To ad lib….

To ad lib.

To add our own words, our own thoughts, to an occasion.

The ability to ad lib can be considered good, when one is a situation that requires us to wing it.. When a mishap occurs during a presentation, when I have to explain a little further in one of my public talks or presentations.

But even then I have to be careful that my ad libbing stays on topic, is relevant even if amusing, is not self indulgent patter but has a purpose. I am not there to deviate from the set topic.

And so, just as there are limitations to ad lib commentary in my public speaking, how much more are there limitations to ad lib commentary in Holy Mass?

You know where I am going with this.

The new translation of the missal is very clear… The priest says this. The priest says that. The rubrics do not say that one can say words of similar meaning or what one thinks is of similar effect .

It is annoying to have a priest ad lib throughout mass. To add his own words prior to and post the consecration. Even well meaning words.

No, it is more than annoying. It leads to liturgical problems, to pave the way for other priests to administer what constitutes liturgical abuse, to misguided words that can be misinterpreted and that can thus lead to misunderstandings of the faith on the part of the faithful. It can lead to something akin to heresy.

And it’s downright banal and trivial and to be honest, a pain to sit through ad lib comments ad infinitum in mass, when you are trying to pray and to worship, as an individual and as part of a community.

“Liturgy is never anyone’s private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated…. Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church”. ( Ecclesia Eucharistia (52), Pope John Paul II )


Learning from St Agnes

“Today is the birthday of a virgin, let is imitate her purity.” (St Ambrose on St Agnes)

I read the Office of Readings on my bus trip last Saturday.

And I wondered what it is that I, a married woman, a wife, teacher and mother, can learn from St Agnes.

I think the Church venerates the saints for us, not that we become discouraged by the distance we see between their virtuous lives and our own life of mundane struggles.

But that we are uplifted by the lives of sanctity,  of hope, of faith. 

Even in times of turmoil, of fear, of temptation.

St Ambrose wrote of the trembling and hesitation and yes, even awe on the part of the executioner, he who was given the task of executing  St Agnes, aged twelve or so. 

This is the trembling and hesitation and awe we can feel when we read of the saints.. Trembling at the thought of living an extraordinary life, hesitation at the thought of living our ordinary lives extraordinarily, awe and wonder in our faith and worship.

What can we learn from St Agnes? This faith, this awe, this trembling.

And this is why the Church reminds us of the saints 

To give us mentors and encouragement. To inspire awe and virtue.


Strewing their paths…

Its that time of the week again. When we share our strewing.

My strewing this week had been both intentional and unintentional. 

Intentional strewing…strewing with a purpose or with forethought . 

This week it is a novel by Madeleine L’engle. A Wrinkle in Time. 

I first read this at age twelve. I have read it aloud to classes I have taught. I have read it aloud to some of my kids and others  have read it themselves.

Except Anthony. Who is sporadically studying physics, with occasional use of a Saxon Physics text and occasional reading of Six Easy Pieces by Dr Richard Feynman. 

His interest is not high. Hence sporadic study. So I thought A Wrinkle in Time would be a good complement. Physics related literature and a darn good story. L’engle is a talented storyteller. And it just happens to be the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of A Wrinkle in Time this year!

Unintentional strewing? Strewing and sparks that happen in every day life, almost serendipitously. 

Watching episodes of series one of Fringe, a Christmas gift. The science of the weird, of cloning, of regeneration and a FBI story to boot.

Fits in well with A Wrinkle in Time, doesn’t it?




What is the role of contemplation in the life of a layperson?

It is both interior and active.

What do I mean?

There is a point in St  Bonaventure’s Itinerarium that describes this contemplative life. And I  think it applies comfortably to the lives of we laity, praying and living in the world, so to speak. 

St Bonaventure discusses a moment when he was praying at the spot where St Francis of Assisi received the stigmata.  St Bonaventure saw the significance of this event in the light of humanity, of the world, of the history of the Church.  At this spot, at the point of receiving the stigmata, says St Bonaventure, “…Saint Francis passed over into God ( in Deum transit) in the ecstasy (excessus) of contemplation and thus he was set up as an example of perfect contemplation just as he had previously been an example of perfection in the active life in order that God, through him, might draw all truly spiritual men to this kind of passing over ( transitus) and  ecstasy, less by word than by example.” (Itinerarium)

This is  what Thomas Merton calls  the “only one vocation”. 

Wherein we are called to an interior life, to prayer, to prayerand work, to a relationship with our Creator. And then to share, pass on, the fruits of contemplation, His Love, to others. Be they our children, our family, our spouses, our friends, fellow parishioners, our work colleagues, our neighbours.

We may do this  imperfectly.  God knows I do.

We are called, in the words of Merton, ” to become fused into one spirit with Christ in the furnace of contemplation and then go forth and cast upon the earth that same fire which Christ wills to see enkindled.” ( The Seven Storey Mountain)


Encouraging Readers

Encouraging readers.

I hear of many ways to encourage our children to become readers.

Books on CD, read alouds, share picture books, create reading nooks, watch book related movies, buy books, visit libraries.

We do all these.

But the single biggest helper has been my example.

I read myself. 

I strew books for myself.

I create reading lists for myself.

I talk about my reading,

I share excerpts.

The kids have grown up knowing that I value reading.

Even if they never read themselves (they do!), they know reading is important, a past time, a way of opening up other worlds and other ideas. 

So, what are you strewing for yourself, reading wise, as a homeschooling mother?

Here are some of my Christmas and post Christmas reads…

The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton…..I love this book. I had to read it again. His description of the search within each of us for Truth  wrings my soul. It’s me. It’smany others I know.  Talking with the kids today at lunch, about authors with whom we identify, about authors whom we wish to emulate …for me it’s Merton. I want to write like Merton. 

What’s Eating You? by Katherine Alleume. Why do we eat what we eat? This question has puzzled the nutritionist author and she asks us to make conscious eating decisions, conscious rationalizations. A similar take to that Intuitive Eating book. But something I am still trying to tackle…I am a stress eater and there is a point where enough is enough.

Contemplative Prayer by Merton.  A deep interior life that reaches out and shares with others.

The YouCat. The “youth inspired version” of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I want to read it before recommending it to others. And the many side bar quotes have sparked discussion here….why include that? Great definition of religion (relationship with God).  Some good pre and post Vatican II stuff ( yes the Church existed pre Vatican II!). Some great quotes and some what the ? quotes.

Women, Work and the Art of Savoir Faire by Mireille  Giuliano. A Christmas gift. Bringing style and pleasure to life. Balancing life and work. My sort of book. “Quality of life is very important in France. I have many friends who turned down promotions and more money because it would affect their quality of life as a couple or a mother. I was pleased to hear this. This is not a sign of weakness.” Very true. It is not.

The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers by Meg Meeker. Subtitled Reclaiming our passion, purpose and sanity….I  have read about this on homeschooling blogs and even though I am on a buying less binge, er, lifestyle, I had to pick it up when I saw it, the very last copy, at Portico Books. Why? I need my passion. I need my sanity. And I have been inspired by the few quotes I have read on other blogs. “If every mother in the United States could wrap her mind around her true value as a woman and mother, her life would never be the same.”

Read. Strew. Share.


Strewsday Thursday

It’s Strewsday Tuesday!

Well, officially it’s Strewsday Thursday but that doesn’t fit now, does it?

What have we strewed this week..for learning…in our unschooling life?

Museums. Again.

We seem to have a penchant for museums, wandering around, looking at those displays and objects that catch our eyes.

On Friday, it was the National Museum in Sydney. We mostly explored dinosaurs and native Australia.

And the National Geographic Wildlife photo competition. 

On Tuesday we explored the Melbourne Museum. In which I was enamoured of the Melbourne Gallery….Photos and artifacts and memorabilia from old Melbourne.

I sat in a 1960s sitting room and watched old TV shows….Homicide, IMT.

I fell in love with kitchen appliances from the 50s and 60s…A cute pink Mixmaster. A cunning Spacemaster refrigerator.

Then today we visited ACMI again…a Melbourne perennial, Australian Centre for Moving Images. And again I was immersed in digital technology. Indi gaming and early Aussie cop dramas. 

Museums are like microcosms of the unschooling life. Bits of information presented here and there, glimpses of possible future interest or passions or rabbit trails, discussion starters, learning via absorption. 

Easy, interesting, family time strewing. 


The word for the year…

On Facebook, my friend Julie, of Bravewriter, has taken up that idea of a word (theme, motto) for the year.

We choose our word for the year, we keep it close, it’s a prompt, a reminder, something or someone to which we aspire.

But Julie has taken that idea one step further.

She has decided to, perhaps, post daily updates on her word and this her life. Daily updates on Facebook.

Julie’s word is conscientious.

Mine is calm.

In the spirit of calm what did I do today?

Prayed at Mass, a reverent Mass, Benediction, Latin, a homily reminding us that yes, sin exists and yes, choices matter.

Mass and praying the Divine Office helped my inner calm.

As did being on holiday. Hanging out with family and a friend. And keeping my To Do list to a minimum.

Yes, I keep a To Do list on holiday.

I don’t know how not to!


Praying the Divine Office

“I did not even reflect how the Breviary, the Canonical Office, was the most powerful and effective prayer I could have possibly chosen , since it is the prayer of the whole Church, and concentrates in itself all the power of the Church’s impetration, centered around the infinitely  mighty Sacrifice of the Mass – the jewel of which the rest of the Liturgy is the setting: the soul which is the life of the whole Liturgy and of all the Sacramentals. ….

Yes, and from the secret places of His essence, God began to fill my soul with grace in those days, grace that sprung from deep within me, I could not know how or where. But yet I would be able, after not so many months, to realize what was there, in the peace and the strength that were growing in me through my constant immersion in this tremendous, unending cycle of prayer, ever renewing its vitality, it’s inexhaustible, sweet energies, from hour to hour, from season to season in its returning round. And I, drawn into that Atmosphere, into that deep, vast universal movement of vitalizing prayer, which is Christ praying in men to His Father, could not help but being at last to live, and to know that I was alive.”

I want to write like Thomas Merton.. Taken from his Seven Storey Mountain, this so vey eloquently describes my experience of praying the Divine Office  these last eighteen months or so.

The seasons change, I move from chilly icy winter mornings before work to warm and  snug summer evenings, from a snatched prayer in my bedroom to quiet prayer in a church, to praying the Office relaxing on the green  sofa. 

And the time passes I feel the daily prayers, joining with the mind of the Church, the prayer if the Church, praying with others praying the Office throughout the world. I feel it. I mentally comprehend it. My soul stirs.  My heart softens . And I let down those little barriers. The ones I build to protect myself, to stop being vulnerable to hurt. As if those barriers are always a good thing. 

These fences come down. Bit by bit, as I pray the Office, the Psalms, as I ponder the Readings.

Of course, my daily life happens. And the little walls start building again, to protect myself and to protect others. 

But I come back each morning, each night, to the Divine Office. And the scales, the walls, the fences, the barriers, are removed once again.

And that’s why a mother should pray the Office. Even if prayed imperfectly. 

For the chance to know and adore God and to know and love others and to know  herself. 

For His Grace in her every day, never stopping life.