This blog's mission is simple--to encourage moms who are married to non-Catholics and raising their children in the Faith. If you know a mom who needs a little encouragement in continuing her efforts, I would be delighted if you would share Kathleen's Catholic with her. Thank you!

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Walking Rosary or Oh, The Adolescent Male!

by Kathleen Blease

He has a big heart. He is adorable and is the spitting image of his father, the man I'm absolutely in love with. Creative. Funny. Strong. Adventurous. Hard working. And he's driving me loony!

I feel guilty for saying it, but it's true. My thirteen-year-old is constant. Chatter. Eating. Chatter. Jumping. Chatter. Elbows and heels always moving about and looking for excitement. Chatter. Objects are flipped in the air—remote controls, pens, phones, pocket knives. Up, down. Up, down. Chatter. And his brain is constantly conjuring up inventions—usually right in the middle of Math. Oh, the adolescent male! His big brother doesn't make it easier with his untimely input. If you've got two boys, you know what I mean by “the little brother/big brother reaction factor.” Grrr.

I thought I'd take a break. A brisk walk in the cool spring air was in order. I slid my cell phone into my back pocket and called out to the boys, “Call me if you need me.” Translation: I want to be alone.

I took along a decade rosary I fashioned out of twine and knots and decided to follow the advice of Peggy Bowes and her Rosary Workout. This would be a good time to pray the mystery of The Visitation and to reflect on Mary's journey on foot (while pregnant) to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. I thought about that. I crossed over the creek's bridge and took in a deep breath of fresh air. Then I thought about how tired I was. How my foot hurt and my knee cracked. How my back was sore. Did Mary feel all these things, too? Of course. And the trees. The long row of trees to my right—the smell of the pine, the cool breeze, the feel of the road under my feet. Little stones. Pine cones. Twigs.

Here was Mary's path. Mary's school. I was entering in and becoming acutely aware that the Blessed Mother was surrounded by the very same dirt, fresh breeze, and noise of the birds, although two millenia ago and a world away. But these tiny pieces of Our Father's creation today are just the same.

I was in the mode. Peace. Ah, yes, peace....

And then...

“THERE you are! I ran across the woods, over the creek. Look, I got the bottom of my jeans dirty, but I hopped a few stones and got over the creek, then I ran over the field and now I've found you! Oh, here's a stone. Check this out! Oops. Mom, look. Mom, look. Maybe a pine cone would work better. Mom, watch, I'm gonna punt it. Oops. Wait, wait. Mom, look. Mom, look. Watch, watch. I'll try again. Yes! I was wondering if I would find you.”

I don't know why he wondered. I always walk on the same road.

Okay, I decided I would focus on my prayers by hook or by crook. Peggy said so. Here we go.

Hail Mary, full of grace....

Another knot finished. On to the next and then the next. And my son was still chattering. But now he was in front of me, kicking another pine cone down the road. Kick. Scramble, scramble. Kick. Scramble, scramble.

Hail Mary, full of grace...

Third knot finished. His elbows flew in the air. Whack! His heel kicked up high behind him.

Right about then, my eyes were changing. I saw something. I didn't see it before.

Hail Mary, full of grace...

Another knot. And then it became a little clearer.

Our Lord was just about my son's age when he left his parents to teach in the Temple. I thought about that. And then I thought about the fact that Christ, too, was a teen. What was he like at 13 years old? Exuberant, I'm sure. He must have loved his friends. How many games did he play with them? Can you imagine Him playing some ancient form of soccer, laughing and challenging His friends? All those boys: elbows and heels.

I watched my son in front of me as I prayed. Another knot. Then another. I could feel a unique bond forming first between my Holy Mother and me and then between my son and me. I could hear Mary saying, “Yes, He was like him in many ways when He was a boy. Happy. He was happy.”

We turned the corner and I said to Max, “I'm ready to pray the Hail Holy Queen. Wanna join me?”

“Here? Out loud?” He shrugged and put his arm across my shoulder in his happy-go-lucky way. We began. Out loud, as we walked down road. “Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, Our Life, Our Sweetness, and Our hope. To you do we cry....”

Max walked next to me, but his steps were zippy next to my heavy ones. The cinders popped out from under his feet as we recited the prayer.

I continued on. “....Pray for us, Mother of God.”

My son was quiet. (Quiet!)

“Do you remember this part?”

He shrugged, then said, “That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.”

Then cinders flew as he ran up the driveway toward the pond. Elbows in the air.

That's my boy!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

From the Bird & Nature Journal

How lovely your dwelling, O Lord of hosts! My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord. My heart and flesh cry out for the living God. As the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest to settle her young, my home is by your altars, Lord of hosts, my king and my God! Happy are those who dwell in your house! They never cease to praise you! Psalm 84

Tucked into the rolling hills of eastern Pennsylvania, along the edge of the Pocono Mountains and the Slate Belt, our little pond is home and respite to all kinds of birds and mammals. And it's a big source of entertainment and wonder for me and my family. During this time of year, our yard sounds like an aviary, and we are awakened every morning by a symphony of bird calls. At night, we are lulled to sleep by the peep of the tree frogs and bass-like hum of the bull frogs in the pond.

Every year, something a little exotic makes its home here. Here are two birds I am delighted see and enjoy watching, the Green Heron and the Great Egret.

Join me at the Bird & Nature Journal for more details. 

April 27, 2011

Green Heron 
photo source:
I just spotted this cutie yesterday morning. As I was drinking my cup of coffee, I saw a strange bird that dive-bombed from the oak tree by the pond. "What was that?" He stood upright with his long neck sticking straight up; his body is about a little bigger than a robin's. I grabbed the binoculars and watched him observe his surroundings--mostly the male mallards eating breakfast on the pond. Then he finally started walking about, but with his neck still extended, and I could see his heron-like feet. That gave me a clue, and so I looked it up on my bird journal, and --voila!--I found the green heron. Yes, I remembered then that I saw him last year, but at that time I didn't see him with his neck extended, and he looks quite different when it's not. I'm so glad he's back! He has a very unusual call of "Kowp!" And he's loud, although not often heard. I'm so looking forward to watching his antics again this year.
Great Egret
photo by Max Blease
Isn't this bird beautiful? He spent all of last summer with us, visiting every day. It was a pleasure to watch him fish and hunt for small frogs.

He is not a snowy egret, which has black legs and yellow feet, crest feathers, and stands at only two feet tall. This Great Egret has black legs and feet, no crest feathers, and is 3'3" tall. He still-hunts. It's fun to watch him spy a meal, stand as still as a statue with his neck extended all the way, then (swoop!) go in for the goodies! He is peaceful looking and moves smoothly and gracefully.

I just now found the picture to post it! I hope he returns this summer.

P.S. Can you tell I love living here? After 22 years in the city, I think I'm finally home!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why Do Catholics Bless Themselves With The Sign of the Cross?

by Kathleen Blease

It's purely Catholic, isn't it, blessing yourself with The Sign of the Cross?

One day I was watching old black-and-white movies of my grandmother enjoying Christmas with her brothers and sisters. My father was still a tiny baby. One by one, the sisters lined one side of the holiday table. The movie was silent but I could easily guess what was about to happen. Smiles and giggles changed to calm. And then all at once, with the camera focused on them, the girls in unison cast down their eyes and made The Sign of the Cross.

"In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts,
which we are about to receive
from Thy bounty
through Christ Our Lord, Amen."

Some might wonder: Just what is The Sign of the Cross?

It is also known as the sign of our salvation. It's a tiny prayer, but it is a complete statement of what we believe, no more and no less. In fact, it's the abbreviation of the Apostle's Creed.

When we touch our forehead, we say "I believe in the Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth."

When we touch our heart, we say, "I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son Our Lord." He is our salvation. He is truly present in the Eucharist.

And when we touch our shoulders, we say, "I believe in the Holy Spirit." By the power of the Holy Spirit our Church was formed and is now present. Christ was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit; by the power of the Holy Spirit bread and wine were (and still are) turned into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ; and finally our Church was born by the power of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

What we believe (our Creed) is then combined with the Cross, through which Christ gave us everlasting life. What was once a symbol of humiliation and shame is now a symbol of hope and redemption. And so the Creed and the Cross are put together. Traced over our minds and hearts, they form a sign that states who we are as Christians, what we believe, and who we follow.

By itself, The Sign of the Cross is a powerful prayer. Sometimes we can put all other prayers aside and just sit quietly, make The Sign of the Cross and consider what it means, what the Creed means, and how (or if) we embrace it through our words and actions in our daily lives. This can be very humbling. And by tracing the cross, we can also consider how we carry our own cross: with acceptance and joy? Again...humbling.

Sometimes it is my favorite prayer.  Sometimes it's the only one I can muster. It's a quiet contemplation under the Cross.  And it goes with me wherever I go. No matter where I am, the Sign of the Cross is with me!

God bless!

Please help: Kathleen's Catholic is devoted to encouraging mothers who are married to non-Catholics yet raising their children in the faith. Young mothers and wives, in particular, struggle in this effort and often need help in learning about their own faith as well. If you know a mom who needs the encouragement, please share this post with her. We would be most grateful!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

From the Bird & Nature Journal

beauty among the seed pods and dry leaves
Here are a few images from my  Bird & Nature Journal. Scroll past the Brief Intro and  Active Bird List to my newest Journal Entries so you can read what these photos are all about. Spring has sprung! Soon we can say, "Alleluia!" But, of course, we must wait until Easter Sunday. Today is Holy Thursday, the evening of the Last Supper. May Our Lord, Son of God the Creator, be in your heart tonight as you sit and wait with Him for just an hour in His garden!

a nifty experiment for the birds

an unusual sight in our house during Lent

Letter from the Easter Bunny

When our boys were little, they had lots of questions about the Easter Bunny. I finally suggested that they should leave him a letter and see what happens. Here's the story....and the reply the boys received along with their baskets full of goodies.

Kathleen's Catholic: Letter from the Easter Bunny

God bless!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

First Holy Communion and Confirmation Gift Suggestion for Girls AND Boys

one of Sarah's clay rosaries
A special young lady or young man in your life is about to receive First Holy Communion or is going to be Confirmed, and you might be wondering what kind of gift will be enjoyed now and cherished for years to come. There are lots of prayer books, bibles, rosaries, little statues, water fonts, and picture frames to choose from. All wonderful choices. But this time you're looking for something extra, extra special and unique. I know. I've been there as I sorted through the usuals. I wish I had known about Sarah Harkins' clay rosaries when my nieces and nephews were receiving their sacraments.

But that hasn't stopped me from enjoying Sarah's handmade rosaries, chaplets, and jewelry. Last  Christmas, I had the joy of giving my mother one of her unique rosaries, and it was beautiful. I also like to wear her Lamb of God necklace. But back to your gift-giving....

a boy's clay rosary
 I think you'll enjoy visiting The Clay Rosary Girl, Sarah's blog, and her online store. Take note! You will also find rosaries and chaplets for boys as well.

The beads are fashioned in such detail that it seems impossible that they are made of clay. Click here to see how she makes them by hand.

I hope you enjoy. And may God bless your family and friends who are receiving the sacraments during the beautiful Easter season.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Late and Frazzled? How Did You Do This Lent?

Christ is always pleased to see you, even if you arrive late and are a little frazzled.

Holy Week is now upon us. If you are still searching for something special you can do for Our Dear Lord, there is still time! Don't give up!

Of course, your home parish should be providing opportunities to you, such as Confession and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. But if you're feeling a little down because your Lent was not as fruitful as you would have liked, then you and I have something in common! But fear not. There is still time.

Here are a few ideas to encourage you and get your creative and spiritual juices flowing:

*You might want to check out my page Links For The Family. It's loaded with lots of genuinely Catholic resources, from other blogs posted by Catholic moms to homilies from wonderful priests.

*Maybe you'd like to begin following the daily Mass readings. You can do this by clicking on the Daily Mass Readings box in this blog's right column. Sit quietly, then read or listen. Take notice at how these readings are inter-connected and think about their themes.

*Go for a walking Rosary. Take a nice walk in your neighborhood and take along a decade Rosary.  Reflect on Mary and the life of her Son through her eyes while you feel the ground under your feet and notice your surroundings. This would be a good week to reflect on the Sorrowful Mysteries. Even just two decades of walking and praying will help you clear your mind and reflect on Our Lord's Passion. If you need a refresher in how to say the Rosary, click here.

*Time with scripture is always well spent, even if you have just a few minutes. Choose any gospel from the New Testament. (I've been reading John.) First, prayerfully ask the Lord to open your mind and heart. He will open your intellect, so you will be able understand the meaning of Our Lord's words and insert them into your life. Then read just a bit of the scripture and reflect. You might be interested in this short post, called It's a Jungle! Let The Little Bird Guide You. In fact, if you are able to attend Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, take your scripture reading with you and do this as you visit with Jesus.

*Believe it or not, it's not too late to begin a good spiritual book. Whatever book you begin now during Holy Week can follow and help you throughout the entire fifty days of the Easter Season, right into Pentecost...and then into the summer. If you'd like to begin by reading a book review, you can find some in the right column. Just scroll down to "labels" and click on "books." You'll get a whole list of reviews of Catholic books.

You needn't be afraid if you cannot make a big sacrifice this Holy Week. Even the smallest acts are pleasing to God and will be blessed, if they are done with a full heart in both love and earnest, with your eyes on Heaven. It is simply your heart Our Lord wants.

I hope these ideas help! Have a blessed Holy Week.

May Our Lord, Jesus Christ, bless you in your efforts to draw closer to Him. God bless.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I Believe In the Holy Spirit

Holiness is not the privilege of a few; 
it is a gift offered to all. 
--John Paul II

If you receive a gift and you never use it--it sits in a box in your closet--then, through your choice the gift is rendered useless.

At our baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit and all its gifts--knowledge, counsel, wisdom, understanding, reverence, strength, and piety. Then, at our Confirmation, we are sealed with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (for ever and ever, Amen!). Even if you have kept these gifts in the closet sealed in a box for years and years, you can take them out. They are yours. Enjoy them! Read scripture, pray, and spend time studying your Faith: this is a good way to start. The world need not know of your intentions; they will see it in you soon enough.

Bishop Edward Cullen, of the Diocese of Allentown, once said: "Whoever or whatever owns your mind owns you."

God bless.

first posted May 26, 2010

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lenten Meals From The Little Catholic Kitchen: Spiced Pumpkin Muffins

by Kathleen Blease

You might also be interested in:

A Pretty Cake for Easter
Burgers on a Friday? Only These!
Alicia's Soda Bread (aka Scone)
To go with Fish: Mango Salsa and Summery Cous-Cous Salad
Kathleen's Lenten Bean and Vegetable Soup with muffins

Okay, this is not a recipe for a Lenten meal, but if you're following the Lenten exercise of using all the food that's in your house before buying anything new, then this just might be for you! Do you still have canned pumpkin from Thanksgiving and Christmas? Well, my freezer still hides several packages of mashed pumpkin and butternut squash down near the bottom. So the mixing bowls are coming out and the oven is preheating as we speak!

This recipe freezes very well, so make extra now. If you'd like to make them a little sweet for Easter breakfast, add a few handfuls of mini semisweet chocolate chips. Delicious!

I also like to serve them with soup, fruit salad, or quiche. In fact, you'll find a few soup recipes--such as Cream of Squash Soup and Ben's Clam Chowder (which is very easy)--by clicking on The Little Catholic Kitchen. Scroll wayyyyy down and you'll find them! You will also find my recipe for Crustless Quiche there.

As with any muffin recipe, the secret to a well-risen muffin is in the mixing. In separate bowls, mix all the dry ingredients and all the wet ingredients. Be sure the ingredients are well combined. I tell my kids that they should see only one color, no streaks of white or pumpkin. Then, form a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Each extra stroke you make gives the muffins less lift.

You can be a little flexible with ingredients. This recipe works just as well with whole milk, low-fat milk, and even buttermilk. You can also try different flours. I prefer to make these with white whole wheat flour or with a combination of 1 c. all-purpose flour and 1 c. stone ground whole wheat flour. Use any combination you think is best for your family. However, it's been my experience that if I use more than 1 1/2 c. stone ground whole wheat flour, the muffins become dense; however, they are still delicious. Feel free to experiment. This recipe can handle it!


Spiced Pumpkin Muffins

Yields: 12 muffins

2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. each baking soda and baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 c. milk
1 extra-large egg
2 tbsp. canola oil
2-3 handfuls mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients until thoroughly combined. In another large bowl, mix all wet ingredients until thoroughly combined. Make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix with a wooden spoon until just combined. This is a very thick batter; resist the temptation to add water. With mixing, the ingredients should incorporate and make a smooth but heavy batter. Do not over mix. Fill muffin pan almost full; the muffin pan should be greased or covered with muffin liners. Bake for about 20 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack. Then remove when cooled but a little warm. These freeze very well. Be sure they are completely cooled before freezing to prevent freezer burn.

God bless!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Staying Faithful Today: A Book Review

by Kathleen Blease

Staying Faithful Today: To God, Ourselves, One Another
by Alfred McBride, O. PRAEM.
St. Anthony Messenger Press
Paperback, 95 pgs., list price $13.99
(Available at The Catholic Company) the family goes so goes society. Think about it. If fidelity toward the one to whom you made a lifelong vow is not possible to keep, then just what else is failing in life?--K. Blease

True fidelity is at the crux of our person hood. It defines who we are, no? Are you a faithful friend? An honest co-worker? A devoted parent? A loving spouse? All these definitions hinge on our intrinsic ability to practice fidelity.

The quality of our community rests on this. Have you ever met someone who doesn't seem to practice fidelity? This person can throw us off balance. We never know what we can say in his presence, how he might use what he knows about us. Or how he mocks our fidelity to our community, to our children, and to our spouse as just foolishness. He is looking out for Number One! Just work in an office for a short time, and chances are pretty good you just might meet him. His views and actions are disturbingly temporal and self-involved.

Sadly, this way of life invades our culture. It can be discouraging.

When The Catholic Company made this book available to us reviewers, I was hoping to find pearls of wisdom, specifically about fidelity in marriage. After all, as the family goes so goes society. Think about it. If fidelity toward the one to whom you have made a lifelong vow is not possible to keep, then just what else is failing in life?

I explained to the company's review coordinator that my goal was to provide this book to my readers in order to help them (you) understand their (your) marriage vows and how to live them out. Me, too. I, like everyone else can use the instruction in grasping the deeper and lasting intentions of Holy Matrimony. It's a lesson never wasted.

Alas, my goal was much smaller than what this book offered.

Father McBride digs deep into scripture and our Lord's teachings to unfold the true guise of fidelity. It is not just for marriage, and after reading this book, I feel kind of silly for approaching it in only this way.

Father begins with a much bigger view. His first two chapters aply explain that fidelity is not a man-made concept. It comes straight from Heaven. I'm thinking about when, many years ago, someone told me that monogamy was not part of our nature. "Men," he told me, "are not made to live that way. We are animals, too." (Don't worry, it wasn't my husband who told me this.) I'm sure this man is not alone in believing this idea. Father sets it straight. As a matter of fact, we are made in God's image (the animals are not) and God is fidelity. I particularly love Chapter Two: God Is Always Faithful To Us. It is worth the price of the book right there.

Notice the chapter titles. Here they are:

Chapter One: If You Don't Love, You Will Not Be Faithful
Chapter Two: God Is Always Faithful to Us
Chapter Three: Be Faithful to Your Real Self
Chapter Four: Stay Faithful to Your Friends
Chapter Five: Stay Faithful to Your Communities
Chapter Six: Stay Faithful to Your Marriage
Chapter Seven: Behold, A Faithful Priest

Of course I would not be surprised if you are already living this kind of life--or are at least striving to do so. But Fr. McBride gives us specifics, and I always like specifics. They sort of clump together to act as one big affirmation for those of us who think we are stumbling through life like a bumbling fool. In a culture that makes our faith countercultural, every affirmation that's steeped in Christ is certainly much needed and should be welcome. In short, you are getting it right, and you should keep trying, despite the hurts that might come your way.

My only suggestion to the author is that I would like to see more insight about marriage in his sixth chapter. I believe it's his shortest discussion. However, I make this suggestion with some hesitation. After many years of marriage, I can see--with a bit of retrospect applied--that Father's advice is excellent. It is simple and pithy yet well placed. Perhaps these simple directions are powerful enough to guide--and even heal--a marriage going over the bumpy road. Still, when I got to the end of the chapter, I thought: That's it? I guess I had to give it some time to let it seep in, then I could see his wisdom in keeping it simple. It's digestible.

Lastly, I'd like to tell you now much I enjoyed Father's final chapter, "Behold, A Faithful Priest," in which he openly and frankly discusses celibacy and what it is like to live as a celibate. If you ever wondered why priests must remain celibate (at least as they are in the western rites), you will find plenty of answers in this chapter. I always thought highly of our priests, but this gave me a much deeper appreciation for how they live out their calling to Christ, bound to His bride the Church. Perhaps this would be a chapter worth sharing with our older sons and daughters.

Come to think of it, the entire book would make excellent reading for our high school seniors.

Staying Faithful Today is a pleasure to read, written in a conversational tone. It also provides plenty of scripture as its backbone. The book is also designed to be used in discussion groups, giving thought-provoking questions and discernible prayers at the end of each chapter. Perhaps your parish would be interested in reading it among men's prayer groups, women's and moms' groups, and RCIA.

About the Author: Alfred McBride, O. PRAEM., holds a diploma in catechetics from Lumen Vitae, Brussels, and doctorate in religious education from the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. He has written many books, including a series on the Bible, four books on the new Catechism of the Catholic Church; A Priest Forever: Nine Signs of Renewal and Hope; A Short History of the Mass; and The Story of the Church.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Staying Faithful by Alfred McBride, O. PRAEM. They are also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.

Enjoy and happy reading.

God bless.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Form Your Conscience

You are a child of Christ. Turn to him to fill your knowledge.

Sound advice from a priest:

Your conscience must be formed by Jesus Christ, your King, a king who rules only of love. Do not let the state, the society, the media and the internet form your conscience. Only Jesus should form your conscience.

If you want to know about about the Church, turn to Christ for answers. If you want to know about you, turn to Christ and your Creator, our Father in Heaven. If you want to know His Creation, turn to Christ. Turn to Christ, the source for knowledge of all things, and form your conscience with Christ alone.

Be with me and form my mind my Lord,
Jesus Christ.

God bless.

Originally posted April 30, 2010

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cleaning Out the House: A Sing Along

by Kathleen Blease

When housework becomes drudgery, when single socks pile up on the ironing board, and when dirty countertops, floors, and toilets beckon me just once too often, I have a trick. I sing to Mary. That's right, I sing to the Blessed Mother.

My little ditty goes like this:

Mother Mary, Mother Mary,
Make me thankful for these ______. (Fill in the blank. Let's say "floors.")

Mother Mary, Mother Mary,
Make me thankful for these floors.
Mother Mary, Mother Mary,
Make me thankful for these floors.

When our boys were little, I would sing it loud and strong. They'd peer around the corner and say, "Oh, boy. Mom's cleaning again." They were fearful that I was heading toward their rooms.

Mother Mary, Mother Mary,
Make me thankful for these clothes...that I'm picking my son's floor... again...but never mind!
Mother Mary, Mother Mary,
Make me thankful for these clothes.

Well, yes, housework still irked me a bit. But I could picture Mary doing the same chores for her little family. I could connect.

Several years ago, I attended a Catholic mother's group. I was so eager to learn about this new term I came across--the Domestic Church. I wanted to find out just how to make our home our own little place of worship, along with building my own domestic vocation. Fill me in! Sigh. The ladies wanted to talk about more common things. How to save money by cutting napkins in half and how select-a-size paper towels ranked among the greatest inventions of our civilized hemisphere. Somehow, these things always rolled into the scripture sharing. But I wanted more! Come on, gals, let's get down to it!

I proclaimed my new discovery. Singing to Mother Mary. One mom said that if she sang to Mary in her home, her children would have her commited. Another made her opinion quite clear by rolling her eyes and saying, "Yeah, right!" There was a general air of "Oh brother!" in the room.

I guess I couldn't blame them. But I shared two more thoughts before I dropped it, and I do believe I saw a few eyebrows going up in agreement. First, if I'm grateful for something--having bathrooms, a fridge, dishwasher, floors, ceilings, a roof, electricity, cats, cat food, cat litter (am I going too far?)--then I can't be angry about taking care of them. It all comes down to an attitude of gratitude. And second, if I can't be Catholic in my own home, just where can I be Catholic openly and abundantly? Aren't moms the moral gate keepers of the Faith?

Mother Mary helped me to see all our "necessities" as gifts, not just instigators of chores. Messy gifts, though, but it's better to have them than to go without.

Today, I don't sing this song as boisterously as I used to. It's become something of a little hymn I humm under my breath, but it's there for me just the same. I can see Mother Mary scrubbing the floors, wiping her wet dishpan hands on her apron, and cleaning out the wood-burning stove. My kinda woman.

I once mentioned this concept and my little verse in song to Catholic novelist Michelle Buckman. We had just met. What would possess me to tell her this about myself? But Michelle smiled with an honest and sensitive acknowledgement. "Yes, that's very much like St. Therese and her little ways, to be grateful for everyday things."

I'll take that! So, loud and clear everyone...

Mother Mary, Mother Mary
Make me thankful for these _______________.

Fill in the blank.

God bless!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My Prayer of Abandonment, From Deep Down Inside of My Needs

by Kathleen Blease

I was visiting Sarah Reinhard's blog, The Snoring Scholar, and came across her post about The Prayer of Abandonment. I love her perspective and her honesty on why it is hard to pray. I have to admit, there was a time when I, too, struggled with the thought of giving all to God and asking only for his will to be done... and nothing else. Perhaps my resistance reflected that all was going well.

But last year was not so. I found it very easy to pray this prayer. In fact, it flowed out of me with complete, well...abandonment. I didn't even know the prayer had a name and written verse. It was as natural as waking up in the morning.

And that's why the prayer came to me, because I was afraid of what the morning might bring. Or should I say that the prayer came from me, from deep down inside of my needs? In fact, when I read it on Sarah's blog, I was amazed to see that that's exactly what I prayed. Surely, we are built for God, made in his image, and we know instinctively how to turn to him.

During the past three years, my husband has been suffering from an illness that has stymied the doctors. My poor man has been subjected to all sorts of tests, drugs, and various doses of radiation in MRIs and X-rays and yet to no conclusion. He has been pilled, poked, prodded, and scoped, then met with a shrug from doctors who called “uncle.” All this for a man who in the past wouldn't have even taken Tylenol for a headache.

Between Labor Day of 2009 and Christmas of 2010, he lost fifty-five pounds inexplicably. His skin turned blue, while his body temperature hovered at 95 degrees, even on hot days. He wore sweatshirts while the rest of us ducked for shade and sought cool drinks. Slowly, he began to shuffle and his former Viking-strength was waning fast. To top it off, his blood pressure refused to budge from 70 over 40.

During one of his hospital stays, a nurse came in to take his vitals. She wrapped the cuff around his arm and clicked on the machine. Brrrrr. Grrrr. Up went the cuff, down went the cuff. The nurse tapped on a button.

“Hmm. Let's try that again.”
Brrr. Grrr. Up went the cuff, down went the cuff.
Hubby sat quietly.
Tap, tap, tap.
“That can't be right. Hold on, Honey.”
“No, wait, really. That's right.”
“Oh, I'm getting another machine.”
In rolled the new one. Brrr. Grrr. The cuff did its thing.
“Well, now, it's GOT to be the cuff.”
“No, really...” But she was gone.
New cuff. No good.
New nurse. No good.
“I'm tryin' to tell ya. That's my blood pressure. Honest.”
Both nurses looked at my baby in amazement.
“Mr. Blease, how is it you are awake and talking to us?”

How is it indeed.

One night, as we lay in bed, I rolled over to snuggle with him. Roger's hand was draped over his side, and I tried to wrap my fingers around it. Strange. I couldn't do it. I tried again. Again. But I just couldn't get my fingers around his hand. Then I realized. This wasn't his hand. These were his ribs! I spent the night praying and crying. Every night, I slept knowing that the morning just might bring a new reality, and that's what I was afraid of.

It was a tough year. Today, as I sit with my laptop and tap out this essay, I'm happy to report that, while my husband is not healed, he has managed to gain weight and some strength. And his blood pressure is almost normal. Praise God! And I really do mean PRAISE GOD!

So what about the Prayer of Abandonment? During that difficult year, I could think of only two things: keeping my husband, and letting God take over. Many nights I went to bed praying, “Lord, if you take him during the night, please give me strength to follow your will. I just want your will."

The prayer of abandonment came so easily to me because I knew without reservations that only God could take care of my husband. It was much too big for me, for us—and too big for all those doctors we turned to. Remember, too, that in the midst of this, my husband was supporting us and we were raising and homeschooling our children. (He still is, and we still are.)

The Lord does not cause these things to happen to us so we can learn a lesson. No, indeed, although there is plenty to be learned. But I do believe that he allows us to live in our own humanity, and grieves with us and let's us turn to him. He encourages us to ask him to carry us, which he does so willingly. Most importantly, however, he won't force himself on us. He is a gentle lover, so he waits for us to say Yes to him before he will take hold of our lives. Then we need to pay attention, for his moves can be small, careful, and oh-so patient.

I can honestly say that when there is no one or nothing that can solve the problem, it a great comfort to know that God' will will prevail. It is a joy that lives inside our sorrow. Just think of the cross and the crucifixion. A glory from suffering. The cross, what was once considered a symbol of shame, is now a symbol of glory and abiding belief in Christ's complete love. He showed it to us in the place of skulls.

Each day, I asked the Lord and His Father in Heaven for his will, and he usually called me to do simple things. Foot rubs. Cups of tea. Another blanket. Keeping the kids a little quiet(er). A few kisses on the forehead. Sometimes I wanted to say, “Hey, Lord. That's it? In the face of all this, this is it? A foot rub?” Surely, I can handle more than this. I can enact something bigger and better. I can take charge. But, no. The Lord binds our wounds first and gives his loved ones comfort. He calls us to be his hands. I was his hands.

I was beginning to understand St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, and her little ways.

Whatever your sorrow might be, whatever difficulties you might face—whether they are small or big—know that God has cultivated a special plan for you and just for you—the ultimate copyright, if you will. You can find out by following his will. There is no other way to see what he wants for you. Be not afraid. “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Don't discount small steps he might ask you to take. Last year at this time, the future seemed so big and ominous. But now I can see that many times the big leaps are made in tiny, faithful, and quiet ways. We just need to abandon ourselves to them.

The Prayer of Abandonment
by Charles de Foucald


I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

God bless!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

St. Therese Peering Out at Me

The Little Flower is very gentle.
by Kathleen Blease

I had to look twice. My husband was sitting next to the wood stove, enjoying its warmth on this damp and early Spring day. His reading glasses were perched on his nose, and a cat was hanging over his bent knee. Her paws dangled down around his legs and she breathed in a big sigh.

I was standing in the kitchen, wiping my hands with the kitchen towel.

Rog was deep into what he was reading, curious. His fingers were wrapped around the glossy newsletter and lay across a large photo of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower. She was peering out at me.

"Watcha readin', Hun?"
"Oh, just about the Eucharist."

I soaked in the scene, my non-Catholic husband reading about the Holy Eucharist... in a newsletter that has been arriving for several months now. As usual, this new issue sat in a pile of the week's mail, cluttered with junk mail and bills, mags and a diocesan newspaper, many of it sorted and ready for recycling.

St. Therese knew the secret. Patience. I can be patient. She is gentle and quiet, and she doesn't mind waiting her turn. I can wait.

A few Sundays ago, my sons and I arrived a little early for Mass. We always do. You see, at our parish, there is a demand for the front pews, and since I'm a little claustrophobic, well, I need to sit where everyone else is beyond me. So as we were walking up the aisle, it was hard to miss what our pastor was doing. He was comforting an elderly woman.

She leaned on her walker, eyes cast down. Father put his hands on her shoulders, bent down and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Think of Mary," he said. "She was patient. She waited thirty years until her son began his ministry. Then she waited three years while he worked in the public. Then she waited three days after his painful crucifixion to see His glory. She was a patient woman. And you're a patient woman, too, I know it."

Indeed, patience. St. Therese knew it. Still, I liked seeing the portrait of The Little Flower in the hands of my husband. Thank you, Society of the Little Flower.

Monday, April 4, 2011

from The Little Catholic Kitchen: A Pretty Cake for Easter Sunday

by Kathleen Blease

For more recipes from The Little Catholic Kitchen click here.

Mary Lou's Chocolate Cake

A pretty two-layer cake for Easter Sunday.
From our family picnic, this is my mother's cousin's wife's chocolate cake. I use a seven minute frosting and include the recipe below. A friend took a bite of this cake and said, "It tastes like a childhood memory."

This is very moist. If you use a dark cocoa, it will make the cake dry, so do stick with a basic baking cocoa. Good ol' Hershey's works great. Nine-inch round pans are necessary here; if you use 8-inch rounds, you will have a messy oven in the end. Spray the pans with non-stick spray that has flour in it.

I like to make the chocolate layers whenever I have a spare moment, and then I freeze them wrapped in two layers of aluminum foil. When I need the layers, I take them out of the freezer and open the foil. By the time the frosting is ready to use, the layers are just right for assembling.

The seven minute frosting is very much like a meringue. It glides on beautifully, looks glossy, and forms beautiful peaks. But, if you prefer, you can take a metal spatula dipped in warm water and glide it over the icing to make a smooth almost seamless effect--very professional looking.

Whenever I make this cake, I ALWAYS hear "Wow!!"

For the cake:

2 c. sugar
2 c. flour
3/4 c. cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. milk
1 c. boiling coffee

Yields: one 9-inch two-layer cake

Mix all ingredients in one bowl, except the coffee. Stir until fully combined and smooth. Add the coffee and thoroughly mix again. This is a very wet batter. Pour into prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Do not over bake. Cake should seem firm to touch but not dry. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Then remove from pans and cool completely on racks.

For the seven-minute icing

Yield: This really is enough for two cakes. You can half this recipe without any problems. If you do, use two eggs whites.

3 large egg whites
2 tsp. light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/3 c. cold water
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

In a medium sauce pan, bring 2 inches of water to a simmer. Use a large pyrex bowl as a double boiler by placing it in the sauce pan. It should sit in the pan without touching the water. With the bowl OUT of the sauce pan, combine all ingredients with a whisk. Place the bowl inside the pan. With a hand mixer, beat the egg mixture on high speed until stiff peaks form (about 7 minutes). Remove from heat and beat 3-5 minutes longer until it cools. Use immediately.

Whip ingredients over simmering water
until stiff peaks form.
Extra frosting can be refrigerated for up to a week, but it must be re-whipped. However, I find that this is not always successful.

Assemble the cake

Note: No crumb coating is necessary here!

Items needed:
cake plate
wax paper
metal spatula
warm water in tall glass

To frost cake, place a dollop of icing on a plate. Place the first layer of cake on the plate; this helps glue the cake in place. Place four strips of wax paper under the layer of cake to protect the plate. Place more icing on top of the first layer and smooth out to the edges. Be generous! Place second layer of cake on top. Ice the top of the cake. Again, be generous. Then ice the sides.

After you've frosted the entire cake, you can use the back of a spoon to form peaks in the icing. Simply place the spoon in the icing and pull up. Do this over all the top of the cake.

The more peaks the better!

If you prefer a smooth professional finish, dip a spatula in a tall glass of warm water and shake off excess water. Then hold the entire spatula level and/or parallel to the cake and smooth icing to make a seamless effect.
Hold the knife parallel to make a seamless effect.
To finish, carefully and slowly slide out the strips of wax paper from underneath the cake. Voila!

You might want to try covering the same chocolate layers with one of my favorite icings, Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing. It's from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking: The 10th Anniversary Edition by Marcy Goldman, p. 315, originally published with her Yogurt Banana Cake. I double the recipe. We've enjoyed this terrific combination for my sons' birthdays, homeschool co-op picnics, and Boy Scout events. Click here to read my review on A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. I am turning to this wonderful baking book once again this week. My son, Ben, has requested a special and surprise cake for his birthday dinner. I'm sure I'll find one among its recipes!

Here are the same chocolate layers covered
in Marcy's chocolate cream cheese icing.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Kindle, Kindle, Kathleen's Catholic on Kindle!

 It was March already, and my birthday passed a few months hence. But there was a surprise waiting for me, and to tell you the truth, I really didn't know what to do with it. I had been warding off something like this as soon as it appeared on the market. That is--an ereader.

A real bookie, I am. I love (re: LOVE!!) holding a bound copy in my hands, the smell of the paper, and the feel of the cover in my palms. A plastic ereader just didn't cut it.

But there is was, sitting on the table, offered to me by my in-laws as a late birthday present. Hmm. Well, hey, I'll give it a try. (And I was grateful for their thoughtfulness.) That was merely four weeks ago.

Since then, I found tons of free Catholic books, added Kathleen's Kindle to my blog's bookshop, and bought my first Kindle novel, a Catholic one called Death Panels by Michelle Buckman. I even invested in a nifty leather cover and light. Oh! I'm getting into this.

My husband is calling me a newbie techie. My kids are gasping. I'm holding the Kindle in my palms and typing with my thumbs for the first time in my life. "Mom? How do you know how to do that?" My Ben calls me a "touch typist." I always wondered if there were any other kind. Now I know. The thumbs indeed have more territory than just the space bar.

And now I have an announcement! Coming soon to a Kindle near you!

I'm so excited. In just a day or two,  Kathleen's Catholic: How Grace Drizzles In will be available to all Kindle users. The program at Amazon allows bloggers to publish their posts and send them throughout the world to download onto the ereaders. The best part: everyday the entire post content, with live links, is downloaded onto your Kindle in its entirety, so you don't need to your web browser to read it. Awesome! I have already subscribed to and The Snoring Scholar.

To subscribe at Amazon, click here. To subscribe on your Kindle, just go the Kindle Store and click on Blogs. An easy way to find me? Type in "Catholic mom." And--zip!--there's Kathleen's Catholic. The photo you'll see is the crucifix at one of our local parishes.

By the way...Can my readers do me a big favor? Would you click on this link, then click on Like and write a quick review about Kathleen's Catholic? You'll notice that the blog profile is not yet on the Amazon page, but I know that you already know KC, right? Even if you choose not to subscribe, this would be a great help to me. Thanks so much!

Well, I have to say all this technology has been a real journey for me. I never thought I'd surf and browse, upload, download, post, and link a dozen times a day. In the old days, I was grateful for an electric typewriter, a stack of envelopes, and a book of stamps. Yes (wink, wink), I was just a baby then. Really, I was.

God bless!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Lenten Meals from The Little Catholic Kitchen: Savory Broccoli and Cavatelli with Parmesan

by Kathleen Blease
You might also be interested in :

Burgers on a Friday? Only These!
Alicia's Soda Bread (aka Scone)
To go with Fish: Mango Salsa and Summery Cous-Cous Salad
Kathleen's Lenten Bean and Vegetable Soup with muffins

A Lenten Meal For Growing Teens

Do you have teenagers to feed? Me, too! And Lenten meals can be a challenge since their growing bodies are sending signals of "Feed me! Feeeeed me!" So here's a dish that's very simple by nature and satisfying for growing kids. The table is stark when I serve this, reflective of a Lenten Friday. Each child gets just a bowl, a fork, and a napkin... and a few heaps of Savory Broccoli and Cavatelli. Serve it with a little extra grated cheese, if you'd like. Use a good quality parmesan. I also like to sprinkle on some shredded pecorino romano, a tangy sheep cheese.

Savory Broccoli and Cavatelli with Parmesan
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
5 c. broccoli florets, fresh or frozen
3 large cloves garlic, diced
2 13-oz. packages frozen cavetelli OR 1 lb. package dry cavatelli
butter to taste (I use about 5 tbs.)
1 1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
Yields: 6 servings
In large frying pan, add 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil and warm over medium heat. Add broccoli and saute until fork tender, about 20 minutes--covered, stirring occasionally. (If you use fresh broccoli, chop the stalks into large chunks and saute with the florets.) Sometimes the broccoli absorbs the olive oil, so feel free to add a little more if necessary.
Meanwhile, cook cavatelli in a large pot of water. Cook to manufacturer's direction and strain in colander. Do not over cook and do not rinse.
To the broccoli, add garlic and saute for a few minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.
Take the broccoli mix off heat and add cooked cavatelli, butter, remaining olive oil, salt and pepper, and parmesan. Toss to coat everything evenly.
Serve hot. Enjoy!
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