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." http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/three-impoverished-maidens/


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



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!




Cousins!


video
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.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Michaelmas


Michaelmas, the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel (also the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael, the Feast of the Archangels, or the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels), is a day in the Western Christian liturgical year that occurs on 29 September.

This year, we Lowmans celebrated the feast of Michaelmas. I can take no credit, however, as Carter arranged it all! (Praise God!)

My birthday is just a few days before Michaelmas and on my birthday Carter surprised me with a note saying that we would be going on a mini retreat on the the Saturday of Michaelmas Embertide at Mount Saint Michael Benedictine Monastery!  It was a much needed time away. My in-laws graciously took Felicity for the night and we drove a whole 5 minutes to the middle of nowhere (aka: the outskirts of Elkhorn).  We prayed Vespers with monks, walked the gorgeous monastic grounds and gardens, and played cards and relaxed and read in the ever so charming Saint Raphael Retreat House.  I read the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, while Carter read The Quest for Shakespeare by Joseph Pearce.

Here are some pictures from our lovely time:









Our anniversary falls on the Eve of Michaelmas, so Carter cooked me a delightful feast complete with traditional Michaelmas foods -- carrots and blackberries! (He apparently called the grocery store for a goose, but decided against it as it was too large for two!) He also gave me Michaelmas Daisies in a galvanized watering can (which had been on my wish list for a while!)

Delicious Whiskey-Glazed Carrots!

Blackberry Brandy Sauce over ice cream!


A very happy me!

Carter is very intense about pouring that sauce...

Michaelmas Daisies!


St. Michael and all the Archangels, pray for us!








Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Our Little Way to France


Carter and I have an ardent desire to go on {European} pilgrimages.  Since this dream is not plausible at this moment in our lives, we had the idea to have our own pilgrimage at home. Our destination? France, of course!

At dawn we began our pilgrimage Office of Readings commemorating the life of St. Norbert.
 {A French Bishop }



Surely, one cannot have a pilgrimage without walking, so we took a glorious botany hike to soak in God's creation and work up an appetite for coffee and crepes! Sadly, we did not find the red poppy or the yellow flag iris of the French landscape, however, we did spot a deer!



  




The next part of our pilgrimage was focused on prayer, almsgiving, and fasting.  We attended St. Vincent de Paul Parish {named for the French saint and featuring French architecture} for morning Mass, where we gave alms, and then attended Adoration.  

St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, Omaha

Felicity with the Child Jesus

Upon heading home, we read up on some of the many of French saints from the Lives of the Saints, including : St. Vincent de Paul, St. Joan of Arc, St. Bernard of Clairveux, St. Martin de Tours.

The bulk of our day was devoted to reading St. Therese of Lisieux's Story of a Soul. Carter and I took turns reading aloud while we fasted from lunch. We got about 100 pages into it, but I have since finished it in my spare time. I have so many thoughts on this wonderful book, but I'll just say that it was stunning and I feel like I have made a true friend of my Confirmation saint!


The Queen of France holding her court!

After some prayer and silent time, we made our French feast! This is the recipe we made; it's from the region of France where St. Therese lived.  Although, we made it with normal sausage, not blood sausage (ewww) like the recipe calls for.  It was delicious and fun to cook as a couple! We renamed the dish Pom Pom de Terre {Apple-Potato; literally "Apple-Apple of the Ground"}! And we feasted with some vin of course!





After one more visit to St. Vincent de Paul for confession, we discussed and reflected on The Little Flower's work over wine and brie and chocolate.


We then had some fun watching Les Miserables and reading Felicity a fairytale or two by the French writer, Charles Perrault. The night ended with Compline...or so we thought, until we looked outside and saw fireworks!!!!!


video



It was a much needed day away from the world, which is just what our little family needed! We are hoping to be "pilgrims" in another country soon! 
















Sunday, April 26, 2015

Easter

This Easter was Felicity's first, and we were so excited to celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord as a family! I had so much fun putting together a little Easter basket for her!  She received play silks (which I dyed) for her enjoyment, hair bows for her ever growing mane, and socks for her feet (also ever growing)!

Play silks! (Excuse the wrinkles...)

 
Easter basket...Butterfly (a symbol of the Resurrection) & Anchor (Christian symbol of hope) socks!

A happy girl on Easter morn!



We went to the Vigil Mass in order to wake up bright and early for our annual Easter morning picnic.  We did, however, break into the picnic basket a little early, for a post Vigil snack of scones and mimosas!

This Easter picnic was especially exciting because it was on a boat! We went to Chalco Lake and feasted upon white chocolate raspberry scones, cherries, and breakfast sandwiches.  The morning was very still and calm, and altogether quite lovely. Felicity, who already has an affinity for the outdoors, seemed to enjoy herself immensely!











We were very cautious and stayed close to the shore.



Later we got together with the entire Lowman clan for another picnic at a different lake, complete with an Easter egg hunt, Easter baskets galore from Grandma, and of course good food and company!


With Grandma!


Cousin fun!




The feistiest girl!



Happy Easter from the Lowmans!!!!