Tuesday, December 16, 2014

All the Baby Jesuses-- My Favorite Family Christmas Traditions!

I have to confess that I LOVE the Christmas season!  It has always been a time of joy for me, and despite the stress, I truly love every minute.

Marietta Gregg, marketing director of Patience Brewster, has suggested I write a post about my favorite Christmas traditions.  Patience Brewster is a designer of Christmas gifts, ornaments, and greeting cards.  My favorite Patience Brewster ornament is called Jambo! Zelda Zebra because it reminds me of a very special little girl named Bridget, who was partial to zebras.

We have quite a few Christmas traditions in our family.  As Catholics we, of course, celebrate the four weeks before Christmas with an Advent wreath.  Grace before dinner includes a short meditation on the season and a candle is lit for each of the four weeks before Christmas.

We also start the season with a small empty manger.  When someone does a good deed or makes a sacrifice they may put a straw in the manger. The goal, of course, is to have the manger full of straw by Christmas so the Baby Jesus will be kept warm.

On Christmas morning from the time my children were very small we started a tradition I learned when studying Japanese history at the University of Michigan.  I had a wonderful modern Japanese history professor.  He was kind, engaging, and extremely knowledgable.  I'm sure I learned a great deal from him, but the information that has stayed with me the longest was his description, casually mentioned, of what he and his wife did on Christmas morning with their children.  He said they always made the children stay upstairs until they heard "Joy to the World" being played.  Practically, that gave Mom and Dad time to get everything ready downstairs.  I don't think I had even met my husband yet, but I made a mental note of what a fine idea that was.

And so that's what we have always done.  The children stay upstairs until they hear the hymn "Joy to the World."  It gives us time to get all in order but it is also a reminder to the children, right up front, of the reason we are celebrating this day.

We have a number of Nativity scenes among our Christmas decorations.  We never put the Baby Jesuses in until Christmas morning, another reminder of Jesus' arrival on Christmas day.  So at the top of the stairs the children would wait, my own six and my two nephews who were always with us.  Before the music started, we would pass out a Baby Jesus to each child.  When "Joy to the World" began, each child would come downstairs and place the Baby Jesus in the appropriate Nativity scene.

My nephew Luke never minded taking the large white plastic Baby Jesus outside to the Nativity Scene in the yard.  Out he would go in his pajamas.  I think he may have enjoyed the drama of it and the size of the Baby Jesus HE got to carry.

The parade down the stairs was an adorable combination of reverence and excitement.  Ok, well maybe the excitement was a little more prevalent.  Then we would gather around the Advent wreath where all the candles were lit.  The Baby Jesus was placed in the manger that had slowly filled with straw pieces from the family's good deeds during Advent.

Then we sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus, the Newborn King.

After that?  Well, after that, we head for the stockings and presents and all chaos breaks loose!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

An Alzheimer's Awakening....

My mother had Alzheimer's Disease for many, many years.  Once, toward the end of her life, we tried to say the rosary with her.  What happened next was truly amazing.

Read more here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Saint Francis Xavier

Today is the memorial of Saint Francis Xavier who was the first Jesuit missionary and spent ten years evangelizing Asia.

In Japan, Saint Francis spent a year learning the language and then wrote a catechism for the Japanese people.  Having spent myself well over a year (:-) studying the Japanese language, the efforts of St. Francis Xavier are particularly dear to me.  

I love the Japanese people.  I spent a year of college living and studying with them.  They are a gracious and kind people.

Less than .5% of the Japanese population is Catholic even now.

Through the intercession of St. Francis Xavier may the Japanese people come to know the fullness of your truth.  Oh, Lord, please bring the Japanese people into your fold.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Thanks Be to God.

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances;  for this is the will of God for you.
1Thessalonians 5:16-18

We had a joyful Thanksgiving with everyone except Jim home.  He was sorely missed but we will see him in a few weeks.

So happy to have Anne and Zach back in Michigan.

As Americans most of us live each day scarcely thinking about how very blessed we are.  Freedom, especially freedom of religion, abundance, the ability to live as we please...For the most part, we lack for nothing.  May we always remember that God has been very, very good to our country and to each of us as individuals.

May we remain forever grateful.

Friday, November 21, 2014

SAHMs Are Home Because We Believe That's Best for Our Kids.

As a stay-at-home mother of some 30 years now I really feel that you mothers who have chosen to be home with your children all or most of the time could really use some encouragement.

From the president's recent insult to the feminists' rants you would think there were no women who willingly and gladly chose this path in life.  And yet there are some 10 million of us.

We do not stay home because we are incapable, incompetent or lazy.   We stay home because we believe that the very best care that can be given our children is mother-care.  We love them more than anyone and we want to be the one to teach them, to guide them, to laugh with them, to love them.  Am I right?

And we would not trade the years we have done this for any job whatsoever.  In fact, we would not trade those years for the world.

For those who have not seen it, I talk some more about this from a Catholic perspective here at Catholic365.com.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

ISIS-- How Do They Get People to Join??

ISIS has some 30,000 fighters from 80 different countries and a few thousand from the West.

I've found myself wondering why on earth people would want to join such a group.  I mean, really.  Murderous psychopaths who commit barbaric acts against innocent civilians....who would want to join them?

Ayman S. Ibrahim has proposed three possibilities in First Things Blog.  First, he says that passages of the Qur'an are interpreted literally to justify the horrific acts of terrorism.  Many Muslims are unaware that there are later interpretations that do not take these passages literally.  Passages about the Paradise awaiting Muslims are also used.

Second, they use early Muslim history to support their claims.  To the Sunnis, the early years of Islam are considered sacred.  Muhammad was a hero and a role model and some of his actions are used to justify current acts of murder.

Third, Ibrahim says there is a great appeal to the concept of the caliphate, one unified Muslim community.

OK.  So those are the arguments they use, but why do they work?  I would think it would take more than some passages of the Qur'an to justify barbarism.  Would joining ISIS not require a complete deadening of the conscience?

Jesse Singal at the website Science of Us discusses why people would join ISIS with psychologist John Horgan of University of Massachusetts Lowell who has studied terrorism for over 20 years.  Horgan says that there is a strong moral pull.  They want to do something meaningful with their lives and many feel "a need to right some perceived wrong."  ISIS also presents people with the opportunity to feel powerful.

Could it be that the there are those who are so starved for the notion of a right and a wrong that even the false, distorted, and broken religious tenets upheld by ISIS have a kind of appeal?  Has moral relativism left such a hole in the hearts, minds, and souls of people in this century that radical Islamism is preferable, even appealing, in contrast to no sense of morality at all?  Perhaps this is the case.

Believers will also find plausible the effect of diabolical influence.  We know there is a spiritual battle going on, that we are fighting against principalities and the powers of darkness.  Clearly, evil is present in ISIS.  One could even say there is a presence of pure evil.  And when things just don't add up very well, it is always likely the father of lies is involved in some way.

Unfortunately, we children of God have demonstrated a real susceptibility to lies.  There was Eve in the Garden of Eden.  She was in close relationship with God.  Her life was perfect, was it not?  And she had none of the innate brokenness brought about by original sin.  Yet she believed the serpent.  She knew God intimately and yet fell for the lie that God was hiding something good from her.

We're weak.  We fall.  It's true for those who decide joining ISIS is somehow a good thing, as well as for  those of us who look on in disbelief.  Perhaps with similar influences we would be equally deceived.  There but for the grace of God......

We must pray against this evil and against all evil.  And we must always speak the truth, even when faced with opposition and ridicule.  There are those who are hungering for the truth.  If they don't hear it, evil can fill the void.

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle....

Friday, November 14, 2014


Yesterday was the first snow I've seen this winter!  (I did hear that it snowed on Halloween but I didn't actually see it.)

The best part of Michigan weather is that we have four distinctly beautiful seasons and the signs of the beginning of each one are always a little exciting-- the first crocuses in the Spring, the first leaves starting to change in the Fall, and the first snowflakes!

The beginning of winter does evoke some mixed feelings though.  Last winter, in particular, was unusually brutal.  The temperatures were bitter cold.  There was a lot of snow.  And we had a great deal of ice that came and just stayed on the streets and on the sidewalks.  Slippery surfaces for a very long time.

But knowing that winter brings adversity adds a certain drama to its beginning.  I must confess, I love a good blizzard.  Once everyone is home, I love the winter weather advisories.  I love predictions of huge snowfalls.  I love seeing it all come down.  (Although I don't love driving in it...not even a little bit.  I don't need that kind of life and death drama.)

So yesterday was the beginning of it.  I heard some people moan.  May we all gain what the Lord would have us gain from this winter, be it patience, endurance, courage, stamina, compassion for others.  There will be all sorts of opportunities for grace.  God is good.  All the time.