Monthly Archives: December 2011

“Murder is murder,” said Ironside

From Yesterday’s feast of the Holy Innocents and todays St Thomas Becket.

Anyone remember the Ironside series with Raymond Burr as the disabled detective in the truly tasteless wheelchair? (It is one of the least enviable wheelchairs I ever saw- and I occasionally prone to a little wheelchair envy).

Anyway, before I digress too far into wheelchair design let me get back to Ironside. In one episode some years ago I remember him saying firmly, “Murder is murder.” I can’t remember which episode it was or even the context exactly, but the words stuck in my head. It might seem like a silly statement from a silly script, but there’s something about the blunt, plain talking detective that is very refreshing in a world saturated in psycho-babble and sheer misuse and fogging of language.

In the beginning words had power. God said “Let there be light,” And there was light. There was power even in names; names meant something. Every word spoken, oath taken, name given held meaning. Abusing language enables people to lie and look “clever” or even wise. If we have to redefine the meaning of words so that we can get something said, then it seems unlikely it is truthful.

I recently read an unplanned debate online between a pro-lifer and a pro-”choice” person. The pro-choicer kept insisting that any clarity of terms used was getting into semantics and he didn’t want to. No, of course not, clarity of language was the last thing he wanted.

There are many ways to legally commit murder these days. The world watched Terri Shiavo being starved and dehydrated to death even though her parents were willing to take her home and care for her.  The media lied outright about her being on “life support” as a way of fudging the fact that she could and did breath without help and was a living human person. Dress it up as you like – she was murdered.

Herod sent the soldiers out to kill the baby boys of Bethlehem. Who cares about a few dead babies? So few cared that it barely gets a mention outside of Matthew’s Gospel.  Herod’s motive was fear over loss of his power and probably all that came with it. Jesus spent a lot of His ministry telling us not to be afraid. It was not a mild suggestion. God’s word has power and when Jesus says “Do not be afraid,” He is not coming up with some platitude He is demanding that we stop being afraid and trust Him.

Herod murdered those children and no one took much notice. Not even enough notice for the contemporary historians to mention it. Herod’s more powerful and wealthier victims get a mention in history. It takes Matthew a Galilean tax collector to mention all those babies, so unimportant that we can turn a blind eye to them.

Today is the feast of St Thomas Becket. Henry II was a good king in many ways but as is too often the case, he was tempted by the power he already had, to grasp at even more power. He grasped at power and authority that was not legitimately his. Thomas, who had been a loyal friend of the king, stood firm against this attack on the Church by Henry. The Church must maintain her independence as it was this that helped curb and balance not only her own power but the secular powers of the day.

Over the medieval period plenty of men of power tried to ditch their faith and the Church with it so they could do whatever they pleased. Invariably this entailed war, power grabs and the death of innocents.

As we kill off quietly those we no longer want to waste our money on, we change the words for this killing to “the right to die” or “dignity” – horribly changing the meaning of that word. We call it “choice” when mothers are forced, heavily persuaded or simply shunted into abortion. We pretend abortion is not killing a baby at all. We talk about “terminating the pregnancy” rather than killing the baby. We say “products of conception” rather than baby and we call those going through the procedure all sorts of words but never  “mother” which is what they are.

12 weeks

It doesn’t matter what Herod said of the babies in Bethlehem; it doesn’t matter what we call the babies in abortion mills; or the old people refused treatment or even water. We can dress up the starvation of seriously disabled people, or the refusal to treat the sick because they are too old, too disabled or life unworthy of life. But in the end as Ironside said – “Murder is murder.” and there if there is no asking for mercy, there will be justice.

8 weeks

Let us remember all the mothers who have lost children through miscarriage, stillbirth and sickness and the mothers who have lost children by abortion. I reckon most of us who have miscarried little ones still remember them, love them and miss them. We offer their souls to God’s enormous love and mercy.

For a mother cannot forget her baby and He will not forget us (rf Isa 49:15).

Now thanks to Fr John Boyle go and watch this wonderful video about Isaac, whose parents stood firm against the doctors and refused to abort him. It’s a lovely video worth your time.

Hannukah, the eight days and the Light of the World

It is coming to the end of the eight days of Hanukkah.  As Christians we should remember what happened as the Jews who had survived the astonishing evil perpetrated by Antiochus Epiphanes against God and His people. The story is told in full in the two books of Maccabees, with the eight day light in 1 Mac 4 especially.

The Temple always had a Menorah since the days when it was in a tent or tabernacle. It had seven branches that stood up from a golden tree like structure that had lamps of oil in the shape of almond blossoms. The menorah seems to represent the seven days of creation, the Tree of Life and the burning bush through which Moses first encountered God, and received His Name “I AM WHO AM” or “I Am The Being One” YHWH.

The Menorah for Hanukkah has nine branches. eight lamps for each day of the miracle and the ninth lamp is called the Servant from which all the other lamps are lit. While some modern versions of this menorah have the servant light to one side, the traditional place was at the centre.

The miracle of the menorah that is celebrated at Hanukkah is interesting from the Christian point of view. There was just enough holy oil to keep the menorah lit for one day and it would take eight days to produce more oil. In an act of great faith the people who had returned to clean and reconsecrate the Temple lit the oil and set to work to make the new

These lights were continued through to the Church and we still have the Bog Six candles on the high altar or back of the Sanctuary with the Tabernacle containing the Blessed Sacrament in the middle as the Light of the World, just as Jesus identified Himself.

At Hanukkah which is considered a festival set up by man rather than God, the people show their deep gratitude for the freedom God gave them from the darkness of Antiochus who had persecuted the Jews so viciously. The story of the mother who was forced to watch while her seven sons where tortured to death and how she encouraged them and supported them with her courage and strength, from her great faith in God, is told in Maccabees. From this persecution a remnant returned to Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple. God Himself provided the light for those eight days.

There are two acolyte candles with large brass holders that are carried by altar servers and stand either side of the altar through most of the Mass. They are carried and held either side of the lecturn for the Gospel reading and are carried before the gifts for the presentation of the gifts of bread and wine.

In Scripture Hanukkah is called the Feast of Dedication and takes places about two months after the festival of tabernacles (booths or tents). Jesus celebrated the feast and entered the Temple (John 10:22+) where He faced those who accused Him of working with the devil. Yet again the Temple was defiled by those who refused to see or hear the Truth and Christ entered as a Light who would bring the world out of darkness.

The Hanukkah menorah has nine branches – eight for the eight days God gave light and one as the Servant to light all the others. Christ came as a servant-king washing the feet of the apostles and pouring Himself out for His bride the Church.

There are six days of creation at the end of which Adam fell. The Seventh Day was made the Sabbath for man (“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” Mar 2:27). Jesus died on the eve of the Sabbath that in that year fell on Passover (by one calendar). He was laid in the tomb on the Seventh day and rested. He rose on the First Day which is the Eighth day- for He is the first and the last (ΑΩ). The first day/eighth day then became the Lord’s Day and so Christians gathered for the breaking of Bread, the Mass on the Lord’s Day and have done ever since.

So we are now living in the Eighth day.

Now this bit is pure speculation on my part and as I can find no Church teaching on this you can take it or leave it: but as Novenas seem to have been rooted in the prayers for the dead I was wondering if there might be a Ninth Day in the future linked with the Second Coming. Would this link with the ninth lamp on the Hanukkah menorah? Or is it more likely that the symbolism we are to see is that the Servant King stands outside of time- beyond both the Seven Days and the Eighth Day? I don’t know. But I wonder.

Christmas traditions and book basket

We have some family traditions for Advent and Christmas. There are traditional stories to read and the traditional things to cook.

Food wise we make marmalade, cranberry sauce, Christmas mincemeat and Iona makes chilli jam. I make rich “boiled” Christmas cake. It isn’t really boiled but that seems to be the name for it. Then Iona makes a chocolate log.

This year I am starting a new tradition of making mulled apple juice. (Last year I made mulled berry juice but we didn’t get the fruit in time this year).

Then there’s the great pre-Christmas clear out. It’s astonishing how many bin bags we can fill in this time.

The children all do a clear out of their toys and make sure there is a big bag of things to give to Santa. This is because Saint Nicholas likes to make sure he has enough toys for poorer families and it’s good for the children to give Santa a hand in his work.

An at first glance rather strange family tradition is having the tree in a play pen. We started this tradition when Ronan was little and had tried to pull the tree down on top of himself. Having it in the pen means it can’t be climbed or pulled over and the pressies are safer under it.

One of the other traditions for the older three is to help Father put the Christmas tree up in Church and build the crib scene.

Story time over Christmas for the children there’s a few favourites:

The Legend of Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola 

Some of the stories from Classic Christmas Stories

Tomie dePaola’s Legend of Old Befana

Also I am still reading them The Phoenix and the Carpet by E Nesbit and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus from Yesterday’s Classics (Kindle edition)

My reading: I am still reading The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy Sayers (but can’t remember where I got it).

Also courtesy if Ignatius Press I am reading Theophilis by Michael O’Brien

And None Other Gods by R H Benson

I have also just received Matron Knows Best by Joan Woodcock the true story of a 1960s NHS nurse.

Wishing you a Blessed and Merry Christmas one and all.

Ronan carried in the baby Jesus for the Vigil Mass last night.

O Rex Gentium – compared to wannabe kings of the world. O Emmanuel, God with us!

I know the Welsh don’t like it, but there is something deeply profound in that line from a A Man For All Seasons when St. Thomas More quotes Scripture at the betrayer Richard Rich saying “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul….but for Wales?”

The cross is a stumbling block to those who want to be kings of the world – or even just Wales. Jesus  as King of the Jews poured every last drop of Himself out for all of us, having washed the feet of the apostles only a few hours earlier.  Real kings sacrifice for others, they don’t sacrifice others for themselves.

Over Christmas we remember good King Wenceslas who ruled with kindness and took care of the poor. The Church has quite a few royal saints who worked hard for the poor and sacrificed for the people they served as King or Queen.

I think this is a good rule of thumb when looking for good religious leaders too. A king, prince, relgious leader who has privalege and doesn’t use it for others, isn’t much of a leader. We do the same in the Church in how we judge our popes. The ones who stood firm for Christ and followed Him closely are saints – and we are blessed to have a lot of saintly and canonised popes; but can also learn from the popes who did things badly. One of the things we learn is that no matter how bad a pope got the Holy Spirit did not allow them to change the teachings of Christ.

There is the story of a pope (I can’t remember which one, but I’m sure many of you know about this) who had written something that would contradict the Church and he was firmly set to promulgate it. On the night before he was to promulgate this document he died.  God protects His Church.

O Emmanuel – God with us. This is from the prophecy Isaiah gave to Ahab who had tried to chicken out of hearing what God had to say. Isaiah said that Ahaz was going to hear what God had to say anyway and made the prophecy  that a virgin shall conceive bear a son and he will be called wonderful, councilor prince of peace and God With Us.

As with many prophecies it has been considered that there was a dual fulfilmet of Isaiah’s words in that Ahaz’s young wife Abijah soon delivered a son whom they named Hezekiah meaning God is Strength.

Ahaz had been a pretty dreadful king and led Israel into the darkness. But Hezekiah was seen as a great kind. He cleaned out the awful pagan gods and brought Israel back under the wing of God. But the sins of the people left a mark and soon Hezekiah found himself facing Sennechorib who rules Assyria after the death of Sargon. Hezekiah had looked to Egypt for help, but none came.

O Oriens – son/sun of justice

When God made the sun I am sure He had in mind that it would be a symbol of the Incarnate Light of the World. I think He was probably well aware of how the moon as it reflects that light into a dark world would symbolise the Mother and Church.

The old pagans who were wiser in many ways that we give them credit, understood the symbols of sun and moon and made a god and godess around them, but they lacked the full truth of how the heavenly objects were types to show us the way to the reality of heavenly persons. We should not be too hard on them, for there were those who through reason and without the benifit of revelation understood something of the nature of a god of the sun or sun-god or even a son-god.

Both Jesus and Mary have been called “morning star” and so has Satan. How can God and Satan have the same symbol?  It does make me a bit uncomfortable at times. But then it’s something that should tell us about what Satan hoped for himself. He, like his friends, wants all the power and glory of God, but without having to do all the sacrificing and love that goes with it.

Isaiah’s words about how the king of Babylon would fall includes calling him the Day Star, Son of the Morning (in Latin Lucifer and in Hebrew Helel). This passage (ch 14) has been considered a prophesy about Satan but also his best minion, the Antichrist.  The King of Babylon was a type of Antichrist and tried to hold a title that was really for God and His Bride.

It is noted at times that the star of the morning is often considered to be the planet Venus. The goddess in her many forms is an Antimarian figure. The corruption of the Queen mothers (gebirah) in Israel’s royal family was also a type of antimarian.

The fall of Satan was bigger than the fall of the other devils because Satan had been one of the brightest angels. The Light Bearer, Star of the Morning – and he fell into darkness.

The darkest gods in the pagan pantheon are opposites of God as He really is. Just as God is Adonai, so the father god of the Canaanites was Ba’al a ruthless father god. Just as Christ is the King of Kings, so many kings arose trying to grasp the Godhead for themselves and fell int he process. (Antiochas Epiphanes has to be the major type of Antichrist, more so even than Solomon after his moral fall).

Christ and His Mother really are the Morning Star,  He is the Son who shines brightly with His own Light as the sun shines at morning. She is the star like Venus who shines her light which is a reflection of His Light.

Just as the sun gives light and life to the world, so the Son gives Light and life to all of us.

O Clavis David – the Key and the Kingdom and Advent and Christmas stories part III

Jesus doesn’t have the keys to the Kingdom, He IS the key of the Kingdom. What He opens, no one shall shut and what He shuts no one shall open.  His sacrifice opens the gates of Heaven, and gives life to His Bride the New Jerusalem.

David had the keys to the Kingdom because he was king. His descendent the great king Hezekiah had, as kings before him, handed the authority to a prime minister. The Prime Minister that had served Hezekiah was a bad one (nothing new under the sun) and so Hezekiah fired him and handed the keys to a new man, and put the cloak of office on this new man. He gave him the keys of authority for the kingdom and said to him “What you open is opened and what you shut is shut,” and gave him the power in the king’s name for binding and loosing.

When Jesus handed His kingly power to Peter, changing his name from Simon as He did so, Jesus echoed the way Hezekiah was doing things. At the moment Jesus was handing this authority to Peter, there was already a Prime Minister in power. The High Priest sat on the seat of Moses and so Jesus had taught that because the priests had the authority handed down to them through Moses and Aaron the people must listen to them – but because they were corrupt, they shouldn’t do as they do.

The rest of the apostles were bishops or overseers. The Church in her development of the hierarchy for the massive changing needs of the Church as she grew, established Cardinals. The word cardinal means “hinge”. So as Peter and his descendents hold the keys of the gate of heaven, the cardinals are the hinges of the gate. They and the bishops work with Peter to serve Jesus and guide us lot.

Rusty cardinals could prevent people from getting to heaven. Jesus wont like that, so we had better be praying for our bishops hadn’t we?

Meanwhile the Anchoress and others have noted that the Holy Father is looking worn out at the moment. He has a huge cross to carry around thanks to the appalling sins of some priests and bishops and the sorry behaviour and attitude of too many of us Catholics.  Let’s not forget to pray for him too.

My Advent and Christmas Stories part III is done. I know it’s a bit late, but there’s not a lot of “work” so much as sit and read together, so some of you might still find it useful. I cover the stories of St. Nicholas,Angels , St Wenceslas, Our Lady of Guadalupe and St Juan Diego, St. John the Baptist and a short lesson on the use of chiaroscoro in religious art. Kalei has it up on her blog so go and get it. There’s not a lot of “work” with it this time, just sofa time reading together.

Wish her a Happy Christmas – she has worked her socks off for us all this year!

O Radix Jesse and the faith of Herod

O Radix Jesse, the promise of God that a shoot would arise out of Jesse and as the prayer goes, it will cause all kings to be silenced.

When we hear the Christmas story we will hear of the Magi or kings who travelled to Jerusalem following a star, that somehow they almost seem to have expected. They went to Jerusalem and asked King Herod where the new King of the Jews could be found. How could they have worked all that out from a star?

Those of you who have used my lessons will know about the prophecy of Balaam and how it is thought this prophecy was kept by the people of Mesopotamia so that when the Star appeared, the Magi knew what it might mean.

Herod did not simply dismiss the Magi. He called for those in the Temple to come and explain the Scriptures to him, to see if these gentiles had it right, and the Temple staff said yes they did and the child was to be born in Bethlehem.

Herod then said, “Don’t be daft, it’s all a fairy tale…” er no, he didn’t. He sent the Magi to find the baby and then come and tell him. Perhaps at this point he was hedging. Maybe there was a king born, maybe there wasn’t. But from what the Scriptures said, this was no ordinary king- this was the promised Messiah. So all those temple people would be rushing off to Bethlehem to see the baby too right?

Apparently not. They just went back to the temple and put away the scrolls as though what they had just read, meant nothing. I can’t help wondering how much of their disinterest in the possibility of the Messiah was rooted in the fact that Herod built the temple and the money, power and prestige they had there, came not from God (as far as they were concerned) but from Herod.

Then, when the Magi did not return, Herod had all the toddler and baby boys murdered in a mass slaughter that is just foul. Why bother? I can’t help thinking he did it because he believed; I think Herod believed that the Messiah, the King of the Jews the promised shoot from the stump of Jesse really had been born and it terrified him.

For the Magi, the curses Balaam had promised to pour on Israel had become a blessing not just for Israel but for all the nations, but for Herod, the curse was real as he rejected the blessing.

God said to Israel, “See a place before you life and death, choose life therefore…”

O Adonai and if not Adonai then ba’al.

Adonai is a word that doesn’t just mean “lord” but “beloved husband”. It is the word used for God, our Beloved Bridegroom as against the word for a master-husband of a slave-wife (concubine) which was ba’al.  You may remember that Ba’al was the name or title of one of the dark gods of Canaan and it’s surrounding tribes.

We know from Scripture that Israel frequently found it difficult to discern between their Adonai and Ba’al and fell into worshipping Ba’al instead of the True Adonai, thus become slaves to their god(s) and subject to other nations.

In our journey towards God we need guides. Israel had Moses and the Prophets and the Church has the Apostles, their spiritual descendents and the saints. One of the reasons Jesus set up the Church the way He did – in fact it was probably the primary reason – was to keep us on the straight and narrow, so that we worshipped the true God, the true Bridegroom, Adonai, as He is and should be worshipped, and didn’t get cheated and tricked into becoming slaves ofthe Ba’als. We see in Scripture that Satan can quote Scripture pretty well and we are warned that he can appear as an angel of light. So we must be cautious.

We have celebrated the feast of St Juan Diego (dec 9th) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec 12th) and we know from this story that the Bishop was very cautious about what Juan Diego told him and that he asked for a sign. Some may say this showed a lack of faith in the bishop, but it didn’t. It showed the bishop was cautious and knew that just as Juan Diego could have seen Our Lady, he could have seen something evil, or nothing at all. Caution is wise in these cases.

On Dec 14th we celebrated the feast of St. John of the Cross, a great friend and support for St. Teresa of Avila and St John of Avila. These great saints were at work for Christ at the same time as St Ignatius of Loyola. God was very busy sending out extraordinary men and women to save souls in those turbulent times.

But the devil wasn’t sitting back on his tail either. He wanted to undo as much of God’s work as possible. Nothing new there.

At that time a new “saint” arose. She appeared to be a great mystic with many supernatural abilities and seemed very holy. Her astonishing abilities made her the darling of the rich and famous, even to Queen Isabella herself.

Sr. Magdalena of the Cross was allowed free rein for her spiritual events, even when some serious problems should have provided due warning that not all was well. I am not quite sure how she managed to be so well known as a saint without anyone insisting she receive proper spiritual direction, but it happened. God is merciful (thankfully) and had one of His real saints finally see her and soon she was unmasked and the poor woman was being given a serious of exorcisms, ridding her of at least two demons.

She was finally free of her possession and then tried before the Inquisition, who seeing she was repentant and anyway, it had not been all her own doing, she received a sentence that allowed her to return to religious life, this time quietly and in genuine service to God. She became like the St Mary Magdalene for whom she had been named, grateful that Jesus had released her from the devils who had taken such hold of her.

The Church authority is there to help prevent us falling into error (and we see from the rather sad story of Sr. Magdalene what happens when those in authority are slow to act). The damage her possession did to the work of St Teresa of Avila could have been much worse than it was, but I can’t help thinking that the poor woman could have been helped a lot earlier if those in authority had acted promptly rather than allowing the glamour of powerful people to hobble their Christ ordained mission.

In the end, of course, the devil failed. The great work of  saints Teresa both the Johns and Ignatius burned and bloomed as they worshipped Adonai and not ba’al.

Of course the stories of far too many people both then and now is not that they get possessed by Satan, but that they are possessed by themselves. They worship the image they see in the mirror and sacrifice others to the unholy trinity of me-myself-I, while at the same time kidding themselves they are Christians.

So side step those Ba’als and sing O Adonai.

Advent preparation; O Sapientia and considering spiritual pride.

The first O Antiphon on the eight day count down to Christmas is O Sapientia that is O Wisdom.  Part of the getting ready and sorting out is to be sure we are obeying Christ’s insistence that we seek first the Kingdom. If we are not doing that, we are not going to find it. If we are seeking it, that is wise, if we aren’t that is foolish. And if we think we’ve found it and so don’t need to do any more we will find our lamps have no oil when the Bridegroom approaches and that is very very foolish.

Every day we need to pray for God to assist us to find Him “Oh God come to my aid, Oh Lord make haste to help me!” is said every day in Divine Office. This is accepting that we can’t pray or meditate on Scripture without His help. He gives wisdom and we need to keep asking for it.

Any journey will have it’s dangers. There are all sorts of wrong turns we can take and nasty surprises that might hurt us or delay us. But we must not lose sight of the fact that Jesus calls us to seek first the Kingdom. Advent is a great way to remind us which in direction we should be moving and which star we should be following.

One thing we should certainly not be following is our feelings. How it feels is hardly ever how it is. Wasn’t it Jeremiah who warned against following our hearts?

Humility is the most difficult virtue to cultivate. It is too easy to tell Christ where we would like Him to walk with us, as we go, rather than agree to walk with Him wherever He goes. I know it is much easier to spot lack of humility and down right pride in other people, than in ourselves, but perhaps we can use this tendency as a way to examine our own consciences.

I listen to Catholic Answers and as I’ve had so much wrapping, sorting, cooking and just plain catching my breath, to do recently, I’ve listened to more than usual. I’ve also listened to more of the lectures from the Institute of Catholic Culture which I highly recommend. Anyway, something has hit me as I listened and it is this; the great lectures that the ICC offer have a sort of quiet, gentle and joyful holiness to most of them. (I have come across a couple of truly grating lecturers who give the wrong impression but the rest are wonderful). On Catholic Answers the guests and Mr Coffin the anchor always seem gentle, polite and very honest. But sometimes those who phone in can come across as astonishingly proud and ignorant at the same time. Almost invariably with these callers the question comes back to them – how it feels for “me”. The more polite caller will become a bit smarmy and slippery insisting that the way they “feel” is the only judge of what is right.

Seeking wisdom is tough, and falling into the pit of spiritual pride is too easy, but if we spend every day admitting we need wisdom and begging God to show us His wisdom we might just side step the pit.

Kangaroo care saves a prem baby’s life.

Take a look at this story from Australia. The prem baby boy was pronounced dead at birth but with two hours of skin to skin with his mother he began to breath, move and finally suckle. Doctors were shocked.

This is called Kangaroo care and it’s something I believe in very strongly as I firmly believe it kept my daughter Avila alive when she was a baby.

She was very unwell from the moment she was born, but we were both very blessed that despite her problems breathing and the uncertainty of the pediatrician at the time, she wasn’t taken off me and put in the NICU. Instead I was allowed to keep her in bed with me. – skin to skin. We were like it for hours at a time over the next few days.

Back home over the next 2 years Avila had a tendency to stop breathing, especially at night. I never put her in another room to sleep even in the day. I keep her next to me so that should she stop breathing I could revive her.

At night we co-slept. When she stopped breathing – sometimes up to four times in one night- I was always aware very quickly and would rub her chest, sit her up and rub her back until she made that gasp to kick start the breathing again.

For all her hospital admissions (and I felt like we lived in the Children’s at one point) she always slept with me, even during the awful one where she was just so desperately ill it was truly frightening.

I am sure that kangaroo care saved her life.

It is so easy to do and there has been a huge body of research on this since the days when Russian hospitals introduced it as (much like the NHS) they had not equipment for mothers and sick babies.

Avila was finally able to move into her own room just after she turned 2 and breathed through the night every night. She is doing well these days, though still has some health problems – but she’s pretty fit and healthy all things considered.

Fibromyalgia and my heart.

Saw the cardio yesterday. He wasn’t too fussed about me. He tells me that because I don’t smoke, drink heavily or eat rubbish that I have approx a 5% chance of angina. He then went on to tell me I don’t have a heart murmur. When I pointed out I had always had one and it wasn’t (as he said) just one doctor who had noticed it, he backed down a bit and admitted it was possible he just hadn’t heard it. lol. Doctors!

So, there were changes on the ECG meaning I now await an ultrasound appt.

I did point out that fibro gives me  much higher chance of heart failure and he nodded and said, “Yes, well that’s another reason to do the ultrasound.”

He pressed on a couple of trigger points (left side collar bone/clavicle points) and said I had intercostal pain. Sadly I think he was pretending to know way more about fibro than he did. Although intercostal pain is extremely common with us fibro folk, pressing on a trigger point will hurt regardless. “sigh”.

Anyway, first hoop jumped through. Have to see GP again for next hurdle. Not sure when I will be doing that or whether I should wait for the ultra sound.

Unfortunately I am not functioning as well as I want to. I wish there was a magic wand somewhere – or a trip to Lourdes. Or perhaps I should try Fulton Sheen – it looks like the miracle of the baby returning from death has been passed to the Vatican for final approval. Go Fulton!

I digress. Al is very pleased I am not about to drop dead. I told him he would have to tell all those women out there awaiting him, they had to wait a bit longer ;) lol.

cooking for Christmas recipes: cranberry sauce

Cranberries are in season for a very short time indeed (What was God thinking?). So grab ‘em while you can get them.

1 lb cranberries

a cinnamon stick and a star anise

5 fl oz of liquid either; water, red wine; orange juice; blueberry juice or something you would really like to see used to make cranberry sauce.

six tablespoons of sugar

Put the cranberries, cinnamon, star anise and liquid into the pan and heat until the cranberries have softened. Don’t add the sugar at the beginning as apparently it toughens the berry skins. I have forgotten occasionally and not noticed too much faff, but it is a bit easier to squish the cranberries if the sugar isn’t there.

The other thing I have found is that this amount per batch works best. Doubling up for me at least has not worked so well.

Now then, this is the basic cranberry sauce. You could do half cranberries half stoned cherries. You can use brandy, AfterShock or that orange liqueur whose name has gone out of my head right now.

If like us you can’t use alcohol then experiment with fancy juices and different sugars. (not molasses, it doesn’t seem to go with cranberries).

This one is easy enough for the children to have a go.

cooking for Christmas Recipes: Lemon and Lime Marmalade

You will need a really large pan, or a cauldron like I use.

2 and a half pints of boiling water

6 limes

4 large lemons or 5 small ones

1 ruby grapefruit

3 lbs of sugar ( one pound of which could be Jam sugar)

Measure boiled water into a jug to 2 1/2 pints

Using a peeler or sharp knife strip the fruit of it’s skin and set aside.

Cut the fruit in half and squeeze out the juices. Add all the juice to the jug and you should end up with just over 3 pts of liquid. Throw the halves into the pan pips and all and pour over the water and juice. On the top dump in all the peelings. Heat this until the fruit has softened.

Spoon the fruit and skin out of the liquid giving the fruit halves a good squeeze on their way out. You can now throw away the fruit but keep the skin peelings. They will have softened in the cooking and you can attack them with gusto with a pair of scissors or a knife so they are cut into little shreds. Very therapeutic.

Return the shreds to the pan and add 3 lbs of sugar.

Bring it all to a rolling boil stirring it until the sugar has dissolved.

Bring to setting point 220 F on a sugar thermometer. If you don’t have one use a cold saucer and add a teaspoon of the marmalade when you think it should be setting – usually about 10 to 15 minutes of boiling. Let it cool and push it. If it wrinkles and feels gloopy you have a set.

Adding the pinkiness of the grapefruit makes the final colour really golden, which I rather like.

If you have boiled the stuff to within an inch of its life and it still refuses to set, add jelly or agar gel. I know this is cheating but the fact is, sometimes a batch simply will not set.

If Delia Smith ever becomes a saint, we will all have St. Delia to approach for setting jams and marmalades; but until then we must cheat. :)

Unless anyone knows a patron saint of preserves and their makers?


home education: reading week

As there is so much to organise for Christmas, we are spending this week reading and cooking.

The children are continuing their music lessons every day and then there are stories.

Ronan is reading Emil and the Detectives and Avila is reading What a Year from the 26 Fairmount Ave books.

Heleyna is reading Oxford Reading Tree stage 1+ books and the books on more.starfall and Starfall.

I have also just downloaded a free geography – maps and flags game called Seterra which has proved fun.

Read Alouds this week:

The Lady of Guadalupe by Tomie de Paola (This book seems really difficult to get hold of these days.)

From my Kindle

The Pheonix and the Carpet

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (bought when Yesterday’s Classics were doing a massive deal). It’s not the real story of Santa Claus, but it’s a fun tale nevertheless.

My personal reading at the moment is Theophilos by Michael O’Brien

and Dorothy L Sayers Unpleasentness at the Bellona Club – but I can’t remember where I found it online.

I am sure there will be more, around all the cooking, prep and stuff and I’ll update if there is.

The Winter Roses of Our Lady of Guadalupe

To be honest, we should be somewhat ashamed about the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, but at the same time, like Adam’s sin, the fall out was so wonderful we could perhaps called it “oh happy fault!” as we do with Adam.

The Aztec religion was truly horrible and the mass slaughter at the Temple had left the neighbouring tribes fearful and resentful of their stronger masters. So when the ships arrived from Spain and Portugal it was hardly surprising that many of the Indian leaders were all too keen to join forces and defeat their Aztec enemies and their bloodthirsty gods.

Bringing the Good News of Christ could have been a wonderful turn around for the people. Only it barely happened.  The problem the missionaries faced was the behaviour of their fellow countrymen who thought stealing and slavery were a good way to live. The Dominicans spoke and fought strongly against the enslavement of the Indians and were backed by other orders and by the Pope who wrote strongly against what was happening out there in the New World.  But the evil continued, and so understandably many of the Indians equated Christianity with their oppression.

At that point God stepped in directly. While His sons in the religious orders were being undermined, and his children of the New World were being turned away from Truth and freedom, He could not stand by. He sent His greatest weapon against evil, the one who could stamp on the head of the serpent – His Mother.

When you look at many of the moments where Our Lady has turned up, she has done so when it is about to get dark or is already dark and about to get darker. She came to Fatima in Portugal to beg for prayer and repentance so that one World War could end and we could have avoided the horrific bloodbath of Communism and the Second World War if we had only listened – only we didn’t.

And she appeared at Kibeho for the same reason, was ignored and the bloodbath followed.

She wept in France and in Japan.

And yet we still ignore her message.

But the Indians of Mexico did not ignore her. They responded with courageous willingness to find the Truth and within a few years millions and millions have received baptism and found the love of Christ that He offered through the love of His Mother. The Tilma that the quiet and rather shy Indian St. Juan Diego carried to the the bishop filled with unseasonal Castilian Roses bears a beautiful image – a copy of which I have in my kitchen.

We can be amazed at the miracle of the winter roses and the stunning and deeply symbolic image left on St. Juan Diego’s grass woven tilma - but the greatest achievement was the conversion of the people.

Not all mothers are wise, as she is wise and not all mothers are good as she is good and not all mothers love their children, but she does. We need to accept her love and guidance as Juan Diego did. She is the best Mother we have ever been given; and she points always to her Son as she makes the only command she ever gave in Scripture “Do whatever He tells you.”

It is better to light the Pink Candle than to curse the darkness ;)

Guadette Sunday – it just makes you feel better no matter how naff you feel physically. The “already but not yet” moment of Christ’s coming seems even more imminent as we hurtle towards His birthday.

In the Gospel reading the question of who John the Baptist is gets asked. It is the same question that is later asked of Jesus. Some wonder if John is Elijah returned as the prophets have proclaimed but John says he isn’t. On the other hand Jesus says he is.

Spend any time studying Scripture and you will soon see God likes typology. He tells us His story by the stories of those who foreshadow Christ. So John is not literally Elijah, though he carries the same charism; he is a type of Elijah, a foreshadow of the prophet who will return at the time of the Second Coming (along with Enoch the other gentleman of the Old Testament who doesn’t die but is taken).

So what has John’s role, preparing for Christ got to do with pink candles and all that joy in the midst of the penitential season? And if todays reading are really pointing us to the Second Coming, isn’t that more scary than joyful?

I’ve no idea, but I suspect the church in her infinite wisdom and knowledge of human nature might want to remind us that Jesus coming again is actually a GOOD thing. Not for everyone of course, but surely those who love Christ will be glad to see Him.

This reminder comes as next week is the last Sunday of Advent and we really should have made straight our lives and remembered our baptismal promises so whether He comes of as the Divine Child or Divine Mercy, we are ready. If not of course He will be the Just Judge. But we get plenty of preparation time, so lets get ready.



Fibro and CFS/ME and the heart failure link.

I worked as a pyschi nurse for about sixteen years, so I should be more than aware that research based practice is more mantra than reality. Even so, I was a bit of an eejit and followed the general advice put out by the NHS on the best way to deal with fibro, cfs and ME and any other illness of the type that takes years (in my case 8 years) to diagnose. The advice was the usual “don’t smoke” (I don’t) “Don’t drink more alcohol than the Govt allows” (I don’t – I drink less) and “eat healthy” (I do) and then do lots of exercise to push past the pain and in the end all that hard work will pay off and improve your health.

Well, as I face not even being able to get upstairs without being winded and finding just everyday life makes it difficult to breathe and now I am drugged to the eyeballs with meds for lungs, heart, BP and pain, I find that it has been known since 1996 that doing aerobic exercise with these illnesses can cause and/or exacerbate heart failure. In fact an MP in Britain dropped dead after taking the exercise advice.

So all that time I spent forcing myself to push that little bit harder, walk that little bit further and psuh past the pain, wasn’t helping me at all. In fact it has likely led to me being this ill.

I have seen quite a bit of research showing the CFS/ME/FM link with heart failure, the most recent in 2006, so I was more or less resigned to this happening. But finding that the advice I so readily took back when I could do it has probably made me worse rather than better is somewhat soul destroying.

My Cardio appoitment is on Wednesday. I hope I will be allowed to discuss this with the doctor when I see him. But I bet I wont.

Heart failure deaths happen an average of 25 years earlier in people with CFS/ME/FM. A little more care and awareness would be helpful!

The Immaculate what, who, …eh?

There seems to be a great deal of confusion about what the Immaculate Conception is, to whom it happened and what it means. I have even heard people phoning Catholic Answers who seem to believe that the Papists made it all up in 1854, having nothing better to do than make up new dogmas.

So what is it all about?

From the beginning God had a plan of salvation for us poor sinners. According to tradition it was this plan that caused Satan to fall as he refused to serve a mere human woman and could not countenance the idea of the Second Person being made flesh.

God chose Mary to be the Mother of His Son and so at the moment of her conception He filled her with grace so that she was made as Eve had been made, pure and without stain or lack of Grace. Hence when the Archangel Gabriel comes to ask her to be the Mother of God he greets her “Hail full of grace.”

The objection frequently goes along the lines that God could not possibly have saved someone before the action of the Cross and Resurrection. And I can’t help wondering if there is just a hint of, if God was going to save someone to that extent He wouldn’t choose a woman.

The answer is that God is not bound by time. He can save whomever He chooses and He chose to save His mother in a special way. Why wouldn’t He? Mary herself proclaims that God is her Saviour in her Magnificat hymn.

The next question often asked is whether Mary’s Immaculate Conception was necessary.

The answer is that it was not necessary but it was fitting. God had already prepared us for her perfection in how He instructed Moses to build the Ark. The Ark is made of the most precious materials both inside and out. The bread given by heaven (manna), the Law and Aaron’s staff (priesthood) is placed within the gold lined box of the Ark of the Covenant. The fact that only the very best, finest materials are used for this great liturgical object is because God is worthy of such and we need the constant reminder of just how Almighty and Glorious our God is.

It was the fact that Cain did not offer the best to God, but kept it for himself that led to his anger and fratricide.  And it was Judas who was angry at the expensive ointment being “wasted” on Jesus, and this led to his betrayal and death.

St. Francis of Assisi dressed and lived in poverty but he ensured that churches were beautiful, that vestments and the objects for saying Mass were of the finest quality, as God is worthy of the very best we can give him.

One of the obstacles in accepting the Immaculate Conception of Mary, I think, may be rooted in the fact that over the last generation we have begun to make our churches cheaper, plainer and unadorned, while our homes are filled with the very best we can afford. The great Cathedrals built by the poor of the faith filled Middle Ages are almost a thing of the past.

Finally the question comes up about whether being Immaculately conceived means that Our Lady was conceived in some miraculous way rather than in the usual God designed way.

I have read some suggestion that there was a miraculous conception (Catherine Anne Emmerich’s visions suggested this) but the Church has not said so as far as I know so I think we are free to believe either way. Personally I tend to believe she was conceived normally after SS Joachim and Anna had gone through many trials thanks to their childlessness over the years.

Alex’s first zbrush timelapse with commentary.

Alex has been teaching himself Maya and Zbrush for some time. He is working hard up there in the attic.

This is his first youtube video showing a time lapse of his modelling a dwarf bust.

Free Advent lesson pack part II

I’ve managed to get part II of the Advent Stories Lesson pack done and Kalei has it up on her blog with some rather kind words about it. :)

Please go ane help yourself to it.

Advent Lesson Pack II

And in case you missed Part I here it is.

I am working on a part III which I hope to have ready before Christmas.


On parenting and no guarentees, and something Dr Ray Guarendi said.

Dr Ray Guarendi voiced his concerns t’other day, that parents can be led to believe that if we are good and holy in bringing up our children, then they will grow up to be good and holy too. He mentioned (and I have noticed this too) that even Catholic radio people have sometimes given this impression, with a “Do it my good and holy way and saintly kids are guaranteed” approach.

The fact is, as Dr Ray points ou,t that all our children have free will and God respects free will. It is an added burden I think, to expect all Christian parents to bring up lovely Christian children, and adds to the guilt and sense of failure if one or more of the children go off the rails.

Perhaps we should remember the anguish St. Monica went through over her son Augustine’s behaviour. Her grandson was born out of wedlock and she suffered and prayed for many years before her son became one of the greatest Catholic saints.

St Bridget of Sweden had an even harder time when her son Karl hurtled into sin and danger with his affair with Queen Joanna of Naples. If even saints like Bridget can have troublesome children, the rest of us are surely not exempt.

I have seen a couple of major problems with the way some parents think on the behaviour of their children. I knew one Catholic family who did not seem to feel the need to do the every day discipline with their children, but if something happened that was big enough to gain attention they were sent to Confession – not as a Sacrament (although I think they believed it was a Sacrament) but as a sort of Father will parent and God will dump grace on the child and they wont do it again. We can sit back.  I can tell you it didn’t work., and I was really put off by what looked like a misuse of a Sacrament.

The Sacrament of Confession is a vitally important one and we should be grateful Christ gave us such a gift. But we must do our part too. We are supposed to be sorry when we tell the priest (in persona Christie) what we did or didn’t do. We are supposed to have, with the Act of Contrition, a firm committment to amend that sin, especially if it’s habitual. Sending a child off to tick a box is not using the Sacrament or the grace it can deliver properly at all.

The other thing I have seen – and this again seems to be a Christian pitfall – is the No Tech= good kids idea. It’s the view that if you do not have a TV and do not allow your children near a computer that they will be lovely children, having no influences from the “tech world”.  Therefore when they are behaving rudely, spitefully, or other childish naughtiness, it doesn’t need dealing with, because it can’t be happening if they haven’t watched the telly.

Sadly, one parent I knew who had this parenting technique would get really upset when family members complained about her children’s unruly behaviour.

One of the difficulties I think many of us face is the question of discipline in public. Two of the home ed families who come to my house on a regular basis have no embarrassment at all about putting their children on the “naughty step” or making them stand by the front door. In fact for K  I vaguely remember a day when her and my children were all in various places around the house studying the front door, the back door and the stairs.

I cannot begin to express how much easier it is to parent children when fellow parents have the same standards on behaviour and how much more difficult it is when they don’t. It also makes it easier if the family are on board. My FIL is fine about me putting the children in time out at his house if needed. I haven’t had to do it very often, and that’s partly because they know I will if I have to :)

One thing that makes the more public parenting of bad behaviour more difficult is when someone else tries to make excuses for your child while you are setting them straight. If you are tempted to this, resist the temptation.

There are families that I have simply distanced us from because I couldn’t cope with the children’s awful behaviour.  It is isolating for the children as many families will react as I have done, but our children have fallen human natures too, and we mums frequently talk about ways to protect our children from being dragged the wrong way by their peers. Those of you who have children in school have an even harder task.

St Monica and St Bridget ora pr nobis.

Home education and adapting to circumstances

I posted about taking a long or short view of educating our children, and I suppose this is a sort of part two to that.

Charlotte Mason wrote very clearly that the role of parents was to form a habit of learning in our children and that we do that by providing an “atmosphere” of education for them. It means that we set up a rhythm in family life so that the children understand that learning is part of their everyday life. In teaching our children to learn we set them up to be very adaptive to whatever might happen in the family.

It has been very important in our family to establish a “habit of learning” with the children and from there to encourage independence in learning but obviously with support.

With the building blocks of the children’s learning in place, they simply know that learning time is learning time and can get on with whatever work is set out for them, and I can be there to help when they are stuck, or look up the answer with them.

I have to admit that the massive gaps in my own learning get shown up at times. When Ronan was working on his English and asked what a predicate verb is, I didn’t have a clue. Fortunately his workbook had the answer! Another example of how we learn together.

But in every family (well most) there comes a time when things get very complicated and the children’s education needs to be adapted so that as a crisis or a long term health problem happens they can continue to learn and grow.

A friend of mine who went through chemotherapy and surgery for breast cancer arranged her lessons and set out each thing the children needed to do so that on chemo weeks when she was out for the count, her parents could take over or her husband and the learning could continue. As with many home ed families who have been through this sort of experience, when they came out the other end, the children had learned well and there wasn’t much catching up to do.

I think it will take me a while to sort out how I want things to go should life get any more difficult, but I will blog the progress so that anyone else out there home edding through a rough patch can glean some ideas. I’ll also try and make a note of anything that doesn’t work and why. So watch this space…