Monday, May 31, 2010

Get Thee To the Woods, Memorial Day Weekend

We remember those who gave their lives for their country. God bless all who serve.

On Saturday, my brother and his new bride spent the day with us. It was the first time we'd seen them since their wedding in March. I love spending Memorial Day Weekend with family! It's also a great time to relax in the Great Outdoors.

Remember the baby geese in this post? Look how big they are now!

Curly took a spin on the kayak...

...and did a little fishing.

The boys dragged this remote-controlled sailboat out of the garage. Unfortunately the rudder wasn't working right, and it sailed wherever the wind decided to take it.

More swimming for the dog

She thought she could catch this duck. Luckily our feathered friend is a fast swimmer.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Get Thee to the Woods Volume Two--The Underground Edition

I know I'm a couple of days late, but here's a photo summary of some of the fun times we had this past week in the great outdoors. I love this meme; it gives me a great reason to take my camera everywhere we go!

Since our dog has arthritis, the veterinarian recommended more swimming and less walking. When the weather is warm, that's easy. She loves to play fetch with a ball in the lake.

Moe's favorite outdoor activity--critter hunting

Found one!

Moe and I went on a school field trip to explore a cave. That counts, doesn't it? It's a rare treat to go exploring underneath the woods.

This looked like it was pulled from the pages of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Or maybe The Hobbit.

Launching model rockets. It's a boy thing.

To join the fun, click here!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pentecostal Musings and a Must-Read Book

Yesterday morning, Pentecost Sunday, our family headed to Mass at our usual time. Our church has been undergoing major renovations this spring (you can see some photos I posted here), and our smaller-than-usual space was particularly crowded and hot. Even though there are temporary air conditioners installed that give some relief, we also have several jumbo-sized fans set up around the church to keep the air moving. It really wasn't hot outside yesterday, but the humidity and the couple hundred bodies was enough to make anyone break a sweat. (Father R. says it doesn't help that all of his vestments are made of wool.) This environment--a noisy, hot, crowded room full of disciples of Jesus--made, as Father pointed out, an interesting image of what Pentecost might have felt like two thousand years ago.

Often in pictures, we see images of the disciples all sitting around with their hands folded, their eyes toward Heaven, and they all have little candle flames on top of their heads. Recently when I was presenting a lesson on Pentecost in my Religious Education class, one of the third graders wondered, when the tongues of fire came down on their heads, did their hair really catch on fire like in the picture? I explained that no one really knows what the tongues of fire looked like, and that they probably didn't catch on fire. Father R. echoed my own sentiments yesterday in his homily when he said that instead of a room full of pious-looking people with little birthday candles on their heads (I wonder if that's where the tradition of birthday candles comes from? Pentecost being the birthday of the church and all, and people with little flames on their heads...Hmmm...) he imagines the sound of a tornado tearing through the house; something much louder and more awesome than three or four big fans running full blast, which is what we were all hearing--and why Father probably had to turn the microphones up to maximum power. And the tongues of fire? We cannot fathom how awesome that must have been. Not to mention how it must have felt to the Apostles when sudddenly they were able to speak to the people in everyone's native language. Father R. reminded us that Pentecost is not just something that happened once two thousand years ago; it's happening in the here and now. Most of us are too dense or lazy or self-absorbed to notice. (Father didn't say that last part, but I'm sure he'd agree with me.)

Which brings me to Father Stefan.
When Father Stefan Starzynski was a priest in our parish, he had a tradition every Pentecost Sunday: to lead the congregation in a chorus of "Happy Birthday To You" for the Church. All the kids loved it, and even the grownups got a kick out of it. He had a lot of little "hooks" he used to grab people's attention; his homilies always started with, "Okay, here's my joke..."

Once there was a little boy who went with his parents to his baby brother's baptism. On the way home, the boy couldn't stop crying. After his mother asked him several times what was wrong, he finally said, "Father Stefan said we should be brought up in a Christian home, but I want to stay with you guys!"

Cute little quips like that. We haven't seen Father in several years, and our kids still remember his jokes. During his time here, Father also began celebrating monthly Healing Masses. I figured that since I was as healthy as a horse, I had no need to attend these. Besides, I'd heard that the healing Masses were charismatic, and that people--and Father--were known to speak in tongues and get "slain in the spirit" during them. Wasn't this what "holy rollers" did? People who belonged to the Pentecostal Holiness churches? I'd never heard of these kinds of things happening at a Catholic Mass. Even so, I thought it might be interesting to go to one sometime and see what they were all about--after all, Father Stefan was our friend; people who had been to Father's Healing Masses said that they were profoundly moving and even life-changing. Sadly, I never got around to it, and even though his current parish is only an hour or so away, I still haven't. As Oprah would say, I guess I'm a little bit skard.

Recently I reconnected with Father on Facebook and Twitter, and soon I learned that he had written a book that was coming out soon. Miracles: Healing for a Broken World was released in March (I mentioned the book in this post.) When my copy arrived from Amazon, I didn't open it up right away because I was finishing another book. Once I finally started reading, it was very hard to put down. In Miracles, Father Stefan starts out by sharing the story of how he was called to the Priesthood, and of feeling drawn to the Charismatic Renewal movement. He recalls how on the day of his ordination, he performed the Anointing of the Sick on a gravely ill little baby, and miraculously the baby was healed. This was the first of many signs and healings that would take place through the prayers of Father Stefan. In the book, he tells story after story of the many miracles he has witnessed, both great and small. The second half of the book is a series of accounts by people that the Holy Spirit has touched through Father Stefan. Some of the miracles recalled in the book happened to people I know. Whether it's after a healing Mass, or a chance encounter with Father in an airport, when Father prays for someone, miracles happen.

One miracle that Father is especially thankful for actually was not a physical healing; it was the founding of the Paul Stefan Homes for Unwed Mothers. A couple in Father's parish (not ours) were expecting, and their baby's lungs weren't developing properly. They asked Father to pray for their unborn child; when the baby boy was born, he lived for only a few minutes. They named him Paul Stefan, after Father Stefan and another priest they admired. The couple felt called to honor their child's memory by providing a safe haven for young unmarried mothers who chose to carry their unborn babies to term. Through a series of happy coincidences--miracles--and with Father Stefan's help and prayers, they were able to procure houses and land to make this happen. Today this miracle continues to grow, and Father is donating all of the proceeds from the sale of Miracles: Healing for a Broken World to the Paul Stefan Homes.

If you've met Father Stefan, you know that he is the most humble of priests. With his easygoing and seemingly laid-back personality, paired with his fun-loving nature and keen sense of humor, you probably wouldn't realize at first that he's also a charismatic miracle worker. (Father's co-writer, Chris Grzasko, tells the story of how Father helped her overcome her fear of flying by persuading her to come with him and some of his parishoners on a trip to Alaska. Each time he saw or spoke to Chris he would not-so-subtly ask, "So, are you coming to Alaska or not?" He nagged her so much that she finally relented. She had a great time, of course, and it's a trip she'll always remember.) Father is quick to point out that the person performing the miracles is the Holy Spirit. He is merely the vessel through which God relays His healing.
Soon I'm going to see Father Stefan again at one of his many book signings. Maybe he'll talk me into coming to one of his healing Masses. (That is, if he isn't being mobbed by his adoring fans.) Reading Miracles, Healing for a Broken World has certainly given me a lot to think about, and perhaps I'll persuade a friend to come with me. God has given me many blessings in my life; who knows what other good things the Holy Spirit has in store for me?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Get Thee to the Woods Monday, Vol. 1

I decided to try and take up Lisa of 5 Orange Potatoes' challenge to post pictures of some of our children's outdoor adventures every Monday. Since our boys spend lots of time outside, and we like to take photos of the world around us, I don't think it will be to hard. The biggest challenge for me will be making the time to download and edit my photos and post them to my blog. Since Lisa created the Great Outdoor Challenge meme in honor of Richard Louv's book, The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Defecit Disorder, I thought "Get Thee To the Woods" might be a catchy title. What do you think? Too cheesy? (I read this amazing book last summer. Read my blog post about it here.)

I've been a bit behind on blogging lately, and it seems that every few days I find another fabulous blog to follow; which means I often end up skimming my blog list, and only reading the ones that catch my interest. I've rarely been commenting on the ones I've been reading. I've toyed with the idea of dropping some, but they're all amazing and I love reading them! Hopefully once summer vacation begins I'll have a little more time for my favorite hobby. I'm just itching to tell you about Father Stefan's book, my CCD class and Larry's confirmation team, and my thoughts on recent goings-on in the culture war.

Last week, I posted pictures that Moe had taken with my favorite camera. This week, Curly decided to try his hand at nature photography.

Eek! What's this ferocious-looking beast?

When Moe and I went exploring yesterday, we found another new family of geese!
Moe the critter-catcher looked,
and looked,
but despite spotting a big catfish, a frog, a crayfish, and quite a few minnows, he wasn't able to capture anything this time.

I'm in! Are you?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Father Stefan is on the radio tonight!

I just wanted to let you all know real quick (before my day gets really crazy--I'm in panic mode right now) that my friend Father Stefan Starzynski will be on Sirius/XM radio TONIGHT!! If you have satellite radio, tune in at 8:30 pm to The Catholic Channel (Sirius 159 or XM 117) to hear Father Stefan talk about his book, Miracles: Healing for a Broken World. I'm hoping to write a blog post about the book sometime this week (it's FABULOUS, just to let you know). I don't know if I can muster up enough courage to call into the show--you might remember my blog post about calling into The Catholics Next Door--but you can be sure I'll be listening. Hope you will be, too! I'll see you there, and guess what? It's Father's birthday today! (I won't give him a hard time about his age, because I'm older than he is...)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day Praises, 2010

I hope you have all had a blessed Mother's Day!

1. Praise God for my dear mother who raised me, and my beautiful mother-in-law who helped shape my husband into the man he is today. I thank God for you both, and I love you!

2. Praise God for my handsome hubby, and my three fabulous sons. Tonight they prepared their annual Mother's Day Stromboli dinner for me. YUM!!

3. My mother grew up in Nashville. I spent many summer vacations there with my grandmother, and a number of Thanksgivings and Christmases there, too. We still have many relatives and family friends who live there, and by the grace of God, everyone made it through the devestating floods safely. One of my cousins said that the floodwaters washed away the insulation from underneath her house, but nothing else was damaged. Praise God! These photos were sent to my mother by another relative (although I'm not sure who took them). Our prayers are with everyone who lost their lives, their homes, and their loved ones.

(If you haven't seen this video yet, check it out. It brought tears to my eyes.)
4. Moe, our resident zoologist, is becoming quite the nature photographer. Check out some of the pictures he took this week:

Praise God for giving my children a great love for the outdoors!
(Click here for more about the Great Outdoor Challenge!)
5. Finally, Praise God for giving us the gift of His Blessed Mother to be our Mother; and for Holy Mother Church. I thank God for leading me into the flock that is the Catholic Church.
(No, I'm not finished with that conversion story of mine yet, but I'm working on it...slowly...)

Have a great week!
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