Friday, December 12, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday: December 12th

What this post was going to be called: "Things You Learned in 2nd Grade and then Forgot (probably)"

I think about these things a lot, probably more than I should.  Mostly every time I'm at Mass and am distributing communion.  Last week at our young adult Spirituality Group we were discussing something about how to receive communion regarding the communion rail at a neighboring parish we were going to be going to Adoration the following week.  It was then solidified that there are a LOT of things we were taught in 2nd grade when we first received communion that we were expected to retain!  There is no other time when this happens in our lives.  You're told something at the age of seven.  Then never reinforced again, not really.  Some Religious Education classes talk about the big things again, but since you learned it in 2nd grade, you don't need to really learn it again because there's more stuff to learn.

I'm reminded of these things each time I distribute communion during Sunday Mass.  So now I'm collecting my wisdom, passing it along, and using Kelly's SQT Link-Up as my platform, like always using the ole' blog and my four readers to Change the World!

As a note if you are thinking this is in any way being irreverent to the Eucharist, know that I have a great devotion to the Eucharist and am a Daily Communicant.  These are the practical things to laugh about and learn from - they will make a difference!

So here are my Seven Quick Takes for this week!

If you receive communion in the hand, put one hand on top of the other, creating a small table / altar to receive the Lord on. Do not, and I repeat, do NOT, grab the host with your fingers.  Let the Priest or EMC (Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion) place the host in your hand.  Do not put both hands beside each other leaving the choice of which hand to use to the EMC, they will inevitably always choose the opposite one and the host will be thrown from one hand to the other in a feeble attempt to right the wrong.  So place your hands palms up, one on top of the other, typically the 'dominate hand' on bottom.  After the host is placed on your hand, use the bottom hand to place the host in your mouth.  Don't just raise your hands up to your mouth - you don't raise the plate to your mouth when you're eating at home, right?  Right!

If you receive communion on the tongue, be aware of a few things.  First, you should in fact stick your tongue out.  I know it might seem weird, but it's not - we are trying to in fact place a small wafer on your tongue without having to reach our fist into your mouth.  A priest in Brazil told us your tongue should extend past your lower lip.  Open your mouth, don't turn your head down so it's like trying to put a token up into a slot.  It'll be easier to everyone, I promise.

Remember it's your option / personal preference for you to receive on the tongue or in the hand except if you're at a Latin Mass in the Extraordinary Form.  Then all are to receive kneeling (if you're physically able to) at the Altar Rail (or kneeler provided) on the tongue.  And you don't have to say "AMEN", the priest distributing communion does that for you.  As a side note, when receiving communion at a Novus Ordo Mass, say "AMEN"!

Oh and also in the Vatican, all are expected to receive on the tongue, the more you know!

A little more serious for a second, you should fast for one hour before receiving communion.  One hour, every time - from all food and drink except that which is medically necessary.

This includes GUM, yes GUM!  You shouldn't be chewing it in Church, on your way to communion, or while you have Jesus in your mouth.  Yeah - I mean it, Jesus and Gum don't go together.  Spit it out before Mass - preferably at least one hour before communion!

At our parish we have really long pews, so this is even more important - you even have to go around a corner ... so be sure to put up your kneeler before going out of your pew to communion.  Otherwise, the person behind you will presume you did this small courtesy and practically break their shin on the way to receive Jesus or on the way back when they are trying to be all holy and pious.  So, thanks in advance for helping a gal out, not that I've ever had bruised shins or anything!  

Whenever you enter or exit the pew at the beginning and end of Mass (not every time during Mass) you should genuflect on your RIGHT knee.  That's right, your right knee!!!  Not your left.  Always your right!  If you're trying to be 'right' then you'll remember to genuflect on your 'right' knee to the one and right Jesus!

And while we're at it, we are genuflecting to Jesus in the Tabernacle, NOT to the back of the Church, your brother, the center of the Church.  But Jesus!  So face him when you go down, all the way down, to the right knee, not anywhere else.  It's SUPER awkward when you're just sitting there and all of a sudden someone genuflects facing you, right into your face - and I'm already a bit of a drama queen, no need to do anything to feed that ego!  Leave the genuflecting to Jesus and not the people!

Happy feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!  Have an excellent Friday!

For more Quickity, Quick Takes, check out the gang with Kelly over at This Ain't the Lyceum!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Trees

In the 7 years I've been in Charlotte, I've had some interesting Christmas Tree creations.  The first two years, I was tree-less, no ornaments, just a Nativity.  Even the year I lived at Hope House as a resident adviser I had a nativity in my room, just for me!  But alas, no pictures of those ... so you just have the opportunity to re-live the last 3 years before bearing witness to this year's spectacular demonstration in the new house!


Sister Gloria helped me cut down this beauty from the back path on the Church property.

It became this, just in time for our Ugly Sweater Party that year.

That is one of my favorite Christmas trees, and I have wanted a real tree again ever since.  But since I'm usually gone for two solid weeks at Christmas and New Year's, having a real tree doesn't make sense - it'd die while I'm away and the weeks after Christmas are the best part!  Last Year (2013), we had the 'tree' up until the beginning of February!


My roommate this year wasn't that adventurous in the decorating area, so I tape lights up and hung ornaments off them to keep the spirit alive!

And the nativity was on top of the mantle like always!


Last year, Lisa and I took some inspiration from Pinterest and found this idea!

It took a little bit of time and a LOT of nails - think one on each end of the tree branches and also one for every ornament!  I loved it - as evidenced by the fact that it was up for about two months - until after the Feast of the Presentation!  This was a great tree - and if I could do it without destroying my walls, I would have done it again this year.


So this year I've been going back and forth, scouring the internet for 'creative Christmas ideas' but couldn't find anything worthwhile.  So I was talking with some friends and this is what came out.  The alcove above my fireplace is the perfect spot for celebrating Christmas, displaying ornaments, and lighting up lights!

This picture does not do it justice, it's quite beautiful and an amazing consolation for not being able to have a real tree!

The Ornaments Up Close
Happy Advent!  Check out my nativity post from Monday for a look at the rest of the decorations and why now.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Advent Blog Hop :: Immaculate Conception & My Nativity

Thanks to Beth Anne for creating and hosting an Advent Blog Hop!  I'm excited to see what everyone comes up with over the next couple of weeks.  I love the books Annery at Home showcased, the prayers shared by Melody's Harmonies are so beautiful (and I love the beeswax advent wreath candles), This Domestic Church talked about incorporating Advent traditions slowly (super great advice), the St. Nick's Bag from over at 2 by 2 is an amazing idea (and her twins are so beautiful), Joe Sales Says talked about waiting - basically my theme song, the dialogue of Saint Nicholas on Tactical Catholic is fantastic,  and all that to say that you stopped by this gal's blog for some Advent inspiration is quite humbling!

I was going to tell you about how I always wait until the Immaculate Conception to decorate my house for Christmas.  I had great plans, then they all went south when I saw this picture from my friend Stephanie on FB Saturday morning when I got home from (super) early Mass:

She sets up their nativity on the eve of Saint Nicholas' Day for her boys to find it on the morning of December 6th.  So I decided to decorate on Saturday - just a few days early!  I'm super glad I did.

Why did I always wait until Immaculate Conception? Some theological reason? Not, really - I like to have some time in Advent before Christmas begins, and I also LOVE Christmas Decorations!  I LOVE having my nativity up.  I LOVE looking at all of the Christmas Ornaments people have given me throughout the years.  It's always a perfect gift for me, btw!

I think I always waited because it's a way for me to remember and honor my grandmother, Viola.  She passed in 1999 on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  I truly miss her, still - I want to share all of the amazing things of my life with her, to play cards late into the night at our regular sleep overs.  I wish we had more time, I wish I'd had more time with my grandfather on my mom's side too.  My aunt once told me that I was the apple of his eye when I was born.  I have this picture upstairs on my wall of me and him on the back porch of my godfather's house in Detroit.  I don't really remember him much, but I like that the photos become my memories.  So I think putting up my nativity on this day reminds me of her, the beauty that is my grandmother.

I am a lover of tradition, especially around the holidays.  I like giving the same gift every year to friends - always a Christmas ornament, usually homemade.  I like going to Midnight Mass, seeing the nativity, singing O Come All Ye Faithful, Go Tell It On the Mountain, and maybe even seeing a light snowfall as we leave.  I like getting up on Christmas morning, coming downstairs to drink some coffee, and preparing dinner - then the whole family comes over for dinner, we open presents, and visit with each other for the afternoon.  Then we go 'treeing' (that's where PA natives go see other people's trees) around town to the aunts & uncles and cousins.

All of these are tied deeply to my interior traditions and expectations.  All of these things, although silly as some might be, help to prepare my heart for Christmas.  Preparation to receive Jesus into my soul, my heart, and my family.

Check out this year's Christmas Tree Creation on Wednesday!  Happy Feast!  Grandma Francis, pray for us!

Friday, December 5, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday ... December 5th

Well, there's a new host in town for Seven Quick Takes ... it's been a few weeks since I shared in on the link-up fun and I've got lots to say, well, if you know me, that's not really a unique statement ... to be entirely truthful.  Super excited to link up over at Kelly's - she's hilarious, inspiring, and just seems like super fun!  So here we go...

Life has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster the last week or so.  Wrote a little about that on Sunday and my need for Validation.  The button that Satan uses ALL. OF. THE. TIME. for me ... trying to push him away before the doubt creeps in.

Thanksgiving was last week as well - and the recipes we chose for dinner were all a great success ... planning a holiday dinner for your family or friends, these would be great additions to your table!

MG and I tried our hand at making sushi last weekend too ... not as bad as you'd like for the first time!  Check out our successes:

Almost ready to open our own restaurant!  Almost.

December 1st was Shep's Baptism Anniversary so I went over to his place for dinner - he didn't cook though ... had to delegate to dad.  Crazy things 1 year olds do!  We started a good tradition - renewed Baptismal Promises with a lit Baptismal Candle ... well, mom held the candle, and the rest of us renewed for him since his word use is still quite limited being just 14 months old.

And he had to strip down to eat because he's a HOT MESS!  Mom put him in his high chair to have some grapes, graham crackers, and milk - and he came out with a blueberry stain in his armpit.  Hmm...  What a kid!

The other day Africa called me!

That was pretty exciting ... check out my reflection on the language of God after talking with Abbe Blaise.

Also this week began Advent ... a time for great reflection before Christmas.  I always make a Liturgical New Year's Resolution because I'm kind of a church geek.  Check out the NAS girls this week where they are talking about Advent!

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly over at This Ain't the Lyceum!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Understanding Another Language

Have you ever tried to learn another language?  The answer is probably yes since most American High Schools and Colleges require students to have at least 2 years of a language.  I've tried to learn the following languages: Spanish, Italian, Greek, Latin, Portuguese, and French.  A few more serious than others - the first three in formal classroom settings: 3 years of Spanish in High School, 14 credits of Italian in College, and a Master's Level Seminary Class one semester for Greek.  Latin is sort of a side hobby as I learned more and more religious prayers, songs, and Mass parts throughout my faith journey.  Portuguese was a side business when I was going to WYD in Brazil last summer - basics like hello, goodbye, and thank you were mastered, only thank you was remembered - obrigada.  Regarding French, this was for my trip to the DR Congo in Africa.  I took it more seriously upon my return actually, but have since stopped doing my DuoLingo Lessons.  Mostly because I'm a slacker.  If you're looking to learn a language, I highly recommend the free app or website - super easy!

Anyway, yesterday morning I was speaking to Father Blaise on the phone - yes, that's right - Africa called me!  How amazing is technology?!  Then last evening I was at Spirituality Group (a young adult Bible study I lead twice a month) and I had a epiphany!  It was about language.

Father Blaise wanted to talk on the phone because he had been learning English - we'd chatted by IM a few times, and his typed English was getting much better (or he was quicker at using an online translator than before).  He wanted to practice.  Who else but the random girl who lives in Charlotte he happened to meet last March?!

So we made arrangements to talk.  He was able to speak very clearly - I understood everything he said, but he had a very hard time understanding me.  And my French is awful, so I couldn't even reply in French.  This little event got me thinking about the language of God.  It says in Scripture:
Your thoughts are not my thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. ~Isaiah 55:8
and also in Second Peter:
 Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.  The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish. ~2 Peter 3:8-9
This was the passage that got me thinking.  I've spent a lot of time in prayer, conversation with friends, and reading spiritual books by great saints to learn the language of God.  I can speak it pretty well.  In wrote prayers and in spontaneous prayer.  I can also read it pretty well in written form, such as Scripture.  However, hearing it then deciphering it, and understanding it can be much more difficult.  Like Father Blaise with English - he knows the words, but his ears can't translate to his brain to understand English when I speak.

We can blame it on a bad connection, like we do with God.  But the truth is that we just don't know the language well enough yet.  We haven't become fluent in it enough to speak, read, write, and hear in the language.

This was a pretty profound epiphany for me.  The last few days have been pretty rough spiritually.  I wrote a little about it the other day to help clear my mind.  Becoming fluent in a language takes time, and so does deepening a relationship with God.  We have to commit to learning, understanding, listening over and over and over again until it becomes part of us.  My roommate in college loved the French language (biggest college regret is not learning French from her, but anyway) and said that when your dreams are in another language you know you've become fluent.  You're not constantly translating into your native tongue, but can actually comprehend the other language and form sentences in that language without translating back and forth over and over.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Have you seen this movie?

It was put out about six years ago and has one of my favorite actors, T.J. Thyne, from Bones.  I know it's a little long - almost 15 minutes actually.   And it's almost like a silent movie - no words.

I was thinking about it last night when I couldn't sleep.  Where do I get my validation from?  Who do I get my validation from?  What am I seeking validation for?

All of these are difficult questions have intellectual answers for me, what I should be thinking and telling myself to do.  Simply that I am a daughter of God, I am validated because I have dignity because I am a a beautiful creation of His.

But in the middle of the night when the doubts and probings from satan creep from the background into the foreground, my answers don't come out as clear.  They come out as messy, ugly lies (he knows my buttons very well).  That there's nowhere for me to be validated, no one willing to validate me, and everything needs to be validated by another person, even more than one person.

In the clarity of the daylight, I repeat to myself, over and over again, that the word enough should be removed more swiftly from my vocabulary than any other swear word I might utter.  This word, enough, does more damage than any of those other words could ever do.

This has been a point of prayer for many years.  It always circles back to this, just when I think that I've finally removed it from my mind, my heart, my soul - satan creeps it back in.  At first shallow doubt of validation, easily swept away.  Then later, more doubt, more evidence to add to the case file.  Intellectually knowing they are lies, but emotionally and spiritually not so easily rooted out.

This story has no particular ending, no specific answers at this point, just a recognition of the struggle.  A recognition of how difficult it is to wait, to be patient with the Lord, and to rest in his goodness rather than wallow in the enemy's lies and feeble attempts to destroy.

The Restless Pilgrim posted a song about this earlier in November, I finally got to it in my feed this morning.  If you also struggle with validation, maybe it you will find it useful, I know that I do.

What can we do in the midst of all of this? Pray for one another, support each other, and rest knowing that the Lord is working all for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).  Be assured of my prayers for whatever the struggle is in your life, and I am grateful for any you can offer for me.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Recipes!

So MG and I cooked Thanksgiving for us and some friends of ours - the family who took me in when my house was rejecting me.  It was nice to have them and their 17 month old twins!  Great times were had by all.  Since we cooked all 'new to us' recipes, I'd thought I'd share them along to you, if you need some Christmas ideas!

Breakfast: Fresh Cranberry & Orange Scones from Two Peas in their Pod ... and there's enough for breakfast all weekend!  Score!

Our Thanksgiving table was quite beautiful!

Appetizers were some crackers and Cranberry Cinnamon Goat Cheese (log from Aldi).

Crackers with Brie, Sugared Cranberries, Jam, and Mint adapted from Yummly Mummy Kitchen ... no maple syrup around here so we warmed white wine and honey for the berries to soak in overnight.

They were so beautiful!  And delicious!

For Dinner we had Buttermilk Brined Cornish Hens from Kitchen Confidante ... doubled the recipe to get 4.

Roasted Asparagus with Garlic and Parmesan from Bobbi's Kozy Kitchen ... again doubled the recipe and Aldi only had gigantic stalks rather than skinny ones!

Twice Baked Potatoes from Saveur - these were a huge hit and I am super excited that we had 8 halves (each person could only really eat 1 half) and now have left overs for today!

We also had gravy and stuffing - although both were delicious, neither were super exciting.  And for the little ones I made Annie's Bunny Mac & Cheese.

We also had Greek Yogurt Biscuits from Lovely Little Kitchen which were quite delicious even though the cook time was a little messed up - a 'not so hot' oven would have made them amazing.  I'll have to try again and then have them for breakfast with butter and honey this month.  Sorry no pic!

For Dessert we had the most amazing Ooey Gooey Butter Cake from Paula Deen (who else but the queen of butter) topped with Vanilla Ice Cream.

All in all, it was an amazing dinner with pretty great people and now we've got even more days for vacation relaxing.  Today we are off to paint and see the newest Hunger Games, tomorrow some more relaxing, and Sunday more of the same!

Happy beginning of Advent on Sunday - see you then! Check our Beth Anne's for the first day of the Advent Blog Hop - we'll be over here on Monday the 8th for my take on Nativity Decoration on the Immaculate Conception!