Monthly Archives: May 2011

How to make books Kindle readable.

There is a function where you can give your Kindle a name – so I have named mine Gilbert, after that great writer, thinker, and lover of cheese, Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

It comes with a wire that has a usb end and a micro usb end, and a three point plug. The Kindle can be charged using the plug pretty quickly – about an hour or so, or much more slowly via the computer. The wire can also be used for transfering books and audio onto the Kindle from the computer.

I have downloaded CALIBRE to my computer. It is free software that allows the user to covert books in a different format to mobi so they can be read on the Kindle. I have converted a few Pdf books this way. Apparently the best way of doing this is to convert from pdf to Lit first and then from lit to mobi. It has worked well for me, and isn’t too techy which is good.

If, like me, you might want to get Word or Publisher docs made Kindle friendly, then I recommend Primo pdf converter. It is also free. It’s what I use to make the freebies Kalei puts on her blog and as she was the one who gave me the heads up on it. I assume it’s what she uses to make all her amazing resources available to the rest of us.

Primo works in the “print” option for your documents.

Once you have made your pdf document you can make it mobi with Calibre.

Be warned however, some of the pdfs you can download from Internet Archive do not convert cleanly. However as many of their books are Kindle now, it doesn’t matter so much.

The other thing to note is that many free books, especially those from Internet Archive are not fotmatted very well – I think they were just converted. This can make some books a bit of a challenge to read on Kindlw – especially those with footnotes, but as they are free I am not complaining.

When you plug your Kindle into the computer and open files you will have Audible, Documents and Music. Apparently you can listen to music while you read. I haven’t tried this yet.

Audible is for audio files – mp3, audio books and so on.  I have loaded up THESE GEMS from G.K.Chesteron, and I have a series on the Shroud from EWTN which I think is no longer available.

The speakers on the Kindle aren’t that bad imo, but I do tend to use headphones when I’m listening, if for no other reason than the almighty racket in my kitchen when I’m working makes it difficuklt to think sometimes. LOL. (Washing machine, tumble dryer, dishwasher, breadmaker, children…)

I have had a look at the Amazon UK Kindle store. Those of us this side of the pond cannot buy Kindle books from Amazon.com for some reason, but there are so many books out there that this shouldn’t be a problem at this point.

One thing I did note, sadly, is that the most popular books Amazon advertise are heavily towards the porn and erotica end of things. How very saf that is.

There’s plenty of really good stuff out there- I’ll try and post a list soon.

Free lesson: a brief history of the priesthood.

I spent quite a bit of time writing this free lesson plan, but I am afraid the subject is way way too big for a little lesson. Still, hopefully, some of you will find it a good starting point.

There is huge ignorance and confusion about the nature of the pesitshood. But then there is huge confusion about spiritual matters over all.

It is a real shame that we have given up our understanding and embraced a terribly narrow view that all reality is material. For people my age, the confusion was taught to us, and I think, it is largely thanks to the internet that people like me have had access to authentic teaching. Anyway, have a look and see what you think.

Don’t forget to have a look at the other stuff Kalei puts up and leave her a message of encouragement.

Quick Memory for the Decologue.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My Commandments,” and by this I assume He meant the all in one commandment of ‘Love God, love neighbour’ which is unpacked in the 10 commandments, the 8 beatitudes and the Our Father.

Here’s a quick way to remember the 10.

Jesus said “Love God and love your neighbour.” We must see that we cannot do one without the other. We must love God first or we will be incapable of loving our neighbour.

The Ten Commandments split into two parts with one overlap. So we see loving God is the first three:

Worship only God and put nothing ahead of Him (that includes the false image of what you see in the mirror each morning)

Keep His Name holy (don’t misuse it in something like a vow at a babies baptism where you swear in God’s Name to bring the child up in His way and you have no intention of doing so. Also marriage vows come under this).

Keep His day holy (That is the eighth day now. The Lord’s Day)

Then there’s the overlap commandment that stands between earth and heaven.

Honour your father and mother; that is your biological or adoptive parents AND your spiritual parents.

Then comes love of neighbour.

Don’t murder people (no matter how small or sick)

Don’t commit adultery (or other sexual sins)

Don’t steal.

Don’t lie about other people (or gossip or detract)

Don’t envy your neighbours wife (and family)

Don’t envy your neighbours stuff.

There is a profound logic to the order of the commandments. I go with the numbering that keeps worship only God as one commandment and separates out wife and property at the end. I truly dislike the lumping together of wife and property. That’s truly yukky imho.

Anyway, once you get the logic, remembering them is easy.

Jamie Olivier in LA

Jamie calls parents to show him what their children are eating in school and among the horrible junk a couple of children show him apples.
Jamie is amazed – fresh fruit.
“We homeschool!” announce the owners of the fruit.
Says it all.

Frugal Friday: How to use my time better

It’s the last day of half term and I have finished a week of watching what I do with my time to see if I can squeeze even more into my week.

I made and printed up a week, with each day divided into half hourly slots and tried to keep on top of what I was doing with my day. Well, to be honest, I don’t think I’m wasting a lot of time, but it was a useful exercise to see if I can cram in a little more reading time (now that I can read hehehehe) and some more writing time, so that I can offer more freebies to y’all – or at least a few better written ones as they wont be so rushed.

Continue reading

Confessions of a Kindle owner…

I have a confession to make. I have really annoyed my 17 year old daughter, a well brought up girl, who has a great love for books – real books. How can I have so offended her? Well, I have bought a Kindle.

This was not a sudden transaction on my part. I have been considering the merit or otherwise of e-readers for some time and have carefully considered the choices out there. Iona made it perfectly clear from the beginning that she utterly and completely disapproves of a book where there is neither booky smell nor the satisfaction of page turning. “When I am told a book is a ‘page turner’,” she tells me, “I think, that is the very least I expect of a book. What kind of book would it be if I couldn’t turn the page?”

Well the answer, which she finds most distressing, is a Kindle. Her most indecorous mother is now in possession of such an item. Worse still – I love it!

Now in part I have to blame dear Nonna for helping to lead me astray. She told me that not only is it gentle on the eyes, but (and this was the clincher) she can hold it easily and her arms don’t hurt!

Now, I must admit, all things being equal, I lean towards Iona’s point of view. Books are the most wonderful invention of man (properly written ones that is) and we have a house full of them. In fact we have so many books, it has caused  my poor husband to proclaim the oxymoronic phrase “Too many books.”

So why did I buy the darned contraption?

Firstly, because I just can’t see to read very often these days and when I can see well enough, it’s not a good time. I needed something that would allow me to read even when I normally can’t and wouldn’t hurt my eyes the way the computer screen does. Going by what I’ve found on line lots of people with sight problems for various reasons have one. The font size is adjustable and the “ink” is very clear on the page. It is light to hold and so doesn’t hurt the way a heavy tome tends to these days. For really bad days when my eyes wont even cope with super-sized print, there is the audible section where I can listen to MP3 downloads and audio books. So, you see all bases are covered and the Kindle has become a fibro-friend.

Free books are all over the place and then there are some fairly cheap books to be had too. Other books are not much cheaper for a digital version as for a hard copy, which is a surprise but perhaps as more people want to use  e-readers the prices of ebooks will come down. We’ll see. Can’t complain too much as the Kindle versions I could download are available straight away and I can read them! In fact there are some books we have in hard copy that I am finding so difficult to see, I am wondering about buying the e-version just so I am able to read it when I would like to read.

The fact is, as my eyes have become more unreliable and my hands don’t work so well, managing a book has been more difficult and I had reached a point when I was hardly reading anything unless it was on the computer (which was not helping my eyes).  This is my way around all these problems.

I will write another post telling you what I have on my Kindle.

Saint Bede the Venerable

It’s the feast of St. Bede today. I am rather fond of St. Bede and I recommend a visit to Bede’s World should you ever be in that neck ‘the woods.

It has been put about that the Church did not allow venacular translations of Scripture. This is, of course, ridiculous. Sadly this black legend is so entrenched that many people fail to realise that the first translation of parts of Scripture into English was done by St. Bede. He did not live long enough to get it all finished but I beleive quite a few pages of his work on the Psalms still exist. (not sure, but I remember reading something on that somewhere.)

St. Bede ora pro nobis.

Please may I also ask your prayers for Rita whose husband’s funeral is today.

Book Basket this week.

Next week is half term, and I was going to keep going through, but I don’t think I have the energy. However I want to plan some extra quiet reading with the children, so we’ll have a “reading week” at least.

This week’s books are:

Heleyna aged 4 pre-pre-K: Oxford Reading Tree stage 1 Six in a Bed, (more or less decodable) and of course her Starfall Books - presently concentrating on The Big Hit and Mox’s Shop. You can print hard copies from the download centre. Her story choices have been The Gruffolo’s child and Charlie Needs  Cloak so far.

Avila (age 6 grade K yr 1) finished Pompeii buried Alive yesterday and start the Oxford Reading Tree Titanic (stage 11) today. After that I think I need to make sure the next book is a bit more cheerful!

Ronan (age 8 gr 2 yr 3) is reading Detectives in Togas and Treasure Island.

Read Alouds: The Young Child’ Plutarch: Romans which I think I downloaded from either Gutenberg or Internet Archive. Can’t remember. We are also reading Heroes of Israel from Heritage History. I am still reading sections from Fairyland of Science.

Poems from the Ambleside Curriculum and Child’s Book of Garden Verses.

RESOURCE books we are using: Language Smarts C, Mathematical Reasoning B and C, Building Thinking Skills level 1 and Hands on Thinking Skills.

Draw Right Now; this is proving very useful for all three younger ones.

Science: Apologia’s Botany with Usborne pocket science What Make’s a Flower Grow.

History: Our Catholic Legacy Vol 1 and Story of the World Vol 2 ( I am increasingly irritated by SOTW for inaccuracy, leaving out very important historical events and the almost plagiarist lifting of stories from old story books with no correction. Chapter lengths vary considerably so that it’s sometimes hard to keep the children’s attention and at others not enough information is given)

Home education: How I am teaching my children to read.

Ronan is 8 now and if he was in school here he would be in year 3. If he was in school in America he would be in Grade 2. His read-to-mum book is detectives in Togas, and he is reading Treasure Island as his personal reading book. He is a strong reader, but a weak speller at the moment. He is working on his spelling and as he seems to be a fast learner in this area I am hoping we will have made some good progress fairly quickly.

detectives in Togas is a great read, but there are a couple of things he finds a bit challenging. The print is a bit small for him he says, but he is managing it reasonably well. The other challenge is some of the words are pretty big and require some explanation. This is fine as it is helping to expand his vocabulary.

He reads to me every week day. I really think having each of the children read every day is important.

Avila is 6 and would be in either year 1 here or Kindergarten across the pond. She is reading Pompeii, Buried Alive a Step Into Reading level 4 book. (The one review this book gets on Amazon UK says it is patronising. We haven’t found it that way but each to their own). Avila began reading much the same as Ronan and Heleyna using Starfall and ORT but by the time she was on stage 4 ORT I could see she needed more phonics so we moved to the McGuffey readers for a while. We returned to ORT and she moved through stages 4 to 10 without problems after that. I introduced other books as we went along such as the lovely Frog and Toad books and more of the Step Into Reading books picking carefully from among their stages 3 to 5.  I have arranged her next set of books so that there are ORT books stages 11 to 14 with SIR books level 5 and then she’ll move onto the 26 Fairmount Ave books by Tomie dePaola. She reads some Enid Blyton as her free reading time as well as some of the dePaola and other picture books we have.

Heleyna is 4 and would not be in school. She might be expected to be in nursery school and in the UK she would be starting school in September (despite the increasing body of research evidence that shows early institutionalisation of children is very detrimental to them). She has just started to learn to read. She is using movable letters to learn both the name and sound of the alphabet. She sings the alphabet song which is letter names. She is beginning to recognise more letters as we go along. I am using a few letters at a time for recognition rather than all 26 in one go. She is reading the books on STARFALL, starting with Zac the Rat. The books are decodable, so they are a good strong start for reading. We have used some of the pre-decodable books on more.starfall as well. [nb there is a subscription fee for more.starfall] alongside this she is using the Oxford Reading Tree books starting at 1+. We have also recently discovered OWL books from ORT which are free online readers. The ORT books are mixed whole word and decodable so beware if your child has dyslexia or requires a strongly phonics approach.

A note about reading schemes: I have realised that many schemes put and age or grade on their levels. I ignore them. Each child is different and any child at home has the massive advantage of one to one reading time.

I have been saddened to see discussion threads online where mothers (all the children are in school in these discussions) are worried that their child is unable to read. There seems to be a terribly ingrained view that teachers and schools are supposed to teach children to read and they can’t. They talk of getting the teacher’s back up if they buy reading books for their children or ask for the next level up. They talk of getting a tutor for after school for 6 year olds!!

Do not get trapped into this. Parents are the primary educators of children. You really do not need a tutor to teach a child of 6!

Historical note of useless information: St Jerome wrote to a mother struggling to teach her daughter to read and advised her to have a set of letters made from boxwood or ivory to use as a teaching aid. So it might be that movable letters were his invention.

Could Public Domain books improve literacy levels?

John Taylor Gatto has said that before compulsory education was introduced, under the Prussian model, in America, literacy levels were something like 95%.

Something I read recently about the nineteenth century and the law said that in England (and I am assuming Scotland and Wales were much the same) literacy levels improved exponentially from 1830 through to compulsory education. By 1900 the levels were already dropping drastically.

I remember being told by a tutor, and I have since read this elsewhere, that St Thomas Aquinas wrote his Summa  for school children aged around 14 -15. Now it is difficult for Master’s students to get to grips with. The pompous idea that medieval people were ignorant and we are so enlightened is patently untrue.

But there have been some interesting developments. The age of the computer has given many of us access to all sorts of books, radio programs and podcasts that are high quality and mind stretching stuff. Many of the books that are so easy to access these days are in the public domain and with no copyright they are free for all readers.

Certainly homeschool families and curriculum planners have made the very best of these old books to offer a huge range of high quality, practically free books for children’s learning.

There are many of what Miss Mason called “living books”.  Those are books written by a single author with a flow and joy to them that group written disjointed textbooks written today simply cannot match.

Traditional fairy stories – Andrew Lang’s extensive collection for example – give children a wider language base as well as retaining the the deep set natural law of morality found in both old pagan and early Judao-Christian myth and storytelling.

I know that many parents (especially of those of the home ed variety it seems) have a belief that all books published prior to around 1960 are good and those published after that date are bad. More worrying imho, are those parents who have decided the differential between good and bad is simply this; books are good, technology is bad.  I actually saw a blog entry where the mother stated that no book had ever harmed a child. She should visit our local library some time and see if she can say the same after that!

I don’t buy into any of these views. Some old books are excellent. Some are awful or as Charlotte Mason noted (writing before 1925 remember) “twaddle”. Some modern writers are dreadful and some, such as Tomie de Paola, Michael Morpurgo and others are excellent.

We are using more and more free public domain books, as there are collections made available that are conveniently tailored for learning.  Favourite sites are HERITAGE HISTORY and THE BALDWIN PROJECT. None of the books in these collections have been dumbed down to treat children as though they have never acquired language and couldn’t possibly work through long words.

I don’t know whether these free books could help increase children’s language skills and learning; although I have certainly seen evidence of it in my own family, but there is no doubt that something has gone wrong in general with children’s books today. The level of language for “teen novels” is appallingly low and that’s before you get into the banal to nasty plot lines.  The difference between the beautifully written A.A.Milne stories of Winnie-the-Pooh and the utterly naff “disney” versions is stark. Children deserve better than that surely.

Home education – some questions answered.

Some people ask questions about home education – what it is and how it works etc. I have to say though, that in my experience the vast majority of “questions” are simply assumptions worded in rhetorical form.

Dearest Gwen answers some of the questions. Her irritation over the question of her “socialisation” and being thought of as some kind of Billy-no-mates is shared by her mother.

Perhaps Alex’s increasing portfolio may assuage some who believe a child can learn nothing of use while home educated. (Although those who think that way have a bizarre antipathy to art in my experience). My favourite piece at the moment is the mug.

Home Education; trying to get back into the swing of it.

Since Easter, I’ve felt a bit topsy turvey on the Home Ed front. There seems to have been so much else happening. Avila has hospital appointments, there’s been days off, and events – and somehow getting the rythmn of learning back into gear has felt like a bit of a battle.

However, I think this week, we are getting there. It’s been a bit “work-booky” but there has been other stuff too. Ronan loves to cook, so he’s been able to make some cakes in the afternoon and the girls have been out with chalk in the garden, or making stuff with the bits and pieces in teh craft cupboard.

Avila started Math U See Beta which she is really pleased about.

Yesterday we did a short lesson on Michaelangelo and this included carving faces into apples. This went better than I thought. It’s quite easy.

Peel an apple and using a plastic knife carve into it. Then soak the apples for 20 minutes in enough water to cover them with two or three tablespoons of lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of salt.

Take the apples out and leave to dry. Apparently they shrink a little over time.

On Thursday our first butterfly emerged. We were showing the children yesterday when they noticed another one and by the end of history we had four!

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Not orphans as our Mother shows us.

I think it would be fair to say that out of all the times God has sent Our Mother to speak to us and try and get us to sort ourselves out, the 13th May 1917 in a little village called Fatima in Portugal, stands out. (I have a particular love for her as the Ark of the Covenant or Woman Clothed with the Sun at Guadeloupe and Our Lady of Sorrows of Kebeho, but that’s me)

Our Mother appeared to three children, Lucia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto every 13th of the month (not counting the occasion when the children had been kidnapped) until October 13th when the great Miracle of the Sun occurred before the eyes of over 70,000 people.

She said the war would end. Great. Everyone must have been really happy to hear that. The war to end all wars had slaughtered countless millions.

But she went on to warn that if people did not turn back to God, pray, stop sinning; treat their faith seriously – there would be another war and that “Russia would spread her errors”. She told Lucia of a light that would be a sign of the Second World War. In 1936 that light was seen all over Europe. Scientists to this day are trying to fathom it. In her little convent Sr Lucia saw it and wrote to the pope warning him; the light means there will be war. And there was war and after the millions killed there, Russia spread her errors and the death toll from that is still rising.

In the end, she said her Immaculate Heart will triumph. We saw the beginning of that Triumph when her beloved son Blessed John Paul the Great worked and won, to end the grip of Communism (Russia’s error) in the Eastern bloc and brought down the Wall.

In the end Our Lady promised, Russia will be converted, and that process is well under way apparently.

It is a terrible thought that the Second World War could have been averted if only people had listened, and repented and prayed. It is equally terrible to remember that Our Blessed Mother tried so hard to prevent the horrific genocide in Rwanda – and was largely ignored.

No mother wants to see her children sent to war, or slaughtered in concentration camps or by machete wielding murderers. She comes to us, time and time again, before each moment in history that could have been avoided – whether under Napoleon, or the French Revolution with it Terror, or the First World War, or the Second World War and Communism or the mass slaughter in Rwanda. She comes, she warns and we shrug.

Then when it all happens we say, “Where is God? Why did He let this happen?”

It is time (late in fact) to do as our Mother tells us.

Freebies and a Home Educated Heroine. [Greek letters, music rhythmns & Grace Darling]

Kalei has kindly posted my latest freebies. I’ve made a straight forward set of cards of the Greek alphabet, lover case, upper case and letter names.  I recommend using them to learn the alphabet and to separate consanants and vowels. If you print up more than one copy you can spell some basic Greek words as well, or use the sounds to make English words with Greek letters such as delta, omicron, gamma for dog. Here’s a good alphabet lesson

We are using these cards alongside Songschool Greek. I am quite taken with the amount of  free stuff Classical Academic Press offer to help with the childre’s learning. We have only just started the Songschool Greek, but it’s good so far. I hope to make some follow on cards for making Greek words to spell out.

On Music. I have been teaching the children music in various ways for some time. We have been using Classicsforkids for some time. It’s an extremely good quality free resource. Alongside that Ronan was learning basic recorder tunes with the Usborne Very Easy Recorder Tune book. After that I signed up for a year of Kinderbach which was really good for the girls and reasonable for Ronan, although he was finding he was a little too old for a lot of it. Still, it was a good basic start to music, notes, paino/keyboard and rythmn, and I do recommend it. I found the lack of classical music in the lessons a bit sad, but we made up for that with ClassicsforKids.

By the time the year’s subscription was up with Kinderbach we had worked through every lesson in the six levels presently available and I was a bit stuck for what to do next. I noticed that Seton Homeschool had started to carry Adventus Musical Adventures and I decided to check them out. We loved the two weeks free trial which allowed us to have a look around all the programs. So I signed up for the months sub for the online.

Each lesson has a rythmn practice session (in the vid, Ronan is helping Heleyna with hers) which is very important in getting music right. It’s something I always found horribly difficult as an O’level Music student; so much so in fact, I remember my teacher rather pointedly asking me if I couldn’t count to 4! LOL poor man! All three of the younger ones are their mother’s children – where counting and clapping rythmns are quite a challenge. So, I made the music cards to help them practice. You can make up sentences of your own to make a 4/4 clapping game.

The other freebie on offer, thanks to Kalei’s blog,  is my lesson of the redoubable heroine of Bamburgh, Grace Darling. I chose to write a lesson on her for a number of reasons. First, we have visited the little museum to her memory, and her grave in the church yard of St. Aidan’s CofE opposite.  Bamburgh has a rich history, and I hope I will find time to write about more of it’s saints and heroes.

The other reason to write about Grace is that she was home educated. She received her excellent education from her parents at a time before compulsory education acts had been brought in throughtout Britain. I have been reading some books about the 19th century (Grace’s era) and came across the same figures for literacy pre-compulsory education, that Gatto quotes; it was over 90% in Britain (having risen exponentially from around 1830 for some reason)  and had dropped by nearly 60% by the First World War.  Shcoking figures.

Anyway, I digress. The story of Grace Darling and her rescue and care for the survivors of a steamship wreckage just off the Farne Islands, is well worth knowing. Enjoy

Also look at the amazing amount of resources Kalei herself has produced. She works very hard to make all these free resources available to the rest of us.

Our Wedding Anniversary and a poem from Iona

Twenty three years ago yesterday, a 23yr old woman and a 24 year old man made an oath before God that they would remain together as husband and wife, for richer for poorer, sickness and health; various eventualities until death parted them.

There’s been a number of adventures since that day and it’s been all sorts of things, but never boring.

Iona wrote us a lovely poem that sums up the life of a poor man married  (for soooo long) to a home educating woman.

 23 year, that’s not too bad,

And think of all the fun you’ve had.

The car that wallows in the road;

The trailer that we’ve often towed.

The house-running that you’ve perfected,

And twice the children you expected!

So, by this time I think we can tell,

The two of you get on quite well.

But there is one thing, one little gripe,

The small and inconsequential type.

What really makes our mother shout,

Is when dad throws the boxes out.

This conflict, I feel, will never end,

It really drives her round the bend

“It could be useful for crafting fun.

What kind of house do you think I run?

We do not need to throw away,

A resource we might use some day!”

“But why, when you’ve got twenty-six

Do you need another box of Wheetabix?

What could you do? What could you make?

Tell me now, for goodness sake!”

“Why a house, a car, a Christmas tree!

A scaled down map of Scicilly!

The list goes on. You must agree,

This box could be of use to me.”

“But we have a house!” he says with great aversion,

“Why do we need a cardboard version?”

It’s far too cluttered, you must concede.

And furthermore, you do not need,

Another of those quite obscene,

Empty tubs for margarine.”

“How dar you! NO! Not in the bin!

What else am I to put things in?”

“These boxes, if you had your way,

Would increase in number every day,

Until we couldn’t move, for all

the Crafting projects in the hall.

So, no, I say you cannot keep,

The muesli boxes every week.

This packaging you want to hoard.

We have not the space to have it stored.

There comes a time when even I, myself,

Cannot put up another shelf.

So please disist! I cannot take,

All these cardboard things you make.”

But eve after all’s been said,

After this poem has been read;

Things will still be taken from within,

The cupboard the recycling’s in.

Subsidiarity, J.T.Gatto on the Amish, and my oldest children.

click picture for document

I have some vague memory of Dr. Scott Hahn saying something about his days studying economics when he was a fairly anti-Catholic protestant, that he (for some reason) read Rerum Novarum and had to admit, that while Catholics were terribly wrong – they were right about social teaching and economics in this area.

At the heart of Leo XIII’s encyclical is the idea of subsidiarity; doing it locally. Doing it as a family first and then a community.

From what I’ve read, the whole structure of the philosophy of Distributism is built on the corner stone of Rerum Novarum. The family is the unit of society. A strong family structure equals a strong, economically viable society therefore. Conversely a weak family structure, broken by divorce, contraception and other forms of self centeredness, will mean a poor economy.

Distributism is based on the philosophy that all men are free and that with the family at the root of society, and subsidiarity as the base of running the society which would then (as in days of old) be built on the wealth of little family businesses. Family run businesses would keep a family housed, fed and looked after, but it depended on families sharing their lives and being open to children.

The present reality for our adult children is there is no real work for them. There is only wage slavery and that means being paid as little as possible to work as hard as possible for some faceless boss of a corporate institution. Their friends, if they have work, are doing much the same. Worse still many of them have degrees in law, or biology or architecture with all the debt that goes with that and they too are either working in a shop or not working.

Many adults who are about to finish school are heading straight to University to do whatever they could get onto before the prices rise.

To be honest, I find it heartbreaking for the waste of such talent.

I am encouraging my children to work for money as they must, but to spend time trying to work out how to run a business for themselves. It will take time, and with the lack of investment in young people and the increasing demographic problem of not enough children, they will have a lot to overcome. But they are strong people.

John Taylor Gatto has never said he is a Distributist, but he surely talks like one. He gave a fascinating lecture on how the Amish community works so well. First of all, because they have strong families. They have next to NO DIVORCE at all. They do not contracept, keeping to traditional Biblical understanding of children as a blessing, so they have children as God wills. (Although sadly I have read that some Amish are being led by medics to use contraception). They run their businesses as family enterprises and they have a self-imposed cap of half a million dollars. This means, not only can they have a good standard of living, but by not expanding over the self-imposed limit, they leave room for others to run their business too. None of this shark eating waters view of business for the Amish. As a result of their very pro-family, non-greedy approach to life, they are amazingly successful in the modern world.

Obviously one of the things that must be of enormous help to the Amish is their shared culture. They live together in communities and although, as Gatto tells, they have faced some persecution, in the past, they stood their ground over the education of their children and their rights as parents. Gatto points out that their education ensures the children know their culture and heritage well. In this way, they know who they are have a sense of belonging.

Although the young adults are sent out to see the world, most return to Amish life. I can’t say I blame them. I watched a couple of Channel 4 programmes following some Amish young adults as they learned about the ‘world’. The one episode I saw took place in the UK.  They stayed with people, who on the surface, appeared to have everything, but all they really had, was money.

Gatto is right about what makes the Amish strong – family and their Christian faith. It’s a winning combination.

The Catholic worldview is based on God first, and the dignity of man second with the family as the unit of strength that expresses that dignity.  A society that does not recognise the dignity of the person will always end up with the strongest exploiting the weak.

Those who are wise will try and sidestep this by trying, at least, to make a life of their own, to earn enough for their own family needs (enough for need but not greed). It will be much harder for my children than it was for me, or for their grandparents, because we are further down the anti-family slope than back then. But there is enough pro-family culture left, that there is some hope.

Gwen has revamped her blog

Check out Miss Gwens revamp of her blog.

She makes the most extraordinary cakes. Those of you who know her and know how good she is – she is taking orders.

Home education; learning the hospitality of God.

Above the main door of our church it says Domus Christie – the house of the Lord. Hospitality comes from God. As Jesus told us in His parables, we are invited to the Wedding Banquet, so long as we are willing to carry the cross and arrive dressed for the wedding. Many saints have spoken of the spiritual clothing from the prayer of St. Patrick’s Breastplate based on St. Paul, through the description of spiritual clothing Jesus gave to St Bridget of Sweden and so on.

Some time ago a friend of mine told me of a book he was reading which was supposed to the future of Christian churches. The author suggested that the churches needed to respond to the world’s view of the citizen as consumer who will seek out a church that best suits their individual needs and interests.  I found this a deeply disturbing proposal. Essentially the author had decided that people didn’t want to go to church to serve, worship and be with Christ. On the contrary, they were not at all interested in the Gospel – they merely wanted a community centre to meet and chat with friends, to have their egos stroked and never to be challanged in any way. What this author’s idea had to do with being Christian is anyone’s guess.

Accepting the hospitality of Christ means going to His house to worship Him first (seeking the Kingdom first) and then all the other stuff, like friends and community and cake sales will come with it.

Unfortunately many churches have a kind of ‘gatekeeper’ who prevents people coming in, or makes it clear they are only welcome if they can fulfil some need for that church. This is a dreadful thing to do – preventing fellow Christians from coming to the altar – to the foot of the cross. In other cases there are those who seek to bring back the wanderers, but not for their own sake, but because whatever role they had in the parish still requires doing.

The hospitality of the Church is broader by far (or should be) than the community who meet each Sunday or every day to celebrate the Mass (or servic, or Divine Liturgy). All those people too sick, frail or tied down for other reasons and cannot attend are still part of the local parish. A good parish will see to it that they too can receive the Sacraments, and have their spiritual and even physical needs met. It isn’t about either/or but the good ol’Catholic saying of “both/and”.

Accepting the hospitality of God means doing it on His terms, not how we might like to do it. Doing it our way never works very well anyway.

Divine Mercy and the beatification of John Paul the Great

In the evening of the 2nd April 2005 we watched the TV, where all cameras were pointed to that little lighted window where Pope John Paul II was taking his last breaths. It was a Saturday dedicated the the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and as the sun set the end of one day and the beginning of the next began so that the Pope died on the cusp or overlap of the say of the Immaculate Heart and of the Divine Mercy.

In our house we were putting the final touches to a cake and packing food and other stuff ready for Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday when my daughter Avila would be baptised.

Today Pope John Paull II will be breatified and become Blessed Pope John Paul II. He has been a part of our family Litany of saints for a while, so it is a special day for us to see him beatified.

Pope John Paul II understood the desperate need in the world for the Divine Mercy. His prayer and work (ora et labora) brought about the collapse in unbloody hope of Communism in Russia and the wall of Berlin. He supported the work of those seeking true freedom in his homeland of Poland, and so it was not so surprising that he showed such devotion of the life of a fellow Pole, St Faustina.

One of the things Jesus said to St. Faustina, “Out of Poland will come the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming.” Most people believe this prophecy was fulfilled in the pontificate of Blessed Pope John Paul II.

This pope was also inextricably linked with the Immaculate Heart of Mary who asked for repentence and penance at Fatima. She promised that the war that persently raged (WW 1) would end, but that if people did not amend their lives that Russia would spread her errors and there would be another war.

Sadly people ignored the call to repentence and Russia did spread her errors, murdering millions upon millions of Catholics, Orthodox and other Christians. the Second World War arrived just as fortold.

It was in the midst of this time of darkness that Jesus and His Blessed Mother came to Sr. Faustina in her convent in Poland and asked that His Divine Mercy message be told to the world. We are invited, Christ begs us in fact, to turn to His Divine Mercy and be washed in the living streams of Blood and Water that flow from His Sacred Heart. He warns that those who refuse to receive Mercy, will receive justice.

There is nothing new, in the call to God’s Mercy, of course. It is clearly there in Scripture and in Christ and His Mother’s words to so many great saints, including my own beloved St Bridget of Sweden, over the centries.

We all need mercy. It is a terrible thing to refuse it.

DIVINE MERCY IN MY SOUL English translation (opens pdf)