Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Annunciation Day {3 years ago today}

High altar in the Pantheon (Church of St. Mary and the Martyrs); ready for Mass on the Solemnity of the Annunciation
Three years ago today, on the feast day of the Annunciation, our family explored Rome on the first day of our 2011 family pilgrimage to Italy...

Continued from Day 1 {New York City Layover}

Groggy, but determined to stay awake until bedtime, our first day in Rome was like an initiation of sorts.  We held on for dear life on the shuttle ride to our flat from the airport, amazed that the driver could stay on the road while chatting on his cell phone, shifting gears, and honking simultaneously.  Our flat, too, has myriad complications, mostly relating to a schedule of turning on and off appliances we take for granted at home (water heater, furnace) and doing so without going over 3 kilowatts.  "If you have a black-out," our landlord informed us, "find Pete in the next building."  Black-outs happen when the legally enforced 3 kw of power per day is exceeded .

A jaunt into the city without a map, snacks, or warm layers proved to be quite difficult, particularly when we got slightly lost as everyone was hungry and the cool evening began to fall.  We opted to grab gelatos and visit the next site we came upon, rather than continue our unsuccessful search for the Colosseum.  We landed at the Pantheon, and entered a crowded, loud, amazing circular space.  Only a few minutes later, a bishop wearing a magenta cassock began ushering hundreds of tourists out, as a loud speaker announced that the Pantheon was closing for Mass.  We opted to stay.

The Solemnity of the Annunciation was being celebrated by our world-wide Church on this day, and we were just in time for the Holy Mass offered by a cardinal for a small group of pilgrims.  Before Mass we spent a holy hour in the presence of Jesus, as the bishop led a Rosary in Italian and the cardinal heard confessions.  Unfortunately, the temperature inside the Church of St. Mary and the Martyrs (the Pantheon) probably dipped into the low 40's, and we froze throughout the beautiful, solemn high Mass.  A formal procession with a relic veneration followed Mass, and our family joined the final ceremony before taking one last glimpse of the Pantheon.  At the altar known as #7, a magnificent artistic rendition of the "Annunciation" by Melozzo da Forli brought us even closer to the mystery of the day.

Navigating the Metro on our way home was an experience unto itself.  We purchased five 7 day passes and took a round-a-bout path on our journey home.  The well-signed subway system is easy enough to navigate, but perhaps owing to serious sleep deprivation, we weren't paying close enough attention and got on the wrong train.  Tim caught our misstep shortly after we pulled out of the station, so we hopped off at the next stop, went back, and started over.

As we tucked ourselves in for the night, we had to wonder: just how long has it been since we slept on a plastic mattress?  We're excited for another day in Rome tomorrow (with snacks, maps, and extra layers). 

Day 3 {Rome: St. Mary Major; St. Praessede} follows.

  • It's hard to be comfortable on an 8+ hr flight when you spill your orange juice on your lap and all over your seat (just ask Peter).
  • One fleece jacket forgotten on the shuttle van from airport... will it be seen again?  Or will Peter suffer on the chilly Italian evenings?
  • Spell check isn't working here, it must be Italian spell check by default.  I'm curious to find out just how many misspelled words my posts will have without the usual fix!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sts.Timothy and Maura {Married Martyrs}

St. Timothy
Saint Timothy, Pray for us!

Heartbreaking news of yet another marriage and family destroyed by divorce serves as the inspiration to share this fine sermon from Audio Sancto: The Sweet Cross of Matrimony.  Treat yourself to twenty minutes of solid teaching and encouragement on marriage, beginning with the sweet love story of the married martyrs Saints Timothy and Maura, crucified facing one another only twenty days after their wedding.  These two offered their very lives rather than turning over the Sacred Scriptures to be destroyed.

Stay strong, people. 
Live for God.
Love your cross.

Saints Timothy and Maura, pray for us!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Brotherhood Revisited {Full House for Christmas}

Under obedience to photographer-mom, Zachary holds his little foster sister for the first time, as Peter assists.

"Are you glad to have your son home?" a friend at Church asked before Mass yesterday.
"Sons. Yes, very glad to have them home!" I answered honestly.

Our family reunification project - aka Christmas Vacation - has begun in earnest, with dual arrivals within 24 hours: Peter from Christ the King high school seminary in BC, and Zachary from sophomore year studies at Notre Dame. 

Learning new skills on Christmas Break, Zachary comforts a newborn.
Zachary's homecoming package included an introduction to his foster sister (known on the blog as) Angelina.  After being home for a few days, Zac asked if Angelina does anything other than sleep and eat, but so far only one fussy stretch and a few alert moments have convinced him otherwise.

Back to the joys of brotherhood, our three guys have enjoyed time together doing guy things like working out after dark in the snow and watching the televised Seahawks game with Tim on his birthday.  This time with a full house will surely fly by, but we will certainly do our best to make the most of our every moment together.

Peter shows 'Luke' and 'Leia' the ornaments on our tree.
Hosting our former foster twins for two days, a favor to their mom whose work schedule conflicted with the daycare holiday closure, brings us ever more family fun in these final days before we celebrate the birth of Christ.  So much joy, such great times to cherish...
Peter continues the Christmas decor tour with little friends in tow.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Training Future Fathers {On Handling a Newborn}

Pre-performance rehearsal with first time baby handlers and 'Angelina'

When Father Abbot suggested little Angelina play the part of baby Jesus in Peter's high school Advent play, we were quick to give our consent.  The high school boys were delighted to have a real live baby in the play, rather than the lifeless doll with which they'd been rehearsing.  But their delight was tainted with a dose of understandable nervousness, given that the two young men with baby handling parts were novices in handling a newborn.

Tim gives a few baby handling pointers to the cast of Christ the King's Advent play before showtime.

Tim gladly stepped up to the task of training the guys in the fine art of baby handling, meeting about an hour before show time to offer a few pointers and allow for hands-on experience under close supervision.  The guys warmed up to Angelina right away, and practiced picking her up and passing her off, two important movements for 'baby Jesus' in the upcoming Advent show.

Rehearsing the hand-off of baby 'Jesus'

As the time for curtain drew near, we prayed that our little foster daughter would remain calm and quiet for her debut performance as our Newborn King.  Our prayers were answered, as Angelina gave only the slightest indication of liveliness during the show, squirming a bit in the arms of 'Mother Mary' to the excitement of the audience, many of whom had assumed the figure was probably a doll.

The Three Kings pay homage to baby Jesus in the arms of Mary.

Cast of Christ the King's Advent play, with our son Peter the centurion
Seminary of Christ the King's high school orchestra performs at the Advent program.

In addition to the great privilege of delivering the 'baby Jesus' for the high school play, we enjoyed an outstanding Advent program by the high school and college seminarians of Christ the King.  The high school orchestra, though only a few months along, performed pieces suited for third year, including a favorite piece from Lord of the Rings, and pulled them off beautifully under the direction of Father Peter Nygren.  The entertaining vignette put on by the major seminarians highlighted their unique skills and abilities, including a humorous and fantastic martial arts display and a rousing Celtic musical number.   Under Father Prior Benedict, the high school boys' choir sang "O Holy Night" in its original French, an angelic delight for those of us in the audience.

Bridget, Peter and baby 'Angelina'
Our heartfelt thanks to the monks, teachers and prayer warriors at Christ the King Seminary and Westminster Abbey.  We trust that your efforts, by God's grace, will have everlasting results in the lives of our son(s) and in our families.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Low Mass {+2 New Altar Boys}

Joseph assists Father Saguto with candle lighting before low Mass on Gaudete Sunday, Holyrood Cemetery Chapel.

After almost a year of training and memorizing the Latin responses, Joseph and his friend Jonah had the privilege of serving their first low Mass in the Extraordinary Form at dawn on Gaudete Sunday in a cemetery chapel about an hour and half from home.  This 'old' form of the Mass appeals in a very particular way to many young people, our boys included.

Benedict XVI re-opened the door for the 'old' Mass in 2007 with his Apostolic Letter Summorum Ponitificum.  Interestingly, Benedict XVI specifically noted the appeal of the Traditional Latin Mass for young Catholics:
"Immediately after the Second Vatican Council it was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it, but in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them." © Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Joseph and Jonah assist Fr. Vreeland at low Mass on Gaudete Sunday in Edmonds, WA.

A look around the congregation in the Extraordinary Form Mass seems to validate that the 'old' form of the Mass appeals to young people.  The pews are packed with young Catholics, truly engaged and actively participating in the Mass.  Many young men eagerly assist at Mass as altar boys, a great privilege to be sure.  Even the very small children are seemingly drawn into the mysteries of the Mass and show age-appropriate reverence and participation. 

Another interesting phenomenon to note in an Extraordinary Form congregation is the average size of the families in attendance.  These authentic Catholic marriages ~ couples living true to their sacred vows with an 'openness to life' and the faithful rejection of artificial contraception and sterilization ~ are truly inspiring to see on such a large scale.  Extraordinary indeed, and while large Catholic families are not found only in Latin Mass congregations by any means, they simply seem more plentiful here.

Before heading off to high school seminary, our youngest son, Peter, had nearly completed his formal training to serve Latin Mass, and was very eager to do so.  However, his distance from home and the infrequency of his home-visit weekends means that he will have to wait, perhaps until next summer, to serve the Latin Mass.  Peter greatly anticipates serving at the Ordinary Form (English Mass) at our home town parish during his home-visit weekends, as his opportunities to serve at the seminary are somewhat scarce.  Joseph, too, remains active as an altar server in our home town parish, hopeful that someday the cassock and surplice will be welcomed back.
In what can only be explained as "God's perfect timing," or better yet, Divine Providence, on this very same Gaudete Sunday, Peter served his first Mass in a cassock and surplice, assisting at dawn in the seminary chapel.  The Extraordinary Form (or Traditional Latin Mass) has not returned to Westminster Abbey, BC, but the vestments worn by the altar boys there are still the traditional (masculine) cassock and surplice.  The extremely reverent, chanted Masses at Westminster Abbey follow the prescribed rubrics beautifully and solemnly, at a measured monastic pace which allows for prayerful contemplation throughout.  An extraordinary ordinary, so to speak.

Jonah and Joseph vested in cassocks for the first time.
How blessed we are to have a wide range of reverent and authentic Catholic Masses to attend daily; from our small local parish in Bellingham, to our FSSP Latin Mass parish in Seattle, to our son's Benedictine community in BC; we are part of an awesome and truly Universal Church.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Tree Hunt {U-Cut}

Noon Road U-Cut Tree farm owner shows us the tree variety map.

We veered off the tried and true Christmas tree route this year, exploring a new U-cut tree farm at the suggestion of a friend.  On the coldest day of the year ~ perhaps the coldest day in human history ~ we braved the great outdoors amidst the bitter winds of North Whatcom County.  Leaving our little foster daughter with Grandma Billie due to the severity of the weather, we made a threesome: Tim, Joseph and me. 

Follow the rules and no one gets hurt.

Being the smallest tree contingent in recent family history, we didn't have to negotiate as many opinions on which tree took top honors and earned a ride home to be lit and decorated in anticipation of the big celebration of our Savior's birth.  Regardless, the selection process did drag on for what seemed like hours.  The tremendous freeze began to paralyze our faces and our fingers, making the discussions of our tree selection brief and to the point.

Taking a moment to refer to the tree varieties map, Joseph and Tim plot out our route through the tree farm.
The old amidst the new
Tim stomps through the lane, looking for the ideal tree to take home.

When the time came to chop, or rather saw down our tree, we were consoled by the fact that we would soon be in a warm car heading toward our warm home.  However, as we loaded the tree into our van, we discovered that its length would necessitate driving with the back door tied down, rather than shut properly.  A relatively small price to pay, both for the tree itself (compared to years past), and for the short open-air ride home, our Noble Fir soon graced the living room ready for illumination.

Joseph begins the sawing chore, through a frozen trunk.
Our tree-cycle
Loaded up and ready to roll
Lit and ready for ornamentation

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Death Bells Toll {Westminster Abbey, BC}

Following the Mass of Christian Burial, Fr. Fulton's body is solemnly processed to his grave in the abbey cemetery.

At first Peter didn't understand why the abbey's solemn bell sounded repeatedly at an uncommon hour on a recent Sunday afternoon.  Soon a priest passed by announcing that Father Michael had died, and asking the high school boys to pray for the repose of his soul.  As the death bells continued to sound, the monastic community began mourning the loss of their departed brother and praying for his swift passing to his heavenly reward.
Lowered into the ground by brother monks and Benedictine postulants, Father Michael is laid to rest following graveside committal prayers on a bitter cold December morning.

Today fewer and fewer Catholic families are opting to include a funeral Mass (or wake or burial) for their deceased Catholic relatives.  Many of the funeral Masses that are being said for our deceased are tainted with abuses, including proclamations that the decedent is 'already in heaven.'  This common and unfortunate occurrence at modern Catholic funerals all but deletes the possibility that the soul may be saved yet suffering in purgatory, relying on our prayers to aid their passage to heaven. 

Father Michael's funeral at Westminster Abbey followed an authentic Catholic approach to burying the dead with the full Rite of Christian Burial: a wake (overnight prayer vigil with the body in the Church), a funeral Mass (celebrating the life of Father Michael within the context of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus), and the graveside committal (prayers of committal and final commendation).  A profound witness for the high school boys, major seminarians, the family and friends of Father Michael and the Westminster Abbey community, this funeral was a reverent, solemn and joyful liturgy; authentic Catholicism in action.

High school seminarians participate in the burial rite of Father Michael Fulton, OSB+ (b. 1926- d. 2013)
Newly acquired official documents made it possible for me to travel to and from the funeral in Canada with our one-month-old foster daughter, Angelina.  Her first funeral, Angelina stayed toasty warm in a fuzzy suit from Owen's family, a handmade hat from Elle, a toasty blanket by Christine, and brought smiles to many faces on this solemn occasion.

Father Peter meets 'Angelina'
A keepsake from Father Michael's funeral included the story of his path from family life to and through his many years as a Benedictine Priest, and also gave a glimpse into his holy death:
On Friday, November 22, he suffered a mild heart attack.  He recovered somewhat in hospital, but on Sunday, November 24, he took a sudden turn for the worse.  When he was anointed, it was the passage of the good thief from the feast of Christ the King that was read to him: "Today you will be with me in paradise."  With characteristic obedience he waited until Father Abbott arrived, acknowledged his presence and then passed to the Lord as the prayers of commendation were being completed.
Peter shares his foster sister with his Benedictine teachers and the monastic community.
As they had so lovingly cared for him and prayerfully aided him throughout his life, the Benedictines of Westminster Abbey, BC, showed tremendous charity for Father Michael in his death.

Dear Lord,
Let perpetual light shine upon him, 
and may the soul of Father Micael Fulton, OSB, 
through Your mercy, Lord, rest in peace.