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Advent is Waiting

This phrase makes me think of the animated movie Atlantis. In order to convince Milo, the scrawny bookworm to take the plunge and go on an expedition to discover the lost city, the financial backer Preston Whitmore says to him, “Atlantis is waiting.” This phrase always gets me, the excitement and anticipation. I wish someone would come around to each of us before a big decision and whisper with that same enthusiasm, “_____ is waiting.”

Friends, Advent is waiting. It’s only a few days away. Are you ready? Am I ready? It’s too bad we don’t have a Preston Whitmore who organizes our whole life ahead of our decisions so that the answer is obvious. What we can do, however, is take these opportunities the Church regularly builds into the liturgical year. Advent is the perfect time to step back, slow down and build momentum in our spiritual life.

This year’s Advent Journals are officially here! There are two different journals, both in pdf format. One narrows your focus to the 4 Sundays of Advent. Each day of the week you read one of the readings, and at the end of the week there are a few reflections. On Fridays, I’ve offered a few key themes and images found in the readings and expanded on their importance. On Saturday, inspired by the overall themes of the Sunday, there is a reflection on one of the aspects of Jesus. The Homily Notes space from last year is still there and can be used for additional note taking. Also, and this is so exciting, I figured out the booklet printing issue from last year so there are 2 versions of this journal, one in Booklet Format and one that is A5 size. If you print the A5 size at home you will need to cut the pages down after printing. If you choose the booklet be sure you select “booklet” or “book fold” in your printer’s settings.

Keep in mind that this journal is preparing for the upcoming Sunday of Advent, so it starts this coming Monday Nov. 25!

The second journal is a repeat from last year. I love using Lectio Divina for Advent. I’ve updated the dates and Scripture verses but the rest of the journal is much the same from last year. The last page is still blank if you would rather select your own Scripture verses. I did not do a booklet format for this journal because of all the writing space so there is only one version of the Lectio journal.

Remember, these journals are totally FREE for you to print, so you can grab both and see which works best for you. Or maybe you will find both inspirational. I’d love to hear which you chose and why. Feel free to share this post with anyone and everyone. It is my Advent gift to all of you.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com
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When Does Motherhood Begin?

A quick Google search will reveal a whole host of opinions and definitions of the miraculous journey that we call “Motherhood.” For some, motherhood is very specifically tied to the birth event of a child. For others, motherhood begins when that first kick is felt. Still others consider a broader perspective to include adoptive mothers, mother-like figures or even spiritual mothers.

With such definitions, it would appear at first glance that motherhood is yet another area of relativistic individualism – what’s true for me may or may not be true for you and that’s ok. When we go to the dictionary, things are even less helpful. “The state of being a mother” isn’t the most illustrated definition. When looking up simply “Mother” things do get a bit more definite: “a female parent,” “a woman exercising control, influence, or authority like that of a mother,” or “something or someone that gives rise to or exercises protecting care over something else; origin or source.”

While there is still room for interpretation in these selected definitions, we can begin to see the blurry outlines of who and what a mother is. A mother is typically a female person, though the final definition opens even this observation up to all people. A mother is a person who has some level of authority over others, especially a protective care or measure of control grounded in a relationship. The last definition is most interesting – origin or source. Let’s take a special look at this perspective and how it relates to the Church’s understanding of motherhood.

St. Julian of Norwich

St. Julian of Norwich was an anchoress and mystic who lived in the late 1300s. An anchoress was a woman who “anchored” herself to a specific church, living a life of cloister and prayer. She received a series of sixteen visions of Christ which she wrote about in her work, Revelations of Divine Love, and can still be read today. She developed a new understanding of Jesus’ identity – Jesus as Mother.

Jesus Christ therefore, who himself overcame evil with good, is our true Mother. We received our ‘Being’ from Him ­ and this is where His Maternity starts ­ And with it comes the gentle Protection and Guard of Love which will never ceases to surround us.

Just as God is our Father, so God is also our Mother.

http://www.vatican.va/spirit/documents/spirit_20010807_giuliana-norwich_en.html

Here we find the maternity of Christ to fit perfectly with our modern definitions of a mother. Through Jesus we find our origin and in Jesus we are enveloped in protection and love.

Chiara Lubich

Chiara Lubich is the founder of the Focolare Movement, a movement of laity and clergy which began during WWII. Focolare means “Work of Mary” and it is through Mary’s guidance Chiara explores what total union with God and one another looks like. Chiara’s theology of Mary is deeply intimate, resonating with both St. Louis de Montfort and St. Maximillian Kolbe, two of the greatest Marian theologians. Part of Chiara’s understandings revolve around Mary’s role as Jesus’ mother, and by spiritual extension our mother. We are Mary’s children and as such are called to emulate her example. What is her example? To bear Christ to the world.

Mary’s is Jesus’ mother. Her willing cooperation with the Holy Spirit brought Jesus, the Son of God, into human existence. We too are called to bring Christ into the world. The motherhood of Mary in union with the Holy Spirit, which brings forth Christ, is relived in the Church and in each of us. According to Lumen Gentium #65, whenever Christ is born in the hearts of the faithful, they are participating in the mystery of the Incarnation where Christ is “conceived by the Holy Spirit and born from the Virgin.” All Christians, no matter their gender, profession, or age are called to live this birthing every day.

When does motherhood begin?

After all this, we still may not be closer to answering the question, “When does motherhood begin?” However, I think we do have some clues about something broader, and perhaps more important. Like love, motherhood isn’t a feeling. Nor is it necessarily something outside your control. Motherhood, like love, is a choice. When does someone start to act as a mother, to be a mother? Based on the secular definitions and the reflections of Julian of Norwich and Chiara Lubich, it is when a person chooses to serve another, regardless of the expense or cost to themselves.

Consider it this way. A couple wishes to have a child. The couple has been struggling to conceive and they are seeking advice, tracking her cycles, practicing NFP, paying attention to risk factors and doing a series of tests to screen out any other potential inhibitors. They make lifestyle changes as recommended. The wife is taking prenatal vitamins, being mindful of any alcohol and taking extra care in her tracking. The husband is supportive, moderating his own alcohol intake in solidarity with his wife, he encourages her tracking and any dietary changes which may help their hopes for a child. Are they practicing motherhood yet?

What about the family who hopes to adopt? They pray every day, children and parents alike, for their hoped for child. They work together to make any necessary changes to their home for the preliminary inspections and requirements. They fill out paperwork, answer questions, take time off work for meetings and other important interactions in order to be accepted as a potential family. Are they practicing motherhood yet?

What about a person who volunteers their time with their parish’s youth group? They dedicated time each week to encouraging and mentoring the teenagers. They open their home to the group for a summer barbeque, travel to a religious site or pilgrimage with them, and even help coach a summer intramural volleyball team. Is this person practicing motherhood yet?

What about the child who sees another sad or hurt at the playground. Instead of walking past, they sit down and ask to play together. Are they practicing motherhood yet?

If motherhood, as I said earlier, is “when a person chooses to serve another, regardless of the expense or cost to themselves,” then the clear answer to the previous scenarios is “Yes!” All these examples, even the child, are moments of motherhood.

Chiara sums it up beautifully in a letter written in 1983:

“…Mothers only know how to love. It is typical of a mother to love her children as herself, because there’s something of herself in them. … We too can find something of ourselves in others. For we must see Jesus in ourselves and in every neighbor. What shall we do? With each neighbor, at home, at work, or on the street, with the people we talk; with those we speak to over the phone, or for whom we carry out our daily work – with every person we meet these days, we must think: “I must act as if I were his or her mother,” and act accordingly. Mothers are always serving, Mothers always find excuses for their children. Mothers are always full of hope.”

The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the heart of a mother – St. Therese of Lisieux

Happy Mother’s Day!

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

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Advent Journals are Here!

I’m so pleased to share with you all these Advent Journals. As you may have noticed, Advent is quickly approaching and there are so many wonderful resources available to help deepen and enrich your Advent experience.

For the past few years, I’ve noticed a need for Advent journals that cover a few bases. 1. They are Scripturally based 2. They are simple 3. They are not time consuming but still powerful 4. They are free. I have 2 different journals this year so be sure to read to the bottom to hear about both. One is based on lectio divina, the other is a deeper look at the 4 Sundays of Advent.

Lectio Divina Journal

In the journal I’ve highlighted one or two verses from the daily readings for reflection. There is space to prepare yourself for lectio and think about what’s going on in your life that day. What’s joyful, stressful, exciting or bothering you? Your lectio experience is colored by what’s happening in your life and it is good to take a moment to acknowledge what you are bringing to the table. There is also a place for your Word or phrase that has been highlighted during your reading as well as your prayerful response to God’s movements in your heart. Finally, there is room to think creatively about what God is calling you to do or change as inspired by the day’s prayer. 

The journal includes an overview of what lectio divina is, how to pray it and why it’s such a rich experience of prayer. As I said, I have chosen one or two verses for your reflection. However, maybe you already have a habit of reading the daily readings. Maybe a different verse stood out to you. At the very end of the journal is a blank page. It has all the formatting and different writing spaces, but the Scripture portion is blank. You can use this page to write your own verses in. 

Remember, this is completely free and is a pdf. So you can print the whole thing if you are going to use the verses I chose. Or you can print that last page 30 times and fill in your own verse every day. Or maybe you’re overwhelmed and already have a daily Advent devotional but want to give lectio divina a try – just print a week and see how it goes. Maybe every Sunday would work better. This is completely customizable to you. 

4 Sundays of Advent Journal

This is the brand new journal and I’m so excited about. I was inspired by a few things. First by my long-term writing project on the Philippians 2 Christ hymn. In that project, I am doing a deep study of the hymn, looking at the historical, theological, ecclesial, and liturgical significance and why it is a piece of Scripture that we all should know inside and out. I was also inspired by Every Sacred Sunday and how their Mass journals encourage Catholics to spend quality time preparing for Mass. If you are looking for something long term to help you dig deeper into the Sunday readings all year long, I cannot recommend their journals enough.

My new Advent Journal works like this. The first and super important thing you need to know is that it starts on Nov. 26. Yes, that’s before Advent actually begins. But, if you are going to be preparing for the 4 Sundays of Advent, you’ve got to start before the first Sunday, right?

Ok, got that cleared up. Mondays we spend time with the First Reading. Tuesdays the Psalm. Wednesdays the Second Reading. Thursdays the Gospel. Each page has the reading as well as space for any notes, questions or insights you might have while reading. There is also space for a brief prayer or reflection on what you’ve read. Think of this as lectio divina lite. 

Friday’s I offer a theological reflection on the readings. These include any historical information that is relevant, how the readings fit together, and what they can say to us today. It concludes with a quote from a saint that illuminates the overall theme of the Sunday.

Saturday encompasses how we can take what we’ve learned and grow in the week to come. I include another brief reflection, followed by questions or ideas meant to inspire you to apply the readings to your daily life and enhance your Advent experience. 

Sunday is a simple page for homily notes or other reflections you have on these readings. Perhaps you have another Advent devotional you are doing side by side and want to write down a special quote or work through a new idea. Here is space to do it, especially in light of the Sunday readings. 

Click below for a closer look at the Four Sundays of Advent Journal. You will be opening a pdf document which you can print for your own personal use. 

Click below for a closer look at the Four Sundays of Advent Journal. You will be opening a pdf document which you can print for your own personal use. 

I’m so excited for your Advent journey. It would be great to hear from you which journal you chose and why. I love feedback and want to keep developing these into quality, useful tools for you to deepen your relationship with God. Do please share with anyone you think would benefit from these journals. 

God bless

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Working the Soil – Ash Wednesday 2020

We planted the garden last weekend. All the kids helped to clear out the beds and turn the soil. We were all surprised to discover large roots deep beneath the surface. They stretched and twisted through almost the whole bed! How did this happen?

For starters, our garden has been “on break” for a year. Between being pregnant with Gabe and then learning how to function with 5 kids put the garden far down on our priority list. So, the garden has not received a love it needed and now has all manner of weeds and plant matter which we did not intend.

Now the garden is beautiful, but in a barren way. The soil is dark and rich and inviting, but there is nothing above the surface. All the work that we did, all the planting that was done, it appears there is nothing to show for our efforts. This is how Lent works.

Today is it is Ash Wednesday. Today is the first day that we dig our shovel into the soil of our soul. We have not done this for a whole year, and we may be surprised to discover what is lurking beneath the surface.

We may find rocks, weeds, or stubborn roots that we have to follow the trail of to find their source. If we don’t remove these obstacles, our new seedlings won’t have the room or nutrients they need to survive. We may also be pleased to discover bulbs of plants we had forgotten, waiting to be watered and brought back to life. Perhaps we already have plants growing in this garden of our souls, but these also need some TLC. This is the time of year that we prune and cut back to shape our trees and bushes so that they can grow to their fullest potential.

God is waiting to plant seeds of peace, faith, joy, hope, and many more good things within us. However, God is a good gardener and He knows when the soil is ready and when the soil needs to be worked. We would be deceiving ourselves if we think we are walking into Lent ready for God to do the planting. There is always more work that can be done in a garden.

As we commence with Lent, and I’m talking to myself here as much as anyone else, I pray that we are all open to the work that God wishes to do in our souls. It is hard to overturn what is deeply rooted, but when the root is impeding the growth of new plants it has to go. There’s something extremely satisfying about extracting a tough weed all the way to its roots. To be able to say, “You’re not coming back,” and mean it with all confidence. Let’s work together with God rather than pulling against Him. Let’s allow Him to prepare our souls for the incredible gifts he wishes to give us.

Don’t forget to go download your FREE Lenten journal! Digging into God’s Word is a great way to discover what needs to stay and what needs to go in the garden of your soul.

Warp and Weft – Plus FREE Lent Journals

I think it’s high time I came out and claimed myself as a fiber artist. For anyone unaware, I have a healthy obsession with yarn. I crochet, cross stitch, try to knit (not well at all!), sew, quilt (also very amateur) and now, my latest project, weaving. Just this week I hauled all 5 kids to Home Depot to buy a few boards of pine and a box of nails in order to make my own frame loom.

First project on the loom.

And I’m in love. How haven’t I been weaving my whole life? It’s like coloring, which by the way I also enjoy greatly, but with yarn. The phrase, “Match made in heaven,” comes to mind. Up until this week, I knew little about weaving. So, the learning curve has been steep. But I’m soaking it all up, thanks to the generosity of other weavers on YouTube. I stumbled upon one video from a group of tapestry makers who are based at the Getty Museum, the site of a grand tapestry organization dating back to King Louis XIV outside Paris. These men and women are creating massive, handwoven tapestries, some taking multiple years to create. And they are breathtaking.

The first step in these intricate tapestries is the same as on my simple frame loom – warp the loom. The warp threads are the ones that go up and down your piece. The woman narrating explained, “The warp is one, continuous piece of thread.” The design comes in the weft threads. These are the threads that travel across the piece. They start and stop at the artist’s whim, moving fluidly about to create the overall picture.

There is a poem that floats around, the author is unknown, called The Master Weaver’s Plan. The poem speaks of God as the Master Weaver. He is the one who weaves the weft threads throughout our lives, picking up colors both light and dark. Our life is a tapestry.

Another way of looking at it is that our life is just one weft thread among thousands, millions, traveling across the tapestry of the universe. We interact with others, creating new shapes and designs we are unable to see. Only God, who has in view the entire masterpiece, is able to discern each thread’s unique purpose.

Both of these images focus on the weft, on the colorful threads which travel across the design. But what about the warp, that continuous piece of thread which undergirds the entire piece? Any weaver will tell you that if your warp is off – too loose, too tight, uneven or haphazard – the entire thing will go wrong. If God is the master weaver, and we are the weft, then who or what is the warp?

Jesus of course!

John’s Gospel tells us that before there was creation, there was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word, the Logos in Greek, is Jesus Christ. We can see in the very foundations of Genesis, at the moment when Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden, God is making plans for their salvation. Up and down the Scriptures, Israel is being prepared for their Messiah. Through Jesus’ Passion, the thread which began before the beginning continues unto eternity. Our sure foundation, our solid rock, our taut warp.

I was joking with a friend the other day about how much yarn I have. She was encouraging me to try out a new kind and maybe do a spotlight on it for the blog. I carelessly said, “I’m sure I can find God somewhere in yarn.” Turns out I was more right than I realized!

How God Works

If we want to get to know our Master Weaver better, we need to look at His Word. This is why every Lent for the past few years I have created Lenten Lectio Divina Journals. I’m so please to offer this journal as a free printable, updated for this Lent 2020. It includes:

  • A guide for how to pray in the lectio divina method
  • Scripture passages taken from the daily readings for each day of Lent and the Triduum
  • A blank page which may be used if you wish to select your own passages to pray with
  • A page for homily notes which you can print and place wherever you need them within the journal.

I’ve created two sizes of the journal. One is A5 and the other is a standard 8.5×11. The A5 you will need to print on A5 specific paper or cut down but it will create a smaller book once finished and be easier to carry around.

I’d love to hear any feedback you have so I can continue to make these better each year. I pray you feel the movement of the Spirit within these sacred words during the Lenten Season. May they be a source of inspiration, solace and encouragement for all of our walks of life.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Cooking in Lent

Though Ordinary Time has just begun it is a short beginning. Preparations are already underway for Lent’s quick approach next month. One of the primary aspects of Lent is fasting, particularly from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during the season. 

Lent has a unique relationship with food. On one hand, it encourages us to eat more simply, to fast and abstain. Many people choose to fast from some kind of food or drink, like giving up sweets, soft drinks or alcohol. But then by some weird logic, the very act of giving up certain foods then seems to create a fixation with that food. Abstaining from meat means I spend a good deal of time that week looking up meatless recipes and alternatives. If I’m not careful, the whole purpose behind the fasting is lost by a hyper focus on what I’m not eating and how to cook for my family. 

Rather than creating a barrier, this Lent let’s allow cooking to open us up to God’s presence in our kitchen. Cooking, by its very nature, connects us with the Paschal Mystery. 

“Like fire itself, which photosynthesis destroys has created, all cooking begins with small or large acts of destruction: killing, cutting, chopping, mashing. In that sense, a sacrifice is at its very heart” (Michael Pollen, Cooked, pg 52).

The Paschal Mystery is the theological term for the life, death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ. Jesus teaches us through His whole existence on Earth what it means to be an offering of oneself. Through His sacrifice, we receive life everlasting. Each time we cook, the sacrifice inherent within the food we prepare offers us life for another day. 

Cooking During Lent

We need to eat everyday, which means we cook everyday of the year. What can we do to make our cooking different during Lent? One idea is to slow our cooking down. “When stirring the pot, just stir the pot. It seems to me one of the great luxuries of life at this point is to be able to do one thing at a time, one thing which you give yourself wholeheartedly. Unitasking” (Cooked, pg. 195). Many of us rarely see this luxury. It’s not that we don’t have the time, it’s that we haven’t prioritized the time. 

This isn’t to say that each day you need to stand slavishly in front of the stove for hours, methodically stirring while your kids tear the house down around you. But you don’t need to be checking Instagram while stirring either. Maybe it means preparing elements of your meals in bulk ahead of time so you are better able to focus on what must be cooked day of. Things like rice, polenta, beans and mashed potatoes are excellent make-ahead sides. Think about carrot and celery sticks, bell pepper slices, fruit salad or sliced oranges. 

Another idea for cooking more intentionally this Lent is to learn how to make something yourself which has otherwise intimidated you or alluded you. What might you learn from making your own bread or yogurt? Have you considered what goes into making jam or homemade pie crust? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to make your own baby food or salad vinaigrette but have never taken the time to learn. When you make food “from scratch” you begin to learn how it’s components work together to form their new whole. There is a transformation that occurs as ingredients move toward harmony among each other. 

It is incredibly empowering and humbling to make your own food. Only after making your own bread will you begin to understand a person who, in order to have bread that day, must first make it. “To brew beer, to make cheese, to bake a loaf of bread, to braise a pork shoulder, is to be forcibly reminded that all of these things are not just products, in fact they aren’t even really ‘things.’ Most of what presents itself to us in the marketplace as a product is in truth a web of relationships, between people, yes, but also between ourselves and all the other species on which we still depend” (Cooked, pg 408). 

Food is an integral part of Lent. The intentional absence of certain foods provides opportunities to simplify your table. It also can be a time to grow in your knowledge of a new type of food or cooking that can enrich your family’s eating habits. 

Stay tuned: my next post will have the anticipated Lenten Lectio Divina Journal!

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com