Tuesday, 29 April 2008

It's Just Not Cricket!

What do you keep a cricket in?
I knew a lovely lady who was from the US, but worked as a textile conservator in the UK. My conservation career started out with me volunteering for her at a museum. She was very popular, and had a wide social circle, into which I was invited. She loved antique things, and would invariably have some interesting trinket to show people. I remember one time when there was a gathering of friends, she was showing off a little round wicker box with a lid, that she had found in some junk shop, and we were debating what it could have been for. My friend thought that perhaps it was for keeping an insect in, so said that "it may be a cricket box". At this juncture, any Englishman worth his salt will know exactly why all the men in the group fell about laughing. I myself (being younger and shyer than most of the company who, to me, all seemed very knowledgeable about the world and life) was unsure of what the term "cricket box" actually meant to them, but was able to quickly guess that it was something to do with the game of cricket, and probably some sort of protection that only men would need!

Well, my education was completed recently, when my boy decided he wanted to take up cricket, and so joined a local village cricket club. The only essential equipment he needs at this beginning stage is a cricket bat, and of course, the famous box. We rushed around our local towns, and successfully found him one before his first match - this being the result.

Last night, he had his second match, but being in a rush to get there, he forgot to attire his nether regions in the appropriate under wear. Apparently, boxer shorts are not the right sort of thing to wear, as my lad found out to his cost - the box falls out! Well, his papa and I had done one of those brilliant parental changeovers, whereby, I had heated up his supper and taken it in an earthenware pot, while my husband was to meet us at the cricket pitch straight from his work, where he could then eat at his leisure. This was to save his darling wife from having to sit through the excruciating experience of watching an under 11's cricket match -have you heard the expression "watching paint dry", well that's how cricket leaves me feeling. (The match lasts TWO hours). I had wrapped said hot pot in a nice large tea cosy I have, to keep it warm till my beloved knight came to rescue me, and I felt quite proud of my wifely efficiency (I had to, it was a RARE occasion of such efficiency!)
When they got home, my son recounted the tale of the habitual trouncing.
It strikes me that he has probably joined the worst team in the County, which is possibly why he was so easily taken on, but I digress.
More importantly though, he was holding something out to me, and telling me that he had had problems with his box falling out. However, his ever-resourceful daddy had given him an alternative, which, when it was removed from down the front of his trousers, after his turn at batting, had caused the other boys on his team much merriment...

I suppose it was a good job he didn't have an opportunity to score any runs - he wouldn't have been able to run very fast with that stuck down his front!!!

(Footnote for my international readership - cricket is a game played with a VERY hard ball, which is thrown hard and fast directly towards a wicket, in front of which the batsman must stand to defend it with a bat - needless to say there are many opportunities for said ball to hit the batsman in a place that could cause a lot of pain if not covered with a tea cosy).

Monday, 28 April 2008

Maths avoidance sometimes brings benefits.

Today we should have continued with the maths programme we are using. There is a lot to cover in it, and we are already several weeks behind. This is due more to the fact that one would need to study for about 2 hours a day if one intended to keep up with it! I haven't been able to work out which bits could be skipped, so I plod through the lot! It's all good practice, I suppose. My dear son would not agree with me though. He is capable of the work, he just doesn't like doing it. He practised at the piano first thing - this is inevitably done as the lesser of two evils - he knows if he doesn't get on with it, mummy will call for the maths books to be brought out. Then, after a break, he managed to convince me he was working, by reading a book all about how electricity is made, moving on to another one, on how things work. The maths books were out, but he looked out of the window at the garden, and exclaimed, "Look, they're like electric light bulbs, cups, filled with the sun!" I wondered to what he was referring, and came to see - my white tulips, certainly were like cups filled with sunshine! So I suggested that would be a good starter for a poem, and off he went and wrote one - anything to get away from the maths, I suppose. And I trouped off down the garden to get some photos of the few floral exhibits I have therein, this spring - anything to get away from the maths, I suppose!
The poem was very good too, worth avoiding maths for!

(Edited next day to add)
I actually can't get over how brilliant these flower-heads are, so I'm posting this picture I took today, as well. Even though the light isn't as bright as yesterday, they really are radiant, like light bulbs!:-) The wonders of God's creation!

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Parable Meme

Rachel, at Chasing Butterflies, has asked me to do a parable meme, it seems quite straight-forward, list 5 favourite parables, and then tag the same number of people. I think I'll give the tagging bit a miss this time, as I found it hard to find 5 people for the last meme I did, but if anyone wants to join in, please do so.
It's funny, but apart from the really obvious parables, the prodigal son, the good Samaritan, and the Sower sowing seed on different grounds, I couldn't readily bring any others to mind, and didn't know if I even have favourite ones, but once I'd looked them up, there were of course, plenty to choose from.
1) I should have remembered the one about the unscrupulous judge and the widow who kept pestering him for justice. I still remember the little cartoon sketch my husband did for me to remind me of this one when, after we'd been married over a year and a half, we still hadn't conceived, and I felt like giving up praying for a child. It spurred me on to keep nagging our heavenly Father for what we wanted!
2) There were some lovely illustrated books I used to read to my little boy, or he'd look at during Mass when he was very small. I still remember the one about the two sons, one who says he'll do the Father's will, and doesn't, and the other who initially says he won't, but then thinks better of it and does help him out.
3)The selfish farmer, who builds bigger and bigger barns, to store all his grain for himself, and then dies the next day. Helps me to not put too much store in what happens (materially) to me in this life.
4)Lazarus and Dives. Apparently, according to my learned husband, (who I think got this from Scott Hahn) it is the only time a character in a parable is named, and one could identify the Lazarus in the parable of Luke with the real Lazarus in John, who Jesus actually did raise from the dead, yet the pharisees still didn't believe in Him. I was intrigued by this, it shows how much more depth there is to the parables than at first reading.
5)The wise and foolish virgins. It took me years to appreciate what this was all about - that's the trouble when you're young, you always empathise with the fools, and feel sorry for them, but that's because you are a fool yourself eh? Now, I realise the importance of being ready and waiting for the Lord, as the awareness of my own mortality grows.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

We have been graced.

We had a visitor round for dinner tonight. A Priest. We feel truly blessed that he came to our house. He also blessed our house, for which we are grateful. He asked us how we met, and we related our story. After he had gone, my husband expressed to me what he had felt, (which was what I had also felt), that it was like a renewal, being able to go back to how it all started between us, and how God acted in our lives.
Thank you Jesus, for this Priest.
Thank you Jesus, for all our Priests.
Thank you Jesus, for our marriage.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

God's Providence and Trench Warfare

Look what came out of the garden this morning. My boy decided to dig a trench in what was the potato patch last year, (it had something to do with trench warfare, I believe. I blame that dratted homeschooling family we know with six boys for introducing my little darling to the concept). I've been longing to dig it over, now that we are having some sunshine, and if I'd just asked him to do it for me, he would have run out of energy after the first spade-full, but as he decided, on his own initiative to dig a trench, and I knew this would be at least helpful in getting the plot dug, I let him have his fun. Mmm, I could get into this 'unschooling' type homeschooling. He found the small pile of spuds - they don't seem too bad considering they've been in the ground all winter. I then decided (since he'd got every single spade, fork, trowel and hoe out of the shed) it was about time to dig up some of the leeks and parsnips on the plot next to the ex-spud plot (can't use the same ground again this year for the spuds, apparently). Look at how well they've grown - well, by comparison to the three beans I got out of my fancy Italian bean crop last year. The reason there's plenty of them left, is that I don't really like parsnips, and only use leeks in moderation, and it's been so wet and murky all winter that I couldn't be bothered to make the (short) trip to the vegetable plot to dig 'em up!
Anyway, the lads love parsnips, so I suppose I'll just have to get my pal's curried parsnip soup recipe out (yeuch) and make it for them. What martyrdom we wives and mothers go through!

I thought the veggies on the edge of the sink would have made a good still-life, but by the time I would get round to painting it, they'd have self-composted.

That reminds me of a lad who was in my year at art school. He wasn't noted for his attendance record, so imagine our dismay when he came in one day with a dead fish to paint. Yes, it sat there for a week or two, waiting for him to come back and paint it - I can't remember how the situation was resolved, suffice to say, I was pretty glad I worked at the other end of the studio.

(We love the family with the six boys, by the way - they're expecting their 7th child in the Summer, aren't they blessed!)

Friday, 11 April 2008

Saints Leo the Great, and Guthlac of Crowland

Two great Saints share 11th April Feast Day.


During the disintegration of the Western Empire, when heresy was rife and all moral values were threatened by the barbarian invasions, Pope Leo I stands out as the resolute champion of the faith. His courage and sagacity lifted the prestige of the Holy See mightily, and earned for him the title of "The Great," a distinction bestowed on but one other pope, Gregory I. The Church honoured Leo further with the title of Doctor because of his expositions of Christian doctrine, extracts from which are now incorporated in the lessons of the Catholic breviary. Of his birth and early years we have no reliable information; his family was probably Tuscan. In 440 he was consecrated Pope. Ninety six sermons of his have survived, in which we find Leo stressing the virtues of almsgiving, fasting, and prayer, and also expounding Catholic doctrine with clarity and conciseness, in particular the dogma of the Incarnation. Also one hundred and forty-three letters written by him, and thirty letters written to him, have been preserved; they illustrate the Pope's extraordinary vigilance over the Church in all parts of the Empire.

It's amazing how people think that the Catholic Church's teachings were all made up in the Middle Ages, and yet there is so much written evidence for Her beliefs from such an early age.

Pope Leo vigorously fought against several heresies - Manichaeanism - Priscillianism - Nestorianism, and its opposite, Eutychianism.
I love the names of these heresies, but it's so hard to get the spelling right!! They are fascinating to study, and if one does, one can see how they rear their ugly heads again in some of the theories that are put about today, even amongst people who call themselves Christians. It just shows how the Church needs a leader who can definitively guide her through the murky waters.

Basically, the Manichaeans had a theory that all matter was evil. The Priscillian sect had made great headway in Spain, and as it developed there, it seems to have combined astrology and fatalism with the Manichaean beliefs - has a New Age tinge to it doesn't it?
While Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople from 428 to 431, taught a doctrine of the humanity of Christ, according to which God the divine Son and Jesus the Man were always two distinct persons; Jesus alone was born of woman, and as a man of surpassing goodness became the dwelling place of the Word, which was incarnate in him. He was deposed and excommunicated by the Council of Ephesus. This was the Council that defined Mary as "Theotokos", ie, the Mother of God, a widely-held orthodox belief, that Nestorius preached against.
I have spoken with several Protestants who do not believe that Mary is anything other than an ordinary, good woman, not entirely sinless, but one who had a special role to play. I believe that if they can not see that Mary, defined so early on in the Church as the Mother of God, had to be sinless, then they do not fully understand her Son's Divinity or humanity. They end up making up a God to suit their beliefs, rather than allowing themselves to be led to the One True God by His Immaculate Mother.

Then Abbot Eutyches of Constantinople, was condemned by a synod in 449, for falling into heresy. In his writings it seemed clear that Eutyches had fallen into the error of denying the human nature of Christ, a heresy which was the opposite of Nestorianism.

Leo's “Tome” (written in 449 ) was read by his legates in 451, to a council which was held at Chalcedon. In it he concisely defined the Catholic doctrine of the Incarnation and the two natures of Christ, avoiding the pitfalls of Nestorianism on the one hand and of Eutychianism on the other. "Peter has spoken by the mouth of Leo!" exclaimed the bishops. This statement of the two-fold nature of Christ was to be accepted by later ages as the Church's official teaching.

So, any "Christians" who still don't believe that Jesus is Fully human and Fully divine, should get off the boat now! (And stop calling themselves Christian too!).

Our next wonderful Saint of the Day is said to be one of the most popular Saints among Englishmen prior to the Norman Conquest, second only to Saint Cuthbert.

He was born about 673, and died at Crowland, England, on 11 April, 714. The authority for the life of St. Guthlac is a monk called Felix, who, in dedicating it to King Æthelbald, Guthlac's friend, assures him that whatever he has written, he had derived immediately from old and intimate companions of the saint. Guthlac was born of royal blood, from the Mercian tribe of Guthlacingas. In his boyhood he showed extraordinary signs of piety; after eight or nine years spent in warfare, during which he never quite forgot his early training, he became filled with remorse and determined to enter a monastery. This he did at Repton (in what is now Derbyshire). Here after two years of great penance and earnest application to all the duties of the monastic life, (where he wasn't too popular because of his total abstinence from intoxicating drink - made all the others feel guilty, I suppose!) he became fired with enthusiasm to emulate the wonderful penance of the Fathers of the Desert. For this purpose he retired with two companions to Crowland, a lonely island in the dismal fen-lands of modern Lincolnshire. In this solitude he spent fifteen years of the most rigid penance, fasting daily taking only coarse bread and water. Apparently, he was tempted by the Devil, who came disguised as his (very holy) sister, Pega, who was also a hermit at Crowland, trying to get him to break his vow never to eat before sunset. To prevent further attempts of this nature, Guthlac ordered Pega to leave the island, and they never met again. The picture above is taken from a late 12th C. set of illustrations, usually called the Guthlac roll, now in the British Museum, and shows Pega being sent away. Thus Like St. Anthony he was frequently attacked and severely maltreated by the Evil One, and on the other hand was the recipient of extraordinary graces and powers. The birds and the fish became his familiar friends, while the fame of his sanctity brought throngs of pilgrims to his cell.
Guthlac, after his death, in a vision to Æthelbald, revealed to him that he should one day become king. The prophecy was verified in 716. During Holy Week of 714, Guthlac sickened and announced that he should die on the seventh day, which he did joyfully. The anniversary (11 April) has always been kept as his feast. Many miracles were wrought at his tomb, which soon became a centre of pilgrimage. His old friend, Æthelbald, on becoming king, proved himself a generous benefactor. Soon a large monastery arose, and through the industry of the monks, prospered. Felix's Latin "Life" was later turned into Anglo-Saxon prose by some unknown hand.

Two very inspiring men.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Suffering, or Miracle-Working?

Every morning my dear husband reads a page from a book entitled "A Year with the Saints" published by Tan, which he found in a souvenir shop in Lourdes. The readings are wonderful, and the excerpts from the Saints' lives and speech are inspiring.

I often think of the debates that are had in blogland. There was one blogger who liked to pop in to Catholic blogs and put in his (Ex-Catholic, now Evangelical Protestant) penny's worth in the comments boxes. He frequently berated Catholics, particularly those who liked to attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, for not performing miracles, whilst he claimed he, and his charismatic friends were causing miracles left right and centre, even raising people from the dead. He also took exception to the Catholic acceptance of suffering.
This morning's reading seemed very appropriate to this debate - it is from St. John Chrysostom, who lived from about 347 until his death in 407 AD.

"If the Lord should give you power to raise the dead, He would give much less than He does when He bestows suffering. By miracles you would make yourself debtor to Him, while by suffering He may become debtor to you. And even if sufferings had no other reward than being able to bear something for that God who loves you, is not this a great reward and a sufficient remuneration? Whoever loves, understands what I say."
The Saint set such a high value on suffering that he even said: "I venerate St. Paul not so much for having been raised to the third heaven, as for the imprisonmment he suffered. And so, if I were asked whether I would be placed in Heaven among the angels, or in prison with Paul, I would prefer the latter. And if it were left to my choice whether I should be Peter in chains, or the angels that released him, I would certainly rather be the first than the second."

Now there's a saint who goes back a long way, so our Catholic view of suffering isn't all a Mediaeval invention, after all! (As our Protestant friend would claim).

Now all I need is the grace to be able to stop waiting for miracles to happen, and just get down and accept all that suffering that I get thrown at me, with a great big, Thank You Jesus!

Sunday, 6 April 2008

A Certain type of Wealth and Poverty

This is something I needed to come across, read, and digest. Ponder. Take to heart. The author of this post is a real inspiration. Her name is Helen, and she has the Castle of the Immaculate Blog.
She writes about it here , but I'm going to put it on my blog so I can read, and re-read it!

Wealth and Poverty

Who can “handle” another child? Who truly is capable of providing for the needs of another soul made in the image and likeness of God? Who can be trusted to guide a new life safely through this life of dangers and pitfalls? We are all stricken with the illness of the soul – original sin. We all labor with darkened intellects and weakened wills. So, who can “handle another child?”

The Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph were so good that God entrusted Himself as a baby to them. Despite their physical poverty, they were made fit spiritually for the dignity of the office of parenting God. With complete dependence upon the Will of God and prayerful serenity, the Immaculate and Her chaste spouse accomplished the impossible: They parented God! How can man parent the Creator? This is an impossibility. Yet this is precisely the vocation of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph. How often did they tremble at the road which lay ahead of them?

We have to trust that despite our weaknesses and failings, by trusting God, we will be made fit to steer the young we are given into the paths of God.

The wealth of fertility:
You know every one who comes into contact with your baby. Everyone. You know where your baby is every second of its new life. Your baby is with you right now, no guessing where he is. You know every sound and voice your baby knows. You know and control every thing your new baby eats. You can speak to your baby immediately. You can communicate to him with your heart and he knows you and you know him. You have new life within you, even if it is briefly. Every sacrament you receive, he receives.
The wealth of privacy:
In a perfect world, a baby should be between a husband and wife and no one else. When you have the wealth of fertility, you do not have to ask anyone’s permission to have a baby. You do not need to explain to your doctor, the pediatrician, the social worker and adoption agency, and the state all the personal plans you have for your family and future. The wealth of being sure of God’s plan. Conformity to the Will of God is the sure path to sanctification. The wealth of fertility allows you to know what God’s plan is for you. In marriage, if you find yourself expecting, you know exactly what God wants of you. The path is clear.

The great women we find in the Old Testament considered children a great blessing. When these women called to God in poverty, they cried because they couldn’t have children. For example, Hannah (Samuel’s mother) and Rachel (Joseph’s mother) both beseeched God because of their poverty (and Rachel was very prosperous in the eyes of the world). They suffered the poverty of infertility. For those who do not have the wealth of fertility, the poverty can be distressing. Rachel in the Old Testament expresses the feeling of infertility dramatically: “Give me children or give me death.”

The consoling way to look at infertility is to turn to the Gospel and see infertility as a poverty. Then we can take this cross, this terrible pain, and turn it into a great, sanctifying grace. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. When the Lord spoke of the Kingdom of heaven, He said: “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Meaning the Kingdom is already here. He is the Kingdom, the manifestation of the Trinity. When we draw close to Him and His ways we find the Kingdom of heaven. In the beatitudes, Jesus teaches us that this Kingdom belongs to the poor in spirit. With the poverty of infertility, one is given the opportunity in prayer to be truly poor: “May I also have a child in my womb, but if I cannot I will be satisfied (and greatly satisfied) fulfilling Your Will for me. Thy Will be done, not mine.” Since no new life is created within the barren womb, this allows the great emptiness to be filled with Jesus Himself.

Isn't that a beautiful way to look at it? I pray for the grace to be able to say always, "Not my will, but Thine be done, Oh most loving Jesus"

Let's Adopt This Little Girl Instead!

There is a member of my family, who, when asked a few years ago what she thought about adoption (she has two fine healthy children, a girl, and a boy, a very large house in the country with lots of rooms and a huge garden) said, "We thought about it, but then we got [let's call it, for the sake of anonymity] Bonzo". Yes, they now have three Bonzos. Mmmm. Now, they're not practising Catholics, but "cultural" Catholics. The social services would have loved them. Still. It's not for everybody, I suppose.

So, seeing as we've not been allowed to adopt a child, I think of all the animals in the world that I could cope with, this is the one Bonzo I'd take on:-

She is very sweet, and no, we haven't exactly adopted her, we're just looking after her for two weeks while her owners are on holiday, and seeing as they semi-adopted my son when we lived next door to them (letting him roam free in their garden) I think it's not too much of a favour to do in return.

We had snow today, the first to settle this winter, or should I say spring, and she was out first thing in it with my son. Both loved it. We have to make the most of snow here, it lasts about 4 hours at most!!!!

The snow was very heavy, (but not very deep)all the bamboo is flopping over the pond.

But once the sun begins to shine, it's pathetic really!

Not even enough time to build a snowman, like we did on our one evening of snow last year...

Still, we don't have all that "yard" cleaning that the Americans have to put up with! (or maybe even people living in Kent - I haven't looked at the news yet, I get a bit fed up with all that stuff about "global warming" Ha Ha!)

Saturday, 5 April 2008

We Think it's All Over

We have been waiting for a decision recently about whether we were to have a 6 year old child placed with us for adoption.
I mentioned in an earlier post about the difficulties we've had in adopting within this country. What is our big problem? We don't drink to excess, we haven't abused our birth-child in any way, we don't smoke, we aren't hugely overweight :-) ! We have a nice house (3-4 bedrooms), a big garden. We love each other, and get on well together, and are respectful towards those of different belief-systems to ours. We have a stable family life, and a good sense of humour. We've been waiting for six years now, having been approved by three social services panels.
So, what could it be? Well, the first serious problem is that we are Catholic, yes, really Catholic, that is, we actually go to Mass, and sometimes more than once a week. We also accept what the Catholic Church teaches on faith and morals.
But this is where the real irony lies. More than the Catholic bit, the social workers can't get their narrow minds around the fact that we homeschool....we actually like children enough to want to spend whole days and nights in their company! We are NOT normal. We wanted to bond with our children by being close to them, showing them that though they have been rejected, or abandoned once by adults, it isn't going to happen again. We wanted them to not feel abnormal in school because they are the only ones who are adopted. We even said that if the child insisted that they wanted to go to school, we'd let them go!
A month or so ago, we were close to being matched with a little baby. Our social worker thought we'd be a good match, the family finder social worker thought we'd be a good match, and was keen to arrange a visit. Then it all fell through, why? because the child's social worker (who is supposed to be guided to some extent by the family finder) looked at our form, read the bit about homeschooling, and didn't want to have anything to do with us!! (And they are short of couples ready to adopt in that Local Authority). Then, even more irony, whilst all this was going on, another social worker in the same department overheard about us being homeschoolers. She thought, "I know of a child who is experiencing difficulty in school, she would benefit from being home educated. Let us look at this family". Thus, we began to look at the possibilities of taking on a much older child than we had ever considered. We thought and prayed long and hard about it, and as they were keen on meeting us, we agreed to a visit from two social workers, and the child psychologist who had been dealing with the child. They visited with us for over an hour, and the discussion was thorough - we had to find out what problems we would be bringing into our home with this child, as well as the good things. The meeting was very positive, but after they'd left, my husband and I remained undecided as to whether it would be right for us to take on an older child with no experience of the Catholic faith. Although they were very impressed with us, and had no problems with the homeschooling, ultimately, they chose another family, who they believed met the child's needs. This could have been because they were not religious, and I think in this case, that may have been better for the child, and maybe for us.
Only God knows why we have been down this adoption path, and failed to adopt.
We know of at least two other Catholic homeschooling families in the UK who have managed to adopt. It is not impossible. But my advice to families who have children who are pre-school age, and want to adopt again, is "don't mention ze homeschooling!" the social workers really don't need to know. I do hope, and pray, that one day, social workers will look more favourably on home-education, and the positive effects it has on adopted children.
As for us, we are about to formally resign from the adoption agency we are with. Our social worker has tried hard on our behalf, and we are grateful to him for that, but he himself sees how near impossible the situation seems to be in our case.
I just pray for all those children in the past 6 years, who have been placed with homosexual couples, when they could have been given a home with a "normal" couple like us, who, let's face it, could have met their needs far better, given that every child comes from a mummy and a daddy.