Michelle at Liturgical Time is hosting a Jesse Tree ornament swap.
I was excited to take part for the following three reasons:
By the time I'd gotten wind of the swap, many of the "good" ones were taken. Determined to make the most of my "do something crafty" point, I ran through the list for the most boring sounding ornament of all. I found it in Zechariah. Suggested symbols were pencil and paper. In my mind, it doesn't get much more boring than that. So I e-mailed Michelle and asked if she'd be kind enough to put me in for good old Zechariah so long as no one else had claimed him (not that I was even slightly worried he was taken, 'cause again... who takes Zechariah when there are cool folks like Adam, Eve, Noah, Elijah and Mary to choose from?).
When Michelle wrote me back and gave me the green light, I felt a quick pang. "Uh oh. It's official. Other folks are counting on me to come up with something that isn't gonna suck. Now what?"
I did a quick Pinterest search for Zechariah. Did a quick Google search. Did a quick check back on Michelle's page to see if I could grab someone else because, thus far, nothing on Zechariah looked at all appealing.
I stopped myself, though. I wanted to stick to my guns. I'm creative, gosh darn it! I could come up with something fun that embodies the theme of anticipation and summarizes Zechariah's place on the Jesse Tree. I could! I definitely could. Maybe. Hopefully.
So I thought about it for a bit. Zechariah's best known for being struck mute upon disbelieving that God would deliver a son to his wife, Elizabeth, and he. Given they were both older, he was incredulous. In fact, Zechariah wasn't able to speak again until little John the Baptist was born. While everyone was running around demanding that his son be named after Zechariah, mute Zechariah finally regained use of his voice to affirm the child's name as decreed by God.
How could I capture that?
Cue the Holy Spirit.
No, seriously. Circle pouch. I thought of a little zippered coin pouch that could serve as Zechariah, himself. I did a quick tutorial search and found this by Erin Erickson:
Pretty snazzy, right? She's got some cool stuff that way - go check her out!
Anywho, this looked simple enough. I figured I'd just modify the zipper portion so it was lower, put a "hanger ribbon" in place of the keyring, and slap some googly eyes on brown felt fabric to make Zechariah's face. Zippered shut signified his silence while opened up would signify his ability to speak. In addition to this unzippered mouth, I was contemplating a way to have a ribbon come out and be able to fold back into the pouch that said, "His name is John."
Well, I finally sat down to try my hand at this little pouch today. Since I wanted to get my students (and craft friends) involved, I wanted to hammer out the process. Thank God I did, 'cause I was a flat out disaster! Seriously. Disaster. Take a look at this sexy thing:
Go ahead and recoil in horror. Scream. Cry a little inside. That's what I did. In fact, when I showed my husband, he said, "That might just be the worst thing I've ever seen. Ever."
Alrighty then. So my little Frankenstein wasn't gonna cut it. I cannot sew in a circle, and the creepy little button eyes were getting to me. So I decided to go a sewing-free route. It took a few trial-and-error runs, but eventually, I got Zechariah looking a little more human:
And since I still wanted the anticipation of "opening his mouth" to be something the kids could look forward to when they used this little ornament year after year, I kept the creepy "John" ribbon and made it look a little less creepy:
Eventually I'll put a step-by-step up here for anyone interested in doing this little craft themselves. I'll save you the trouble of that first monstrosity. ;)
So far, though, most folks are tickled by the idea behind this ornament. Everyone loves pulling his mouth open to see "John" slide out, and it slides right back in again with the tug of the top part of the ribbon (that you can use to hang it). For kids, they'll look forward (with anticipation!) to opening Zechariah's mouth and hearing the story of how John the Baptist got his name. For adults, it'll hopefully be a good teaching tool in sharing the story of trusting in the goodness and power of God.
Now, I've got five made (sans that little monster face). Only 27 more to go (and I'll have the help of my students and a few craft-friends). WOO HOO!
Here she is! Notice anything different about her?
Sure she's got a crown of flowers, and the ones placed in front of her are a little wilted, but take a closer look at the statue, itself.
Not sure yet? Here... let me give you a different angle. That should clear things up a bit!
If you haven't gotten it yet, I'll give you one more hint.
I took this picture directly behind my sister's room as she stayed on bed rest in the maternity ward. The wall behind Our Lady has my sister's bed behind it.
With that in mind, take a look at Our Lady's belly. Go ahead. Note the full curve of Life within her womb.
I've never seen a pregnant OLO Grace before. Never! Go figure there'd be one at this beautiful Catholic hospital that my sister found herself in.
As soon as I saw her, I knew I wanted to share her with you. She's just so beautiful! And the fact that this particular artist wanted to capture her as the expectant Mother of God is just.. I about died a hundred times as I fell over and over in love with her.
I adored that she was tucked away behind my sister as she kept Isaac safe within her for as long as she did, supporting her "unseen" even though we all knew she was there.
I'm just a complete sucker for stuff like this. Granted, I'm a complete sucker for Our Lady, but I count that as a plus. We should all be suckers for her.
This beautiful little church is the Church of the Annunciation. How could I NOT stop in a church painted "Blessed Mother Blue"? I've always wanted to go to a Greek Orthodox Church, so when I stumbled upon this one, I knew I'd found my chance!
In I went. I was greeted at the door by a very laid back, but super friendly, individual. The vibe in this church was much different than the Cathedral up the street. It felt very quiet and very, very reverent. It's not that those in the Cathedral weren't reverent. It's just the close quarters and extremely ornate architecture / artwork made for a very mystical, awe-inspiring experience.
From there, I silently moved my camera around. The church was very small - seating maybe 50 people. However, what they lacked in size they made up for in beauty. Oh, how wonderful was their artwork! I've always known Greek Orthodox kept their sanctuaries screened, but wow. Seeing one in person was unreal! The screens were magnificent! Edging my way closer, I was taken in by the massive 3-tiered chandelier made entirely of gold.
It reminded me of the many visions of the 3 tiered "Heavenly Jerusalem." The lighted candles and the brilliant light pouring in through their cupola was just... my breath really was taken away. It was so, so beautiful.
Then, of course, was their stained glass windows. These, too, were very beautiful and thoroughly educational in nature.
Since it was early yet, I felt brave enough to snap a few photos of the iconostasis. I mean... just... it was incredible. Those icons were so beautiful. I almost felt it unfair that they were trapped in a tiny church away from public view.
Again, please forgive any blurriness. I was taking these photos without my flash so as not to disturb those who were praying. Lighting in some areas was great, but not so great in others. However, I hope you're able to get even a slight idea of how beautiful everything was.
After going ga-ga for the sanctuary screens, my eye caught the priest's chair. It looked like a bishop's chair! It, too, was beautiful in its own right. Across from his chair was what I believe could've been a credence table. I believe the large, ciborium-looking cup was, in fact, some sort of chalice (those little handles looked like spigots), but given I've never participated in an Orthodox Mass, I really wasn't sure what I was oogling. I snapped a photo anyway because I thought it was beautiful and wanted to share with you fine folks.
Finally, I turned my attention back to that magificent cupola. I wanted to stare at the images all day, but knew I'd miss my bus should I stay for much longer. I peered up to capture a few last images to keep with me. I'm so sorry they aren't as clear as they could be. I almost feel like those old men from the Old Testament who wept upon seeing the new temple. Distraught that the new temple was not nearly as grand or beautiful as their original one, I feel frustrated that these photos do nothing to capture the divine sanctity of that place. I could have happily stayed in there for hours at total peace.
I was invited to stay for their services, but I politely declined. I think I would have had I not had John waiting for me at the hotel. To experience an Orthodox Mass has always been of interest to me. However, that can wait for another day.
I snapped a few photos of their small outside garden (containing the grave of their founding pastor) and made it back to the jitney with about 30 seconds to spare.
All in all, I'd recommend the jaunt for anyone in Nassau. So, so worth it. <3
I really hope you enjoyed all the photos of this church and the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier. Both were splendid little gems of Christ. I'm so happy to have had the blessing of being there!
While John and I were in the Bahamas, I got my first chance to attend a Bahemian Mass. I had contacted the Diocese of Nassau before leaving and found out the closest church to my hotel was the Cathedral. How lucky was that?
I decided to attend the early Mass on Sunday (8 AM).
I woke up at about 6:45 to get ready. I was told to hop on the jitney (their local bus system) by 7:15 so I get to the Cathedral on time. I dutifully walked to the bus stop by myself. Normally I'd be a bit nervous to do this in a foreign country all by myself (John was still sleeping), but given the laid back, super friendly nature of Bahemians, I wasn't concerned for my personal safety.
In fact, I was pretty confident that locals would go out of their way to help me out given the high importance of tourism. They don't want bad publicity via rumors of tourist muggings, so they are generally super, super nice to foreigners.
When the jitney came around, I found myself alone on the bus with the driver. I sat directly behind him so I could hear him call out my stop. Silly me, though, he took it upon himself to become my personal taxi-driver!
When I climbed onto the bus by myself, he exclaimed, "By yourself? Where is your partner?"
I laughed and said, "He's still in bed sleeping. I'm going to Mass at St. Francis Cathedral. Are you going there?"
He said, "Yes, baby (all women, to men, are "baby" in the Bahamas). I go by there just fine. Your partner didn't want to come with you?"
I laughed again and said, "Nope. He's not Catholic."
He said, "What is he?"
I said, "He's agnostic, I think. He doesn't really believe in or care about God."
The driver seemed slightly perplexed, but let the comment roll over him. He said, "Well, did you get breakfast yet?"
I said, "No. I'll eat when I get back."
He said, "Are you sure? I can drive to McDonald's or something."
I shook my head and said, "No, it's really okay. Just to the church."
He then chuckled, "Oh yeah. You Catholics don't eat before you pray, right?"
I laughed again and confirmed he was right.
To my surprise, he told me he'd just drop me off at the entrance of the Cathedral. That was about two blocks from his route. Not super far, but it was still out of his way and could have cost him passengers.
He told me not to worry about it because it was early yet on a Sunday. He thought he was lucky to get me let alone other passengers along the route.
What a nice guy!
So he did drop me off directly in front of the Cathedral wall with directions on how to get back to the real bus stop when Mass was over.
Upon exiting the bus, I walked through the archway and immediately saw a statue of Elizabeth Ann Seton.
I wondered why they chose her. The little placard explained that her order, the Sisters of Charity, founded the very first school in the Bahamas and are still active on the island to this day. How wonderful is that?
Anyway, since I was still very early, I snapped a few more shots of the outside grounds. Forgive the blur - coming off the air conditioned bus and into the humidity of Nassau fogged my lens up something fierce!
Once I snapped these, I decided it would be best to get my bearings inside. I couldn't wait to see their artwork!
I entered the Cathedral and, to me, it looked very different from the pictures posted on their website. I was expecting a Protestant looking church, but it was, in fact, very Catholic. Upon entering the Cathedral, I was greeted with the Baptismal font, ambry and the entrance bell (one of the prettiest I've seen!).
I was immediately greeted by an enthusiastic usher who handed me a voting slip for parish council. Ha ha! I thanked him and asked if it would be okay to snap a few more photos before the rest of the congregation began showing up. He gave me the go-ahead, and off I went. I figured it'd be less intrusive to get my photos over with sooner rather than later when more people were trying to focus on prayer.
The first thing that struck me was the tabernacle. It was missing from the sanctuary. In its normal place behind the altar were three chairs (I assume for the bishop, priest and deacon). Every now and again I see a church up here do that, but never with the tabernacle completely gone from the sanctuary.
When I found the tabernacle, I almost couldn't believe I'd missed it!
Without a doubt, their tabernacle is the largest one I've ever seen in person. It was off to the right of the sanctuary, and I wonder if its size was the reason for its placement. This massive, golden tabernacle... it was beautiful, but wow. It was HUGE. The picture below doesn't do it justice. I took the photo from the middle aisle without the zoom. It's just... WHEW. The sheer size blew me away.
From there, a statue of the Blessed Mother caught my eye. She and the Child Jesus were carved from wood and hand painted. St. Joseph was hanging out on the other side of the church also carrying Baby Jesus.
Then, of course, I snapped a few photos of the Stations as well as the stained glass.
Next, as I was getting into the pew, I noticed the beautiful carvings that seemed to alternate between these two patterns:
Finally, here's a shot of the main altar. As you can see, there was a massive floral spray in front of it. Behind were the Nassau crest and symbols of the 4 Gospels. You can see the back of the Bishop's chair poking up.
Stay tuned for Part II where I tackle the surprising differences in liturgy that legitimately knocked me of my feet - TWICE!
I've come across a few great articles / bloggers that I wanted to share with everyone!
1) Twisted Mystics: This blog is written by a musician who searches for God in all sorts of music. The way he keeps his heart (and ears) open to the love of God is just brilliant. Some of his reflections have given me real pause. Be prepared, though... you really won't be able to listen to music the same way again!
Special thanks to my friend, Joe, for turning me on to this blog!
2) The New Scarlet Letter: Written by a contributor to Catholic Dads, this entry deals with a parent's inner workings regarding his son with Asperger's. I was really blown away by his honest reflections. This hit home for me (having a nephew and cousin with the disorder and having taught children on the spectrum). He does a beautiful job giving a voice (or voices!) to parents.
3) Theme Thursday: Statues: This is going to be a double link because I originally found out about it from Cam over at A Woman's Place. I couldn't figure out Cam's, but I thought the idea was a lot of fun. As such, I spent quite a bit of time on my little treasure hunt seeing all the fun statues! Be warned that you might spend more time looking at the entries than you normally would on ICanHazCheezburger.
4) This image. Seriously. I must've looked at it a dozen times today, and I laughed every single time.
5) For all you gamers out there, you'll get a kick out of this one as much (if not more!) than I did. You're welcome! (Hat tip to Katherine over at Having Left the Altar for this one!)
6) And of course, the super awesome giveaway yours truly still has going on for another week! Get your entries in while you've got a chance! I can't wait to give these prizes away!
As you may have noticed in my last post, I felt as though the child I lost was a little girl. It wasn’t any innate feeling on my part. I chose “pink” because of something John had said when, for a quick moment, he allowed himself to entertain the notion of another child.
He said, “I hope it’s a girl.”
I just shook my head. I didn’t care either way, but I admit I’ve always envisioned John walking our daughter down the aisle for her wedding. He’d be the quintessential “Daddy” to an adoring little girl. Even he smiled at the idea.
As I thought on the child within me, I guess I began picturing her as a little girl… as the sweet little angel who would melt her Daddy’s heart.
Then when the flowers came last week, they were all pink. Pink carnations, pink roses, pink tiny flowers that probably have a name and I just don’t know what it is. The bow was pink, and even the balloon was pink. I took that as my confirmation.
Her name was given to me when I knew I had conceived. As I mentioned in a previous post, my entire body screamed “Miracle.” A miracle she is, so I named her for the painting I can’t get out of my head: Senor de los Milagros de Nazarenas – Lord of Miracles. I’ve written about this Peruvian painting before. It depicts Christ crucified while His Mother and Mary Magdalene mourn His Passion. God the Father and Spirit are also present.
So from this painting, which expresses the mysterious miracle of love, grief, and salvation, I found myself saying, "Myla." A shortening of "Milagros" or "miracle," my little Myla earned her name from my body's unconscious praise of its Creator. Plus, its Slavic origins translate "Myla" to mean "grace" or "favor" and I believe that's exactly what she was to us.
Her middle name sorta fell from the sky. I wasn't sure, at first, what it should be. Then, I realized that I kept wanting to call her my "little flower." Ah ha.
Myla Therese it is.
So, may the Lord bless and keep you, Myla Therese. Mommy cannot wait to meet you in Heaven. Keep praying for Daddy, your brother and I my sweet little angel, and please give kisses to your great-grandparents for me.
So I found a new church to snap photos of tonight!
I was told a parish near me offered a 6pm Mass on Sundays. Given I typically travel over an hour to get to my normal 8pm Mass in Philly, I was excited by the prospect of an evening Mass closer to home.
St. John's at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Collingswood, NJ fit the bill!
This parish reminded me a lot of St. Teresa's @ Holy Child Parish in Runnemede. Architecturally, they are very similar. Both are smaller churches with beautiful wooden baldachiums. Both have similarly styled stained glass windows. Both parishes also present themselves in a simple, down-to-earth way making newcomers like myself feel right at home.
Everything was very clean and the smell of fresh flowers was evident. They kept their marble altar railings (which I loved). A very talented organist was providing soft music from the altar of St. Joseph from about 20 minutes before Mass began.
When I entered the building, I noticed the priest was within the congregation, shaking hands and greeting parishioners. Obviously he was well known and well liked by his flock. I took him to be the pastor given his evident "ownership" of the church. He walked around in an alb and a stole. His chasuble was draped over a seat in the sanctuary.
I took a seat and waited for Mass to begin. A beautiful family of 7 soon took their seats in front of me. I couldn't withhold my smile. A beautiful little girl and two adorable little boys bustled into the pew. They were followed by their glowing (and pregnant) mother who was followed by her husband. On her husband's shoulder was a sleepy boy a shade younger than Vincent.
My heart melted into my shoes every time I took the sight of them in. I admit that several times during Mass I lost track of prayers because I was joyfully repeating to God "Oh bless them, bless them, bless them!"
I'd then look at each one in turn with what must've been the dopiest grin on my face and I'd silently ask God to bring them each boundless joy for being such beautiful witnesses to love and life.
Anyway, Mass soon began and I noticed that Father did not put on his chasuble. In fact, he said the entire Liturgy of the Word without it. When it didn't go on right away, I figured he'd don it for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and I believe he put it on at the Offertory.
In fact, something interesting happened at the Offertory.
Father snuck into the sanctuary and turned off all the lights. The only light remaining was coming from votive candles in front of Our Lady and Blessed Teresa and the lighting within the baldachium. I actually snuck a photo of it because I was so surprised. I really liked that such focus was being placed on the altar in anticipation of Consecration.
The lights didn't go on again until after the Eucharist was placed back into the tabernacle.
Homily was nice. Announcements were put smack into the middle of the Mass. You folks know that bothers me, but I can understand why some parishes do it. It just completely pulls the rug out from under your prayerful meditation of the Mass. Ay. I really wish parishes would either do them before the Mass or after Mass. Heck, I don't even mind hearing them before the final blessing - just don't go from prayerful reflection on the Homily / Intentions into "Oh, BTW, can you make sure you register your kid for classes? Oh, and we've got a food drive, and next week's bingo is up to $5,000, and we're already looking for Christmas volunteers, etc, etc, etc."
It drives me bonkers.
That aside, everything else was really nice. Their cantor sang beautifully and their altar servers were very attentive. The congregation was pretty amazing, too.
I'll likely be back again to get a better feel for their way of doing things, but upon first glance, that was my impression!
Happy birthday, Church!
I chose to spend Mass this morning at Holy Child Parish. As a seasoned parish-hopper, I was glad for the opportunity to see this one decked out and ready to celebrate the day Christ fulfilled His promise to send the Holy Spirit to guide us in His Ways.
I made a great choice!
This parish boasts several priests and deacons. Though not a "rich" parish, it's very obvious that these parishioners spare no expense when it comes to lavishing beauty upon the Lord's House.
St. Teresa Church (part of Holy Child Parish), is just... it's beautiful in a very simple, quiet way. There aren't thirty thousand statues / icons along the walls... there aren't flowers and banners hanging from every rafter, and there's not an over-abundance of linens or fixtures.
They do, however, have some beautiful statues, beautiful (and VERY educational) stained glass windows, and some of the most magnificent wood-work I've seen in a while. They are also one of the cleanest churches I've ever been in which is just more proof that the parishioners take pride in keeping the Lord's House meticulous.
The way they have set everything up, it seems that the true focus of the entire parish is not on wowing folks with artwork or finery but impressing upon them the real beauty of Who is hidden within the tabernacle. I love that!
The priests at this parish are ALL wonderful. I've heard homilies from each and they all have an intense love for Christ and His Church. They also went out of their way to really teach the parish about the changes that were made to the liturgy as the new wording was being introduced. One, in particular, is a real stickler for "saying the black, doing the red" and I'm always tickled when he points it out. :)
They're also fantastic with children. When I attend Mass here, I tend to go to the 11 o'clock which is right before Vince's bedtime. That typically means Vince is in rare form, and I've never had them shoot me angry laser beams. In fact, a couple weeks ago Fr. Chris caught us in the vestibule with Vince crying his head off and instead of scurrying out of a potentially awkward situation, he tried to soothe both Vince and myself and assured us of his prayers en route to the altar. How sweet is that?
You guys have heard me write of these stellar priests several times, especially when their homilies give me new insights into Bible readings or Church Traditions. I just love that we've still been so blessed to have such faithful, intelligent and charitable priests in our community.
Anyway, I took some photos to share with you lovely readers. This parish JUST attached a new adoration chapel that's opened Monday thru Friday until 8pm. How amazing is that??? So now, in addition to St. Rita's, I have St. Teresa's as well to visit Christ in the Blessed Sacrament!
That means any of you fine folks in the S. Jersey area also have another place to pray with the Lord. Yay!
But yes - St. Teresa Parish is truly a wonderful community. Their parishioners are so very welcoming, thoughtful and generous. I always feel at home in their parish. Their priests are incredible representatives of Christ, and their church is a very serene, clean and simple beauty that I have no doubt pleases God greatly.
May He continue to bless these folks immensely. <3
For more gorgeous parish artwork from my local churches, feel free to follow my "Churches" page.
This is where I attended Mass on Ascension Thursday.
For those of you who are unaware, St. John Neumann was a bishop of Philadelphia and brought us some incredibly wonderful treasures in his tenure as Archbishop. He opened the door to many religious communities, founded orphanages and schools, and did his best to provide a proper education, healthcare and basic necessities to the many immigrants that made their way through our fair city.
For his great love of Christ and His Church, God bestowed upon this servant the title of Saint. Even more glorious, God worked His grace through St. John by blessing him to be among the Incorruptibles.
St. Peter the Apostle houses a shrine built in his honor. This shrine boasts a small museum of his artifacts and relics, but most importantly, this shrine houses St. John's body beneath an altar.
Enjoy the photos.
I've been a busy bee with earrings lately. I had a special request for guardian angel earrings (last set!). A group of teens (8 in total) will be wearing them in solidarity for a Pro-Life event they helped put together through their Youth Group. How cool is that? I did them free of charge (of course!). How cool that they thought to wear earrings in solidarity with the "angels" lost to abortion every day? Sometimes these kid astound me. They'll be giving the Pro-Life Union of Philadelphia the first My Broken Fiat check I've been able to amass through your generosity. $100! So thank you so much for your support, guys!!!
When I get a new batch of these particular beads in, I'll start offering them in the shop. The others are new designs I was fiddling with to add some gold to the mix since most of my pieces are silver.
Anyway, here's what I've got! I'm really loving the metal charms and glass beads. The colors are pretty and they're just so much fun to work with!
I had planned to mark some of my CCD tests at lunch today, so I brought my CCD bag into work with me. I still had the Agonizing Crucifix with me, and one of my coworkers saw Jesus' head popping over the top.
He sorta recoiled while asking "What kind of cross is that?"
I pulled him out, happy to share one of my prized crucifixes. I said, "This is an Agonizing Crucifix. It portrays Jesus more realistically than the clean, pristine corpus models you see on most crucifixes."
I hadn't really thought anything of it, but he was legitimately disturbed by it. I left him to ponder the crucifix while I made my coffee. When I got back, the crucifix was on my desk and I thought nothing more of it as I got to work answering the thousand e-mails in my folder.
A few moments later, a mini crowd had gathered at my desk. Everyone wanted to see the "controversial crucifix" I had brought in that was apparently "too much," "distasteful" or "unnecessary."
I tried to explain the reason such a crucifix is a great reminder to have handy - ESPECIALLY during Lent. It's important to remember all that went into Christ's Sacrifice, but my coworkers unanimously agreed that such a graphic display of torture was pointless and horrid. One went so far as to cut out a robe for Christ to drape over His Wounds.
I took no offense to their reaction, mind you. In fact, I pointed out that their reaction is exactly what it should have been. We SHOULD be unsettled by such a visual. We SHOULD be uncomfortable to witness the agony His Body endured for us. To witness the effects of our personal sins on the One Who came to save us... it should be an experience from which your eyes wish to turn away from.
Your soul, however, should be what pulls you back. Your heart should be what directs your eyes back to His Sacrifice because your heart and soul, both lovingly created by the Father of all, beckons them with His Love that pours out unceasingly from the Body of His Son.
His Sacrifice was not pretty - it was not easy - and it was not the beatific scenes imagined by our Renaissance masters. His Sacrifice was gritty, dirty, painful and evil... and it was completely borne faithfully with unimaginable Love.
Blessed be the Lord.
And if anyone is curious like my coworkers were about my willingness to show this to my own son, Vincent has already seen it. He knows Jesus had "lots of boo boos" because He fought the bad guy and He won so we can be together in Heaven one day. Jesus is our hero.
I don't have it hanging in Vincent's nursery, but I don't hide from him Christ's sacrifice, either. As he gets older, I'll obviously explain more, but I think he's got a pretty good handle on the reason for Jesus' boo boos.
I have this question I ask my CCD students every year as we begin to study the Stations of the Cross / Sorrowful Mysteries:
How many wounds did Jesus have while hanging on the Cross?
Without fail I always get the same few answers.
"Four" (Two Hands / Feet)
"Five" (Hands, Feet + Side)
"Like ten or twenty" (Hands, Feet, Side + pricks from the crown of thorns)
After they exhaust the answers above, I pull out this crucifix:
Without fail, the class recoils. Faces scrunch up in horror, disbelief and disgust. Almost immediately their hands begin to shoot into the air, all signaling the same exact question:
"Miss G, why is He all covered in Blood?!"
I then remind my students that Jesus' Passion did not begin and end on the Cross. Jesus endured so much more than being nailed to a cross for our Salvation. He was beaten, scourged, kicked, punched, spat upon, bullied and whipped well before He even saw the Cross.
You see, the crucifixes we display in churches and homes are not typically graphic. As a result, we tend to "pretty up" the garish Sacrifice God made for us. We lose sight of the reality of what His Sacrifice really meant.
I didn't show my children this crucifix to get a reaction from them - I showed it to them as a stark visual reminder of the suffering that went into Christ's physical sacrifice. Too frequently we speak about His Death with a twinge of sadness and then move on to say "But hey, that's over now because He rose and now none of that horrible stuff matters! Jesus suffered so you don't have to!"
No. This crucifix reminds us that Christ's Sacrifice was VERY real, VERY graphic, VERY inhuman, and VERY necessary.
Our sin is what disfigured Our Lord in this manner. Our sin is what caused the strips of flesh to be scourged from His bones. Our sin is what pressed the Crown of Thorns onto His Precious Head. Our sin is what kicked, whipped and spat upon Him as He made His Way along the Via Dolorosa.
This crucifix brought all of that front and center for my class, and suddenly the Stations of the Cross became a lot more meaningful for them as a result.
They understood why He fell so many times. They understood why Simon was needed to help Him carry His Cross along. They understood, then, why Our Lady's heart must have broken a thousand times over seeing Her Son disfigured in such a cruel manner... and why St. Veronica was doing such a service to Him by cleaning His Face with her veil.
Seeing this crucifix colored their meditation more than any amount of explanation I could've done.
For those of you who do not know this crucifix's origins, a seer by the name of Barnabas Nowye of Nigeria was commissioned by Christ to create a crucifix that would remind this generation of the reality of His Sacrifice. The Lord lamented to Barnabas that we as a people have forgotten just how much He spent Himself in gaining for us the gift of Salvation. We no longer reflect with true solemnity because we cannot envision all that His Love called forth for us.
So He showed Himself to Barnabas and Barnabas recreated as best he could what he saw. Jesus then asked him to write the words "I am the agonizing Jesus Christ who loves you" on the cross, itself. Indeed, He is the agonizing messiah. Christ came for one reason and for one reason only - to suffer, die and rise for our Salvation. Each step He took was a movement towards that terrifying, torturous Sacrifice. In order for us to fully appreciate His Gift, we need to fully understand what went into securing it.
I've been blessed with several artistically inclined friends. Being someone who can't draw a straight line with a ruler, having these artistic friends has always given me a bit of a boost. I can live vicariously through their skill set. Ha!
Long-time readers of this blog know that I absolutely adore paintings. I'll try to sneak them into most entries and sometimes I'll even go on wild tangents trying to figure out their layered symbolism. I just really, really enjoy that sorta stuff!
Anyway, an old friend of mine dropped me a line this weekend. (I've already had this discussion with her, so no worries about wading into a public battle of wits. We've reached an understanding and she gave me permission to post this.) This friend, "Lilly," is a pretty incredible painter. I've linked to her material on my page in the past, and I've attended two of her shows in the last year. We don't really talk much, but I tend to comment on her albums as she posts new work. Every now and again she'll comment on a pic or two of Vince, but that's about the extent of our communication.
I was thus happy (and surprised) to hear from her this weekend when she called. She said that she'd been reading this blog for about a month and has been debating asking for my help with selling her paintings. She said that in exchange for selling her artwork on my page, she'd share my blog with her friends.
Now at first glance, that's not a ridiculous offer. However, I admit that I took offense to it simply based on a conversation I'd recently had with John.
Let me explain:
I've been posting to Facebook about my husband's upcoming movie release. Many of my readers already know that he sold his first movie to Lionsgate and the release is this week. In my attempts to support him in his dream to make and sell movies, I not only agreed to be in the movie (with Vincent), but I helped make the food, solicited help from my best friend, Mary, and have been plugging the movie left and right for it's various screenings, releases, and news-bytes.
Now, what most of you don't know is the name of my husband's movie. The reason for this is that the content in the movie. It's rated R, but it should really be closer to NC-17. It's very "The Hang Over" in content. Thus, I've never promoted it on my page, even after John's begged me to write up a horrible review and rile all of you fine readers up into a tizzy so you'll buy it and yell about it, too.
*Shakes head* My husband - "No publicity is bad publicity." Ha ha!
Anyway, I've made the conscious choice NOT to promote his movie on this page based on principle. He was feeling slightly unsupported because I didn't want to use this medium to promote what I was already promoting through Facebook, Twitter, etc.
As I pointed out, however, I was supporting him in every other way known to man. I was telling folks about his project, I was linking to the various news articles about it, I cooked for the cast / crew, and I agreed - against better judgement - to take part in it. That's about as supportive as it gets, right?
Then, on top of that, I pointed out that for all the unsolicited support he got from me - publicly - he had yet to link to my jewelry page. So I really shouldn't hear word one about being unsupportive.
(Mind you, pointing this out promptly solicited a "Check out my wife's page" post to his feed; I was quite appreciative).
I go out of my way to support the various projects he or our mutual friends get involved with. I'll re-post teasers, I'll comment on promotions, I'll share tasting / jewelry events. Why? Because that's what friends do, right? Even with stuff I'm not entirely excited about because it's not about my excitement regarding a project - it's my level of excitement regarding the success of a friend.
So I re-post - ad nauseum, I'm sure.
Yet I have not received similar treatment and the answer is always the same. "I'd totally repost your stuff if it weren't so religious."
Now this is not an entry whining about how little my friends repost my store. I'm honestly not looking for that. You fine readers have done a wonderful job of spreading the word, and for that, you have my prayers and appreciation. However, I take offense to the fact that there are those among my group who have the audacity to claim I'm unsupportive or unwilling to help because I'm embarrassed by X, Y or Z when they refuse to help me out because they're embarrassed by God, or who would have no problem reposting my jewelry so long as they're getting something out of it. As Lilly pointed out, she'd "make the sacrifice" of posting about God in order to access my "audience."
Something just doesn't really sit too well with me when you put it like that.
I don't mind coupling up with others who want to reach a broader audience. I've had similar discussions with Dom, a wonderful artist, and even my friend, Mary. I don't mind sharing wonderful items that I think my readers would be interested in.
What I DO mind, however, is being used and then allowing my readership to be used. Looking to ride the coat-tails of the year and a half I've spent churning out entries, battling against mean-spirited trolls, and pouring out my personal life for what I hope will be the benefit of others... it amounts to being used.
Telling me that you'll "make the sacrifice" of sharing my hard work so you're able to make good off the readership I love, appreciate and respect? I'm sorry, but that just seems downright arrogant.
And I explained it in those terms. If my page isn't good enough for you to "like" or share on its own - or even just because you would like to help me find success - your artwork isn't going to make it any better. Your artwork isn't going to somehow change or overshadow the fact that this blog is Catholic, and everything about me and what I do is firmly rooted in that Catholicism.
So again - this isn't a pity party asking folks to share my page. I don't want it shared by those who simply feel guilted or shamed into sharing. I want it shared by those who either enjoy my work (both written and crafted), or who believe others will find value in this calling.
I apologize for the long vent. It's just that I've been approached by so many folks over the last week or so who were interested in utilizing this page either for ad-space, sales or information (and no, I never have and never will allow 3rd parties to take your information).
It just really drove me up a wall and I ended up feeling very frustrated. Since speaking with Lilly, she agreed that she hasn't exactly been the most stellar at recognizing that my work was just as valid and time-consuming as hers. And maybe that's what folks who don't blog / craft tend to forget.
Long time readers of this blog are familiar with Fr. Trad (short for Traditional). You may remember him from such entertaining posts as "An Impromptu Confession Sans-Stole" and my very first memory of him (and his parish) in "New Church."
Well, you are in for a real treat today!!! Not only am I going to reveal Fr. Trad's identity, I'm going to give you a sneak peek into his beautiful church and tell you how you can experience Fr. Trad in the comfort of your own home!
As is typical for Holy Days of Obligation, I attended this parish for their evening mass (my parish doesn't offer evening mass unless it's a vigil). This is also the parish with the beautiful Adoration Chapel that I usually attend.
Anyway, as soon as I stepped foot through the doors, I was overcome with awe. Everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - was meticulous. Flowers were everywhere, banners for Our Lady were hung high, her gorgeous statue was bathed in candlelight, and Father was already busy censing the church.
I know I've said this about a bazillion times, but I LOVE THIS PRIEST! He's traditional and he's super Marian. He spares no expense attending to Our Lady, and it shows in everything he does. It shows in everything that the parishioners do as a result.
There's an anonymous saying that this blessed priest reminds me of. It goes:
If the priest is a saint, his people will be holy. If the priest is holy, his people will be good. If the priest is good, his people will be fair. If the priest is fair, his people will be mediocre. If the priest is mediocre, his people will be bad.
Priests are meant to be a step above us in their example of holiness. They're meant to draw us closer to God by, in fact, being closer to God through purity of heart. This man exemplifies this for me, and it shows in how reverent his flock acts during Mass.
I'm always struck by how in-sync the lectors / ministers are... how attentive the altar servers are... how unassuming even the choir is (though their music is phenomenal). Considering how many parishes I've been to that have lectors brassly refusing to reverence the Blessed Sacrament, that have Extraordinary Ministers acting like the Communion line is some sort of popularity test, etc, I fully appreciate a cohesive parishioner base that understands the Mass is a prayer meant to worship God... not a place to showcase their presumed skill-set.
Anyway, I decided after Mass that I needed to come back and finally snap some photos of this church to share with you. One day I might do the same for my current home parish, but for issues of privacy I'd rather not at this point.
The reason I'm brazenly posting all of this knowing it will "out" Fr. Trad's identity is because I just learned that he is on YouTube! All of his homilies are there, so I emphatically suggest you check out his page! His real name is Fr. Carmel, and though he uses a cane to get around, he is a true warrior for Christ. I imagine he might try to politely shove St. Michael out of the way when he gets to Heaven so he could serve as Our Lady's personal bodyguard. Ha ha!
I wanted to give you this fuller appreciation for Fr. Carmel before I showcase his beautiful church. Why? Because a beautiful church is just a building. The REAL Church is made up of the priests and parishioners that work to make that building beautiful and holy. So with that in mind, enjoy the slideshow. Keep this priest in your prayers. Keep all priests in your prayers. May they all strive to live their vows faithfully, and may they all rely on the intercession of Our Lady in so gracious and attentive a manner. Bless them.
Art from the Church Proper
Why is it so hot in here?
This is horribly organized.
Can't they get fans set up?
Why is no one directing traffic?
Hey, the line starts back THERE, buddy.
Can you hurry it up a little, lady?
Being in front of the Blessed Sacrament (even while enclosed in the tabernacle) seems to remind us that we are in the Presence of the Divine. Relics, while not divine, are instruments of Divine Power. Though nothing of themselves, God has chosen to utilize relics in a way that highlights the lives of His elect so that we may better follow their example.
Anyway, I feel as though we lost sight of that due to our environment (a lackluster gymnasium). Thus, idle chatter and rather rude statements spread like wildfire.
I realized that I, too, was beginning to take part in the chatter. So, to distance myself from the behavior, I left the group of friends I'd arrived with in order to remove myself from the temptation. Mind you, this was through no fault of my friends. I was the one instigating most of the chatter, so I figured it'd be best for both myself and them for me to meet up with them after they'd been able to experience everything for themselves.
I was able to read Conchita's Diary in full while in line to venerate the "Biggies" of the exposition. They included:
Anyway, I went from table to table, touching my medals / rosary to the various reliquaries in order to create 3rd Class relics for a few family and friends who were unable to attend. I snapped a few photos of the exposition for the rest of you in an effort to coax you into requesting one for your own parish. Even though this experience wasn't as favorable as my original one, it was still extremely worthwhile and beautiful. I still learned so much, and I'm sure the graces I gained from being present with so many of God's elect steeled my soul and gifted me a deeper appreciation and love for all His many blessings.
Enjoy the slideshow!
Even more wonderful was sharing this experience with some Philly friends I hadn't seen in years. After giving them the heads up that this would be happening in South Jersey, they generously made the trip out to join in the veneration with me. A friend of theirs from Central Jersey also came out for the night. How blessed is that?
Anyway, upon arrival at the parish (which I'd never been to before), I was met with one of the most majestic sculptures I've seen in Jersey. I cannot exaggerate the enormity of this structure. It smacks you in the face as soon as you turn the corner. Whoever plotted out the design was brilliant. It's location ensures that it can be seen from any angle as you approach, and the design, itself, is full of theological reference. I love it!
Luckily, I had arrived almost an hour early (because I know how packed this veneration would get!) so I had plenty of time to take photos of the surrounding sculptures. I've put them into the slideshow below for you to enjoy!
After taking photos of the gorgeous Crucifixion sculpture, I went wandering around towards the other statues that dotted the grounds. A little fountain caught my eye, and as I neared, I found St. Joseph holding the Child Jesus amongst the spray of water. To his left, I noted that this parish was lucky enough to boast an Adoration Chapel. Yay! Unfortunately, however, it wasn't open when I tried the door. My guess is the organizers were attempting to herd folks into the church where the presentation was to take place, so I couldn't really grumble. Instead, I snapped a few photos of the Pieta statue that sat in front of the chapel.
When you cycle through those photos, note the gorgeous brick-work that serves as a background for those statues. I have no idea who designed this parish, but kudos to whoever it was! Everything is meticulously beautiful!
I saw a crowd of people moving up the stairs of the church, so I figured it was time for me to high-tail it inside. Before I did, however, I stopped to take another photo of yet another statue they had outside the front of their church - it was one of Our Lady holding Jesus as a toddler. I really liked that one!
Upon entering the lobby, I was immediately struck by two signs (also photographed) that I immediately wished were placed over the doors of all churches. You'll see why when you read them. Ha!
Inside the church, I noted some of the most exquisite stained glass windows I'd ever seen. Each was a different apparition of Our Lady, ranging from Mt. Carmel to the Miraculous Medal to La Salette to Fatima. Each was more brilliant than the last. Unfortunately, I couldn't take as many photos inside the church as I had wanted to. I didn't want to disturb those who were praying, and by the time the presentation was over, it was too dark to get good shots of these colorful windows.
However, the painting of Our Lady that you'll see below is actually painted on their ceiling. It is massive, so I apologize that it seems a little distorted. It's only because I had a difficult time getting a proper angle of the ceiling without lying flat on my back in the middle of the center aisle. Ha ha.
I think this is one of those churches I'll have to go back to to snap some more photos of. They had a gorgeous statue of Our Lady in one of the niches to the left, and I wanted to photograph her so badly!!! I knew I'd interfere with prayer, however, so I kept my longing to myself on that score. They also had one of the most intricate tabernacle lamps I've ever seen. If for nothing else, I'll go back just to photograph that!!!
Anyway, I feel very lucky to have found myself at this parish Friday night. What's more, I learned that this is the elementary school my husband attended as a child. How he was able to make his way through here and not gain an appreciation for our heritage is beyond me. Ah well. It's truly some beautiful, beautiful artwork, though.
Or in this man's case - a town.
We need more stories like this depicting the incredible beauty that humanity is capable of.
God bless the people of Bussey, Iowa.
Oh... and this is only the lower church! Being in Philadelphia, St. William's is one of those churches that boasts TWO floors - an Upper and a Lower church!
My answer is no. Evil is not a thing to be created. It is a choice. One cannot "create" love, one can only choose it, right?
The same holds true for evil. One cannot "create" evil. One can only choose it. God, being Supremely wise, holy and loving, has the capacity for evil.
However (and this is a big however), being that He is Supremely wise, holy and loving, He eternally CHOOSES goodness. He eternally chooses love. THIS is the gift of Free Will that He imparted to us. If God doesn't have the capacity for evil, then God is not all-powerful. God wouldn't 'need' free will because He'd be incapable of evil. However, God IS all-powerful. The difference between Him and the rest of us, however, is that He's always chosen goodness and love over evil and hatred. Thus, God must have free will if He was able to grant it to us as a gift.
So, keeping His Perfect Example of free will in mind, let's move on.
God did not cast them aside in judgement. They chose to dislodge themselves from His Goodness through pride. As a result, God, in His Goodness, created a place for them separate from the other angels who chose Goodness. Basically, He put the "bad kids" in the corner so they didn't disrupt the rest of the class. Those who wanted to continue to grow in love and understanding of God could remain with Him in Heaven.
Then God deemed it time for the physical realm to spring forth. After setting things into motion, He chose to bestow upon humanity the same gift given to the angels - free will. However, humans are intrinsically different from angels. Angels are purely spiritual beings. Humans are the union of body and soul (which is why Catholics believe in the "resurrection of the dead"). As such, our free will is going to be utilized differently from that of the angels (though with the same premise... freely choosing good over evil).
As we all remember from our elementary days, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge were located in the center of Eden. The Tree of Knowledge, when we trace it back to it's Jewish roots, was known as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is an important distinction because Jewish tradition understands this Tree to be the mixture of good and evil. Until humanity (through Adam and Eve) ingested this fruit (thus introducing the conflict of evil), good was humanity's nature. Evil was something altogether separate that had no place in the nature of humanity. We simply understood and trusted that God knew best, and we willingly went along with the plans He set forth because we naturally understood Him to have our best interests at heart.
That changed due to the 1st sin (which was Pride, not disobedience). When the serpent suggested to Eve that she could gain the knowledge that God had and begin making her OWN plans that would be even better than those of God, she was feeling the temptation of pride. When she acted out in eating the fruit, it was not disobedience that goaded her... it was her own pride. Her mistaken belief that she could somehow gain wisdom above God's. That given the chance, her will could rival that of God's. Sound familiar? It was the very same sin that Lucifer introduced to the other angels. It was the very sin that caused their downfall as well.
Out of love, God sentenced us to a physical death so that we might once more reunite ourselves to His Will. Since humanity had marred its nature through sin, God rightly passed judgement on us, deeming us unfit to reside in Eden as that was a place of peace and unity with God's Will. Humanity, having now turned from God's Will, would be forced to work their way back to their original Divine Inheritance. Free will, having been gifted at our time of creation, was not taken away. Instead, as punishment for misusing this gift to alter our purely good nature, we would need to learn to properly use this gift for love.
Upon death, we are judged on how well we learned this lesson. Did we consistently strive to love others? Did we consistently choose good over evil? Did we trust in the Will of God to move our lives in the direction necessary to once more gain eternal happiness?
If the answer is a resounding "Yes," we gain entrance to Heaven. If the answer is "Eh, it was a hell of a struggle, and I've got a ways to go, but I at least learned that Your Will is right" we gain entrance to Purgatory with the promise of Heaven. Finally, if the answer is, "No, this is all bull, God, you're just a big bully" we cast ourselves into Hell.
And yes, I said we cast ourselves. Much as those original fallen angels had.
At judgement, we see our own lives in the Light of Divine Truth. We see our souls as God sees them, and in the face of this Truth, we cannot help but understand our successes and failings. We, ourselves, pass sentence before the Throne of God (before which no sin or dishonesty can stand). We accept whatever "reward" we are given because at that moment, we cannot help but understand God to be Supreme Justice. Thus, our soul either joyfully enters Heaven (where our free will exists, but has been perfected so that it is united always to the Will of God), willingly enters Purgatory (with the understanding that our free will can be cleansed through the fires of God's Love in order for us to prepare for Heaven), or willingly seeks Hell as the only respite from ourselves away from the burning Justice of God's Truth.
In His Mercy, God grants us enough trials and experiences through our lives in order for us to properly learn Love. This was revealed by Saint Michael to someone whose name escapes me.
St. Michael the Archangel revealed that every person on earth is given exactly what he or she needs to learn how to live by God's Will. It is up to us to heed these lessons. They don't continue in Heaven because at that point, all free will ceases to formulate through one's own accord. It is either solidified with access to Heaven, becoming engulfed in the Divine Will, forged through Divine Love in the embers of Purgatory, or left to fester with no hope of respite in the bowels of Hell. Our actions on earth determine which area our free will goes for a make-over (if one is necessary) after earthly death.
Can you imagine the joy of Mary as she made her way closer and closer to the home of St. Elizabeth? Knowing that she was about to bear witness to another miracle - the fruitfulness of a barren old woman - she must have been singing non-stop praises!
And yes, of course Our Lady was besides herself with joy knowing that she carried God within her womb, but I'm willing to bet she always placed the joy of others before herself.
She wasn't someone who simply clapped her hands and said "Congratulations" only to lose herself in her own life five seconds later.
No. She immersed herself in the joys, sufferings, triumphs and challenges of those around her. She always - ALWAYS - placed others before herself due to her perfect humility. She must have savored the miraculous blessing of her elderly cousin as much as St. Elizabeth, herself, did. It's why Our Lady stayed on to take care of her and help her in her final months of pregnancy. She joyously accepted her role as servant, even while pregnant with the God of the Universe.
How blessed are we to have such a gracious, loving woman as our Heavenly Mother?
That's why I love the above statue so much. These two pregnant women, through the power and grace of God, join together in love, support and prayer. This loving example of kinship, faithfulness and humility gave us one of our most beautiful prayers of praise - the Magnificat.
my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour.
He looks on his servant in her lowliness;
henceforth all ages will call me blessed.
The Almighty works marvels for me.
Holy is his name!
His mercy is from age to age, on those who fear him.
He puts forth his arm in strength and scatters the proud-hearted.
He casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly.
He fills the starving with good things,
and sends the rich away empty.
He protects Israel, his servant,
remembering his mercy,
the mercy promised to our fathers,
to Abraham and his sons for ever.
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