Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Diets, Health, and the Catholic

Diets aren't generally covered in Catholicism, at least in the circles I've spent my entire life. In fact, even though there is a patron saint for probably everything in the entire world, I can't find a patron saint for dieting or dieters, just for various illnesses. I have been on a diet of various sorts on and off since I was 12, when my weight really started to get to me (although I "blossomed" as my mother calls it when I was about 9). And for all my talk about living a Catholic life, and having everything directed by the Catholic Church, I've never until a few weeks ago thought of placing my diet and health under the Catholic Church's guidance. I'm not sure why I'd thought that diets were exclusively secular, even though I've confessed the sin of gluttony far too many times, and other capital sins in relation to food and drink.
I don't know why this isn't taught more in America. We are the obesity capital of the world, after all. Shouldn't our priests be preaching one sermon a year about health? Or maybe they are and I'm just not hearing them. Or maybe I'm just a terrible Catholic and very few of us need to hear a sermon like this.
This time is different. For one, I've decided to be done with poor looks. My family took a group photo for the first time in years (more than 5, closer to 8), we were all dressed up for my sister's Confirmation. I look terrible in the pictures. Simple vanity makes me want to look much better in the future. I don't want to always be hiding from photographs, or be the one missing in my children's pictures, so I'm taking steps to fix that.
For another, I'm tired of poor health. Poor health is expensive, whether I'm seeing a doctor for it or not, and I can't justify that expense anymore. I used to think that if you struggled to provide for your family, smoking and other addictions were irresponsible, and I'm starting to apply that to my life. Growing healthy food, eating healthy, cooking healthy are all much cheaper than buying another frozen pizza or going out to Olive Garden, never-ending pasta bowl season or not.
For the last, I don't want to give my daughter the example "do as I say, not as I do". I have to be an example to her of Our Lady, and I've done a pretty terrible job of it.

Since making the resolution and placing my weak will into the hands of God, I've lost 12 pounds in 1 month. Tomorrow, I'm going to write about kinds of diets, and how they can and need to fit into everyday Catholic life.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Feast of the Sacred Heart

Stained Glass Window of the Sacred Heart
Today is the feast of the Sacred Heart, a feast day asked for by Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century. Today I want to highlight several practices that a family can put in place to honor Our Lord's Sacred Heart.

Firstly, we can honor the Sacred Heart in the month of June, the month consecrated to this purpose, by saying the litany of the Sacred Heart daily.

Secondly, we can resolve to start observing the 9 First Fridays. To do this, one must simply attend at the sacrifice of the Mass and receive Holy Communion in the state of grace: because of this last requirement, many Catholics make it a habit to go to Confession beforehand. Many Catholics also observe a Holy Hour in reparation.
The wax figure encasing St. Margaret Mary's bones
Thirdly, we can prepare to consecrate our home and family to the Sacred Heart, and enthrone Christ as King of our Home. For honoring Our Lord in these ways, but especially in the 9 First Fridays, He has made 12 promises:

1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state in life. 
2. I will establish peace in their families. 3. I will comfort them in their trials. 4. I will be their secure refuge during life, and, above all, in death. 5. I will shed abundant blessings on all their undertakings6. Sinners will find in My Heart an infinite ocean of mercy. 7. Lukewarm souls will become fervent. 8. Fervent souls will rapidly grow in holiness and perfection. 9. I will bless every place where an image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored. 10. I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts. 11. The names of those who promote this devotion will be written in My Heart, never to be blotted out. 12. I promise thee, in the excessive mercy of My Heart, that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving their Sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

June 9: Bl. Amy, Diana, & Cecilia, Dominicans

 Today is the feast of the three nuns who were some of St. Dominic's earliest nuns, honored as foundresses just as St. Scholastica may be considered a foundress of the Benedictine nuns, and as Mother Mary Gabriel is the foundress of the Sisters of the Society of St. Pius X. There isn't much (actually, anything) known about Bl. Amata except that St. Dominic gave her the religious name meaning "beloved", and because of that, the modern order has dropped her from official recognition on her feast day, which is sad for Amy's, Aimee's, and girls with all of the other spellings, all over the world.

The reason name days came to be celebrated is an interesting one. The early Church wanted something to celebrate in place of the pagan birthday celebrations, and because people had been encouraged to take the names of saints as Baptismal names, the encouragement to start celebrating one's patron saint became a custom and endured for centuries. I remember reading a book, called My Heart Lies South by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño, where she falls in love with, and marries, an amazing Mexican man and chronicles how different everything is to her, a new convert. At that point in time, the adults did not celebrate birthdays. There was a token gift and acknowledgement, but the big party came for one's name day, the feast day of your patron saint. The book takes place in the 1930's; I am no authority on Mexico at all, so I don't know if they still continue this custom. But at least less then a century ago, that was the custom.

Today was, needless to say, not celebrated as a birthday. I did celebrate personally, but Eleanor is too young to understand and Hubby was at work all day. It started out with my daily weigh-in. I'm doing really well on my diet, and that weigh in helped me to not binge eat or "celebrate" (full of regrets later). I also for the first time in 3 weeks measured my waist, and lost 2 inches! That's also encouraging. I had bought some diet desserts, and enjoyed those within reason. Eleanor also rewarded me by standing by herself for an extended period of time without any explicit encouragement from me, although once I caught her at it, I definitely praised her! She is getting to be so much more independent every day. Two weeks ago, she didn't want to stand up by herself at all, and only did it if we distracted her. Maybe in the next month, she'll take a few steps solo.

If you want to draw a parallel between today and my patron saint, I'm sure she would approve. The day was filled with small victories, quiet celebrations, living our lives like Bl. Amy lived hers.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Using Gardens to Teach Important Truths of our Faith

A tiny tomato has started growing on the far right!
I'm a terrible gardener. Unlike my mother and grandparents, I did not inherit the gardening gene. I can remember as well as anyone, but often forget to water my plants. In fact, the only things I've actively kept alive are an aloe vera plant in my daughter's room (because it doesn't need much sun or water), and my daughter herself. However, this doesn't stop me from spending tens of dollars on seeds, pots, and dirt to try growing something about every other year (Thankfully, seeds are dirt cheap).

This year is different. For one, I decided to buy plants and bulbs, not seeds. I can't grow seeds for the life of me, and I'm done trying. My onions were rather carelessly tossed into some dirt, and miraculously survived! We will have 5 homegrown onions this fall, not many, but enough to show Eleanor. We also planted some tomatoes, lots of herbs, and some fancy lettuce. I bought asparagus roots, but we didn't have enough containers for them, and they take 2 years to grow properly. Sometime by the end of the summer, we are hoping to have a raised garden put in, and I'll plant them then. I haven't given up on seeds, however. I'm going to try to plant a lemon seed in a container that we can bring into the building when it gets cold.
You can see the 4 flowers and 2 fruits of our yellow pear tomatoes
I wanted Eleanor to experience the joy of growing something, of providing for something, of seeing something grow into fullness and then, of providing food for our family. Even though she's only almost a year, a good example never starts too early. We planted some of the things we eat most often: tomatoes, onions, and herbs for seasoning. We don't eat much salad, admittedly, but I want to get into the habit for dinner, especially dinner that we enjoy outside! It's easy to just break off a few leaves for everyone, wash them up, and serve them while the grill is going. Imagine a few years from now, when a larger garden will mean more than just a handful of plants, but include zucchini, asparagus, celery, hot peppers, and (probably) corn!
Before: a bunch of maple seeds had sprouted in this pot...
This year while planning my garden and while working, I started to reflect on the many truths of the faith that can be taught just by working. For instance, doesn't the work of taking after a plant or whole garden provide a good lesson on providing for a family, and Divine Providence? We have to take so much care of the plant, watering it only when needed, making sure it has the correct amount of sun (some need shade, some need full sun), making sure that wild animals don't kill it. All of the above takes a lot of work. Our children can imagine how much more work it takes their parents to make sure that they not only survive, but thrive! And we can show how God in His Diving Providence even helps us with our small task of taking care of the plants by bringing rain and sunshine!
... After: the new little lettuce plant will hopefully grow much bigger!
Another lesson that I learned in pictures and drawings back in kindergarten is that of comparing our souls to gardens. God plants the seeds of virtue in them at Baptism, and we must take care to cultivate the virtues, but also protect them from the weeds, rocks, storms, and animals. It is easier to teach children the larger lessons of life if they already have a grasp on the small ones: they understand the mysteries of the faith and the spiritual realm because it happens concretely in front of their eyes. St. Thérèse said that the reason she understood God's love, mercy, and justice, was because her own father showed her the example. As parents, we must be the examples of God that our children will most readily grasp if they are to have a strong faith. And it can all start with such a simple thing as a garden.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Feast of Corpus Christi

Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament
Happy Feast of Corpus Christi! Today, we celebrate the feast established in the 13th century for the celebration of the greatest Sacrament, that of the Holy Eucharist.

The Mass and Offices of this feast day were written by St. Thomas Aquinas, the famous Dominican and Doctor of the Church. The story of how this Mass was written illustrates the great, though holy, rivalries of the two original Mendicant Orders: the Dominicans and the Franciscans. Pope Urban IV commissioned both St. Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican, and St. Bonaventure, a Franciscan, to write the Mass and Divine Office for the feast day, that was desired by Our Lord in a vision to Bl. Julianna. When St. Bonaventure read the Mass St. Thomas had composed, he immediately burned his own, saying that this was far better.

After going to Mass, there is a procession of the Holy Eucharist either immediately or later on in the day. In Catholic towns, this procession can lead down some important streets. I've participated in some in St. Mary's Kansas, and it really is a great testament to our faith and an important witness to the Real Presence. At my high school and parish church, we processed around the property. There are 3 altars at intervals in the procession, where mini-Benedictions, consisting of prayer, chant, and a blessing, occur. Although I can't participate today, I can send my Guardian Angel to pray for me.

Pange lingua gloriosi,
Corporis mysterium,
Sanguinisque pretiosi,
Quem in mundi pretium
Fructus ventris generosi,
Rex effudit gentium.

Monday, June 1, 2015

June: Month of the Sacred Heart

This month we recognize the love the Sacred Heart has for us, the Heart that was pierced by a lance so that we may gain even more grace from Christ's death.
The picture above is a shrine that the Native Americans built by hand to honor the Sacred Heart, a church that my school went to on pilgrimage almost every year. It is the Church of the Sacred Heart in Cataldo, Idaho.