Mary Mary and Martha

The Domestic Church


 This past Lent I read “The Story of a Soul”one thing that drew my attention was the home life of the young St. Therese of Lisieux. Her family lived and breathed the Catholic faith. It wasn’t something kept for Sunday, tucked into the closet like best shoes or a frilly dress, beautiful, loved and safe but not for everyday wear. It was the first and only option. So many times families let so many competing voices into their homes that the faith, Christ’s quiet voice, is all but drowned out. Over scheduled activities, must have sports, classes and play-dates, the incessant din of the television and the glow of the computer monitor all vie for our attention, and worse our children’s attention, leaving little time for prayer, family fun time, or even a meal together.

The Catechism calls the homes of the faithful “the Domestic Church” and “ islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world”. We are that. A muddy, boggy little island at times, but an island. I will confess that I have an ideal in mind. A home where life rotates around the faith and the education of all members of the family. A home that is orderly in environment and schedule, quiet and peaceful, yet plenty of laughter and fun. Something like an abbey meets a retreat house meets a vibrant school. The past week it has felt more like an asylum meets a sick house meets prison laundry. And thus runs life. We take a couple hard won steps forward and slide back another one or more.

I suppose I take great comfort in the fact that I am working toward an eternal goal. I guess in ways it takes the pressure off doing everything at once. I am a convert to the Catholic faith and was not raised in a religious home myself. So I have a lot to learn and a long ways to go. One thing I have discovered repetitively is that it is ok if not everyone is totally on board with the program to start with. While I think it would be rather more difficult to create a change in the atmosphere of a home with one or more members being actively hostile to the change I don’t think it impossible. Especially not if the changes are gentle, well thought out and conducive to greater peace and happiness.

The Catholic family is a religious community. The term Abby I think particularly is suited to the Catholic household. In a linguistic borrowing back, Abby came from Abba, a community lead by a spiritual father or mother, the term is very fitting. The Catholic family is led by a father and mother who have been granted by God by natural and divine law the leadership role over their children. The children are learning and growing within a community, the community of the family.

What makes Catholic homemaking different isn’t some magic checklist or some decorating style. It isn’t saying a rosary every afternoon or attending Adoration twice a week. It is living as the Domestic church, the island in the river of the world that provides a higher ground for us to grow in faith and wisdom together. It is being a religious community.



Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling (2)

Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling is a golden, gentle hymn. It is not precisely a Catholic hymn. It was written by Will L Thompson and first published in 1880.

Cyber Hymnal has this notation on the hymn:

When the world-renowned lay preacher, Dwight Lyman Moody, lay on his death bed in his Northfield, Massachusetts, home, Will Thompson made a special visit to inquire as to his condition. The attending physician refused to admit him to the sick­room, and Moody heard them talking just outside the bedroom door. Recognizing Thompson’s voice, he called for him to come to his bedside. Taking the Ohio poet-composer by the hand, the dying evangelist said, “Will, I would rather have written “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling” than anything I have been able to do in my whole life.”

 The song has appeared in movies, television and was included in Jonny Cash Sings Precious Memories album in 1975 where I first heard it at my grandparent’s house as a little girl. It stuck with me and has been one of my favorite hymns since then. It was also published on his 2004 album “My Mother’s Hymn Book”.

If you are interested in obtaining the music for the hymn Oregon Catholic Press carries it in several of their publications and the score is online at several places  

If you are looking for the lyrics they are here:

 Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?

 Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
Passing from you and from me;
Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
Coming for you and for me.

 Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

 Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised,
Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,
Pardon for you and for me.

Mary Mary and Martha

Catholic Homemaking

Most the women that I deal with on a day-to-day basis are Catholic-homeschooling-mothers-to-big families (four or more children). This right away sets us apart from most families in the US. It really seems we have more in common in those three elements than we have different in all the rest of our lives, but there are some wide differences. These differences usually are how strict a family is, to borrow a Jewish concept how “frum” a family is, and how “earth friendly” or “crunchy” a family is.

First and foremost we are Catholic. For most of us it shows. Being open to life, having larger families, the crucifixes on the wall. It just shows. There is a slightly different rhythm to Catholic life. We are lighting candles for Advent while our neighbors are hanging ornaments for Christmas and our tree is still up a week into January while theirs came down by December 27. Here in Portland, Oregon we even missed the free “Christmas tree recycling” window with the local trash and Boy Scout troops this year.

Occupation: homemaker.

Well that is what the census sees. I am also many other things, but homemaker covers a good deal of what I am. What is “homemaking”? How does “Catholic homemaking” differ from just run of the mill homemaking and how does it differ from non-Catholic yet Christian homemaking? I think homemaking is far more than just cleaning the house and tending the children. Homemaking is a personal expression of values, lifestyle and love.

I have vacillated for a long while on which of two terms I like better: Homemaker or Household Manager. I kind of lean toward Household Manager. I manage the household in ways more than I make it, but homemaking seems to be the word that most people associate with the list of tasks that fall into the category. This week I am beginning a series of entries on homemaking, specifically “Catholic Homemaking” in which I hope to address some of these issues, mostly for myself and my own amusement, but perhaps of some small use to someone else out there.

Over the next two weeks I intend to cover the following topics:

The Domestic Church — What makes Catholic homemaking Catholic

Keeping the Home — The basic elements to homemaking

Home Economics – Finances and menu planning

Education – Educating ourselves and our children

Scheduling – The rhythms of the day, week, month and year.

A Labor of Love – Mostly my personal musings on love, life and watch makes homemaking worthwhile.

Before I start I want to preemptively address two issues:

First: I am going to purposefully side step the “Work-outside-the-home” vrs the “Stay-at-home” mom debate. I have been there, both sides, done it, made my choice. I firmly believe that families and children do better and most women do better when the mother is the primary caretaker and educator of her children. I know that is not an option for some women either due to finances or temperament, but I am not going into it here. I don’t apologize for my stand, if it is different than your experience that is fine, I hope that some of what I say is still useful to you. Please do not get hung up on the fact that I don’t specifically address your personal situation.

Second: As the title of this blog implies, I believe that simplicity is extremely important. The Christian life demands a purity of purpose. We are made to love and serve God, things that draw us closer to God hold a higher value than those things which distract. Busy schedules, material possessions, a glut of media (especially television) draw away from God and leave us less time to serve him and love one another. Again, I don’t apologize for my stand, if it is different than your experience that is fine, hopefully some of what I say will be of use to you. If not there are many sites that will have more specific information for you.

Saturday Round the Web Round-up

Saturday Round the Web Round-up


So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Something to Ease the Soul: Confession: It seems there is a good bit of buzz about this Sacrament making a come back.  Catholic Online and  the San Bernardino County Sun both have articles on heralding new programs and more penitents.

Something to Smile About:  The spokesman review has the following:  Rosemary McGrath, a longtime Kootenai County resident and regent of the local Catholic Daughters court, takes special delight in talking about the group’s support of Smile Train, an international cleft charity that provides surgery for those in need, especially in developing countries such as Uganda and India.

Something for a Green Thumb:  The National Gardening Association has a wealth of information. Don’t miss their  Kid’s Section.

Something to be Proud of: We belong to a church with a wonderful tradition of beautiful architecture. Check out The Cafeteria is Closed.  Gerald Augustinus is currently in Rome and keeping his readers up to date with fantastic pictures.

Something for the Children: Our Father’s House has a good selection of homeschooling reasources. Scroll down and check out the “Miniature Mass Kit for Children”

My world

Hiatus — no just indisposed

Other wise known as “attack of the barfy babbies”.

It has been one of those weeks.  Starting with the Triduum last week, which was peaceful and good, leading into a very nice Easter.  Easter day was marred only with a single bought of the baby throwing-up, but this was just a portent of the days to follow where everyone in the house has been the victim of a nasty stomach virus. 

I have done more loads of laundry in the past three days then I usually do in a week…. with six children that is saying something. 

Faith in Action

When God comes knocking

 Last night as we made dinner my husband and I had an interesting conversation about our children. They are each wonderful and unique people, but Josh is probably our greatest challenge. He is strong, intelligent and very willful, but he also has a sensitivity and a strong sense of conscience … at three. I could see him being a missionary priest, scaling mountains to take the word of God to people so remote the modern world has passed them by. I could see him doing this fearlessly and with total devotion. Which led us to wonder…”How do you foster that spirit in a child?”

After discussion I think we came to the conclusion that you can’t, only God can. As parents our job isn’t to order, decide or even discover our children’s vocations… it is only to give them the tools, the love and the encouragement they will need to follow the call God gives them. This means above all accepting that call ourselves, without reservation, judgment or fear.

In the past year or so the Bishop of the Diocese I grew up in wrote a wonderful piece about vocations in his diocese. The Diocese of Baker is a large area, sparely populated, with a serious shortage of priests…. especially priests from the area. Yet every parish wants a priest that is in touch with spiritual needs of this rural, working, proud and independent population. Bishop Vasa’s take on the problem? It boiled down to basically this: If you want more priests from Eastern Oregon then send me more young men for the seminary. Stop discouraging your son’s vocations.

This morning I was so pleased to see Roman Catholic Vocations  linking to Bishop Vasa’s latest comments on this topic.

So in lieu of any great essay on the topic here are my reflections in list form:

How can parents help the priesthood, the Church and further the work of heaven.

  1. Be open to life. If you have one child or even just one son there is much more pressure on that one child to be “successful” or at least come home with a wife and grandchildren.

  2. Be faithful. I think this is especially important for fathers. Pray, go to mass, go to confession lead your family in faith. Exercise your universal priesthood on behalf of your family.

  3. Pray for your children to be open to God’s call whatever that might be.

  4. As a family pray for vocations and be active in your parish’s efforts to encourage vocations.

  5. Be open to vocations to religious life even when your children are small. Don’t assume they will marry and have children. Encourage them to keep their hearts open to where God will call them.

  6. Treat your priest with respect. Show by example that you are glad we have priests. Thank your priests after mass. Not all priests are great men, some are even the very opposite. Don’t be afraid to discuss problems of personality or leadership style, but don’t blow them out of proportion either.

  7. Get to know your priests as the men they are. Invite them to dinner, send them cards on their birthdays and other small kindnesses.

  8. Write letters to seminarians, encourage your children to support those in religious life. Check out religious on the web, share these things with your children as age appropriate. Encourage them to encourage those studying to be priests and those entering religious life.

  9. Encourage your sons to be altar servers.

  10. Encourage your children to explore the religious life. Our Diocese has several events, camps, retreats, and the like every year. Encourage your children to attend such things as they become old enough.


But probably most important: If your child expresses a twinkling of vocation encourage it. The discernment process is usually long. There are plenty of people who will speak to your son or daughter about the pit falls of religious life. As your child embarks on the path they will have ample opportunity to think about life without spouse or children, material success, and worldly acclaim. Trust their intelligence that if God isn’t calling them they will know this. But when they come to you don’t start discouraging them before they even have a chance to think seriously on the topic.