispositions mirroring our interior dispositions.
If custody of the eyes can seem to be an old fashioned term in our modern life, custody of the eyes in mass can seem to be even more unusual.
It is, however, important. Especially for priests. Because it can be disconcerting to have Father wandering around during his homily, doing the whole Jerry Springer Q & A thing, being a showman, looking at me in the eyes. Straight in the eyes. Repeatedly.
Disconcerting, not confronting. Disconcerting because it takes our eyes and our focus off Our Lord and onto Father and his, well, often, um…platitudes. Makes mass seem less of a sacrifice and less centred on worshipping God and more centred on man… On entertainment… Not on adoring God but almost on adoring ourselves….and Father.
When priests practice custody of the eyes during mass, they are less likely to try to engage we laypeople with looks and jokes and are more likely to celebrate Holy Mass with reverence.. That ars celebrandi. Celebrating Holy Mass in the spirit of truth and beauty…I have been privileged to participate in Holy Masses celebrated this way.
And one could almost say that this can be an argument for Mass celebrated ad orientem as opposed to versus populum…. For when Father faces the people, and does not practice custody of the eyes, laypeople become used to gazing at Father and his expressions and his idiosyncrasies … At, for example, the Pater Noster. It has become common in many of the masses that I pray at, for Father to look at the congregation and smile and try to include all with a sweeping glance when he is, in fact, addressing Our Lord. And thus, Father’s focus ( and subsequently our focus ) should be looking upon Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament . “Deliver us Lord from every evil….”
Remembering custody of the eyes might prevent that other common practice at some of the masses in which I pray… Father walking around at the sign of peace, shaking hands with the congregation in the first few pews, even while we intone the Agnus Dei and while Jesus is on the altar, almost being ignored during the supposed bonhomie of certain, selected parishioners shaking hands with Father.
So what are we to do? We need to encourage a return to the practice of custody of the eyes, especially during mass, for laypeople and priest alike.
Perhaps we laity need to lead the way, by praying during mass, concentrating on Our Lord, not expecting entertainment and not engaging in the whole dialogue talk show style homily. And thanking Father for mass, not for the joke.
And perhaps priests can be encouraged with further formation, to celebrate Holy Mass as Mother Church describes. To think less of themselves and of being a popular showman, less of bottoms on seats, and more of their relationship with God and the salvation of the souls in their care ( to paraphrase the Holy Father’s Letter to Seminarians, 2010).
We could all simply begin with a return to the practice of custody of the eyes.

The "that’s that" for mothers

Remembering St Angela Merici. And “Because of Winn Dixie.”
St Angela, a Third Order Franciscan, founder of the Ursulines, a strong believer in the value of education. Especially in the education of girls.
The saint believed that problems in the family, disruption in the family unit, led to problems in society. And thus, St Angela wrote, the role of the Christian mother is of great importance. Educate young girls, possible future mothers, and you educate families and society.
St Angela went so far as to say that there was a lack of Christian mothers, dedicated to their vocation.
Sharing this information with my sons, on the feast day of St Angela Merici, I was inspired to look at my life, at my own vocation , my own mothering.
And the words of St John Bosco came to my mind. Love what they, the children love, and they will come to love what you love… Our Lord, the Church, the Faith.
With this is the realism of life with teens and young adults , a tumult of arranging appointments and work and mass and study and housework and friends and technology and family time and living the liturgical year and rituals and rhythms and plan B and O and Z.
The realism of failings and imperfections, especially my imperfections and failings.
But I come back to St John Bosco’s emphasis on love. To love my vocation and to love my family. As much as I, with my logic, can love. That imperfect love.
And so I think of the movie and book Because of Winn Dixie, and of little Opal learning to love . And to let go.
Because that is part of mothering. Loving. And letting go.
Gloria: Listen… Opal… you cannot hold onto anything that wants to go. Do you understand what I’m sayin’? You just got to love it while you got it, and that’s that.

How do you know I am who I am?

That almost sounds like a line from a Dr Seuss book. How do you know I am who I am?

Today I bought a classic Little Golden Book. Nurse Nancy. Retro story and illustrations, from 1952.

I was buying books for Kumon and I just couldn’t reisist buying this picture book for me.

How do we readers, especially younger readers, of this Little Golden book , know that Nancy is a Nurse?

Because she wears a nurse’s uniform. The uniform makes it clear to others that Nancy is a nurse, one to call on for a particular duty, one wth a special vocation or calling from God.

We know who she is, we know of her vocation.

My wedding ring serves a similar role in my life. When I travel for work, it is not unknown for me to go to the bar with other workers, for drinks after conference sessions . We talk. I meet others. We laugh. We have a good time. And I am free to be friendly with members of the opposite sex, and they are free to be friendly with me, to drink and laugh and talk, without misunderstanding, because my wedding ring says it all. Tells of my vocation to marriage and to motherhood.And thus we avoid any ( far fetched, but possible) misunderstanding.

The ring is a visible sign of who I am, of my vocation.

And so today I met a nun. A nun who, unlike Nurse Nancy , unlike this married homeschooling mother, gave no visible indication of her vocation, of being a nun, a religious sister, of being consecrated, of being set apart and living a chaste life for Our Lord.

In fact, Sister wore more makeup, more hair product, more colour than I.

And , frankly, this is misleading. For a nun is espoused to Our Lord, and the wearing of the habit reminds both religious and lay people alike that there is a Heaven, that we are striving for Heaven, that this person has made a commitment, a commitment to Our Lord, to the Church, to a way of life.

A habit is a reminder of who the religious Sister is…first and foremost a nun. A Sister.

And those of you who have seen Elivs Presley’s A Change of Habit, that fun sixties movie with Mary Tyler Moore, are aware of the dangers of nuns foregoing the wearing of the habit. No visible

reminder of consecration can build familiarity and forgetfulness of one’s role and of one’s vocation.

Dr Seuss was right. Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

If you are you, if I am I, the we should not be afraid to let the world know our vocation.

In the words of Pope John Paul II… The Church must always seek to make her presence visible in everyday life, especially in contemporary culture, which is often very secularized and yet sensitive to the language of signs. In this regard the Church has a right to expect a significant contribution from consecrated persons, called as they are in every situation to bear clear witness that they belong to Christ.

Since the habit is a sign of consecration, poverty and membership in a particular Religious family, I join the Fathers of the Synod in strongly recommending to men and women religious that they wear their proper habit, suitably adapted to the conditions of time and place.(Vita Consecrata )


Figuratively speaking

The reading at mass. About Our Lord calling the apostles to their vocation , and they left their nets to follow Him.

It was mentioned that the nets were figurative nets , that is to say, not real fishing nets but nets of hatred, unforgiveness, selfishness. The kind of nets in which we humans become ensnared.

Well, no. Yes, we humans do become ensnared in these kinds of nets and perhaps the disciples were experiencing these human problems. But the nets were real nets. These were real fishermen, called to leave their fisherman work and follow Christ.

As we are called, to follow Christ.

And if we are talking about nets, well, how about leaving behind the net of sloppy liturgy? How about celebrating Holy Mass as the rubrics describe, so that priest and faithful alike are given opportunity to be Christ-centred, to receive the Eucharist with reflection, to be in communion with Our Lord and thus follow Him in our vocations.

Because if the liturgy, the sacred arts, are not important why has the Church devoted her energy, her resources , her time, her priests and religious, to ensuring the perfection of the Divine Liturgy, of her public worship, if not to give God due worship and to help the formation and beliefs and lives of the faithful?


Today in homeschooling fashion…

I found a lovely blog the other day. A week in pictures . Of long skirts every day. Of how this homeschooler goes about her busy week, looks gorgeous and feminine, and never wears jeans.

Now, I am not a member of the no jeans long skirt homeschooler club. I do wear skirts more than jeans and rarely wear long skirts. And I don’t look gorgeous. But I thought it would be fun to do homeschooler mums and clothing posts.

So this is today, clothing for mass, appointments, grocery shopping. And dinner at the beach. On a hot Saturday.

religion, Unschooling

And so…

I’m off to do unschooling.

Do unschooling, I hear you say? Is unschooling something you do or something you live?
I am not sure, having unschooled forever, ever since I read Teach Your Own, as a young mum of (then) three, with occasional forays into doing school like Charlotte Mason or that classical model. Well, even after all these years of unschoolng, I am not sure what it is.
Pretty weird, huh? Pretty unschool-ish?
All I know is that we unschool. We learn, live our life. We inspire, we sometimes require. We achieve educational outcomes. We achieve life.

And so, I’m off to do unschooling. Having talked about St Fabian and liturgy ( lex orandi, lex credendi), having read about St Sebastion and celebrations in Kerala, India ( hey, we met a priest this week, one who grew up in Kerala) , having looked at the saints book while making and drinking tea and seeing St Agnes ( horrible painting chosen for the saint, a martyr, a virgin)..having done all these things, we are unschooling by cooking to celebrate the liturgical year.
Curry for St Sebastian.
And toasted cinnamon donuts with ice cream for St Agnes.