Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Eve of St. Patrick’s Day

Guest post by husband:

“There was a pear-tree close to our vineyard, heavily laden with fruit…some of us wanton young fellows went late one night…and carried away great loads...My enjoyment was not in those pears, it was in the crime itself, which the company of my fellow-sinners produced.” (St. Augustine, Confessions, Book II)  
“I turned with all my heart to the Lord my God, and he looked down on my lowliness and had mercy on my youthful ignorance….That is why I cannot be silent…about such great blessings…the Lord so kindly bestowed in the land of my captivity. This is how we can repay such blessings: praise and bear witness to his great wonders before every nation under heaven.” (St. Patrick, Confessions, Paragraph 2-3) 

In Omaha, there are not so many pear trees and vineyards as there are beer and garages... However, there are plenty of sinful and ignorant youth as I used to be. Though still sinful and ignorant, I strive to repay God’s blessings of mercy on my youthful ignorance one beer at a time. 

The delivery of Guinness on the Eve of St. Patrick’s Day is a tradition stemming back to before I knew Cecily, but which now defines how we celebrate the Apostle of Ireland every year as a family. On that Eve, having decorated the beer with green ribbon and shamrocks:

a passage from St. Patrick’s Confessions,

and sometimes a holy card. We bless the beer with the following blessing from the Rituale Romanum (a beautiful blessing even if not efficacious in the same way as if a priest were to bless the beer): 
Bless, O Lord, this creature beer, which Thou hast deigned to produce from kernels of grain, that it may be a salutary remedy to mankind, and grant through the invocation of Thy holy name, that whoever shall drink it may gain health in body and peace in soul, through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

The Guinness is then delivered to the porches of houses in the neighborhood, the dwellers thereof being as unknown to us as we are to them. We go to sleep dreaming of their bewildered joy to be and musing that its origin will always be a mystery to them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lovers & Martyrs

 Happy Saint Valentine's Day!

In our home, Saint Valentine's Day is a highly anticipated feast. We love getting crafty, eating well, and basking in sweet words; this year was no different. Our celebration began on the Eve of Saint Valentine with a rose and poem (Eve of Saint Valentine by Tom Hood). But for me, true romance begins with strawberry cream cheese croissants, and to my delight, such was my surprise this morning!

 Croissant and roses; sweet gifts from my valentine.

On this great Feast of Saint Valentine, we celebrated by having Felicity and Cordelia send out homemade valentines to our family and friends.

In the evening, we dropped off the girls at grandma's and dined at Le Bouillon in Omaha's Old Market. 'Twas delicious and quite the culinary experience! But alas, we opted to be old fashioned and not take photos of our food.

We are so grateful for this beautiful feast. As good as our meal was, what makes this day so enjoyable is knowing that romance does not consist merely in the delights of life, but in the suffering as well. St. Valentine's Day is the feast of both lovers and martyrs, and the paradox of romance embraces them both.

This year, my husband composed a prayer to St. Valentine to be sent out with the valentines. Sancte Valentini, ora pro nobis!

Saint Valentine, patron of valiant love
St. Valentine is patron of valiant love, that particular love the pursuit of which is difficult but worthwhile.
Who, elevating husbands and wives
The marriages St. Valentine performed in secret were not natural marriages merely, but were elevated to the dignity of a sacrament by virtue of the couples’ baptisms.
To Cana’s sacramental wines,
Christian marriage is here referred to as Cana’s sacramental wines, wine being the quintessential sacramental element, and the new wine of Cana signifying the grace which Christ effects in the lives of those who experience the sacrament of holy matrimony.
Set the romance of martyrdom above
True romance is characterized by suffering, which any romantic would affirm, and yet is not suffering only, but a suffering that has as its end the love of another. Hence, both valiant love and martyrdom may easily be seen to be romantic. It is no wonder the word has as its namesake Rome, the place of both lovers and martyrs. 
Pomegranates and chocolate troves
These gifts from God are also archtypes of erotic love, and are set below romance, for though such may be included, they are not of the essence of romance.

Pray for us, that the light of Christ
This is a paraphrase from St. Valentine’s own prayer from the Golden Legend.
Illumine this house in such wise
In his prayer, St. Valentine prays for God not only to illumine the blind daughter of the judge in whose custody he finds himself, but also for the whole house to be made illumined spiritually.
That its dwellers may in their lives
Know Him to be God and not miss
In the Parliament of Foules, Scipio asks the way to heaven of his grandfather, who replies in essence, first know your eternal end, who is God, then work busily in light of that end in order not to miss the path (St. Valentine’s Via Flaminia) to the gate Christ opened and which leads to heavenly bliss.  
The path that leads to heavenly bliss.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sancta Caecilia Ora Pro Nobis!

Saint Cecilia, Guido Reni, 1606

It's  that time of year again -- my feast day!

Earlier this year for our 3rd anniversary my ever-the-poet husband wrote me a beautiful prayer to pray to my patroness. It is meticulously crafted with meaning and symbolism in each and every word! I am so thankful for this beautiful and thoughtful gift to help me further my devotion to my patroness!

Here it is:

St. Cecilia, virgin martyr,
The brightness of whose virginity
And whose martyrdom so ardently
Inspired earth and heaven’s choirs
To resound in ancient harmony, 

 Precentress of the holy altar
Concert my heart to thy melody
And conciliate my soul and body
To praise Him with both harp and lyre
In concord for all eternity.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Cordelia Therese

Cordelia Therese Lowman
Love, and be silent.  

            Our second daughter, Cordelia Therese, was born a few days ago on May 3, 2016. We chose the name Cordelia for some of the same reasons we chose Felicity, our first daughter’s name. The scope of our search was limited to the saints. Like St. Felicity, we chose the name of an early martyr in the Roman Empire, St. Cordula, who was a companion of the famous St. Ursula, and possibly also royalty.

Altarpiece of the legend of St. Ursula (Bruges)

            Returning to England from a pilgrimage to Rome in the fifth century, the Christian princess St. Ursula, accompanied by a fleet of ships full of eleven thousand and ten other virgins, one of whom was St. Cordula, were attacked by the pagan Huns in Cologne and, refusing to deny Christ, were martyred. However, one of the virgins, St. Cordula, terrified by the tortures and slaughter of the others, hid herself deep on board her ship and went undiscovered throughout the night. When morning came, St. Cordula repented her deed and declared herself to the Huns of her own accord, and thus was the last of the virgins to receive the crown of martyrdom.
            Almost a millennium later, on the Feast of St. Valentine, 1277, at the church of St. John the Baptist in Cologne, the body of St. Cordula was discovered. From the place where Brother Ingebrad of the Order of St. John discovered her body, a most pleasant fragrance exhaled and he saw on her forehead these words written: “Cordula, Queen and Virgin.”
            St. Albert the Great who was in Cologne at the time, when he heard of the finding of her relics, wept tears of joy, praised God from the depth of his soul, and requested the bystanders to sing the Te Deum. St. Albert then vested himself in his episcopal robes, removed the relics from under the earth, and solemnly translated them into the church of the monks of St. John. After singing Mass, he deposited the holy body in a suitable place, which God has since made illustrious by many miracles (this account is according to Joachim Sighart).
            The name “Cordelia” is a derivative of Cordula. While Cordula may be a diminutive of the Latin cors or cordis, meaning "heart,” it may also be the case that “delia” is a diminutive of the German name Adela, meaning “noble.” While the name “Cordula” was used in Germany in the 16th century, the name “Cordelia” began to be popular in England following the 1608 performance of Shakespeare’s play, “King Lear,” in which the character Cordelia is one of King Lear’s three daughters. Shakespeare likely took this name from the legendary queen of the Britons, Cordiella, the daughter of the legendary King Leir.
            In Shakespeare’s tragedy, King Lear’s daughters are named Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. When the elderly Lear requests that his daughters tell him how much they love him in return for one third of the land of his kingdom, Goneril and Regan give lavish speeches of flattery in order to ensure their inheritance and ascend to power. Cordelia refuses to partake in such games, and responds, “I love your majesty according to my bond; no more nor less.” When pressed, Cordelia explains further:

Good my lord,
You have begot me, bred me, loved me: I
Return those duties back as are right fit,
Obey you, love you, and most honour you.
Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,
That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry
Half my love with him, half my care and duty:
Sure, I shall never marry like my sisters,
To love my father all. 

            In response to this, although Cordelia is Lear’s favorite daughter, he banishes her from the kingdom. Goneril and Regan sideline Lear in Cordelia’s absence, and Lear descends into madness. Cordelia returns from France at the end of the play with an army, forgives Lear, but is ultimately captured and hanged.
            Here is a prayer we wrote for Cordelia Therese to pray when she is older:

St. Cordula, noblest heart be thine!
Though once a daughter of the sea,
Thou declared thyself cheerfully
As last of the early Ursulines
To earn her crown on Calvary.

Virgin queen, with cordial duliance
I supplicate thee thy light to shine,
As by lunette, upon my latence,
And clothe me in celestial fragrance
That I too may see His sacred shrine.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

St. Nicholas Day (Guest Post from Husband)

“In things of the imagination, unlike things of reason, the form is the spirit.”
–G.K. Chesterton, On Santa Claus

In G.K. Chesterton’s essay, On Santa Claus, his thesis is that “the sole test of whether Santa Claus is genuine is whether he is recognized.” For if he is recognized, Chesterton’s theory goes, he is a tradition, and if he is a tradition, he is a fact. I submit that we are very near to not recognizing Santa Claus, and therefore, he is indeed very nearly not genuine at all, thus giving credence to those who claim he ought not be handed on to our children.

Who do men say that Santa is? Some say Father Christmas; others say Kris Kringle. Santa Claus has become so unrecognizable by the world that many good Christians themselves refuse to recognize him, just as the Apostles abandoned the unrecognizable crucified Christ. But who do we say Santa is? He is Saint Nicholas, the bishop of Asia Minor and the patron saint of all children. My family recognizes him, and we will not abandon him.

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas is perhaps most recognizable in the Story of the Dowries:

There was a man, once rich, who had fallen on hard times. Now poor, he had three daughters of an age to be married. In those days a young woman's family had to have something of value, a dowry, to offer prospective bridegrooms. The larger the dowry, the better the chance a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery, or worse.

Word of the family's misfortune reached Nicholas, who had the wealth inherited from his parents. Coming in secret by night, he tossed a bag of gold into the house. It sailed in through an open window, landing in a stocking left before the fire to dry. What joy in the morning when the gold was discovered! The first daughter soon wed.

Not long after, another bag of gold again appeared mysteriously. The second daughter was married. The father, now very anxious to know who the secret benefactor was, kept watch during the night.

A third bag of gold landed inside the house and the watchful father leaped up and caught the fleeing donor. "Ah, Nicholas, it is you!" cried the father, "You have saved my daughters from certain disaster."

Nicholas, embarrassed, and not wishing to be known, begged the man to keep his identity secret. "You must thank God alone for providing these gifts in answer to your prayers for deliverance."

Many of Santa’s traditions, for instance, the tradition of hanging stockings over the fireplace, have their origins in St. Nicholas’ charity, but at present these traditions have been transferred to Christmas, unfortunately, to the detriment of Christ’s Mass and to the detriment of the children’s patron. Perhaps then, the stockings hung on Christmas Eve should, in a sense, fill the shoes set out on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, hopefully effecting the restoration of St. Nicholas Day and thereby the salvation of Christmas.

Our family celebrates Christmas with Santa Claus, recognizing that he is St. Nicholas. This aspect of Christmas, however, is really a continuation of St. Nicholas Day. For on the eve of St. Nick’s is when stockings are hung to dry over the fireplace (well, for now, our pretend fireplace). On St. Nicholas Day, the children (well, just "child" until next year) wake up to find bags of coins from Santa in their stockings, just as the three impoverished maidens found coins in theirs. 

These coins, along with some candy and a holy card, are accompanied by an exhortation from Santa to use the coins to help the poor like he did, whether for the benefit of the lonely peer, the child in need, the homeless or destitute, or the sibling suffering hardship. The reward for such a good work is a stocking filled with gifts on Christmas day. On St. Nicholas Day, a wish list letter to St. Nick is to be written, then, telling him also of the intended good deed, which they have until Christmas to perform. On Christmas Eve, the letters to St. Nicholas will be left in their stockings for his review and on Christmas morning, if they performed their good deed, the children get presents in their stocking from St. Nick, made by angelic elves from the heavenly realm of the North Pole. Milk and cookies are left for St. Nicholas near the chimney and carrots for his reindeer are left in the yard and “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore will be read. 


Hallowtide was so much fun to celebrate this year, especially since it began on a Saturday!

Here's how we celebrated:

All Hallow's Eve {Halloween}

We began the morning by meeting my mother-in-law and nephew at our favorite coffee house, Stories, and indulged in the most scrumptious of pumpkin spice lattes.

Next we were headed to Vala's Pumpkin Patch, an October staple in these parts! Here, we enjoyed seeing many fun animals, a hayrack ride, picking out pumpkins, and even playing in a corn kernel pit!

Family selfie!

Pumpkins galore!

We then headed home to carve pumpkins and roast the seeds with holy salts, all the while listening to Dante's Inferno.

Trick-or-Treating with our little hoodless bumblebee was extra fun!  She knew just what to do, charging ahead to each house and collecting all the candy she could! She has never had so much fun, I'm sure of it! We concluded the candy trek by heading into Adoration at St. Stephen's (right down the street from Grandma's house!) to say a quick prayer and remember the "reason for the season".  Upon arriving back at Grandma's we prayed the Litany of the Saints by candlelight.  A great and appropriate ending to the night!


Our girl!!!

All Hallows' Day {All Saint's Day}

We had a restful All Saint's Day complete with Sunday Mass and audio from Dante's Paradisio.

All Souls' Day

It was particularly important that I celebrate All Souls' Say properly this year.  This year was the first year that I had souls close to me pass -- my beloved grandmother, Carol,  in December and my dear cousin, Michelle, in April.  To truly honor this day, we (along with my mother-in-law) stopped at the Catholic cemetery to pray for our dead as well as the faithful departed as a whole.  After this, we attended the solemn Requiem Mass at the Cathedral.  Carter was kind enough to let me enjoy the Mass, while he took care of a very difficult Felicity. The Mass was so reverent and sorrowful; the priests and deacons wore black vestments, as though in mourning, and the choir was particularly heavenly sounding.  The day was accompanied by listening to Dante's Purgatorio.

The beautiful St. Cecilia's Cathedral.

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.