Friday, February 27, 2015

The Novus Ordo Mass and Protestant Church Services

Earlier this week I had a group suggested to me by Facebook called Traditional Catholic Mothers. Here is the group's description:

From the Administrator: Hello Ladies, I just wanted to give everyone a heads up on what is going on with this group. As of a couple months ago our old administrator has left this group and handed over the administrative responsibilities to my sister Marrissa Garratt and I. We have had a lot of new member requests lately and many new members have joined in the last month. SO as a refresher here is what this group is for, it was founded as a place where we can share and enrich each other with the Traditional Catholic Faith. Anyone who attends a Latin Mass, or acknowledges the true Mass to be the Latin Mass is welcome for membership in this group. We will not tolerate any Novus Ordo!! So if you are sympathetic to the Novus Ordo and Vatican II, I suggest you leave this group and look for membership into another group as I will moderate what is posted and delete anything Novus Ordo! Please DO NOT post about what is happening in Rome and all that stuff, we are well aware of what is going on in the Vatican II church. We are also a Homeschooling group for those who Homeschool or are supportive of Homeschooling. Personally, my views are Sedevacantist, but I'm not here to enforce my views on anyone, again, we are not here for debate. I want this page to be a page about living the Traditional Catholic Faith, Homeschooling, and also a source for those new to the Traditional Faith who are trying to learn more about the One, True, Holy, Catholic Faith. Thank You!

Wow, right?! This is why I am occasionally tempted to get off FB altogether. It leads me to unfortunate places. This isn't the first time I've felt disturbed by the "traditional vs. progressive" debates and the hullabaloo over Vatican II. Once again I was sucked into surfing the internet for articles and conversations on these topics, and the more I read, the less serenity I was able to preserve. I read on a sedevacantist website (people who believe that the Chair of Peter is empty, that there hasn't been a real pope since at least Vatican II) that the only valid Mass is the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), that the Novus Ordo Mass (NOM) is evil (as was Vatican II); and that in fact the transubstantiation does not take place in the Novus Ordo. It became very difficult to discern what was true. I was too much in my head.

Other recurring themes were that the NOM lacks reverence and is filled with liturgical abuses, and that it has "Protestantized" the Catholic Church. Now, there is so much that could be discussed in the TLM vs. Novus Ordo debate that it simply would not fit into one blog post, even if I thought myself informed enough to take it on, which I do not. I've only even been to a TLM once. However, the reverence and Protestantization issues I can knowledgeably speak to. So what is reverence? According to Merriam-Webster, the first definition is  

honor or respect felt or shown :  deference; especially :  profound adoring awed respect.

I am a Protestant convert to the Catholic Faith. The first time I attended a Catholic Mass as an adult, I thought to myself, Wow, I didn't know Catholics were such Jesus freaks! This might sound incredibly irreverent, but I meant it as a sincere compliment. Considering that I had heard along the way in life that Catholics weren't real Christians, I was extremely struck by the reverence paid to Jesus in the Mass. The entire thing was saturated with Jesus. I can't say whether the TLM is even more reverent, because I honestly couldn't follow what was going on. I have a book coming to explain the TLM to me, and I plan to go again soon. 

Are the accusers against the NOM implying that the Novus Ordo is less reverent, for one reason, because they believe that it closely resembles a Protestant service? First of all, I have to wonder if most of these people have ever been practicing Protestants or even visited Protestant churches enough to have an educated opinion. Second, with there being something like 22,000 Protestant denominations and independent churches, I can't see how one could even make a sweeping generalization of comparison. And the implication that Protestants are less reverent Christians is quite presumptuous!

On the surface the NO Mass has similarities to some Protestant church services. That shouldn't be surprising, as we are worshiping the same Lord. When I started to attend Mass regularly, I was glad that the experience wasn't entirely foreign. The priest told bad jokes just like I was used to hearing from Protestant ministers! Scripture was read, hymns were sung, prayers were said, the priest gave a homily, which I took to be a sermon like I was familiar with, all done in English, and there was Holy Communion. But that's where things get radically different. Grape juice was always substituted for wine in the Protestant churches I attended, and the bread and juice were understood to be only symbolic of Jesus' body and blood. 

The entire Catholic Faith, and the central reason for the Mass, pivots on the belief in the Real Presence of Jesus, body, blood, soul, and divinity, in the transubstantiated bread and wine. Grape juice is never substituted for wine. The bread must be wheat. The bread and wine must be properly consecrated by a bishop or priest, who obtains the power to do so through apostolic succession. The lineage of the bishops and priests today (via their connection by ordination) can be traced back all the way to the 12 apostles. Where did Peter end up going after Jesus' Ascension and where was he subsequently martyred? Rome, my friends, Rome. Peter was the first pope, which means he was the first head bishop. Pope means "papa", a term of endearment. 

I don't think Protestants are any less reverent as people of God than are Catholics. Reverence is an attitude of the heart. A greatly significant difference is that a Protestant minister would have no power to change the bread and wine into the Real Presence of Jesus. The Eucharist is a re-enactment which makes present, today, the one sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. It is an un-bloody sacrifice, as well as a memorial meal. This key difference in belief renders Catholicism and Protestantism into virtually two different religions. Differences aside, I have never experienced Communion in a Protestant Church that was not done with great reverence.

The only place in the Novus Ordo where I question the suitability for reverence is the practice of singing a hymn during Communion. Usually my family sits close to the front of the church, so my attention is divided between singing and keeping an eye out for when it's time to stand up and get in the Communion line. Then when I get back to my seat, I have to try to locate where everyone is at in the song. This is so distracting, and at a time when we should be focused on receiving our Lord. I think silence during Communion would be more reverent, but that's my opinion, not a fact. I do my best by simply not singing the hymn at that time and praying when I get back to my seat. The song distracts me from my prayers, but it is what it is. And sometimes it's a hymn I love, and I go ahead and sing. 

To wrap it up, I had been praying on my concerns, and yesterday I went into the adoration chapel to pray to Jesus before the tabernacle, where the consecrated host that hasn't been consumed yet is stored. As soon as I walked in, the Presence swept over me. I felt it in my bones. Without doubt, Jesus was there, not just spiritually, but in the unique form of transubstantiated, Eucharistic bread. The Novus Ordo is valid. It should really be enough for the doubters and dissenters that the Church says the NO Mass is valid. The risk of Protestantization occurs when Catholics stop respecting the authority of the Church!

I rejoice that through this trial (and it is Lent, after all!) I had the opportunity to offer up my suffering and to experience a renewal of my faith. I started reading a book I have owned since my conversion, The How-To Book of the Mass by Michael Dubruiel, to deepen my understanding of the Novus Ordo. There are many other differences between Protestant and Catholic worship, which perhaps I will explore in a future post. But for now I am consoled that the Catholicity has not been removed from the Church. She remains the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Meaning of Schole

Let's continue the discussion of relaxed homeschooling in the framework of the Catholic Faith.  I would first of all suggest that home education should, by nature, be relaxed.  What do I mean by this?  I don't mean that one's approach to home-centered learning should be lazy or lacking a method.  My basic premise is simply that homeschooling and mothering can be used interchangeably.  Homeschooling mothers are doing the job they have done since their babies were born, or even from the womb.  As the child grows in every way and changes developmentally, the job of the mother evolves and adjusts.  As home educators, we are not intended by God to be just like classroom teachers or to turn our homes into mini-replicas of public schools, or even private ones.

I really don't like to use the word school at all, but prefer to call our system of structured learning, "lesson time".  My daughter Beezy, however, likes to "do school", and I haven't been able to convince her not to call it that.  I found a wonderful substitution for both.  Have you heard of schole?  This Greek word has an accent mark above the "e", and it reflects an ancient meaning of education.

Josef Pieper’s seminal work, Leisure, the Basis of Culture opens with this:
The Greek word for leisure (scholĂ©) is the origin of Latin scola, English school. The name for the institutions of education and learning mean “leisure.”
Schole is restful learning! It isn't about work and productivity, as in the modern idea of school, but rather refers to philosophy, contemplation, and the search for truth.  The Charlotte Mason (CM) approach of feeding the mind with living ideas reflects the classical understanding of schole.  The student, which basically means any human being, is nurtured and becomes lost in this food of the mind/spirit.  We forget ourselves in the captivating stories we read, in the beauty of music, or in the intoxicating fragrance of a flower.  A frog at the edge of a pond is fascinating, and complete stillness is required to observe it.  The eloquence of the Psalms fills us with awe, as does the mystery of Mona Lisa's smile.  The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet brings us to tears.  The goodness of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross envelops us as we receive the sacrament of Holy Communion.  In schole, we are transported to behold with our very souls the nature of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

School, we can conclude, was never intended to be about check lists, profit, or productivity.  It wasn't about cramming the mind full of dates and facts to be forgotten after the test.  It was a very different thing from jobs training.  A relaxed, Charlotte Mason inspired homeschooler will endeavor to return education to the realm of the liberal arts.  Charlotte Mason believed that education should serve to form the character of the child and to equip him with critical thinking skills and the ability to learn.  Whatever job or vocation was chosen, the man or woman would do it better because of this "gentle art of learning".  He or she would, most importantly, be a better person.

If your homeschooling experience is not one of leisure, relaxed CM home education might be the answer.  It's difficult to undo the effects of our many years of what is now called "traditional" schooling, which in reality is a modernist invention, and to think of education in an entirely different way.  At first it might seem easier to follow the typical protocol of subjects, textbooks, scope, and sequence.  It may feel safer to use a curriculum designed by someone else, by a company who chooses the books, methods, and schedules for you, a company made up of people who don't know your child.  The notion that you will at least have tangible "results"  and "cover" all subjects can be consoling.

I'm not saying that a "school-at-home" type of choice is inherently wrong.  It might work well for your particular children, and some curriculum packages are based on living books and classic literature.  And certainly there are excellent and truly traditional Catholic educational companies.  I have also heard reports that homeschooling mothers are able to use portions of curriculum packages in a relaxed way.  The concern is that choosing a one-size-fits-all program, which the government schools are increasingly doing with the adoption of Common Core, could be a form of sloth; if you are indeed taking the easy way out and not considering the needs of each unique child.  A faith-driven choice will not be one born of fear. 

We may sit and wonder how God came to be, and how he created the whole wide world out of nothing.  We may suddenly have a poem or the tune of a song appear mysteriously in our minds.  We may marvel that a hawk has landed in our own backyard and watch it do nothing but perch on a branch for an entire hour.  This would be called "daydreaming", a pastime highly discouraged in today's schools.  But this is religion, art, and science; mathematics, philosophy, and theology.  This is embracing the gift of abundant life.  This is schole.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Walking on Water

I have been reading Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.  Perhaps you remember her book for young adults, A Wrinkle in Time.  My 5th grade teacher read this to the class. Then I read it myself, along with the sequels, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet.  In Walking on Water, L'Engle writes about being a Christian artist.  I was reading this before bed last night, and in the middle of the night, I was awakened.  I'm going to tell you what I was told.

We have all been sold a bill of goods. How long in human history this has been going on, I do not know. Since the Fall in the Garden, I imagine. Since the angel pointed to the door and told Adam and Eve to never come back.

We are told that we are the sum total of all the things that have happened to us, the good and the bad. Especially the bad. These trials have made us who we are today, "they" tell us. Our hardships have made us stronger. We have learned from our mistakes. Indeed, we have learned. But we've learned the wrong things.

When I was twelve years old and on the verge of womanhood, I was strong, fearless, and filled with faith. I was destined to set the world on fire. I was innocent and full of Wisdom. Then one summer day, the spiritual attacks began. I can't bear to tell you what happened. I was betrayed. I betrayed myself. In hindsight, I should have never gone back to school. I should have flown to the woods behind my house and stayed there, let my wings finish drying undisturbed. Then I might have risen so high that nothing could bring me down. Instead, my wings were clipped, over and over again. So were yours. Do you remember?

Lent begins this week on Ash Wednesday. Lent, in the Christian tradition, is a time for healing. We walk the road to Golgotha and see the horrors of the cross. We stand with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with Mary Magdalen and the beloved disciple, and we don't look away. When it's all over, we walk with the Magdalen and find the tomb empty. That is the message. The tomb is empty. The pain and the suffering are not to be found. There is only a garden, and He meets us there. He bids us to go, to fly away and tell the world that it has been saved, once and for all.

This idea that we should wear our misery and mistakes like a badge that identifies who we are is a lie. Often I have longed to be that 12-year-old girl again, the one with the glistening wings. She knew Truth, and Beauty, and eternal Love. I knew that she was still somewhere inside of me, for decades I knew. Sometimes she would surface and guide me. She was my Spirit-filled soul made visible. She is who I really am.

It's time to reclaim your lost girl or boy. It's time to shove off the accumulated dust and debris of past hurts, wrong turns, guilt, and misguided choices. It's time to do it in one, once-and-for-all heave-ho. "Get behind me, Satan!" Command this in the name of our Lord.

This morning, the first thing I saw was this picture, shared by a friend on my Facebook wall:

This was taken at a cancer hospital. Look closely. The snow has fallen as if Mary is carrying someone.  When I could bear my struggles no longer, Jesus sent her to me.  She led me by the hand to the Church of her divine Son.  Still I have carried the junk of the past, every last piece of rotting flesh and dry bone.  Spiritual warfare is real.  The devil is glad that people don't believe so much in him anymore.  He can go about his work quietly, performing spiritual lobotomy on anyone he can get his fangs into.  He uses every tool in the shed, including the people closest to us, to convince us that we aren't good enough. That we will never be forgiven.  That we can never forget our ghosts and must go on haunted forever. That at our core, we are not worth being saved.

It's a lie.  I am NOT the sum total of all of the bad stuff that has happened in my life, whether it was caused by me or someone else.  You are not your every false decision or careless action.  You are not the abuse you have suffered. You are not who your monsters say you are.  Turn on the light.  See, the tomb is empty.  Now turn around and be free.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Catholic Natural Learning, Fleur-de-Lis Update

In past posts I used the symbol of the fleur-de-lis to illustrate my personal approach to home-centered learning.  This popular French motif has traditionally been used as a Christian symbol representing either the Holy Trinity, Jesus, or, due to the lily's association with purity, the Virgin Mary.  In my concept of Catholic Natural Learning, the base of the fleur-de-lis (that which ties the petals together) is Catholic Faith Formation. The lower parts of the flower represent the Holy Family--Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  Religion is the foundation upon which education is built, as was discussed in the previous article.

Initially I had designated the three upper petals of the flower to represent the philosophical methodologies of Charlotte Mason (CM), Maria Montessori, and unschooling.  I am still utilizing the first two.  I will give you a brief overview of how we implement both of these.

I rely heavily upon the use of living books as advocated by Charlotte Mason.  These include high quality fictional literature, as well as non-fiction works that are written in story form by a single author who is passionate about his topic.  There is little, if any, use of textbooks or workbooks.  Most subjects are narrated. That is, the child is read to or reads for himself and then gives either an oral or written composition of the material.  Narrations have always been an integral part of our lesson times, but at present my daughter doesn't find them enjoyable to give, so for now I'm not requiring them. She does, however, enjoy doing picture studies, which are another form of narration.  Copy work is regularly done from Catholic prayers, the Bible, or Emma Serl's Primary Language Lessons.  

As a former Montessori classroom teacher, I can tell you that to transfer the Montessori Method to a home setting would require a great deal of space, intensive teacher training, and a huge financial investment. However, none of this is necessary in order to use select Montessori resources which you believe would facilitate your child's learning. Many Montessori materials can be handmade, such as the popular sandpaper letters, and lesson plans are available online. Similar, less expensive materials can be found by companies such as Melissa and Doug. Currently we are using the Montessori moveable alphabet for phonics training and word making, in conjunction with a set of phonics cards and a dry erase board. We use a clock with moveable hands along with a Time and Money workbook, and real money as well.

Key tenets of Montessori philosophy, such as treating the child as a person and educating him for life, including the nurturing of his spirit, can be incorporated by anyone, and these are also core ideas of Charlotte Mason. As Montessori is a very tactile, "hands on" type of method, the use of tools such as math manipulatives; building activities such as Lincoln Logs and Legos; putting together puzzles; and practical life experiences such as dish washing, orange juice making, and folding clothes are things easily incorporated in the Montessori spirit.

Honing one's faculty of observation is also a primary Montessori element. In the home, you can prepare the environment to provide developmentally appropriate activities that the child is free to choose from. Establishing learning centers with materials for such things as creating artwork, making music, doing science experiments, and for use in dramatic play encourages self-directed projects. The parent/teacher has the opportunity to observe and "follow the child" in exploring her interests, finding her gifts, and supporting her in the more challenging areas.

So what of unschooling? I have determined that creating an atmosphere of learning all the time can be established using natural methods such as CM and Montessori, making the inclusion of unschooling unnecessary. All of the promise of a joyful way of family life can be had without the dogmatic baggage that comes with unschooling and the generally anti-teaching attitude of many unschoolers.  And the truth is that unschooling does not qualify as a method at all; rather, it is a philosophical mindset. I do not believe that children should shoulder the primary responsibility of deciding what, when, and how they will learn, especially in the extremes of radical unschooling. This idea goes against the Christian vocation of parents as the primary educators of their children. Since the unschooling Gestapo will insist that one can't partially unschool, it makes sense to avoid the issue altogether.

What I have chosen instead for the 3rd petal on the fleur-de-lis is relaxed homeschooling, a term coined by Mary Hood. Relaxed homeschooling is also a mindset rather than a method. Hood has described it as a middle path between the opposite ends of unschooling and the traditional school-at-home approach. Upcoming posts will illustrate how I apply a relaxed mindset with the particular methods of Maria Montessori and Charlotte Mason in the context of Catholic education.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Back to Basics--Revisiting the Concept of Organic Mothering

Organic Mothering is both a parenting style and a philosophy of natural family living. It encompasses the tenets of attachment parenting, eating organic and locally grown food and other practices of sustainability, and homeschooling or other, alternative education choices that offer trust and freedom for children.

OM is a spiritual practice focusing on mindfulness and awakening to the authentic self. It honors nature and flows with the rhythm of the seasons. It embraces the wabi sabi elements of simplicity, imperfect beauty, and paring down life to what is essential.

OM creates space for a woman--and her husband and children--to breathe, to be present in the moment. It brings a sense of purpose and meaning to the activities of each day, facilitating in the creation and appreciation of Beauty and the fulfillment of the poetry that is Life. 

If you go back to the very first post on this blog, these are the words you will find. I had a vision for Organic Mothering, and as far as I am aware, I coined the term. It is used by others now, but when I initially searched to make sure I wasn't stealing anyone else's blog title or idea, I didn't find it anywhere. I'm pleased that it's a concept that has caught on and inspired many.

It's hard to believe that this blog has been going since 2011! Much has changed in my life since then, most notably that I am now Catholic. The sentence, OM is a spiritual practice focusing on mindfulness and awakening to the authentic self, strikes me as a bit New Age today. That isn't surprising, though. It reflects all of the self help study I did in my 20s, and that's okay. I still need to grow in the area of mindfulness, of being keenly aware of my words and actions. But increasingly that awareness is centered on the tenets of the Catholic Faith and the Church that Jesus founded. How well, or how poorly, I see Christ in each person is the ultimate litmus test of mindfulness.

What about the "authentic self"? In Simple Abundance, Sarah Ban Breathnach wrote that the authentic Self is "the soul made visible". The question currently is, is it well with my soul? Is the Holy Spirit living visibly in the depths of my heart? I read once in Carol Houselander's The Reed of God that as we grow in becoming more like Christ, our rough spots may actually appear worse, as they are juxtaposed against the blinding light of the life of God within us.  That's my paraphrase of what she wrote.

Since I joined the Catholic Church, my "cradle Catholic" husband has reverted to the Faith, a great miracle if ever there was one. Now we are a Catholic household, each of us working out our salvation, individually and together. My vocation as a wife is to get my husband to heaven; his is to get me to heaven; and ours is to get our child to heaven. Any notion of "organic mothering" now pivots around being Catholic.

Home-centered learning is about being Catholic. When my home education efforts revolve around teaching and experiencing the Faith, all goes well. When they don't, it doesn't. I am currently reading The Joyful Home Schooler by Mary Hood, Ph.D.  She points out that in the Bible, God admonishes parents to teach their children in the ways of the Lord and his Word. Nothing else. Hood is Christian but not Catholic, so of course she doesn't talk about the Magisterium of the Church. Religious differences aside, I love what she wrote. God has not directed us to focus on lesson plans or grade levels or to create a mini educational institution that mirrors the public schools. Though she doesn't use the term, what she is talking about is establishing in one's home a domestic church.

We do have a responsibility to equip our children with the knowledge and skills that they will need to make their own way in this world. However, academics must always be secondary. As we read stories from the Bible, study the Catechism, and learn about the saints; as we pray together and talk about our Faith; as my child is mindfully lead to become the person that God has created her to be; the reading, the math, and the writing will follow. Trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit is paramount to anything that can rightly be called an education. There is no education without Jesus and his Church. It follows, then, that there is no real education in the public schools. Even if there is no choice but to send one's children to a public school, parents are still required to be their primary educators.

Getting back to the basics of organic mothering means going higher up and further into the Catholic Faith. It means that there is no separation between life, learning, and religion. As Charlotte Mason said, education is the handmaid of Religion. Along with flowing with the rhythm of the seasons, we follow the liturgical year. We gratefully care for all we have in stewardship to God. We behold the Incarnation and the image of Madonna and Child, of God become man, nurtured at the breast of Mary. What greater symbol of organic mothering could there be? What greater Beauty?