Thursday, May 31, 2007

Feasting in honor of the Visitation

Our day is nearly over and we have enjoyed a lovely meal together in celebration of the feast of the Visitation. Last minute inspiration over at 4Real with Helen describing a lovely BLUE meal in honor of Our Lady.

Here is our blue meal (as blue as we could get it anyway!) We have our special Marian tablecloth and blue servette’s for serving our cake onto (and any spills..) Found all my blue Tupperware and had some blue cups. I did buy a blueberry juice mix but it was really pink in colour. I was REALLY hoping there would be a nice blue cake with fresh cream and jam and there was one left on special! Yahoo!

Helen mentioned that the Visitation is one of Mary’s seven joys. So I put the word ‘JOY’ on the cake using blue coated chocolate rocks. The cake did not look very impressive around the edges and it was a double layered cake so I quickly made a ‘skirt’ for it with the initials, “V” & “M” all the way round. It could be for “The Virgin Mary” or “The Visitation of Mary” or both.

My husband said a special grace for the feast of the Visitation from a beautiful little book I highly recommend, Blessings of The Table – Mealtime Prayers Throughout the Year by Brother Victore-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette

Here is the prayer on pg 88:

Optional Reading: Luke 1:39-45

Leader: Having begotten God in her womb, the Virgin Mary hastened to Elizabeth.
All: Whose child understood this greeting and who rejoiced with leapings and songs.

Blessing: Blessed be you, God of infinite tenderness, for you inspired Mary, the humble maiden of Nazareth, to visit her cousin Elizabeth and to assist her in her human needs. Help us, so that following Mary’s example, we may remain always open to the needs of others. Fortify us with the nourishment of this meal, and bring us one day to the eternal feast in your kingdom. Amen.

Our little 2 year old chap was trying his very hardest to be patient as the cake was being cut...

“2 pieces if you don’t mind mum. I’m a growing boy!”

Ever hopeful as each piece was cut and passed out, his little fingers opened up in hopeful anticipation...finally.....“Is that big piece really for me?”

The Feast of the Visitation

I am expecting my 6th child and I look on the feast of the Visitation with particular fond memories and love. I too, have been visited and assisted in my hardest pregnancies by Mary, like St Elizabeth.

When I was expecting my first child, my pregnancy became very rough in the last trimester due to a bad virus and a glucose tolerance test that nearly had me in a coma on the feast of the archangels...(I was praying fervently to St Raphael to protect me.) The day after, the hospital rang up and said it was a ‘failed test’ because according to their figures my blood sugar dropped to .7 and I should have been in a coma...”Come in and do the test again” they said. My husband calmly told them it would be over his dead body!!

I thought I was dying during that test and they did have to ‘admit’ me into a hospital room and bed rather than leave me sitting in the room with all the other pregnant women, awaiting their hourly blood tests for the big glucose tolerance test. I am sure St Raphael interceded powerfully that day. Unfortunately my body went through a series of strange symptoms for weeks after that experience. Every day my head and chest area would feel like they could explode...

But something beautiful happened. Our Lady came to me on the day when I had exactly 3 months to go in my pregnancy, the significance of it, was not lost on me. It was the Pilgrim Virgin statue that had come from Fatima. She travels from home to home in Brisbane so that families can pray the rosary each night and invite other families to join them in prayer. She usually stays for a week or two. Our Lady stayed with us for 3 months. I don’t know why, we didn’t ask for this, it just happened that way. Maybe there were no other families lined up to receive her after us at that time? The lady who is custodian of the Pilgrim Statue is a very good friend, my husband has known her almost all his life, maybe she just knew we needed her... I remember crying, because my Mother had come to me when I desperately needed her most. If anyone has read a particular posting of mine at Hidden Treasure will know a lovely miracle took place at the birth of my first child, through the hands of Our Lady...

Then the second time my Mother visited me in pregnancy (in a different way) was during my hardest pregnancy, physically. It was my fourth pregnancy and I had suffered a strange feeling throughout the whole of the pregnancy. A feeling as if my organs were under tremendous pressure, or were shutting down, such a strange feeling I can’t really describe. It was a grueling, arduous pregnancy that was testing my endurance! My due date was the end of August and so the feast of the Visitation was exactly three months before this date. I was aware of this and I felt my Mother’s presence once again and another blessed boy was the fruit of it all.

Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, she is that spotless and pure dwelling place of the Lord that we see unveiled in Revelations at the beginning of Chapter 12. (Remember that John did not break his writings into chapters. Read straight on from Chapter 11 as if there were no new chapter and you will see more clearly...)

St Augustine once said, "The Old Testament is the New concealed, but the New Testament is the Old revealed" and this is very much so in the revelation of Mary, Ark of the New Covenant. The beautiful typology is between the story of the Ark of the Covenant entering Jerusalem with King David dancing before it and the story of the Visitation. When I first read this a few years ago it blew me away – what a revelation! Now that I’ve written so much today, it is better to link you to the person who will tell you this best, Steve Ray from Catholic Answers. Please stop by and read this, your day will be greatly enriched on this feast of The Visitation – Happy Feast Day!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Liturgical calendar & daily saints - a feast for their little eyes!

I talked about another great way for the children to connect with their heavenly friends in a very visual way. In a way, that it is sort of like celebrating their birthdays with the use of pictures.....their ‘birthday’ into eternal life. These beautiful and colourful liturgical calendars put out by Liturgical Training Publications, are simply a wonderful liturgical medium in the home. (My wheel has a 'split' down the middle because I have stuck it onto the front of our homeschooling wall unit that is in our lounge, can't miss it there.)

They show everyone at one quick glance what time of the Church year we are in....purple for the penitential/preparing periods of Lent and Advent. Yellow for the celebratory periods of Christmas and Easter. Green for the ordinary time of the year. Each ‘spoke’ in the wheel is one week, with Sunday on the outside down to Saturday near the centre. Major feasts and solemnities are written in on this calendar, to mark the important days to remember and celebrate.

I started at the beginning of last year and we got through the whole year and loved it. Then I bought this year’s calendar and something happened....well, nothing happened actually...that’s what...... I delayed in getting it going for silly reasons ranging from, "where is double sided tape when I need it?!?!" To, “I’ve got to find the other handle to the homeschooling cabinet, so I can cut out the out space and screw that handle back in, then I can hang it....(still looking)” But we finally got it going a few weeks ago, really enjoyed the fun of sticking LOTS all at once and we are seriously back into the swing of it again and loving it!

Look at the wonderful illustrations that surround the wheel and the feature picture used as the ‘centrepiece.’ Each year there is a different artist and theme. Last year the use of strong, primary colours featured along with a Mexican theme where a procession in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe was the focal highlight.

This year pastel colours of predominately purple and green feature. Using motifs from the Book of Kells for the symbols of the four evangelists who sit majestically on each corner. It is these four evangelists who were called to write about the life of Jesus Christ in Sacred Scripture, and it is Jesus who is the beautiful centrepiece – another glorious theme! These yearly themes can be discussed in length with the children, there will always be something new each year for them to learn through these calendars.

Last year I thought it would be great to stick images of the saints on each day of the year, so that it is a physical way of bringing the calendar to the children’s attention on a daily basis. This job was a bit like the book inventory, you only put in the hard slog once! You reap it’s benefits for years to come. So I cut and pasted images from the Internet of the saints throughout the year (also major feasts eg: Easter Sunday, The Ascension etc.)

Stef helped me with a couple of the months as well. I was emailing these monthly sheets to a few ladies but my husband decided that was crazy and ‘zipped’ them all into a year folder and I am still trying to nut out an easy way to pass this onto others who might want to use them....maybe I can get them onto my blog to be somehow accessed....well, I’ll work on that one.... Here is an example of a sheet for the month of July.

The use of saints images with the calendar are an excellent, added tool. I have my children sorting themselves into some frantic order, of who posts each day, (oh me next, mum!) and the questions they ask during the cutting and gluing... My little 4 year old boy who simply LOVES St George, asks everyday where he is, such a little character. I’m sure it makes St George smile from up above.

Petitions, prayers, paper, pins (and pen).....

Tweaking our new system of prayer with the use of our new Miraculous Medal Prayer Petition Mobile. It is working well and the netting is about 2/3’s full at present. What I am discovering is that it is very handy to have paper cut ready to go and pins (and pen) for writing down the prayer requests quickly and without fuss, especially the daily prayers petitions from 4Real. So here is a photo of two new, pretty, glass editions to our family altar right next to the mobile.....

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Living with and loving the Saints liturgically

We are reading the lives of the saints like never before. We are also reading about their lives in a liturgical sequence. Life has recently entered a ‘sweeter and more intimate’ level with our heavenly friends – the saints. In the same way we especially acknowledge our loved ones, friends and acquaintances on their birthday or name day, I feel the importance of trying to read about the lives of the saints on their equivalent – their feast day. Most of my inspirations have their first beginnings or stirrings from a discussion on 4Real and in this case a thread called, Feast Days & Plans for Next Year! Often I have taken in the discussion and apply it as is or I start to play with it in my mind to tweak things better to suit my own preferences. But I can say for sure, I would not be writing this if it weren’t for that thread.

We have enormous library of Catholic books for the children. We homeschool, we don’t pay Catholic school fees, it is something we love and see the value in for the formation of their souls – I STILL feel the resonance of the different picture books of the saints my parents bought for me (and my sister) – don’t I love Fr Lovasik! – which are well known books – then and now. What good work he did for young Catholics.

Our minds are very ‘open’ to this sort of thing because my parents bought nearly every book from
back in the early 80’s in one purchase and we had an instant library and I read children and adult books from this library alike and I think that is where I feel so at ease reading adult saint or Marian books to the children (in excerpts and often with my on-the-spot adjustments for easier understanding for the children – it’s an art I’ve got under my belt well – ‘improvising’ you might call it.)

These are special times of the day, in the morning we pull the two couches together, facing each other, snuggled together, creating our own world of enjoyment and fun, or we climb into our bed together for cozy night reading or we read in the car on the way to Mass which are often long drives for us and in a car, you are definitely in your own ‘bubble’ with no distractions. (Children buckled in, no running to toilets etc, etc, you’ve got ‘em!) I say, ‘enjoyment and fun’ because I love to take my reading seriously, taking on the voice and mannerisms of the character I’m reading about. I don’t do this always but often enough. I throw in the ‘theatrics’ and try to give the reading life and depth. They respond – their eyes shining, with giggles or gaping mouths, this is how their souls are knitted as one with their heavenly friends.

With their ears they listen, with their eyes they feast upon the artwork. I must be a very visual person, because I fell in love with the saints as a child through the illustrations I saw in Fr Lovasik’s books. Remember too, with the traditions of the saints in particular, ‘a picture tells a thousand words’ because they all have symbols that tell us something about that saint, children will really learn from those symbols! Once at an All Saints Party, I designed a musical chairs game but instead of chairs we had symbols of the saints, and as I started to read the saint’s story the children were very good at quickly guessing who was the poor unfortunate soul who happened to be standing near that saint’s symbols!!! (that was how the process of elimination took place..)

I have discovered, if you have many books, often it is hard to utilize your books to the fullest. Often I felt this, it was always a thing in the back of my mind, “If only....” Well my new inventory has changed all this. Now before you think, “WHAT and inventory on a large library?!?” It took me 3 days, with good chunks of those days committed to the task. (I did this over the Easter period – I wasn’t schooling and children were out playing.) But you have to remember, you only do this once! For the years to come you will reap the benefits of these few day’s efforts, you only need to add to the list as new books come in which is a very easy task. For those who do not have many books please keep reading there is a way to do the same even if you don't have many books..
So I started to list the books, picture books, single books on one saint are easy, it is the compilations that are hard. The Picture Book of Saints by Fr Lovasik contains many saints which I wrote up individually, writing the name of the saint and cut and pasting the name of the book which it came from next to it. I have a few compilations, so it was time consuming, then there were my favourite adult reading material that I read to the children, like, 400 Saints Who Raised the Dead. That book I had to go through each chapter and see the listing of the saints that were to be covered and write them down and then quickly check exactly what page that saint’s story started, because with this book a page can start with one saint, but by the bottom of the page you may have read about 3 saint’s stories of raising people back to life...that was a bit time consuming, but worth it, because my children love that book the best.

I also wanted to include other books such as, liturgical living books like
Cooking With The Saints, A Book of Feasts and Seasons or A Year With God and also colouring books that I may have on the saints or the beautiful Mother of God Coloring Book which we use often. I am at present ¾’s or more the way through this inventory and those remaining books to be added are more of the liturgical living books, the reading ones are pretty much done.

So the hard work has not quite finished yet....I then wrote the feast day next to each entry, some were easy, or I knew them off by heart, some I had to do an internet search on, but like all things, you get the knack after a while, of doing it as fast as you can. Once this was done I started to cut and paste all the books/individual stories into order of a yearly calendar, first isolating or grouping books into their months and their was one final group for “Lent, Advent and movable feasts...”. Once this was done, the individual sorting of each month from the 1st to the 31st ....I know a big job, but did I say that it was once off and well worth it? There could be a few ways to approach this job. You could set a goal of a couple of books per day and make it a task you complete over many months or use a holiday period where you know there is no other pressing commitments around...

Here is my list to date,
Saints for the Whole Liturgical Year, this is still a work in progress however. At present I open up the file each morning, scan down to the date of the day and cut and paste onto desktop the day’s list from which I start taking those books from the shelves...What I need to do next, is have a program where the books for the day will automatically appear on the desktop when the computer is started up each morning...

One thing I should mention, not everyone is in a position to buy a lot of books, or their priorities with education might have a different but very import focus. Like saving carefully to be able to put their children into really good, orthodox universities when the schooling at home is finish. Money might not be there for big spending on Catholic children’s books – there are other ways to do this!!!

The internet is a fabulous resource for this, an incredible wealth of information and pictures for our children. (If mummy has been the one looking for them.) You can still do an inventory on the websites you find, a particular site dedicated to a saint, or a liturgical cookbook that is available free on the net etc..So by doing an inventory on these things you can go back year after year and access these things effortlessly. I will do a posting just on this point and show some of the beautiful written narrations my children have done just from reading them internet stories and showing or printing up internet pictures for them to draw... if you haven't got lots of books the internet is an excellent alternative.

Also I will get back again soon, with another way for children to connect to their daily friends and it is very visual.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Feast of Penecost and renewal of consecration

Happy Feast Day! It has been a lovely day. Our choir sang at Our Lady of Victories this morning, my voice is finally back after a fortnight of laryngitis (thank goodness I have my fingers for typing!) and we chanted the sequence, Veni Sancte Spiritus which I love, and processed in with Veni Creator Spiritus - all the flowers were red and white and we had a beautiful sermon by a visiting Carmelite priest who lives at 'the' Mount Carmel in Palestine.

Our parish has exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in between our 8am Mass, up until the 10am Polish Mass. It was here that I renewed my consecration to my Blessed Mother using the True Devotion formula. I thought there couldn't be a better place, to express this to my Mother, in front of Our Lord's Real Presence for this is where I am closest to all those who are in the presence of the Beatific Vision.

It had been many, many years since I had renewed my consecration, even though I believed in it and lived it through my daily offering of everything through my Mother's hands, receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion, asking my Mother to be present in my heart to receive her Son with me but looking back I can still see a level of superficiality to my actions.... I know now, that there were many more layers to peel and still far more beyond me, even as I write. (Oh, very much so!) I had been blessed in my late teens to have had this perfect devotion introduced to me by husband, his words during my first preparation still resonate for me to this day...So why so long in my renewal?.....I don't know, but I will tell you what changed things.

Over at 4Real at Hidden Treasure, Helen and Alice had suggested we study together, the True Devotion written by St Louis de Montfort and then share our thoughts and questions on this newly created board dedicated to Our Blessed Mother. We read the book chapter by chapter, reading a few paragraphs per night. Once it was read we started the preparation in late April to have it finish in time for our renewal today - the feast of Pentecost.
This was a godsend for me, it really was like digging for hidden treasure because that is precisely what I found - hidden treasure within the treasure I had always valued. My eyes were literally 'opened' more fully to the understanding of this 'holy slavery' particularly through the eyes of my own motherhood. (I think as a mother it is so easy to understand the beautiful motherhood of Mary.)
Can I share a newly learnt, beautiful gem? Mary's words at the Annunciation, "I am the handmaid of the Lord" here Our Lady is identifying herself as a 'slave' of God - that word handmaid, when it was first written, meant slave, not servant like we might understand that word today. We are only imitating Our Blessed Mother in this 'holy slavery'! We know she couldn't have given a better more perfect reply than that, why do we look for a better one for ourselves? Actually, here at Catholic Culture it is expressed more eloquently:

"As the Fathers never tired of retelling, Eve had ruined us by disobedience. Now, at the beginning of the restoration, all is obedience. Mary looked to the depths of her soul. She, the blessed among women, the one full of grace, the only one conceived immaculate, the Mother of God-what is her reaction? "Behold the handmaid of the Lord!" The word handmaid is but a poor translation of the original Greek word doule. For to us the word handmaid means merely a hired servant. But doule meant a slave girl. Here is an obedient humility to balance the proud disobedience of Eve. Mary had just been raised to the peak of all creation, yet she replies by calling herself a slave girl: "Be it done to me according to thy word." Heaven itself waited in obedience for this obedience. For, as St. Thomas Aquinas tells us, "At the Annunciation, the Virgin was asked to give her consent in the name of the whole human race." The world had been created by the fiat of the Word of God. Now the beginning of the recreation in grace is ushered in by the fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum of the one who calls herself the slave of the Lord."

My dear friends at 4Real had promised to pray for me - and I know that they have! I can't quite explain it but my feelings about my Mother and this devotion are different, it is not the new found knowledge either, it is more than that, it is the movings of grace - grace that they have interceded for on my behalf, I am indebted to these women!
I believe that the True Devotion is the perfect devotion in drawing ourselves closer to Christ, all saints had devotion to their Mother and we see great actions and depth of soul in those have lived the True Devotion, Pope John Paul II is a perfect example, his "Totus Tuus" was a signature of his complete giving of self to Jesus through the Blessed Mother. Here is a beautiful quote of his:
"Totus Tuus. This phrase is not only an expression of piety, or simply an expression of devotion. It is more. During the Second World War, while I was employed as a factory worker, I came to be attracted to Marian devotion. At first, it had seemed to me that I should distance myself a bit from the Marian devotion of my childhood, in order to focus more on Christ. Thanks to Saint Louis of Montfort, I came to understand that true devotion to the Mother of God is actually Christocentric, indeed, it is very profoundly rooted in the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity, and the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption".
[John Paul II in Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Arnoldo Mondadori Editori, 1994]
I hope to pass this devotion on to my children, if I could do that, I know I have not failed in my motherhood. We read many stories of Our Blessed Mother's great love for us through many of the miraculous and beautiful stories and apparitions throughout the ages, well known ones and lesser known ones, I know these stories will make them realise that this Mother LOVES us! I use children's books but also adult reading material, Joan Carroll Cruz's Miraculous Images of Our Lady is a perfect example of that.
I am such an imperfect mother and so I remind my children often that even when their imperfect mother fails them, they have a perfect mother they can always turn to who will never fail them! Also, I train the children in the very beginnings of True Devotion by the daily use of Leading the Little Ones to Mary - these little things will leave imprints and traces on their hearts that will be with them always and God willing be there for them at the hour of their deaths.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Our New Miraculous Medal Prayer Petition Mobile

After a bit of scrambling through the rafters of the roof by my oldest boy, so as to feed part of the hook through a hole dh had drilled, we finally got our mobile up! I drilled a small hole at the top of the mobile and fed through a few strands of strong fishing line and then hung the mobile on the hook. I then printed up some of our present prayer requests and pinned them to the 'showering of graces' netting, with plenty of room for more!

Our house is not enormous, so room is scarce in the main part of the house. Having the mobile near our family prayer altar was probably the best place to hang it.

While I have been involved with the mobile, I was continually looking at the two sides, re-creating the two sides of the medal and so you can't help but to think about what this medal is telling us, for those wondering too, here an explaination:

The Meaning of the Front Side of the Miraculous Medal

Our Blessed Mother Mary stands upon the globe, as the Queen of Heaven and Earth. She is crushing the head of a serpent beneath her foot. Her feet crush the serpent to proclaim Satan and all his followers are helpless before her (Gn 3:15). As God's chosen instrument, her hands are open, shedding the graces that Christ won for us. All grace comes to us through her pure hands.

The year of 1830 on the Miraculous Medal is the year the Blessed Mother gave the design of the Miraculous Medal to Saint Catherine Labouré. Etched around the rim is the prayer "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee." This reference to Mary conceived without sin proclaims the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. This side of the medal is glorious, showing us the fruits of the redemption of mankind.

The Meaning of the Back Side of the Miraculous Medal

The Cross is on top of the M, showing that Christ is the Saviour of all, including Mary. The altar is attached to the cross, showing us the redemptive sacrifice of calvary that is ever present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The M is intimately entwined in the redemptive sacrifice of mankind, she said "Yes" at the Annunciation and that ‘Yes’ continues on today until the end of time. In this we see Mary’s part in our salvation and her role as mother of the Church.

The hearts of Jesus and Mary are pictured; Jesus' heart has a crown of thorns, representing the sufferings He underwent to free us from sin and to show His infinite love for each and every person. Mary's heart is pierced by a sword of sorrow (Lk. 2:35) as she joined in Christ's suffering for love of us, even standing at the foot of the cross. The twelve stars can refer to the Apostles, who represent the entire Church as it surrounds Mary. They also recall the vision of Saint John, writer of the Book of Revelation (12:1), in which “a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars.” This side of the medal is sorrowful, showing us the price paid for the redemption of mankind.


"Blue skies,
Blue waters, blue as Mary's eyes
God scatters with a lavish hand,
On every land.
Still night,
Made lovely with soft, silver light,
God wraps about the world when day
Has slipped away.
Each field
Holds up a golden-flowered shield
Against the shining shafts of sun;
Yet each is won.
Bright rain
God spills to bring to earth again
New freshness. Then like sudden tears
It disappears.
Green trees,
The vagabonding summer breeze,
The golden days and silver nights
His will unites
In one.
And when His work of love is done,
His will decrees a holiday,
The month of May.
And why?
That she, as pure as summer sky,
Who found within an earth-born Boy
What earth contained of joy
and pain
Might find her full content of joy On earth again."

Miraculous Medal Craft Activity Part 2

It is Saturday morning over here and the finishing touches to our mobile have been worked upon, we have pretty much finished. Our Miraculous Medal mobile is now ready for hanging.

The painting of the words, "Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee." and the date "1830" were done by me, as it took a very steady hand and careful spacing, this was done last night.

Felt was used for our Mother's halo and then beaded with little gold beads. Our Lady's face I drew onto skin colour cardboard and felt was laid behind the face for hair.

The dress was the most time consuming and stressful part to this otherwise enjoyable endevour. I had found a picture of the Miraculous Medal on the internet, put it into paintshop on the computer, isolated the image of Our Lady and blew it up to A4 size and printed it. I then cut out the dress of Our Lady as a template for the felt I was using, then I found some sheer, silky material to cover over the felt and sewed it to the back of the felt and puckered across Our Lady's waistline. This overcovering gives volume and a 'flowing' look to the dress. The same was done for Our Lady's mantle and veil, which was all one piece of felt. The two parts to our Mother's dress was glued to the board.

My original idea was to have this beautiful blue netting with silver stars, cascading from both of Our Lady's hands, to create the "showering of grace" that comes through her hands to us. It was onto this netting that we would pin our printed prayer intentions. It was important that the netting would not come off by the continual pinning of paper (as light as they are..) so I found two small screws that would do nicely. I puckered the end of the netting at one end and sew it firmly together. I then placed the screw over this puckered end and screwed it firmly into the board, directly under Our Mother's hands. In the last turns of the screwdriver the netting turned with it and covered over the screws, so they cannot be seen at all.

Can you see the little shiny beads on the fingertips of Our Lady's fingers? These were the precious jewels that St Catherine Laboure saw from which the streams of grace were coming from. Catherine did note that not all the jewels poured out this grace and when she asked Our Blessed Mother why, she replied, "The rays are the symbol of the graces I shed on those who ask me for them. The stones which send forth no light represent the graces for which people forget to ask me." pg 13, The Miraculous Medal by Mary Fabyan Windeatt.
The serpent, that represents the devil was the last finishing touches....because I did not know what I could use to make the snake with. I thought I could use the red felt and make a snake from that. My husband, Phil said that the snake was green and yellow. Well, I wandered around the house, racking my brains for what I could use that would really look like a snake and preferably green and yellow....tall order....I went to the linen press and opened the door and there was our picnic rug looking at me. It has tassels of all different variants of colours and patterns and I spied green and yellow tassels!! I didn't need much, it would never be noticed to snip down felt for the apple in the serpent's mouth, an orange bed for his eye, all done!

We are still working out how to hang this, hopefully we will have it sorted before the weekend is out, once it is hanging, I'll show you a picture with all our prayer intentions pinned to it!

Beneath her statue in its niche,
(Let busy skeptics gaze and glower!)
Engather flowers, fresh and sweet,
Proclaim this Mary's hour....
Poppies for her mother-heart
Wounded past the mind's belief,
Lilies for her purity,
Lilacs for her grief,
For this the fairest blooms were plucked
And placed below her image there,
To offer beauty as a gift
And fragrance as a prayer.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Miraculous Medal Craft Activity Part 1

For a while now, I have been thinking of a way to make the children's prayer intentions for others (and mine - 'cause I'm a big kid) more tangible. We need an easy and hard-not-to miss reminder to pray for our friends and family on a daily basis. Also something that visually displays Our Blessed Mother's real motherly love and powerful intercessory power, so as to gently tap us on the heart, "don't forget to pray, your powerful and ever loving Mother is waiting..".

I often ponder a quote from a saint (maybe St Louis deMontfort) "One sigh from Our Lady is more powerful than all the prayers, martrydoms and sacrifices of all the saints and angels combined." Could have all the saints and angels changed Our Lord's plans at the wedding feast at Cana? I doubt it - but The Woman's quiet and gentle, "Do whatever He tells you" did.

I love the Miraculous Medal, I love the whole story of St Catherine Labore and one of the most famous miracles attached to the medal - the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne. (I often have my husband to thank in introducing me to powerful Marian devotions and stories...) The prayer, "Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us, who have recourse to thee." is so simple and easy - childlike but deadly powerful, enough to make the foundations of Hell quake with fear. If I feel I don't have the strength and energy for a simple prayer, I can say this little ejaculation. In fact, I've said it over and over again in moments of great anxiety and fear and it has soothed me, given me peace and answered my prayers. It is the perfect prayer for a child but in it holds incredible truths and a powerful plea, that will not go unanswered.

So I thought we could make a miraculous medal mobile where we could afix our daily prayer intentions, as they are answered we take them down. We could read them out each morning as a reminder of who and what we are praying for. When we see it gently moving in the breeze, it will prompt us to say, "Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us, who have recourse to thee." We hope (with daddy's permission) to hang it in our lounge near our altar somewhere.

We went to Spotlight to buy all our crafty things for this project - but what to use for the medal itself...I was not sure. I had a browse in the folkart area and saw all the plain wooden items ready and waiting to be painted and decorated with folkart paints. There I found an oval shaped..plate, I think that is what it is... It is quite big, when I say we're not going to miss it, I mean we're not going to miss it! I sort of knew that with the plans I had in mind it was not going to be an activity the children could do completely by themselves but the painting of it was definately their domain! They took turns with folk paints, a roller and brushes, and I reckon they did a good job! This is the side that will feature Our Blessed Mother.

This is the side where the 12 stars will feature...

We used golden star stickers for the stars and then stuck blue five-pointed star diamontes inside each golden star. Then I cut out the felt cross/altar and 'M' and that was glued on.

Here is where the finicky work started...I cut out the hearts from felt and then started to glue little beads to make the crown of thorns, the flames and the sword. Some fabric flowers were glued onto the Immaculate Heart. The first side was now finished........

"O Flowers of flowers, Our Lady of the May
Thou gavest us the World's one Light of Light:
Under the stars, amid the snows, He lay;
While Angels, through the Galilean night
Sang glory and sang peace:
Nor doth their singing cease,
For thou their Queen and He their King sit crowned
Above the stars, above the bitter snows;
They chaunt to thee the Lily, Him the Rose,
With white Saints kneeling round.
Gone is cold night: thine now are spring and day:
Flower of flowers, our Lady of the May!

O Flower of flowers, our Lay of the May!
Thou gavest us the blessed Christmas mirth:
And now, not snows, but blossoms, light thy way;
We give thee the fresh flower-time of the earth.
These early flowers we bring,
Are angels of the spring,
Spirits of gracious rain and light and dew.
Nothing so like to thee the whole earth yields,
As these pure children of her vales and fields,
Bright beneath skies of blue.
Hail Holy Queen! Their fragrant breathings say:
Flower of flowers, our Lady of the May!

O Flower of flowers, our Lady of the May!
Breathe from God's garden of eternal flowers
Blessing, when we thy little children pray:
Let thy soul's grace steal gently over ours.
Send on us dew and rain,
That we may bloom again,
Nor wither in the dry and parching dust.
Lift up our hearts, till with adoring eyes,
O Morning Star! We hail thee in the skies,
Star of our hope and trust!
Sweet Star, sweet Flower, there bid thy beauty stay:
O Flower of flowers, our Lady of the May!

O Flower of flowers, Our Lady of the May!
Thou leftest lilies rising from thy tomb:
They shone in stately and serene array,
Immaculate amid death's house of gloom.
Ah, let thy graces be
Sown in our dark hearts! We
Would make our hearts gardens for thy dear care:
Watered from wells of Paradise, and sweet
With balm winds flowing from the Mercy Seat,
And full of heavenly air:
While music ever in thy praise should play,
O Flower of flowers, our Lady of the May!

O Flower of flowers, our Lady of the May!
Not only for ourselves we plead, God's Flower!
Look on thy blinded children, who still stray,
Lost in this pleasant land, thy chosen Dower!
Send us a perfect spring:
Let faith arise and sing,
And England from her long, cold winter wake.
Mother of Mercy! Turn upon her need
Thine eyes of mercy: be there spring indeed:
So shall thine Angels make
A starrier music, than our hearts can say,
O Flower of flowers, our Lady of the May!"

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Our Patronal Feast and May Crowning

Today is the patronal feast of Australia, Our Lady Help of Christians, 24th of May, because this feast is particular to us, I have chosen today to be the day we crown Our Mother, "Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May!"

On of my greatest sadnesses as a mother, who lives liturgically in the home, is the fact that we belong to the Southern Hemisphere and our seasons do not tie in with the legendary sayings, poems, occasional receipes and activities that would go with a particular physical season that in many ways, matches the liturgical season.

Like this beautiful poem:

"May is Mary's month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season-
Candlemas, Lady Day:
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honor?
Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring?
Growth in every thing-
All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathizing
With that world of good,
Nature's motherhood.
Well but there was more than this:
Spring's universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May."
I am keenly aware of this when I read books like, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, for even though it is a beautiful secular book it does refer to many religious sayings connected with the season or A Book of Feast and Seasons which is just full of them....

May is the perfect example, our countryside is not quite exclaiming what we are wanting it to exclaim for the special month of May. Nonetheless, we do the best with what we have. Our garden does not have many flowers at present as we are just about to enter winter but also because we are in a very serious drought (and chooks running amuck!) The children were sent out to, "find what you can" and they really did a lovely job! They came back with crimson coloured bougainvillea and sprigs from the 'snowflake' bush which always flowers in the month of May, looking like a bush heavy laden with snow.

The children had found an old bag of wooden curtain rings in last few days and some had been lying around in the lounge, just the perfect size for a crown! So we stuck with tape, the two flowers all the way around the ring and there, we had a perfect crown for our Mother!

The children placed the left over flowers in a vase and a lovely cushion was placed near our Mother for the crown to sit on, while we sung some hymns to our Mother - "As I Kneel Before You" then "Bring Flowers of the Rarest" as our little four year old was given the honours of holding the wreath, ready to crown his Mother.

We finished with "Hail, Holy Queen Enthroned Above." I had found some beautiful May poems that I had placed in a file from our big May crowning from another year and I printed them up and we took turns in reading them out loud, so beautiful, these precious poems!

We had a nice little feast of meat pies (a real Aussie treat!) and a big block of white chocolate as we watched the second half of The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima and children coloured in a lovely picture of Our Lady of the Rosary from Mother of God colouring book - this book is just a treasure of beautiful pictures.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Oh, I just had to come back.....

I just had to come back and add this picture...I went looking for my darling four year old and couldn't find him. After a bit of searching I found him, fast asleep, cuddled up in my rocker wrapped up in one of my Marian tapesteries...'under her starry mantle'...well this little fellow truly is.

Children's May Day Crowning

Helen is hosting a Lovliness of Marian Devotion fair over at The Castle of the Immaculate and I have this posting, not from this year's May but Helen has been good to allow this to be part of this beautiful fair.
Invitations had gone out, with the invite itself written over the top of this beautiful image of Our Blessed Mother.

"She wears sunlight in her hair
And violets in her eyes
And her cheeks are the petals of a rose.
She bears Love on her arm
And lilies are her feet,
And they carry Life wherever she goes.
There are graces on her lips
And rainbows on her robes
And her wreath is the coronet of May.
She is Fairy Queen of earth-
The wand at her heart
Is a Bud from the Triune Bouquet.
She is Mother, Queen, and Maid,
And God is her Child,
And her Courts are the meadows where They play
And her Courts Forever and for aye.
She is Mary full of grace.
She is Queen of Eternal May."

This was a special day where the children led the prayers, procession, consecration and crowning of Our Blessed Mother at our home. The house and yard had been joyfully decorated in Marian coloured streamers and bows. Marian tapestries were hung, banners proclaiming our love to our Mother were fluttering in the breeze and the Mary Garden was all prepared for the crowning.

It started off with the children being broken up into 2 age groups, and a Marian book was read and discussed - This is the under 5 group, where a lady is reading The Donkey's Dream and discussing the Marian symbols.

The older group was read a story from The Forty Dreams of St John Bosco where he relates the dream with the boys bringing up various gifts to Our Lady, some beautiful, some tainted, some unacceptable - we also talked about a rosary a day for the rest of our lives is 2 million "pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death" that we have said for our death bed.

Then the older boys led the procession around the yard, whilst reciting the rosary and singing a Marian hymn in between each decade. A child led each mystery.

The younger girls had brought flower petals from their own gardens and were scattering the petals in front of their Mother...kissing each petal and throwing it.

The boys led us right around the perimeter of our yard, while the strains of a Marian hymn rang out.

The bower that our Mother stood in, was filled with the flowers the children from each family had brought to honour her, a blue mantilla lace for her mantle.

The Hail Holy Queen was recited in front of our Mother as the procession came to an end.

The children then led us all in consecrating ourselves to her motherly love and care.

Then the specially chosen, older girl, dressed in white and blue, crowned our Mother with a woven crown made from the roses and flowers in the garden.

The day finished with shared plates of food on the deck and some Marian games for the children to enjoy.

"The Many Faces of Our Lady" game, with different images of Our Lady hanging from the tree. This game had some elements of musical chairs (to the strains of Dana's Hail Holy Queen tape) with an image of Our Lady being called out and explained, the child who was holding onto that image would then step out to the side and continue to watch, the image then removed from the tree. When the music started again they would move in out of the pictures floating above their heads and hold onto another one when the music stopped. The winning child being the last one to have their image called out and explained.

Then there was a Marian quiz that tested the Marian knowledge of pairs of children, until there was only one winning pair left.

The games finished with an exciting Marian Quiz Treasure Hunt, with three teams, Team Fatima, Team Lourdes, Team Guadalupe, each team had a parent to supervise their quest. The teams would run from one base to the next (each teams going to different bases at different times) and opening up their next quiz question which had to be answered correctly for them to move to the next base with the final quiz question leading them to the treasure in the Mary Garden.

It was a beautiful day to honour Our Blessed Mother that we will never forget!