Thursday, December 20, 2007

Church Ladies thru the Ages the floor between the fourth and fifth pillars, there is memorial of particular interest especially to Dominican Tertiaries. It covers the tomb of Stephania dell'Isola, a Tertiary who, because of her on failing and generous hospitality to any of the Brethren that passed her way, was given the unique title of "Hostess General of the Order of Preachers", as may be read in the inscription. She had lived about 6 miles north of Rome and when she died in 1313 was brought to Santa Sabina for burial. She is depicted wearing the cloak and mantle of the Tertiary and holding the book of the Tertiary Rule in her hands.

[ A Short Guide to Santa Sabina, Fr Hilary J Carpenter OP]

[Mantilla tip: Father Zadok]

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Merry Christmas, Father!

I live in a diocese where the local ordinary quite rightly emphasizes rectory living for priests. Theory and practice, diverge however. Although the priests for a given town may live together, the schedule of different parishes may frustrate building a community life. The ordinary challenges of the priesthood, especially for newly ordained priests, can become exacerbated by loneliness.

My own parish is staffed by a religious order who share in a very fulfilling Rule. Instead, I put together this hamper for my spiritual director and all the priests in that rectory. It is my hope these ingredients for simple meals will help them build a communal life. I even shared my top secret recipe for Linguine with Clams!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Church Lady Query: Red Wine Stains

Just the other day, I was sitting in my office when the Church Lady red phone rang. It was a call of distress from a seminarian in need of assistance!** The culprit? That most nefarious of stains: red wine on a white surplice.

Ah, red wine. We all love it dearly, until a simple accident can turn it into our worst enemy. The only time I got on the wrong side of a glass of the stuff was a couple of years ago, and my cloth napkins haven't looked the same since (I won't say which napkins, because you probably won't notice if you aren't looking for it).

I thought, given the wealth of combined Church Lady knowledge here, I should ask all of you for your best red-wine removal tips. I've seen detergent and hydrogen peroxide touted as the best thing out there, but I've never tried it myself. Can anyone vouch for it? Or maybe you have your own never-fail remedy. If you have any things that work (or that definitely don't work), let us know!

*Note: Obviously the above picture would be an example of one of the Church Ladies' renowned dinner parties. You will never see a glass wine glass anywhere near one of the Church Ladies' sacristies!
**I may have used a bit of hyperbole here, as it was actually a post-mortem instant message.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man.

On a good year, when I'm organized enough to think about sending cards far in advance, I'll make my own Advent cards and send them early enough to remind my loved ones of the season. This one, featuring a favorite quote by St. Augustine, was made in several layers (light blue cardstock base, navy deckle cut layer, white layer with a stamped image of virgin and child, vellum layer with the quote on top) and tied with a small piece of ribbon. It says:

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

On the inside it says, "Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man."

I'm still hoping to make Advent cards for this year, and think I'll use a quote from St. Charles Borromeo from the Office of Readings. (But I have a box of cards from Costco in case that doesn't happen.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Saint Nicholas Day

As I see it, one of the most hopeful signs for the future of the Church is the number of Church Ladies in the under thirty group! For a brief story on how some college-aged Church Ladies promoted devotion to holy Saint Nicholas on their campus, click here.

Observe the worn toes of this prayerful boy's shoes.
Is it any wonder that St. Nick filled his shoes with gifts?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Little Flower Project

In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I shall be love.
[St Therese]

The motto of Milwaukee's diocesean seminary, St Francis, is "Vos estis sal terrae" (you are the salt of the earth). But the remainder of the Evangelist's exhortation bears heeding: "But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?" [Mt 5, 13]

What happens if we, as the Body of Christ, do not appreciate our priests, and through neglect and ingratitude let them lose the metaphorical power of salt- understanding the tremendous value of their vocation? The answer can be seen in too many parishes- a pastor who has no interest in the parish, dislikes administering the sacraments, and does little to inspire his congregation to follow God- because in his life, the sacrifices of the priesthood went unappreciated. [full post]

The Little Flower Project, aka Scarves for Priests is still going strong, and examples of this handiwork can be seen gracing the halls of St Francis Seminary, parishes of the archdiocese, and soon, Pontifical Universities.

To make a lightweight, yet warm scarf, I am using mercerized cotton yarn with #5 needles. I have been casting on 40 stitches, and knitting to a length of about 4'. The scarf ends each have a 6" fringe. Simple but successful- each scarf takes me about 15 hours.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Genuine sacred art draws man to adoration, to prayer, and to the love of God ...

-Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2502

A visit to blogging friend Lucy's Advent preparations reminded me of the riches to be found at the Web Gallery of Art. This is one of the few places on the web where I can spend way too much time, but still not feel like the time was wasted.

If you are searching for a painting of a particular theme, start with their very helpful search engine. This Advent, I plan to use my home computer's background as a way to expose my family to more Renaissance beauty through the Parade of Annunciations (a new one each day taken from the Gallery's 267 choices). I'm beginning with this Caravaggio.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

But How To Prepare?

Advent is the time of preparation before Christmas - or rather, the time of preparation before the celebration of the Incarnation of God. Christmas, the coming of the Messiah, is the event for which the entire Jewish world sighed and prayed. For four short weeks we Christians recall their anxious waiting. In the readings at Mass, we express our own longing for the return of the Messiah and seek to prepare ourselves for that final coming.

But how to prepare? There are different approaches to Advent, as you may know. Some people believe it is a time of joyful "anticipation." Others hold the philosophy, "As long as the priest's wearing violet, I'm doing penance."

Members of both groups will find a wealth of wonderful ideas for enriching their celebration of Advent in Catholic and Loving It: Traditions For A New Generation. Written by a two recent graduates of the University of Notre Dame, this book is designed to help young Catholics reclaim their heritage and learn many of the beautiful practices and prayers which were an everyday part of Catholic life in generations past.

As for myself, I guess I'd claim membership in the more penitential group, but I'm not sure how much of that is my true inclination and how much is in reaction to a very anti-Advent culture. Each year at this time I have the opportunity to talk to a group of parents at our parish and beyond about fully celebrating Advent and saving Christmas for its own time, and quite often we will have the opportunity to share family-tested ideas to promote the celebration of Advent. If any kindred spirits would be interested in sharing ideas, I'd love to open the conversation here.

Let us cleanse our hearts for the coming of our great King, that we may be ready to welcome him; he is coming and will not delay. Office of Readings, 1st Sunday of Advent

More Baked Goods

A St Andrew's Cake
Frosted with raspberry cream cheese frosting
(for his martyr's blood)
& decorated with nets and fish

Friday, November 30, 2007

As Promised ...

Okay, this would have nothing to do with my status as a Church Lady were it not for the hope that someday I could work my way up to a gingerbread replica of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame (or some other beloved place of worship). For now, we're just thrilled that this "domestic church" is still firmly standing.

Preparing for Christmas

A very beautiful devotion that begins today:

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

(It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer fifteen times a day from the feast of St. Andrew until Christmas will obtain what is asked.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Fellow Church Lady

Quantitative Metathesis has posted the reasons why she is a Church Lady, which I thought were a good description of why this role is important to the Church:
I've also been recruited to the seminarians' sacristan team, mostly because I'm a little stronger on the tasteful decoration front. This comes with being a church lady, you see. The sems need help discerning which way a flower arrangement should face, so that they can focus on the tasks more befitting their roles (like lighting the charcoal in the thurible). They need someone else to candle-sit for a taper whose wick has been broken off and which, consequently, will not light. And they need a womanly eye to make sure everything looks the best for the King.
In true Church Lady fashion, she follows this up with step-by-step practical advice for removing candle wax from cassocks, altar linens, etc.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Patron Saints 2008

On the first of January a new calendar year begins. On the first Sunday of Advent the new year of the Church begins. Therefore, the Saturday preceding the first Advent Sunday has something of the character of a New Year’s Eve. One of the old customs is to choose a patron saint for the new year of the Church.
[Maria Trapp]

2008 is going to be a year of great changes for many people. Some will get married, others will discover more fully the meaning of their religious or sacerdotal vows. Many people will face major life changes. Therefore, this year each recipient will recieve two patron saints who were spiritual companions, in keeping with St Thomas More's wise counsel about knowing a man by the company he keeps.

The drawing will take place at my Liturgical New Year Party Saturday night. Leave a note in the combox or drop me an email sanctalucia(at)gmail(dot)com if you would like me to pick patron saints for you.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A little baking project for Advent ...

While looking for a little inspiration for creating a gingerbread house, I ran across a fabulous looking cookbook entitled Rose's Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum. It's filled with beautiful photography, lots of traditional holiday favorites, and "smart cookie" tips to ensure success. (On the Coconut Kisses recipe, "Fresh coconut is a lot less sweet and more delicious than canned or packaged coconut. Don't even think about substituting here!")

The piece de resistance is on the last page (well, actually the recipe and instructions are on the last 20 pages). "A Christmas cookie book would be incomplete without a gingerbread house, and the most awe-inspiring 'house' is a cathedral." This one comes complete with stained glass windows, flying buttresses, gilded arches, and a hexagonal apse.

Perhaps I'll be able to post a photo of my relatively unimpressive farmhouse later this week. The pieces are cooling right now and the whole house is filled with the wonderful aroma of gingerbread!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Church in Miniature

The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children ... Lumen Gentium 11

I've long been fascinated by the concept of family as the domestic church, and exploring different ways to make that happen has definitely enhanced our family life and has extended the concept of "church" well beyond our beloved Sunday commitment.

One of the most rewarding has been to have a prayer table (aka prayer center or family altar) in a prominent place in our home. It could be a mantle, an end table, or even a dedicated place on a bookshelf. Ideally, at least in my mind, it would be some kind of small, attractive cabinet with concealed storage space. In our house, the prayer table happens to reside on an antique sewing machine cabinet in our dining room. The point is to make it central (I guarantee it will elicit comments from visitors!), and beautiful (otherwise, why bother?).

A Few Rules:

  • Keep it current – There is always a new season, a patron’s feast day, or the anniversary of a family sacramental milestone to remember. All of these can be reflected in the decorations of your space. Decorating a prayer table is a delightful activity for small children; they love to collect spring flowers to place near a statue of the Blessed Virgin or update a tiny easel with a new image from your holy card collection.
  • Keep it clean - Just as you would never place inappropriate items (balloons or large bouquets, for example) on a church's altar, your prayer table should not be the repository for any of the random stuff that collects on any available surface of a typical home.
  • Keep it beautiful - The most important feature is to make it attractive while echoing the seasons of the Church through your choice of flowers, candles, art, and cloths.

And that brings me to what prompted this post. Several years ago I wanted to make prayer table cloths (table runners) for a bride-to-be friend. I was amazed at how difficult it was to find appropriate fabric in nice shades of liturgical colors, and since then I’ve always kept the project in the back of my mind on visits to fabric stores. So here’s my church lady tip-of-the-day -- Jo-Ann Fabrics currently has a lovely selection of brocades. For a very reasonable price I purchased 1¼ yards of a beautiful gold cloth from which I will be able to make three runners (one for me and two for future church-lady gifts). Hopefully, I will have time to sew one of them before Sunday’s feast of Christ the King.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Official Church Lady Kit
(click to enlarge)

A picture of the Holy Father
A St Benedict medal (to keep bad liturgists away)
Extra cassock buttons
Ruler for cassock alterations
Sharpie for minor cassock bleach accidents
Black dye for major cassock bleach accidents
Corkscrew (for wine & self defense)
A lighter
Liturgically colored thread (contents may vary by season)
Clear soap (for minor spills and back talking altarboys' mouths)
Safety pins & a screwdriver
Salt (for sloppy cruet handlers' stains)
Jewelry cleaning gel (for dingy episcopal bling)
Lint brush (to keep blacks black)
Manly lace
Knotted rosary to distract the baby

An Oldie but a Goodie

from Amy Welborn.

Every so often, I need to go back and read this to remind myself that there are other Not Nice Girls in the world.
Our eyes are squinty from reading too much and our tongues have dents from all the times we’ve had to bite them in futile attempts to supress our true natures.
I’ve no idea where this demand that people who call themselves Christians are only allowed to discuss matters in hushed tones and frequent murmurings of “I understand where you’re coming from” has evolved from. Quite honestly, there’s a long and rather honorable tradition of smart aleck Defenders of the Faith behind us, if we only look.
(entire article here)
So to all Church Ladies who say snarky things about terrible vestments, who amuse themselves by parodying insipid "hymns", and who not only take down posters advertising heretical events but then proceed to burn said posters: you're not bad people. You're just Not Nice.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Holy Needle

As any good Church Lady knows, one of the essentials in any sacristy is copious amounts of manly lace, edging the albs, surplices, altar linens, pretty much anything white. The selection at the local Jo-Ann's, however, tends to fall short of, well, manly. If you're a bit of an overachiever, however, the solution is simple: make your own. The Holy Needle offers crochet patterns for very manly lace, as well as embroidery patterns for vestments* and something called Russian Punch embroidery (perhaps for Orthodox Church Ladies?). If you're trying to stock the sacristy, or work on that perfect ordination present, The Holy Needle looks to be a great place to start.

*A personal plea: don't use the cross-stitch patterns on vestments. There's just no way to make cross-stitch look good on men's garments. Really.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

What is a Church Lady?

Church Ladies can be found anywhere a priest, seminarian, or acolyte finds themselves in need of a little Feminine Genius, particularly in practical matters (and often before they realize the need).

Whatever vocation she has discerned, much of her spare time will be devoted to Catholic activities. This could include Eucharistic Adoration, sewing buttons back on a cassock, or throwing back a few particularly Catholic beverages with friends. (Said beverages were likely received in return for the aforementioned buttons.)

She is the antithesis of both the Planned Parenthood and Womenpriests mentalities. Whether she has no physical children or a vanful, her vocation as a mother is played out in thousands of little acts of service to her spiritual children.

Her talents may range from laundry to gardening to unjamming copiers, but she always seeks to use them ad majorem Dei gloriam.