Thursday, April 29, 2010

St. Catherine of Siena

(image found here. A good place to learn about St. Catherine can be found here)
During my morning blog perusing, I found out it is St. Catherine of Siena's Feast Day. For a few years now, she has been popping up in my life, so much so I feel I have something to learn from her, more than I ever considered before.

Now, saints like St. Catherine of Siena have always intimidated me, to a degree. She is a mystic, I am not. I didn't think I could really glean much practical assistance from someone so far removed, spiritually speaking, from my own experience. After these two years of being made aware of her more and more in my own life, I realize how immature that idea is.

It all began, during a semi-regular confession, when my confessor mentioned St. Catherine to me, in a non-specific way. As a matter of fact, he said, "I am thinking clearly of St. Catherine of Siena in regard to your spiritual health, but I have no idea why. But I think you should look into it."

Then, shortly thereafter, an unrelated acquaintance gifted me a first class relic of St. Catherine. I read a bit about her life after that, but still didn't understand what I was supposed to learn from her. She was rather "extreme", I thought, "unusual", to put it lightly. I have always wanted to be "normal", although the longer I live, the more I realize that is unlikely.

So, I kept an ear open, but went on with my life. This summer, it was recommended to me to read Catherine of Siena, by Sigrid Undset. This is a phenomenal book, and I have great hopes of finding the "thing" St. Catherine is trying to teach me.

I came across a prayer of hers today, and one phrase jumped out at me.

From the dialogue On Divine Providence by Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor
I tasted and I saw
Eternal God, eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through his sharing in your divine nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for you. But I can never be satisfied; what I receive will ever leave me desiring more. When you fill my soul I have an even greater hunger, and I grow more famished for your light. I desire above all to see you, the true light, as you really are.
I have tasted and seen the depth of your mystery and the beauty of your creation with the light of my understanding. I have clothed myself with your likeness and have seen what I shall be. Eternal Father, you have given me a share in your power and the wisdom that Christ claims as his own, and your Holy Spirit has given me the desire to love you. You are my Creator, eternal Trinity, and I am your creature. You have made of me a new creation in the blood of your Son, and I know that you are moved with love at the beauty of your creation, for you have enlightened me.
Eternal Trinity, Godhead, mystery deep as the sea, you could give me no greater gift than the gift of yourself. For you are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being. Yes, you are a fire that takes away the coldness, illuminates the mind with its light and causes me to know your truth. By this light, reflected as it were in a mirror, I recognise that you are the highest good, one we can neither comprehend nor fathom. And I know that you are beauty and wisdom itself. The food of angels, you gave yourself to man in the fire of your love.
You are the garment which covers our nakedness, and in our hunger you are a satisfying food, for you are sweetness and in you there is no taste of bitterness, O triune God!

For you are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being.

This is the desire of my heart. It has been for so long ~ to love without selfishness. It seems to me this is impossible on earth. Like the wheat and the chaff, love and selfishness, fear, pain, are all so intertwined, we can only wait until the purifying fire of God's presence burns off the chaff, and leaves us the pure Love that we have been looking for all along.

I think that is what made Catherine of Siena so "unusual" and "extreme". She experienced that pure love, through God's gift alone, that helped her to see Reality in a way that most of us can not. She was able to endure suffering without losing her peace, because she could see that suffering was feeding the flames of the chaff being burned, that in turn purified the love present in us all.

My weak attempts at comprehending St. Catherine are just that. Weak and feeble. But I am hoping and praying that she will pray to God for me, that He will assist me in my desire to love purely. And to keep my eye on the one thing that will never be burned away, His eternal Love, and my share in it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Epiphany upended.

Okay, keeping it real here. My lovely epiphany from last post is baloney and nonsense. I can not decide. Wouldn't I enjoy being enriched? Educated? Enlightened? There are some books I could let go no problem (but I already got rid of them, so where does that get me now?).

Here is an example of something I have, tried to purge many times, can not, but also can not see myself actually ever reading. The Gulag Archipelago, by Solzhenitsyn.

A classic. People either rave or roll their eyes, or start blankly when this title is mentioned. I have never heard, "Well, it was alright. " I fell entirely void of the intellect needed to read and understand this book. And yet, I feel in needs to be read. So I put it back on my shelf.

Another. Small is Beautiful, by E.F. Schumacher. I actually read portions of this book in college, and wholeheartedly, in a completely idealistic way, support the premise here. But will I ever really read this book again? Somehow, I doubt it. Same with Pilgrim at Tinker Creed, by Annie Dillard. Loved it in college. Own it, probably won't read it again. And so on. I am spinning my wheels here. As I go through the shelves, I have maybe eliminated 5 books. Out of 5 book cases full. This is not good. I need to pray more about this, I can see that for certain!

Friday, April 23, 2010

An Epiphany

Oh, how I wish I had taken some "before" photos. Because without them, I am not even going to bother posting "after" photos. You'll have to take my word for it that my classroom looks SO MUCH BETTER!!!!! I have de-cluttered, tossed, passed on, and re-purposed many, many of the items in there, and now I can think better! The world is my oyster!

But next are my many, many book cases, and I am stumped. I love books. I don't know how to prioritize books. I have been praying, "Dear Lord, help me pare down my book collection, but please don't let me make bone-headed decisions. Amen."

Then I came across this quote:

"There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it."

(Bertrand Russell)

And my life is changed. I am tired of boasting. I want to enjoy. So there you go. Any book I have that I enjoy, or plan to enjoy, I keep. Any book I have so I can feel smarter, more organized, more educated, or just more, I get rid of. If I really want one of them later, I can get it. Notice the singular. It. Not them. It will be worth getting rid of the one, maybe two books that I could boast about AND enjoy, just to rid myself of non-enjoyable books. And then maybe I can get some good books that would edify me, no boasting required.

Works for me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Very First Daybook

I have never done a "Daybook" entry, but always enjoy reading them, so I thought I would give it a go, based on the topics at Elizabeth's In the Heart of my Home. She is my first stop every morning, by the way.

Outside my Back Door:

Sunny, cool breeze, birds chirping away. Still haven't heard my wrens, but lots of other birds are quite active.

I am listening to:

The washing machine spinning, and a 5 year old practicing her "100 EZ Lessons".

I am Pondering:

How to calm my thoughts so I can be effective instead of swirling around like a whirling dervish.
(baby just learning how to walk. I love her little hand, trying to keep balance)

I am Thinking:

about everywhere I look, I need to decrease the accumulation of "stuff" by about half. And about how I would then have so much more time for my garden, my icons, and my kids, and my husband.

I am creating:

a nature journal with my elementary age learning co-op. And icons, and a more peaceful space.

On my iPod:

Deb Talen, Hem, The Wailin' Jenny's, Cowboy Junkies, Gypsy Soul and Ingrid Michealson. Deb Talen's "Big Strong Girl" is one of my favorite songs.

Towards a Real Education:

I love student led interest, but if I am not careful, I loose my focus. So I depend on a few workbooks to keep us moving, but leave lots of latitude for rabbit trails.

Towards Rhythm and Beauty:

It has been nearly two years of me at decreased capacity (pregnancy and Melanie's first year). Parts of this are very familiar to me, as I have struggled with foggy thinking after each baby. This time was no different, but a lot less distressing, and more sweet. However, things have swirled a little out of balance my home. This time of fuzziness is clearing, I can feel it, so I see I can pull things together better now. But boy do I have to dig out of a few things that have piled up!

To Live the Liturgy:

I have not been able to go to daily Divine Liturgy as often since Melanie was born, and I feel the lack of connection. I will get my "Byzantine Daily Worship" next to my bed and try to re-connect.

I am Hoping and Praying:

Oh, my, where to begin. That my decision to put my older kids in the local Catholic High School and not home school them is going to work well. I am so at peace about it I almost feel as if I am fooling myself.

In The Garden:

We have been enjoying the re-birth around here. And pulling garlic mustard by the bagful. Evil, evil stuff. We are planting seedlings today for the herb and veggie garden, and have about three weeks until I can really dig in and start dividing and moving plants around like I want.

Around the House:

I want to cook more, create more, enjoy more. But first I have to continue with my purging so I can have more freedom of mind and motion. My Lenten commitment of 40 bags in 40 days hasn't stopped. Still doing a bag a day, and could do much more if I had more time.

What I'm Reading:

Outsmarting the Midlife Fat Cell by Debra Waterhouse, Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset, and Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and Lisa Ross. I am thoroughly enjoying them all. I just don't have enough time to read, but snatch a page or two whenever I can.

On Keeping Home:

Going back to the routines established when I was pregnant and mothering an infant. We had a smooth, evenly divided schedule then that has gotten a little wobbly. But I have managed to keep on top of the laundry, and am now reclaiming the kitchen. I see a better rhythm around here shortly.

One of my Favorite Things:

Being alone. It never happens, so I enjoy other lovely things, like watching my children, reading books, and thinking quiet thoughts. I have always liked being alone, and I am afraid by the time I get used to the hubbub around here, they will all be grown, and then I'll hate being alone.

Melanie this week:

She isn't crawling at all anymore. Walking everywhere, and loving to explore outside. She is also eating a whole lot more, and is finally feeling better after having a wicked cough for a few weeks.
She makes the cutest babbling sounds, and is interested in everything she sees. She also likes to climb, which keeps me on my toes.
She's already walking away from me. It starts so early!

A Few Plans for the Rest of the Week:

I cleaned out the younger boys room yesterday, and will do the middle girls room today. Tomorrow the room shared by the 15 year old and 5 year old daughters, then Thursday I am going to organize my icon studio, as I will be starting up my workshop again soon. Friday I will Work out in the yard, weather permitting. Saturday I will work in the garage to pare down our bikes and car seats. We have way too many of both, they are very old and not in good shape. Time for the trash.
Picture Thought:

My eldest and youngest daughters. Also, Godmother and Goddaughter.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Icon Update IV - The Visitation is Finished!!

The Visitation Icon is Finished! In this photo, the gold has been added, the border lines, the halo rings, and the stars on Mary's robe. I did innumerable little touch ups here and there, and now it awaits being varnished. It will look the same but much more vibrant after being varnished. Then it will get blessed, and added to our prayer space at home.

What a fruitful 5 days!!

I really must thank my kids for all the help in keeping the house running. Everyone did school, everyone ate real food three times a day, got a full nights sleep, kept the house cleaned up and the laundry mostly cleaned.

This icon is from the book of Luke 1:39-56, when Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Upon seeing Mary, Elizabeth cries out, "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. "

Mary responds with these words, known as the Magnificat:

My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. 51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. 54 He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; 55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

Remember, you can click on the photo to get a larger view.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Icon Workshop Update III - The Visitation

Beginning the face and unformed hands
More on the face and beginning the hands
The faces taking shape
Roof decorations, final robe lines

Eyes finished, floor finished, border begun.

Icon Workshop Update II - The Visitation

Yesterday, I basically worked on the buildings in the background. I had a short day due to children's scheduling needs, but it was a productive, enjoyable icon session.

Today I will be working on the faces of The Theotokos and St. Elizabeth. I am always very excited to "meet" the saints in my icons this way. It is when I see their faces that I really fall in love!

Again, please pray for me, that God reveals what He wills through these icons.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Icon Workshop Update - The Visitation

The Pattern traced on the prepared board
The base colors for the figures of Mary and Elizabeth. This is about 6-10 layers of paint for each color.
Beginning the robe work for Elizabeth's under-robe

Mary's under-robe, and beginning work on the buildings

Elizabeth's outer-robe and more work on the buildings
Mary's outer-robe
Mary's outer-robe with highlights.

There is still quite a bit of final robe work to do, but the structure is all there now. Tomorrow we will work on the buildings, then the faces, then the fine tuning of the robes.

After that will come the lettering, the border, and finally the varnish.

I think I have made lots of progress for about 12 hours of work so far. I am delighted to be doing this again!!

Click on the photos for a closer look!

Monday, April 12, 2010

A New, Ancient Adventure

I am off this morning to take part in an Icon Workshop, that will last the week. I am bringing my camera, so this will be a great opportunity to show you all again how an icon is made. So, stay tuned, and I will try to update the progress regularly!


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Short Easter Redux

Big brother giving Melanie a swing ride!

7 year old finding lots o' eggs

11 year old hiding eggs

Happy little 5 year old

The gang

The center of our Easter table

Melanie's first Easter Egg hunt

My first cooked from scratch ham (delish!)

My red eggs, dyed in onion skins

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Oh Happy Day!

We have had a whirlwind around here. In our extended family and friends, we have had birthdays, a death, a birth, Holy Week, illness, and Feast Day and party preparations. I wanted so much to make the end of The Great Fast more reflective, but instead it was full of worldly concerns. And now, on Easter Sunday, Pascha, Resurrection day, I was unable to attend church due to some under the weather children.

BUT, the joy of the day resounds, overshadows every disappointment, and I can say with a joyful heart,

Christ is Risen!

Truly, He is Risen!