Friday, December 29, 2006

Just because...

I like these pictures...

And ...

they remind ...

me of....

Our Mother....



Divine Son.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Childhood Christmas Memories

Elder recalls childhood Christmases: Cold nights, Dog sleds

By Lasha Morningstar
Catholic News Service

EDMONTON, Alberta (CNS) -- The northern lights danced through the sky in Fort Murray, Alberta, as the ring of dog-sled bells filled the air.

Out into the cold a little Alvena Laboucane, her six brothers and sisters and her mother hurried through the snow to Christmas Eve Mass at St. John the Baptist Church. The older children hauled the little ones on toboggans. It was so cold -- 40 below zero -- that the trees cracked and split.

Father Patrick Mercredi greeted them as they came through the church door. The fragrance of incense, burning candles and freshly cut Christmas trees filled the young girl's lungs.

The church was packed with the faithful who traveled by dog sled from Anzak, Fort Chipewyan and Fort MacKay.

"All the friendly faces, and the Christ Child was there to greet us," said Alvena Strasbourg, now an 85-year-old metis (of mixed parentage) elder with 23 grandchildren. Her face softened as she recalled her childhood Christmases and said, "Without faith and love, there is no life."

Strasbourg, author of "Memories of a Metis Woman: Fort McMurray Yesterday & Today" and president of the Metis Child and Family Services Society, acknowledged the strength she developed from her devoted and hardworking parents -- one French Canadian and one a member of Canada's native peoples.

As she recalled the Christmas concert days before Christmas Eve, she said: "You could hear the people coming, you could hear the people coming.

"They came from all the reserves. Nobody was any different in those days until the government came along and tried to separate us (metis from First Nations)," she said.

"And it was all dog teams," she said.

"You had to tie the dogs separately because they would fight. And they were big dogs," said Strasbourg.

As the visitors filled the town, Strasbourg said she would marvel at the beaded parkas, mitts and mukluks. Even the dogs wore beaded blankets and the harnesses were studded with bells broadcasting their way through the night.

"The women must have sewed for months," she said.

Strasbourg said her mother welcomed travelers as they arrived through the night.

"My mother would take in anybody," she said. "She was friends with everybody and would make beds all over."

Although Strasbourg's childhood house always had a tree, decorations were sparse, she said. Her mother would cut silver strips of empty silver tea packages and green and red tissue paper to decorate, she said.

Strasbourg said that as she, her mother and siblings went to Christmas Eve Mass, her father stayed behind saying, "I'll stay and watch for Santa Claus."

The Christmas Eve Mass was celebrated in Latin, and the hymns were sung in French, English, Cree and Chipewyan.

On Christmas Day the boys received little toys and the girls received dolls.

Christmas dinner featured a turkey, potatoes from the cold cellar, carrots that had been buried in sand and dried onions. For dessert, the family would eat apple and raisin pies and steamed pudding with sauce.

"Mother could not read or write, but she could cook the tastiest meals," said Strasbourg.

After dinner, entertainment was produced by family members.

"My mother played the violin and accordion, and we would dance and sing," she said. "My dad was a dancer and he taught us how to dance. And I still do the 'Red River Jig' today."

Christmas today is not as good as decades ago, she said.

"It was much better then than it is today because everything is so superficial now. There is nothing about Jesus anymore," she said. "It's about how many toys you can buy and how expensive can they be.

"We never thought about things like that. We believed," she said.

Strasbourg said if there is no belief in Jesus there is nothing.


Copyright (c) 2006 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
CNS · 3211 Fourth St NE · Washington DC 20017 · 202.541.3250

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

All Our Stammered, Incoherent Love

The supreme expression on earth of the rhythmic Law of God is the Liturgy.

The poet is loved by his fellow men, because he gives them a voice; he gives words to the dumb love of the world and sings its song. The priest at the altar lifts the world's voice above the world to the feet of God. There is no universal emotion that is not given a voice in the Liturgy, no individual experience that is not in it like the words in a poem. Love, joy, mourning, contrition: all have their expression, and so to the stronger passion of the soul, the longing for the descent of the Spirit and the adoration of God....

The Liturgy expresses every passion, every experience, every emotion, of the human heart. It is the song of the whole world, but it is also much more: it is the song of Christ in man, the voice of the Mystical Body of Christ lifted up to God-- all our inarticulate longing and adoration, all our stammered, incoherent love, set in the tremendous meter of the Liturgy and lifted on the voice of Christ to our Heavenly Father.

All those things which manifest the beauty of the Law are integrated in the Liturgy: music, poetry, rhythm. The slow, majestic movements of the celebrant at the altar, the great Sign of the Cross, the deep obeisance, the lifting up and wise spreading of the arms-- all are ordered, measured, disciplined, to be the medium of Christ's adoration.

The words, new on the priest's tongue at every Mass, are the words that have worn deep grooves in the human mind through the ages, like the riverbeds worn in the rocks.

Prophecies of the budding forth of a Savior, uttered thousands and thousands of years ago, are still, today, promises of the flowering of the wilderness of the human heart.

By Caryll Houselander in Wood of the Cradle, Wood of the Cross. First published in 1949.

Feast Day of St. Stephen

Today I was reminded of the martrydom of St. Stephen by my 5 year old son, Stephen. He remembered his feast day.

To read about St. Stephen you can go here.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A woman with a Face the Color of Dirt...

"It was Bethlehem, the end of a long night. The star had just disappeared, and the last pilgrim had left the stable. The Virgin arranged the straw: at last the Child could sleep. But who can sleep the night of Christmas?

"Gently the door opens, so gently that it seems more like the wind was pushing it than a hand. A woman appears on the threshold, covered with rags. She was so old and wrinkled that you would have thought her mouth was one more deep wrinkle in a face the color of dirt.

"A fearful chill came over Mary when she saw her, as if a malicious fairy had come into the room. Fortunately Jesus was asleep. The ass and ox placidly continued munching their hay, as if there was nothing unusual, as if they had known her forever.

"The Virgin didn't take her eyes off her. The woman walked slowly, each step seeming to take centuries. She continued, the old woman, and approached the manger. Thank God, Jesus was still sleeping. How can one sleep on Christmas night?

"Suddenly he opened his eyelids. His mother was completely astonished to see that the eyes of the old woman and his eyes were exactly the same, they both shone with the same hope. The old woman sank down on the straw. One hand disappeared into her rags, looking for something, taking ages to find it.

"Mary watched her closely, still concerned. The animals watched her, too, but always without surprise, as if they knew beforehand what was going to happen.

"Finally, after a long time, slowly, tiredly, the old woman pulls out of her clothes a little object hidden in her hand, and she gives it to the child. All the treasures of the Wise Men and the offerings of the Shepherds, what could this be?

"From where she was, Mary could not tell. She saw only the shoulders bowed down, the woman's back, bent over from age, now bent over even more before the crib, and the Child within it. The ox and ass watched, and were not amazed.

"The woman stayed bowed before the Child a long time. Finally she arose, as if relieved from a great weight which had dragged her to the ground. Her shoulders were no longer bowed down, her head almost touched the low roof, her face seemed miraculously renewed, as if she was finding once more the vigor of her youth.

"She turned from the crib. smiled at Mary, and went out through the door into the dawning day. Finally Mary could see the mysterious present.

"An apple, a little apple, having within it all the sin of the world, given to the baby Jesus by Eve, for it was her, the old woman, who had come to worship the Child born of her blood, who would save her from her sins. The apple of the original sin, and the sin of so many who would follow her.

"And the little red apple shone in the hands of the Child, as if it were the globe of the kingdom and of the new world which had just been born with the King."
Copyright © 2003-2006 Knight Ridder. All rights reserved.

From the January 2007 issue of First Things.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

It's a Wonderful Life

Just watching It's a Wonderful Life and we got to the part where the Martini Family is moving to their first home financed by the Bailey Savings and Loan and before they enter George and Mary Bailey present the Martini's with three things:

1. A loaf of bread that this house may never know hunger.
2. Salt, so that life always has flavor.
3. Wine for joy and vitality.

Can you get more sacramental than that?

Merry Christmas

What if....

Mary and Joseph had had a baby girl?

Maybe then images like this:

And this:

And this:

Are You Called to Serve?

The Boston Archdiocesan's Lay Ministry
Program at St. John's Seminary in Brighton.

Wouldn't bother me so much.

And if you are wondering what the Lay Ministry Program teaches...well I just happened to find it:

* A capacity for self-acceptance and tolerance of the imperfections of others,
* The ability to work with others in a spirit of cooperation,
* Healthy personality: honest sensitive communication, observance of professional boundaries, emotional stability, the ability to trust others, freedom from the need to control people and situations,
* Recognition of and respect for authority, and the ability to exercise authority in an appropriate manner,
* Competent leadership skills,
* Conflict management skills,
* The capacity for empathy,
* Self-awareness of the dynamics of human sexuality,
* A balanced commitment to family, and to recreational and spiritual values for a holistic life,
* A commitment to further self-development and professional enrichment.

If this is what the Seminary has been teaching it sure explains some problems in the priesthood and now the laity will be the beneficiaries of this kind of wisdom. When "service" is all about a "capacity for self", and don't forget the "self awareness of the dynamics of human sexuality" now THAT is what's lacking. Tolerance, sensitivity, balance, holistic approaches, and frankly power.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Hey, Hey, Whaddya Say?

In the brouhaha about wishing shoppers Merry Christmas, or not, I have to say that if someone says Merry Christmas to me, I reply by saying "Merry Christmas."

If someone says, "Happy Hannukah", I reply by saying "Happy Hannukah" eventhough I don't celebrate it.

If someone says, "Happy Kwanza", I reply in kind eventhough I don't believe in it.

If someone says, "Eid Mubarak", I respond eventhough I abhor it.

But if someone says "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" I correct them by saying,
"Merry Christmas". Because even the most dogmatic heretic is better than the most lenient secularist. One worships falsely, and the other worships only himself and his passions.

What is the Young Traditionalist getting for Christmas this year?

To start with the Medieval Tapestries coloring book by dover publications. Because if it's Medieval it's good. Unless you are talking about the Plague.

Carpentry- to teach building because anything is better than video games.

Classical Kids Volume II. Why Volume II? Because the Young Traditionalist already has Volume I. Engaging stories about the composers with exposure to their music.

Camoflague outfits for the young men because we are raising men and not sissified, flabby, video game addicted, effeminate, wimps. (okay I'll stop now)

And what the Young Traditionalist is NOT getting for Christmas:

Because Amazon refuses to sell it until May of 2007 and though available in the U.K. and my sister saw it flying back from Kathmandu, Nepal she thought it looked too dangerous. Hello! You're flying back from Kathmandu via Doha! This book looks great with directions on making catapults, potato guns and all sorts of dangerous things.

And being a Traditionalist you know there is nothing more dangerous than the Truth and endeavoring to uphold it. Dangerous, threatening, nefarious and evil, that's us.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Mouth of the Lion

But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, that by me the preaching may be accomplished and that all the Gentiles may hear. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. The Lord hath delivered me from every evil work and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom. To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Timothy 4:17-18
I've been reading this book by Dr. David Allen White, professor at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD and thinking about how essential a book it is. Every Traditionalist should read it. Particularly those who did not grow up with the Traditional Mass but have recognized its superiority and committed to its preservation. It teaches us the cost of Tradition paid by the brave Bishop, His Excellency Castro de Meyer and the priests of Campos, Brazil.

As the ill winds of modernism kicked up and the battlements of the Church militant began to be buffetted, Bishop Castro de Meyer knew that it was imperative to "innoculate his flock against error".

In a very simple method and without appeasement, ambiguity or affectation, the good Bishop published, exhorted and explained. His flock answered with obedience and courage.

Some quotes:

Now, beloved sons, what is denied today under a pretense of "new Theology" brings back into the Church the deleterious poison of modernism. According to these "new theologies", the dogmatic Truth is only a vacuum which is filled in differently in the successive epochs of History.


Guard yourselves dear brothers, against all novelties. Revealed Truth is always the same.

And in this holy Bishop's farewell letter to his flock dated June 1st, 1981,

As an antidote to this dangerous and subtle infiltration which would move us away from the road to salvation, we reaffirm continuosly our belief in the only Church of Jesus Christ, holy, catholic, apostolic - credo in unam sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam- outisde of which there is no salvation-extra quam nullus omnio salvatur (Latern Council IV).

A great Christmas gift, an inspiring read, an education and a gift to Traditionalists.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall...

...who is the fairest of them all?

Time Magazine
has decided that it's all about "you". Time has chosen as "Person of the Year" us, in other words the consumer of media products. Everyone knows that with blogs, chat rooms, instant messaging, free republic, talk radio, Fox news, and web sites the people have risen up and revolted against media imposed liberalism, well not everyone. Just the smart people.

The liberal media are a little peeved and a little poorer.

Like water circling the drain, our focus, our attention is increasingly centered upon ourselves.

And then there is the Liturgy. As Uncle Di points out in his usual "take no prisoners editorial style" the hierarchy is intent upon insisting that the "Liturgy" is all about the "people of God" and not about God.

It's Christmas time. Now, if at no other let us come and adore Him, whom the angels worship. Well not all of them. Only the smart ones.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What's on your Christmas card?

In a Boston Globe article by Jeff Jacoby entitled, "The Atheist's Bleak Alternative", he discusses how Europeans are no longer buying or producing Christmas cards that depict any religious basis for the holiday. And how businesses are afraid to decorate for Christmas for fear of being sued by someone they have offended.

It's here.

It is a bleak outlook indeed. Is this really the continent that gave us Tiny Tim's memorable "God bless us everyone." Now Tim would say, nothing because he would have been aborted for his deformity.

Holiday Spirits

I have a confession to make. Whenever I think about Christmas and New Year's as well as remembering the significance of the season, the Incarnation, the time with family and friends I also think about the celebratory aspects. Specifically, I think of the Glogg. Glogg for the uninitiated is a Swedish mulled wine with vodka. Nothing chases away the chill of a New England winter like this fine beverage.

Here is the recipe w/ a new flambe option that I have not tried. I fear it will burn off the alcohol which is much the point of this drink. But it definitely sounds like it would create a memorable event for guests. Far better than setting the inside of your oven on fire the day after Thanksgiving which is how we celebrated the apres Thanksgiving black Friday this year. And our smoke detectors never even went off.

Anyway, cheers!

Glogg recipe

Scale ingredients to servings

2 bottles Cabernet Sauvignon red wine
1 3/4 liters vodka
20 cardamom pods
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 piece orange peel
1 1/2 cups blanched whole almonds
1 1/2 cups raisins
10 dried figs
1 lb sugar

1. Pour the wine and vodka into a large pot. Add spices, fruit and nuts. Turn on the heat and bring the ingredients to a temperature just below the boil.

2. Now for the fun part. Invite all of your guests into the kitchen. Place the sugar cubes in a sieve (one that you don't mind sacrificing to the greater good). Don oven mitts and set the glogg on fire. Ladle the burning glogg over the sugar cubes until it has all melted.

3. When the sugar is melted, cover the pot to extinguish the flame. Ladle glogg, fruit and nuts into irish coffee cups and serve.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I was just wondering...

whatever happened to the Gilbreth children?

Why are there only 11 children mentioned in the books and the movies- "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "Belles on Their Toes"?

And did any of them ever have big families?

You can read about them here.

The books and movies make great family gifts for Christmas. (I'm not talking about the 2003 movie). The scene when a woman from Planned Parenthood comes to the door to enlist the help of Mrs. Gilbreth in their work is priceless.

And if you want to read the life and times of a modern day (though hardly modern)Cheaper by the Dozen you would enjoy reading Christi's blog.

Monday, December 11, 2006

It's All Good

From the USCCB's Catholic Online News:

Former Massachusetts Catholic church sold, slated to become a mosque
By Terence Hegarty

Catholic News Service
INDIAN ORCHARD, Mass. (CNS) -- It will still be a house of worship. That's something that was important to Lokman Yanbul and Catholic parishioners regarding the former St. Matthew Church in Indian Orchard.

The 142-year-old colonial church and the rectory next door were sold for $150,000 in October to the Turkish-American Islamic Society Inc., which plans to convert the church into a mosque. Needed renovations are expected to be completed within a year.

"We did this for the children," said Yanbul, referring to why the local Turkish-American community felt the need to have its own mosque. "We want them to (be able to) continue their cultural and religious heritage."


Aside from worshipping in the Turkish language, Yanbul said their community's liturgy is culturally different from those offered in other area mosques. He said the Turkish-American society is currently made up of about 80 families.

"Basically, what the community is doing is (forming) what I like to compare to an ethnic parish in Catholicism, a Turkish-speaking mosque, and we're very pleased to welcome them here," said St. Jude's pastor, Father William Pomerleau.

St. Jude Parish was formed in 1998, when St. Matthew and St. Aloysius parishes were merged. Father Pomerleau is also a staff reporter for the Catholic Communications Corp., which publishes The Catholic Observer, newspaper of the Springfield Diocese.

"The parish leadership is very thrilled that it will continue to be a house of worship," said Father Pomerleau. Parishioners -- many of whom are former St. Matthew parishioners -- are also happy with the arrangement.


When asked if he was concerned about a negative community reaction to a mosque in the neighborhood, especially in a post-Sept. 11, 2001, world, Yanbul said both St. Jude parishioners and the community at large have welcomed them. He said he has not personally seen any animosity toward Muslims and there has been a great response from both the Muslim and the Catholic communities.

Father Pomerleau said Catholic parishes and dioceses, when selling former worship spaces, need to be very careful about the future use of the facilities. "I think we would have had ... opposition had it been (sold to) a certain kind of business."

St. Matthew Church, built in 1864, has been dormant for more than five years and the rectory for more than eight. Irish immigrants, most of whom worked in the mills in Indian Orchard and Ludlow, established St. Matthew Parish in 1878.

The fact that Turkish immigrants will worship in a building where Irish immigrants did before them is not lost on Yanbul or Father Pomerleau. "What's happening here is not a new story; it's a story that's been going on for 100-150 years," said the priest.

At a time when the eyes of the world are upon Catholic-Muslim relations, with Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Turkey, developments in Indian Orchard could be seen as a microcosm of the global situation.

Yanbul said he feels "we definitely need better Christian-Muslim relations." He said the Turkish community is made up of moderate Muslims. "The Turkish don't know what hard-line is," Yanbul said.

Well then, Allah Akbar. I'm glad to hear that "The Turkish don't know what hard-line is."

That's very reassuring.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Animals are People Too

I was recently in a business establishment that had only a secular display of Christmas sentiment. On the Christmas tree were neither angels, nor mangers, nor the Infant but hand carved animals. There was a beautifully rendered raccoon, badly imitated camel and birds to good effect. At first I thought to myself that maybe the propetier's only experience of love had come from animals. Maybe their families were broken, fragmented, self involved and incapable of showing love.

But the more cynical and probably rational in me prevailed and I realized that throughout our society we are seeing a diminuition of regard for human beings, babies in particular and an elevation of status for animals. My comment that animal products share the same aisle in the supermarket as babies caught some by surprise. They had never noticed it. Have they noticed "Doggy daycare", pet strollers, and the interminably tiresome argument about whether or not animals will be in heaven? If that is the extent of your theological inquiry, friend you need to turn off the TV, cancel your subscription to People Magazine and read a book. The library has some.

The war against children is a subtle one. In the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I noticed that the Baroness hates children, wears lingerie and is hated and scorned by her husband. While Truly, the heroine takes on the motherhood of two children whose mother has died and frees the children in hiding, poverty and despair. You would be hard pressed to find a movie that mirrors those sentiments today.

Peter Singer, Yale "philosopher" has grabbed the headlines recently in calling for legislation that would recognize the right of parents to kill their born children up to 21 days of life if they are handicapped or found wanting in any way.

From an essay on the rights of animals he says:

" But a full grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversible animal than an infant of a day, or a week or even amonth old."

The whole essay is here if you can bear it.

The bottom line is that the move to elevate animals raise them to the level of humans is insidious and intentional. You can resist it by refusing to send Christmas cards that depict an animal nativity, an animal scene or anything other than a Nativity.

As my dear husband just chimed in, "Without animals it wouldn't be Christmas. There would be nothing to eat."

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Coming Home

Godwilling, the Inquisitional Offices of Against All Heresies will be moving to an 1850s Farm house in New England at the end of January. I found this charming account of life in New England in the country. For those who have lived or travelled in New England it will be as familiar as an old friend. For those who have never had the privilege, this will be an invitation to experience the delights that New England has to offer.

This accounts relates the delights of reading, walking, spying on one's neighbors (naturally out of concern for their safety and well being), tramping the woods and Indian raids.

It is long but I think engaging.

Excerpt from "New England Farm-House" 1837 pp. 260-270

Nothing can be quieter or more refreshing, after a winter's visiting at Boston or New York, than such an abode in a country village as I made trial of last May. The weeks slipped away only too fast. Dr. and Mrs. F., their little boy, six years old, and myself, were fortunate enough to prevail with a farmer's widow at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, to take us into her house. The house was conspicuous from almost every part of the sweet valley into which it looked; the valley of the Housatonic. It was at the top of a steep hill; a sort of air palace. From our parlour windows we could see all that went on in the village; and I often found it difficult to take off my attention from this kind of spying. It was tempting to trace the horseman's progress along the road, which wound among the meadows, and over the bridge. It was tempting to watch the neighbours going in and out, and the children playing in the courts, or under the tall elms; all the people looking as small and busy as ants upon a hillock. On week-days there was the ox-team in the field; and on Sundays the gathering at the church-door. The larger of the two churches stood in the middle of a green, with stalls behind it for the horses and vehicles which brought the church-goers from a distance. It was a pretty sight to see them converging from every point in the valley, so that the scene was all alive; and then disappear for the space of an hour and a half, as if an earthquake had swallowed up all life; and then pour out from the church door, and, after grouping on the green for a few minutes, betake themselves homewards. Monument Mountain reared itself opposite to us, with its thick woods, and here and there a grey crag protruding. Other mountains closed in the valley, one of which treated us for some nights with the spectacle of a spreading fire in its woods. From the bases of these hills, up to our very door-step, there was one bright carpet of green. Everything, houses, trees, churches, were planted down into this green, so that there was no interruption but the one road, and the blue mazy Housatonic. The softness of the scene, early in a May morning, or when the sun was withdrawing, could not be surpassed by anything seen under a Greek or Italian sky. Sometimes I could scarcely believe it real: it looked air-painted, cloud-moulded.

It was as a favour that the widow Jones* took us in. She does not let lodgings. She opened her house to us, and made us a part of her family. Two of her daughters were at home, and a married son lived at hand. We had a parlour, with three windows, commanding different views of the valley: two good-sized chambers, conveniently furnished, and a large closet between; our board with the family, and every convenience that could be provided: and all for two dollars per week each, and half price for the child. She was advised to ask more, but she refused, as she did not wish to be "grasping." It was a merry afternoon when we followed the wagon up the hill to our new abode, and unpacked, and settled ourselves for our long-expected month of May. Never was unpacking a pleasanter task.

The blossomy cherry-tree beside my chamber window was the first object I saw in the morning when I threw up the sash; and beneath it was a broad fallow, over which the blue jay flitted. By this window there was an easy chair and a light table, a most luxurious arrangement for reading. We breakfasted at half-past seven on excellent bread, potatoes, hung beef, eggs, and strong tea. We admitted no visitors during the forenoon, as our theory was that we were very busy people. Writing and reading did occupy much of our time, but it was surprising how much was left for the exercise of our tongues. Then there were visits to be made to the post-office, and the crockery store, and the cobbler; and Charley found occasion to burst in, a dozen times a-day, with a bunch of violets, or news of the horse or cow, or of the ride he had had, or of the oxen in the field.

We all dined together at two. One of the daughters absented herself at breakfast, that she might arrange our rooms; but both were present at dinner, dressed, and ready for their afternoon's occupation of working and reading. One was fond of flowers, and had learned a great deal about them. She was skilful in drying them, aud could direct us to the places in the woods and meadows where they grew. Some members of the family, more literary than the rest, were gone westward; but there was a taste for books among them all. I often saw a volume on the table of the widow's parlour, with her spectacles in it. She told me, one day, of her satisfaction in her children, that they were given to good pursuits, and all received church members. All young people in these villages are more or less instructed. Schooling is considered a necessary of life. I happened to be looking over an old almanack one day, when I found, among the directions relating to the preparations for winter on a farm, the following: "Secure your cellars from frost. Fasten loose clap-boards and shingles. Secure a good school-master." It seemed doubtful, at the first glance, whether some new farming utensil had not been thus whimsically named; as the brass plate which hooks upon the fender, or upper bar of the grate, is called "the footman;" but the context clearly showed that a man with learning in his head was the article required to be provided before the winter. The only respect, as far as I know, in which we made our kind hostess uneasy, was in our neglect of Charley's book-studies. Charley's little head was full of knowledge of other kinds; but the widow's children had all known more of the produce of the press at his age than he; and she had a few anxious thoughts about him.

In the afternoon we rambled abroad, if the weather was fine; if rainy, we lighted our wood fire, and pursued our employments of the morning, not uncheered by a parting gleam from the west; a bar of bright yellow sky above the hill tops, or a gush of golden light burnishing the dewy valley at the last. Our walks were along the hill road to the lake, on the way to Lenox, or through the farmyard and wood to a tumbling brook in a small ravine. We tried all manner of experiments with moss, stones, and twigs, among its sunny and shadowy reaches, and tiny falls. We hunted up marsh flowers, wood anemones, and violets, and unfolded the delicate ferns, still closely buttoned up, and waiting for the full power of the summer sun. It was some trouble to me, in America, that I could not get opportunity to walk so much as I think necessary to health. It is not the custom there: partly owing to the climate, the extreme heat of summer, and cold of winter; and partly to the absence of convenient and pretty walks in and about the cities; a want which, I trust, will be supplied in time. In Stockbridge much pedestrian exercise may be and is accomplished; and I took the opportunity of indulging in it, much to the surprise of some persons, who were not aware how English ladies can walk. One very warm afternoon, we were going on a visit to Lenox, five miles off. My friends went in a wagon; I preferred walking. The widow's son watched me along the road, and then remarked, "You will see no more of her till you get to Lenox. I would not walk off at that rate, if they gave me Lenox when I got there."

In the evenings, we made a descent upon the village, or the village came up to us. In the latter case, our hostess was always ready with a simple and graceful welcome, and her best endeavours to provide seats for our many friends. If we staid below till after nine, the family had gone to rest on our return. We had only to lift the latch, light our candles, and make our way to the milk-pans, if we were thirsty. For twenty-five years, the widow has lived on the top of her hill, with only a latch to her door. She sleeps undefended, for she has no enemies; and in her village there are no thieves.

One night, when we were visiting some friends in the valley, it was brought home to us what it is to live in a place where there are no hackney coaches, or other travelling shelter. When we should have been going home, it was a tremendous spring-storm; wind, thunder and lightning, and rain in floods. We waited long; but it seemed to have no intention of abating. When at length we did set out, we were a remarkable looking troop; a gentlemanly young lawyer in a pea jacket; the other gentlemen in the roughest coats that could be found; the ladies leaving bonnets and caps behind, with handkerchiefs over their heads, India-rubbers on their feet, their dresses tucked up, and cloaks swathed round them. Our party were speeded up the hill by the fear that Charley would be wakened and alarmed by the storm; but it was a breathless sort of novelty to be working our way through one continued pond to the foot of the hill, and then up the slippery ascent, unbonneted, with the strangling gust in our faces, and no possibility of our finding our way in the pitchy darkness but by the flashes of blue lightning. Well clad as we were, we felt, I believe, something like being paupers, or gentry of the highway, or some such houseless personages exposed to the pelting of the pitiless storm. Charley was found to be sound asleep, and we ourselves no worse off than being steeped over the ankles.

The time came too soon when I must leave the beloved village, when I must see no longer the morning baking and the evening milking; and the soap cauldron boiling in the open air behind the house, with Charley mounted on a log, peeping into it ; and the reading and working, and tying up of flowers in the afternoon. The time was come when the motherly and sisterly kiss were ready for me, and my country life in New England was at an end. It is well for us that our best pleasures have an immortality like our own; that the unseen life is a glorification of the seen. But for this, no one with a human heart would travel abroad, and attach himself to scenes and persons which he cannot but love, but which he must leave.

It was not always that the villagers of New England could place themselves on hill tops, and leave their doors unfastened. There is a striking contrast between their present security and the fears of their forefathers, in the days when the nursling went to church, because it was unsafe at home, in the absence of its father. Father, mother, and children, all went on one horse to meet the total population within the walls of the church; the one parent armed, the other prying about for traces of the fearful red man. Those were the days when the English regicides had fled to the colonies, and were there secreted. Those were the days when anything that was to be made known to all was announced in church, because everybody was sure to be there; and a fast-day was ordained if anything very remarkable was to be done, or conveyed. Sometimes formal announcements were made; sometimes intimations were so interwoven with the texture of the discourse, as that unfriendly ears, if such should be present, should not apprehend the meaning. When any emissary of Charles the Second was prowling in search of a concealed regicide, the pastor preached from some such text as, "Hide the outcasts. Bewray not him that wandereth;"** and the flock understood that they were to be on their guard against spies. Charles the Second could never get hold of one of his enemies who had taken refuge in these colonies.

On looking abroad over the valley of the Connecticut, from the top of Mount Holyoke, I saw the village of Hadley, seated in the meadows, and extending across a promontory, formed by the winding of the river. This promontory afforded a secure grazing ground for the cattle by day, which were driven by night into the area of the village, where the church stood. Goffe, the regicide, was concealed for many years in the parsonage at Hadley; all the people in the village, except two or three, being, in this instance, unaware of an outcast being among them. One Sunday, the Indians attacked the village while the people were all in~ church. The women and children were left in the church, while their husbands, fathers, and brothers went out to do battle with the cruel foe. It went hard with the whites; the Indians were fast bearing them down, when an unknown figure appeared in their ranks, with flowing robes, streaming white hair, and a glittering sword. The cry was raised that the angel Gabriel had been sent in answer to the prayers of the women in the church. Every spirit vas cheered, every arm was nerved, and the Indians were beaten off, with great slaughter. Upon this, Gabriel vanished; but tradition long preserved the memory of his miraculous appearance. The very few who recognized in him Goffe, with his undressed hair, and in his morning gown, kept the secret faithfully. How blessed a change has come over rural life in Massachusetts since those days! Never may its peace and security be invaded by those social abuses which are more hateful than foreign spies; more cruel and treacherous than the injured and exasperated red man of the wilderness!

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Family Dinner

The Potato Eaters by Vincent Van Gogh

This painting is meant to evince the sentiment that the peasants who toil in the field are enobled by their labor and merit admiration for their efforts.

I am thinking about the family dinner and this seemed as good an image as any. Lately with a large family to serve dinner to, I have been thinking about how to make the family dinner "an event" to be looked forward to and profited from. A friend of mine who is raising 7 children (I think though I often lose count) said that she was trying to raise the level of their dinners by always using cloth tableclothes so that she did not feel she was "ladling out the slop" but was "serving dinner" in a worthy manner. Those words though of seeming inconsequence have stayed with me for years.

In the magazine, House & Garden I was reading about a book called: Perfect Tables: Tabletop Secrets, Settings, and Centerpieces for Delicious Dining" by William Yeoward. The pictures of the tables set look beautiful and imaginative. I like to use props from nature- spruce bows, pine cones, even fall leaves would be beautiful on the table.

The value to the family of dinner together is frequently hailed, even by the liberal media. If you need convincing or even encouragement go here and here.

As my older children near adulthood and independence, I treasure more and more each dinner together. Soon, like the mist that disappears soon after dawn they will be gone, grown and will have graduated from the family dinner.

Commentary would be superfluous

The small print:

Comforting Embrace:

Air Force Chief Master Sergeant John Gebhardt of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group at Balad, Iraq, cradles a young girl as they both sleep in the hospital. The girl's entire family was executed by insurgents; the killers shot her in the head as well The girl received treatment at the U.S. Military hospital in Balad but cries and moans often. According to the nurses at the facility, Gebhardt is the only one who can calm down the girl, so he has spent the last several nights holding her while they both sleep in a chair.

"He who guards your life knows it and will repay each according to his deeds."
Proverbs 2:13

Going to Nepal

I'm not. But my laptop is. My sister is travelling on business and will be in Kathmandu next week. Her business is of a secretive and politically sensitive nature so I cannot reveal any details. You understand.

To add insult to injury her client with whom she was supposed to be travelling cannot make the trip. So she is taking.... my sister. So eventhough I have been reading climbing accounts of Mount Everest for years, watching documentaries, visiting the Everest climbing news websites and imagining myself at Base Camp for years... I will not be going to Nepal next week. I know exactly how Jo felt when Beth accompanied Aunt March to Europe. And then she came back married to Teddy!

The history of Catholicism in Nepal is interesting. India was originally evanglized by St. Thomas the Apostle in 52 AD. Martyred and buried in India his work was continued by St. Francis Xavier in the 1500s. A historical account states that "St. Francis Xavier made it a point not only to convert the people but lso destroy the idols and ancient places of devil worship."

I was heartened and encouraged to see that Goa, India even had its own Inquisition which according to Wikipedia was requested of the Holy Father, John II by St. Francis Xavier though it did not take place until 8 years after his death and was prosecuted by the Portugese settlers. Supposedly the Inquisition continued until the British took control of Goa. Because they were known to be such benevolent rulers? No, I think it had more to do with spreading their protestant heresies and trying to undermine the True Faith.

It is still a crime to proseltyze in Nepal. Supposedly the law is not enforced and has not been since 1990. Internet sources say that there are 7,105 Christians in Nepal. Next week there will be 7,107. I guess we will find out if the anti-religious laws are enforced or not.

So, while my computer will be basking in the shadow of Chomolungma, or "goddess of the universe" as the Nepalese call Everest, I can only hope that some dust from the summit will settle into its keys and inspire it. And me.