My Chicago Home

My Chicago Home
How can we best live as modern, active contemplatives where prairie meets city?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

May our voices bless

The Ghent Altarpiece, Singing Angels,
Jan Van Eyck, 15th-Century Dutch.
One Advent/Christmas reflection on Silence, one on Voices:

To reach my popular post "Keep Silence This Advent," click here.

And here is my new reflection, which will post this weekend in the SQPN-affiliated Catholic Vitamins podcast V-- For Voices. My Missionary Moment for that podcast features my father reading his morning offering, and reflecting on its meaning, plus my daughter singing Et in Terra Pax:

By Marianna Bartholomew

Voices -- can babble, argue, demand and demean. Or they can gently, sweetly calm...speak words of peace and love, and unity.

Voices can be heard too seldom, in the life of a man or woman alone, in a new city, estranged from all that is familiar. Voices can be rare in the life of the elderly, beyond demands to take medicine, or to move here or there, or to head to bed or awaken.

Voices can rattle the nerves of a young mother, when it’s dinnertime and the toddlers are hungry and the husband reaches home on a late train from work. Voices can shake the confidence of young and old, when they are teasing, sarcastic, tempting or over-demanding.

But at their best, voices bless. Voices reach through history, through the ages, forming our foundations, our heritage. Voices repeat and resound in oral traditions that shape, guide and celebrate. Voices through radio, television or internet can be powerful agents for good or evil. Voices through history, can be great educators. Voices should be heeded.

The voices of wise men and women of faith resonate through the ages and are available to us today, if only sought.

Listen to the voice of a saintly Catholic from more than 1200 years ago:

Christ the True Vine Greek Icon, 16th C.

Rod of the Root of Jesse

Rod of the Root of Jesse,
Thou, Blossom of Mary born,
From that thick shady mountain,
Cam’st glorious forth this morn:
Of her, the Ever-Virgin,
Incarnate wast Thou made,
The immaterial Essence,
The God by all obeyed!

In Balaam’s ancient vision
The Eastern seers were skilled;
They traced the constellations,
And joy their spirits filled:
For Thou, bright Star of Jacob,
Ascending in Thy might,
Summoned these first Gentiles here
To worship in Thy light.

As on a fleece descending
The gentle dews distil,
As rain o’erflows the cistern
The Virgin didst Thou fill.
Tarshish and Ethiopia,
The Isles and Araby,
And Media, leagued with Sheba,
Fall down and worship Thee.

By St. Cosmas (d. 760)
Translated by J.M. Neale

So, we have the wisdom of the saints, and we have the wisdom of our elders. Do we take time to sit and listen? Here is wisdom from my father, a 94-year-old man, rich in experience, who learned what faith is from loving parents. He speaks especially of his father. Born into poverty by the stockyards of Chicago, his passion for learning and solid footing in faith uplifted him to become a mechanical engineer and patriarch of a large and growing family. He shares here his morning prayer, offered to the Lord day in, day out, for decades beyond counting:

Morning Offering
Thank you, Almighty Father, for this moment 
and for another beautiful day to do your work: 
to love and to prove myself worthy 
of the eternal reward prepared for me in heaven. 

I will greet the new day with a song and a smile.
I know You are with me and I dedicate this day to You. 
Let my love for you, my wife, my family and all mankind 
shine in my every good work every day of my life. 

I will live life to the hilt, seize every opportunity, 
smile at all adversity, and revel in the joy and wonder 
of a full and productive life 
in this wonderful world of your creation.  

-- By Joseph F. Robin, Sr.

MB: So, did you always feel this way?
JR: Yes, I think so...most of the time. But if somebody asked me to put it down into words I might not have said everything there. But the gist of the thing is that you're telling God that you will be what He wants you to be...and He wants me to say that freely and openly and grab everything he has to offer.
MB: Did you learn that from your Dad?
JR: I think my father did live that way...he was a very, very fine man. And I think he did his job just about like nobody else I ever knew.
MB: Did he put all his heart into it?
JR: Absolutely.

Finally, we have the voices of youth. Do we listen? Do we encourage our youth to express what is most excellent within them? What frightens or confuses them? Do we placate our youth with movies and good times, new clothes and new cars, but not care for their spirit? Here is the voice of one young person who has lived and loved for 18 years….in whom the faith of her parents and grandparents has taken root and flowered. Her faith spills into song and wishes peace upon the earth, in the traditional Latin piece, Et in Terra Pax:

(Erin Bartholomew sings) Et in terra pax, hominibus, bonae voluntatis, Et in terra pax, hominibus, pax, et in terra pax, hominibus

God’s blessings upon you, these final days of Advent. Wishing you a blessed Christmas filled with only fine and loving voices and a New Year brightened by the Lord’s sweet voice daily guiding and cheering you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas crafts can heal

Origami crane my daughter crafted with paper she
decorated with markers. A cheap option for the expensive
paper you find in stores.
We have to think of the children. No matter if economic woes, natural disasters, and the madness of the Sandy Hook tragedy is finding us crawling, rather than leaping toward Christmas. We have to carve out time to engage the young in something that will turn their minds to something seasonal and beautiful. Crafting can turn our minds from tragedy -- and toward how we might be a gift to others. And handcrafted items can not only be more thoughtful and healing for those both making and receiving them, these items ease the burden on families, costing just pennies to make. 

Making something beautiful out of nearly nothing can be a virtue. My Grandma stowed old buttons, wrapping paper, fabric remnants, etc, and turned out gifts of necklaces, gift tags and cheerful bedroom slippers. Depression and World War II generations knew not to throw useful scraps away they could use later. Austerity mixed with creativity can yield great results.

1)   Clothespin crucifix. Fine crucifixes are expensive, but children can create a nice crucifix for their or a loved one's room by gluing the wood parts of hinged clothespins to cardboard. For more color, decorate pins with crayons and markers.
2)   Paper Chain garlands. Contact paper or gift wrapper strips make great paper chains, but kids could even use crayons, markers or paint to color newspaper strips to get the same effect. Hang garlands around thresholds or on the tree.
My daughter taught me to fold these 
cranes, which make great 
ornaments strung on thread. 
Challenging but fun.
      3)   Jesse Tree ornaments. See post below and find a link here for designs that could be drawn on a paper circle or felt to make colorful ornaments.
      4)   Origami ornaments. Even adults and older teens love this one. My daughter makes her own origami paper by using watercolors or markers to decorate white paper with Asian-inspired designs. Origami designs can be found at the library or online.   
   5)   Wallpaper crafts. Ask for castoff sample books at wallpaper stores for an endless supply of high-quality craft paper. Make outfits for hand-drawn paper dolls, glue to cardboard to make picture frames, cover cans for pencil holders, and make book and binder covers.
Wallpaper-covered binder.
   6)   Pressed flowers. Ten days of pressing between paper layers yields spectacular patterns from common flowers and foliage. Even early December in my Chicago-area climate, I was still finding usable leaves and ferns to press. Use boards and layers of cardboard and paper. Screws tighten the layers through the week. Or, sandwich flowers between paper layers and tuck them in a telephone book or dictionary. Use plenty of weight. Use flower pressings for simple gift tags and cards. Glue on flowers, then add a layer of glue or “Mod Podge” on top to seal the design.
Gift tags out of hand-pressed foliage,
even in December.
Pressed flower card.

Handmade gifts are often best! Leave a comment with your own crafting ideas for Christmas.