Care to Join Us?
Earlier this month, the contributors to the Seton Homeschool Blog joined the columnists of the Seton Magazine in a new, interactive online edition of the Seton Magazine.
A little history may be in order. For more than 20 years, Seton Home Study School has printed a newsletter-and then beginning in June of 2012, a magazine-for our families. Now, with the proliferation of smart phones and tablets and laptops, we want to bring the Seton Magazine to you wherever you are and whenever and however you want to read it.
The new SetonMagazine.com combines everything you like about the printed magazine with the immediacy and interactivity of the Internet. All the articles from the magazine will be available, but that’s just the beginning.
We are including exclusive online content, such as frequent columns from your favorite authors-Dr. Mary Kay Clark, John Clark, Ginny Seuffert, Dessi Jackson, Dr. Mitch Kalpakgian, and others. What’s even better, now you can easily join the discussion and let us know what you think.
We invite you to come to SetonMagazine.com today and be part of the conversation.
We have collected a set of books by, for, and about the holy mission of mothers. Like a beautiful bouquet of fragrant flowers, we have gathered them all here.
The Heart of Motherhood: Finding Holiness in the Catholic Home is by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, an award winning author and Lay Misionary of Charity. In this wonderful book, the author shares that today’s mothers need encouragement and recognition. She states that she hopes to “help more mothers realize and embrace the sublimity of their missions as mothers, responsible for the souls entrusted to our care.”
Written in a warm and engaging style, this book contains many quotations from Blesseds John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Each chapter ends with a prayer, and an inspiring pause or reflection upon the content discussed. The author reminds each of us of our call to be a saint in our own walk of life, and emphasizes the need for mothers to take breaks for prayer and refreshment each day. Mothers are encouraged to strive to imitate Mary, the Mother of God, and her virtues. The author stresses the importance of a mother’s duty to pray on a regular basis, to teach their children to pray constantly, and to seek opportunities to evangelize in their everyday relationships. Topics such as the value of family meal times, suffering as a form of prayer, and the recognition of moments of grace and “everyday miracles”, are addressed. This book serves to encourage and support the vocation of motherhood with gentle and loving care.
Here are others that I think you will enjoy.
The Mother of the Little Flower - Was St. Therese’s mother herself a saint? Zelie Martin and her husband Louis were declared Venerable by the Church in 1994 for their Heroic Virtue, and the couple’s cause is now progressing toward Beatification.
“Zelie married at age 27, bore 9 children, ran a home business and did a superb job of raising 5 daughters including the greatest saint of modern times” – St. Pius X.
She died of breast cancer at the age of 45, but her greatness was recognized by her family and her friends, and is now known to the world. Zelie suffered many of the ordinary burdens of life, yet she was happy, loved her children madly and enjoyed them immensely. This book was written by her daughter Celine, who had access to Zelie’s letters and to the reminiscences of her older sisters in the Carmel of Lisieux. It is authentic and inspiring, showing what a tremendous life’s work and accomplishment it is to be a truly Catholic mother. Looking at Zelie’s picture, one can see her incredible character, integrity, goodness, constancy and love. The book carries an imprimatur.
Saint Monica: Model of Christian Mothers - The famous persevering mother whose prayers, patience and good example at last obtained the conversion of her wayward son – the great St. Augustine – as well as her pagan husband and her mother-in-law. Includes her childhood, difficult marriage, anguish over Augustine, constancy and – in the end – her joy at his conversion. A magnificent story of prayer finally answered!
Monica is also a shining example for Catholic wives. As a young Catholic girl married to a pagan husband, she steadfastly practiced her Catholic Faith. Her constant charity finally resulted in the conversion of both her husband and her mother-in-law! This book also carries an imprimatur.
St. Rita of Cascia: Saint of the Impossible (Wife, Mother, Widow, Nun). One of the most popular Saints in the Church for centuries, St. Rita is known as the “Saint of the Impossible” because of her amazing answers to prayers, as well as the remarkable events of her own life. Desirous of being a nun, she instead obeyed her parents and married. Her husband was cruel, and caused her much suffering, to which she responded with love and prayers and eventually converted him. After the death of her husband and two sons, Rita was able to enter a convent, where she devoted herself to prayer and penance. She abandoned herself totally to God, diminishing herself as He increased in her. An inspiring story of a soul completely resigned to God’s will.
There are more at our book store. All have been carefully chosen for you!
Knowledgeable public school parents are very concerned about the Common Core curriculum and standards—and with good reason. Using the enticement of federal dollars, the present administration is dictating the curriculum in forty-five out of fifty states. Families in the other five states should not take comfort in their fortunate geography, nor should the parents of children in most parochial and private schools. To stay in business, textbook companies will be forced to produce educational materials that follow Common Core pedagogy and teach to Common Core standards. We can expect that standardized testing companies will soon conform their norms to the Common Core which is actually good news for homeschoolers who will most likely test even higher than the present 35% above their public school peers. That, however, is the only good news.
The Common Core is a disaster for our nation that will take our present woefully underperforming public school students to a new low in academic achievement, inculcate values opposed to Judeo-Christian tradition, and leave young people incapable of the independent thought that inspired our glorious history.
It is difficult to assess the relative complexity of teaching Chinese to Chinese students versus English to Americans, but pupils in every country learn the same concepts in math. For several decades, U.S. students, even our top performing ones, start out mediocre in the early grades, and slip to an embarrassing low by the upper grades, when compared to pupils from other nations. Expect even those pitiful results to crumple.
Under the Common Core, children are not expected to be proficient in addition and subtraction until the 4th grade, basic multiplication in the 5th grade and division in the 6th grade. Important operations like prime factorization, common denominators, and conversion of fractions and decimals are no longer considered worthy of intense practice. In place of being taught how to perform basic functions, children are directed to come up with solution plans by themselves or with other students. Mastery of facts and tables, memorization of definitions, and verifiable progress are being replaced by fuzzy “conceptual understanding”.
The Common Core Curriculumin Language Arts might even be worse than math. For several decades too many students have been denied the enlightened thoughts of “dead white men” and been treated to such favorites as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Now even this thin gruel will be diluted; by 11th and 12th grade, only 30% of a student’s English class is to be devoted to any literature at all. The rest of the time will be spent studying “informational texts” relevant to the 21st century. Parents will know very little about the nature of possible advocacy articles, or informational essays, as much of the Common Core material will be presented electronically on tablets.
Here at Seton, we are receiving an increasing number of calls regarding these new “standards” and how they will affect our curriculum. Be confident that Seton will maintain our present high academic standards and give your children the skills they need to compete and lead in the international community. Seton will continue to require students to read, and analyze in a grade appropriate way, many of the great literary works of Western Civilization, and become skilled at critical thinking through their mastery of grammar and rhetoric. We will require your children to memorize facts and master operations in mathematics. In place of presenting the lowest common denominator of 21st century culture, Seton will continue to fill your children’s eyes with outstanding works of Christian art, their minds with the finest thoughts of Western Civilization, and their hearts with the doctrines of Holy Mother Church.
The next several years will be very troubling for American education as the Common Core wastes billions of tax dollars to further dumb down what our children learn. Homeschoolers, especially those who do not enroll in Catholic programs, will have to be especially diligent when choosing curriculum materials as publishers conform their offerings to the new standards. Enrolled Seton families, and Catholic families who purchase products from Seton Educational Media, can trust that we will continue the Catholic tradition of academic excellence while maintaining a wholesome, Catholic point of view.
by Mitchell Kalpakgian
The Cottage at Bantry Bay, Francie on the Run, and Pegeen are charming, wholesome, fun-filled tales of Catholic family life in 1940s Ireland that are humorous and heartwarming. In these stories, the children are carefree, happy-go-lucky children who live innocent lives. They enjoy their brothers and sisters, they love their mother and father, they revel in the fun of life, and they radiate the pure hearts of children who are blessed with good parents who cherish their children. These books are ideal to read aloud to children eight or nine years old and most appropriate as good literature for children in junior high school or older.
In a Catholic family, a husband and wife are to be sources of grace to one another and to their children. The children are to be sources of grace to one another and to their parents. And the Catholic family is to be a source of grace to other families. This pattern is constant and recurring throughout these three books. For example, when Mr. O’Sullivan trips in a rabbit hole and finds himself unable to travel the long distance to sell his donkey, his two older children, Michael (11) and Brigid (9), volunteer to do their father’s errand:
Mother sat frowning; presently she looked up and said: “It may be a good plan, Father, to let both of them go. They’re fine healthy children, God bless their hearts, and if one of them is in trouble the other can let us know. It’s safer I think, and we’re in sore need of the money.”
In this episode the children provide for their parents, brother and sister befriend each other, father is thinking of the welfare of his child, and mother offers her practical wisdom for the good of the family—all family members acting as sources of grace to one another.
In another moving episode from The Cottage at Bantry Bay, Michael and Bridy receive a good bit of money as a reward. Their immediate instinct is to offer the money for their brother Francie’s operation:
“Mother,” said Michael gravely, getting up and handing her the envelope. “This is too much altogether for me and Bridy to spend. Sure, many’s the time we were longing to help you, so we could have Francie’s foot mended—isn’t it so, Bridy— and we couldn’t. It’s glad we are to be able now.”
Touched by the purity of her children’s hearts, Mrs. O’Sullivan “had tears in her eyes and she pressed both her eldest born to her heart.”
In Francie on the Run, Francie tires of his long convalescence in the hospital after his successful surgery, misses his family and twin brother Liam, and one day escapes from the hospital and begins his long, adventuresome journey homeward. Francie meets Pegeen, a girl with a lively spirit and active imagination who lives alone with an aged grandmother. A warm friendship develops between these two children after Francie and Pegeen lose their way in the mist and are found by Father Kelly. The lost boy is temporarily lodged with Pegeen and her grandmother until the priest finds transportation for Francie to return home.
In Pegeen, Francie’s friend becomes an orphan after her grandmother dies. Pegeen’s only living relative, an uncle in America, does not appear enthusiastic about adopting his niece. When Pegeen writes to Francie about her problem, Francie responds by inviting her to visit his family: “[Mother] says she wants you to come and stay with us….” In the course of her visit, Pegeen experiences the sisterly affection of Brigid who shares her favorite doll, the loyal friendship of Francie and Liam who cry at the thought of Pegeen leaving their family to go to America, the maternal tenderness of Mrs. O’Sullivan who says “yes” to Pegeen as another child in the family, and the protection and security of a strong father like Mr. O’Sullivan. Thus the O’Sullivan family becomes a source of grace not only for parents and children but also for other families and for society at large.
Dr. Mitchell A. Kalpakgian is a native of New England, the son of Armenian immigrants. He earned his B.A. in English from Bowdoin College in 1963, his M.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1965, and his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1974. He taught at Simpson College (Iowa) for thirty one years, at Christendom College (Front Royal, Virginia) for two years, and at Magdalen College (Warner, New Hampshire) for two years. From 2007-2009 he was a visiting professor of Humanities at Wyoming Catholic College in Lander.
Dr. Kalpakgian designed Seton’s Shakespeare course and is instrumental in grading the Shakespeare and other high school English courses at Seton Home Study School.
During his academic career, Dr. Kalpakgian received many academic honors, among them the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar Fellowship (Brown University, 1981), the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship (University of Kansas, 1985), and an award from the National Endowment for the Humanities Institute on Children’s Literature.
Most of us breathe a sigh of relief when Christmas shopping is finished, but then reality rears its ugly head, and we realize that birthdays are year round, and gift giving is an endless experience. For those of you who buy children’s presents, allow me to put in a pitch for educational toys and gifts. I know, I know! Some of you may be asking, “Does everything have to be a learning experience? Can’t children just have fun sometimes?” I just strongly believe that learning can be fun, and the right play equipment can make it effortless as well. Here are some ideas.
Never forget that Physical Education or “gym” class is a required course of study in every state of the union. Remember too that years of research confirm that physically fit children are also more mentally alert and better able to live up to their learning potential. Bikes, scooters, wagons, and play gym equipment are excellent gifts. You will not be sorry if you get older children involved in ping-pong, badminton, horseshoes, or even bocce. New athletic shoes and clothing, pedometers, and fancy water bottles are also great choices.
Setonbooks.org has a great selection of gifts for little kids. Puzzles with knobs, not only help with focusing and concentration, but also develop the same finger control that will later be used for penmanship. Large floor puzzles are lots of fun, and the kids are less likely to lose the pieces. Art supplies of all types are always a good choice, as are instrumental music products. Remember art and music are also required subjects.
Older children appreciate hands on projects, as well. In addition to art kits and supplies, potholder kits, carpentry kits, sewing, knitting, and crocheting kits are lots of fun. Seton sells lots of science projects that have proven to be a hit with children. I used to buy cookbooks designed for children, with simple recipes and written safety instructions. Speaking of books, gift giving is a great opportunity to plump up the family library. Parents are understandably nervous about some choices in bookstores (Papa Bear, Daddy Bear, and Baby Bear — yikes!). You can find a reliable guide to help you choose at: http://www.setonhome.org/parent-resources/#readinglists, with links to places you can purchase them.
Stand up to the advertisements on cartoon channels, and stop funneling money towards products that only increase your children’s appetites for even more targeted products. Give products that will help your child grow in skill and virtue. Learning can be fun too!
by Dessi Jackson
It is the Nativity Fast and I feel so lost. I turn and I turn, I try to silence the noise, the blogs full of stuff and waste. I need to find Him; the tiny babe in this madness of commercialized holiness. I reach for the phone and I call miles away. I reach to touch my heart still pulsating in a village far away. I cry and I tell her how all is too bright, all is too busy. The stores, the blogs, the churches all too busy selling stuff, create in me a wounded heart. She listens and she breathes and how I wish I could be there feeling her breath and holding her aging hands. So this is how people lose the wee baby in America, buried under all the stuff. Adding more gifts to the already beautiful traditions, thus robbing them from the peace and the simplicity of that Holy Night!!
The Nativity Fast has begun. Her words whispered from miles away brought me back home in that small European house; my great-grandfather whispering stories by the oil lamp and my baba spinning wool, the warm glow of the wood stove warming our small room while outside the snow was busily about, creating a thick soft blanket of wonder!!! The words coming softly from where my diado (grandfather) sat were coming back through the years to speak to my heart. The simplicity and the deep love of people long ago, their faith so strong and unshakable, yet as simple and as rugged as the earth on which they work. Such faith that builds giants can be created only in the simplicity and poverty of their lives. I listen to prayers whispered in the dark, candles lit by the icons, and songs sung with lungs full of faith. The bareness of the cottage, the white washed walls, the dirt floors, the oil lamp flickering in the dark is what has built my soul and mind. The Christmases tucked away in that small village are the ones that breathe life, love, and faith. Tears roll down my cheeks as I listen in gratitude. My soul is being healed, like the wee lambs my diado used to bring home and care for them by the warmth of the wood stove. The balm of simple peasant faith is a life-giving miracle for my weary soul. And I know that I am the great-granddaughter of many peasant women of faith who greeted the holy babe in the simplicity of their own home, far away from the noise of the modern madness of Christmas!!!!
It is the Nativity Fast and by God’s grace I am here to open my heart and my children’s hearts for the tiny visitor. I dust my icons, put new oil in my lamp, and pray for the faith that was born in a manger two thousand years ago. I go in the woods and bring fresh greens for the wreath and I pray for the strength to carry that faith like the women who walked the floors on our tiny cottage back in the mountainside. There is no tree yet and no light because it is the Nativity fast, not yet Christmas!!! As a flip through the pages of old recipes, looking for meatless dinners I know that my heart is still beating with the holy season. There are no malls, stores, or cyber shopping frenzies here. There should not be. I must guard this holy fast and pray that my faith will grow bigger. I must hope that one day my unworthy self will be gifted with the faith of the women who rocked their wee babes in that small cottage. We gather around and we each busy our fingers in the prayer of creating a handmade gift for the ones we love. As we pray our stitches through the fabric or our lines on the paper we are thinking of the person who will receive the gift. It makes it easier to pray for them and it makes it sweeter on our hearts and souls.
It is the Nativity Fast and all is well with my soul. I am who I am and it is okay that I cannot change. I am here miles away from the dirt floors back home but I have found my pulse again. I am the next in the long line of peasant women passing down the quiet, the peace, and the warmth of the Nativity of Our Lord!!!
O Father of Goodness, we thank you for all that is beautiful, loving and true. Amen.
For those of us in the United States it’s Thanksgiving time again. Halloween is over and Christmas trees and ornaments have made their appearance in the stores. Advertisements about Black Friday are everywhere. In some ways it seems Thanksgiving runs the risk of getting lost in the shuffle. How can it compete with the bags of candy corn and M & Ms on the one end and “Jolly Old St. Nick” on the other? And yet, despite the fact that this isn’t a Catholic holiday per se, it is all about giving thanks. What can be more Catholic than that?
Whether we are better off than we were last year, or not so well off, there is still so much to be thankful for. I was thinking about how to get that across to the Pre-K CCD class my daughter and I teach on Tuesday afternoons. Once they’ve settled down and told us all about their weekend, how can we capture their attention and focus it on Thanksgiving and what it is all about. I decided to enlist the help of Mr. Gobble-Gobble (or as my daughter and co-teacher calls him, Mr. Gobbledy-Goop).
He was meant to be one of a pair of crocheted turkeys to be used as a centerpiece for our Thanksgiving table, but I never got around to making the second one, so he will be doing double duty by helping us explain to the pre-schoolers about Thanksgiving. But where to start?
We decided to begin with the obvious, discussing all the wonderful gifts God has given us and how we should be thankful to Him for them. They usually get all excited once we get them started naming off things and they never cease to come up with things to be thankful for that surprise me. A year or two ago one of our students informed us that he was thankful for his mom, even though they had to go to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving dinner since mom couldn’t cook it! That made my daughter and I smile and we had to work hard not to laugh. Sometimes the children remind me of something I should be thankful for that I may have forgotten. Out of the mouths of babes…
Let us reflect on our reasons to be thankful…
After our discussion, we’ll do a project or some coloring pages and have a story…probably the story about Jesus healing the 10 Lepers. Their eyes get so big when we ask whether or not ALL the lepers should have come back to thank Jesus. I look forward to seeing how they respond this year. It will be a nice lead in to a discussion about how we must always remember to thank God for his many gifts and how every day should be a sort of mini-Thanksgiving. I wish we had more time to work with our class. Thanksgiving is such a wonderful opportunity to discuss and put into practice the virtues, not only of thankfulness but of charity.
Thanksgiving crafts are easy enough to find, at least of a secular nature. I think we made paper plate turkeys, Thanksgiving cards and colored little pilgrim children for years before the girls outgrew the activity. Looking back on it, I probably should have had them make a centerpiece for the table as well—something that reflected our thankfulness as a family and as individuals. Would you consider sharing your Thanksgiving activities and projects? Even those of us with older or grown children might benefit.
Below are two of the many craft ideas I found while surfing the internet. On the left is a Pumpkin Pie Spinner. I thought it was very clever. On the right is, well, I would never have thought of this!
And here are two articles I found that elaborate a little on the history and Catholicity of Thanksgiving. The second is a little older than the first, but still interesting. I hope you enjoy them.
God bless and Happy Thanksgiving.
by Dessi Jackson
“What a gloomy and dark day!!!“ The words came out of my daughter’s mouth followed by a big exhalation of breath. The gray skies filled her heart with gloom. I looked out and I felt the comfort of gloom. It was not always so; there were times when the gray could still be my joy!! Now, it was a welcome time of quiet, it was my way of seeing God’s loving hand. It was His way of reminding me it is time for stillness, time to reach out for Him and touch the ones near me. I had to show her the beauty in gray, the extraordinary brightness in the gloomy skies.
We put on our coats and ventured down the much traveled path to the woods. We walked and we listened. We touched the leaves and inhaled the smells in the autumn air. If you ever come for a walk with me you might be surprised at my silence. If you know me, you will know that I believe words can only destroy the hallowed moment. So, my wee ones might have taken after me, because when we walk we seldom use words but have the most wonderful conversations! As we walked and listened to the crunch of the leaves, the chirp of the cardinals, and the crackling sound of corn husks, we conversed a great deal, touched by the silence of the gray skies. Each one discovered his own joy in the ordinary. I watched as they witnessed the beauty of God touching their souls. The privilege to be with them at such moments is sure to overwhelm one’s heart. Tiny baby hands touching the bark of a tree, feeling the bumps and cracks and squealing in delight as wee ladybugs crawl on her tiny fingers. A boy lost in the pages of his nature notebook, drawing the memories of a little bird that stood on the branch before his eyes as fast as he can.
I listen to the sighs of my daughter, the many little sighs of wonder brought to us on this gloomy, dark day, and I smile. In the silence of our conversation I know that they are discovering how brightly and beautiful the ordinary is when the skies are gray. The silence is broken by the squeal of delight coming from my three-year-old girl. “Mommyyyyyy, my boots look even more pwetty outside under the gway skies!” My oldest daughter laughs and looks at me with eyes more knowing now. I see in her the joy of this gray day. We move on slowly down a winding path by the corn fields. The skies are gray, the day is full of the quietness of autumn. What a perfect time to discover the joys of living an ordinary life! We are home now under the big tree when a flutter of joy passes by us and lands on the hummingbird feeder. All eyes are on this tiny herald of joy. The wee creature rests its wings for a moment. Maybe he is also savoring the beauty of this gray day? A swift movement of his wings reveals a splash of red on his wings. As it turns out he was not so dull and gray after all! Just like our day, this wee red admiral butterfly had a splash of color hidden on his wings. The amazing beauty one can see by just being still and observing. The children run back home, ready to capture in their notebooks the beauty of this gray and gloomy day. I walk slowly, still savoring the goodness of God and breathing gratitude for His creations.
A little hand touches my fingers. I look down and it is my little boy. He too is enjoying the slowness of this moment. Then just like the butterfly he flies away. His hands are carrying the bird feeder. He loves to fill it and then enjoys watching the birds that come to his feast. His tiny hands so nimbly pouring the seeds into the feeder, his eyes concentrating on the beauty of this task! I watch and the joy of the moment fills my eyes with tears. Those tiny fingers moving so fast, making the swishing sound in the box of feed…..I was witnessing the making of a great masterpiece! The sound of an ordinary task filling the air with notes of sanctity! Yes, what beauty we can find in a gloomy dark day, if we only look and listen!
“Why should I go to Church? Why can’t I just pray at home?” God is everywhere, so why can’t I go out in the woods and worship there? I don’t need to go to Church and have people telling me what to do. I have the Bible. All the rules are in there.”
How often have we come across people who don’t understand the need to go to Church or to frequent the sacraments? Maybe we’ve been caught a bit flat-footed and that hampered our efforts to explain why attending Mass is so important. We know it’s important, but we might have had trouble putting the reasons into words. Maybe we were put on the spot and everything we wanted to say and knew we should say refused to be articulated. I am humbled to say that this has happened to me. I know the why but was caught off guard. I wasn’t sure how to frame a response that would not antagonize the questioner, but would, rather, plant a seed. Today I found one possible way to respond when I was looking through my e-mails. It made me think and it made me smile. I hope it will do the same for you.
“Why go to Church?
If you’re spiritually alive, you’re going to love this!
If you’re spiritually dead, you won’t want to read it.
If you’re spiritually curious, there is still hope!
A Church goer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday.”I’ve gone for 30 years now,” he wrote, “and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. So, I think I’m wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all.”
This started a real controversy in the “Letters to the Editor” column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:
“I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this. They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”
When you are DOWN to nothing….. God is UP to something! Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible and receives the impossible! Thank God for our physical AND our spiritual nourishment!”
When your children or family members or friends, of whatever faith, ask why Church is so important how do you respond? How do you tailor your answers to the person or people who are asking? I’m sure any responses you would like to share would be greatly appreciated and very helpful.
“When Satan is knocking at your door, simply say,“Jesus, could you get that for me?”
God bless and have a wonderful day!
by Dessi Jackson
Was it the cold of the night, or the outcome of the race, or maybe both but I was cold and lifeless. That feeling of numbness can be the most painful one. The struggle to breathe, to feel, contained within a body that lacks life. Was it the flickering computer screen and the posts coming faster than the breaths for air form my chest, or was it the air of fear? My eyes are looking but they can not see, my mind is searching but can not find. The silence is not welcome tonight, it is wrapping around me like a chain of steel. I grasp for air and try to pray but my heart won’t let me.
All the images of a childhood in a land far away came out from the dark. The fears in my parents’ eyes, the whispered words in the dark, the book I found on the road and brought home. The fear in my parents’ eyes when they saw it and when the teachers came to look through my room. My great grandfather’s tear-filled eyes when he looked at all the land that belonged to his father and grandfather, now lying in the hands of others. I hear his cries of prayer and pain his shouts for help and his hope that the King will come one day. My baba’s whispers by the soft glow of the wood stove. Her words of how no one dared speak any more, of how their homes turned into places of prison and fear. A father afraid of his child and babas watching in fear as their children’s life fell apart before their eyes. It was all there in that silent night, it was all so loud and so frightening. My breath was not leaving my chest in fear of those images. How can you breathe when there is so much pain in the air?
The sound of my baby crying brought me out of the strong grasp of my memories. I picked her up and nestled her against my chest. She wanted comfort and nourishment and I was there. Her wee little fingers were touching my neck, just reaching for me. In faith and in need she just reached in the dark. My heart was heavy. Will I, like my baba watch her freedom to love God be taken away? Will I, like my baba whisper in the night words of fear and hope? Will my tears burn my heart like it did theirs? And will I, like my diado (grandfather) cry a cry full of pain and need? Perhaps, I will. We all will, we can not stop life. My strength was lost in the dark air but my mother’s heart gave out one more beat of prayer. I felt like the woman who could only reach the hem of His garment. One beat of prayer, one reach of hope….it was all I could do. A stolen grace in a faithless moment. A stolen grace in a moment deprived of courage. That stolen grace from the hem of His love was enough to make my body feel the warmth again. In world full of peril that hem of grace will have to keep my heart warm and my mind focused on Him. Will I cry? Yes I will and I will do it while holding on to that hem. Will I whisper words by the fire? We all will but by the miracle of a tiny grace we might even have the courage to shout the words. My baby’s weight was reminding me that I need to put her to bed and take myself to bed as well. The darkness was still heavy, the heart was still in fear but the light coming from His hem was still stronger than the night’s fear. A stolen grace in a faithless moment was all I needed to reach His hem!!!!!!
“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places.
But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now
mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings