Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Italy Day 6 {Rome: Colosseum, Forum and St. John Lateran Basilica}

A simple cross erected in 1794 by Pope Benedict XIV in the Colosseum reminds visitors that it is sacred ground where many martyrs shed their blood as Christian witnesses.

Colosseum ruins, Rome, Italy

Roman Forum: a breath of fresh air

Like caged animals, our boys miss their natural environment.  Chasing each other on the busy sidewalks, dodging traffic in uncertain crosswalks, doing tricks on the escalators and fighting gravity on trains just doesn't seem to cut it.  But being out in 'the wild' was a huge highlight from their visit to the Colosseum and Forum Tuesday. Joseph wrote in his travel journal:

It was refreshing to be in a place with plants and trees and fresh air, instead of concrete, cars and pollution. That was the highlight of my day.
The crowds at the Colosseum gave it the feel of a professional sporting arena; the wide expansive space at the Forum offered peace, quiet and a breath of fresh air.

St. John the Evangelist

A basilica for the world, St. John Lateran Basilica was built by Constantine as the first church in Rome.  As the cathedral of the bishop of Rome (Pope Benedict XVI), it is also the cathedral for the world.  Our visit to St. John Lateran on Tuesday added immesurably to our pilgrimage to Rome.  The art and architecture alone would be worth a day's visit; add in the sacred space for worship and prayer... it's like a part of heaven on earth.  Visiting the Schola Sancta across the street allowed us an opportunity for prayer and penance, a great preparation for celebrating confession a few hours later at the Pontifical North American College where our Papal Audience tickets were ready for pick-up.

Arriving at the Pontifical North American College, Rome

Peter and Tim wait in line to celebrate the sacrament of confession (reconciliation) at PNAC.

Anytime you can add confession to a family evening out, you are heading in the right direction. 
For us it was an added bonus to our visit to the Pontifical North American College to collect our tickets for Wednesday's Papal Audience.  The offer was far too good to refuse, and we were all able to receive the special sacrament (one after another).  We have seen many active confessionals in the various churches we have visited, offered in many different languages.  What a gift to be at NAC during confession time!  The surroundings are beautiful and peaceful, and Zachary mentioned that everyone we met there seemed very happy.  Someone I know might like to study there someday...

An evening with a new friend with close ties to home capped off another wonderful day in Rome.   She is a theology professor at a pontifical university; outgoing and personable, and a lot of fun to visit with.  She had the inside scoop on where to order good pizza, and to our surprise each personal pizza was as large as a medium family pizza at home (though with a delicately thin crust and moderate, tasty Italian toppings).  We brought home left-overs to enjoy cold the next day.    

  • Just because you're next in line at the grocery deli doesn't mean you're next in line (must grab a numbered ticket!).
  • Standing at the deli waiting to be served without a ticket marks you as a silly tourist.
  • When you taste the fresh cold cuts, the other details fade away.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Italy Day 5 {St. Peter's Above and Below}

Daily Mass in St. Peter's crucifixion chapel at St. Peter's Basilica, as seen from up in the dome

Joseph ascends (for the second time in 3 hours) 551 steps to the top of the dome at St. Peter's in Rome.

St. Peter's crucifixion as depicted on one of the panels of a door at St. Peter's Basilica

Tim and Joseph at the top of St. Peter's in the misty morning (photo by Peter).

Touring the tomb of St. Peter is reserved only for those over 15 years, so we split up Monday morning after walking to the Vatican together from our flat.  Zac and I took an early tour to the very bottom of St. Peter's, the underground tour of the tombs and catacombs (scavi) while Tim, Joseph and Peter climbed the 500+ steps to the top of St. Peter's Dome. The underground tour brought us to the excavated sites of ancient burial grounds. The highlight, of course, was catching a glimpse of the tomb of St. Peter. This very site has been revered by Christians from the time of his crucifixion and burial to now; it's a holy site upon which the Mass has been celebrated on various altars (built, re-built, re-built, etc.) from then to today.   We were directly below the main altar at St. Peter's.   Amazing.

Climbing the dome of St. Peter's is reserved for the not faint of heart nor afraid of heights.  One long line of climbers, each at his or own fitness level, ascend the steps to the top of the dome.  First stop inside the dome gives a view (through a grate) of the Church's interior.  I watched as Holy Communion was being distributed in St. Peter's crucifixion chapel many stories below.   Watching the tiny figures moving about, I felt like an eye in the sky; I found myself keenly aware of God's omnipotence and our littleness.  He sees everything - from Him nothing is hidden!
Ordering dinner in a non-English speaking restaurant can be slightly comical.  In this case, our waiter (with no other tables on which to wait) stayed at our table for almost the entire meal, visiting and trying to improve his English.  By various forms of trial and error in communicating we learned that he's a 24 year old working in Rome from Romania; cutting hair by day and waiting tables by night.  He only sleeps 4-6 hours a night, and has lived and worked in several Italian cities.  About mid-way through our meal, his co-worker wanted in on the English lesson, and joined the conversation.  We learned that he is 45 years old and has 2 children.  His mom is from (or lives now) in the US.  It would have been nice to have a quiet dinner, but the friendly Italians and their desire to speak English with us made it more like dinner and a show.  The food was delicious.  Peter ordered lamb, with a side of roasted potatoes and enjoyed every bite.  The rest of us ordered pasta and each dish was delicious.  
  • The Pieta is the only work Michelangelo signed.
  • He did it in the middle of the night, right across Mary's garment.
  • He confessed it as the greatest act of pride on the greatest act of humility.
  • He never signed another work.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Italy Day 4 pt2 {Rome: Finding St. Agnes}

In Navona Plaza, Tim and Zac dicipher the map in hopes of finding St. Agnes Church.

Centerpiece of the square in the Navona neighborhood (Rome)

St. Agnes Church, Rome, Italy

We buy fruit all the time.... really!

Found: the Colosseum!

Finding your way around a giant ancient city on foot isn't easy on an empty stomach, and when your map is written in a foreign language and not entirely accurate, things can get ugly. Things didn't really get ugly, but they did get a little harried Sunday afternoon on our quest for St. Agnes' Church. Walking a few miles east from the Vatican after Mass, we found a little deli to grab a quick bite, having passed dozens of restaurants en route (perhaps provoking hunger pains?). We hoped the deli owners could double as tour guides to to St. Agnes. They tried, but the language barrier made following their advice rather difficult. Wandering aimlessly, or so it seemed, through ally after ally (streets really, but only about as wide as a parking space and a half) we came to another unmarked T intersection and tried asking more non-English speaking restaurateurs for directions, with absolutely no success.   Meanwhile, I had been silently asking for St. Agnes' prayers that if it was God's will, we would come to find the Church.

Out of the blue a van pulled up and the driver (our airport-to-flat shuttle driver!) says, "I have your son's coat," and passes Peter's lost coat out the driver's window. We thanked him (in awe of the timing of his sudden appearance) and proceeded to ask him for directions to St. Agnes, which he simply gave and pulled away. As we started walking again, this time in stunned silence and joy, Tim asked, "How in the world did he find us? Am I the only one who finds this extremely strange?"

Hard to believe we hadn't seen St. Agnes when we were standing directly in front of it, but if we had seen it at that time, we wouldn't have been able to go inside as it was gated off.  A huge Sunday market filled the Piazzaa Navona and a large metal fence blocked the entry way.  We had seen it, stood right in front of it to consult the map, but not know it was St. Agnes' Church.  However, once we "found" it (and realized it was the locked building in the square) I asked the guys to wait a minute while I took a photo of  the building.  What I saw through the lens was a line of people entering and exiting the church, which had just been re-opened.  We entered the gorgeous church and were able to pray inside St. Agnes, at the place where this young martyr is buried.  Such a blessing, but not for the faint of heart! 
Trekking across town to the Colosseum after our visit with St. Agnes should have been fairly uneventful, but a grocery store faux pas and a bus stop debacle kept things interesting.  We dropped in to a grocery store along a busy road to pick up some fresh fruit for snacking.  It was a tiny maze of an inner city store, and our family of 5 clogged up the gears from start to finish... twice.  After waiting in the
l o n g check out line, we finally got very close to the check out.  The checker gave us a disgusted look and said something contrary to the current customer who politely explained in very broken English that there were no scales to weigh the fruit at check out.  So back to the produce department we weaved, and tried to figure out the tagging system for labelling our fruit.  C+ for effort, but next time we'll know to put the stickers on the little produce bags, not directly on the fruit!
Waiting at the bus stop for a lift to the Colosseum, Zac mentioned that the sign might read "only on weekdays."  Rather than standing at the bus stop for the remainder of Sunday afternoon, we asked a local if the bus would come today.  "No, not today. Where are you trying to go?"
"To the Colosseum."
"There it is, right there."  He pointed down the street, and sure enough, the Colosseum WAS right there!
Relieved that our seemingly endless walk would soon come to an end, and slightly embarrassed at our foible, we thank him, took our lives into our hands crossing another Roman street, and found the amazing landmark to be every bit as impressive as we had hoped it would be.  Except we arrived at closing time and will have to go back another day to go inside... 
And the journey continues!
  • Cotton socks really do take about 3 times as long to line dry after a hand wash.
  • Sometimes it's worth 75c to use a public toilet, other times, not so much.
  • A litre of tap water can cost up to $4. at an Italian restaurant.

Italy Day 4 {Rome: St. Peter's Basilica}

Zac, Joseph and Peter in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica, near the altar of St. Peter's Chair where Latin Mass was celebrated Sunday morning.
Our new friends: seminarians from North American College, John from Joliet and Joseph from Tulsa.
An alarm at 7:30AM may not seem early, but when you didn't get into bed until after midnight, and you're not yet set to local time, 7:30 is a shock to the system.   As previously mentioned, our bathroom sharing skills are lacking, or we're just plain slow at getting ready for bed; whatever the cause, we were up way too late and this day's rise and shine came all too abruptly.

First stop: St. Peter's Basilica.  One stop up on the Metro, we didn't need any maps to direct us to St. Peter's; there we gobs of people moving in that direction, like the current of a river.  Many had high hopes of visiting the Vatican Museum, which was free today (the 4th Sunday), but we quickly realized that the length of the line was prohibitive for us.  St. Peter's awaited, and the excitement mounted as we weaved in and out of the massive crowd, staying in single file most of the way for maximum mobility. 

Stunned, awed, moved to tears and struck silent by the exceptional sights inside St. Peters, we headed for the main altar, behind which the Sunday Latin Mass would soon begin.  Only those attending Mass were allowed past the checkpoint holding back throngs of tourists.  Once inside the designated worship space, our awe multiplied as we walked alongside the main altar, which is directly over St. Peter's tomb.  Calling us from above, the Bernini dove (Holy Spirit) window in the apse, was breathtaking; directly above the Throne of St. Peter, supported by four Church Fathers (a sign of Bishops' call to support the pope).

Kneeling in prayer to prepare for the Holy Mass, we were approached by a uniformed basilica usher.  He politely asked us where we were from, smiled, and asked us if we would like to represent the congregation by bringing up the gifts at Mass.  Would we?  We would!  We did!  Escorted to the very front row, given a quick (efficient and direct) rehearsal, we were prepared for Mass in a most unpredictable manner.  A true gentleman, loving husband and father, Tim opted to let the three boys and I take up the gifts, as there were only 4 spots available.   The Latin Mass was truly captivating; with an extraordinarily sublime choir, dozens of con celebrating priests plus a cardinal in the sanctuary.  Of course the highlight was receiving our Lord in Holy Communion in such a memorable location, in the presence of the heavenly hosts of angels and saints... 

Praying at the site of St. Peter's crucifixion, another site reserved for peace and quiet and off limits to tourists, our hearts were moved by the images of St. Peter's torture.  We also realized our hunger pains were growing, and in order to eat we had to exit the basilica.  In St. Peter's Square out front, we were greeted by two young American seminarians (in collars) who visited with us, giving us many great tips for future visits to St. Peter's.  Also suggesting we depart the general area before buying food, they gave us directions to a nearby neighborhood where better priced and better tasting lunches could be found.  Parting gifts of Miraculous Medals blessed by Pope Benedict were the icing on the cake of our first visit to St. Peter's.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

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

Tim and the boys select cold cuts for lunch, to be eaten with fresh bread picnic-style.
Pilgrims' picnic lunch outside St. Mary Major, Rome

Mosaic @ St. Praessede, Rome

Bernini's "St. Teresa in Ecstasy" at St. Maria Vittoria

Escalator ride inside Rome's Metro; a tremendous amount of vertical ascending and descending is required to get to and from the trains below the city.

Sleeping soundly through breakfast, our slow start gave us the energy we needed to cover a vast territory on this sunny Friday in Rome.  Advice to be out and about before 8AM aside, we still took time to chat with Luciano, who appeared to be waiting outside the garden gate for a visit as we departed.  A very sweet gentleman; an artist and a former executive with Alitalia Airlines, we were blessed to make his acquaintance.

No longer any baths, but a beautiful church in the place of the Baths of Diocletian, St. Maria degli Angeli: our first stop.  The brass rod in the floor, used with a pinhole in the wall to tell time and keep a calendar was truly fascinating.  Also fascinating was the tremendous crowd gathering out front, and the riot police, and the media circus.  A protest of some sort, but not related to the reformation; rather to some water or nuclear power issue.  When we inquired of locals about the meaning of the protest, they informed us that there is always a protest in Rome, this was nothing out of the ordinary it seems.

Stretching for miles and most of the day, the noisy protest had gathered steam and was mobile, greeting us as we exited St. Mary Major (built in 432 AD).  We stopped to pray near a piece of the manger from Bethlehem (yes, THE manger!) and saw Bernini's tomb and outstanding mosaic art.  From there we visited a local grocery store for simple lunch ingredients and ate in the (noisy) sunny courtyard outside St. Mary's before forging through the protest to reach St. Praessede.  The mosaic art at St. Praessede was breathtaking, and also on display was a small part of the column/pillar at which Jesus was scourged.

A Bernini masterpiece, The Ecstasy of St. Teresa,  on our must-see list, was well worth the walk across town amidst map reading challenges.  With persistence, we were able to find St. Teresa inside St. Maria Vittoria in the early evening.  Across the busy street, at St. Susannah, we attended a Vigil Mass for the 3rd Sunday in Lent, in English.  The deacon (a student at North American College) gave an outstanding homily on the graces of Lenten fasting.  We visited with him after Mass, and thanked him for his inspirational message.

Flashy, loud, trendy, and slightly not-age appropriate, our dinner stop at White restaurant did not impress.  The food was OK, but the music, night life scene, and slightly lewd art in the hall near the bathroom were all good reasons not to go back.  But then... we did go back, after our stop at the bustling Trevi Fountain, for gellato "to go" on our way home via the Metro (subway).  So starting now we're never going back.

Another swollen finger in the family, but this time it's Peter's; we suspect from 'trigger finger' repetitive motion taking SO many photos.  Peter's been shooting like a madman, taking volumes of photos, some of which are looking like keepers.

  • Zac's quote at White restaurant, "If they have enough money for these fancy napkin holder packets, why can't they afford a seat for their toilet?"
  • 5 people sharing one bathroom can complicate bed time routines
  • A vandalized statue of an angel can give hours of awe and make lasting memories for young eyes
  • Oranges grow on trees; but if you attempt to pick one in Rome, the locals will quickly warn (with sign language) you that they are not edible.
Day 4 {Rome: St. Peter's Basilica}follows.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Italy Day 2 {Rome; Pantheon, Santa Maria della Rotonda}

Home in Rome: the boys enter our flat through the garden area adjacent to a busy street.
No sleep yet! But at least 3 of us were ready for naps at 2PM.
Just like Father Qui Thac described: urban Roman water fountains... fun!
Atop the Spanish Steps in front of the Trinity Church
High altar in the Pantheon (Church of St. Mary and the Martyrs); ready for Mass on the Solemnity of the Annunciation
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, March 25, 2011

Family Pilgrimage to Italy Day 1 {New York City Layover}

Destination Italy: Our family pilgrimage begins!

Selfie atop the Empire State Building
Peter and Joseph follow Tim through the streets of New York.
Big decision for Zac: which slice(s) to order for dinner?
We departed from home Thursday, at 2AM for our 6:30AM flight to New York.  We didn't manage to get much sleep on the flight, as the excitement was running high.  Upon arriving in New York, we found luggage storage to ditch our bags and then hit the subway system with just one pack between us.  With Uncle Clark on speed dial, we naviagated our way to the Empire State Building and ascended to the 84th floor veiwing.  The weather was cold, but clear, and we could see for miles. 

Chaos; Stinky; Crowded...the words Zac, Joseph and Peter used to decribe their first impression of New York City.  Joseph also asked if we thought Rome would be as crowded.  The scene was probably just a typcial Thursday afternoon in NY, but it felt like a zoo.  And we didn't see but a handful of children in the sea of humanity.

Holy Innocents Catholic Church caught our eye, and we entered just in time for Benediction (Tridentine Rite).  Statue of St. Lucy caught my eye, and I knew my prayers for Aileen and her family were in good hands!

From Catholic Church to Kosher Deli and right back out and into the pizza shop next door.  The pricing on the sign implied 2 slices & drink for $5.  Looked like a bargain (and more predictable than the Kosher menu) but we were fooled by the small print cheese pizza only.  So the dinner wasn't cheap, but it tasted great and we took left overs to eat on the flight to Italy.

Back on the subway and bumped off due to some mechanical failure as we made our return trip to JFK.  Glad that we had given ourselves plenty of time, we joined the mass evacuation and re-habitation of subway trains before finally getting underway.  We zipped through security and onto our international flight without any complications. 

  • Joseph is wearing a little velcro strap to support his injured finger.  Riding on tables (table surfing) is not allowed at Scouts, just sayin'.
  • Our new point & shoot camara took a fall; apparently it was fatal.  Thankfully we had a back-up.
  • Flight attendants remind me of myself when I'm in a hurry to feed kids & shuffle them off; we go through the motions and make nice, but you can tell that our hearts aren't really in it. {Note to self: don't be like a flight attendant in feeding family.}
Pray for us, we're praying for you!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What to Pack?

and what to leave behind?


In preparing for our family pilgrimage to Italy, our packing lists have been carefully edited to allow for lightweight packs and ease of travel, and specifically to avoid checking any luggage.  This means that we will necessarily leave behind many of the comforts of home, including favorite items of clothing, books, and other 'luxury items.'  The trade-off is that by leaving behind unnecessary things, we can travel unencumbered by bulk, by stuff we don't really need.  This should make for a more pleasant, peaceful trip.

During our journey some things will be easily forgotten (messy pets, daily chores, planning meetings) while the absence of some other things will be somewhat painful (cell phones, vehicles, home sweet home).
A few days ago we pre-packed our bags for a sense of how things fit and what would go where.  My camera was truly the odd man out.  Didn't fit here, didn't fit there, didn't really seem to want to go (gasp!).
Could I really go to Europe without my favorite camera?  I'm embarrassed to admit how much mental energy went into this decision!

Out of the blue, God gave me my answer through the words of a complete stranger, whom I "met" through a Craig's List ad.  Her words were like gold: 
I bet your sweet family would much rather spend vacation making memories with you than have you taking pictures of them on vacation.  I had to learn the hard way last year when we went to Mt St. Helens for our family vacation and my then 4 year old daughter wanted to hold my hand and skip with me on the boardwalk thingy at this little lake where the sunset was pink on the water and Mt St. Helens was just gorgeously lit and I kept standing there taking pictures and she kept asking me to please stop and I kept telling her "Just a minute!" and then she finally burst into tears and said "Momma...please stop taking pictures of the mountain and skip with me...I thought you weren't going to work so we could have special time..." and I about died right there. I then packed that stupid camera up and put it in the trunk and left it there the rest of the vacation. And we had the most fun on vacation we have ever had and even though they don't have a billion photos.... Take the purse sized camera.
Message received.  Decision made.  Into the safe deposit goes my favorite camera, and into my pack goes the little point and shoot. 

On our Lenten journey toward Easter we should likewise be asking ourselves, "What should I take and what should I leave behind?"  Old habits, weaknesses, character defects, endless distractions... wouldn't it be great if we could simply be rid of these forever?  Never pick them up again?  And yet, somehow they creep into our suitcase, like stow-aways, invading the space we had hoped would be free from unnecessary baggage.   By God's grace we can keep tossing this extra, unnecessary clutter out.  In doing so, we can better prepare to receive the beautiful gifts God has in store for us.  

Create empty space for God during Lent, rather than trying to squeeze God into an already packed space. We cannot truly listen to God unless there's open space in our hearts.  We don't come by this open space easily, it requires our vigilance and our constant effort.  Consider that Lent is 1/10 of a year and tithe this time to God.  Fast. Pray. Give.  Allow for a transfiguration at Easter by making the necessary adjustments now.  It might not be easy, but it will be well worth the extra effort.

May God bless your efforts and mine!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Night {Chorus}

After Stations of the Cross following Mass tonight, Zachary decided that as tomorrow is the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary  the boys should sing a four part harmony for the Gloria at tomorrow morning's Latin Mass.

Zachary quickly found music and lyrics, printed copies, recruited his brothers to join the chorus, and set a 7AM meeting time with another voice to rehearse.  Motivated!  His dreams of forming a Gregorian Chant chorus may yet come to pass. (Maybe even before his Eagle Project gets city approval and a building permit!)

I "caught" them in the act of rehearsing the Latin chant tonight, and was scolded for (not so) secretly recording their practice session.  Even so, it was too sweet not to share, sorry boys!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Saying Goodbye

Our dear neighbors are moving today.

Peter, Joseph and Zac help Tim (aka Dr. Dude) load the moving van.
Zac decided he would never own furniture after helping load the moving van.

Joseph hands Tim another load for the truck.

Peter helped reach tight spots, climbing along the walls inside the moving van (what fun!).

At their final Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart as parishioners, Nicole and Tim (holding Miriam and Hope) receive a final blessing from Father Qui Thac.  Hannah had already departed with her grandpa, as his co-pilot in the moving van en route to San Diego.

Today we are saying farewell to our Goddaughter, Hope, and her family, Tim and Nicole, Hannah and Miriam.  We have known this day was coming, and that it would be difficult.  We have joined in their prayers that their decision to move would be in line with God's will for their family; though we selfishly wished we could keep them.  Tim received a great job offer in their home town, at his Alma matter, USD.  They are moving into a 4 generation home, together with Nicole's parents and her grandma.  What a gift for Hope and her sisters to be so close to their grandparents (both sides) and aunts, uncles, and cousins.

How grateful we are for the years we have grown in faith and love with Hope's family.

Though we will be distanced by miles, we will remain united in each celebration of the Eucharist; and they will remain always in our daily prayers.

Saint Patrick, pray for us!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Moving On {Tenderfoot Fitness}

Peter at the 400 meter finish line 

Enoch, Nicholas, and Peter record their results in their Scout handbooks.

Older Scouts (older brothers) monitor the push ups and physical fitness exercises.

Troop Guide, Collin, assists Peter with sit ups.
Who's this happy doing sit ups?

Peter's new patrol, the Erupting Eagles, began the 30 day Tenderfoot physical fitness challenge.
For the next month, they will work to improve in the following physical feats: 400 meter run, sit ups, push ups, pull ups and standing long jump.

Most of these Scouts are very active and physically fit as they begin the challenge.  Some need a little extra inspiration (like a Tenderfoot rank requirement) to encourage them to work at improving a difficult physical test like pull ups.  Some begin the 30 days with only a .25 pull up (a quarter of a pull up) and work their way up to a whole pull up, or a pull up and a half.  Others begin with a handful of pull ups and work up to 10 or more.  Either way, the goal is to improve on a personal level, not to compete with other Scouts (though there are a few Scouts in my house who seem to have been born with an extra competitor gene).

Never mind the weather, it's a great time to get outside and get fit.  Ready, set, go!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Shining Star {Josie}

Josie, being confirmed by Bishop Tyson, with her sponsor, Janell (Feb. 3, '11)

Our young friend, Josie, recently gave an amazing witness talk at the junior high youth rally.
Give your spiritual life a boost by listening to her inspiring words.

Joseph attended the rally, with a carload of his friends, and had a fantastic time.  The theme for this year's rally was Quest.  Joseph wrote:
The class about the Eucharist was really good.  The priest who ran the class was a good teacher because he added the history as well as ways to take the Eucharist more deeply.
 May your day be blessed!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Defending the Unborn {Flashback Friday}

Bridget, Aileen and Molly en route to the March for Life in Washington DC, January 1983
Bridget, Molly and Peter John on the way to Washington DC to stand up for the unborn (1983).

How blessed I am to have been raised in a pro-life home!

My parents allowed us to be warriors for the unborn, and we willingly participated in the very first March for Life at our state capitol and many following.  We were also part of a group which travelled in 1983 to Washington DC to participate in the national March for Life.  What an amazing experience!
My dear friend Aileen, and her family, always leading the charge in well coordinated pro life efforts (to this day), were also on that journey. 

We delivered red roses to legislators, as a sign of our hope that they would embrace the truth about human life and stand up to defend the unborn with us.

Today Zachary stood up for the unborn, as the sole pro-life voice in his philosophy class debate.  His instructor singled him out, interrupted him, and mocked him for his pro-life position.  Classmates argued that human fetuses resemble unborn chickens and turtles.  Zachary showed them the truth; the real images of aborted or in utero babies cannot be compared to any other being but human. 

After class one of Zac's classmates said it was unfortunate to witness the instructor going after Zachary in such an unprofessional manner.  Praise God for Zachary and for everyone who will defend the defenseless and stand for those who cannot stand for themselves.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday {The Day I Met My Future Spouse}

Twenty two years ago today, on Ash Wednesday, I met my future spouse.
Rebecca, Ben and Ava receive ashes from Father Qui Thac.

Both in our junior year at the University of Puget Sound, Tim and I just happened to share a ride to St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Tacoma, the sacred place we would celebrate the sacrament of matrimony two years later.   We were next door neighbors, he in the Phi Delta Theta house, and I in the Alpha Phi house.  Although we had mingled and been at many of the same gatherings, we hadn't known one another.  Until that day we hadn't known we shared our Catholic faith.  Now we know that our Lord, in His providence, had marked us for each other from the very day we were baptized as infants (on the same day in different states, in 1968).
Hannah and Hope with Cathee and her violin after Mass

Returning to Church in observance of Ash Wednesday, I was well aware of my weakened faith life in college amid the distractions, temptations, unchecked selfishness, and general business.  I wanted to begin again, to come before the Lord with a repentant heart.  If only that day had truly been my turning point!
But it was a beginning of the rest of my life with Tim, and of a spiritual journey that would lead us to right where we are today: Ash Wednesday.

The beginning of Lent has always marked a new beginning in my life.  My parents and teachers taught me to enter fully into this liturgical season which prepares us for the joy of Christ's resurrection at Easter.
Some years I simply made the same old sacrifice: no ice cream during Lent.  Other years there were deeper commitments and spiritual efforts.

By the grace of God, Tim and I now get to pass on the very same faith to our children and Godchildren: encouraging them to lead examined, prayerful lives; resolving to set a good example for them; praying for them daily; offering up sacrifices on their behalf; fasting; abstaining from meat (today and every Friday in Lent); encouraging them to make frequent use of the healing sacrament of confession.

Father Qui Thac with Peter and our Goddaughter, Hope after Mass on Ash Wednesday.

We teach them to follow Christ's example during these 40 days of spiritual preparation for Easter.

The beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday reminds us how temporary is our time on Earth, and encourages  us to strive to grow intentionally in holiness  by offering up sacrifices and taking up new acts of charity and piety. To be transformed is our goal in Lent.  We willingly enter the cocoon, so to speak, allowing God's hand to form and mold us to become what we were created to be.

Tobit 4: 5, 7b, 8, 14b, 15, 18-19a:
Through all your days, my son, keep the Lord in mind, and suppress every desire to sin or to break his commandments. 
Perform good works all the days of your life, and do not tread the paths of wrongdoing. 
Do not turn your face away from any of the poor, and God's face will not be turned away from you.   
Son, give alms in proportion to what you own. If you have great wealth, give alms out of your abundance; if you have but little, distribute even some of that. 
But do not hesitate to give alms; you will be storing up a goodly treasure for yourself against the day of adversity.
Keep a close watch on yourself, my son, in everything you do, and discipline yourself in all your conduct. 
Do to no one what you yourself dislike. Do not drink wine till you become drunk, nor let drunkenness accompany you on your way. 
Give to the hungry some of your bread, and to the naked some of your clothing. 
Whatever you have left over, give away as alms; and do not begrudge the alms you give. 
Seek counsel from every wise man, and do not think lightly of any advice that can be useful. 
At all times bless the Lord God, and ask him to make all your paths straight and to grant success to all your endeavors and plans

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Witness, A Disciple, and A Missionary {Our Godson Niko}

Yesterday our Godson & oldest nephew, Niko, received the sacrament of confirmation.
Molly, Mike, Kati, Niko and Clark
Crucifix, tabernacle and altar at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Tacoma
Tim, Niko and me after confirmation
Papa (Grandpa) Pete with Niko
Niko with an image of his patron Saint Nicholas
Zac and Niko

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo confirmed our Godson, Niko, and a huge group of teens and adults at 
St. Charles Borromeo last night.  
Powerful, personal, and profound; the anointing with sacred chrism and the laying on of hands at confirmation marked these Christians, sealing them with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, completing their Christian initiation.
What a blessing to have shared in another of Niko's sacraments.
Especially meaningful for me as his Godmother was hearing Niko renew the promises Tim and I made, together with his parents, at his baptism when he was so tiny.  Look at him now!  

Prayer for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit, divine Consoler, I adore You as my true God, with God the Father and God the Son. I adore You and unite myself to the adoration You receive from the angels and saints.
I give You my heart and I offer my ardent thanksgiving for all the grace which You never cease to bestow on me.
O Giver of all supernatural gifts, who filled the soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with such immense favors, I beg You to visit me with Your grace and Your love and to grant me the gift of holy fear, so that it may act on me as a check to prevent me from falling back into my past sins, for which I beg pardon.
Grant me the gift of piety, so that I may serve You for the future with increased fervor, follow with more promptness Your holy inspirations, and observe your divine precepts with greater fidelity.
Grant me the gift of knowledge, so that I may know the things of God and, enlightened by Your holy teaching, may walk, without deviation, in the path of eternal salvation.
Grant me the gift of fortitude, so that I may overcome courageously all the assaults of the devil, and all the dangers of this world which threaten the salvation of my soul.
Grant me the gift of counsel, so that I may choose what is more conducive to my spiritual advancement and may discover the wiles and snares of the tempter.
Grant me the gift of understanding, so that I may apprehend the divine mysteries and by contemplation of heavenly things detach my thoughts and affections from the vain things of this miserable world.
Grant me the gift of wisdom, so that I may rightly direct all my actions, referring them to God as my last end; so that, having loved Him and served Him in this life, I may have the happiness of possessing Him eternally in the next. Amen.

This prayer was written by St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787), a bishop and doctor of the Church and founder of the Redemptorist order.