Sunday, January 31, 2010

Something to Brighten Your February

With the new month upon us, it's time to turn the calendar. February's calendar desktop is ready over at our Picasa Album. This month, I've tweaked the sizes offered slightly to better reflect our site statistics, but if your monitor size is missing, feel free to comment and let us know!

Instructions for applying the desktop can be found at the January post.

Just one more reason why I love my priest...

He's a great diplomat with a pious agenda to bring us ever nearer to beautiful liturgy. From today's bulletin:

On Holy Thursday we celebrate the institution of two sacraments, Holy Orders and the Eucharist. Holy Thursday is also the Liturgy in which we remember Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles. In John's Gospel, this foot-washing is connected to the Apostles being ordained. In light of this year being named the Year for Priests, this year's Holy Thursday foot-washing will be all men.

Jan. 31- Feb. 6: Catholic Schools Week

Saturday, January 30, 2010

What's on my Prayer Table?

I've just added this statue of Saint Peregrine to remind me to pray often for an extraordinary Church Lady who brings beauty to the lives of hundreds of people every week. In the midst of treatment for leukemia, she is fighting serious infections and is on a ventilator to counter the excessive fluid on her lungs. If you have a spare moment, please join us in prayer.

Prayer to Saint Peregrine

O great St. Peregrine, you have been called "The Mighty," "The Wonder-Worker," because of the numerous miracles which you have obtained from God for those who have had recourse to you.

For so many years you bore in your own flesh this cancerous disease that destroys the very fibre of our being, and who had recourse to the source of all grace when the power of man could do no more. You were favoured with the vision of Jesus coming down from His Cross to heal your affliction. Ask of God and Our Lady, the cure of the sick whom we entrust to you.

(Pause here and silently recall the names of the sick for whom you are praying)

Aided in this way by your powerful intercession, we shall sing to God, now and for all eternity, a song of gratitude for His great goodness and mercy.

(and thank you!)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Lace Primer

I hope you're not tired of lace yet because I have one more link for you. My original intent was to begin all this lace craziness with a bit of a primer on the wide world of options. Not surprisingly, in the middle of collecting photos and descriptions I found someone had already done it.

Check out Lace Fairy's impressive collection at her site. Have you ever wondered what Tunisian lace looks like? Where to find a lace shop in Cyprus? The history of Chinese lace? She's got it. She also has over 100 types of lace sorted alphabetically with lots of photos and clear descriptions.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Giving a "soul" to the web

In his message for the 44th World Day for Social Communications, Pope Benedict calls for priests to "make astute use" of available technology in becoming a presence as community leaders on the web.
-Catholic News Agency
Reading this made me think about the interactions I have with priests through the web and how they've enriched my life. Here are a few of my favorites:
  • Author, convert, school chaplain, speaker, blogger, husband and father; Father Dwight Longenecker is a busy guy! Fascinating posts on the Personal Ordinariate for Anglicans and lots of other fun. I love his alter egos, especially Caitlyn O'Rourke and Mantilla Amontillado (aka Mantilla the Hon, and it's a dream of mine to have Mantilla write a guest post of advice for our Church Ladies someday. ;-)
  • Father Robert Barron may well be the poster priest for effective use of technology to reach a huge "congregation." You can find him in print, watch his Faith Clips and listen to his pod casts, and browse his 200 entries on YouTube (everything from movie reviews, to explaining the Holy Trinity). I can hardly wait for his Catholicism Project to be completed- even the trailer gives me goosebumps!
  • Father Phillip Powell, OP at Domine, da mihi hanc aquam! also blogs about news and posts his great homilies. Author, outstanding teacher, UDallas grad, and current student, Father Powell's Coffee Bowl Browsing posts have led me to way too many interesting things on the 'net and I appreciate his political leanings (and his quirky sense of humor).
  • Father Zuhlsdorf is a clearinghouse of all things Catholic. No one beats his blog for sheer volume of posts and for lively interaction in the comments box.
Who are your favorites?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More veil ideas

There are lots of beautiful veils available (most with copyrighted photos so I won't use them here), but you can apply the principles from my post earlier this week to create many of them at home.

The foundation fabric most commonly used for veils is tulle, a fine netting typically made of silk or nylon. Nylon tulle is very inexpensive and comes in a variety of widths, up to 108 inches. Because it will not ravel when cut, it's perfect for this use.

This one starts with 72" or 108" width tulle. Cut a rectangle the length you want for your finished veil and then generously round the bottom. Hand sew the trim onto it according to yesterday's directions. To finish it, gather the top edge with a running stitch and sew it to a plastic comb (or two).

This one is a large oval of tulle with lace sewn around the perimeter. (Probably 72" width, but measure from one elbow, over your head to the other elbow for an accurate diameter.) It's worn just draped over her head, without a comb in photo 2. To wear it like photo 1, hand sew it to a plastic comb under the lace at the center top. To reinforce the lace, you could sew a piece of satin ribbon between the comb and the underside of the veil.

Instead of a lace edge, this one has a narrow, satin ribbon machine sewn about 1/2" from the edge of the tulle. After you attach the ribbon, trim the extra tulle edge away and attach it to a comb, headband, wreath, or hair clip.

This edge is finished with a narrow, satin rattail cord. Simply lay the cord on top of your tulle, about 1/2 inch from the cut edge, and use a zig-zag stitch and clear nylon thread or matching cotton/poly or rayon thread made for lightweight fabrics. Your stitch width should be wide enough that the zig-zag goes on either side of the cord, but not through it. Carefully cut the extra tulle off the edge without cutting through the stitching, and finish the veil with some kind of comb, etc.

This helpful site gives measurement suggestions, but there are also patterns with detailed instructions available.

Making a veil can be a very satisfying project. Besides the potential to save a lot of money, even a novice seamstress can get beautiful results.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Where Were the Young Women?

According to one Newsweek reporter's blog, this year's March for Life in Washington DC was shorter and there were few young people there because "the organizers are getting older" and "a majority of the participants are in their 60s and were the original pioneers..."

What say you, marchers? Was that your experience? ;-)

Conversion of St. Paul

But the Lord said to him,
"Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name
before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;
for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."
[Acts 9, 15-16]

Of course I have heard the Pauline epistles at Mass, Sunday after Sunday. It wasn't until reading Anne of Green Gables and other fiction of that era that employ Scripture in the prose that I realized how little of the epistles I knew offhand; it wasn't until the year of St Paul I read the epistles through for the first time. Take some time for that reading today, and share your favorite Pauline quote (or 2!) in the combox.

My picks are:
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. [Rm 8, 28]

And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. [Gal 6, 9]
Top Image: Michelangelo, The Conversion of Saul, 1542-45
Bottom Image: Abraham Ortelius, Pilgrimage of St Paul, 1579

Working With Lace

It’s not uncommon for a Church Lady to have occasion to sew with lace. Veils are an obvious project; chapel veils, wedding veils, maybe a First Communion veil for your daughter or goddaughter. I’ve also used lace trim to lengthen a hemline or make a too-low neckline more modest, edge a prayer table cloth, trim an apron, and so on...

This chapel veil project will demonstrate some simple techniques you can use with a commonly found lace that is also inexpensive and easy to work with. Chantilly lace was originally a handmade bobbin lace from Chantilly, France. It’s typically a detailed floral design outlined by a somewhat thicker thread on an evenly knotted background. It was originally made of silk, but now you will probably only find nylon. These are two patterns of Chantilly lace you will find today at just about any fabric or craft store:
The nice thing about modern Chantilly lace is that it doesn’t ravel at all so you don’t have to finish the edges. That quality makes it really easy to work with.

For this project, you’ll need lace yard goods (sold on a bolt and somewhere between 36” and 72” wide) and lace trim.

And this is where it gets fun. Because this lace doesn’t ravel, you can cut it in all sorts of patterns. For example, I started with this piece of trim

and was able to use a small embroidery scissors (or cuticle scissors) to cut it into three different, usable designs.
I’m using the narrow border for this veil and tucking the other pieces away for a future project.

1. Design a pattern: A classic triangle-shaped veil is 36 inches across the front and 18 inches from the center front to the back point. The one I made here is more of a D shape. I started with a 22” x 18” rectangle of scrap fabric, folded it in half and rounded the corners.
At this point, try it on your head to get some idea if you like the length and shape. Now is the time to change it if you don’t like something.

2. Pin your pattern onto the lace. I purchased ½ yard of 54” wide Chantilly lace. That would be enough to make two veils in this design. (I’m only cutting one out now.) It’s a nice touch if you can consider the design in the lace when you lay out your pattern. For example, I was able to center the pattern on one of the flower motifs. (This detail is probably not a deal breaker, but does give a more professional look.)
3. Cut the lace around the pattern, unpin, and carefully tuck your pattern away for the day when some other Church Lady asks where you got your beautiful veil. ;-)

4. Pin your border lace in place. Again, consider the placement so the center front is as nice as possible. Place the ends in the most inconspicuous spot (mine are on the side, near the back) The goal for pinning is to avoid puckering when you sew! You’ll want to place your pins pretty close together so everything is held firmly in place.
You may not want to pin the entire perimeter (pins have a maddening tendency to fall out of lace), but keep at least the 6” in front of your needle pinned. When working on a fine fabric like this, I like to sit at a table so the entire piece of fabric is well supported. It helps keep the pins in place and makes things less likely to pucker as I sew. Really, it’s just a personal preference though. You could also sew with it resting on your lap.
5. Use a running stitch, following the trim design around the edges to hold all the points and flowers down. This lace is pretty narrow; If you’re using a wider one, you’d want to sew on both edges of the trim to hold the fabric down and make things look nicely on the back as well. My running stitches are small on the top (first photo below) of the veil and longer (about ¼ inch) on the back. (second photo below) knot your thread every few inches to make it all more durable.
You’ll soon get the feel for the proper tension for your stitches. The goal is a balance between slack thread and puckered stitches. If you’ve never done this before, you may want to do a few inches of practice stitches on some scrap lace.

6. When you get to the ends of the trim, overlap them slightly and stitch them in place.

In summary, make a pattern, cut out your lace, sew the trim on with a running stitch, wear your veil. Simple!

The entire veil only cost about $4
  • ½ yard lace - $3.90 (Originally $12.99/yard but I used a coupon. Seriously, I don't think I ever pay full price at JoAnn Fabrics. Sign up to get their coupons if you're near one of their stores. Remember, this was enough to make 2 veils, so the cost per veil was under $2.)
  • 2 1/3 yards trim (The trim I originally purchased cost $2.15. I ended up using a piece I had in my lace scrap box - the piece pictured here - because it was better for demonstration purposes.)
  • All-purpose thread
  • Needle
  • An embroidery scissors with a sharp tip
A few more notes:
  • It's easiest to use a narrow trim lace. Wider trims can be dramatic and beautiful, but it may require some creative cuts to make it stay flat around the corners.
  • I was really surprised to see how few choices my fabric store has for lace trim! Just a month ago they offered three times the trim they now have. I hope this trend doesn't continue.
  • Obviously, you can find lace in the bridal department, but you may also want to check the decorator department. I've seen some really pretty laces that are made for drapery or tablecloths. :-)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

In the market for a car?

We are (or were until last Wednesday), and it was surprising to see how few cars are made to comfortably hold more than 4 people.

That probably explains why my family was surprised and amused to see this Dodge commercial recently:

No matter how you feel about minivans, or Dodge, or commercial television for that matter, this new ad has an interesting message. Not only is Dodge acknowledging that some families have more than 1.3 children, they made a car that will transport you!

While we were searching for a video of the commercial to embed in this post, we found another Dodge ad with the caption, "Another great reason to have kids."

Of course, my nagging little cynic voice is reminding me that they're just trying to sell a product. I'm going to set that aside for a little while though, and just enjoy the fact that my friends and I (whose average family size is, well ... actually pretty close to 7) are right there on the cutting edge of cool. ;-)

There are guys who’ll smirk at you for driving a Dodge Grand Caravan.
For some reason having a minivan that happens to have the
2009 dependability award
from JD Powers and associates isn’t… manly enough.
Think about it for a second.
Filling a car with 5 of your offspring isn’t manly enough?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

As if you needed a reason...

It's never clear who makes these things up, but someone has declared today to be National Handwriting Day. We suggest you celebrate by creating a piece of hand-written correspondence, perhaps with your fountain pen. Practicing your calligraphic skills would also be appropriate.

It also happens to be the anniversary of the birth of John Hancock.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Helping your PRC: Prayer

Today marks the 37th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision.

Over 50,600,000 children have been killed through legal, surgical abortion since that day.

Above all else: pray

Eternal Father, You are the Creator and Source of all life. Bless and protect all children threatened by abortion. Open the hearts of their parents and those who would seek to destroy their lives.

Strengthen all fathers. Make them mirrors of Your boundless love and protection so that they may defend and provide for their children.

Comfort all mothers. Reveal Your unmeasurable goodness to them so that they may place their trust in You and nourish the lives which You have entrusted to them.

Enlighten all lawmakers, doctors, and healthcare providers so that they may come to a deeper understanding and reverence for all human life, from the very moment of conception until natural death.

We ask these things in the name of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, Your beloved and only Son, Whom You sent to deliver us from the bonds of sin, and Who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

March for Life 2010

The folks at AUL (Americans United for Life) have created something that deserves a prize. I'm just not sure which prize it deserves.

Now you have the opportunity to march online, alongside your fellow pro-lifers - even if you can't be in Washington. AUL Action is proud to host the first Virtual March for Life.

It will only take seconds, sign up, select your own "avatar" and then invite your pro-life friends and family to participate as well. It's the best way to "be there" even if you can't be there.

You can also check out the avatars of Leaders Marching for Life.

I think my favorite is Joe the Plumber:

I'm not sure what they were going for, but last time I checked, Our Man Joe didn't have yellow eyebrows:

For whatever it's worth, though, feel free to head on over there and join the throngs. When you're done you can find yourself on the Mall.

It's nice, and all that, but in a couple hours, I'm going to be boarding a bus along with many, many other Domers and making the 12 hour trek down there so I can be at the March in person!

By the way, in case you were wondering, Notre Dame is sponsoring 8 buses with a total of over 370 students (a record breaking year!) In addition, over 30 faculty and staff members will join them in D.C. along with numerous alumni and friends.

Go Irish, Save Babies!

Please keep us, and all marchers, mothers, fathers, babies, and lawmakers in your prayers.

Thank you.

St Agnes

Today is the birthday of a virgin; let us imitate her purity. It is the birthday of a martyr; let us offer ourselves in sacrifice. It is the birthday of Saint Agnes, who is said to have suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve. The cruelty that did not spare her youth shows all the more clearly the power of faith in finding one so young to bear it witness.
[St Ambrose]

The Church Ladies are big fans of St Agnes. But who can't stand to benefit from her patronage?

Here are some customs associated with St Agnes:
-Because of the similarity of her name to the Latin for "lamb" (agnus), the lamb has been St. Agnes' symbol since the 6th century. On 21 January, the Trappist fathers of the Monastery of Tre Fontane provide two lambs from their sheepfold to the Benedictine nuns of Saint Cecilia....The lambs are blessed and incensed before being taken to the Vatican for the Pope's blessing. Then they are delivered to the Convent of Saint Cecilia to become the pets of the sisters until Holy Thursday (when they are shorn) before being sacrificed on Good Friday...The wool from these lambs is woven into 12 archbishops' palliums. [source]

-Get maximum value out of your lamb pan. Use it to bake bread or a cake today. Serve with some Roman antipasti, like roasted artichokes, stuffed mushrooms, anchovies, or calamari. Try some pecorino cheese, which is made from sheep's milk.

-Here's a challenge for our more musical Church Ladies: Try setting St Ambrose's Hymn to St Agnes to music.

Helping your PRC: Bottle Drive

A great and relatively easy way to help out your local pregnancy resource center is to organize a bottle drive.

5 Super-Easy Steps for a Great Bottle Drive

1) Collect or buy a large quantity of baby bottles.

2) Pass out a bottle to each person in your target group. It could be your church, school/homeschool group, sodality, family & friends. You can appeal to one group of people or multiple groups. Of course, be sure to ask the permission of the proper authorities if needed: i.e. your pastor at church.

3) Encourge everyone to take a bottles home and fill them with spare change over a designated period of time. (A couple weeks is usually a good period of time)

4) Collect the filled bottles on a designated day.

5) Count money, take it to the bank, and exchange it for bills (or use a service like coinstar). Then give the money to your PRC!


Photo Credit

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Helping your PRC: Donate

Donations keep pregnancy resource centers running - both monetary and material. Consider helping your PRC by giving a little.

A Brief Guide to Donating

Monetary Donations
$5 or $5000 will help. No donation is ever too small. Make space in your family budget to give to your PRC. Some families choose to give monthly, others yearly, and some give when they can. Whatever your case may be, anything and everything will be appreciated. Thank you!

Material Donations
Most PRCs accept used and new baby items. Some accept maternity clothes. Only a select few accept non-pregnancy or baby related items (such as regular women's clothing and household items) Before giving, it's usually a good idea to call and check to see what kinds of donations your PRC accepts/prefers. Chances are if your PRC can't use the items you give, they'll turn around and give it to St. Vincent's.

Awesome Donations
  • New or clean, gently used baby clothes
  • Packages of Diapers
  • New baby items including furniture, car seats and toiletries
  • New or clean, gently used maternity clothes
  • Hand knit or crocheted baby hats, booties, blankets, etc - a church lady special! Knit away, ladies!
Start them out right with something like these adorable baby MaryJanes to the right knitted by Therese! The pattern is sold on Ravelry.

Not-Awesome Donations
  • Stained, soiled, or otherwise damaged baby clothes
  • Stained, soiled, or otherwise damaged maternity clothes
  • Opened/expired baby food or formula
  • Used cribs and used car seats
  • Used baby furniture, swings, bouncers, etc
Unfortunately, due to the wonderful world of legal liability all of the stuff in the "not-awesome" category can't - or shouldn't- be used by PRCs, particularly the used furniture and carseats. Some PRCs will risk giving them to needy mothers, but for the PRCs sake, don't encourage them! The last thing they need is a lawsuit over a failed crib or carseat while Planned Parenthood and NARAL's minons dance about chanting "baby killers!" If you do plan on donating such items, make sure you can provide the PRC with the user manuals, model name and year, and ideally the original packaging. That way the PRC can check for recalls on the item.

ND Program Creates Online Spiritual Dialogue

In February, ... through the program “Tender, Strong, and True: Living the Gospel Daily,” expert panels will discuss a variety of topical issues from a faith-based perspective. Integrating social media and Internet broadcast capabilities, viewers will be able to participate in the discussions live.

The Tender, Strong, and True series opens on Sunday, Feb. 7 from 8:00-8:45 p.m. EST with “Persevering in Prayer: Getting It Started and Keeping It Going.” The program will feature panelists
Rev. Brian Daley, the Catherine F. Huisking Chair in Theology, and Tami Schmitz, assistant director of spirituality for Notre Dame Campus Ministry. Monsignor Michael Heintz ’08 Ph.D, director of Notre Dame’s Master of Divinity program, will serve as the moderator.

Each program will be broadcast online via UStream, a website consisting of a network of channels that provide a platform for live video streaming of events online. Once users log into Notre Dame’s UStream page, they enjoy a high quality, TV-like viewing experience that also allows them the opportunity to interact with panelists via Twitter, Facebook, or other online social media.

“Ustream’s technology provides the Alumni Association the opportunity to reach a much larger alumni audience than more conventional tools,” Sullivan states. “The live program and its interactive component create an event that encourages a community of learners.”

For those who cannot participate in live airings, each broadcast will be archived both on the Notre Dame Ustream site and on [source]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

If the Saints Wrote Conversation Hearts...

A little seasonal fun from Acts of the Apostasy. (This one from Thomas Aquinas, of course.)

Visit them to see lots more and get the link to make your own.

Cloche Tip: And Sometimes Tea

Helping your PRC: Baby Shower Part 2

(Continued from yesterday's post)

Now that you've planned the essentials of the baby shower, there are a few more details you might want to consider.

3 Ways to Make your PRC Baby Shower a Success

1.) Food & Decorations
Don't forget the food! Pull out your Church Lady Book of Recipes and make something nice. A cake is a must. It will be a particular hit if it's cute and baby themed. Make sure there are a lot of healthy snacks too, as most pregnancy resource centers try to encourage good eating and prenatal care. Think veggie and fruit trays, pretzels, and other fun, healthy snacks.

Don't forget to make the venue look festive too. Streamers and balloons - make it look nice, but at the same time don't blow your budget on it.

2.) Icebreakers
Chances are that no one at your baby shower knows each other. Although I can tell you a horrible story about a time when two women did, but we won't go there. It's important to remember sensitivity to these women, their situations, etc. But, at the same time, to have fun, you'll all want to get to know each other a bit. The goal then is to break the ice as much as possible without disclosing too much info they might not want to share.

Icebreakers alone are a touchy subject - right? How many of you rolled your eyes when you saw: 2) Icebreakers? Probably a lot. So be wise. Definitely avoid icebreakers that require physical contact, even if it's just shaking hands.

Go with something like "Marooned." It's easy, flexible and you can add whatever twist you'd like. The basic is you're stuck on an island what _____(3 things, 2 movies, 5 foods, etc. - maybe put a baby twist on and ask for baby items) would you have with you?
Example: Hi, I'm ___. If I were marooned I'd be sure to have my favorite hat, my knitting needles, and ...don't old stuffed bear.

Or whatever. You might want to have the ladies add when their baby's due. You can also ask if they know the sex of the baby and the name they've picked out or are considering - but you might want to save those questions for a game later on.

If you have a younger crowd who looks like they might not be too introverted, there's the animal icebreaker that's great for helping to remember names. Each person associates their name with an animal that shares the same first letter and then concludes by imitating that animal in sound and gesture.
Example: Hi I'm Beth and my animal's a bluebird! Chirp, chirp (flap arms)

Or whatever.

Name tags can be a good idea. But some people find it makes the environment feel more like a meeting and less like a party.

3.)Fun and Games
Games are part of practically every baby shower - whether for a crisis pregnancy center or not. However, in selecting games for your PRC shower, be use to use extra special sensitivity to the women for whom the shower is being held.
Important rule: Avoid games that make reference to the father of the baby. It's often a sore subject. Also, stay away from baby food tasting and other food-related games.

This website offers a number of baby games - not all of which are PRC suitable. Some of them can also make great icebreakers.

I highly recommend fill in the blank nursery rhymes. Here's one you can print off and pass around. Give people a time limit, and the one who fills in the most correctly wins.

As with all parties, make sure you have a lot of games on hand, but don't force anyone to play or make the games drag out for too long.

For that matter, don't make the party drag on too long.

Have fun!

Photo Credit: Flickr

Movie Pick: Arranged

At the recommendation of my daughter, Francesca, I've just finished watching a delightful movie about two pious women of different faiths.

From Netflix:
When Rochel and Nasira -- an Orthodox Jew and a Muslim, respectively -- meet as new teachers at a Brooklyn school, co-workers and students expect friction. But the women discover they have a shared expectation of entering into arranged marriages. As they experience tension between their traditional cultures and life in contemporary America, Rochel and Nasira form a special bond.
  1. Basically, it's about two women holding onto traditional values in a society that doesn't share their point of view,
  2. It's a lesson on cultural diversity that isn't dripping with annoying political correctness,
  3. It's a respectful view of faith issues, and
  4. It's two beautiful pictures of family life.
All in all, the best chick-flick I've seen in a long time! (And it's a Netflix instant watch option.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Some stained glass for your domestic church

These crochet blankets are both contenders in Ravelry's Bobby awards.

Top: Cathedral Rose Window (crocheted by JulieAnny)
Bottom: Stained Glass Blanket (crocheted by MyDailyFiber)

Belated Epiphany baking

I held my annual Epiphany party this past weekend (much belated because the local schools weren't in session.)

A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Mid'ian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.

They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.

[Is 60, 6]

My vintage cookie press has a camel plate.
What better time to use it?

The marzipan top for the cake. A few other people also brought desserts, so I skipped making the traditional buche de noel, and made a layer cake instead. I stuck the plastic baby Jesus in after baking.

And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
[Is 60, 3]

I supplemented the flowers with clementines around the vase.

Lest we forget

Martin Luther King, Jr. with Father Theodore Hesburgh, CSC

I am aware that there are many who wince at a distinction between property and persons--who hold both sacrosanct. My views are not so rigid. A life is sacred. Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on; it is not man. [Martin Luther King, Jr.]

Helping your PRC: Baby Shower Part 1

The excitement and near-giddiness that cute baby items bring a woman is priceless. It's even more priceless when such items are given to a mother who has nothing.

Most women who are driven to consider abortion are motivated by dire - or at least seemingly dire - financial situations.

Offer to host baby showers for your local Pregnancy Resource Center! It's a great activity for your local group of church ladies, but don't be afraid to fly solo if you're organized, have the resources or are good at getting what you need. You will bring more joy that you can imagine. Not only will you give a mother comfort in knowing that she has supplies (and adorable ones at that!) for the baby, but you will help her see that little thing in her belly as a the precious child that he or she is.

5 Steps to Plan a PRC Baby Shower:

1.) Get to know your PRC and find out if they have baby shower guidelines established, and what their other needs may be.

2.) Determine for whom the shower will be held
You could host a shower for one woman, or a group. You could host it for women who originally planned to abort or for women who are simply suffering financially - or for whomever you or your PRC see fit.

3.) Identify the woman's needs

I'd recommend putting together a substantial layette for the baby's first months. Focus on the basics - don't get carried away with frivolous things that are cute but not vital to baby's care.

Bigger items like bassinets, cribs, car seats are undoubtedly the best thing you can give a woman. But they are very costly. If you can raise the money to give them: awesome! But if not, don't feel bad. Hospitals, fire and police stations often offer infant car seats for free or for a nominal donation. Check to see if there are other organizations in the area that can help with cribs (maybe St. Vincent's or the Christ Child Society).

Here's a good rule that I've used for past showers:
  • 1 pack of infant gowns (usually found in packs of 2)
  • 1-2 packs of onezies/bodysuits (usually found in packs of 5)
  • 1-2 packs of sleepers (usually found in packs of 3)
  • 1 pack of hats (usually sold 2-3 together)
  • 1 pack of booties (usually sold with 4 pairs)
  • 1 pack of bibs (usually 5-7 together)
  • 1 pack of washcloths (usually in packs of 5)
  • 1 pack baby towels (usually in packs of 2-3)
  • 1 pack receiving blankets (usually in packs of 3-5)
  • 1 heavier blanket
  • 1-2 baby toys - something that baby can use to teeth is a good idea
  • A package of diapers - size 1 is good. If you have the resources, feel free to go all out and give multiple packages of different sizes.
  • A nice gift for mom! Maybe a bath kit, a mug with a box tea (make sure it's appropriate for pregnancy), or anything along those lines.
*Note: For all clothes, go with size 0-3 months.

All of this can then neatly be packaged into
  • 1 baby bath tub AND/OR
  • 1 laundry basket
4.) Set the time, date, and location
Many PRCs are able to accommodate a little party - but for smaller centers you might have to look for another venue like your parish hall. For safety and privacy reasons I strongly advise against hosting these baby showers in your own home.

5.) Determine who's invited
Make sure the baby shower isn't just you and the woman - even if it's for a group of women! Get the PRC's counselors to attend, let the woman/women invite guests. If you're throwing a shower for a group of women, limit the guest number reasonably - maybe she can bring 2 or 3 friends/family members plus any children she already has.
Note: Never, ever exclude children she already has! If you're working with a group shower, it's a good idea to find a volunteer who can help keep the children entertained so mom can relax and have fun, and also not worry about feeling like she should have found a babysitter.

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow....

Jan. 18-25: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

That they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee,
that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
[Jn 17, 21]

History of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

ANTIPHON: That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, in me and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me.

V. I say unto thee, thou art Peter; R. And upon this rock I will build my Church.

[Here is brought to mind the intention for the day's prayer.]

January 18: For the return of the "other sheep" to the One Fold of our Lord Jesus Christ.

January 19: For the return of the Eastern Orthodox Christians to communion with the Apostolic See.

January 20: For the return of the Anglicans to the authority of the Vicar of Christ.

January 21: For the return of all Protestants throughout the world to the unity of the Catholic Church.

January 22: That Christians in America may be one, in union with the Chair of Saint Peter.

January 23: That lapsed Catholics will return to the Sacraments of the Church.

January 24: That the Jewish people will be converted to the Catholic Faith.

January 25: That missionary zeal will conquer the world for Christ.

[The following prayer is then said.]

Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, who saidst unto Thine Apostles: Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you; regard not our sins, but the faith of Thy Church, and grant unto her that peace and unity which are agreeable to Thy Will; Who livest and reignest ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Image: Duccio, Pentecost, 1308-1311, tempera on wood

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Quote of the Day

Why Catholic Churches Should be Tall

I think a lofty church inspires because there is something sacramental about it. Everything in a gothic church points up. When you enter the heart lifts because the building lifts. The gothic structure of solid stone seems to be made instead of something lighter. The delicate tracery, the pointed arches, the finials and filigree transforms the stone and suddenly I am longing that my heart of stone might be re-made and transformed into a heart of fire and light.
This and more from Fr. Longenecker

Helping your PRC: Be a Good Volunteer

If you feel inspired to volunteer your time and service in a needed area for your local pregnancy resource center, be sure that you're not just a volunteer, but a good volunteer.

5 Tips for being a good volunteer:

(And note, these apply to any type of volunteering!)

1) Know your limits
Volunteering 20 hours a week answering phones, maintaining the office, and helping with the landscaping at your PRC might sound good, but be honest with yourself. Do not bite off more than you can chew. Don't volunteer to do something you know you is more than you can handle. Even if you think you can handle it, it's far better to ease into the jobs and gradually build up to your goal.

2) Don't be drafted
The converse of the above. You might know your limits, but you cave when the PRC director begs you to take on 8 jobs all at once because they desperately need to be done. Be honest, be upfront: if you know you can't handle it, tell her now. Offer a reasonable alternative. E.g.: Offer to do the 2 most important jobs instead of all 8. Then offer to help recruit another volunteer.

3) Avoid burnout
Please do Numbers 1 and 2 for this very reason! Volunteers who don't follow those burnout quick. Volunteers who stick to their limits, however, are able to accomplish more work over a longer period of time. And that's really what means the most to a PRC! PRCs (and other non-profits) need dedicated, long-term volunteers.

4) Put your heart in it!
Love volunteering! Make sure that what you do brings you some sort of happiness, fulfillment or satisfaction. Be aware: PRCs are very emotionally challenging and draining places to work. If you find the task you've been given is too stressful, ask to change to something you can really love. We all need to be pulled up, not dragged down! A cheery volunteer is one of the best things you can find.

5) Little things and consistency
That's the key right there.
Little things
Sometimes you might not feel that your volunteer task is all that special or important, but it is. For example, we often ask volunteers to decorate white paper lunch bags with an assortment of baby themed rubber stamps. It seems menial, but we use those bags to give our clients brouchures, prenatal vitamins, and other items. Those cute little stamps add a special touch that further emphasizes "this is a baby!"
Don't be a fair weather volunteer. By volunteering you made a committment and people depend on you. Stick to it! We really don't want to hear you call in the morning with some lame excuse that clearly means you just feel like sleeping in. Sure you don't get a paycheck, but to most non-profits, especially PRCs volunteers are just as essential to the daily opperations as are the paid staff.

Volunteers matter!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Helping Your PRC: Getting to Know You

Before you jump to do anything for your local pregnancy resource center (PRC), please, please, please get a chance to know them!

Find out:
What is the center's background? -Besides being prolife, obviously.
What services do they offer? To whom?
How many women do they see a year?
Are they religiously based/affiliated? If so, do they openly evangelize?

These questions and others will help you better understand the organization so that you can then ask and meet the most important questions:
What do they need? How can you help?

Every PRC has a different personality, and that personality defines its needs.

The PRC I work at it is essentially Catholic in its founding and operation, but practically non-denominational. We do not openly evangelize. That being said, there's another PRC not too far away that is proudly Christian and offers Bibles and Bible study to every person who walks through the door. They could probably use another person to teach Bible study, or donate a book of Bibles, whereas if either of those offers were made to my center, we'd have to turn them down.

On the other hand, the one PRC is a very small office, whereas we have 4 centers in this county alone. We could use a pious woman to answer our phones, even for a couple hours a week, whereas they probably wouldn't need help in that area.

So go ahead, and take the first step: get to know your PRC. Give them a call, or drop by for a visit. Ask how they would like you to get involved.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Working in the Prolife Field

A week from today will mark the 37th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision.

Pious women everywhere have distinguished themselves serving in the prolife field, speaking for the voiceless unborn and supporting their mothers and fathers.

Across the country pregnancy resource centers (PRCs -often referred to as crisis pregnancy centers) enable this work to be done on a large and effective scale.

Currently PRCs are facing a cruel wave of attack. Recently in my hometown, Baltimore, Maryland, PRCs were labeled "false clinics," sued and subsequently ordered by court to prominently display signs declaring that the centers do not provide abortion or birth control. Without a doubt, this was a national test case. According to friends who were in the court room, the case was a sham, the "evidence" of farcical and there were more NARAL and Planned Parenthood reps than you could imagine.

Despite these attacks, PRCs continue to serve numerous women and guide them to choose life.

As a couselor working for the largest independent PRC in the nation, in the days leading up to the anniversary, I'd like to offer 7 ways you can better help your local PRC and in turn help numerous moms and babies.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Dress a Week

Goodness, there are some ambitious bloggers. First, there was the lady who cooked a crockpot recipe every day, and now, via Betty Beguiles, I find this lovely new blog, Sew Weekly. And not only is the blogger finishing a new dress every week, but, so far at least, they have all been from vintage patterns!


Monday, January 11, 2010

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Trafficking victims -- called "survivors" by advocates -- are considered modern-day slaves by law enforcement officials and outreach workers alike. For the traffickers, the motivating factor is money. For the trafficked, the dream is a better life, but it never becomes so.

Worldwide trafficking networks involve systems where individuals are recruited for an honest wage for an honest day's work as they pursue financial independence and freedom. Once in place, usually outside their home country, victims end up under the control of one individual, with their freedom restricted and their safety usually threatened.

98 nonprofits across the U.S. and its territories ... have been subcontracted by Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to provide vital services to foreign-born trafficking victims once they are identified. [CNS]

From the USCCB:

What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is:

  • the illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor;
  • a modern-day form of slavery;
  • the fastest growing criminal industry in the world and is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest, after the drug-trade.
What is the extent of the problem?
The U.S. State Department estimates that 600,000 - 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders each year and approximately 14,500 – 17,500 of them are trafficked into the U.S. annually. Based on estimates by the U.S. government of the numbers of all trafficking victims and comparing those figures with widely cited figures of foreign-born children in the sex trade in the United States, USCCB/MRS estimates conservatively about one-third of foreign born victims trafficked into the country are children.

USCCB Response to Human Trafficking

Image source

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Baptism of the Lord

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said,
"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
[Jn 1, 29]

Image: El Greco, The Baptism, 1596-1600, oil on canvas

Jan 10-17: National Vocation Awareness Week

The Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week, January 10-16. “This week provides the opportunity for parishes across the country to promote vocations through prayer and education,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “It is our responsibility to encourage young people to be generous in their response as they discern the possibility of a call to service in the Church. We must also ask parents, families and our parish communities to assist with this work, vocations are everyone’s business. As we pray for an increased number of seminarians and candidates for religious life, we recognize the importance of safeguarding the gift of vocations.”

Several initiatives to highlight priesthood and religious life are on-going in 2010. The Vatican-sponsored Year for Priests continues through June 2010 Dioceses are highlighting the role of priests in diocesan newspapers, on their Web sites and with other events.

An exhibit on the contributions of women religious in the United States, Women & Spirit, opens at the Smithsonian institution in Washington, January 14. More information on this traveling exhibit can be found at The Smithsonian is co-sponsoring this exhibit with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

The U.S. bishops have also named promotion of vocations to priesthood and religious life as one of their current five priorities and are deciding on efforts to promote vocations, for example, through their Website,

Father David Toups, interim executive director of the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, added, “The church needs to help young people hear the Lord in prayer, so they can recognize him in their lives.
“This week reminds us that it is our responsibility to pray for vocations and to invite young people to consider a call to ordained ministry and consecrated life.”

The observance of National Vocation Awareness Week (NVAW) began in 1976 when the National Conference of Catholic Bishops designated the 28th Sunday of the year as the beginning of NVAW. In 1997, this celebration was moved to coincide with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which falls on January 10 in 2010, marks the initiation of Jesus into public ministry. At his baptism Jesus is named the beloved Son of God. With this celebration the faithful recommit themselves to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. They are also initiated through their own baptism to be the Beloved of God, commissioned to proclaim Good News with their lives.

(from the USCCB)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Movie Pick: The Trouble with Angels

When I found this movie on the $5 rack at Target, I was thrilled! Hayley Mills plays high spirited Mary Clancy forced to attend St Francis Academy boarding school in the late 60s. Between the girls' high jinks, the nostalgia, and Mary's growth, it's a cute movie for the whole family. And for those of us who feel passionately about keeping Catholic schools going, there is this chuckler:

Mother Superior: As for the social graces, I'm convinced that your school encourages barbarism and concerns itself only with free thinking, free wheeling and finger-painting.
Mr. Petrie: The finest educational minds in the country happen to be on our side!
Mother Superior: God is on ours!

My favorite line, and as applicable today as in 1966:
"I would rather have one like [her] who chose [to be a sister] rather than a hundred who yielded."

Pointing to liturgical prayer

In this post on creating a place for prayer in your home, I write a little about the importance of your personal prayer pointing to liturgical prayer.

Table cloths or runners that match the liturgical colors are an effective way to start.
  • I've found a green runner on clearance after Christmas, vintage white linens at garage sales, and all sorts of fabrics in the proper colors.
  • For a guide, we like to use the Liturgical Calendar produced by the religious education department of our parish, but the free calendar you likely got at your parish last month may also have the vestment colors noted.
  • If you want the absolutely no-frills-put-it-together-quick version of adding color to your prayer table, even something as simple as a square of felt or colored paper will do in a fix. (I would encourage you to upgrade to something more attractive as soon as possible though.) I'll post something soon about making cloths.
Candles are another way to echo what you see at church.
  • Advent candles are an obvious seasonal choice, but lighting a candle on your prayer table during any season can send a signal that something important is happening. Candles are lit at each Mass during the Liturgy of the Word; you can do the same thing at home during your daily reading of Scripture.
  • You can find color-coded candles at most Catholic book stores, but even the cheapest votives will serve the purpose.
  • I know of one dad who leaves for work before his family wakes up. He lets them know he has already prayed for them by lighting a candle on their family prayer table. When his kids see his great example each day, it reminds them to begin their day with prayer as well.
  • I love the idea of family processions through the house and yard for different occasions (Epiphany, Christmas Eve, etc.), but don't like small children carrying open flames near flammable surfaces. Enclosed candle holders, like this one my daughter found at Sears, work well and look a little like the swinging processional torches we see at Tridentine Mass. (Yes, just a little.)
  • Our church's religious ed. program has a strong family component which involves weekly lessons done at home. It is the custom of many families to light a candle during lesson time as a way to set it apart as something uniquely sacred.
  • Light your children's Baptismal candles to commemorate that wonderful day when Christ first came to dwell within them. (I have to admit, I am terrible about this one. I think all their candles are tucked into a cedar chest in a bedroom.) We've also received candles as part of a First Holy Communion prayer service, prior to the big day. These two days are among the most important in your life - don't forget to celebrate!
There will be subsequent posts about finding art for your prayer space, sewing cloths, and maybe one or two other things. As always, we'd love to read your great ideas and invite you to comment!