The weekly “little of this, little of that” feature here at Like Mother, Like Daughter!
(This will all look and work better if you click on the actual post and do not remain on the main page.)
Re: the Giveaway: If you would like to order a copy of A Mind at Peace by Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild for 30% off, use the code Mind30 at Sophia Institute Press for the next week.
If you need to sneak in a cake before Lent begins, I recommend this four-egg cake, my favorite fancy cake (you know, the kind that does require whipping and folding whites, alternating ingredients, etc). This time I made it with orange peel in the batter and a simple orange sauce/glaze, boiling and reducing a bit 1 1/2 cups of orange juice with 1/2 cup of sugar and pouring it over the cake. And the difference fresh eggs from a friend’s hens make! These whites whipped up like a dream… the whole cake was burgeoning out of the pan…
I wasn’t going to comment on what has already been exhaustively explored in Catholic social media, namely the coincidence of Valentine’s Day with Ash Wednesday. But a reader asked:
How should we manage Ash Wednesday falling on what is normally the feast for St. Valentine? I am struggling with children who last year were exposed for the first time to the commercial and mainstream celebrations of Valentine’s Day. I would like to know how you imagine celebrating this feast in future years. Thank you!
So, really, two questions here which I will address briefly.
First, how do we manage expectations this year? Think of it as a great opportunity! We are always asking how we can help our children resist all the terrible temptations we know they will face when they leave our loving, safe, innocent environment and stand without us against the world.
Well, they will have had a lot of practice in little things!
Every day, they wait a little for their snack. They hand their little sibling the first cup of water. They go to bed when told with prompt obedience. They try not to bawl when they get a cut. They don’t complain about their dress clothes as they get ready for Church.
And tomorrow, at Sunday dinner (or whenever you gather for your cozy family talks), their father is going to explain lovingly that Jesus went into the desert to fast and pray because He knew that ultimately He would sacrifice His life for our sins on the cross; that Wednesday is the beginning of the time we go on that journey with Him; and that we are going to give up all thoughts of candy and pink cards because we love Him and need some way to show our love. Even if everyone around us is all in on Valentine’s Day, we are going to stand apart because as Christians, we do things differently. (Notice how absurd it sounds when we put it this way — how very, very little we are actually doing here. But still, we do what we can… )
This is called penance and “offering it up” — we’ve talked about it before. You learn to “offer up” precisely by “offering up” — by making sacrifices in little things, not only because he did tell us that “he who is faithful in little things will be faithful in much” (Luke 16:10), but because love in action involves sacrifice.
Believe me, your children will absolutely rise to this occasion. They will gladly give up anything for Jesus’ sake when it is put to them this way — your challenge may be that you will have to caution them against condemning as miserable sinners bound for the nether world anyone who dares to so much as sneak a piece of dry toast, let alone dream of candy hearts, and you may find that you are hard put to get them to eat anything at all (which of course you must, or they will faint).
We are sad, sorry excuses for parents when we fail gently to teach them all this — and only deprive ourselves of the gladness of seeing them respond to the call of sacrifice.
The second point in the question is basically, “but how ought we to celebrate this day, when it’s not happening to fall on a day of penance and fasting?” And to that I say, make it into a real, not just sentimental, occasion of expressing affection to everyone — in family life, just take out the romantic part of it.
There’s nothing wrong with sending pretty cards and giving chocolates to those you love best, keeping in mind of course that dear St. Valentine was a martyr for the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and he wants us to contemplate our own mortality with holy fear!
But if we think about it for a second, it’s exactly that contemplation that makes it possible for us to express true love to each other, even once a year by means of a frivolous be-ribboned greeting and some treats. In our family each person got a little pile of Valentines and candy at his plate at the dinner table — maybe a little verse or message of love — maybe a nice heart-shaped dessert.
That is fine for other years — do try to keep it fairly simple and homey. It’s not really actually a feast, you know? (And again, insofar as it is, it’s the commemoration of a martyr, not some sort of Cupid-as-monk or something).
The day is actually meant to honor Sts. Cyril and Methodius, if the truth be told. If we do go along, it’s just our way of taking something secular and making it our own family/close friends expression of affection in the light of the New Testament kind of thing. That’s fine — as Bertie Wooster says, “if you like that sort of thing, well, it’s the sort of thing you like.” This year, we just pass on it…
On to our links!
- Do you not hear good preaching very often? Here is a 20-minute sermon, The Hierarchy of Heaven, highly recommended. Fr. David Nix uses the day’s readings to say something that we find in perennial Catholic teaching — that the primary field in which the lay person evangelizes is the family, and the harvest is his children. This truth is why I entitled my book about God’s plan for salvation “God Has No Grandchildren” — the original plan for saving people is not to convert them but to raise children for Him.
And not to turn this into an Auntie Leila infomercial, but if you need a guide to do what Father says in his sermon, well, there’s The Little Oratory, which will help you make your own family traditions in union with the liturgical life of the Church. But really, family culture is what this whole blog is about.
- A review I wish I had written (but would not have done as good a job) is this one about the (older) children’s book The Winged Watchman by Hilda van Stockum. It’s a honorary Library Project post for sure. Remember when I said not to read The Penderwicks? I was gratified to see this in Maura Roan McKeegan’s review here:
While an increasing number of children’s books and shows seem to promote dishonesty and deceit, this book reminds young readers of the importance of honesty and trust in a family.
- See also her article, Why Young Readers Need Real Books.
- My husband’s book is coming out soon– it’s available for pre-order now!
- Department of Why Can’t We Have Nice Things: Inside England’s Medieval Cathedrals.
- Lent is coming (I know you know but we have to keep reminding ourselves, we who do not think even a week ahead). My best round-up post is here. You can print a sweet Lenten calendar from Pondered in My Heart blog (made by dear Lydia). The children can color it and keep track of where they are and what the significance of the days are. Don’t forget the Ember Days, which connect the cosmic or natural season with the liturgical one.
From the archives:
- Building family culture. (To go along with Father’s podcast, above — choosing a family motto!)
Ash Wednesday, coming up!
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