Friday, September 25, 2009

Is everyone equal?

Yes! There is no doubt from what Christ says and what our Church teaches that we are all equal in God's eyes. We are made in His image and likeness and as such there is no difference between us.

But....we are all so different. Let us never equate difference with better or worse. A child is as vital to God as any adult (the simplest reason behind our Church's clear pro-life teachings) but a child is not an adult as there are clear differences - maturity, size and abilities can come to mind here.

But, both are capable of loving God, enjoying life and finding complete happiness to the best of their ability and capacity.

St. Therese speaks of this in Chapter Two - "I once told you how astonished I was that God does not give equal glory in heaven to all His chosen. I was afraid they were not all equally happy. You made me bring Daddy's big tumbler and put it by the side of my tiny thimble. You filled both of them with water and asked me which was fuller. I told you they were both full to the brim and that it was impossible to put more water in them than they can hold. And so, Mother darling, you made me understand that in heaven God will give His chosen their fitting glory adn that the last will have no reason to envy the first. By such means, you made me understand the most sublime mysteries and gave my soul its essential food."

There in a 'thimble', so to speak, is one of the many small truths of the Little Way. We will be full to the brim when we reach heaven if only we fulfill our purpose from God. We each have our own vocations, missions and roles to fill in His salvation plan. Don't shy away from yours, don't think it is more than you can do - be brave in His grace and know you can do it!

But also - pray to made into a rain barrel!! I do not want to be content to be a thimble full of water but pray that I may be made into a rain barrel or a vast sea full of Him and only Him!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The First Confession for the Little Flower

In Chapter Two - St. Therese comments about her joy at confession - "What a wonderful memory I have of it!....I made my confession like a big girl and received his (Fr. Ducelier) blessing with great devotion, for you had told me that, at that moment, the tears of Jesus would cleanse my soul....I left the confessional happier and more lighthearted that I'd ever been before. After that I went to confession on every big feast day, and every time I went it was a real feast for me."

Her comment reminded me of an experience my own house. This past year, my 8 yr. old son received his First Confession. I prepared him as I had the previous children - we fulfilled the requirements of our parish and off we went as a family to celebrate this wonderful sacrament.

Seeing our children heading into the confessional can be a source of dread for us as parents' can't it? We wonder both how they will do but what they will say about us! What will Fr. now know about our family and ourselves from the honesty and innocence of our children? But you are also are concerned that you prepared your child well; after all we are not Pauline who prepared her younger sister.

I watched nervously as he walked in and then smiled with joy as he walked out - he with even a bigger smile! He slid up to me, gave me a hug, kneeled to say his penance and then gave me another hug! As he did so he whispered in my ear - "Mom, you forgot to tell me something!" My smile fell from my face, my heart dropped in my chest and I wondered what I could have missed, after all I'd done this 7 times before!! I turned to look at him and asked, "What did I forget??!"

He smiled and whispered, "You forgot to tell me how good I'd feel!"

Remember that! Both my Henry and St. Therese know that confession does 'feel' good. And there is nothing wrong with that! Allow our kids to get into feeling how good it is to talk to Jesus. Make it a committed part of your family schedules. While St. Therese made use of big feast days perhaps we might make it more frequently - as our kids are probably not a St. Therese and perhaps could use more regular opportunities for both the peace that confession brings and the grace it affords them.

Some families I know plan it once a month and finish off with a pizza party at home afterwards or a trip out for ice cream. Making it a reliable routine is one of the key building blocks for them to enter into their teens and adult lives.

And - don't think you're off the hook - you need to go as well surely as frequently as your children but probably (if you are like me) more often!!

Let Jesus' tears wash you clean and set you on the path again!!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

New Year, New Group!

I had a great talk recently with Michelle who is starting a new group. She has experience not only as a great Mom but also as a DRE. This experience has given her a good background to start a group and during our conversation I was reminded of some of the basic facts of 'group dynamics'. You will want to keep some of them in mind as this new year of meetings (Little Flowers, Blue Knights, Honor Guard or Little Women) begins.So while planning all manner of activities, crafts, outings and service projects, don't forget to keep safety of the group in mind. Wether you are meeting in a home, church facility or other space make sure to remember some basic facts:
-Consider creating an Emergency Contact Form or General Permission form no matter where you are meeting. While it is probably required if you are at a church/school location it also makes sense for a home meeting. Make sure you know each girl's name, full address and contact information. Have the home and cell #'s for both Mom and Dad. Even if a parent is attending the meetings, having the other's # will be helpful in case of an accident and the need arises to get a hold of them. Consider also having an additional emergency contact #. This might need to used if a parent isn't at the meeting and isn't answering their phone. -Make sure to know everyone's allergies - both food and otherwise - children and adults. This makes it easier when planning snacks (peanut allergies) or games (latex allergies - no balloons!). -Have a basic first aid kit ready at every meeting. Consider creating your own in a shoe box or purchase one ready-packed. Perhaps you have a parent/nurse or doctor who can be asked to do this for the group.
-If you are using a church facility, investigate what forms they may require for insurance purposes. Don't be afraid to ask and then be ready to comply. It makes a pastor's job easier when groups are ready to follow any diocesan requirements and this would include us. -Decide what method to use for contacting the group for meetings changes or cancellations. A good old-fashioned phone tree, internet group or e-mails - it doesn't matter - just make sure that everyone knows what method is being used and then commit to using it and checking it. Nothing is worse than thinking e-mails will be sent out and then discovering that someone doesn't have one!
Consider passing this task off to some of the older kids in the group. They might even decide to create a monthly newsletter (as Michelle's daughter is doing) to keep everyone up to date on what has taken place and what is being planned.In addition, please remember that no matter where you are meeting, be sure to include clean-up time into your meeting schedule. Every member should take an active part in making sure the meeting location is left as clean (or better!) than when they arrived. A sure way to keep a pastor or a parent happy is to regard the meeting place as 'special' and making sure it looks and remains that way!Finally, have a great year! Remember to let others (and us) know what is working and what isn't. We're all eager to learn from each others successes and failures! Be assured of our prayers!

Monday, September 14, 2009

What truths are outside of time??

St. Therese writes, "God favored me by awakening my intelligence very early and by imprinting the happenings of my childhood so sharply on my memory that the things I am going to write about seem as if they took place yesterday."

While I am so very grateful that God gave this gift to St. Therese as the stories of her childhood play such a strong part in the saint she became, I do not have that gift. I have nothing to fear from my memories of my childhood - large, cradle-Catholic family - no real skeletons, some really funny stories but nothing compared with St. Therese. Realizing this, I started to take a look at those things that St. Therese writes about that might be able to find a place in my home.

To be clear, we are not called to 'be' anyone but ourselves before God - we all have our own vocations with our families and should never seek to 'be just like' anyone as that would not allow God to work with us and through us. But we can see good in other families or people and pray that what we witness might also fit into God's plan for us.

Two images struck a cord with me. The first one was from the introduction where Mr. Beevers speaks of the type of family they were. He speaks quite bluntly - "Louis and Zelie Martin concerned themselves with three things and three things only - the Church, their family and their work. Suitable recreation had, of course, its place in their lives, but no time was wasted in chasing so-called pleasures. Nowadays such a life seems to many far too narrow and circumscribed. Yet a life spent serving God and performing all the duties of one's state in life is immeasurably fuller, richer, and happier than one passed in worldly activities."

But let's us be careful as we read this for what it means and what it does not - for I wouldn't want any family reading this and saying that to be holy we need to live exactly as they did. You can't and you shouldn't. However, the Martins' have one thing that we can duplicate.

They clearly knew their vocation before God and what He was asking of them, calling them to and how to fulfill that. Are we as clear? Do we pray with our spouse for a clear vision of God's vocation for our family? Do we have a plan on how to fulfill this vocation or are our days flowing from one to another without any clear path?

The other image that struck a cord with me was her description of her love and relationship with her father. I was impressed as they naturally had a relationship that studies today have determined are essential. Several studies have recently supported that a healthy, loving relationship between a daughter and father are key to that daughter's success, strong sense of self and a protection against ever getting involved in risky behaviors. Dr. Meg Meeker has written an excellent book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters that clearly speaks of this relationship. Matt had read this book over the past year and watching him put into place much of what Dr. Meeker speaks of is a real gift to me and to our seven daughters.

Our lives in the 21st century are not the lives of the Martins' but there are some truths that are outside of any calendar - a commitment to God and to our families should be seen an essential part of those transcendent truths.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Story of a Soul

Okay, so I am 'inspired' to re-read this wonderful book and use it as both a book club and source of 'food for thought' for this blog. In that we are both inspired by St. Therese's life it seems appropriate. Tonight, my first thoughts:

WHAT WAS I THINKING!!!??? It has been many years since I last read this book and what I remembered was not what I was reading. Isn't that the funny thing about good books, especially good, true, spiritually theologically sound books? You read them once and gain a lot, set them aside, live a few days, months or years and pick them up again. Due to the life you have lived, the maturity you have gained, the grace you are now open to and the work of the Holy Spirit you gain a whole lot more - new more! It works with the Bible and it works with this book.

I know the reasons - I'm older now and hopefully wiser than when I first read this book and when I read for the 2nd or 3rd time when writing LFGP. But reading it now, it seems like a new book - a book I feel I've never read. I like it!

Thoughts from Chapter One - at least as far as I could read before stopping because I was just overwhelmed...

1st paragraph, 2nd line - "Jesus made me realize that I should please Him by unquestioning obedience."

Here's where I first got into trouble....have I ever given Jesus unquestioning obedience? I have strived to be obedient to Him but it usually always comes with questions, sometimes alot of questions such as, "Are you crazy?" or "Surely, you can't mean...." or my favorite "Why??" I expect obedience from my children, unquestioning obedience for the most part as I'll allow them to ask appropriate questions about the why's if it will help them better understand or inspire them. But my questions to God are rarely of this nature - my questions are whiny and demanding. Explain yourself to me God!! Shades of Job. While I would love to see God, I don't want Him giving me the slapdown He gave Job!

4th paragraph - Here is the beginning of the LFGP when I first began to see it - "The splendour of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. I realised that if every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness and there would be no wild flower to make the meadows gay."

Our daughters, young though they are, could be seen as the little violets who surely give God joy. And we all have much to give to God (and the world) even if we have a bit of wild flower in us and aren't as refined as the rose!

I read some of her early life but needed to pause in my reading...too much as they say to read in one reading...

More tomorrow night...

One last thought - did you realize that she gave herself the name "Little Flower"? I had forgotten that until re-reading it in the introduction. It made me wonder what name would I give myself in my relationship with God? Pathetic Weed came to my mind first but that certainly isn't as inspiring is it? :-) I'll give it some more thought and see I can't come up with something better!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Welcome to a new year of Little Flowers! Book Club, anyone?

I will apologize for being neglectful of the blog this summer. The pool was too inviting, my children were too fun to be with and there was my 25th wedding anniversary to plan! All of this involved getting all 11 children home for a visit for the first time in almost 3 years....

So, I apologize for not being more active. In wanting to give this blog more commitment and quality I took this situation to adoration. I have discovered that time before the tabernacle can result in some amazingly good ideas. Jesus truly is interested in all the minute details of our lives and is eager to put His two cents into anything and everything - we just have to be willing to let Him.

As a result of this prayer time, I was inspired to offer this spot as a place for a little bit of a book club. A chance for me to read a good book and share my thoughts on it. I would like to read books that are helpful in learning about being a Catholic - but especially a Catholic wife and mother. You are welcome, most welcome to join me and offer your own insights or you can just read vicariously through me.

The first book? It seems obvious - The Autobiography of Saint Therese of Lisieux - The Story of a Soul. I'm using the John Beevers translation published by Image Doubleday in 1989. I have read this book before - several times. I read in preparation for the very beginning of Little Flowers and since as new wreaths have come about. But I was inspired to read it again. This time, I am going to read solely as a wife and mother. A woman looking for greater insight in being a better wife and mother.

I'll be posting some quotes from the book that strike a cord with me from the place I am at this time. As I said, I'd love some company for this journey so feel free to read along and let me know what you think of the book, what I write and more.

I'll be posting most evenings except on the weekend unless really inspired. I hope you can be inspired as well.

Friday, September 4, 2009

To Copy or Not to Copy

It may seem odd to have an article about copyright issues under the title "living and learning the virtues," but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. When we teach children about virtues, they will learn best by our good example. All the saint stories, acts of virtue, memorized prayers and Bible verses will be lost if the parent gives a poor example when living out virtue.

Illegally photocopying material not only gives a bad example of moral virtue to children, it also prevents more good materials to be produced. It may seem a small thing to have a copy of an extra saint picture on hand or to copy a few pages here and there, but children see and follow our example. We need to be above repoach and models of virtue in their eyes.

Here are a few suggestions to make your life as a leader easier while keeping your virtue intact. 1) if you'd like another copy of a saint's picture, have the children trace it from the book. It will be their own work and can add to craft time. 2) If you have a new child join and they don't yet have a book, have another child share (thus practicing virtue). The new child can copy down the Bible verse and prayers, thus helping commit them to memory. 3) If you were delayed in ordering your books and are afraid they won't be there by the first meeting, plan something else or postpone the meeting. Remember, the program is flexible, so you don't have to do one virtue a month for nine months. It may sound like the perfect plan, but it's only an outline to help you. The first meeting is going to be hectic anyway. Plan a couple of ice breaker games, a short craft, and "getting to know you" activities. It will go much better than handing out loose sheets of photocopied materials. Also, I frequently get calls from leaders wanting me to read them the first lessons' materials so they can plan their meeting. They typically have been busy and forgotten to order the books ahead of time. To teach a lesson with no materials and little forsight does a disservice to the youth. Again, I urge you to postpone your meeting or organize something else until you can receive your materials. By the way, because I, too, am a busy mom, I am unable to read the lessons to each person who asks. Please forgive me.

As the publisher who has taken on the expense of printing this material, I am very grateful to all of you for your time and commitment to our youth. I strive to make the materials as user friendly as possible. I hope all of you have a wonderful year with your groups! God bless you in your work for His work!