Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Husband as Gardener

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Brueghel, Jan the Elder

With the acceptance of divorce by Christians, the idea of the husband as gardener has slipped from our imaginations.  This God-given role is a beautiful one, indeed.  It is explained brilliantly in True Men As We Need Them by Rev. Bernard O'Rielly.  I've read the following passages too many times to count, and they always inspire me.

The idea is first introduced in Chapter II, "Creation Of A Home, The First Work":
Adam had been created outside of this Garden of Delights, in some less favored portion of the vast domain reserved for his descendants.  He thus was enabled, when transferred by his Divine Benefactor to the earthly paradise, to judge by comparison of the immense superiority of his new abode to all that his eyes had beheld hitherto.  This brief experience prepared him to improve by his own husbandry even the teeming soil of paradise, and to guard with unwearied watchfulness the untold wealth,--intrusted to him not only in all the produce of this fairy spot, but in his own soul and its destinies, in the companion soon given to him in Eve, in their united innocence and bliss, and in the welfare of their offspring.
Thus, in the Home bestowed on him who first on earth bore the name of father and discharged its duties, we find that there was imposed a double law, regarding solely home-happiness and well-being,--the law of labor and of vigilance.
This law is still the blessed necessity which ennobles the life of man, and creates within his earthly home all that it can possess of bliss and nobleness:  Every true man has to work to create his home, when he has it not; to preserve and increase its stores, where he receives it by inheritance, and he has to watch over its honor, its happiness, its security, with a most loving care.
Then, in Chapter IV, "Paradise As Realized In The Home Of The True Man," I will share three most edifying paragraphs under the subtitle, "How a True Man should Choose his Companion, and Cultivate her Heart."  May that phrase, "cultivate her heart," be the mantra of all young husbands!
We must not, however, anticipate on what has to be treated fully in its proper place.  Suffice it to say at present, that even when parents have solely consulted the Divine Will and the best interests of their son in choosing for him or in directing his choice,--or even when he has been given a woman endowed with all the natural and supernatural graces that make her a treasure beyond price,--much, very much remains for the young husband to do if he would call forth all the wealth of his treasure, and apply it to the best uses.  (emphasis mine)
A rich womanly nature demands to be known, to be appreciated, to be developed by the deep love, the ingenious tenderness, the unfailing devotion, the delicate and respectful attentions, --ever growing in assiduity with each successive year,--of her young husband.
You have chosen, from out the varied wealth of the garden and the forest, the loveliest and rarest flower that attracted your eye; will you have it brighten and perfume your home to the utmost?  Then study its nature, its habits, what soil it likes best, what companions suit it (for plants and flowers also have their preferences), what degree of moisture, of heat, of shade, or of sunshine.  Gardeners will tell you that wild flowers from the meadow, the woods, or the mountains, will seem to change their nature under care of an intelligent and loving hand, and in a few seasons become so beautiful that they seem to have been transformed by culture.  Not that only; but the flowers most beautiful by nature are so much improved by the art of the gardener, that their charms are not only increased tenfold, but varied continually so as to create ever new surprise and delight.  And who does not know that the horticulturist's skill can enhance to a wonderful extent the qualities of the most delicious fruits of our fields or our gardens?
Fr. O'Rielly sums up the importance of "cultivating her heart" magnificently under the subtitle, "This is 'to Dress and to Keep' the Home-Garden":
To you, O man of the world, your home-garden, your paradise,--the source of your purest and dearest felicity on this side of the grave, is the mind and heart and soul of your wife, your companion, the mother of your children.  Her soul, her life, is given you "to dress and to keep;" and on your appreciating her nature and her worth, on your knowing how to call forth by your love, your care, your devotion to her service, by the sunlight of your examples much more even than by your mere love and tenderness,--must depend whether or not you shall have a home-garden, a paradise,--or a hell upon earth.
Is that not incredibly empowering for the young husband?  With loving care he cultivates the rose upon the trellis to burst into bloom and perfume his garden.  It is a labor of love, worthy of his best efforts.  How dramatically we could prune back the number of divorces if we taught young men to be cultivators of their wives' hearts!  This is why I encourage you, dear reader, to share this post.  We all desperately need this instruction on the lost art of husbanding a wife, as we each have opportunities to support Catholic marriages.  Sharing the information is an easy way to help restore the Church.  May God bless you in your efforts.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Modest Motorcycle Mama Goes Cross Country, Part 1

In Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

5,266 miles in 17 days, averaging 310 miles a day!

As far north as Glacier National Park in Montana and as far west as the Pacific coast.

In a skirt the whole time, except for one afternoon when it was storming, and I had to put on a rain suit.

I wore long, full skirts with tights underneath.  It was no problem at all!   I found that the best way to get on the bike was to sit down sidesaddle and swing my right leg over.  This I could do easily while maintaining modesty.  Apparently, my attire did elicit some attention.  Two or three times on our trip, my husband told me via our intercom, "Those ladies like your skirt," as their car passed us.  Each time I asked him how he knew that.  Each time he said that he was sure because they were looking and pointing and smiling.  I'll take his word for it.  In any case, he was really happy and proud, which made me feel fantastic.

Our first full day on the road,  we started with breakfast on a rock in the HEB grocery store parking lot.   So romantic!  I think we were just north of Waco.  We had our own little patch of grass and a wonderful assortment of delectables to savor, including guacamole.  I discovered that I really like guacamole and bananas and coffee for breakfast.

We made our first big stop in Vernon, Texas.  Herb indulged my longing to tour this little museum there.  It proved quite interesting, as it was all about the history of the area and how it was settled by these big ranchers, like W.T. Waggoner.  A giant section of the museum was devoted to scads of exotic hunting trophies bagged by a local man, William A. Bond.  

I really was not expecting to see this in sleepy little Vernon.

The explanation of what happened to our country after the War of Northern Aggression and also the insight into the cattle barons' philosophy (below) was worth the price of admission.  Nothing Catholic here, folks.

One thing I didn't take into account when preparing for our trip:

At the end of the first day, I discover I am a Redneck.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


This month has been tumultuous for me.  Kind of like paddling my canoe over Niagara Falls.  Lots of roaring and wild descents and outrageous bumps.  That's why I haven't written anything since last month.

I realized yesterday that I totally missed the Ember Week.  :(

And I wonder if life is really supposed to be this hectic, so draining--if I am doing it wrong.  It feels wrong.  That's for sure.  But I can't figure out how to do it differently.  I just keep paddling furiously and reminding myself that most everyone is doing the same.  

I am enormously grateful for my paddle.  I grip it tightly, knowing that despite my trials I am supremely blessed.

A young 20-something friend told me, "At least your life is defined."  Ostensibly, because I am married and have children and know what my duties are, I am in a far better place than he, who is still single and living at home, not knowing if he will find someone to marry, etc.  This is a common concern among my young traditional Catholic men friends.  Much worry is devoted to it and rightly so.  However,  after much pondering, I have to say that although those particular questions have been answered for me, they only bring a new set of questions: Whom will my children marry?  Where will they live?  Will I be able to have regular, in-person, interaction with my children and grandchildren?  Or will they live far from me?  Will there be anyone nearby to take care of me in my old age?  Will I die with the sacraments?

And yet, I know that we should not be solicitous for tomorrow.  Behold the birds of the air...the lilies of the field...

We have the Blessed Mother, too, and her assurance, "Am I not here, who am your Mother?"

Furthermore, we know that God chose for us to be born into this time, this horrible post-Christendom time.  Knowing this I feel a grave responsibility.  Am I doing God's will?  I think He has put a lot of confidence in me to bring me into this world in the dread year 1960.

All of these uncertainties--my young friends' and mine--are symptomatic of the destruction of Catholic culture.  So I think every day about what I can do to restore it.  Is not Christ telling us, as he told St. Francis, "Restore my Church?"

Speaking of the destruction of the Church, I was astounded to learn that "Catholic" Match allows you to choose which of the Church's teachings you believe.  I guess calling the service Heretic Match wouldn't be as lucrative.

Modern Life Is So Disjointed  

I spend enormous amounts of time and energy trying to navigate Western medicine for my little family.  I think that is why May has finished me off.   My little engine was already running on fumes.

My dad was hospitalized again this month, this time for a week, and his discharge paperwork included a list of about 20 doctors who saw him during that time, several of whom I am supposed to make appointments with for followup visits.  For the life of me I can't understand why nephrology and urology are two separate specialties!  How dumb is that?  For that matter, why is gastroenterology its own thing?  Why not put those three together into something halfway sensible like an "output" specialist?

After Dad was discharged I canceled two pre-existing appointments with specialists because he needed time to recover from being in the hospital.  He was so weak and disoriented from being there that he fell two times within 24 hours of coming home.  Unbeknownst to us, he spent an entire night on the bedroom floor, freezing under the ceiling fan.  After that he was really confused and thought he was on a boat.  Plus, the hospital managed to let him get another bedsore on his heel, so I needed to get him to the podiatrist to have the dead flesh cut out.

When he was in the hospital, I was making daily hour-and-a-half roundtrips to visit him while trying to keep everything going at home, including taking care of my mother and preparing for Emma's senior recital reception and graduation after-party, and the arrival of relatives for those events.  Thank goodness my sister Beverly came in from Birmingham and took over with Mom.

We got through all that only for our dog to begin a serious decline.  Poor old Cowboy!  His hips refused to keep doing their job, and almost every morning I would find him lying against the back door in his own waste because he had been unable to get up to go to the bathroom in the yard.  Eerily, it was kind of like the night my Dad spent on the bedroom floor.  When I helped Cowboy up, he could walk, but his rear legs would splay out, making him stagger like a drunk.

Finally, my husband Herb dug a hole behind the barn and took Cowboy on his last walk after we each took time to say goodbye.  I watched the old Black Lab's agonizing progress down the sidewalk and beside the barn until he turned behind it to dutifully follow Herb.  Such a sad, sad day!   It was really the end of an era.

We bought Cowboy's mom, Cocoa, and aunt, Genevieve, as newly-weaned pups for Nathaniel and Emma in 1998.  We kept one puppy from each mom:  Cowboy and Spats.  We had to put Spats down last year.  I made the mistake of trying to hold out with him and let him die naturally at home.  Emma and I ended up having to heave him into the back of the car and haul him to the vet to be put to sleep.  I have to say that dying at home at gunpoint on your own grass is the more merciful experience.

When Herb took Cowboy, Emma and I busied ourselves cooking.  I asked her to choose some music for us to listen to so that we didn't hear the gunshot.  She chose a YouTube playlist.  It was all very upbeat music to distract us from our grief.  Strangely, just as Herb returned from his death duty, Danny Boy came on, and my tears began anew.

Surely June will be better.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Of Wormwood and Black Walnut and Strange Pet Behavior

This clever dish concealed a pocket of herbs--wormwood and black walnut--by which I sought to deliver a death-dealing blow to some parasites that are plaguing our old black Lab, Cowboy.

Doesn't it look scrumptious?

It's actually layers of leftovers, topped with the spaghetti squash seeds that I had just scooped out in preparation for our own lunch.  I had a ginormous pot of bone broth simmering on the stove with lamb, chicken, and beef bones in it, and I decided to top the whole "casserole" with a ladleful of it for good measure.

The herbs are pungent, so I needed all the help I could get.

Or so I thought.

Not only did Cowboy plunge his muzzle into the medicinal meal, Stray Cat did too.  I had to keep grabbing him up to keep him out of it, as I feared the whopping dose of herbs would be dangerous for him.  However, every time I set him down, he dove back in.  What a strange kitty.  Strange dog, too.  I thought he might bite Stray Kitty's head off, but he never even growled.

After Cowboy had consumed the majority of it, I let Stray Cat down, and he proceeded to clean up, even devouring the last bit of carrot.

Our other four cats never paid the least attention to the food.   When I picked up the pan, Stray Cat batted at it with his paws, as if to pull it back down.  Crazy.

I gave the herb combination to Cowboy for three days total.  Next week he starts a once a week maintenance program of a second herb combination.  He has responded well so far.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Forget the Election and Celebrate Catholic Thanksgiving

From the movie "Babette's Feast"

Editor's Note: I got the idea and the historical background for this post from reading Dr. Marian Horvat's "The First Thanksgivings Were Catholic."

If you, like I, really detest the whole Puritan/Pilgrim party that is foisted on us every November, right when Catholics should be preparing for Advent and Christmas, your chance to fight back with a holiday that is truly meaningful is coming up: Saturday, April 30.  That's the day the second Thanksgiving was celebrated, in Texas, with Holy Mass and a great feast.  Even better, according to "The First Thanksgivings Were Catholic," after the Mass, the expedition leader, "Don Juan de Oñate, took formal possession of the new land, called New Mexico, in the name of the Heavenly Lord, God Almighty, and the earthly lord King Philip II."

Now that's more like it! 

May Catholic men rise up in the spirit of Don Juan de Oñate and renew the effort that Catholic missionaries began so valiantly long ago, establishing outposts of the True Faith in the midst of our  pagan land.  Why waste time worrying over which narcissist will be the next president of the United States?  It's just another distraction at this point.  Plus, should Catholics aspire to getting back to America's Masonic roots and its godless Constitution as "conservatives" propose?

No, we must build from a solid foundation; we must establish a Catholic order, replacing Lady Liberty with Our Lady of Guadalupe, and it is not going to happen with anyone who is "electable" in the present system.  

The first priority is establishing the Social Reign of Christ the King in our homes and in our communities.  That will provide the rich soil from which the seeds of good government may burst forth and flower.  Catholic mothers, with Rosary in hand, must form Catholic citizens.   And it can start with simple things like celebrating Catholic Thanksgiving on April 30 and again on September 8, the day on which we celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in a month rich with Marian feasts, when the real first American Thanksgiving was celebrated in Florida by Spanish Catholics.

And by all means invite your non-Catholic friends.

I highly recommend watching Babette's Feast.  It seems the perfect artistic representation of the difference between celebrating Protestant Thanksgiving and Catholic Thanksgiving, and not only that, it is a truly beautiful movie that will uplift and inspire you and increase your sensus Catholicus.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In the Spirit of Fraternal Encouragement: A Music Detox

John Cuddeback, a philosophy professor at Christendom College, has invited his Bacon From Acorns blog readers to join him in listening to only a select few "classical" music pieces for two weeks.   I think it is a grand idea!  It offers a reset of our emotions and an opportunity to get to know several beautiful pieces intimately.  Read his post linked above to get his list of recommended pieces, overflowing with musical antioxidants.

Mr. Cuddeback does not include any Gregorian chant because of its intended use as liturgical prayer, but here I must lovingly disagree.   Are we not to pray without ceasing?  And is not the home our domestic church?  I think it would add greatly to the efficaciousness of the "fast" to listen to one piece of chant every day for the two weeks, especially if you did it first thing in the morning to help set the tone for the rest of your day.  Aside from the graces to be gained,  it would also give our parasympathetic nervous systems, so overloaded with the stimuli of modern culture, a rest, as Gregorian chant appeals directly to the intellect, not the passions.

Need more inspiration?  Here are two things I read today that I found immensely edifying.

Twelve Latin Chants Every Catholic Should Know:  This is great for narrowing down the choices, and it gives a little background with each chant.  Well, actually I lied.  It didn't help me narrow the choices.  With each description I was sure that I would finally decide on THAT piece, only to read the next description and decide that it was THE ONE.  Maybe I shall start at the top of the list and listen to each piece for two weeks until I have absorbed each one into my being.

Feeding Our Children Liturgical Garbage:  Jeff Ostrowski, who holds a Bachelor's degree in Music Theory, explains in a short Views from the Choir Loft blog post why we should listen to the best music and provide it for our children.  He shares some stellar quotes, too.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Blessed Be the Womb that Bore Thee...

Young Mother Nursing Her Child, Mary Cassatt

and the breasts that gave thee suck!

I inadvertently titled my last two posts with the same first word--blessed--so I thought I would go for three in a row.

Women have breasts and wombs!

Really!  It's in the Bible repeatedly.  Apparently God knew how confused mankind would become in these latter days and made sure to give us clarity on this concept.

So repeat after me:

Women have breasts and wombs!

Don't you feel better?  I do.  It's because the truth shall set you free.

If you don't have breasts and a womb, you're a MALE.

So easy!

I was reminded of the importance of this distinction again on the Solemnity of St. Joseph in the epistle from Ecclesiasticus:

The God of thy father shall be thy helper, and the Almighty shall bless thee with the blessings of Heaven above, with the blessings of the deep that lieth beneath, with the blessings of the breasts and of the womb.  (italics mine)

Clearly these things that set women apart are highly-valued by God.  I'm so glad to be a woman!  I'm especially glad to know that I am a woman and not to have the burden of trying to convince myself and others that I am something I am not, like a man or a boy or even a cat.  Some people are really doing such things.

In reality, it's earth shattering when you spend some time thinking about why God made women the way that He did--that He lavished our bodies with the means of blessing--and knowing that He has a particular order to His design for our lives.  Yes, God is all about order, not confusion, even in the most basic things like gender.

Thinking about that, I finally understood why this trend of photographing women with their arms crossed in front of their chests always bothers me.  They are denying the blessings of the breasts and the womb!  They are assuming a "tough guy" attitude and saying "no" to being nurturing.  I saw it most recently on a billboard advertising the services of a woman lawyer.  It's been popular also with teenage girls on sports teams but also graduation pictures, etc.

What really needs to go in those arms is a baby...

a nursing baby.  I thought I better clarify.  People have such a hard time with reality these days.