Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Simple Way to Honor Saint Joseph the Worker

We're home!  
I had planned on a few recovery days when we got back to unpack both literally and mentally but do you know what the husband of mine did?  He woke up early with the Luke and entertained him while the rest of us kept sleeping all while doing the majority of the unpacking.  Right?  I was pretty proud of myself for not going all nuts and getting everything done last night when we got home at 11 p.m. like I normally do after a trip and letting it just sit for a night.  Then I woke up to that because he's the best.  The laundry is pretty much done, so now what left is there to do as I sit here in my pajamas at three p.m. on this planned day off than blog?  I suppose I should shower in a bit, too, huh?  Noted.  I do have a few more thoughts and photos to share from the big trip that I may have to subject you to but I wanted to focus a moment on a suggestion for tomorrow's feast of Saint Joseph the Worker.

By all means, get to Mass if you can, read Rerum Novarum or  Centisumus Annus for an intellectual jolt, and make your fancy dessert (I hope to do the same!).  All great things, of course.  But in honor of tomorrow's day I'd also like to officially declare tomorrow The Day of Doing Something Extra Nice for Your Hard-Working Husband.  I should probably come up with a better name than that, though.  I'll work on it.  In any event, I think the good Saint Joseph (and more importantly Our Lord!) would be so pleased with an effort by us wives to honor the men who work so hard, often at thankless jobs, to care for their families.  I'm guessing most of your husbands are not necessarily working at a job that is constantly gratifying and would qualify as their dream job.  I know mine's not.  And yet they do it anyway to love their family and provide.  
So want to go all virtual accountability partners and do it with me? 

Some Ideas:
•Show up at his office with a treat or to take him out to lunch.
•Have something special prepared when he comes home from a long day of work.  
•Forgo the peck on the cheek or the off-handed and often distracted goodbye and give him a real hug and kiss (you know the kind) before he leaves in the morning. 
•Tell him how grateful you are for how he provides.  It does a man's heart good to know that he has what it takes to provide for his family and especially, that his wife is proud of him.  He needs to hear that from you.
•Offer him a back rub tomorrow evening just because you're grateful. 
•Don't throw the kids at him as soon as he walks in the door.  Instead, make an extra effort when he gets home to have the house the way he likes it...whether that's peaceful and clean or loud and fun, do your best to have that for him.
•Leave a note in his car or in his briefcase for him to find where you and the kids just say thank you for the work he does.
•Do one of the chores that he normally tends to.  (Extra credit if it's one that you know he doesn't care for!)
•Fast from something for him and offer your daily frustrations and work for him. (And no cheating by telling him :)

And, of course, pray for him.  Pray for your family, your husband, and your marriage.  Pray that he may be strengthened to be the man that God wants him to be through the intercession of Saint Joseph and that his work (and your own work) is successful and can be a path to holiness.

Any other ideas to share?  I'd love to hear them.  And if you need some accountability (I sure do...hence this blog post), go on and leave a commitment in the comments of how you will honor your family's Joseph tomorrow.

Joseph, by the work of your hands
and the sweat of your brow,
you supported Jesus and Mary,
and had the Son of God as your fellow worker.

Teach me to work as you did,
with patience and perseverance, for God and
for those whom God has given me to support.
Teach me to see in my fellow workers
the Christ who desires to be in them,
that I may always be charitable and forbearing
towards all.

Grant me to look upon work
with the eyes of faith,
so that I shall recognize in it
my share in God’s own creative activity
and in Christ’s work of our redemption,
and so take pride in it.

When it is pleasant and productive,
remind me to give thanks to God for it.
And when it is burdensome,
teach me to offer it to God,
in reparation for my sins
and the sins of the world.


(Taken from the booklet “Devotions to Saint Joseph” by Brian Moore, S.J., printed and published by the Society of St. Paul.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Last Full Day in Rome - St. Paul's, St. Catherine, and the Madonna of Childbirth

Last full day in Rome!  I know.  You thought you were done with me sitting you down in my virtual living room while I run the slide projector, didn't you?  Not just yet. :)

Another very full day of lots of stunning churches, dirty subways, and a whole lot of walking.  
Brian really wanted to see San Paolo Fuori le Mura which is fancy Italian speak for Saint Paul Outside the Walls.  And so we did.

Mosaic.  The boys really liked it and Michael declared it his favorite part of the day.

Huh.  This didn't look blurry in the camera.  The place is massive and felt sort of like a really gorgeous gymnasium.  

They have the portrait of every single pope since Peter lining the walls in those gold frames.  It really is awesome to see.

There are about ten or fifteen spots left open.  And after that we decided is the end of the world.

You know why it's called St. Paul's, right?  I say that like I knew.  It's because St. Paul, THE Saint Paul, is buried here.

Down here.
Above the tomb you can see his chains in that golden box.

What an incredibly holy place.

We told John Paul he could stay down there as long as he wanted and he stayed a good five minutes looking and praying.  It was so beautiful.

We were able to make it there for Mass, and what a gift it was that we stumbled upon a group from a seminary near Boston that was having Mass in the side chapel!  It was so so great.  The homily was really powerful and the voices of all of us praying and singing with such a devotion filled the room.  There were about fifteen concelebrants. Their bishop was even there and sat right in front of us!  We talked with them for a good long while afterwards.  The seminary is named after Saint John XXIII and it's geared toward "late" vocations.  

I snapped this quick shot through the door afterwards when another group was starting Mass :)

The Jubilee Doors!  Remember how awesome the Jubilee Year 2000 was?

 We stopped at several other churches that we really wanted to see, including the one where THE pillar of Jesus' scourging is and another that has the breathtaking statue of St. Teresa of Avila in ecstasy, but Rome has this strange custom that most churches and many businesses close for like four hours during the middle of the day.  It's so weird.  And incredibly disappointing when that's prime time for most of us people.  So we kept going to the next stop, Santa Maria Maggiore, which because it is one of the four major basilicas in Rome does stay open.

They were setting up for a big concert this evening in honor of the canonizations so it was roped off and we couldn't get too close to venerate the relics of the manger they have under the altar or see the famous Salus Popluli Romani painting of Mary and the Christ Child, purportedly done by Saint Luke and hanging in the Borghese Chapel.

Mary's hand made me laugh a little.  It looked normal in person but in the photo she's all, "Just stop.  It's been a long day."  I hear you, Mary.

We walked and walked and stumbled upon a street of very official government looking buildings guarded by men with large guns.  

See St. Peter's in the background?  That's how far we walked.

Then we walked some more.  (This is a very descriptive post, isn't it?)

We made it over to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva which by this point was open again.  Underneath the altar St. Catherine of Siena body is buried.  Her head is in Siena, though.  For real.

Our plan was to come here for Mass tomorrow for her feast day (how cool would that be?) but unfortunately, I don't think the timing will work since we have to leave to catch our flight.  But we got to be here on the eve so that's pretty cool, too.

This boy has developed a devotion to St. Anthony of Padua over the last year or so which I find so awesome and so random.  I showed him that side chapel with his picture and he immediately went over and said a prayer.  See that statue on the wall?  There are so many people buried in these churches of Rome.  I think that might have been another pope?  You see tombs and engraved floor stones everywhere.

The tomb.  I said a prayer that she would keep me from saying or writing stupid things.  I wish I could say I put it more eloquently than that but my prayers don't sound as pious when my blood sugar is plummeting and I've walked five thousand miles.

We finally hit up a place for dinner.  And of all the places we could have picked we chose for our last dinner in Italy a place that catered to cheap Americans.  Note all the burgers on the plates and the eggplant parmesan in front of David.  Because he's the awesomest and I was really craving meat after many days of peanut butter and jelly and pasta.  But I got the Italian beer, so that's something.  Also, I'm fairly certain this restaurant was a Mafia front.  

Our last stop was somewhere I felt really called to go to.  It was San Agostino and it's where St. Monica is buried.  It's known as "the mother's church" because she is there and because many people come to pray for their children and many many people come to pray to be blessed with children.

I thought some of you might enjoy this in one of the side chapels.  I don't know the full story but that lady represents charity and as you can see she doesn't use a nursing cover :)

Below that altar are St. Monica's remains.  I prayed for all of you here but especially for those of you who have lost babies or are praying for the blessing of a child.  There were so many people that asked for that specific intention.  
And I also prayed for that intention here:

In the back of the church sits the Madonna of Childbirth.  For over five hundred years women have come here to pray for the blessing of a child and a safe birth.  On the right you can see all the blue and pink holding names of babies born due to her intercession and in the foreground is an album filled with pictures of babies.  It made me tear up to see all those sweet faces and prayers answered.  Both Saint John Paul II and Saint John XXIII even came here.  I found it especially powerful as a doula that the church even in a small way recognizes the importance of a happy and holy birth and I begged her to intercede for all of you praying for that intention.

We're packing up tonight to head out tomorrow afternoon.  It's been an amazing grace-filled trip in so many ways and I know we'll be unpacking the graces for months if not years but we're also very ready to be home, I think.  

Other Notes from Today:
-So many miles.  So many.
-John Paul decided the other day that he would really like to buy a nice crucifix.  After checking out dozens of shops, we finally found The One.  It was so sweet.  He chose a blue St. Benedict cross.
-Michael is still on the lookout for two Roman soldier helmet keychains to match the one he already bought.  I'm not sure why or what he plans on doing with them but it is of the utmost importance.
-David decided he'd like to use the rest of his pocket money to get "all the gelato I can eat."
-Homemade gelato beats the other stuff hands down.  If you're ever here, make sure to visit the places that make it themselves!
-We're slowly learning to differentiate the people who are truly in need versus the very theatrically inclined gypsies who are begging in the streets.
-Meeting Father James in the street the other night.  I don't want to forget that.  His eyes were so clear, so...holy?  And how he claimed to remember us from Assisi but neither Brian or I had any recollection of it at all.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Santo Subito! (We Were Really There and I Can Barely Believe It!)

We did it!  We really really did it and I can hardly believe it.
You're not going to see any top of the line, professional photos here as we were too busy not getting trampled but I'm certain there are hundreds of other places you can see those.  This is just our little story   of taking part in an incredible day for our Church and an unforgettable day for our family.  I looked at Brian today and said, "we're kind of adventurous people, aren't we?"

We ended up, no joke, taking all of us to one of the vigils the night before that started at 9 p.m. with our things packed in case we decided to sleep out to try to get in to the canonization.  We still had no set plan.

One of the many spots of pilgrims singing, praying, praising, sleeping, and having tons of fun with people from all over the world that we passed on our way there.  There were thousands of people already camped out by 8 p.m.

We went to what was supposed to be the vigil for English speakers and it ended up being mostly in Italian, and I hate to say it, but kind of lame.  We left early.  David was already asleep in the stroller and slept pretty much the rest of the night...until 3:30 or so when our night ended.  After seeing how many people were already out and how late it already was anyway, we decided to go for it.

In what is probably the worst picture posted anywhere ever in the history of posted photographs you can see that we really did sleep out by a park bench on a gravel sidewalk like a little hobo family.  We set up around 11 or so and "slept" until about 3:30.  I think I got an hour or two.  The kids were such troopers.  The carabinieri opened up the entrance to Via del Conciliazione then and we could hear people moving so we started, too.

It was i-n-s-a-n-e.  We wanted to see if there was any chance of getting through and it was one of those crazy scary situations where once you start going, there was no going back.  It was a tidal wave of people and it got pretty scary at a couple of points with the kids.  We got about 3/4 up the street when things got so congested that we had to call the police over to get us out before one of our kids was hurt. So we ended up going back to about half way up the street and staking our little spot there.  We probably could've gotten that spot without the whole sleeping out thing but we're not going to think about that now, are we?  All part of the adventure, she tells herself.

And here we were!  Our view...not the best but really, no complaints.  We weren't sure we'd even be able to be a part of the Mass at all so this was just great.  

It was pretty amazing.  Flags and people from everywhere.  People in traditional dress from Africa and South America and Asia.  Songs and celebrating all over.  The Body of Christ universal in epic display.  We met people around us from Poland, Lebanon, Italy, Brazil, and Texas.

Looking behind.  It was like this for miles.

So we could sort of see...this is the camera all the way zoomed in :)  John Paul spent much of the Mass teetered on top of the stroller holding the binoculars.  But at least the speakers were great and the giant screens were in partial view.

We had about three hours to kill before Mass began with four kids in a six foot square space that was consistently shrinking but they miraculously did okay.

I don't even know how he's smiling.  At this point I was ready to keel over and wondering why the heck we ever thought this was a good idea.  All I could think about was coffee, sleep, and a bathroom.

But he had a flag...I'm so glad I remembered to bring them!  So fun walking down the street and people asking you where you're from and feeling all bondy with your home country peeps.

I pretty much just want to burn that blanket and pillow now.

That's the cheese face.  From both of them.

Mass began.  I love that they handed out books to everyone so it was very easy to participate.  When we saw Pope Emeritus Benedict come out and the cheers went up and the tears started streaming, it made the entire craziness worth it.

And then the official proclamation of their sainthood.  The cheers.  The chills.  
I wish every one of you could have been there.  But I was thinking about you and did take all of your intentions with me through the night and all through the Mass.

A few minutes into Mass I set Luke down with some food.  I looked over not even two minutes later and this.  He slept through the whole rest of Mass in what I'm sure will be proclaimed St. John Paul's third miracle.  We had to guard him pretty fiercely from being stepped on.

Both David and Michael also took quick but much-needed naps during as well.

It started to sprinkle for a minute and everyone got very dramatic with the ponchos and umbrellas.  It was kind of funny.  But I was very very grateful it didn't start raining hard.  

We were able to receive Communion which was actually a big deal since you don't always make it up in time at things like this.  The priest had a hard time believing Michael was old enough to receive even though I was right there saying "Si!"  I heard him say something about being "piccolo."  I was afraid he would turn him away but he didn't, thankfully! 

And almost immediately after the final blessing, the sun came out for just a little bit and this kid was hamming it up with his flag.

We waited around for a good bit for Pope Francis to come down the street in the popemobile but after waiting a long while and seeing that he was still shaking hands with dignitaries and important people and such, we decided it was time to go.

I had to resist the urge to clean up all the newspapers people were sitting on.  I didn't really get that.  People kept offering them to us but I don't really see how newspaper is any cleaner than the stone curb.

I'm just now realizing that I didn't even get a picture of our John Paul at the canonization!  How could I forget that??

He was awesome.  He barely slept and yet he was (mostly) all smiles all day long.  When we were back at the apartment afterwards, we were shocked that he was still standing and cheerful but he was so happy and excited for this special day.  Every time we say Saint John Paul, he looks so beautiful and happy.  We celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday and the canonization of both a Polish pope and an Italian pope with an Italian meal of spaghetti that Brian put together. (Red and white, get it?  Very convenient stretch?)  Tomorrow I think when we have some sleep and the city is a little less congested we'll go out to celebrate such a special day for our little man as well as our last full day in Roma.

I'm still having a hard time believing that we were actually here and got to celebrate such an important day.  None of our five children, these amazing beautiful souls that I desperately love, would exist without the words and teachings of our beloved John Paul II.  I cannot wait to meet him in heaven one day to thank him and chat his ear off about all the things I've wanted to for years.  What an indescribable blessing to be able to share this day as a family and as a Church.

(And thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers.  I could feel them.)

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