Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Feast of the Archangels

Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael pray for us!

Dear Gabriel
Next year, please God, we will celebrate your feast day more fittingly.
This year however, I thank you for bearing with your mothers weariness.
She feels like a champion when she manages to get supper on the table and keep the laundry situation under some control. These days, the mere basics of daily life are about all she can acheive without becoming truly overwhelmed and frazzled. And as you are aware, frazzled mother is no fun at all.

I hope you enjoyed your chocolate cake as some small nod in recognition of this day.

Your name, as you know, means 'God is my strength'. My prayer for you, is that you always know the wonderful truth of these words.

How very appropriate, at this time of waiting to welcome our newest little soul, that your angel is, among other things, the patron saint of childbirth.
His salutation to the Blessed Virgin, Hail full of grace... has become our familiar prayer.
How strange that must have seemed when those words were first uttered.
Our Ladys 'Yes' was an act of trust in God that truly ensured that ALL generations would call her Blessed.
Lets pray for the courage to not be afraid of the plans God has for us, and for the security of knowing that He is our strength.

Perhaps, in honour of your patron, we could try to pray the Angelus?

And lets not forget the other two archangels who share this feast day.

Here is the prayer to Saint Michael:

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle! Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who roam about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
And here is some information about where that prayer came from.

And you can read the story about the Angel Raphael and Tobias in the book of Tobit.

Take a look here.

Lastly, here are some beautiful images by artists ancient and modern who have been inspired by the story of the Annunciation.

By Henry Ossawa Tanner ( 1898)

By John Collier

By Sandro Botticelli

By Fra Angelico

Next year, we'll try to do this, and perhaps this, and maybe some of this.
Until then, thank you for your sweet, good natured patience.
With love and squeezes
Mummy x

Friday, 25 September 2009

7 Quick Takes


Having a multi generational family is the coolest thing ever. I hadn't anticipated this back when I started out having babies. I couldn't imagine having teenagers and babies. Well, I probably just couldn't imagine having teenagers!
Now I think the combination of teenagers and babies is utterly perfect. For parents, for the babies and for the teenagers. It's win win win.

Here's why:


It was Honors birthday on the 18th September.
Goodness me, time flies. How she has grown.

It was a bittersweet day however. I'm hoping that future birthdays won't be so laden with complex emotions as this one was.

I do think that being almost exactly as pregnant as I was when she was born, and Olivia died, has brought those memories into much sharper focus.
I Cried alot remembering the mixed emotions of this day:

And this:

And then I woke up at 3am with a cracking headache and a paralysing attack of night terrors that something would go wrong this time too.

There were very lovely moments too though. We are so grateful to have Honor, and I don't want her birthday to be overshadowed with loss. In reality, nothing is lost. There was no mistake.
With God, death is not a disaster. Olivia is gloriously
But I miss her and sometimes I sigh and wonder, if she was here...
Most of the time though, I am busy enough living in the present moment.
And there is so much sweetness in that.


In my slightly crocked condition ( both emotionally and physically) it was probably very optimistic to imagine that I could turn out a fabulous blogworthy cake.
This was Honors birthday cakewreck:

It collapsed when I opened the oven too early and, well, it all went down hill from there.
My friend said that the collapse was so perfect that it made the cake look like a nest, so I threw some blueberries in there, and then squeezed some lurid pink icing around haphazardly, and then...actually then I started crying again.
Pregnancy hormones are potent and not to be trifled with.


Changing tempo...

A childrens 'hymn' to the President. Is this sweet, or is it creepy?

I have seen this on a few blogs lately ( Mama Says and MommyLife) and wanted to air it here. I found the almost verbatim lifting of some of the lyrics of that old childrens hymn 'Jesus Loves The Little Children' rather, um, 'icky'.


"Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

Red and yellow

Black and white

They are precious in His sight."

He said red, yellow, black or white All are equal in his sight"

Depending on your perspective, I suppose this will either make you go "ahh" or "ew".

Come to think of it, I've never liked that old childrens hymn either.

But the slightly 'Obama Messiah' flavour of the lyrics reminded me of this:

Who buys this stuff?


And just to show how much more sage and deep our political take here in the UK is, here is Hip Hopper Dizzy Rascals thoughts on the election of TFBPOTUSA*.

(*The First Black President Of The USA)


Since I'm on a bit of a political roll , here's a video I saw on MommyLife that I wanted to show my children. It's a commentary on the 'branding' of the American President.

I found the observation about the ubiquitous 'O' really interesting. That 'O' is everywhere. Still. And it is, to me at least, somewhat redolent of those regimes whose objective is to imprint the lordship of the Dear Leader deep in the psyche of an acquiescent populace.

Personally, I was very enthusiastic about Obama when he first came to international attention as a contender for the US top slot.

That waned pretty quickly when I realised how manipulative the whole business of image making is. And the extent to which it seemed Obama had become a brand.


I feel we have been here before, to a lesser extent, with Tony Blairs administration which also sang the 'Hope and change' theme, but to the the of 'Things Can Only Get Better''.

Back then, it lifted my heart. These days, I'm a little more jaded.

( "Quick Takes" LOL! If you want actual Quick takes visit Conversion Diary)

Monday, 21 September 2009

Pregnancy diary 35 weeks

I am totally bored stupid with my wardrobe now. As far as my 'look' is concerned, I've got to the past caring stage. I can still wear some clothes, like this blouse, which are not officially 'maternity', but capacious enough that I don't look poured into them.

The white belly band I am wearing in ths picture, was loaned to me by Elizabeth and has been a brilliant little prop, enabling me to wear tops that would otherwise stop short of decent belly coverage. Also, lots of maternity trousers, like the ones that I'm wearing here, seem to be cut very low on the hips, and I'm of the opinion that showing my knickers to the boys is a sartorial no no. So the belly band, which looks a bit like I'm wearing a t shirt under my blouse, has been a wardrobe staple lately.

Not long to go now. But I'm itching for the moment when my dress choices are no longer dictated solely by comfort and modesty. I'm starting to understand why the elderly ( probably grudgingly) settle for zip up crimpolene dresses and velcro slippers.

I imagine that as soon as I get the chance. I'll be hitting the shops, hyperventilating, salivating and nostrils flaring, like Homer Simpson in a doughnut factory.

"Mmmmm... pea green skirt...we were made for eachother!"

Thursday, 17 September 2009

The "little flower" visits England.

Looking ahead to the visit of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux to England and Wales from Catholic Church (England/Wales) on Vimeo.

The relics of Saint Therese have arrived in England!
The secular press have been unusually attentive to this event, and there has been some interesting reportage, devoid of the usual sneering one has come to expect.
The BBC covered the arrival of the relics here.
Here's an article in The Times about the arrival of the relics. Here is another one briefly explaining a little background to the Catholic interest in saintly relics.
And here is an account by Mary Kenny describing her observations of the very human yearning to "touch the supernatural" . She recounts how, when the saints bones toured Ireland a few years ago, the post modern cynicism of many of her countrymen was swept away. I seem to remember reading that three quarters of the entire population turned out to visit the relics.

Here is the website of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, which covers it very well.

I am very much hoping to go, although I am expecting to be taken in to have this baby a couple of weeks before my due date. That will be around the 9th or 10th. Her relics arrive in London on the 12th. The timing, from my point of view, could hardly be worse. But we'll see. I'm asking her to pray for me, and for England.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

A book that changed my life

I've been tagged by Elizabeth.
The theme is "A book that changed my life".
Thing is, I've been racking my brains and I'm not sure if I can come up with the definitive Life Changing Book.
I've probably read quite a few that were a part of a life changing process, but none that quite deserve the full accolade.

If I were to pick one however, the most obvious, and the most recent candidate, would be The Mass Of The Early Christians by Mike Aquilina.
The Mass of the Early Christians

It was a book I came across entirely by accident.

I've blogged before about how I used to assume that what happened at Mass on a Sunday was very different from the practice of those first Christians. I imagined that it was inevitably the result of years of religious practice, the accretions of changing customs down through the centuries.
I mean, the Actual Factual Jesus wouldn't have gone in for all that 'Sit. Stand. Kneel' routine would he?
Obviously not right?

So, as a happily free range Christian I became really interested in the Jewishness of Christianity and wanted to learn more.
As a consequence of this, I held a couple of Seder meals.
During the preparations for the second one ( only in 2008) I was thinking alot about how very 'liturgical' the Jewish year was. It struck me as a very helpful thing that they had a structure to hang the year on in which they called to mind certain key events in their history as the people of God.
Turning this over in my mind got me thinking about church. What exactly did they do, those first Jewish Christians when they got together to 'do church'?
The more I pondered it, and the more I observed the Jewish traditions, the more inconcievable it seemed to me that the first Christians simply gathered together for a rousing rendition of the first century equivalent of Shine Jesus Shine and then listened to an 'excellent talk'.

These thoughts were disturbing me, not least because I liked the worship and the excellent talk and had found the Mass experience pretty moribund and so so.

So. Feeling a bit panicked by these unwelcome, rather 'catholic' thoughts, I approached a Learned Friend. She was an ex Catholic herself, who has been attending a Pentecostal church for some years now.
At the time, what I really wanted was for some clever person to give me the answer that would lay to rest this nagging sense that there was something missing.

My Pentecostal friend, who in the past had been someone who was very game when it came to tossing ideas around, chewing the fat and being generally philosophically inclined, seemed like the ideal person to turn to for some answers.
In short, it was a disaster. She felt picked on and put on the spot by my questions. She said she wasn't interested in the questions and she didn't care about the answers. My seeking answers was evidence of my 'not getting it'.( 'It' being that the things of God could not be discerned intellectually, but rather were known spiritually)
She had a 'heart' relationship with God, and I, on the other hand, had a 'head' relationship.
If I'm honest, I felt pretty hurt and misunderstood at this point.

But I also didn't buy her concept of the 'head' vs the 'heart' business. After our conversation I thought about the things she had said alot. She rated her 'heart' approach to knowing God as a notch up from my 'head' approach. That was clear.
But the thing was, I knew that her diagnosis of my 'problem' was way off base.

After losing Olivia, I had, in fact become aware of a much deeper level of trust in God, and, probably for the first time, a really clear and tangible sense of His goodness and trustworthiness.
Infact I felt closer to God than I ever had before.
Anyway, weren't we to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength?

But here's the thing that led me to this book:
One of the things I was asking her about was the practice of the early Christians, how they worshipped, what they did when they were no longer proper 'synagogue going' Jews.
I expressed the question thus:
" I mean...you know...what did they do when they got together for their "mass". What did they do then ?"

When I said "mass" I was just straining for the right word for "Christian get together". I could have said "Pow wow" or "fellowship meeting". I didn't actually mean Mass. I 'knew' they didn't have Mass back then. I mean...I wasn't stupid ( aside: Yes. I was.)

Here's what caught my attention though. Her response was SO emphatic. She was annoyed at my use of that word. She shot back with great forcefulness and stressed each word:

"There. Was. NO. Mass. In. The. Early. Church!!"

After speaking with her, on account of her emphatic, and even irritated response, my curiosity on this point was even more piqued.
I Googled this "Mass Early Christians"

It was a serendipitous Google.
The first result was a book of almost exactly that name.
Amused at my result, and intrigued by the title of the book, I ordered it from Amazon there and then.
Two days later it arrived. Two days after that I finished reading it.

In short, I learned that indeed there WAS a Mass in the early church.

Here's a snip from the Amazon blurb:

In The Mass of the Early Christians, author Mike Aquilina reveals the Church's most ancient Eucharistic beliefs and practices. Using the words of the early Christians themselves -- from many documents and inscriptions -- Aquilina traces the Mass s history from Jesus' lifetime through the fourth century. The Mass stood at the center of the Church's life, evident in the Scriptures as well as the earliest Christian sermons, letters, artwork, tombstones, and architecture. Even the pagans bore witness to the Mass in the records of their persecutions.

In these legacies from the early Church, you ll hear and taste and see the same worship Catholics know today: the altar, the priests, the chalice of wine, the bread, the Sign of the Cross...the Lord, have mercy ...the Holy, holy, holy ...and the Communion.

You ll see vividly how Jesus followed through on his promise to be with us always, until the end of time.

After reading it I knew that I could never see things the same way again.
The 'Mass experience' would never again be moribund and so so. And I knew that my questions had been finally answered.
I was going to be going home.

Friday, 11 September 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday

On my way to the shops with the children yesterday, to look for a dolls house for Honors 2nd birthday, I had a little car trouble.
Coming on to a very busy 'A' road from a small slip road I had the nose of my van poking just into the lane of fast moving oncoming traffic while I waited for my chance to move in.
Seeing a juggernaut bearing down at great speed, I decided to pull back a bit. I hit reverse and...horror of horrors, the van moved FORWARD! Eek! Thinking I hadn't engaged the gear change properly, I tried again. The same thing happened now leaving me even further out into the path of said oncoming juggernaut.
When I shouted "Jesus!" I wasn't blaspheming. My mouth was so dry it was the only prayer I could make.
The juggernaut swerved into the middle lane parping it's big bully foghorn long and loud and angry as it went past me. My van rocked with the wind as it flew past.
Then there were the cars. All of them were forced to take evasive action and swerve away to avoid hitting me while I sat helplessly wincing with my useless hazards flashing away.
In 20 years of driving I don't think I've ever been so scared.

When I got going again I noticed that the van was labouring heavily in 1st and 2nd gear, and I thought I could smell burning.
I pulled in to an IKEA car park and called my husband, who, in true shining knight fashion left the office and was with me within 10 minutes.
My hero.
He is THE single most welcome sight in a crisis. I almost swooned in his arms.
He phoned the AA, gave Colmcille, who was crying, some money for an ice cream, gave us all a kiss and a hug, and suggested I go into IKEA for something to drink and a sit down and said he'd meet me back in the car park with the AA man in 1 hour.
Then he went off to get his ducks in a row.
I heart my husband.
Because I was in IKEA I thought I might as well nip in and get those magnetic notice boards I'd been after. Might as well make the most of the oppo when it presents itself I thought.
Two magnet boards, a storage basket and a playmat later, I found myself tottering through the lighting department feeling very strange, and then awful.
And then I got sick. Yes. In the lighting department of IKEA.

It was a day that will live in infamy.

Back in July I had an appointment with the Prof regarding my ante natal care in which several issues came up and several new tests were ordered and in which I cried a bit and then my blood pressure was elevated which gave rise to more tests.
I used to work at this maternity hospital myself, but it has since moved site to the grounds of a much larger general hospital where car parking enforcement has been contracted out to a private company.
At my last appointment I had been ticketed and I had no intention of letting that happen again.
My appointment over ran and over ran and over ran some more. I had already left the department once to put a new ticket on my car. But when that was about to expire, and I was still nowhere near being let go, the prof said that I really needed to stay in the department. They were phoning up for blood results, and arranging scans both of baby and my liver, and taking more blood, and getting me to drink more water so that I could wee in a pot for them again, and simultaneously trying to be sooooothing so that my BP would come down and they could rule out blood pressure weirdness at least.
So the Prof said I really needed to just sit down and not worry about my car and she would write me a note to say that I was remaining in the hospital under medical instructions.
So of course I did.
And when I got the inevitable ticket I confidently appealed, presenting my trusty professorial letter.
And then was flabbergasted when they turned down my appeal, on the grounds that my reason wasn't good enough and I could have returned to my car.
So...THEN I upped the ante, formally complaining to the hospital for the behaviour of their hired goons and copied my rant to a whole host of other notables collectively known as 'Big Wigs'.
So...today I get another letter from the 'Car Parking Partnership' demanding an increased fine of £100 with the threat of County Court action if I don't stump up.
So...In high dudgeon I fired off this missive at lunchtime:

Please see my previous reasons for appeal.
This is now the subject of a formal complaint to H******* Hospital for harrassment from your company.
I have the full support of Professor W***** in pursuing this complaint and if a letter from her is deemed as inadequate support for appeal then you may take me to court with pleasure.
It is beyond belief that my care has been blighted by the frankly lunatic application of your arbitrary decisions.
I have no intention of paying you a single penny. On the contrary, you should be paying me compensation for the distress this has caused me.
And now you threaten me with county court action and debt collection.

I find it hard to believe that H********** Hospital have contracted out their car parking enforcement to such a gang of unscrupulous, money grubbing thieves

I felt a bit better after that. Let them meet me in court.
Have these people never heard of the Fighting Irish?

I'm rubbish at doing quick takes. I realise these are long takes but there's not a dang thing I can do about it. I can't ruthlessly edit to save my life.

My friend Edith came back from Zurich again last week for a brief visit, and to sort out her visa ( she used to live in London and she has a house here and a house in Germany and she's lives most of the time in Zurich at the moment, but she also nips back to Florida from time to time to visit her mother. It's complicated. She's a citizen of the world, like Madonna, or Gwynneth Paltrow, only with more impact)
Anyway, after paying £1200 for a Home Office approved agent to handle her application ( it's called a 'Premium Service') the Home Office arbitrarily decide to take a longer look at her application and they have kept her passport.
This happened 2 years ago and she was stranded in Zurich where she knew no one. She eventually lost her job in London and was left in penury while waiting 6 months to get her passport back.. The upside was that eventually she got a great job in Zurich and is now speaking Deutsch and generally bringing Edithness to that rather staid and correct corner of Europe.
So, in a bit of a flap, she phones the agent, figuring that after pocketing £1200 they might be a tad interested in delivering some sort of aftercare to the traumatised client. But they didn't want to annoy the Home Office and anyway, aftercare wasn't what they meant by 'Premium Service'.

And thus came Edith to be marooned once again. Only this time in London, without benefit of lake or mountain view.
So, along with the Car Parking Partnership, the Home Office is now on my little list of Complete and Utter Morons.

I think that straining for brevity is making me sound a bit 'ranty'.
I'm better when I'm rambling and loquacious IMO.

Following my 15 year old sons confirmation a few months ago, Gabriel, my 11 year old, has been expressing a keen desire to be confirmed ASAP.
I'm thinking that it may be a good idea to go for it while he is as keen as mustard, so we are considering the possibilty of a November confirmation for Gabes.
Dominic took the name Peter. Gabriel is still undecided.
When he was half way through the book we read on Saint Maximilian Kolbe he said "I was pretty sure I was going to go for St Francis, and then I thought about St Jose Maria. But now St Maximilian Kolbe is giving them both a run for their money".
I could imagine the three saints looking on urging "Pick me! Pick me!"

Here's a picture of Dom, with his friend Conor and their sponsor Andrew.
I was very pleased that they were confirmed in the school chapel in their uniforms, which avoided all the awfulness of gelled hair and kipper ties ( I am a sartorial snob)
I meant to post it back then, but well, better late than never.

It's the 11th September.
I still can't watch this without crying.
The evil and inhumanity on the one hand, the heroism and true humanity on the other. The suffering, the loss, the sheer tragedy of the human condition is all summed up and represented somehow in a single day. It's still too much to comprehend.
Lord Have Mercy on them.
Lord Have Mercy on us all.

(For Quick Takes done properly, visit Conversion Diary )

Monday, 7 September 2009

Making assumptions.

There is a fascinating discussion going on at Visits To Candyland at the moment on the Catholic doctrine of the assumption into heaven of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I'm learning alot listening in to the discussion these eggheads are having.
I've even jumped in myself. My contributions have been in the manner of a child at a dinner table butting in on the conversation of boffins discussing string theory, with my own thoughts on whether the moon is made of cheese.
Suffice to say, I'm a bit in awe. but it's interesting nonetheless.

The empty interior of the sarcophagus in the tomb of Mary, in the Kidron Valley.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

The martyrdom of John The Baptist.

It was the feast of the Martyrdom of John the Baptist on the 29th August, and in keeping with my habit of living the liturgical year in a 'running to catch up' kind of way, I thought I'd post this here today in his honour.

Coming from a proud tribe of Fenians, a Dub accent comes very naturally to me, and I have to say, it has triggered a new habit of chastising my children in the manner of the little narrator in this video, that is
" Do penance and give up yer aul sins!"

My other favourite line has to be the instruction from JB to his friend to ask Jesus if he is " Really God, or is he a shocking holy saint".

HT Aggies Catholics