Friday, March 21, 2014

St Joseph Altar 2014

Virtual St. Joseph Altar
Unfailing Petition to St. Joseph:

Holy St. Joseph, Spouse of Mary,
be mindful of me, pray for me, watch over me.
Guardian of the paradise of the new Adam, 
provide for my temporal wants.
Faithful guardian of the most precious of all treasures,
I beseech thee to bring this matter to a happy end,
if it be for the glory of God,
and the good of my soul.

Note for all my Protestant friends: When Catholics pray to the Saints, they are asking them to intercede to God on their behalf.  We believe that the Saints in Heaven spend their eternity praying for us still here on earth and glorifying God with praise.

St. Joseph Altar Cake 2014

For our second annual altar we ordered our cake ahead of time from Aubrey's Bakery. This picture of St. Joseph is laminated so we can reuse it for future altars. The cake was half chocolate and half white. I LOVE Aubrey's frosting because it's not too sweet or too thick. It's a very light whipped frosting.

This year we held our altar at our church, St. Mary's Byzantine in Weirton, WV. We still kept it friends only.  When we looked “ahead” on the calendar and realized that we need to complete several projects during Memorial Day weekend we decided to invite all the young Byzantine families that we know, either from our church or some of the other close by churches. (Usually we have a picnic for all the young Byzantine families during Memorial Day weekend.) Unfortunately many of them already had plans so we still only fed 4 other families for a total of thirty-one on Sunday, March 16th.  We held the altar early since the actual feast day is our busiest day of the school and work week.   Jason kindly reminded me that last year we only fed twenty-two so that is a fifty percent increase when I was sad that the altar was so small.

Here is this year's altar in the church with partially eaten cake:  (We had fed our church members cake after the morning's Divine Liturgy.  I  tried to be careful cutting around the picture and words so they were intact for the altar):

2014 St. Joseph Altar at St. Mary's Byzantine Church, Weirton, WV

Close Up of Statues and Candles:

Holy Family Statue on Top Tier of Altar,
Infant Jesus of Prague, St. Joseph Icon and Our Lady of Victory Statue on 2nd Tier
Stations of the Cross Icon on 1st Tier

Here you can see our loaves of Italian Bread and 2 of the salads that had been brought.  We had one Greek one and one Artichoke:

Normally a St. Joseph Altar does not have meat because the Sicilian peasants really didn't eat meat back when the famine occurred.  We had a 23 lb turkey though that we had bought for the Epiphany party we never got to have due to coming down with the flu.  We served turkey and pumpkin soup.  Another family brought a lemon blueberry bundt cake.  There was also a pan of pasta with sausage that we forgot to take a picture of:

Here you can see the beautiful table runner and our "bouquet" of fresh oregano, along with the Stations of the Cross Icon:

So, Jason and I had forgotten to downsize our cake order a few days before the event when we realized that we were going to have less than 50 people and we also forgot to defrost the turkey ahead of time.  We cooked the turkey frozen according to these instructions, but it actually was ready five hours before the start of the party, so then we basted non-stop to try to keep it from drying out.  We also forgot to call the person in charge of doughnuts to let them know that we were going to serve they gave us leftover doughnuts to put on the altar.  The turkey was "falling off the bone" by being cooked frozen in the roasting pan with the lid on it-basically it acted as a slow cooker that kept all the moisture inside.  We also had (store bought) pizzelles and home made anginettis (Italian lemon cookies with Easter colored frosting and sprinkles.):

In this last picture of the altar we have our bowl of blessed fava beans and fried bread crumbs out to put on the pasta.  Another family arrived during the blessing of the altar and added a 3rd lettuce salad and bowl of fresh fruit:

We served wine, sparkling cider/juice and water for this year's drinks.

Here some of the children are watching Joey play a video game:

Here is Libby "cheesing" by the cake with one of her small stuffed puppy dogs before we served the church members cake:

I bought cheap play dough for the kids to play with.  Here we see most of the older teens getting their play dough fix as well.  Note for next year: either make home made play dough or buy the good stuff.  This cheap play dough smelled REALLY bad:

Here Libby and Anna are being amused by one of their favorite teenage friends:

Every time we turned around Anna was "attached" to him in one way or another:

We also printed several sets of St. Joseph coloring pages.  Here is Libby still having fun after being at church for almost five hours since Divine Liturgy was at 8:30am and the dinner started at 11am.  (We were going into hour six by the time we got everything cleaned.):

Libby and Anna went around handing everyone their blessed fava beans before they left and we also gave out some St. Joseph prayer cards.

One of the families already notified us that the day after they completed their
Novena to St. Joseph the self-employed father got a new client.  Talk about fast work St. Joseph!

Since we organized the St. Joseph Altar as a potluck and tried to use a Google on-line document for sign-ups we actually didn't have much for food leftovers-a small bag of pasta, salad and turkey is all we took home.  There were very few cookies left, but we still had a lot of cake leftover.  We have good friends that were not able to make it to the potluck because they were working at the
 Friendship Room Warming Center.  We were lucky to be able to donate the leftover cake for their use instead of having it go to waste.  Please consider donating to them either via food or by monetary donations.

Check out our 1st St. Joseph Altar here!

Here is the link to our Infant Jesus of Prague Thanksgiving Post

As we are now about halfway through Lent I pray that each of you are "fighting the good fight" and pushing through to the end.  Now is a good time to resolve to do better on whatever commitments and pledges you made for Lent.  If you didn't make any then start now.  Every day is a new day to grow in holiness and to live our lives for the glory of God the Father.

St. Joseph, pray for us!

I wish you the sweetness of perseverance in life,


Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Quiet Lent

A Quiet Lent:
Our Quarterly Check In

Our living room Olive Wood Crucifix (made in the Holy Land)
along with marbles and doll house dolls on our fireplace mantle.
Since we "flipped rooms" I really need to put some fabric or paint behind the crucifix so it stands out from the wood paneling.

Life has been one series of obstacles to overcome after another since Thanksgiving week of last year. We have had one set back after another, sometimes multiple events at the same time like a frozen water pipes, backed up septic system, broken washer and fridge with emergency car repairs while trying to get to a family funeral in Iowa.

But Lent is now upon us. A time of preparation for Easter-a time for renewal. A time to focus on what is really important-our faith in Jesus Christ-our Lord and Savior who sustains us through all things-good and bad.

This past January, just like in all previous years of home schooling, I went through the stage of, “Okay, what can I add to 'spice up' our home school year?”, because of course-it was me who was bored with our status quo-not the kids necessarily. So, I signed Jessie and I up for an advanced cake decorating class that was going to be held on one of those few evenings each week that we didn't have something else scheduled. It took my sweet twelve year old looking at me with tears in her eyes for me to realize that our already packed schedule was “just enough.” That what I really needed to focus on was just getting the kids through the curriculum we already had planned, thus I ate humble pie and dropped us out of the class.

So, when we planned our Lent activities, we kept that in mind, especially since a late Easter will overlap with our spring sports starting. As a family we chose seven things to focus on:

1. No meat on Mondays or Fridays.***

2.  Mondays: Pray Divine Mercy Chaplet-aim for 3pm start.

3.  Pray Stations of the Cross on Fridays, either at a local church or in our own home. (Last year we always did it at home after Jason and I both got home from work.
See Catholic Icings blog here for the way we added candles to this goal last year.)

4.  Sundays: only watch saint movies, documentaries or Christian related programming. Also, only read Bible or other religious readings.
(We just signed up for Pius Media dvd movie rental as an economical way to add more children's saint and bible videos for the little ones to the older movies that we already own. We will also be trying to order some dvds from the library as well. I wrote down a list of top rated Lent movies that we hadn't seen yet to try to watch: here, here and here are the 3 main lists I am working from.  Though they don't really have any animated films on them I just realized.)

This past Advent was when we put together our first Advent basket of religious books, cd's and dvds. This year is our first time for completing this activity for Lent as well. On the Sunday before Lent we organized our movies and put the religious ones all together in one place. I'm still trying to find where all our different religious books have spread throughout the house (or at least the ones I'm hoping we'll focus on this Lent), but already tonight Katie picked out a “Catholic Baby Board Book Bible” for us to read at bedtime. I'm planning on ordering some of the Easter Books from this list and this second list in order to add to our collection. Most likely the books will go into the Easter baskets, though I may put out one or two during Holy Week.

5.  Wednesdays: replace our family prayer hour at home with attending our church's Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts, along with their alternate week Lenten soup meals.

6.  Saturdays: all day work on our family's St. Nicholas Project
(Last 4 Saturdays of Lent)

7.  Crown of Thorns: Quiet and usually unknown personal sacrifices.
(See here for the recipe we used this year.)

We put over 100 thorns in the crown and the goal is for each of us to break off several thorns each week when we “offer something” up to Jesus, like sharing a toy with a sibling that we don't want to do or when we refrain from saying something mean, or just sitting quietly with a child taking forever to do their school work. There are lots of blog posts out there about the practice of the crown of thorns. Last year we never got our crown made, and two years ago we ran out of time to get it painted gold with beads glued on during Holy Week for Easter Sunday, but we are an ever hopeful bunch that we might just “get it all together” this Lent:)  I made the dough and Jessie braided the 3 lengths of dough that Katie and Anna helped to roll out. Katie and Anna also helped us to put in the toothpicks before we cooked the crown so they were both asking to pull out a thorn while it was still cooking. (Libby was thankfully sleeping or else she would have been involved too.)

We each made personal goals as well. For instance two of the family members decided to give up desserts for Lent while I'm hoping to focus on a few organization projects that I hope will keep adding to our family's peace.

We're just five days into Lent and it's already been challenging. Three of us are fighting colds that are becoming sinus infections. Joey and Jessie also started off their Ash Wednesday with orthodontist appts. Jessie had an almost 1/4” gap between her front two teeth that closed up in less than 8 hours with the new brackets they added to her wire.  Needless to say, she's basically fasted the last two days away in pain.  It took a lot of perseverance for us to make it to (and through) Wednesday night's liturgy...but no one wanted to not make a family goal just three days into Lent.

I write all this not to brag about our Lent plans, but as an encouraging post. I know I am always looking for “new inspiration” or ideas on what how to make this or that better in our family life.  But sometimes the tried and true are the best things to do. Each family has it's own rhythm and uniqueness, what works for me may not work for you.  This past year I've really been quietly fighting within myself about getting the kids to more (or different) activities...but God keeps “closing those doors.”  He keeps focusing me on our quiet home life. Reminding me of St. Thomas More's quote,

The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.”

I have to keep focusing on the fact that we are NOT a town family. We live 35 minutes from town, so I shouldn't feel the need to “keep up” with all the other families in having my kids attend this religious activity or a different one. I also work anywhere from 2-20 plus hours per week, so that cuts into our family time. We also still have 3 little ones who need consistency in their lives, which is hard to do when one tries to run older children to evening events. Right now, I just keep finding that “less is more” for peace in our home. There may come a time when youth group is important, but for right now, home as a family living a liturgical prayer life is way more important.

So, from the late night stillness of our home I wish all of you a blessed and quiet Lent. May you find yourselves drawing closer to our Lord each and every day.

May you feel the gentleness of God's sweet mercy each and every day in your homes and personal life,


***As Byzantine Catholics we received a special dispensation to switch our meatless fasting from Wednesdays to Mondays.  We will be saying extra prayers on Wednesdays as part of our dispensation.

Financial disclosure: I do not make any money from any of the above links that I linked to.