The Jesse Tree – A family guide through the season of Advent.

My dear friend Lynne has just finished her new book. It looks amazing for those of us with young families. I ordered my copy today! You can order your copy HERE and please come and like the Jesse Tree FACEBOOK PAGE

The Jesse Tree-1

By Lynne Drozdik Wardach

When I undertook the task of compiling material for this book, in no way did I ever envision it as a finished product. As any young Catholic mother, I strove constantly to weave the threads of the faith into the fabric of our daily lives wherever I was able. With the shopping, and baking, and wrapping, and visiting and every other secular activity that seemed to occupy the minds of my little disciples at Christmas time, it occurred to me that the preparation for the season seemed the perfect time to do just that, but how?

I began my search and fell upon the concept of the Jesse Tree. This was quite a novel idea to me at the time and reading the Old Testament scripture stories was something my children enjoyed already. As the advent season approached that year, I made a small list of their favorite stories, pulled out my parents’ old Christmas tree and set it up in the family room. We began with the creation of the world that year and my two oldest made little earths from some modeling clay, just as God would have done when He sculpted our world. We spoke of how God must have felt that day as He did so. “Do you think He ever mushed the world back up into a ball like that and started over, like you just did?” “Don’t forget those polar ice caps! Where do polar bears live?” My son made all the planets and the stars too as he loved to look at them at night. So much to learn! We ran a loop of string through each one, and tagged it with the child’s name and the year it was made.

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“Don’t forget those polar ice caps!”

These precious creations are beloved still and grace our tree every year when these same little disciples, now adults themselves mind you, rush to the box to search for them. We talk now about those little lessons that went with each ornament, more deeply and practically now, of course. They remember all the little talking points I used when I was their primary teacher of life, illustrating God’s point for my little disciples. It was my goal at the time that they not forget any of them, so I wrote them all down at night after they went to sleep. This, dear parents…THIS is why I worked so hard compile it all and share this advent adventure with you.

At that time, my own mother looked me in the eye and tearfully and somewhat prophetically told me that THIS was the happiest time of my life. This was the busiest, craziest, messiest, most emotional time with five small children all clamoring for my attention, but it was wonderful! She was so very right. This activity was more to my family than just catechesis; it took those teaching points and attached precious memories that hopefully will live on in them when God entrusts them with their very own little disciples. Perhaps they will remember me too!

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Now, to speak practically, it took me over fifteen years to write the material in this book. You may notice that there are 40 lessons. We are a Byzantine rite Catholic family, so for us the pre-Christmas preparatory season begins on November 15. It is called Philipovka, or St. Philip’s fast, because it begins the day after the feast of St. Philip and lasts for 40 days until Christmas. We realize this is much more material than the average Christian family might use in their own home as they celebrate Advent, but bear in mind that you need not use it every day to be practical. Some families may choose to do the even days one year, and the odd days the next. Some may do one per week, skipping around the lessons as they like and do more over the next several years.

In my own family, we did this, and found that as the children grew, it became more practical to review the story and the lesson and then let them search for past ornaments, now keepsakes, that they had made to adorn the tree. It may also be the case that the tree itself may be difficult to display due to space and size. A friend of mine has solved this dilemma by copying and laminating the icon that accompanies each lesson, and crafting that into a flat ornament to tack to a wall in her kitchen, in the form of a tree. Each family will come to use this book as it suits them best.

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This book is intended to help each family develop a greater understanding of salvation history over the span of many years. The ways in which each family will use this material will also evolve over time and grow and change as the little disciples in the family grow and change. Use this in whatever way works best for you! I hope that it becomes a beloved tradition in your domestic church and that it brings your family as much joy as it has brought to mine.

God bless! Lynne x

Lynne Drozdik Wardach

Lynne Drozdik Wardach

The themes each day include reading the account from scripture as a family, a lesson for the children and making a Commemorative Ornament.
November 15    Introduction to the Jesse Tree
November 16    The Creation and Fall of the Angels
November 17    The Creation of the Earth
November 18    The Creation of Adam and Eve
November 19    The First Sin
November 20    Cain and Abel
November 21    Noah and the Great Flood
November 22    The Tower of Babel
November 23    Abraham
November 24    The Three Visitors
November 25    The Offering of Isaac
November 26    Jacob
November 27    Joseph
November 28    Moses
November 29    The Passover and Exodus
November 30    The Parting of the Red Sea
December 1    The Ten Commandments
December 2    Joshua and the Fall of Jericho
December 3    Gideon
December 4    Ruth
December 5    Samuel
December 6    David and Goliath
December 7    David the Shepherd
December 8    Elijah
December 9    Esther
December 10    Isaiah
December 11    Jeremiah
December 12    Micah
December 13    Habbakuk
December 14    Nehemiah
December 15    The Three Brave Youths
December 16    Daniel in the Lion’s Den
December 17    Jonah and the Whale
December 18    The Annunciation to Mary by the Archangel Gabriel
December 19    Elizabeth and Zaccharias
December 20    The Visitation
December 21    John the Baptist
December 22    Joseph
December 23    The Magi
December 24    Jesus:  The Birth of the Messiah
December 25    Christ is Born!

You can order your copy HERE and please come and like the Jesse Tree FACEBOOK PAGE

How Tinnitus Prepared me for Carmel.

Tinnitus

I was recently sent a rather snooty message by a diocesan priest who used to be a Trappist monk. He was telling me that it was basically impossible for me to live a contemplative life in the context of a family home. He told me my children would not find my ‘requirement’ for silence much fun. He also told me it was impossible to be a contemplative without silence. I decided not to reply. But I do hope he reads this blog post.

The Lord began preparing me for contemplative life at home 5 and a half years ago – two weeks before Annabel was born – by giving me Tinnitus.

It was nothing other than torture. It was 9 months before I began to have even brief periods of not noticing the noises. At its worst it was louder than the phone ringing. In my left ear I had (and sometimes still have) a Morse-code style beeping. In my right ear there was a high pitched whistle. In my head there was a low pitched rumbling, and every so often I would get a really loud pure-tone that would drown out ALL other outside noise. So I would go completely deaf for a few seconds which was absolutely terrifying.

The worst part was that my brain was registering the noise as an outside threat, which meant that I would experience high levels of anxiety during the day and insomnia at night. I would lie awake at night listening to the noise. I had a new baby which meant that when I did manage to fall asleep, I would soon get woken up again by the noise of a crying baby. Then I would feed her, in the silence of the night, all alone in my prison of noise. Then I would take sleeping pills to knock me out. In the morning I would wake up, and the noise was still there. It never went away.

My husband couldn’t hear the noises going on inside my ears. No-one could hear it except me. It was so loud. I was so alone. I am not over dramatising this – tragically, earlier this year a 47 year old woman chose Euthanasia because she was unable to cope with her Tinnitus.

It was too much. I knew I couldn’t die because I had kids to raise, so just accepted that the rest of my life would be filled with a cacophony of beeping and whistling and rumbling.

As I began to accept and improve, my tinnitus therapist kept asking me if my tinnitus was holding me back in any way in my life. After careful consideration I told her “No, I can still still do everything, but… I would like to be able to pray.” She suggested mindfullness. Initially I found this to be life-changingly helpful. It did help me accept the intense suffering I was experiencing in a calm way, but it soon became apparent that there was a fair bit of *wacky* stuff that accompanied it. So I dropped it. But it did lead me into how my own faith viewed suffering. I kept remembering a line I must have read years before, something about “Joy in suffering”. It took me back to the saint who had claimed me for her own 11 years previously – St Teresa of Avila. I didn’t know why she was making an appearance in my life once more, but all I can tell you is that I felt her with me very strongly throughout that time of noise.

As time passed and my life continued in a strange sort of way. I accepted the noise. I cried because of the noise. I masked the noise with the TV and radio and found relief from the noise in my crying baby and my raucous 3 year old son. I couldn’t pray – or so I thought. I cursed myself for wasting all those quiet moments I had previously. I cursed God for giving me tinnitus. I cried and screamed at Him because I was at my wits end and I couldn’t think because of the noise. I told Him I didn’t understand – that there was no point to this. It wasn’t achieving anything. I begged Him to take it away. But He didn’t.

Usually I feel God very close to me, but at that time it was like He was withdrawn to a distance. I felt as if God had abandoned me, like He was enjoying torturing me. I wanted to hate Him, but I loved Him too much to hate Him. I thought about all this a lot.

The removal of silence from my life changed me. I had to concentrate on not becoming overwhelmed by the noise. I got very good at this. It’s amazing what you can do when you are pushed to the brink. As my anxiety began to decrease I used to experiment by sitting down and facing my noise – instead of trying to run away from it. I would actually sit and listen to it – develop a relationship with it almost. But in hindsight what I was actually doing was finding the deeper silence within myself, the silence of my soul. Teresa was guiding me, I could feel that, but I didn’t quite know how.

No-one on the outside could hear my noise. In fact here were only 2 people who could hear my noise – me and God. And when I would sit and listen to my noise, God would be there too. I began to realise that there must be purpose in all of this, but I didn’t know what that was. I allowed Him to sit with me while I explored my noise, and the place inside it was directing me to. He was in that place. My noise had driven me into the desert. Only me and Him were in that place. I was at the core of who I was in Him, and I found peace there. Not audible peace, but spiritual peace.

I began experimenting with this ‘place’, this desert. I began going there more often. I was not afraid there because He was there. Pretty soon I was finding myself in this place all the time throughout the day. It became totally natural to be in this place of extreme calm and inner silence, while I carried on with looking after the children – with the noise was still ringing in my ears.

As I began to recover from the tinnitus I did begin to experience times of real silence once more – something I thought would never happen again. During these times of real silence I would sit and just listen to the silence. Beautiful silence. I would let the silence surround me and go in me and through me and touch my heart in a way I didn’t really understand. It was if the peaceful desert my tinnitus had lead me to was now on the outside too. I felt the silence, and God was there.

It was another 5 years before I had any indication whatsoever of why God put me through that period of suffering. But in hindsight it is now obvious to me that there was no better preparation for the life of a secular Carmelite than this. To be a ‘contemplative in the world’ meant I would most likely be surrounded by noise all the time – which I am. I have the noise of the hoover, the children, my husband, the car etc. Are these bad noises? No! They are beautiful noises – they are the sounds of my primary vocation. “Doesn’t it distract you?” No! How can they distract me – they are the point of my focus! “But when do you get time to pray?” I am praying all the time. I can be here in my kitchen making the dinner, and at the same time I am in my desert with my Lord and Creator. And when I do get quiet periods during the day I sit and enjoy the silence – perhaps in a way you cannot understand if you have not had tinnitus. You could be a Trappist monk for 50 years, but I don’t think you really understand or appreciate silence until it has been force-ably taken away from you. Teresa will tell you that.

Last month during our Carmelite studies, I laughed out loud when I discovered that during her life Teresa had tinnitus too!

St Teresa of Avila, pray for us.

St Paul, pray for us.

St Louis de Montfort, pray for us.

Dissident Fr. Timothy Radcliffe speaking at Flame 2 UK Youth conference: Are CYMFed recognising and respecting parents’ role as primary educator and protector?

Fr Timothy Radcliffe shares Cardinal Walter Kasper's views on Communion for the divorced and re-married.

Fr Timothy Radcliffe shares Cardinal Walter Kasper’s views on Communion for the divorced and re-married.

Many people have contacted me since reading my last article Women Priests, Gay Sex, and Communion for the Re-Married: Is Fr. Timothy Radcliffe an appropriate speaker for Flame2 Youth Conference 2015? Mostly, people have been angry that a man with these views would be allowed to speak at a UK youth event. Many others have thanked me for alerting them to this issue as they had no idea what Timothy Radcliffe’s views were.

I believe parents and youth ministers alike would have sent their kids to this event in good faith, not realising that Radcliffe holds these views. If parents want their kids to listen to a speaker like Radcliffe then fine, but is the responsibility of CYMFed to be honest as to what they are providing.

It’s such a shame, because Flame 2 could have been such a fantastic event – if only they could employ speakers who are in line with the Catholic faith. I truly hope Flame 2 successfully goes ahead without Radcliffe. There is of course still time for CYMFed to drop him and find another speaker – let’s hope they do. But until that time, they will continue to be held accountable for the fact that they are continuing to sell tickets without informing people of Radcliffe’s views.

Half of the 10,000 tickets have already been sold – many bought in large quantity by youth groups and dioceses.  Since the information regarding Radcliffe’s views has now been brought to public attention, the responsibility to inform parents of Radcliffe’s views also lies on the Bishops, clergy and youth workers who are asking parents to part with £20 per ticket and more importantly, to trust them with the care of their children. They have now been put in a very difficult and embarrassing position. Of course they have no choice but to inform parents of the situation, but this will most likely result in many parents wanting a re-fund and feeling extremely let down.

Cardinal Vincent Nicholls will be speaking alongside Fr. TImothy Radcliffe at Flame 2, which is being held in his diocese of Westminster.

Cardinal Vincent Nicholls will be speaking alongside Fr. TImothy Radcliffe at Flame 2, which is being held in his diocese of Westminster.

Another key point is that ultimately the buck stops in one place ecclesiastically and that’s at the desk of Cardinal Vincent Nicholls (who also happens to be speaking at Flame 2). It is in his archdiocese that Flame 2 is happening so it’s his responsibility in a unique way to safeguard the orthodoxy of the event and how it could affect the faith formation of those children attending.

It seems to me that the parents of those attending are the last to know in this situation, but it is with them that the real power lies. Let us not forget that prophetic declaration of St John Paul II:

 “…families will be the first victims of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference.”  – Familiaris Consortio Para 44.

The church teaches that parents are the primary and most influential educators of their children and their protectors. However, it seems the largest youth conference in the UK deems it unimportant to alert parents to the dissident views of one of its speakers. If my child attended this event and was exposed to a speaker like Radcliffe I would be livid. As a parent I would feel betrayed. Have CYMFed considered how much damage their lack of transparency regarding Radcliffe is going to cause regarding the trust of the parents?

Never before in history has our human right to be the primary educators and protectors of our children in British society been so far removed. Now, according to the Education Act 1996, parents have no right to remove their child from a sex education lesson advocating same-sex marriage. A doctor has no obligation to inform the parents of an under 16 seeking contraception or abortion if he deems them to be Gillick competent. One cannot help but remember the chilling words of Lady Helen Brook, founder of the Brook advisory centre:

“It is now the privilege of the Parental State to take major decisions – objective, unemotional, the State weighs up what is best for the child…” – (Lady Helen Brook The Times 16 February 1980)

I this the direction CYMFed is taking? How does CYMFed expect the child’s parents make an informed decision regarding Flame 2 if they are not given the facts? Are CYMFed recognising and respecting the parents’ role as primary educator and protector? Or are they acting as some sort of ‘Nanny State’?

I would encourage you to join the ever increasing amount of people writing to CYMFed asking why they feel Timothy Radcliffe is  an appropriate speaker for a UK youth event? And to ++Vincent Nicholls asking why he is letting this happen in his diocese?

CYMFed

07528 643 420

admin@cymfed.org.uk
Cardinal Vincent Nichols

020 7798 9033

enquiries@rcdow.org.uk

 

My Top 5 Hopes for the Family Synod.

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There are of course more than 5, but here goes (in reverse order):

5. That Parents will be made aware, and supported in the fact that they are the primary and most influential educators of their children, and that their home is a domestic church.

Most of the parents I know have no idea of the spiritual authority they have over their children. They have no idea that THEY are the primary educators and that THEIR witness to the faith is going to be the single biggest method of evangelisation their children will ever, ever get. The vast majority want to transmit the faith to their children but how can parents be expected to pass on the faith to their children if they do not know it themselves? The Bishops have to realise that adult formation should be moved up into top priority in parishes if they want the next generation to learn the faith from their parents. Parents need to be mobilised into realising that God is not just something that occurs in church on a Sunday morning, but He is in-fact a living reality throughout every moment of every day of our lives. Our homes should be schools of prayer and love where we can show our children everyday what it means to truly follow Christ.

4. That the Theology of the Body and NFP will be recognised and vigorously promoted from the pulpits as being THE MOST important, counter-cultural evangelising message a couple will ever hear.

Our society is obsessed with sex. It is also obsessed with self gratification. We have a porn pandemic. We also live and work in a culture that dehumanises us into a number on a payroll. The value of human life is not regarded in very high esteem unless you are earning a wage and can become a consumer. Human dignity is something that needs to be re-taught and re-learned. We are dignified simply because we are human beings. We are made in the image and likeness of God. A husband is dignified simply because he is a man and a wife is dignified simply by the fact that she is a woman. The physical, emotional and spiritual differences between men and women are God given and complimentary.  To (re)discover this dignity in the bedroom, and the whole of the rest of our lives is one of the biggest strengths the Church has against the secularisation and consumerism of the west.

3. That the (soon to be reformed) Annulment process will take into account the scandalous lack of effective marriage prep currently available.

Lets take the two lifetime vocations: Holy Orders and Marriage. For Holy Orders you get 7 years training before you commit for life. For Marriage, in my parish, you get 1 day. 1 DAY!!! And they muse over why so many Catholic marriages fail. Given today’s emotionally based secular view on marriage it is more important than ever to prepare and educate people in what they are about to commit to. How is it possible that such neglect has taken place on such an important issue? It is my belief that a huge proportion of Catholic marriages could be classed as invalid due to lack of preparation. And then after the marriage has failed people find they are trapped in a sacramental union they had no idea they were getting themselves into. I truly hope the Bishops sit up and realise their responsibility here. I discuss this more HERE.

2. That the beautiful truths of our beautiful faith will actually get taught.

How can the Bishops expect couples to understand the indissolubility of a sacramental union if (due to complete lack of adult formation) they don’t even know what a sacrament is? Why have the vast majority of Catholics never heard of NaPro technology, Billings or Creighton? – let alone understand how they work or the positive effects they have on, well, everything. Why could the vast majority of parents at the baptism course I helped with, not recite the Our Father without reading it off a sheet in front of them. Why had I never even heard of the CCC or known there were such things as Papal documents until I went to Catholic university aged 31?

One of my main hopes for this synod is that it is recognised that, for whatever reason, most adult Catholics do not know the basic truths of the Catholic faith.  I hope and pray that the Bishops will recognise this, find effective methods of teaching these truths and then ensure that this desperately needed education is actually reaching the people in the pews.

1. The recognition that most Catholics do not have a relationship with Christ, and if they do, it’s on their terms not His. 

This is the real elephant in the middle of the room. The Vatican survey showed very clearly that normal everyday Catholics do not accept church teaching on issues such as contraception, gay marriage and divorce and re-marriage. These are major life changing issues that on the surface, to the unbeliever, seem to make no sense whatsoever.

Sherry Weddell’s book Forming Intentional Disciples tells us that only 30 percent of Americans who were raised Catholic are still practising. Fully, 10 percent of all adults in America are ex-Catholics. The number of marriages celebrated in the Church decreased dramatically, by nearly 60 percent, between 1972 and 2010. Only 60 percent of Catholics believe in a personal God. She really hits the nail on the head by bringing to light the fact that most Catholics do not have a relationship with Christ.

Why on earth would you want to remain open to life when you have already had your two kids and want to move on with the next stage of your life? Why would you choose an extremely challenging life of chastity rather than marry your gay partner whom you love deeply?

The only answer to these questions is that you do it because you love Christ more than you love yourself.

It is almost impossible for people to understand and accept many parts of Catholic doctrine, if not understood within the context of a personal relationship with Christ. A relationship that is based on His terms, not theirs. This correct relationship needs to come first. It is literally square 1.

Please God – let the Bishops recognise this, and Please God (even more so…) may they reflect on whether this is an issue for them personally. Do they have a relationship with Christ on their terms, or on His? Who is really in charge of their diocese? Has it influenced the way they have been guiding their flocks?

 

Lets us pray for the Synod…

 

 

For parents with young kids at Mass…

Following my last post in which me and my kids were made to feel very unwelcome in our church, lots and lots of people sent me this:

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It says:

TO THE PARENTS OF OUR YOUNG CHILDREN, MAY WE SUGGEST…

Relax! God put the wiggle in children; don’t feel you have to suppress it in God’s house. All are welcome!

Sit toward the front where it is easier for your little ones to see and hear what’s going on at the altar. They tire of seeing the backs of other’s heads.

Quietly explain the parts of the Mass and actions of the priest, altar servers, choir etc.

Sing the hymns, pray and voice the responses. Children learn liturgical behaviour by copying you.

If you have to leave Mass with your child, feel free to do so, but please come back. As Jesus said “Let the children come to me.”

Remember that the way we welcome children in church directly affects the way they respond to the church, to God, and to one another. Let them know that they are at home in this house of worship.

Please let your child use the reverse side of this card to draw and doodle.

 

TO OTHER MEMBERS OF OUR PARISH

The presence of children is a gift to the church and they are a reminder that our parish is growing.

Please welcome our children and give a smile of encouragement to their parents.

If you see a parent struggling, please offer to help them!

 

Isn’t that great?! I have taken the liberty of typing it up and adding a smiley face for you lovely people to download and use in your parishes:

 

To the parents of young children

 

Please download it and use it for free here: To the parents of young children.doc   To the parents of young children.pdf

Clare x

Belgium’s parliament votes through child euthanasia

In the UK it is legal to end a child’s life up to 24 weeks gestation for any reason whatsoever. If that child is disabled it is legal to end that child’s life up to birth. If you can make it to birth, then you are safe.

But if you happen to be born in Belgium, as of today, you are no longer safe after birth. Today the Belgium Parliament has passed a bill allowing euthanasia for terminally ill children without any age limit.

They have actually passed a law that makes it legal for them to kill their own beautiful children.

Life is sacred. I have nothing more to say.

Source – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26181615