Feast of Saint Dominic Savio

Saint Dominic Savio is the patron of boys, children’s choirs and juvenile delinquents to name a few. A good patron for Billy?

The very first thing this son of mine said to me this morning was, “Happy Feast of St. Dominic, Mom!” He has recently realized that every saint has a feast day, and our Picture Book of Saints lists that day under their pictures. He obsessively flips through this book reminding me of upcoming feasts. I think he’s afraid that we might forget to honor someone. Wait until he learns that this book doesn’t list every single saint, and that hardly a day goes by without a saint’s association to it!


Interesting dilemma. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to tell everyone you know that you’ve gone over to the perceived “dark side” of conformity. I, too, once thought Catholicism and all of Christianity was all about conformity. I, too, now realize that conforming to Christ is definitely not the same as conforming to society. Oh no, conforming to Christ is much much harder and definitely means ostracism in most quarters. Even among “good” Catholics, I find myself holding back lest I be seen as some saintly, perfect creature I know myself to not be. It is pretty easy to be a generic goodfellow and live by the motto, “no harm, no foul.” But to “be who you are, and be that well” is a most daunting challenge indeed.

The challenge

For the last week, Pete has decided that 530 am is a good time to get up. And he doesn’t wake up with a happy, take-on-the-world attitude. No, he wants the lights kept low, mommy to snuggle with him until he falls back asleep, and mommy to keep holding him while he finishes the rest of his night’s slumber.

Bill usually leaves for work at 530 am, so I’m generally already awake at this hour. Prior to Lent, 530 to 600 am had been email and computer time in a comparatively silent house. All “me” time. On Ash Wednesday, I turned that time over to spiritual reading. All “God” time.

Now it’s all “Pete” time. And I’m a bit unhappy about it. I want that “God” time back, because that “God” time was really, after all, “me” time. Quiet, uninterrupted time when I am relaxed and not in danger of falling asleep is very rare for me. At the end of the day, I will fall asleep or lose my concentration very readily. My mind is still going 100 mph, and I can think of a thousand tasks that should be done before I retire for the evening. In the middle of the day, there is constant background noise, interruptions from the doorbell or the phone, and the incessant demands of little children plus the fact that I have a job to do: school, housework, meal prep, laundry. It is only in the early morning before children awake, but after I’ve begun sipping coffee, that I feel my brain functions like an intelligent adult’s brain.

But isn’t Lent about surrender, after all? It’s not about “me” time, no matter how much I disguise it as “God” time. “God” time is all the time. “God” time is attending lovingly to my duties as a mother of needy, little children with a happy heart. This does not mean that I should neglect formal prayers, excuse myself from reading anything deeper than the church bulletin, or pretending that this daily drudgery is enough sacrifice and penance for me.

I really loathe the notion that a Catholic housewife need only to attend to her family’s needs with a cheery disposition offering this labor to God with mini-aspirations throughout the day and she can be assured of her own and her family’s salvation. Perhaps that is enough for some: don’t we all know those unblemished souls who think that some back talking their parents while they were a teen qualifies as a rebellious and sinful youth? Most of us though, I’ll wager, have a bit more atoning to do. And some of us have a LOT more atoning to do.

And so the challenge is not in finding quiet “me/God” time but rather in doing my best to focus in the midst of chaos. It is forcing myself to put off the load of laundry until later (I can sort, rotate and fold with half a brain in the evening hours) and sitting down right now when there is a relative lull. It is saying the rosary, perhaps for the second time that morning, while holding the drowsy child because there is no rule that says two rosaries in one day are a waste of time. It is including my children as much as possible in spiritual exercises with a “can’t beat ’em, join ’em” attitude (my kids love the Stations of the Cross).

AND it is attending to my duties with joy. Life, even my life, is not at all about me. It’s not about what I get out of it. It’s not about what kind of a person I make myself into. It’s about responding promptly, dutifully, and happily to the challenges God sets before me, including an early rising toddler.

Saints Cyril and Methodius

These poor saints share a feast day with St. Valentine and, at least in this part of the world, are completely ignored or overshadowed by him. Neither my Cooking with the Saints book nor my Slovak-American Cookbook offers any suggestions for appropriate dishes in their honor. I could tackle a rolled pastry of some sort, but we have leftover “death cake” as my kids call it (plus various chocolates purchased in honor of that other guy’s feast day), and just don’t need any more sweets right now.

St. Cyril is responsible for the Cyrillic alphabet. I’m not really sure if we should thank him for that. Once in the very early 90s, I happened to be traveling with a German, a Brazilian and a Slovak (this sounds like the beginning of a really bad joke, huh?). We were heading for Prague and stopped at a rest stop sort of place. We were hungry. We opened the menus. Three of us almost immediately closed them and turned to our Slovak friend and asked her to order for us (I do NOT recommend Haluski). There was no way that we could make any sense of what sort of food was even offered. I mean, I don’t speak French, but I know some words like poulet. Find that word, point it out to the waiter as what you want, how bad could it be? But on that menu, pointing to things on the menu might have brought me a glass of water or “the tongue of a castrated bull” as one man once described the food on the table in another country at a different time. No thanks.

If only my sister lived nearby. I’d have her trudge over through the snow and ice on the streets. She’d have to bring her kids, too, since schools are closed today, and we could all sit down and learn a few letters of the Cyrillic alphabet. Barbara studied Russian, and I’m sure is right now grinding her teeth at my dispraising of her favorite subject!

Morning prayers in the Magnificat included prayers for the Slavic peoples. Amen to that. Sts. Cyril and Methodius recruited locals as clergy and established a Cyrillic liturgy despite opposition from those troublesome Germans. Thanks, guys, for laying the foundation for my ancestors.

The bad thing about Veggie Tales…

We own about 15 or so Veggie Tales videos. They’re cute, and my kids have enjoyed them. They go through phases – won’t watch them for months, and then won’t watch anything else for months. I’m not sure if the kids “get” the moral of the story, meaning, I’m not sure the videos are doing much to alter my children’s behavior, but at least they are learning, somewhat, some Bible stories.

Except King George and the Ducky…yeah, an adult will know it’s about King David and Bathsheba. But if adultery and murder are too much for little kids (and gee, I hope they are!), why even bother trying to tell the story? Surely there are other examples of coveting thy neighbor’s goods?

I digress. That is a problem with Veggie Tales, but not the one I intended to address. No, my big complaint is with Rack, Shack, and Benny and Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Both stories come from the book of Daniel. My study Bible says that it is debatable whether the book of Daniel is prophetic and written during the Babylonian captivity, or if it was written long after the captivity and is more a recounting of the trials through which God brought His people. Either way, the moral of the story is God Saves. That’s a great moral, right? Sure.

Find yourself being thrown into a furnace? No worries! Pit of hungry lions your afternoon’s adventure? No problem! If you are good, love God, and pray hard enough, God will save you! On eagle’s wings and all that…

Yes, but…what about St. Ignatius of Antioch? Did God not love him? And all those thousands of other Christians who met their fate in the Roman Coliseums? Or the millions persecuted in the past 2000 years?

Or is it that God only saves the Jews? Hey, remember the 1920s, 30s and 40s? Was God not interested in helping His people in Dachau?

The story of Joseph (with that amazing technicolor dreamcoat) is a much better example of God’s saving hand. Joseph suffered for years in slavery and in prison before the Divine plan was revealed. Veggie Tales did this story as well – Little Joe – and it’s fine. Doesn’t quite show the passage of time and kids might think that God works all his miracles all at once, but it’s fine. At least, though, you can see that all his trials put him in just the right place at the right time to save God’s chosen people.

But Little Joe is overshadowed by Daniel and the three guys at the bunny factory who are saved from certain death by a miracle. And so, when my son, Billy, flips through our Picture Book of Saints to find a story to read and picks St. Ignatius who is depicted surrounded by lions, his little mind fully expects to hear about a miracle, not a martyr. The poor kid was flabbergasted.

I suppose the story of St. Stephen doesn’t make for a good, happy-ending tale, eh? No, not if your martyrdom is the end of it all, which, thankfully, it’s not. How about the story of St. Paul? Let’s show him holding everyone’s coats while St. Stephen is stoned to death, then show him blinded on the road to Damascus (en route to persecute more Christians!), and then show him writing half of the New Testament from prison! Hmmm…not too many happy endings in the New Testament. Perhaps that is why the makers of Veggie Tales have stuck mostly with OT stories like Daniel, Joshua, Joseph, and Esther. Let’s skip Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, and Aaron and the golden idol and that messy deal with slaughtering everyone who turned away from God.

It is unfortunate that the reality of this world is usually an unhappy ending…sometimes an unhappy beginning and middle too. We avoid suffering as much as possible, and that is understandable. But kids need to know the truth, too. No, they don’t need to get all the gory details or never hear a happy ending. But they need to understand that suffering does not mean that God doesn’t love you. They need to know that always God brings good out of misery…you just might not be able to witness the good of your personal misery from an earthly position. So let’s see Larry the Cucumber as St. Paul dying a martyr’s death! But let’s see the spread of Christianity from all of his writings, too.

Yeah, OK, that’s ridiculous. I guess I just need to add to my collection of Glory Stories and CCC of America Saints and Heroes DVDs. Would my kids even believe a cartoon tomato could get squashed beyond recovery?

Catholic Alphabet Meme

I was tagged for two memes. The other one, 6 weird things about me, will have to wait until Bill comes home to help me. I’m so used to my own oddities, I forget what they are!

Tagged by Sarah.

[A is for apparitions – your favorite]: Guadalupe

[B is for Bible – the one you read most often]: The New American Standard or whatever it’s called that is used for readings at Mass.

[C is for Charism – the one you would most like to have]: wisdom

[D is for Doctor of the Church – your favorite]: Therese the Little Flower

[E is for Essential Prayer – What’s yours?]: Hail Mary

[F is for Favorite Hymn]: Holy, Holy, Holy

[G is for Gospel – your favorite author?]: uh…

[H is for Holy Communion – How would you describe it, using one word?]: Essential.

[I is for Inspiration – When do you feel most inspired by God?]: In nature.

[J is for Jesus – When did you first meet Him?]: hmm…

[K is for Kindness – Which saint or person has most inspired you by their kindness?]: Therese the Little Flower

[L is for liturgical year – your favorite time in the liturgical cycle?]: Christmas

[M is for Mary, the Mother of God – Your favorite term of endearment for her]: Seat of Wisdom

[N is for New Testament – Your favorite passage]: all of it?

[O is for Old Testament – Your favorite Book here]: Genesis and Exodus

[P is for Psalms – your favorite]: ummm…

[Q is for quote – saint quote]: “If this Lord is powerful, as I see that He is and I know that He is, and if the devils are His slaves (and there is no doubt about this because it’s a matter of faith), what evil can they do to me since I am a servant of this Lord and King? Why shouldn’t I have the fortitude to engage in combat with all of hell?” St. Teresa of Avila

[R is for rosary – your favorite mysteries]: Joyful

[S is for Saint – the one you turn to in time of need – not including the Blessed Virgin Mary]: Most frequently, St. Anthony.

[T is for Tradition – your favorite Catholic tradition]: Having an entire season to prepare and an entire season to celebrate.

[U is for university – Which Catholic University have you attended or are currently attending?]: None.

[V is for Virtue – the one you wish you had]: Temperance

[W is for Way of the Cross – Which station can you most relate to?]: Jesus greets the women of Jerusalem

[X is for Xaverian Brothers – Do you know who they are?]: I do now.

[Y is for your favorite Catholic musician]: Beethoven

[Z is for Zeal for the faith]: Naw, I’m pretty lukewarm…

Catholic Devotion Meme

1. Favorite devotion or prayer to Jesus? Anima Christi

2. Favorite Marian devotion or prayer? Hail Holy Queen

3. Do you wear a scapular or medal? Yes, but as Megan pointed out, you’re supposed to say the rosary daily, and I don’t. It serves to remind me what a sinner I am.

4. Do you have holy water in your home? Yes, but in the cupboard, not the font.

5. Do you ‘offer up’ your sufferings? Yes. If you don’t understand this practice or need motivation to do it more often, I recommend this book.

6. Do you observe First Fridays and First Saturdays? Today seems like a good day to start.

7. Do you go to Eucharistic Adoration? No, unfortunately.

8. Are you a Saturday evening Mass person or Sunday morning Mass person? Usually Sunday mornings. Sometimes we go to a drunkard’s mass on Sunday evenings.

9. Do you say prayers at mealtime? Before dinner. I always forget before other meals.

10. Favorite Saint(s)? St. Anthony of Padua, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Nicholas.

11. Can you recite the Apostles Creed by heart? Yes.

12. Do you usually say short prayers (aspirations) during the course of the day? Yes, “Lord have mercy!” Also, “Help!” Often, “Thank you!”

13. Where is your favorite place to pray? In the shower. Or while running.

14. Bonus Question: When you pass by an automobile accident or other serious mishap, do you say a quick prayer for the folks involved? Usually.

I tag Laura the Crazy Mama.

St. John Neumann

Today is the feast of St. John Neumann. The Bad Catholics Guide to Good Living suggests having cheesesteaks in honor of Philadelphia where his body lies in glass as the base of an altar. Today is Friday, so perhaps you could defer that delicacy until tomorrow.

I attribute Fritz’s healing to his intercession, so I’m saying some extra prayers of thanksgiving today. Here’s another prayer to him for Catholic schools – to include homeschools, I’m sure.

Saint John Neumann, you helped organize Catholic education in the United States. Please watch over all Catholic schools and help them be a model of Christianity in their actions as well as their words. Amen

A good weekend

All in all, the weekend was great.

The kids behaved as usual at Mass on Friday, but my chipper attitude got me through it. I was a little upset when Katie face-planted in the parking lot while running to the van to go home. She put a huge hole in brand-new tights. These happen to be really expensive tights that I sprung for because they claim to be durable enough to hand down to younger siblings. They are not asphalt-proof.


At the two parties, the children were charming. Even Petey permitted some strangers to hold him for brief periods.

Not so amusing, though, is the talk I hear of my husband remaining in this job for the next 18 months. My steel-blue eyes were glinting at him like daggers in a streetlight, and he, not having heard what I heard, began voicelessly protesting his innocence to whatever crime he was accused. Later, he insisted that he was really going off to school this coming summer, really. Even later, he admitted that his future was really out of his hands, really.


Yesterday at Mass, Jenny made it until the homily before asking to go to the bathroom. I took Pete with me. The bathroom is right next to the nursery, so I went there and signed both of them up for the free babysitting hoping that Pete would be happy to stay if Jenny was with him. I went back to church and Father was still giving his homily. I don’t know what I missed, but I got there just in time to hear him bring up a really sore topic: holding hands during the Our Father.

Our last parish only on rare occasions would request the parishoners to hold hands during this prayer, but, for the most part, our kids were wholly unfamiliar with this practice. When we moved here nearly two years ago, we realized that this was the expected behavior. Had it been just Bill and I, or if the kids had been older, we might have taken a stand against it. But I was afraid that the children would appear disrespectful of adults if they refused to hold hands, and there was no way we could have reasonably ensured that we, the parents, were always on the outer edges of our family group.

Father, who has been here for less than 6 months, very charitably explained that holding hands during the Our Father was improper. He also said he knew that he was going to be very unpopular for prohibiting it, but he was anyway. Bill and I could barely contain our glee.

I sent Father an email later on in the day thanking him for his actions. He had mentioned in his homily that even though people would be upset with the ban on holding hands, there were also people who were upset with holding hands to begin with. Fortunately, Bill and I are not the types to walk away from the Church because of the inappropriate actions of a priest or a congregation, but many do walk away. I spoke with a friend after CCD, and she confessed to being very sad. She had no idea that it was wrong, and there is some sense of betrayal for having been lead astray for 30 years. Even though the truth is hard to hear, praise God that my pastor is courageous enough to speak it!

Pete and Jenny did not do well in babysitting. When I retreived them 40 minutes later, Pete was crying and Jenny asked me with a teary face why I left them there. Yes, I’m a meany. I left them in a room filled with toys and books for less than an hour. I denied them a crowded pew with no toys, books with no pictures, and constant shushings from grownups.


I guess I shouldn’t complain. It’s nice to be loved.

Time for prayer

A few days ago, I began mulling the need to pray extra hard for a particular prayer intention. This special intention would be a long-term prayer commitment, and I thought that a daily rosary would be the best way to do it. It’s a serious matter, and really needs the weight of many many rosaries to be offered up.

I don’t pray the rosary daily. I have tried many times to commit to this. I know that world peace (and the liberation of Russia!) hangs on my daily rosary, and I am ready to have the whole war in Afghanistan and Iraq blamed on my failure to do it. It’s all my fault – and yours too, if you don’t pray the rosary daily. If only we all prayed the rosary daily, there would be no war, right? As my husband once said when pondering all the many chaplets and prayers that one could say daily plus daily Mass and other sacrifices one could make for the salvation of one’s own soul: if you spend that much time in prayer, you would most certainly go straight to Heaven, since you would have no time to commit any sin. But I digress. And my particular intention is not world peace, although that is certainly a lofty goal and does happen to be in my daily prayers as a matter of routine.

In the back of my head is this desire to pray the rosary daily and an internal argument with myself about the practicality of this commitment. And so I sat while I ate my lunch and happened across this discussion at Danielle Bean’s website about making time for prayer. I’m not too happy with some attitudes in some of the comments: some people seem to condemn those of us who aren’t spending hours a day in formal prayer, and some people seem very willing to forgo formal prayer as impossible. Neither attitude is particularly helpful to those of us struggling with this issue and seeking ideas on how to improve.

And then I read one comment: who doesn’t have the time to offer up a 15 minute rosary? Holy cow, I thought, a 15 minute rosary? How do you say a rosary in 15 minutes? I try hard to be reverent, to really meditate on the mysteries and imagine the sights and sounds, to conjure the emotions I would have felt had I been there and the significance of the event. It takes me 20 to 25 minutes to say a rosary! I rarely have that much time to myself, except when the kids are sleeping. And if the kids are sleeping, and I sit quietly for a few minutes, I am at serious risk of falling asleep myself!

And then I realized my mistake: I’m trying to say the perfect rosary. Without practice. Even after 10 months of running, I can’t run a mile in 9 minutes (or 2 miles in under 19 minutes), but I don’t expect to do so. In running, I seek daily improvements, always challenging myself, but never setting unrealistic goals. Why would I expect my prayer life to be any different? How can I expect to achieve 30 minutes of serious meditation if I haven’t tried to do 10?

And so, I finished my sandwich and went to my room. It was a good day to start a rosary for my special intention. Pete was napping, and Jenny had also fallen asleep on our way back from voting. The other kids were getting their daily dose of TV, and I had 15 minutes until the show was over and we’d be back to the school grindstone. I quickly lisped out a rosary in the quiet of my bedroom. I prayed fast and it only took me 11 minutes. No, it wasn’t perfect. But I was able to focus better on the mysteries (since I only spent 90 seconds on each one), and I did complete the entire thing without dozing off – a miracle in and of itself.

Is perfectionism holding you back from a more fulfilled prayer life? Consider joining me in a daily rosary if you don’t already. World peace (and the liberation of Russia!) depends on it.