Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles LXIV

Whoops, I wish I could say that I haven't posted a Chronicle in a few weeks because we have been deep in prayer. Alas, it is not true. At least we haven't been missing Mass, only missing posting.

This Sunday is the fourth in Advent, which means Christmas is next week! The church is slowly becoming more decorated for the feast of Christmas. All the candles are lit on the Advent wreath and the tree off on the side has more and more ornaments on it. During the children's liturgy, the kids make ornaments if they are so inclined. After Mass they are hung on the tree.

We arrived just in time for Mass. Things were going really well until the Kyrie. Jacob was caught off guard and couldn't find the song in his hymnal before we were done singing. He became very upset. He decided he wanted to go to the children's liturgy across the street. When Lucy saw Jacob and Mommy leaving, she raced after them.

They didn't stay too long. The homily was only half over when they returned to our pew. Jacob showed me the cut out angels he was given. He explained that he did not want to color them and he decided to come back so they went out of the room and back across the street. He explained it in an even longer run-on sentence. We've wound up using his angel to top our Christmas tree.

For the rest of Mass, Jacob did pray along with some of the other prayers. Lucy spent a lot of time out of the pew, but only standing in the aisle, not roaming around the church. She did want to give a different coin to the collection than the one I gave her. She found something in Mommy's purse (with Mommy's help).

At the end of Mass we lit candles as usual. Both children said they were praying for me. We had to dodge around the aforementioned Christmas tree and the two or three kids who were hanging all the new ornaments.

As we were leaving, we saw a lot of children up front practicing for next week's children's Mass. At tea and treats after Mass, two people told me that the Children's vigil Mass is quite an experience and that we should arrive early to get a seat. Also, if Jacob and Lucy want to dress up as shepherds or angels or whatnot, they could join in at the last minute if they want. When asked, neither expressed much interest. I think Mom was a little disappointed.

Father's homily drew out the contrast between the current spectacle of Christmas preparations and the quiet entrance of Our Lord and Savior into our world, unnoticed in a stable in a small town in Judea. So much of our culture is centered around worshiping mammon by holiday spending and greed and gorging. He hoped that we'd find the peace, the salvation that Jesus came to offer us.

Oh, and I almost forgot. Here's pictures of Jacob and Lucy dressed up last week for church. Hopefully they'll look even better next week.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles LXIII

We made it back late from our trip to Belgium (if I may be allowed to use such language on a family blog) and could not make it to any morning Masses. We wound up at the 6 p.m. Mass at St. Roberts.

The Mass went well. Lucy only took her shoes off once and only wandered into the aisle of the church and out of reach once. Of course, she then proceeded to lift her shirt up to her face several times. Mommy had to hold her to keep her from showing so much skin.

Jacob was very well behaved except for a minor meltdown when we finished singing the gospel alleluia before he could get his hymn book open to the page he thought was correct. Some soothing from Mommy made him better. He was great at saying responses, even the responses for the Psalm. I was amazed and delighted.

The other new thing (though we didn't know it was new) was a small children's choir that led the hymns for Mass. The pianist played for the first time in public and she did show the nervous shyness of a teenager suddenly put in the limelight. She did well as did the other children.

We lit candles over by St. Joseph since the candles on the right side (by Mary) were all out and we didn't see any way to start a fire to light a candle. The children prayed for their parents.

In lieu of a sermon, Father read a letter from the Bishop that has completely slipped from my mind as I am writing, for which I am rightly ashamed. Hopefully I will get more from next week.

Advent has started (Father wished us a happy new year, and explained it is the liturgical new year for the church). We will be getting out our Advent wreath for dinner and start singing "O come, O come, Emmanuel" at evening meals. We have an Advent calendar that will also become part of the evening ritual come December 1. If we don't do the calendar at breakfast...we'll get back to you on that.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles LXII

Whoops, we missed two weeks. Mea culpa! Now that the end of the liturgical year is upon us, it's time to get back to business. Today is the Feast of Christ the King and the last Sunday before starting the new liturgical year next week with the first Sunday of Advent. Where did our Advent wreath go? Where will we find candles?

Rather than worry about tomorrow, let's bask in today's glory. We went to a different church since we were up early. The 8 a.m. Mass at St. Joseph's was quite good because the children were really well behaved. Jacob paid attention and prayed along with many of the prayers. Often, he was a beat behind, so he said "and with your spirit" right after the rest of the congregation. Lucy was just barely fidgety.

We were the lone people up front on the right transept, so we only had ourselves to give the sign of peace to. We did give money to the collection, though I only had small change in my pocket, so we put a five pound note in too. At the end of the Mass, the priest singled us out as an example of how even if kids might seem distracting, he never gets distracted by children at Mass and loves to have them. If the kids get loud, he gets louder, or so he said. He didn't have to demonstrate it today, though we did notice him smile as he started to process out and Jacob said the final "thanks be to God" just after the congregation. Father also had some good advice on having special Sunday soft toys and having a special missal or prayer book for the kids to follow along that they only have on Sunday. He received the tip from a vicar's wife back when he was at a parish shared with the Church of England.

His sermon was good too. He talked about how foreign the notion of an active king or queen is in modern society. In the readings, the idea of a shepherd king, one who takes personal care of his people, is something unfamiliar today. Also unfamiliar is the call to serve others as the Lord does. But this is our truest vocation, being obedient to God especially in serving others in their need.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles LXI

This is Day Light Savings Sunday, Fall Edition. You'd think with the extra hour in the morning we'd get to church in plenty of time, but that was not what happened. We brought snacks for the car and a shopping list, both of which required extra trips back to the kitchen. We were just slow enough that we made it to church right on time for the 9 a.m. Mass.

Jacob wanted to walk into church and pick out the pew before going potty. He chose the extreme right side of the church, where the pews are big enough for three adults, which meant a cosy squeeze for two adults and two children. He headed across the street with Mommy as the pre-Mass announcements were being made.

Jacob was quite a handful this week. He became frustrated when he couldn't get to the "right" page in the hymnal when we sang parts of the Mass, like the gospel alleluia. We were done singing before he'd be ready. By the Our Father, he was ready to go home. We coaxed him into staying, but had to keep on coaxing him for the rest of Mass.

Lucy was okay. She wanted to wander out into the aisle a few times. She also wanted cuddling with Mommy when Jacob wanted comforting, which was a little bit of overload for her.

We did light candles after Mass and go to tea and cakes before crossing the big street to grocery store. The only cakes were little chocolate covered cookies for which Jacob had little enthusiasm. We finally gave an extra-generous donation to make up for three weeks ago when we had no money. Also, a nice lady named Susan was in the front room selling religious items, including Christmas items. We picked up an Advent calendar and a book for the children. As I was chatting with her, Jacob came to get me. She understood. Hopefully we'll run into her again. Maybe I'll forget her name after a few weeks. Then I'll think, "I wrote it on the blog! If only I had a smart phone, I could look it up. Oh well..."

Today's gospel was about doing what the pharisees said and not what they did. Father started his sermon with a story about a bird some missionaries had brought to Africa. One day, they let the bird out of the cage. The bird flew to a branch outside where its brilliant yellow could be truly appreciated against the deep green of the trees; its pleasant song blended in wonderfully with the jungle sounds. He segued into talking about how important it is to have freedom. So many people are fettered by situations or expectations from others, much like the pharisees and other leaders who used their authority for personal power and prestige. Authority should be used for the benefit of those governed, even to the point of the leaders sacrificing their own interests in favor of those under their authority. If only all leaders felt that way. And if only all people had that expectation, he lamented. May all of us who lead others (including parents) have the right spirit!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Quick Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Something Wicked This Way ComesSomething Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ray Bradbury was the favorite author of my youth. I discovered The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 when I was eight or ten and started working my way through everything the library had by Bradbury. This book struck me especially vividly. Perhaps I was just the right age though I never lived in a small town or went to a carnival. The story is so vividly told and so jam packed with wonder and poetry and joy and horror and amazement. Rereading it now some thirty years later, it still thrills and delights. Lasting through time is surely a sign of greatness.

The story is about two boys, Will Holloway and Jim Nightshade, who are best friends in a small Illinois town. One day in late October a lightning rod salesman comes, warns them of a coming storm and gives them a rod to protect Jim's house. That night a mysterious train brings Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show to town. It seems like a benign carnival come far too late in the season, with Halloween approaching. Evil things are afoot as the boys discover the more sinister side of the side shows.

The book is more than an adventure story. It's more than a coming of age story. It's more than a fantastical horror novel. It deals with old age--Will's dad is also a major character who comes to blows with his advanced years (or so he thinks of the 54 he's had) in the same way the boys confront their looming manhood and soon-to-be-lost freedom of boyhood. The story looks at temptation in many forms and the importance of joy in overcoming evil. It is a rich and full novel that definitely rewards multiple readings. I can't wait to share it with my son when he is old enough.

View all my reviews

Also, check out the commentary on A Good Story is Hard To Find

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles LX

Going to church this week was a little bit of a different experience. My wife wasn't feeling well and wanted to go separately so she wouldn't have to wrestle with the kids in the pew. So Jacob and I went without Mommy and Lucy to our usual 9 a.m. Mass.

We arrived early and went potty as usual. Walking into church, I grabbed the crayon box for Jacob. He decided he didn't want a crayon but did take a hymnal. We sat mid-way up in the church.

Jacob did a great job during Mass. He sat quietly. He tried to sing along with the hymns, none of which were familiar to us. So he did a mixture of making stuff up and imitating the real lyrics a beat late (after he heard the rest of us singing it). He knelt at the appropriate times. He prayed the Our Father. He put money in the collection. He didn't shake hands at the sign of peace, however. When we went to communion, he walked behind me as if he was going to communion himself. He did not want to hold my hand or walk beside me. He really wants to be an adult, I think. Or at least behave like his parents in church.

We did light candles after Mass and made up for our lack of cash last week. Jacob prayed for me, which was touching. We headed home after that to check on Mommy and make sure Lucy didn't drive her crazy. We'll have to make it up to the tea and treats after next week's Mass.

The sermon was quite good. The gospel was the famous scene of people trying to trip up Jesus by asking about paying taxes to Caesar. Father brought out a different aspect of the reading than the usual relation of church and state issues. He emphasized the importance of being honest with the Lord. The Lord's inquisitors slyly fawn over Him as a wise and learned man who shows no partiality. Then they try to get Him to show partiality that will cause trouble one way or the other. He has none of it and famously answers with "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." We too need to take care that we approach the Lord with humility and sincerity.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles LIX

We followed our usual routine today--9 a.m. Mass at our local parish with a potty stop before for Jacob. As Jacob and I came back into the church, we didn't see Mommy and Lucy in the back few pews on either side. We discovered them four or five rows back from the front! These seats were the closest we'd ever been. I forgot to ask why we were sitting so close.

Mass started as usual. When the priest announced the children's liturgy, Lucy decided not to go. She changed her mind during the gospel reading. We thought it was too late to go, so we made her stay. Turns out later during the tea and cakes, the lady who usually covers the tots room came by to ask where Lucy was. We made our explanation and said we'd probably be back next week. She said it was okay to come late if Lucy changed her mind.

At the offertory, we discovered we had almost no UK cash on us. The church got our last 26 pence of pocket change. We'll do better next week, we swear! Also, we lit candles with the promise of paying at least double next week. We better not miss Mass or go somewhere else next week. Or have no money on us again.

Other parts of the Mass went well. Jacob and Lucy were very quiet and well behaved. Jacob tried to sing along with songs, doing quite well with the gospel alleluia. Lucy did sneak out into the aisle a few times. The first couple of times she just stood there holding my hand. I thought it wasn't too disruptive so I let her do it. After communion, she tried to get back in the aisle while people were still in line to receive (since we were in pew four, there was lots of church behind us). Eventually the line finished. Lucy was back out in a flash. Then, apropos of nothing, she started jumping up and down. I thought that might be too disruptive, so I reeled her back into the pew.

The sermon was quite excellent today. The gospel was Jesus's parable of the king who holds a wedding feast. The invited guests don't show up so he sends out a couple of reminders. When the guests kill his messengers, he gets furious and wipes out their town. He then invites others from all over. One fellow doesn't wear the appropriate wedding garb and gets thrown out. Father explained that royal weddings at the time were as much politically motivated as anything else. Such were opportunities for the king to make alliances and promote peace and unity. The actions of the guests in the parable are quite terrible indeed. We too are invited to God's banquet at Mass. We too need to have the appropriate mindset and attire when we come to God's feast that promotes peace among all and the unity that is the Mystical Body of Christ. Also, father said that the king's question of the inappropriately dressed person, "Friend, what are you doing?" is very much like what Jesus says to Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles LVIII

We were back at our usual haunt, the 9 a.m. Mass at St. Robert's. The new addition was Auntie Gayle, who is visiting us for a week. We arrived early as usual, allowing Jacob to get a potty run in before Mass started.

Mass started with "Amazing Grace," which is the song that we are singing before dinner. Jacob and Lucy sang along, which made us very happy. Then father taught us to sing some parts of the newly translated Mass, including the Gospel Alleluia, the Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lamb of God, and other parts.

Lucy decided to go to the children's liturgy of the word across the street with Auntie Gayle and Mommy. Jacob and I stayed in church. Jacob was very well behaved, for which I was grateful. He sat quietly and did sing along with other parts and did his best with the Creed. He did spend a last part of Mass trying to shush Lucy, who had a little too much volume when she talked. They both put money in the collection, shook hands, and said some of the Our Father.

After Mass was over, we lit candles as is our custom. Jacob prayed for Lucy; I'm not sure what Lucy said she prayed for. We went back across the street for tea and snacks. The lady who led the pre-school liturgy of the word came over and talked to Lucy, who apparently did a great job and colored in a lion. I have the picture now. Too bad our fridge isn't metal on the outside, otherwise we'd hang it up.

Father's sermon built off of the gospel, Jesus's parable about a vineyard owner who rents out his land to tenants who abuse and kill the landowner's servants when they come to collect at harvest time. He finally sends his son whom they kill, figuring on taking his inheritance. Jesus asked the elders and chief priests who were listening what they thought. They said the landowner should come back and put the tenants to a wretched end and then rent the vineyard out to others who will pay at the proper time. Jesus then tells them, "the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit."

Father interpreted this parable as a call to take proper care of the Earth. We need to be good stewards of the creation given to us, especially in taking care of the poor and others who do not have what they need to live. I thought this was okay but missed the mark for what Jesus was saying. In addition to material reality, we need to be good stewards of the faith given to us, being fruitful and offering our work to Him. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book Review: Ut Unum Sint by John Paul II

UT Unum Sint: On Commitment to EcumenismUT Unum Sint: On Commitment to Ecumenism by Pope John Paul II
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This encyclical from 1995 is both a great recap of the efforts of the Catholic Church in fostering ecumenism since the Second Vatican Council and a deep meditation on the importance and necessity of working for the reintegration of Christian denominations so that we may all be one in God as Jesus prays in John 17. The two keys are (1) to desire unity with the pureness of heart found in genuine Love and (2) to seek the truth about others and ourselves and God and the bible. No small order, but that is what we are called to. The encyclical is very inspiring and is intended not only for church leaders at the highest levels but for all Christians, for we are all called to unity in Christ.

View all my reviews

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cry Room Chronciles LVII

We're back in merry ol' England and back to our regular church in our new home town. We went to the usual 9 a.m. Mass, especially because we had signed up to bring snacks for the tea and snacks after Mass. We bought some cookies and gingerbread men the night before (since we had just flown in from Germany). We supplemented that with some butter crackers we brought from Germany. They went over well.

The normal routine was resumed. We arrived 5 or 10 minutes early, Jacob went potty beforehand (and we dropped off the snacks), we headed back to church for the start of Mass.

The new translation is still tripping people up (including us), especially the "and also with you" to "and with your spirit" change. Father teased us about that a few more times than I thought appropriate, but I suppose something has to whip us into shape. A new children's choir began today. They will be helping us celebrate Mass fortnightly. Children's liturgy was held across the street as usual. Lucy went with Mommy to hear stories about the glory of creation and color some pictures; Jacob stayed with me in the church.

Jacob spent most of Mass looking through the back index of the hymn book and muttering to himself. Some words were definitely religious if not actual prayers. He helped give money to the church during the offertory (Lucy returned a few minutes too late). He shook a few hands though not many. Father blessed him when we received communion.

After Mass, we lit candles on the other side of church, in front of the statue of St. Joseph holding the baby Jesus. When I asked Lucy who she wanted to pray for, she said, "God and baby Jesus." I assume she was inspired by the statue. Jacob prayed for Mommy.

At the tea and snacks, we had some refreshments but didn't socialize much. Maybe next week.

Father's sermon was quite interesting. Today's gospel relates the parable of the two sons, the first of whom told his father he wouldn't work in the vineyard, but later repented and did work. The other son promised to work but never did. Jesus then draws the parallel to the Pharisees, who saw the fruits of John the Baptist's work, i.e. prostitutes and tax collectors converting, but did not accept or investigate what the Baptist said. Father said for the people of the time, and up to quite recently, a son refusing his father's request to his face is quite shocking. But even such a sin is not unforgivable or without the possibility of repentance. We need to remember that no one alive is in a hopelessly evil state. On the other hand, the son who seems to have paid only lip service to his father may not be as evil as he seems. Laziness or forgetfulness or distraction played a part in his failure. Father told us how his grandmother used to tell him, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." When he was older and told this to a wise priest friend, the wise priest said, "That sounds just like the sort of road that leads to Heaven." Good intentions are not bad; we need to follow through, to pray for perseverance. Or to pick ourselves back up and keeping going down the right road.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles: German(y)

We arrived in Germany on a Saturday. The hotel's guest information said the local Catholic church's Mass was at 10 a.m. So the next morning, we got up, had a yummy (though expensive) breakfast at the hotel, asked directions from the front desk, and headed out at 9:15 to find the church that was 10 minutes away.

We walked as slowly as the children wanted since we had plenty of time. We followed the little paper map the hotel had given us and wound up at a bus stop. We looked around and eventually spotted a church spire. We wound our way through the streets and found the church. The sign on the front said "Evangel. Kirche" so we weren't sure we were in the right place. We walked around some more and asked four or five different people. Some weren't sure; two people directed us back to the neighborhood of the church we had found. We returned.

We walked back and went inside. It looked like a fairly normal church. The altar table up front had a large book set up like a typical church missal. Stained glass with actual pictures of bible figures looked promising. The people already there were quiet and prayerfully waiting. A female greeter handed us the hymn books.

The books definitely seemed not Catholic. I couldn't find any Mass parts or liturgy summary. Some old man came in and sat down in front. He was dressed in black except for the rainbow stole he had around his neck. Either this was the pastor or some sort of weird protester. The church bells began to ring at 10. Then the organ started playing. Eventually the first hymn started which we didn't recognize, but hey, it's a foreign country and maybe they have different hymns? The Catholic churches in England also had different hymns.  Jacob asked to go potty, so he and Angie headed out.

Then the guy in front went up and began the service. This clearly wasn't looking Catholic at all. Even though it was in German, I would have recognized the sign of the cross, which did not happen. Then a psalm was sung from the book followed by the preacher praying more prayers. Angie and Jacob came back. The kids were a little antsy.

After a bit, the female greeter came over to us and told us there was a cry room for the kids with a speaker so we could follow the service. We followed her around the outside of the church to the room. It seemed like the sacristy. She brought out some books and toys which delighted the children. She seemed happy to be able to share them. She showed me what songs were coming up in the book and headed back to continue with the service.

Jacob and Lucy did enjoy the toys and books. Lucy did some coloring. Jacob made up a story based on the pictures in one book. I can't blame him, I would have made up a story too since the words were in German. We listened and never heard an Our Father-type prayer or anything like a communion service. Eventually the service ended and the lady came back for us.

We thanked her for her help. She asked if we were new in town. We said we were just visiting. After shared smiles and goodbyes, we headed out. The Catholic church only had one service in the morning, so we were out of luck. But we did the best we could.

The most ironic thing about the whole situation was that I had brought John Paul II's  encyclical Ut Unum Sit for spiritual reading on this trip. It is, of course, his work "On Commitment to Ecumenism." Someone has a sense of humor.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles LV

This week we managed to head out early enough to get a potty break in before the 9 a.m. Mass started. Jacob had Mommy go with him this time, so Lucy and I found some seats at the back of the church.

Again we had the children's liturgy across the street in the parish hall. Jacob initially did not want to go, but when he saw me taking Lucy, he decided to check it out for a while. We walked across the street and found a line at the door. The door was locked. We waited a bit while someone who knew the code came and let us in. The preschool/toddler room is the first on the right. Lucy and I shared a seat while Jacob literally stood by, ready to leave.

The nice lady who led the children's liturgy was helped out by her son. I should say "helped out," emphasis on quotation marks, because the first thing he did was put a rubber snake on the little crucifix at the front of the room. He wasn't being malicious or mischevious, just bored. She told the story of Noah's Ark. She had a little wooden ark (her son said it was too small to be a real ark). All the kids came and took an animal out. Except Jacob. Lucy picked out a camel. At the part of the story where the animals get on the ark, she called different animals to come up and get in. The child was supposed to make the animal's noise, but that quickly changed into the whole room making the animal's noise. This became too loud for Jacob. He asked to leave. Lucy had already put her camel in (nobody knew what noise to make), so I acquiesced.

Back at the church, we walked into the middle of the sermon. Jacob and Lucy were squirmy then and for the rest of the Mass. They joined in a little bit for the Our Father and did give the Sign of Peace. Lucy luckily never made actual hand contact since she had been sucking on her fingers during Mas and they were pretty wet. Communion went well, as did the end of Mass. We didn't light candles but we did go back across the street for tea and cakes.

Jacob was a little disappointed that they weren't selling toys and games like a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, he enjoyed running around and eating two cookies. We sat with one mom (originally from France) who had lots of advice on things for preschoolers to do during the week. We will definitely be taking advantage of new resources in town.

I only heard a bit of the sermon. Father reread his sermon from ten years ago, i.e. his sermon right after the 9/11 attacks happened. I only heard the very end of that. He then gave some reflections and comments. He doubted the value of the war on terror, that the money and lives sacrificed were not worth it for what he deemed no results at all. Instead of considering it an act of war, he said the attack should have been considered a criminal act and prosecuted appropriately.  My objections to this sermon are (1) legal prosecution doesn't really seem effective and it has also involved very dubious moral practices (e.g., prisoner treatment and interrogation procedures), (2) for a sermon the emphasis should be on theological rather than political concerns. Certainly he could discuss political actions but the lens used to sharpen the image should bring out the faith's view. We did the appropriate thing during the petitions though, praying for the victims of the attacks and for a return of peace in the world. May we be close to God always and learn to look with His eyes and love with His heart.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles LIV

Today was the first day for the new translation of the liturgy at our church. It was an exciting time. As people walked in, the ushers handed out little card with the changes. Father encouraged us to follow them closely. When we got to the first "The Lord be with you" (which was our second response after the sign of the cross) we mostly flubbed the response and gave the old "And also with you" instead of "And with your spirit." He gave us another chance. We were moderately successful throughout the Mass.

This Sunday marked the start of Children's Liturgy of the Word at the 9 a.m. Mass. Jacob and Lucy went across the street with Mommy for that. They came returned just after the homily. The report I got from Jacob said it was fun. The report I got from Mommy said it was a bit of anarchy. They told the story of the Good Samaritan but with a British flavor. This guy packed a bunch of sandwiches and a thermos of tea and headed out on a walking trip. Robbers overtook him and beat him with his own walking stick. And so on. The kids weren't quite focused, which usually causes trouble.

The rest of Mass was more challenging than usual. Lucy was pretty fussy and had to be taken out to the vestibule once; Jacob was very antsy and I had to hold him in the pew at the end of Mass so he didn't leave before the priest. We were in the very back row, which meant we were the first to get the collection basket that starts from the back. We fumbled to get coins in. Hopefully we didn't delay it too much. Jacob did say the Our Father with us. The sign of peace was at a moment of fussiness with the kids and did not go too well. At the end of Mass we didn't light candles since Jacob was ready to go.

The sermon was about the proper way to settle a disagreement with someone. In our modern culture, such conflicts often start out in the public forum and only if it isn't resolved there will people go to one-on-one negotiation to fix the error. But in today's gospel, Jesus recommends the opposite approach: start with a humble and heartfelt fraternal correction person to person. If that doesn't work, bring in two or three others as witnesses. If that doesn't work, then the time to go before the community is at hand. If the person still does not see the error or accept correction, then only in their stubbornness treat him or her as an outcast. This is the way that truly respects human dignity. May we all have the courage to follow this way.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles LIII

After a few harrowing nights of semi-sleep, we had some decent sleep last night and were able to have a more or less normal Sunday morning. We didn't make french toast since we have a bread shortage but breakfast was satisfying nonetheless. We tried to head off early to 9 a.m. Mass. Failure resulted from unsuccessfully convincing Jacob to use the potty for #2. He wound up using a diaper. The delay wasn't too bad. We still arrived at church with time for Jacob to visit the church potty before Mass started. The opening hymn began as we walked in.

The children were very quiet though also very squirmy. Jacob tried to sing along with some of the hymns. The songs were unfamiliar and their refrains weren't particularly easy or memorable. He did his best, which made us happy. Both Jacob and Lucy joined in for parts of the creed (we'll be using the new translation next week, way ahead of you Americans!!). I gave Jacob a pound coin for the collection. Lucy picked her own coin from my hand. Then she picked the five pound note from my hand and gave her five pence piece to me! Not a fair trade but it all went to the church anyway. They had their typical level of participation with the Our Father and Sign of Peace. We didn't have to take any breaks from church this week which was highly satisfying for both Angie and me.

After Mass, the kids lit candles. Jacob prayed for Mommy and Lucy prayed for candles. She still hasn't quite got the concept down. Hopefully soon she will.

Today's gospel was the follow on from last week's. Jesus tells the apostles how He will suffer and die. Peter says, "God forbid!" and gets rebuked by Jesus. Jesus then explains how we all need to take up our crosses and follow Him. Father said that many a pastor would take the final line, "[God] will reward each one according to his behavior," as an opening to pound on the pulpit and promise perdition if parishioners didn't repent. Father took the more gentle approach of reminding us to embrace our own crosses, which are fitted for us and the times of our lives. I didn't get much more from the sermon because I was trying to keep squirmy children from distracting the rest of the congregation. It was a good Sunday for us and we look forward to many others.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles LII

We went back to St. Robert's for the 9 a.m. Mass this week since we had such a smashing success last week. We were able to repeat a lot of the positives--we arrived early, Jacob went potty before Mass started, we had some religious books for the kids to help them be quiet and pray.

The Mass went smoothly. The kids were a little antsy now and then. Lucy didn't want to put the coin I gave her into the collection, so she grabbed a different one from my hand. She downgraded from a pound coin to a two-pence piece. I put her pound in the basket. Jacob prayed along with the creed as well as he could and was very good with the Our Father. At communion time, Lucy wanted to light a candle but we told her we'd do it later, once Mass was over. When lighting candles, Lucy prayed for the people of God (I can't believe she said that!); Jacob prayed from Mommy. It was pretty sweet. We never left during Mass and they were mostly behaved.

The sermon seemed to be a little rambling, though probably the kids distracting us was more of the problem than Father's delivery. He started off discussing the importance of having more than just a personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus Himself gave us not only a church to help know, love, and obey God. He also put someone in charge of that church, Peter and his successors (today's gospel is the "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church" passage from Matthew). He talked about a bunch of other stuff, but I didn't quite absorb it.

He did talk about the call he got yesterday. The papal nuncio from Guatemala called to see if he could offer one of the Sunday masses. Father said the nuncio would be at the 11:30 a.m. Mass if anyone wanted to double dip. He had met the nuncio in Rome and has known him for some time. Then he told us the nuncio is Archbishop Gallagher, originally from the UK. He admitted it was a lot less impressive that the nuncio is someone he knows through English connections, but still it's pretty cool to have such a friend. We all had a good laugh.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles LI

After last week's rough time at the 8 a.m. Mass, we went back to St. Robert's for the 9 a.m. Mass, to give us more time in the morning and hopefully the children more sanity. The plan was quite successful.

We arrived about ten minutes early and we preemptively took Jacob to the potty across the street in the church hall. I saw people setting up tea and snacks. After Jacob did his business we headed back to the church. We walked in and still Mass hadn't started. I was pretty happy to be there from the beginning.

The children were very well behaved. Jacob sang the Gloria and even mentioned to Mommy how we sang it at Fountains Abbey. He tried on other songs with varying success. He did get antsy during the Consecration and claimed he had an emergency needing to go potty during Communion. Since he already claimed that several times in the past without having any results, I told him to wait till Mass ended. He fussed for a while but calmed down by the time we actually went to receive. Otherwise, Mass was pleasantly uneventful. We never had to take either child out of the church. No cry room in this chronicle!

After Mass, we didn't light candles but we did go across the street to the church hall for tea and snacks sponsored by the Catholic Women's Club. They were also selling assorted odds and ends. We had a snack and bought Giant Snakes and Ladders for Jacob, some ballerina slippers for Lucy (too small for her feet, but she thought they were cute), a set of Dalek playing cards, and other things for the house. We also bought two tickets for a raffle drawing. About ten minutes later, they pulled numbers and we won! Jacob came up with me, so I was too shy to take the bottle of wine. We took the box of Lindt truffles. We all enjoyed them after lunch.

The sermon for today (the Feast of the Assumption) focused on the blessings of Mary, mother of God. Father's basic point was that we all share in her blessings, because the promise of grace and Heaven and the resurrection of the body is for us all, if we do the will of the Lord. So we can take consolation in hearing how Mary was blessed.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles L

I welcome all new readers who may be confused by the title of this posting. The L is a Roman numeral. Which means this posting is fiftieth of the series. I should do something to celebrate...but what?

At any rate, this week we went back to St. Joseph's, church without a cry room. The vestibule is off of the main church but no doors protect the congregation from any noise. We had a rough morning getting out of the house. Jacob has started to use the potty for pooping though he is inconsistent in using it. Sometimes he can't quite do it; sometimes he just asks for a diaper. Just as we were about to leave for church, he wanted to poop, but could not. So we wound up being late.

We walked in to church during the gospel reading. As the homily started, we found an empty pew toward the front of the church. Both Jacob and Lucy were very squirmy and talkative throughout the Mass. Angie and I were very frustrated. We could barely pay attention or pray.

The kids did like putting money in the collection basket but not giving the sign of peace. The other people gave us sympathetic looks as we wished them peace and they wished us peace. I hope we do have peace next week. We have been going to Sunday afternoon Masses for a while, so maybe the kids weren't ready for 8 a.m. Mass.

Even lighting candles at the end was tough. Neither a box for money nor a stick for lighting could be found. Jacob was uninterested in lighting a candle but Lucy was. So we took the tea light candle and tried to light it from another candle in the shelf of lit candles. The candle dropped out of the rim I was holding, extinguishing the one from which we hoped to light our candle. I picked up the wax (the wick had stayed with the rim/base, strangely), put it back in and tried more carefully to light it on another. That worked but I couldn't relight the extinguished candle because the wax was still melted, meaning it was both too hot to pick up and too messy to turn upside down to light from another candle. We prayed for a more peaceful Sunday next week.

The homily was pretty short and very good. The gospel was about Jesus and the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. The apostles were out on the boat at night and saw Jesus walking across the water. Peter asked to walk on the water too, which he did until he realized how strong the sea was. He began to sink and called out to Jesus, "Save me!" Jesus chided him for his little faith, saved him, and both got in the boat. Father said this story points out a big problem we have with prayer. We pray only when we are in danger, stress, or need. What we should do is pray always, in good times and in bad times. Prayer should not be our last recourse, like in the attitude, "All we can do now is pray." We need to pray without ceasing. That's how I should celebrate number fifty, by a prayer of thanksgiving.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles XLIX

Last week was ridiculously busy so there was no blog for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. This week is starting a little quieter, so here's what happened church-wise on the 17th Sunday.

We went to yet another church here in England. The congregation was rather small, about 40 of us. We were surprised to see seven or eight altar servers. The priest is big on encouraging children to participate. He even made a pitch to recruit some new kids. He did not ask about Jacob, who probably is not old enough yet. The server who held the Lectionary was awfully short. The priest must have good eyesight to read from a book down so low. Jacob is tall enough for that though I couldn't guarantee he'd be still enough.

Jacob asked about the potty just as Mass was starting. I asked if he could wait till the end and to my surprise he said yes. He also sat pretty quietly throughout the service, flipping through a missal and occasionally watching and asking questions. He put money in the collection and said the Our Father with us. He made me very happy.

Lucy wandered a bit and did some singing and coloring. Eventually she became too noisy for Mommy and they went to the vestibule. After communion, Father invited all the children up to the front of the altar and gave them a blessing and holy cards. I wasn't sure if that was a regular occurrence or not. Jacob wanted to go. I told him to go up, get the card, and come back. He was a little confused, as if he could only keep one instruction in his head at a time. The last instruction was to come back and he did before going up. I finally told him just to go up, figuring that he'd come back on his own. Lucy followed him. They were both the last to receive cards. Lucy waved hers around as she came back. A little indecorous, I'll admit. But it seemed okay with the regular congregation.

At the end of Mass, the priest asked for any visitors or new people to stand up. I'm never really comfortable when this happens. I think not everyone likes to be singled out as a new comer or outsider, much less to speak in front of a strange congregation. I'm less comfortable when I'm on the chopping block, I mean, a new comer myself. Obediently I got up and introduced myself and my family. The priest chatted briefly, promised that we'd get a newcomer's pack, and invited us to coffee and cake at the after Mass social.

One of the choir members had a birthday (we sang Happy Birthday at the end of Mass for her, which probably isn't liturgically appropriate and easily could have waited till the social) and the social was a little birthday party for her. We got to sit with her and chat a bit. She turned 18, just finished high school, and is taking a year off before college since her family will be moving back to America next year. The social was fun enough. We are still debating about where we will register. This church happened to be local to our temporary lodgings, but we are moving out soon. Like tomorrow! We may still come back from time to time. There's lots of social activities and Americans.

The sermon was simple and moving. Father discussed the wisdom of Solomon in asking for the ability to rule his people well (which was the first reading). He talked about knowing what is important in your life and not only focusing on that but also asking God to help you with it. The point naturally led into the gospel, where Jesus tells the parable of the man who discovers a treasure, reburies it, goes to sell all that he has, and buys the field to have the treasure. The parable immediately after that is about a merchant discovering a priceless pearl. He likewise sells all that he has so that he can acquire the pearl. In our lives, we need to find that pearl. For some it may be their spouse or their children or a special vocation. Ultimately, the pearl without price is faith. The best way to achieve that is simple. Put it in God's hands and He will help you to find the way and follow the way. May we all accept the grace to trust in Providence.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles SE: Feast of St. Benedict 2011

Seems like an odd day to have a special edition of Cry Room Chronicles? You bet. A special reason had us at Mass on a random Monday in England: Mass at Fountains Abbey with the local bishop, Rt. Rev. Arthur Roche. Only in England could you have a bishop named Arthur!

We arrived in plenty of time because we didn't know exactly where we were going and we wanted to wander around the grounds before Mass. We finally headed down the hill to the Abbey. Jacob and Lucy had some lunch (Mass was at noon). Then Jacob wanted to go potty but we didn't see anything nearby. We went into the Abbey, but sure enough there was no potties. The place was already pretty packed. An usher showed us one open seat and then some people offered us their folding chairs, which we gratefully accepted.

I should explain. The Abbey was built long before the Reformation and is in this shape now:

Mass was held under the hallway on the right.

Mass was in what seemed to be a cellar area, with a dirt and rock floor, no electric lights (which Jacob pointed out several times), and open air windows. The Mass was very reverent and moving. Jacob was sitting in one of the chairs quite peacefully. So peacefully that he fell asleep. I grabbed him and held him on my lap and shoulder until the end. Lucy got in and out of her chair about 100 times, but remained relatively quiet and was glad to put money in the collection plate and shake hands for the sign of peace. Jacob slept through both. He reminded me of the old days when he was one year old and would sleep through Sunday morning Mass.

Communion wasn't too challenging. Jacob was on my shoulder and Lucy walked holding my hand. The priest distributing the Blessed Sacrament blessed Jacob and Lucy after I received. When Mass was over, several people came up and compliment Lucy and Jacob (and me) for how quiet and well-behaved they were. Lucy didn't sit still for one minute, but she was pretty quiet and did stay in a very limited area. Jacob's behavior was completely undistracting to all but me.

The bishop spoke about the history of the abbey and the area. Before the Reformation, there were more Cistercian Abbeys per square mile in Yorkshire than anywhere else in Christendom. They were a great boon to the area, providing not only faith and education but also a great deal of charity. The sick and poor we cared for by the monks. All was lost with Henry VIII's legacy. The bishop spoke quite highly of the new efforts here to work with the Anglican Church and promote understanding between the two Christian confessions. A great history awaits us all.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles XLVIII

We tried out another church, St. Joseph's, which was a very interesting place. They have a car park at what you think is the back of the church. Angie and Jacob went in the back door to find the potty. I noticed everyone else was going in the same door, so I followed suit.

Walking up stairs to the left brought us around to the main body of the church. It was very decorative but small. The ceiling seemed low and there was a combination of pews in the main body of the church and folding chairs in the wings of the sanctuary. Lucy and I wound up to the right of the altar since it was quite full already. She did a great job for the first part of the Mass. Before Angie and Jacob found us.

They had tried to walk around to the front of the church out by the street but no entrance was there. So they came back and found the right way up to Mass. They stayed in back till the Gospel, when they managed to sneak up the side aisle and join us. Lucy became more rambunctious while Jacob curiously and quietly looked around.

Eventually Lucy became too much for mommy to handle, so she was taken to the back of the church. Jacob was pretty well behaved, though he still kept asking when Mass would end. He said some of the Creed and all of the Our Father. He put a pound in the collection and shook many hands at the sign of peace. He is getting better and better. Except during Communion, when he thought that he had to go peepee and it was an emergency. I received and then we snuck down the side aisle for the potty. He didn't have any, which was pretty annoying to me. He asked to ride the elevator back up, which he persuaded me was okay. I'm not so big on using the elevator all the time at church. Hopefully we can break him of the habit if we keep going here.

We stayed in the back of the church where mommy and Lucy had wound up. Lucy was ready to go, which meant carrying her around the back. At one point I thought she said she wanted to take her shoes off and I told her not at church. When I turned around, I saw one of her shoes on the floor. So I redressed her. Mass ended and we filed back downstairs. All in all, things went well, even without a real cry room or vestibule.

The sermon was swallowed up by a speech about missions to seafarers. It is Sea Sunday here in the UK. One parishioner talked about his experiences at sea. Then the priest talked about a cruise back in January where he was chaplain for the ship. He talked about ministering to the passengers and to the crew and the great divide in their lifestyles. It was interesting but not exactly connected with the readings. I guess Jesus was by the sea when He gave the parable of the seeds.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles XLVII

Sorry for skipping last week, but we were in transit and wound up going to Mass one last time in the United States. Ironically enough, we went to Our Lady Queen of Martyrs during our suffering sojourn to the UK. It was a beautiful church and we were glad to go.

Here in Britain, we went to Our Lady Immaculate and St. Robert's Church for the 9 a.m. Mass. We were going to attend the 8 a.m. at St. Joseph's, but did not get up in time. St. Robert's is a small and tastefully decorated church, not adorned wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling like an Eastern church and not bereft of decor like many a Protestant church. I liked it very much--nice stained glass windows, a few statues and a beautiful set of Stations of the Cross. We arrived 10 or 15 minutes early. Jacob had plenty of time to go potty before Mass. Like our penultimate US church, St. Robert's toilet is in the parish hall across the way. Jacob and Mommy left and returned in plenty of time for Mass.

Things started well. Jacob kept asking when the Mass would end (surely he'll figure it out soon) and if I had any peepee for the potty. I said I could wait till Mass was over, after we went to communion and said some final prayers. He seemed satisfied each time I told him. He did a great job being quiet and sitting still during Mass. He even said the Our Father with us and shook hands at the Sign of Peace. We missed the collection because Lucy had been noisy and we were all in the vestibule. I could see through the glass doors that the collection baskets looked like a mini-picnic basket with a slot in the middle. I'm not sure if they wanted to prevent people from making change or to prevent noise from clanging coins (the equivalent of a dollar bill is a coin in the UK).

Lucy was pretty restive, hence our being in the vestibule a few times. She did sing along with the songs (the "Lord Have Mercy" was sung in Greek!) and sweetly asked to light a candle. We stayed after Mass and got in the queue to light candles. Three other children went before us, giving us ample opportunity to figure out the system. Under the candle racks was a box of votive candles. You took one from there, put it on a rack, then used a wooden stick to light the candle from another candle. The box for donations was built into the wall, 20 pence per candle. I sorted through my pocket change and found forty pence for the children to put in. Jacob prayed for me and Lucy prayed for Mommy.

After Mass we headed over to the church hall for one last potty visit. We almost stayed for tea and cake, but Jacob decided to be anti-social. We did briefly talk to one mom, or I guess I should write "mum," who welcomed us to the parish.

I'm afraid the sermon was a bit of a blur due to my continuing cold, lack of sleep, and distracting children. The readings for today are quite touching, about the humility of faith and the care that God has for us. In spite of all the challenges we've faced coming to England so far, He's seen us through and we trust in Him to keep us going the right way.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles XLVI

This is the last Sunday in Ordinary Country for us, though liturgically it is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. In an effort to make things easier for our trip to Front Royal on Sunday for Father's Day (happy day to all fathers out there), we went to a Saturday vigil Mass. We are currently living in a hotel since all our household items are either on their way to England or in storage. We went to the "local" parish, St. Lawrence Martyr (apologies to anyone who clicked through the link, the web site is pretty bad) for 5 p.m. Mass.

The church is nearly 150 years old and seemingly there's been no expansions or rebuilding. The building is small with narrow pews except for the back one where we sat. That pew had a sign reserving it for people with special needs, e.g. wheelchairs, crutches, etc. I think we fall under "etc." since the children are definitely a handful. At least they cause us to have fewer hands.

We arrived a little early, which allowed Jacob to request a pre-Mass potty break. The bathroom was in another more modern building (circa 1950?) across the parking lot. Mommy took him. About ten minutes after they got back, Jacob said he had more pee-pee. We said he'd have to wait. Later, he asked me if I had to go pee-pee. I was okay and told him I'd wait. Otherwise, Jacob was pretty well behaved.

Lucy, on the other hand, was quite rambunctious and just couldn't keep quiet. We discovered the cry room in this church which also serves as the confessional. Someone had boxed in the back corner of the church and left a big window and glass door so it could also serve as a cry room. Two family had already gone in, but Lucy and I had our turn during the homily. Eventually, I convinced Lucy to whisper and we returned to the church. Five minutes later, we were back in the cry room because she was being too loud. We kept going in and out several times. Lucy started to get upset that she wasn't with Mommy, which helped her to be quiet for a while. It was rough going back and forth so many times, especially since the room didn't have any air conditioning or circulation. It reminded me of "the box" from Bridge on the River Kwai. Hopefully, she's learned her lesson. We'll see what happens next week in England.

Both children were happy to put money in the collection basket when it came. A poor box in the back also received some donations. At one point, Lucy asked to light candles but we forgot at the end of Mass. Jacob didn't forget to go potty one last time.

Father's sermon was mostly lost to me except for some snippets: The readings for this Sunday don't ever use the word "Trinity" and in fact that word is not found in the Scriptures. But many references are made to the triune nature of God: Jesus speaks often of the Father and how He is the Son and how He will send His Spirit afterward. Father talked a bit about the mystery of the Trinity, how it is unfathomable by us. He did have a good quote from Meister Eckhart, which I found here:
‘Do you want to know what goes on in the Heart of the Trinity? I will tell you. In the Heart of the Trinity the Father laughs and gives birth to the Son.
The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to the Spirit.
The Trinity laughs and gives birth to us.’
I really like this quote, even though I only heard the last line of it at Mass. Father's version of the last line is "The Trinity laughs and gives birth to creation," which seems more humbling and more accurate to me. God is so full of joy that He can't and won't contain Himself. He wants to share with us. What an awesome thought!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles XLV

We were up early again and made it to the 8 a.m. Mass just in time. We headed straight to the pews in front of the organist with a minute to spare. After 45 seconds, Lucy asked to light a candle. The opening announcements were already starting, so I told her that we'd light one after Mass, forgetting the usual stipulation that she be good during Mass.

Things were going smoothly until Jacob realized that he hadn't gone potty yet (attentive readers were sure to notice the omission). So he headed off with Mommy. Lucy came along too. I had plenty of quiet time as the readings were read. They returned during the gospel.

As the homily went on and on, Lucy became more and more chatty. Eventually she refused to whisper and I had to take her out. First, we went to the vestibule, where we saw our friends James and Colin and their parents and infant brother. That didn't last long as Lucy asked to continue the journey. Second, we went to the children's chapel. We turned on the lights and the TV and I heard the last few sentences of the homily. Eventually, Lucy got bored and wanted to see Mommy, who was still upstairs with the nicely docile Jacob. So we turned off the lights and the TV and headed upstairs.

Lucy was still being pretty noisy, so we stayed in the vestibule of the church till Communion time. Lucy was pretty well behaved if not quiet. She tried to pull some books from the book rack but they wouldn't come. A small bar kept the books from falling off the shelf. Lucy didn't know to lift the books up and over the bar before pulling them out. Since it kept her occupied, I didn't explain to her the problem. Is that wrong of me?

The sign of peace came and Lucy was uninterested in shaking my hand. I shook hands with James, Colin, and their parents. James and Colin walked over to Lucy and got her to shake hands. Maybe she knew I could have helped her with the books? Then we headed in for a peaceful communion. We returned to the pew with Mommy and Jacob for the rest of Mass.

After the last song, we lit candles even though Lucy wasn't so well behaved. For the first time, there was a line to light candles! Two other children were in line before us. We waited patiently. I don't know what Lucy prayed for but Jacob prayed for Daddy, which was gratifying. Of course, at first he wanted to pray for candles. We told him to pray for someone, not something. So he chose me. We saw special Bryan on the way out and eventually played on the playground.

It's hard to believe there's only one Sunday left for us here in the USA. Hopefully I'll get to hear the final homily and not be shushing or chasing Lucy.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles XLIV

Yesterday we got an early start so we were able to go to our favorite 8 a.m. Mass. We arrived just about on time, so Lucy and I went to get seats while Jacob and Mommy went to the potty.

The early Mass  had an organist and a flautist who seemed to be practicing the music, perhaps for a later Mass. She played very quietly. I only noticed her because we were sitting in front of them. Since Mass had already started, no open pews were available. Lucy and I got in a pew where just one lady was on the end. She moved to the middle. She and Lucy shared smiles with each other quite often.

Things went smoothly till the homily, when Lucy started to get antsy and, more impactfully, noisy. We decided about half way through to head to the children's chapel. It was empty, so Jacob turned on the light and I turned on the TV. Lucy immediately decided she needed a diaper change. I changed her almost dry diaper.

Lucy did her usual wandering and handing out of rosaries and books. Jacob sat in Mommy's lap most of the time. He was barely interested in the sign of peace and we had no collection. By the time we went upstairs for communion, Jacob was ready to go. We received without any problems. I had anticipated we'd stay upstairs so I brought the diaper bag up with us. After communion, we stayed in the vestibule. Jacob discovered a new rack with pamphlets and CDs. He wanted to get some, so he told me the prices. I'm not sure if Mommy told him or he really did read them off the sign. We picked up a couple of pamphlets for 50 cents each.

We saw special Bryan and got to talk to him. After Mass was over, we headed off to the playground where we met up with Timmy, Kim, and Luke. We chatted with them. They too are moving at the end of the month, but only two blocks. We are moving to England and are getting close to the departure. Only two more Sundays until we are going to church in England! I can't believe how fast time is flying.

Did I say Lucy was really chatty during the homily? And we went to the cry room? I hope for better luck next week.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles XLIII

Sorry I didn't post yesterday, the weekend has been busy with many things going on--family visiting, preparing for the move to England, sleepless children, etc.

We went with Grandpa to the 9:30 a.m. Mass at St. Louis. We arrived pretty early leaving plenty of time for going to the potty before Mass started. Jacob tried to convince Grandpa to go with him but to no avail. He went with me. Lucy went with Mommy in the ladies' room for a diaper change because she had to do what Jacob did.

Since we were early, we found the pew in front of the choir and musicians open. Jacob asked if he could light a candle. Mass was still five minutes from starting, so I took him over. Lucy soon followed with Grandpa in tow. Jacob lit a candle and prayed for Auntie Rosemary; Lucy lit hers and prayed for "Heaven." As we walked back to the pew, the first hymn started. Jacob and Lucy were locked on to the choir for quite a while.

Jacob was pretty low key during Mass, sitting in Mommy's lap most of the time. He didn't get the usual amount of sleep the night before due to some bad dreams. We stayed upstairs through the homily. Then the collection came and both the children put in something from Daddy's wallet. By the time of the consecration, Lucy was getting antsy. Grandpa took her out to the vestibule while we three stayed on. The Our Father came and so did the Sign of Peace. Jacob still had no enthusiasm for it or for going to the children's chapel. We received communion and finished out the entire Mass in the sanctuary. We left at the end and found Grandpa and Lucy waiting for us. A quick trip to the playground finished off a great day at church! I hope we can have more days in the church for the whole Mass.

Quick Review: Listen My Son

Listen My Son: St. Benedict for FathersListen My Son: St. Benedict for Fathers by Dwight Longenecker

This is a book of daily meditations, a style I usually don't like because of the daily commitment and the typical brevity of the reflections in such books. I'm not good with finding a regular time in the day for the reading (which is a little ridiculous since it takes no more than five minutes) and in other books I've found the reflections either too vague or too insipid. Someone recommended this book to me, so I am giving it a go. I'm about a month into it and find it delightful and edifying.

The author uses the Rule of St. Benedict, a 1500 year old book written by the founder of western monasticism, to draw a parallel between being the head of a monastery and the head of a family. Each day, he quotes a paragraph or two of St. Benedict and then comments on the writing and how it applies to fathers of families today. The content is refreshingly concrete and inspiring.

For example, early on Benedict discusses the four types of monks: those who live in community in a monastery under an abbot, those who live alone as a hermit after preparation in a monastery, those who live on their own under their own spiritual direction (really bad), and those who wander from monastery to monastery submitting to no rule but their own will (even worse). The author applies this to a father's life by looking at how most people need to be part of a community that nurtures them in faith, even when it might seem boring or rote. He also discusses how "church shopping" is really destructive of genuine faith, because one's own judgment becomes the measure of what's best and the form of worship becomes more important than the content.

The meditations last for about four months, with recommended starting dates of May 2, September 1 or January 1. I'll probably complete this review in September.

View all my reviews

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles XLII

Everyone got up early today, so we went to 8 a.m. Mass. We made it there just barely in time. Jacob wanted Daddy to take him to the potty, so off we went as the entrance hymn was sung. Jacob took his time finishing. By the time we left the bathroom, we heard the Gloria being sung. We headed downstairs to the children's chapel at Jacob's request.

We were the first ones there, but our friends James, Collin, little sibling, and their parents came in shortly afterward. After about five minutes, Jacob decided he needed a diaper because he was about to poop. So he went into the chapel bathroom with Mommy. When he came out Lucy insisted she needed a diaper change from Mommy, so they both went back in.

Jacob was very low energy today, mostly from getting up too early. He stood by me and then cuddled with Mommy once she came back out. Lucy was bouncing around as usual, handing out and then collecting rosaries and books.

Mass was pretty uneventful for us. No ushers came to collect the offertory. Jacob did pray the Our Father with us and both children gave the sign of peace. Lucy was reluctant to shake hands with the other boys (maybe playing hard to get?) and was very ready to head upstairs for communion. Jacob kept asking to go outside. Mommy figured it would be a good weekend to go to communion separately. She got in line immediately once we were upstairs while I handed coins to Jacob and Lucy for the poor box. Unfortunately, most of the coins went in the book shelf box. Oh well!

After communion, we did see our friend Special Bryan who ushers at the early Mass. Catching up with him was fun. Jacob finally pooped and insisted on Mommy changing the diaper upstairs. Lucy and I went back to the children's chapel to get our diaper bag. Once he was all clean, Mass was long over. We wound up taking a secret back way to the playground. Again, we forgot to light candles at the end of Mass! I'll take the kids during the week for a special visit.

Father started the homily off with the announcement that the world did not end yesterday. Nor would it end today or next week--the Mass schedule is completely unaffected. From there, he talked about the idea of predestination, where God already knows who is going to make it to Heaven. Therefore, He knows who won't make it. John Calvin and similar Protestants assumed if you can figure out how to be in the "saved" group, then you don't have to worry. Calvin's solution was to say there's no way to achieve salvation by any action or choice, because God has predetermined through His mercy who will be saved. If you believe what Calvin does (i.e. you are in Calvin's church) you're most likely saved. The problem with this system is that we do have the free will to accept or reject the mercy of the Lord. And our actions and behavior are signs of that mercy and His grace working through us. God does foresee (being eternal and omniscient) who will accept His grace and mercy, but He doesn't cause their choices in life. Help us to always choose according to Your will, Lord!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mother's Day Delayed Pictures

I took the kids to JCPenney for Mother's Day photos, which was a lot of fun. Jacob and Lucy were pretty well behaved and actually did what the photographer asked! She asked Jacob to get on the floor and Lucy immediately copied that with any prompting. The only bad thing was the pictures weren't available until May 9, the day after Mother's Day. Oh well, you can't have everything in life.

We bought a new scanner, so I've been trying it out on the pictures we did purchase. I'm also testing out uploading pictures to Picasa Web Albums, part of the Google/Blogger suite of products. Here's the pictures we bought:

Jacob and Lucy in their 2011 Easter outfits!

Am I cute?

No, I'm cute!

Didn't crop this one quite right!

Lovey dovey siblings (I can't believe I just wrote that!)

Lucy had cute shoes but wouldn't wear them!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles XLI

Today we got up early enough for the 8 a.m. Mass, except for me. If I'd gotten up when Lucy did, I'm sure we would have had a fighting chance. As it was, we had a leisurely French Toast breakfast followed by some non-leisurely efforts to keep the kids occupied, get ready for church, and get a meal in the slow cooker. We made it out of the house in plenty of time for the 9:30 Mass, so I guess it went well enough.

We parked in the best spot ever--right in front of the church. Jacob asked to take the "short cut" by the parish office door. Lucy initially wanted to go too but fell down along the way. She was upset and asked to go the regular way. I picked her up and headed up the main steps. She almost immediately changed her mind and told me she wanted the "short cut" so we went through the office doors about 30 seconds after Jacob and Mommy.

Jacob made a beeline for the upstairs potty with Mommy while Lucy and I found seats in front of the choir. Things went pretty well during Mass. Jacob even sang the Gloria! After that, Jacob asked for a diaper. He and Mommy headed off again, to which Lucy responded, "I need diaper change!" She clearly didn't, so we waited patiently for them to come back. Lucy managed to prove her point by the time Mommy came back, so Mommy had to turn around again during the gospel for Lucy's change.

Jacob and I waited patiently. He finally let me know that he was pooping. Just as the homily finished he finished. Mommy hadn't come back. I assumed she had gone to the children's chapel, so Jacob and I headed out, giving to the collection on the way. We finally found them downstairs and I changed his diaper in the chapel's potty.

The children did their usual wandering around. Jacob sat in a chair during the sign of peace and couldn't be bothered to get up and shake hands with anyone, including his family. Lucy was much more enthusiastic. We headed upstairs for communion where Lucy put most of my pocket change into the poor box. Jacob put a few coins in the poor box and a few in the book shelf box. We forgot to try last time's scheme where one parent goes to communion early so the other parent could receive communion later without bringing the kids in. It worked out okay anyway. Jacob and Lucy were cooperative in line. Lucy was with me and received a special blessing from the priest.

Mass ended as usual. We forgot to light candles but did go to the playground for a bit. All in all it was a pretty good week. I'm sorry there wasn't a chronicle last week--Mommy and I went to separate Masses without the children! It was good for worshiping but not for family unity or chronicling.

As I said, Jacob and I stayed during the homily. Jacob was a little distracting but I did manage to hear this gem: This week's gospel has Jesus telling His listeners about the good shepherd who guards and guides his sheep; they know his voice and follow him. Father said that we are like the sheep in that we don't know our destiny and will wander off in any direction. We need to listen to the shepherd's voice to find our way lest we run into peril. Lord help us to listen to you and trust in Your way!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles XL

No, this is not an extra-large edition of the chronicles, it's number 40!

Lucy woke up at 5 a.m., took a bottle and went back to sleep, so we had no chance to make it to the 8 a.m. Mass. After a leisurely breakfast, we headed out for the 9:30 Mass. We left later than we planned but early enough to get to church with seven minutes to spare, so Jacob could go potty with Mommy while Lucy and I saved some seats in front of the choir.

Mass went pretty smoothly. The kids did some crawling around but were mostly behaved right up to the sermon. Jacob decided he wanted to go downstairs then, so we acquiesced. As we were heading out, Monseigneur said to the congregation, "I have a special treat for you today. I'm not giving the homily. Instead, we have one of the seminarians for the archdiocese with us and he's from our parish..."

When we got to the children's chapel, it was fairly full. Lucy wanted a diaper change from Mommy. While they were in the bathroom, Jacob decided he wanted a drink. The water fountain was just outside, so I took him out for a sip. It must have been a mighty sip, because when we came back in he wanted to go potty. Lucy came out, Jacob went in.

The offertory came and the kids dutifully put money in. They were well behaved through the rest of Mass. Lucy was unusually reluctant at the sign of peace. I helped her shake hands. She regained her enthusiasm when we went upstairs for communion and got to put coins in the poor box. Jacob deposited two or three coins but mostly focused on wandering aimlessly. My wife went to communion early while I watched the kids. When she made it back, I went in. This system is probably going to work very well for us.

The rest of Mass was uneventful. We lit candles afterward. Jacob prayed for protection from bugs; Lucy prayed for "Heaven." They even knelt down for a bit on the kneeler by the candles, a good sign of things to come. After a stop at the playground and Dunkin Donuts, we came home quite happy.

The seminarian's sermon was to thank us for our support of the seminary. He asked for continued prayers and continues to keep us in his prayers. He also talked about Divine Mercy Sunday (today) which John Paul II* began during his pontificate. He gave this beautiful image: even if your sins are as innumerable as the grains of sand by the sea, Divine Mercy will swallow them up all in an ocean of love. So he exhorted any of us who needed it to come to confession. Monseigneur said afterward that there are 30 seminarians for the archdiocese and five of them are from St. Louis! Something must be going right here.

*Yay for his beatification today!!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Quick Review: The Sadness of Christ by St. Thomas More

The Sadness of Christ (Yale University Press Translation)The Sadness of Christ by Thomas More

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a collection of writings from St. Thomas More during his imprisonment in the Tower of London before he was executed. The main text is "The Sadness of Christ," a spiritual reflection on the gospel accounts of Jesus and his apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He died. Also included are a collection of scriptural quotes and reflections, Imploring Divine Help Against Temptation, How to Treat Those Who Wrong Us, On Saving One's Life, A Meditation on Detachment, and A Prayer Before Dying.

I read this book as spiritual reading for the end of Lent, that is, during Holy Week. I found it very inspirational and instructive. More has very down to earth advice on prayer and is quite emphatic on prayer's importance in resisting temptation and fulfilling God's Will. The need for focus is brought out in the contrast between the sleepy apostles who want to do good but don't follow through and Judas who wants to do an evil and is quite focused and ready. More points out that this is a constant problem in the history of the church. The good clergy (bishops and priests) don't act with fervor and determination while those who want to bring the Church down are focused and energized. Luckily, with Jesus's example, the good people can overcome the lethargy to which they are tempted by using prayer and accepting of God's will. More brings this out quite well by noting how Jesus turns from His fearful prayer for this cup to pass to His astounding the crowd of armed men so much with His courage that they fall back away from Him.

There are lots of great spiritual nuggets in here. I will be reading this again next year for Holy Week!

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles XXXIX

He is risen! He is truly risen! Happy and Blessed Easter to all! We were eager to get to church on time this week. Early showers and a quick breakfast meant we could make it to the 8 a.m. Mass at St. Louis. We even arrived five or ten minutes early, so Jacob could go potty before anything started. Granny is visiting and saved us some seats in front of the musicians. We sat upstairs in the main body of the church until the homily, when we finally gave in to Jacob's requests to go to the children's chapel. He did a good job whispering in church for which we are grateful.

Since today is Easter, they opened up the back wall of the chapel and doubled the seating capacity. We easily had double the number of people for the 8 a.m. Mass, so it worked out well. Jacob and Lucy's behavior was pretty subdued. They read books and wandered around, occasionally asking to go potty. Lucy did make friends with one other little girl, mostly by staring at each other.

At the offertory, an usher came in for the collection, which is unusual for the 8 a.m. Mass. Clearly he was unfamiliar because as he went to leave, he opened the bathroom door, said "whoops!" and went to the exit door. At first, we thought he was collecting most thoroughly--not even the bathroom was safe from the collection basket! Then we realized he probably mistook the bathroom door for the exit. Good thing nobody was in there!

During the sign of peace, we all shook a bunch of hands. Once the singing of the "Lamb of God" started, Jacob told someone it was too late to shake hands! Such liturgical fastidiousness comes from my side of the family, I think.

We headed up early for communion to give Jacob a chance to go potty before it was time for us to receive. Angie hatched the brilliant scheme--one of us would receive communion early and make it back to take care of the kids, just in case Jacob or Lucy had another meltdown in the communion line. This plan almost worked well. Angie didn't quite make it back in time. Lucy came in with me and Jacob stayed with Granny, so there were no problems this week. Hopefully the kinks will be worked out for next week.

Lucy did get to put a lot of coins in the poor box while we waited to go to communion, just like last week. She even got another child in on the act, again like last week. She also was just as ecstatic as last time. I'll have to get more pocket change for next week!

We didn't get back together after communion. Jacob and Angie headed straight for the children's chapel before Lucy and I came back. I thought they were in the upstairs potty, so we waited around upstairs. We wished Special Bryan (an usher who is our friend, but not our regular friend Brian) a Happy Easter. We also got to see our old friends Timmy, Luke, and Kim and wish them a Happy Easter. Finally, Lucy and I headed downstairs to get our stuff and we ran into Angie and Jacob.

Once Mass was over, Jacob decided to go potty one last time. Then we went upstairs to light some candles. Jacob and Lucy both enjoyed that. We're thinking of using candle lighting as a reward for good behavior in church.

The homily seemed brief. Maybe that's because we were in transit to the children's chapel. Maybe father wanted to give extra time for communion and such. I've listened to some comments from Vatican Radio and read some blog commentary and from a book as well, so today's reflections on the gospel are all jumbled up in my head. I don't remember what father said specifically about the gospel. I'll write my next chronicle before I take in all those other resources.

Blessed Easter to all!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cry Room Chronicles XXXVIII

We had another slow morning which meant we thought we had plenty of time to make it to the 9:30 Mass. Somehow the time got away from us and we didn't drive down the driveway until 9:22. So we were late. Today is Palm Sunday, so by the time we got into the building they were already reading the gospel, the Passion narrative from Matthew's Gospel.

At first, we tried to take the children into the main church. No seating for four seemed available. Lucy and I scouted ahead and didn't find anything on the side. By the time we returned to the back of the church Mommy and Jacob were gone. But where?

Naturally, Jacob wanted to go potty before going to the children's chapel. Angie convinced him to use the facilities in the chapel where we caught up with them. He did so; Lucy protested that she wanted to go potty too. I told her it was occupied and she'd have to wait her turn. She sat in my lap and waited. Once Jacob came out, Lucy piped up, "Lucy's turn!" She and I walked over. She decided she wanted Mommy to change her, so I took Jacob back to our chairs. He promptly wandered over to the bookshelf and began reading.

The room had three other families. Seating was tight. It looked like some chairs were missing. Things progressed fairly normally. After the collection, Jacob wanted to go to the upstairs potty. I took him. Lucy followed closely on our heals so she could get in on the action too. We wound up in the vestibule after the potty break. We were there till after communion.

Lucy decided she wanted to fill the poor box. Anticipating her desire, my pocket was full of change. She took the first coin, wandered off and sauntered back. By the fourth coin, she was running back and forth gleefully. Another young boy got his mommy to give him coins to put in the poor box. He was just as enthusiastic as Lucy. They'd take turns putting the money in and giggle on their ways back to their respective parents. Eventually I ran out of coins, but Lucy was so happy she didn't mind.

Jacob, sensing Lucy's overdraft from the bank of happiness, decided to have a melt down just before it was time to receive communion. He did not want to go into the church. He laid down and protested that he wanted to go home. Angie finally picked him up and carried him in, in spite of his protests. That was a big downer for us. Afterwards, we returned to the children's chapel for the final prayers and hymn.

Jacob asked to light a candle, so we returned to the church as people were still filing out. It was a bit like swimming upstream. We finally lit two candles, one for Jacob (whose intention was better behavior in Mass) and one for Lucy (whose intention was for our family).

It was cold and windy, so no time was spent at the playground. Also, with the extra-long gospel, no time was spent on a homily. We're looking forward to the Easter Triduum this week!