Celebrating the Feast of St. Hildegard of Bingen: September 17

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There are many ideas for celebrating the life of St. Hildegard of Bingen in this post. Her feast is on September 17th but I encourage not to worry about “missing” the date if you’d like to celebrate…simply choose a day in the month when something works for your family. Feasts are for living, not for box-checking! Let’s enjoy. Saint Hildegard, ora pro nobis!

But first, it is important to clear up some misinformation about this dynamic woman of God to avoid being misled by enemies of the Church…

For the majority of my Catholic life, I intentionally avoided St. Hildegard. I had come to associate her with the many New Age practitioners, wiccans, and dissident Catholic nuns who like to claim her as their own. I had lived in that sphere and I didn’t want to go back.

She doesn’t belong to them, of course, and she never ascribed to their heretical and spiritually deviant ways. But because her writings are not as accessible as other saints and her ways a bit uncommon, they have been more easily co-opted and distorted by people with an agenda.

I once brought a St. Hildegard peg doll to a peg doll exchange. One astute woman there asked me why I had chosen Hildegard…and I knew why she was asking. Because generally, it’s not the faithful Catholic women who bring Hildegard to the party.

I assured her that I wasn’t in line with the dissidents and their fiction…

Those distortions are bunk and should be thrown away like the garbage they are. Most of the information readily available in books and online is unreliable. Many translations are done by those with an agenda. Not every quote on the internet is hers. Not every quote that is hers is properly translated. Not every work is interpreted with her faithful Catholic vision. Her letters should be read with caution since some have been proven to be false. In fact, I give you warning ahead of time if you go looking, you will find a lot of false information and should be extremely discerning of what you choose.

So why did I bring Hildegard to the party?

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Hildegard was a deep ocean, full of life and fire, music, wildcraft, salves, painting, visions, poetry, theology, and prayer. She was an Abbess, an artist, a preacher, mystic, healer, composer, polymath, and Doctor of the Church. She loved the earth and saw that “God has arranged all things in the world in consideration of everything else.” She challenged the corruption in the Church around her and raised her voice against it while demanding fidelity from her shepherds. She was not tame…

But she was obedient. To the Church and to Christ. If you see information which varies from that…you will know it isn’t true. She did cause her convent to be placed under interdict but it was ultimately lifted when she was found to have been falsely treated by the bishop. The feminists love to use this as a weapon against patriarchy and proof of her defiance, but the opposite is true…

She obeyed the interdict but also fought to have it removed. She loved the Church and the priesthood even when she was treated unjustly. She served truth.

She was NOT an ecofeminist, a proponent of “global humanism,” a witch, an earth-worshipper, a gnostic or a goddess.

She was, in fact a contemplative cloistered nun living under the Rule of St. Benedict which she loved. Within the Catholic faith, there is room for a creative fire like Hildegard. And the silence and prayer which formed her for many decades, became the school in which her soul burned with passion and flourished with productivity.

To listen to the voices of dissent in the Church who want to remake her into their own, you’d think she was as defiant against orthodoxy as they. If you present them with the facts so prevalent in her writings, they will dismiss those facts by saying that she was a product of her times and didn’t fully realize her own enslavement.

How disrespectful. How dull. How wrong.

She once preached to an Archbishop saying: “The tower is assigned to you. Protect the tower and cause the whole city not to be ruined and destroyed. So watch out, keep the discipline with an iron scepter and educate yourself. Grease the wounds of those who have entrusted themselves to you.”

She was hardly the dissenting radical she has been portrayed to be. But she was radical in her own way. Aren’t all mystics? All saints?

She was made for her time and for ours. She raised her voice passionately against the clerical abuses of power and money and perversion. She did not give bad leaders permission to follow their own path into sexual or spiritual confusion…she spoke vehemently, exhorting religious men and women alike to return to purity, grace, and zeal for the Lord.

Quite the opposite of of a progressive modernist, she fought vehemently for a return to truth and fidelity to the faith.

And frankly, she does come across as a bit unusual.

She embraced the natural world, recognizing God’s Presence in every cell of creation. She expressed that passionately, in a way that modernity often finds uncomfortable. But if only the hearts within the Body of Christ would burn with such passion! We would see that God has neglected nothing in His care for us. And perhaps we would sing like Hildegard.

In celebration of her life and with a fervent prayer for the renewal of the Church, I put together a list of ways we can celebrate with our families. Let us rejoice with St. Hildegard, Doctor of the Church and handmaid of Christ.

Let’s celebrate!



IDEAS FOR CELEBRATING THE FEAST DAY

First, look up the beautiful compositions of St. Hildegard and flood your home with her music. Learn more about her life HERE. Then consider one or more of the following…


HILDEGARD’S COOKIES

“Take some nutmeg and an equal weight of cinnamon and a bit of cloves, and pulverize them. Then make small cakes with this and fine whole wheat flour and water. Eat them often. It will calm all bitterness of the heart and mind, open your hear and impaired senses, and make your mind cheerful.” (Physica, Hildegard von Bingen)

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Obviously this loose recipe quoted above leaves the modern reader with a bit of room for interpretation! Many of the adapted recipes on the internet add sugar and butter to balance the bitterness (and appeal to tastes formed by Oreos). When I made them, I did not…but I added honey to stay closer to the original purpose of bodily health. I also replaced the wheat (or spelt) with almond flour, which Hildegard wrote would give strength. (Both wheat and spelt have gluten which won’t fly with a healing celiac.)

The cracker/cookie was still somewhat bland but I like that it does indeed promote good health through the beneficial chemistry of the spices and nourishing ingredients. And definitely doesn’t trigger a cascade of sweet cravings! Interestingly, it comes remarkably close to the first “sweets” I was able to eat when first beginning my healing journey.

You can try your hand at adapting your own recipe from Hildegard’s instructions or go for a more dessert-like cookie like this one HERE. I also found this recipe HERE to be much closer to Hildegard’s original (plus brown sugar) but you have to convert the grams (I know, Americans, this is tough…but at least we have online converters now!).


HILDEGARD PRINTABLE

Print this St. Hildegard quote and draw, color, paint, or paper piece images of God’s creation:
ST. HILDEGARD QUOTE PRINTABLES

And please tag me on Instagram if you would like to post your finished piece! I would love to see them all. Here are some that my family made…

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NATURE HIKE

Go for a hike and collect and identify plants, rocks, scat, anything (I don’t mean that you should collect the scat unless you really want to…we won’t be doing that. lol) There are so many fun (and free) nature journals for the kids to take along. And great books (like these Fun With Nature guides) which are really helpful for helping to identifying and record findings.

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GATHER AND DECORATE WITH HERBS

Gather a bunch of fresh herbs to decorate the table then use them in your meal. Hildegard studied the earth and it’s plants and elements, giving glory to God for his abundant treasures and their beneficial properties.

Display dried blessed herbs from the Feast of the Assumption if you had them blessed. Or find local sources to dry, display, and use. (See our Assumption herbs below)


MAKE ELDERBERRY SYRUP

Hildegard used the gifts of God’s creation to make healing food and remedies. Make a batch of elderberry syrup to prepare for the sniffle season. September is the perfect time! Freeze using a silicon form for individual servings or just use an ice cube tray. Then store in freezer bags.

I adapt this basic recipe (which is delicious, by the way!), adding additional essential oils, herbs, or astralagus root depending on what I have on hand or the level of immune oomph I’m looking for.

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PRAY

  • Pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet for the priests, bishops, cardinals, and religious men and women who have lost their faith or are causing scandal. St. Hildegard received permission to leave her cloister later in life so that she could travel and preach repentance to the corrupt clerics of her time…and also to exhort others to fervent fidelity to Christ and His Church.

  • Pray a Rosary in imitation of Hildegard’s deep love for Blessed Mother.

  • Spend time in silent contemplation after reading Scripture. Do this outside if you can!


STUDY

  • Read the Apostolic Letter proclaiming St. Hildegard a Doctor of the Church (JPII 10/7/12)

  • Look up the Rule of St. Benedict to see how St. Hildegard lived. Inexpensive book and kindle options HERE. I did not find a reliable translation at our public library but I did find free PDF’s online.

  • As I mentioned, there are many translations and books about St. Hildegard of Bingen which are unreliable and tainted by agenda. But I was pleased to discover the recent publication of Hildegard’s Book of Divine Works (Liber divinorum operum). It is considered her magnum opus and is a meditation on a mystical experience of the Gospel of St. John. I wouldn’t call it light reading, but it does provide insight into a soul on fire for God and has inspired me to expand my eye for His goodness. I am no mystic and do not pretend to understand the sometimes unusual expression of her vision. Pretending to understand her fully would be false…but I can weakly imitate her fearlessness in prayer and the surrender of her vision to Christ.

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PLAY

Let your little ones delight in this little St. Hildegard doll from Shining Light Dolls. Paint a peg doll. Have a woodland adventure. And follow me on Instagram this week and enter to win one of my hand painted peg dolls! Above all…delight in life and give thanks with your family for the goodness of creation, designed by God for His beloved children. He considered us in everything.

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The Essential Gluten-Free Sugar Cookie Recipe

{This post contains affiliate links. I may receive compensation for purchases
you make through my links. More info
Here.} 

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If you are expecting this to be a healthy cookie recipe, well… not this time! This is nothing of the sort. It is gluten free and that is the best I can say for it other than that it makes beautiful and delicious cookies! I am sharing it because it is our go-to party cookie to make feast days and special events a little more colorful… and to provide a make-ahead dessert for a crowd.

Last time I made these cookies, I made 200 of them and they all went. So… I figured you’d want the recipe, too. The recipe is at the bottom of the post and in between are a few pictures from our celebrations over the years with notes about making them.

ICING

There’s no fancy (and awful tasting) Royal Icing for these. Just a quick and super colorful and delicious glace. Even your kids can do it. Vary the thickness of the icing to get different consistencies for piping, drizzling, dipping, or spreading. They can also roll out the dough because (with a little care) it rolls and cuts beautifully even with the gluten free flour. Easy measure and stir recipe at the bottom.

GLUTEN FREE

I have been very pleased with the gluten-free version of this recipe. It is literally a one ingredient swap, trading regular wheat flour for Bob’s 1-to-1 Gluten Free Baking Flour. I don’t know if other brands work as well because I’d rather not mess with success on frantic baking day!

COOKIE CUTTERS

Any cookie cutters will do but my favorite are the Wilton Colored Metal cutter sets (see pink flower below). They get a nice crisp edge but seem to hold up a little better than the plain metal. Maybe it’s my imagination… I don’t know. But I like them. There are endless shapes including Spring flower sets, tea party sets, garden sets, baby themes, princess theme, Autumn shapes, etc. The choices are endless.

If you are looking for an unusual shape, you can almost always find a tin cutter by googling or checking on Amazon. Among shapes I have searched for in the past are dinosaurs and swords.

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We started making these for Confirmation parties and then advanced into Easter, graduations, First Communions, and Christmas. They make pretty place setting decorations, gifts, and basket stuffers. I’ve included some pictures of ours over the years. Please forgive the quality… I usually took the photos while standing exhausted in the middle of my dark kitchen and covered in flour.

Per usual, I’m a little loosey-goosey when it comes to making familiar recipes. I stick to the game plan when it comes to the cookie but do whatever feels good in the moment with the icing. If I’m trying to make desperate haste (because it’s midnight and I still have 100 cookies to decorate for Christmas) I might just let that icing get a little runny.

But let’s be honest here… I’m almost always rushing. And you can probably tell from my photos which were more carefully crafted and which were born of panic.

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We made SO many Christmas cookies last year because we just. couldn’t. stop. When we ran out of one color, we’d just mix up a new one and add to our beautiful collection.

The cookies below were wrapped up and used as place settings or little gifts. My vision for the green wreath was different (not runny) but I was in a hurry and just went with it. I also wanted to pipe full names onto each cookie but again… super runny mixture. They still turned out pretty!

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Confirmation cookies were one of my first attempts and again, I ended up with some runny flames of fire! No big deal… I’ve gotten better at that over time but I think it suits the fire effect. Kinda wild in a Holy Spirit kind of way. Overflowing hearts with grace and passion. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

We had doves, tongues of fire, and sword cookies (not pictured).

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These Autumn leaves were part of my plan for a Miss Suzy birthday party decor and spread. If you don’t know who Miss Suzy is, just stop what you’re doing and go buy the book HERE. She is so beloved in our household! Piping thicker icing around the edges of these leaves made filling in with swirling color so much easier (and more fun!) later on.

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These graduation cookies were a little non traditional which is exactly how I wanted them. A little sweet, a little sassy, and lots of pretty color. They seemed to fit with her theme “Act justly, Love mercy, Walk humbly with your God.”

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Enjoy your cookies!

The Essential Sugar Cookie Recipe

How to be Happy When You Don't Feel Christmas

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My husband’s relationship with donuts has taught me so much about happiness at Christmas. Hang with me for a minute…

You see, he is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to weight loss. He’s never been overweight and is always within 15 pounds of his ideal, depending on desire and need. Since it is volleyball season for him and being a few pounds lighter helps his vertical and eases the stress on his (aging) joints, he decided to lose a few pounds. And he did.

He cut out some unnecessary calories, put in a couple extra workouts, and lost a few pounds. Just like that. I marvel at the ease with which he does that. There’s no emotion. He doesn’t hand-wring over the donut on the counter that he can’t have or the craving for a late night snack. He just acknowledges the pang and moves on.

Hello donut. Looking good. Have a nice day.

Totally detached. He doesn’t emotionalize the thing but just does it, while the rest of us are in the death grip of the drama of guilt, failure, regret, and all the wild highs and lows of… donuts.

Christmas emotion is like my special donut in that way. I crave it, reach for it, can’t have it, and fret over it endlessly and fruitlessly. I have convinced myself that I have a right to it and have incorrectly identified emotional satisfaction with joy.

I want my happy Christmas. I want it big. I want it now.

Over some difficult terrain of my young mothering years, I came to associate Christmas with certain negative emotions as I battled through difficult pregnancies and chronic health conditions. As things got tougher, Advent and Christmas became a source of physical and emotional pain…

“Dear Jesus… I do not know how I am going to survive this. I hurt everywhere from my toes to my soul. I can barely think. I can barely move. My children are waiting expectantly for joy to come… and I’m kind of in charge of facilitating that. I am a failure. And I have been left out.”

“Fake it ‘til you make it” is the ultimate practical survival tool in these moments. It works. But it costs something, too. The struggle of forcing my way through so many Christmases of pain pushed me into numbness necessary for survival. Each time I opened the door to my emotions, I was overwhelmed with pain and grief and so… I reflexively shut the door.

I will never forget the first year that numbness took over the holy days. I was used to pain but that nothingness was even more alarming to me. For the first time, I felt nothing at the beautiful Midnight Mass. Nothing in the morning. Not depression.... just a protective covering and fog over everything.

A new wave grief swept over that emptiness… Like a lost childhood. Like waking up from a lovely dream and finding darkness. Like learning that most earthly Christmas delights are the ones that you are too tired to prepare. This is Christmas? This is Christmas.

And so began a very late education in what Christmas is really about even though every middle class Christian knows that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” We think we know... because we can afford to purchase our endorphin rush with all the smells and bells and giving. We think we know… because we bought the bumper sticker. We think we know… because we helped set up the decorations at church and had Father over for dinner. But when the consolation of our own glittery preparations is gone, we fall hard and learn fast that we don’t really possess the peace of Christmas at all…

Because our attachment to the emotion of our celebration is stronger than our attachment to Christ. We have prepared the meal but have neglected the relationship.

This is especially true for Christians. We expect more from Christmas because we feel entitled to the emotions… it belongs to us. We want to uncover the glory and swim in it, celebrate it, share it. We grieve deeply when we cannot feel those things or when we feel the “wrong” emotions like sadness or loneliness.

I am not suggesting that emotions are bad, only that they easily become a god when we seek them instead of true encounter with Christ. Dr. Alice von Hildebrand writes about emotional sensitivities this way:

“Hypersensitivity becomes an illegitimate source of suffering when it is self-centered;… a sensitive heart is given to us to feel for others, and to love them more deeply and more tenderly. But since original sin, it tends to degenerate into a maudlin self-centeredness that is not only disastrous but also causes great pain for the sensitive person.”

My own pain pushed me into a self-centered shell. But as I moved past the alarm of the absence of feeling Christmas (except a vague sad ache), the intellectual fog began to clear, the grace of the sacraments acted, and I reawakened to the simple, undecorated truths of Christmas. I was not blinded by my emotions because I had few to grapple with. I was forced to look my disappointment in the eye and admit:

You’ve got it wrong. You’ve always had it wrong. You’ve been crying over the donut.

Then an incredible thing happened…

As I moved through the motions of Christmas, unfettered by the ups and downs of my complicated emotional chemistry, I found the steady hand of Jesus Christ walking me through the middle of the highs and lows. I looked to the right and saw the heights of Christmas cheer; the parties, the wrapping paper, the lights. I looked to the left and saw the deep valley of fatigue, disappointment, failure, and pain.

My own feet were on a narrow path right in the middle guided by the hand of Christ. I was given the grace to view the highs and lows with a third party objectivity… like my husband looks at a donut. The hand of Jesus felt like the weight of a million stars. Steady. Deeper than emotion. Beyond pain. Beyond consolation.

I acknowledge that am an emotionally sensitive person and I have allowed that gift to become a stumbling block to Christ. The grace to see that truth plainly was a healing gift that hasn’t made me perfect but has allowed me to grow a little.

As Christmas approaches, I am reminded once again that I must not worship Christmas and emotional consolation… but Christ alone.

Having an emotionally healthy Christmas is about engaging in a real relationship with Christ and allowing feelings to exist without allowing them to control our understanding of the truth. If you feel the emotional joy, welcome it but do not cling to it. If you feel a depression, don’t panic but walk with it calmly until it passes. Do not cling to it. Sometimes we don’t realize how strongly we cling to our sorrows and encourage our own melancholy.

The emotional Christmas donut simply has no legitimate authority over our relationship with Jesus Christ. The goal is not to restore emotion or eradicate it, but to put it in its proper place, subservient to authentic relational love.

If you struggle with emotions at this time of year, I encourage you to take half an hour and watch (or rewatch) the original Dr. Seuss version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It is the one of the simplest modern depictions of an emotionally healthy Christmas.

At the climax of the story, morning comes and the viewer knows that the residents of Whoville are awake. We know, without seeing, that they have found their trees and presents gone, their feasts missing, their decorations torn away. They don’t know who did it and they don’t know why.

The lights go on, a couple seconds pass, and then... the singing begins... 

They gather with smiles in a circle in the center of town and immediately begin to worship. At least that’s what I see them doing. The bright star appears before them and rises with their song and rejoicing. They didn’t have to be worked up into joy… they simply never lost it to begin with. (Watch the clip HERE)

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They knew that someone took their “donut” and perhaps they felt the sting of disappointment; but they didn’t allowed it to disrupt their relationship with the Heart of Christmas, who we know to be Jesus Christ.

Then - without any explanation given to him or drawn out drama - the grinch was immediately transformed. It was an almost ridiculously fast conversion. Cartoonish in its speed but also representative of the power, not of Christmas, but of the very Presence of God. That conversion is exactly what we spend all Advent (and our lives) seeking and which can certainly be accomplished in a moment when in the Presence of Divine Love.

I love this movie because it shows me how reflexively we are called to give all. In a moment. To choose love now and forever.

My own Christmas experiences have matured a little over the years. One result of my forced period of detachment has been a steady reconnection with a gentler emotional happiness. Since I am not as easily rocked by the raging emotional sea, I am more free to embrace the milder, deeper path. I don’t generally feel Christmas euphoria but neither do I usually experience a true depression. I’ve settled in with gratitude for every consolation and a more measured response to disappointment.

I don’t write this because I am spiritually advanced (I assure you that I am not and my loved ones can confirm!) but as someone who has been through (and am still going through) the school of Christmas hard knocks. In other words, I’m getting older and inevitably experiencing more... and I just want you to know...

Don’t fret over the donut. God has bigger plans for your happiness. In fact, He is the plan. He is your happiness. Rejoice!

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DIY Saint Lucia Crown and Costume (Beginner and Intermediate Tutorials)

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Since St. Lucy is the patroness of one of our little girls, we’ve had the opportunity to DIY a couple versions of Lucia and her crown over the last few years. The first version was for our girl when she was about 2 years old and could be considered a beginner tutorial using mostly felt.

The second was when she was 5 and requires a little more patience with artificial flowers, leaves, felt, and stretch lace. However, both crowns are relatively easy and can be used for younger or older girls.

Both are perfect for All Saints’ Day costumes, saint reports for school or church, and of course, for the Feast of St. Lucy on December 13th. (Find some lovely ideas for celebrating St. Lucia’s Day at Shower of Roses)


One note about my tutorials…
I'm the kind of crafter who fiddles with something just until it looks right and then sticks it together with whatever works.  Consequently, my tutorials are perhaps more vague than some prefer. So... up front... I don't have any more details than what I’ve written. This is it! And I still think that you can do it. Yours will probably look different than mine and that's completely fine. That’s actually how it should be. Carry on! 


SAINT LUCY CROWN AND GOWN (#1 Beginner Felt)

I initially made this crown while stuck on the couch with pregnancy nausea. Ah, memories! Working for two minutes, pausing to let the waves pass, cutting, stitching, nausea, using some Christmas felt that I already owned... but it worked out nicely.

I didn't use a pattern at the time, just cut and hoped for the best. When a friend asked me to share a tutorial, I said "sure!" That was 3 years ago now… I’m a little slow… but better late than never!

WHAT YOU NEED FOR THE CROWN:

  • One strip of green felt, 3/4"-2" wide and as long as the circumference of the child's head. (you can find felt-by-the-yard at your local fabric store)

  • One 2" piece of soft elastic. I used folded over stretch lace similar to THIS. FOE (fold over elastic) is also a great soft option.

  • 15-25 green felt holly leaves. Mine has 17 but I might have made it fuller if I had more time and less nausea. I divided the leaves between two shades of green to give more dimension and also used 4 different sizes of leaves. A template is below for those who need it. Drag and drop into a document and adjust the size to your liking. (Aren’t you just bowled over by my tech brilliance?) I cut mine freehand because I had no patience for tracing and cutting along lines.

  • Red felt for Berries. Cut however many you want from red felt. I used 5 but could certainly have used more. 

  • White felt for candles. I used five because my girl had a toddler sized head but you can use as many as you like. I used 2" x 3" squares of white felt. Most felt tutorials I have seen have flat felt candles and I wanted mine to be a bit rounder. So I designed these to roll up. You can make these taller or fatter if your child is older or if you just want bigger candles!

  • Flames. Red, orange, and yellow felt flames for each candle. You don't have to use those colors. I wanted to give a bit more of a dimensional feel to mine so I varied the sizes and colors. 

  • Thread or hot glue (or both). IMPORTANT: You can glue this instead of sewing it. Glue is a wonderful tool for getting things to stay put and works great on felt. However, the last step that I used was a running stitch straight through the length of the headband to reinforce strength and secure everything. You will NOT be able to do that step if you have hot glued everything. That is because you will break your needle and jam your machine! So just choose your path ahead of time.

WHAT YOU NEED FOR THE DRESS:

  • A white dress or tunic of any kind. This one was a castoff from an angel costume over a white turtleneck. I bought it off a local family for $5.

  • A red sash. If you want. It’s not strictly necessary. The white of the dress represents purity and the red sash the blood of martyrdom. You can use a strip of satin like I did or any fabric at all. A red scarf or ribbon might also work.

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HOW TO MAKE THE FELT CROWN


1. HEADBAND

I started with a simple strip of green felt for the headband. The width can be as wide as you like but mine was about 3/4" since I didn't want any of it showing past the leaves (I’m particular like that) and because her head was small. Measure your child's head around where you want the crown to sit. Use that measurement as the length.

Cut a two-inch strip of soft elastic (FOE, folded over stretch lace, or whatever you have on hand). 

You will be attaching the ends of the felt together with the elastic so this has less to do with measurements than it does how it feels on your child’s head. Pin the elastic when it is at a comfortable place on her head (being careful not to pin her head, of course) so that it stretches enough to be comfortable, but it snug enough to stay put. Stitch in place.


2. LEAVES

I made my leaves to look like holly leaves the ones below. It doesn’t have to be holly but it fits nicely with Advent and is easy to reproduce. I made various sizes and a couple different shades of green.

There really isn’t a way to do this wrong. All of God’s leaves look different in nature and yours will, too. If you want to add extra dimension and fullness to your leaves, you can add the following step:

Fold the leaf in half and machine or hand stitch very close to the folded edge through the middle section of the leaf (indicates by the middle lines in my sketch below). When you unfold it, it will look like the middle vein of a real leaf. If you look closely at my photos, you can see the result.

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Hand stitch or hot glue the leaves into place around the headband. I stitched mine.


3. FLAMES

I completely forgot to draw you some little flame templates BUT… I think you can figure it out. You will need one red, one orange, and one yellow flame “petal” for each candle. The shape is roughly a tear drop but with a point at both ends.

If you make each color successively smaller, the individual colors will be more visible. Cut these out and make them ready to attach to the candle pieces (below). You can draw your template first but I just cut them all differently. Have you ever seen two flames alike? Neither have I!

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4. CANDLES

I used five because my girl had a toddler sized head but you can use as many as you like. I cut 2" x 3" squares of white felt. Most felt tutorials I have seen have flat candles and I wanted mine to be a bit rounder and slightly more realistic. So I designed these to roll up into a tube shape. You can make these taller or fatter if your child is older or if you just want bigger candles!

There is no secret sauce to stitching so that these stay in place. Just use white thread and do what you have to do to keep it all together. If you are a gifted sweet, you will know what to do. If not, just put the needle through until it stays.

You can also use hot glue but that will make it difficult or impossible to stitch onto the headband later. In that case, you will have to use hot glue to affix the candles to the headband.

Before you roll the candle up, stitch (or glue) your red, orange, and yellow flames in the middle of each rectangle… right about where the top of the 3 is on the diagram. After you roll up the candle, your flames will be flickering right out of the top.

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After the candles are constructed, arrange them around the wreath and stitch them to the inside. The base with flatten somewhat with stitches and then with the next step.


5. SECURE THE CROWN

If you haven’t used hot glue for anything on the headband so far, you can run a straight stitch right through the middle of the crown to make sure that candles, leaves, and band are all secure. The crown will be somewhat floppy when held (the price to pay for a soft and comfy crown) but should perk right up on the head. Almost done… just one more step…

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5. BERRIES

The finishing touch. These are pretty straight forward. Just cut out some circles and glue or stitch them wherever you think they look pretty!

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And that’s it! If you end up making this crown, I would love to see the fruits of your efforts. Feel free to send along a photo so that I can ooh and aah over your work (and adorable children).


SAINT LUCY CROWN AND GOWN (#2)

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On her 5th All Saints’ Day, she wanted to be St. Lucia again and her old crown was a bit too small. Also (and to be completely honest), I was excited to try my hand at a more mature version using artificial leaves. The challenge this time was that I knew she would never tolerate anything that felt like leaves. It had to be as soft as the felt version or it would end up in my purse.

The crown was a success on all counts. Not only was it simple to pull together (and just as I had pictured it), but it was super soft to wear. In fact, she didn’t take it off even once during the festivities.

Also, this dress was a winner. So modest, soft, and feminine. All the details are below. I give you fair warning… my crown tutorial is loosey goosed. But generally crafty people should be just fine.

WHAT YOU NEED FOR THE CROWN:

  • Artificial flowers and leaves. I keep my eye out for particularly pretty and unique flowers at the Dollar Tree and then I take them apart. We use them for so many projects that the dollar is always well spent.

    I used 4 or 5 different kinds of leaves that I had in my stash plus gold and red metallic leaves that I cut from a bunch of Christmas themed artificial flowers. Use as many as you like. St. Lucia’s crown is traditionally made of evergreen but I never have been one for letting the perfect get in the way of the good so… we use what we have.

  • Stretch Lace. You can also use elastic but I knew this headband had to be the gentlest, softest base possible for my little sensory sensitive kiddo. This 2.25” lace isn’t exactly what I used but it is similar.

    When it isn’t on the head, this crown is super floppy… but it perks right up when it’s worn. The key is to make sure everything is secured with hand stitches in a balanced fashion.

  • White felt for the candles. You will also need small rectangles of felt to secure the candles to the headband. 

  • Needle and thread

  • Hot glue. Most of this crown will be hand-stitched but there will be places where a glue gun will be helpful and appropriate.

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WHAT YOU NEED FOR THE DRESS:

  • An Amazon account. I purchased this dress for about $15 after researching the multitude of Chinese companies which sell it. I finally came across this low price (I found it as high as $70 on ebay!) and made the purchase. We will be repurposing it for Easter by dying it a pastel color. It is thin but so classically beautiful and comfy.

    Prices are constantly fluctuating on Amazon so the best price I have found recently is HERE for $20 with free shipping. You can bargain hunt by searching “girls flutter sleeve chiffon dress”.

  • A red sash. We chose to keep it simple this year but it would be very easy to tie a strip of chiffon or satin around the waist.

  • A note about footwear. My girl wears cowgirl boots with everything. I’m okay with that.

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HOW TO MAKE ST. LUCY’S CROWN


  1. Measure the stretch lace or elastic to fit your girl’s head comfortably yet securely. The stretch lace works best if you double it. You can use two layers of 2” stretch lace or fold over a length of 4”. Stitch cut ends together to form the band.

  2. Choose the leaves and petals you’d like to use for the crown foliage and stitch a first layer onto the elastic. This is a little delicate since stretch lace generally has holes in it and doesn’t tolerate a very tight stitch. This is why this is an intermediate project… because you will need to find that fine line between securely attaching and leaving the stretch intact. You will add a second layer at the end with a glue gun or stitches.

  3. Make your candles using the instructions in the previous tutorial except increase the height of the candles for an older child. These are 4” tall x 3” wide rectangles.

    I only made four candles because that’s all the white felt I had left. It gave the correct general impression so I was content. 

    Instead of felt flames, I used one gold and one metallic red petal layered together. I also used a glue gun to make the candles instead of stitching because the candles will eventually be glued to the headband anyway.

  4. Use a hot glue gun to attach the candles to the OUTSIDE of the stretch elastic... where the leaves are. Find places in the foliage where it will be mostly hidden. The hot glue will seep through the inside of the stretch lace (the part that will touch her head). I did not want that scratching her head and I also wanted the candles more secure… so I cut small rectangles of matching felt and placed them on the inside of the headband. When the glue seeped through from the front when gluing on the candle, I pressed on the felt to the inside. (See images below)

  5. Hot glue a second layer of leaves and petals over the first, arranging them to hide the candle base and stretch lace entirely. I made sure that I only glued the second layer to leaves or candles so that no glue would touch the stretch lace. I added a few gold leaves in this layer because… Tolkien made me do it.

  6. Add berries if you like. I had planned to add glittery red berries from a Dollar Tree fine but it looked so pretty without that I just left it alone.

  7. Remember that this crown will be all kinds of floppy until it is on the head. The floppiness was a challenge as I worked with it and I was nervous that it wouldn’t hold up. But… it’s perfect. 

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If you’d like to show off the results of your own crafting, I’d love to see your pictures! Feel free to email them to me so that I can give thanks to God with you for His work through your hands.

All Saints' Day Costumes for Our Big Family

With two adult children and six more kiddos all the way down to a toddler, we still have a 100% dress up rate on All Saints’ Day. While that is not something I expect or demand, I admit that it really makes me happy to see it!

We also had participation from a couple additional young adults - who are dating our adult children - and my husband also found a costume this year (“I will invest once and wear this every year until I die.”) Scroll to the end to see that one.

Ever since I accidentally threw out a decade’s worth of handmade costumes (yes, that was painful), I have been mixing it up in the interest of saving time and sanity. Half the fun for me now is finding budget friendly pre-made items that lend themselves to a little homemade tweaking. And I will do one new entirely handmade costume a year if needed.


TODDLER - ST. GEORGE

This is the only photo of him that I managed to take away from the celebration. He absolutely refused to wear his gear at the appropriate times so… we were able to catch him half dressed up through the glass door. He also refused to commit to a saint (“I’m a knight!”) so we just assigned him one and didn’t tell him.

His helmet is from the timeless Full Armor of God playset which has been with us for at least 17 years. His shield is from a dollar bin at Walmart (with lots of pen marks). His heirloom quality leather sword and belt are from Made by Alejandro.

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KINDERGARTENER - ST. LUCY

She wore a toddler version of this a few years ago (link to come) but really wanted to do it again. Since she’s a pretty sensory sensitive kid, I knew that I had to make the costume soft enough for her to actually wear. It was a complete success.

The crown looks scratchy but is actually made with very soft stretch lace as a base with the leaves individually stitched in one layer and a little glue gun action on top of that. The candles are felt with fake metallic flower pieces as flames.

All leaves and flowers were dollar store purchases. I always have flower pieces and leaves around since they are surprisingly useful. We’ve used them to make hair clips, party decor, fairy dolls, packaging, and costumes.

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This dress though! It’s an Amazon purchase after a thorough search between Amazon’s and eBay’s dozens of Chinese distributors. I found it selling for anywhere from $70 to $15. It takes some creative searching and time but I scored the $15 price with a longer ship time. It is thin (layer accordingly) but so feminine and gorgeous. Our plan is to dye it a pastel color for Easter since it is just too pretty to be packed away in a costume box.

You can find the dress at the following link… but keep in mind that the price and shipping times are constantly fluctuating with Amazon. The price at this link is currently $23 including shipping. Use the description to do a search for options. Flutter Sleeve Chiffon Dress

8 YEAR OLD - ST. CHRISTOPHER

He wanted to be St. Christopher and we made it happen using leftover oatmeal linen that we used last year for a St. Claire habit. Super easy stitches at the top and sides with a rough neckline and sleeves. Tied with a belt we just ripped along the grain and a quick traveler’s pouch.

The cape was just a rectangle of heavy fabric we’ve had floating around for years.

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St. Christopher’s flowering staff started with a branch that big brother dried and sanded. They stained and varnished and I taped and hot glued a quick mish mash of paper bag and felt leaves. No glue touched the stick so they removed the tape and have a great walking stick or prop for future projects.

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MIDDLE MOFFET - ST. MAGDALENE OF NAGASAKI

This was my frugal victory of the year. Obviously, FREE is the best kind of frugal win but I am really happy with this $13 project. I was originally looking at $30 Japanese kimono costumes for children and it struck me that they all looked like satin kimono bathrobes. So I looked on Amazon and found a bunch of inexpensive robes AND a coupon. You can currently still find it here with the 20% off coupon below the price: Women’s Kimono Robe

They were one-size-fits-all and looked small-ish so I figured I needed the perfect age to make it work. I removed the pockets with my seam ripper and added snaps to the robe so that it would stay closed where we wanted it to.

By the way, my Snap Setter is one of the best craft purchases I have ever made. Fifteen years of easy costume and garment closures! Highly recommended.

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I used extra pink satin that I have from my boutique baby blanket days on Etsy and I stitched the belt that came with the robe through the middle. More snaps to keep it in place. That left me with two rough tails hanging down the back which I just tucked in the top. It’s not really an authentic costume but if I squint eyes, I think it works.

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We found a skinny wood dowel in a craft box, broke it in half, painted it silver, and… done. Then we dug into our hair flower stash to complete the hair.

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JUNIOR HIGH - ST. CATHERINE OF SIENA

She chose St. Catherine because she was struck by the parallels between what was going on at St. Catherine’s time and what is happening in the Church today. She was moved by the words and actions of the saint and felt that they spoke profoundly to the need of the laity to be bolder in their defense of Jesus Christ and the Church.

I thought she might like to wear a more flowery costume this year but she asked if we could resurrect her St. Claire habit from last year and modify it to be Dominican. How could I say no?

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I confess that it was an extremely last minute undertaking and I was shaking at the thought of having to stand in the pre-Halloween lines at Joann Fabrics. So I didn’t. Instead, I found an old black dress that I haven’t worn in years and I stole the skirt from it (ie chopped it off) to make the veil. A few stitches to hem and a couple snaps at the back of the neck and… we have a Dominican.

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HIGH SCHOOL - ST. OLAF

He invested his own money in this Viking costume several years ago and it is still going strong. A bit smaller than it used to be but no big deal. Sometimes a splurge is worth it. Especially for a mom who doesn’t have to put a single stitch or glue squirt on any of it.

He did upgrade his sword this year and I admit that it was pretty cool and suited to the costume. Find it HERE.

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I’ll just call this pic “Keeping the Saints Culturally Relevant” but I can’t figure out if St. Olaf would love it or hate it. Or maybe he had his own noble version.

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YOUNG ADULT - ST. KATERI

She decided which saint she was going to be in the middle of Salvation Army when she found this suede Winter jacket. Kateri lived in the North and it just makes so much sense. It was $10 and a bit on the pricey side for a used find, but it is quilted and warm. Since I found it oddly appealing, I’ve added it to my own wardrobe which has no fashion rhyme or reason. Instead of mismatched, I’ll just call it “eclectic.”

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She dug up some uncut faux suede fabric from our stash (likely used for a Kateri in years past) and threw together a quick dress layered over a maxi skirt. Then she added hair flowers which just seem so suited to an affectionate remembrance of the Lily of the Mohawks.

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Our oldest two children are both dating practicing Catholics who happily participated in the events. It was truly a joy. I wasn’t able to get a photo of the other two (St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Cecilia) but here is St. Maximillian Kolbe with Kateri.

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THE CHIEF - ST. HUBERT

Years ago, my husband used to dress up as St. Francis. That stopped after I accidentally threw away his costume and he’s just been an observer ever since. But this year he told me that he found a new costume, had purchased it, and that he would wear it every year until he died. So…

Introducing St. Hubert, patron saint of hunters…

He found the sweatshirt at Catholic to the Max and also added a T-shirt (since he runs on the warm side) from a school called St. Hubert (which I can no longer find). While looking for a link to his T-shirt, I found a much cooler version on Amazon: St. Hubert Tee

I did not dress up as anyone but my children pointed out that I could have pulled off a modernized version of a Chinese saint. I can see their point and this Floral Tunic Dress did ship from China so… maybe next year I’ll come better prepared.

Honestly, shopping from Chinese shops on Amazon is super hit or miss (and we only occasionally purchase there) but this dress was actually quality construction with a soft but heavier rayon fabric. I don’t mean the fabric is heavy, just that it’s not too thin and not see through like many overseas products.

My boots are Teva’s Foxy Midcalf Boot in black leather. It’s been a while since I purchased though so I’m only finding them in different colors or bootie options. Still cute with a rugged sole for icy winters.

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Hopefully I can start filling in tutorial links soon. Look for St. Lucy toddler and big girl version to come first!

Halloween {A Failed Catechesis on Holy Death}

This article was first published in 2014.


I wasn't going to write about Halloween this year. Honestly, I'm still recovering from last year when I learned the hard way that the classical standards of debate are all but dead on the internet. When I said I haven't recovered, I mean it. I still feel the loss. I still hear the silence from disrupted relationships. So I promised myself that I wasn't going to write about Halloween again. It was enough. But... I changed my mind. Fickle, I know.

I'm not trying to start any drama. I'm not writing for anyone, to anyone, or about anyone in particular. I'm  writing here to flesh out ideas and offer them as food for thought to anyone else who is interested in the topic.

Please remember... this article not about you. You are welcome to consider my viewpoints and take them or leave them. You take care of your own people and I'll take care of mine, okay? If you want to talk, I welcome a public rebuttal of points made. You are welcome to call my ideas stupid... but only if you offer an intelligent rebuttal of my actual words. But if you go off and tell everyone what an ignorant jerk I am without addressing actual content, I'll probably take offense. And you'll also probably ruin my relationships with other people. I know this. I speak from painful experience. But I think we can do better than that that. Let's give it a go...

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Halloween {A Failed Catechesis on Holy Death}
 

There are several reasons why I do not celebrate Halloween -- the most superficial being that we dress up for All Saints' Day and ain't nobody got time to make two costumes each for 7 kids. Aside from that, I think that secular Halloween practices often run contrary to a life of virtue and hope -- and that even a benign costume and candy celebration on October 31st tends to undermine the greatness of the feasts of All Saints' and All Souls'. But I'm not going to focus on those today...
 

Today I'm going to write about death. And why Halloween teaches the wrong thing about the most important thing.
 

I've had death on the brain lately. I spent the last half year immersed in the subject of dying (specifically miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss) as part of my bereavement doula certification process. I don't love the thought of death but I found my studies fascinating. It brought mortality very close to my daily life and, ultimately, was a spiritual shot in the arm. I thought more than usual about the fragility of life and the state of my soul. I also learned more about what grief does to the survivors and how it can grip and squeeze the heart into a state of unimaginable pain. Ultimately, I became convicted that understanding of and care during the time of death is a fundamental element to building a Culture of Life.
 

How does this relate to Halloween? 
 

It didn't at first... until I began my training course in psychological first aid. I was in the middle of a module about caring for survivors of trauma, specifically children who have learned (suddenly) about the death of a loved one. The recommended approach was determined by the age of the child. The youngest ones would presumably have little experience with death and a vague or non-existent understanding of what death means. But it was the description of the next group that stuck with me. These kids were a little older and mature enough to know what it means to die but still too young to have much experience. The material described the primary obstacle to communicating with this age group: That their understanding of death was generally limited to the known skeletons and monsters of Halloween. As a result, the primary response to death was one of ignorance and fear.
 

Most people fear death to some degree. That's not the issue. What struck me as noteworthy in this case was that this secular disaster relief organization recognized the cultural practices of Halloween as an inhibitor to a child's healthy understanding of death. The reality in a faith context is that our American version of Halloween is terrible catechesis. In fact, I would call it anti-catechesis for providing the wrong answer to life's most important questions. 
 

Such an attitude is typically modern American. We rush through grief. We sweep it under the rug. And we run from age and pain and death with a frantic passion. Halloween practices encourage this dysfunction by contributing to confusion and ignorance of something that, when rightly ordered and supported, is actually our greatest moment of grace on earth. 
 

I use the term "secular" Halloween practices but it begs the question: What are Catholic Halloween practices? They aren't defined by the Church. We do know that All Hallow's Eve (the Eve of All Saints'), is the vigil of one of the greatest feasts of the liturgical year. Feast day vigil masses are celebrated at this time. The day after All Saints' is All Souls' Day - the day that Catholics traditionally focus on the dead. So what role does the Eve of All Saints' (Hallow'een) technically have? Truly? Not much.

The celebration of Halloween has become a mammoth secular creature of our own making with the average American spending almost $80 on costumes alone. In an effort to "baptize" our cultural practices, modern Catholics have made the vigil into something of a Catholic cultural festival centered around the topics of death and fear. My non-scientific observations tell me that many have simply found a convincing justification for throwing a good creepy party. Or at least bringing in a good candy haul.
 

"Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams" ~ Pope St. John XXIII
 

How does our cultural Halloween fail us?  The psychological first aid training drew attention to the problem: We teach our children that death is something creepy to be mocked, to be looked at as a piece of fun darkness. As a consequence, that darkness becomes the primary lens through which our children see death.

Many bereavement professionals will tell you that the American cultural approach to death is unhealthy. As Christians, this is a matter of grave consequence. We fool ourselves into thinking that the deepest parts of our human nature can be trivialized without spiritual consequences. Truly, a good death is the one thing that every soul should long for. This is why the saints entered their death scene with joy and hope. This is why we celebrate their feast days on the memorial of their deaths. For the saints, the day of death is a day of rejoicing, not of darkness.
 

"Death is nothing else but going home to God, the bond of love will be unbroken for all eternity." ~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta
 

Am I suggesting that we can never be "real" about scary things? Absolutely not. Am I suggesting that we can never jump out from behind a door to scare someone? Or put that horrible rubber rat in the pizza box to wait for a victim? No. What I am postulating is that the cultural secular Halloween is not a healthy context in which to explore the subject of death. We do not need to enter into sin to overcome sin. We do not need to don a mask of evil (especially in a superficial plastic costume way) in order to rise with Christ to new life. Jesus has won the victory through the Cross, and consequently, the Cross is beautiful to us. But only because the sacrificial act of Love is beautiful... not because we love or glorify the horror of the crucifixion. 
 

With our renewed understanding of the gift of the body through John Paul II's Theology of the Body, it is a wonder that we still tolerate the gruesome depictions of the flesh on Halloween night. Personhood is lost. Morphed into a mass of bleeding flesh and parade of hideous creatures. If we could put a true face on our sinfulness, perhaps this is what we would see. But the Truth, Christ Himself, is also within us, and demands sacred respect. 
 

St. John Bosco once called the Christian cemetery "an eloquent sign for those who enter in faith and prayer." Not creepy or frightening but "an eloquent sign." How beautiful! Unfortunately, it seems to be the human condition (concupiscence) to make ugly what God has made beautiful and to lose sensitivity to the joy of the eternal. 
 

Shall we mock death? Shall we mock our own moment of grace? The best way to "mock death' is to live so fully alive in Christ that fear is annihilated. To immerse oneself in the Word of God that promises that death brings peace to the pure soul. To enter into the fullness of Sacramental life so that life is a shower of grace. And then to step out, full of the power of the Holy Spirit, to serve the needs of the suffering. 
 

Mother Teresa did not throw a Halloween party to "mock death". She walked the streets of Calcutta and saw it in the eyes of the people and saw Christ Himself there. She picked up the abandoned, dying people of God whose wounds festered and were sometimes infested with maggots. She touched faces of pain and kissed the sores there. Was she too grave and rigid? Or shall we learn the lesson of her life as living catechesis. In light of her example and the model of all the saints, the modern Halloween custom becomes a mockery of true Love, which is the only worthy goal. 
 

We do not need to look far for real fear. Beheadings, wars, ebola, abortion, violence, human trafficking, accident trauma, personal loss. How are we teaching our children to prepare for death? Shall we usher them into a classroom of darkness in order to learn? Or shall we keep them wholly in the light as the inevitable pain and agony come to visit them?

What do I ultimately want for my children? A good death. The moment of death is a sacred event that will hopefully see us washed in unprecedented graces. It is the moment we have lived for, when a soul devoted to Love steps into the arms of mercy forever. Secular Halloween celebrations are often at best, a distraction from that goal and at worst, a distortion.
 

I have read many attempts to explain how the use of evil imagery draws us closer to Christ. The annual articles are starting to roll in and one defense in particular caught my eye yesterday. It already has hundreds of Facebook likes and is filled with big words and language that sounds like authoritative Church.  The author tells the reader why Catholics should absolutely participate in a dark Halloween. The ideas seem (on the surface) lofty and Catholic and spiritual. The Catholic author writes on a Catholic site:
 

"Halloween rejoices in this triumph through playful parody, or exultant mockery, of evil by subjecting the powerless symbols of the devil to satirical derision. Witches, goblins, ghosts, skeletons, and the other grotesque objects of man’s imagination are the caricatures of a dethroned evil. There is no fear in these, or even in the devil himself, by the indomitable strength of Christ. Men are the masters, and no longer the servants, of these elemental creatures."
 

This is wholly unsupportable through Sacred Scripture or Sacred Tradition. There is no approved tradition whereby we put on the mask of sin in order to prevail over it. The demons and angels are not "elemental" but spiritual and powerful. Nowhere are we exhorted to dance among the symbols of evil. Even if there is merit in the piece (which I contest), the reality is that most Catholics who like the article will use it primarily as a defense of their participation in the vacuous secular celebration... which is neither lofty, nor Catholic, nor profoundly spiritual. 
 

What is it that the Christian longs for more than anything in life? A GOOD DEATH. A holy death. Scripture tells us that "the sting of death is sin" and that "death has been swallowed up in victory." (Romans 8:31-39) Christ has conquered! There is nothing left to fear except the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. And yet we insist on spending our time playing in the dark. Mocking death.

Where is that exhortation in Catholic tradition? I have not yet found it.

I remember the day I delivered my lifeless baby, Matthew. He was two inches long and marvelous. Some might have seen his little body as gross or gruesome since his skin was translucent and bloodied and his eyes still unopened. But I thought he was beautiful. On that day, my soul also began to yearn much stronger for eternity. The mystery of death was slightly penetrated. And although I grieved heavily, I found that I was less afraid of death. Because of his life and loss, I no longer see death in a "Halloween way." And I do not wish to. Horror will come... sorrow will come... fear will come... all unwilled and unwanted. The true test of our culture is how we have prepared ourselves to deal with it. 
 

My own kids will someday wear blood and hold death in their hands. They will see tragedy and trauma. They will probably witness a beheading or live murder recorded on the internet. I will not shield them from the reality of death. My goal is to prepare them to serve the suffering and wounded who seek the merciful compassion of Christ. They will see plenty of horror on that journey. We don't need a night of candy and plastic ghouls to guide our souls to a Catholic understanding of these things. The real lessons come in the down and dirty of living the works of mercy in the context of a sacramental life. 
 

And that can get downright scary. Jesus, Light of the World, have mercy on us.
 


And again Jesus spoke to them, saying: "I am the light of the world; he who follows me with not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)


How We Celebrate Easter as a Big Catholic Family {Alleluia!}

Full disclosure about our Easter: If you're looking for perfection in liturgical living inspiration, there are far better resources out there. If you're looking for a blogger you probably exceed in that department but who is trying her hardest to keep up... well, maybe you've found the right blog!

I love to share my successes but my failures are copious. And that is what is so marvelous about Easter...

It's all about Him. He is risen as He said. And His grace covers all. Alleluia! 

Come Easter Monday, regardless of how well I have managed to pull together the celebratory details of our earthly Easter, He is always victorious. Thanks be to God! 

For your enjoyment or curiosity (and for my own pleasure), here's a little bit of our Easter....

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EGGS

Last year was the first year of my mothering life that we didn't color eggs. It was my fault... I just didn't have an ounce of energy left in me. So this year I was bound and determined to get it done. Chess nerds, artists, and toddlers represented. The pretty egg wrappers are one of my favorite easy ways to decorate and can be found on Amazon. (affiliate link) 

GIVING

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I have a crafting habit that I just can't seem to shake and like to augment the Easter table with pretty little gifts for each attendee. Some years that means elaborate, time-consuming items and other years it means candy in cellophane. This year, we managed to put together some faith-oriented items including St. Benedict tenner cord rosaries (pictured above) and Miraculous Medal bookmarks (thank you, Andrea Singarella!) packaged with little rice krispee nests.

Examples from past years:

  • Individual baskets made out of chocolate cookie dough and filled with treats

  • Fabric covered gratitude booklets filled with personalized notes from all the children

  • Blown eggs painted and personalized for each attendee... and stuffed with a Scripture quote chosen for each

  • Large decorated sugar cookies with guest names

  • Dyed cord rosaries

  • Blown eggs sanitized, painted, and filled with M & M's

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LITURGY...

Barring major illness, you can always find us at the Easter Vigil Mass. It is not an easy endeavor but always worth it. From the Paschal Fire to the new Catholics and party afterward, we manage to not only survive but to ignite. For the kids, it is always one of the big highlights of the year. There is nothing like the feeling of falling exhausted into bed with an Alleluia on the lips and the smell of incense in your hair!

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CLOTHING...

Because of the Vigil Mass and certain limitations of large family life, you won't find us super put-together-matchy-matchy like we sometimes pulled off when the kids were younger. For the most part, we are just trying to get to church on time! We generally drive separately to provide for schola members, altar servers, and toddler needs. And I can't recall the last time we were able to get a family picture of all of the living, dynamic, joyful beauty of the night that soon becomes morning. But those memories are emblazoned in our minds and hearts. It is sufficient.

I didn't get any church pics this year but I snapped the one above of the party afterward in the church basement and my oldest dressed to the nines in his tux. Why the tails? Because it's Easter! He can't think of a better reason. :)

When the kids were younger, I enjoyed sewing dresses for the girls or ordering special matching outfits. (My last Easter sewing project was in 2011.) I would certainly enjoy doing those things again but am forced to be more frugal with time and resources. In the end, I have found that I miss certain sensual aspects of creating and coordinating, but that no joy is lost when the heart is properly oriented.

EASTER MORNING...

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Sleeping in. (Super late)

Easter music. (Always including the Easter Song... Original by Keith Green and beautiful cover by Glad... plus all the alleluia music we couldn't listen to during Lent)

Slow and happy breakfast. (Sometimes elaborate, sometimes simple, always orange juice)

Divine Office. (Led by Dad)

Baskets. (These vary greatly in size and content according to means each year)

The full truth about Easter morning this year is that everyone was tired and no one wanted a photo taken. So I snuck this one behind the flowers (above). Four of my people are represented... pretty much only recognizable to me. 

Okay... well almost no one wanted their picture taken...

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FOOD...

Dietary needs are a stinker on feast days. Can't go around it... gotta go through it! We are very blessed to have family members who are considerate of the needs of adults and children. The day before Easter this year, my toddler had a significant flare-up of painful symptoms that are greatly compounded by sugar. The Chief and I knew that we had to find a way to keep her away from one of the sources of childhood Easter delight... Easter candy.

It was tough... especially when the age of awareness does not correspond to the age of reason! But again, we are blessed to have a strong support system and people who love her enough to help us soften the hard things. 

For the rest of us, it's business as usual. Sticking to the basics but also splurging and regretting it. ;)

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL... 

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There are so many little "New Years" within the context of Catholic life, New Year's Day being the least of them. The most significant for me is Easter Sunday, when the opportunity for new life and regeneration seems optimal and the soil of the soul so fertile.

Today (Easter Tuesday), I will begin a renewal of Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary. I have done it before and it was life-changing. This one will be timed to end on May 1st, the Feast of the Queen of Heaven and the beginning of my due date week. I cannot think of a more fitting way to prepare for the birth of my son. 

If you are interested in doing a Consecration, I recommend the book Totus Tuus: A Contemplative Approach to Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary by Fr. Nathan Cromley. It can be purchased on the Eagle Eye Ministries website where you can also find supplemental materials and video. 

To all of my readers.... A very blessed and happy Easter to you! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Mother Teresa of Calcutta DIY All Saints' Day Costume

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All Saints' Day will be here soon and we are in full preparation mode!  Since we do not celebrate Halloween, we have some extra time and resources to pour into some really creative costuming. I made this Mother Teresa costume several years and ago and it continues to be one of my favorites. It's simple to put together but does take time so it's best to plan ahead. Or you can just do what I do and pull an all-nighter (every. single. year).

Why don't we celebrate Halloween? The better question is "Why should we?"

It simply isn't clear what the secular holiday is intended to celebrate... and for all the money invested (costuming, candy, dental bills), we don't feel compelled to participate.

The word "Halloween" is a derivative of "All Hallow's Eve" or the "Eve of All Saints". Instead of prioritizing the religious holiday second, we place it first. We don't have the time or interest to do both so Halloween gets the boot.  The kids love our All Saints' Day celebrations and the adults always succumb to the temptation to include plenty of candy! For more of my thoughts on Halloween, see this post: Halloween {A Failed Catechesis on Holy Death}

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Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.
— Mother Teresa of Calcutta

To make the Mother Teresa costume:

Here's a very basic explanation of how I put together the Mother Teresa costume. It was a while ago so I apologize that I don't have more detailed figures. It isn't too complex though and I think worth sharing.

I have no exact measurements to provide because few are needed and the ones that are used are specific to each child. 

First, I examined photos of the habits of Mother Teresa's order (Missionaries of Charity) until I had a basic idea of the design. You should definitely take the time to do this, too...  the sisters are lovely and sign of hope and joy in a suffering world.


Fabric:

I brought my daughter to the fabric store with me and headed to the muslin aisle. I found 33" white muslin for $.99 a yard and wrapped it loosely around her in the style of a sari in order to estimate yardage. 

I found Blue cotton in my stash that resembled the color of the blue stripes on the habits of the order. Not perfect but it was free! I have no idea how much I used but eyeballed it and guessed that I would have enough (sorry...I know that's not incredibly helpful).


Sari Design:

I designed the costume in 3 pieces:

  1. White turtleneck (had one in her drawer)

  2. Veil -The veil of the the Missionaries of Charity drapes down the back, around the front of the body, and across the opposite shoulder. This is one piece of fabric. To measure for size, I took the short end of the fabric length (33" width) and pinned it over her hair (as shown in the photo). I draped it down her back to the desired length, across her opposite shoulder, down her back, and cut it at the desired length. 

  3. Skirt - Basically just a tube with elastic. I wrapped a piece of fabric around her waist to determine fit. I measured her waist and cut elastic to that size (normally I would size the elastic smaller for a better fit but I wanted extra room to tuck in  the turtleneck and to allow the costume to be used the following year!). I rolled the waistband until the skirt was the correct length instead of hemming (hurrah!). That allows for a taller child to wear it as well. I added the stripes to the skirt fabric before sewing the seam or waistband.


Adding the blue stripes:

The habit of the order uses 3 solid blue stripes along the edges of the sari material, One larger stripe and two smaller stripes. I eyeballed the stripe widths and went a little larger to make the stitching easier on myself. I was not going for a replica of the habit but an overall representation of the habit. Would someone know who she was by looking at my design? Yes. Then it's all good. 

I sewed the strips (4" and 1.5") into tubes and pressed them so that the edges would be nicely finished and the extra fabric would add weight and better drape to the lightweight muslin. The finished stripes were 2", 3/4" and 3/4" wide. If you want a more authentic look, reduce the size of the smaller stripes. 

Stripes are applied to the hem of the skirt and to all 4 edges of the veil cloth.

Then I pinned and sewed. Lots of strips onto lots of fabric! But well worth the effort.

You can also color or paint the stripes on if you prefer. That would have driven me mad with this size costume but I've seen it done rather well on a much small version. Remember... it isn't a replica but a representation!

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
— Mother Teresa of Calcutta

To wear:

Put on the turtleneck and skirt first. Start the veil at the head. Pin it in place at the nape of the neck (we used a safety pin).  Let it fall down to desired length in back, drape it across the waist at the right side and bring up to and over the left shoulder. We pinned it in place with a religious medal.

Enjoy your celebration! If you email me with a photo of your little saints wearing their Mother Teresa costumes, I will add it to the photo gallery on this post. :)

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How to Make Priest Biretta for All Saints' Day

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After writing about my kids' All Saints' costumes last year, I received multiple requests for a pattern for the boys' birettas. So here you go!

The source pattern is for a real biretta so I have to warn you that I used extensive creative license with the it and produced great costume pieces -- not real birettas. 

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Our All Saints' costumes from last year were a great success, mostly because the teenagers gave full participation. And wouldn't you if your mom stayed up until the wee hours crafting an awesome biretta for your priestly garb? Of course you would. And now you want to know how to share this excellence with your kids... so I will give you the link to the instructions and a few (very important and necessary) words about my crafting adventure.

First, the link to the PDF pattern: 
How to Make a Collapsible Biretta


UPDATE: Lena at Joyfilled Family now has a picture tutorial that walks you through the steps. Check it out HERE.


Now, a few words:

I did not make collapsible birettas. My birettas only collapse if you sit on them. I used the pattern provided, fused fabric to the pattern pieces, and glued the pieces until I was reasonably sure they would not collapse under normal stresses. It was a hack job but perfect for costume purposes.

All materials for this project were things I already had on hand:

  • Poster board

  • Heat n Bond to fuse the fabric to the poster board.

  • Black fabric. I used a wool/cashmere blend fabric because it was the only black fabric I had on hand. (My sons had the warmest birettas ever made.) This would have been easier with a lighter fabric but the heavy stuff did lend the finished product a bit of weight and it stuck to their hair well.

  • Satin fabric. Because I tend towards crafty perfectionism even at 3am. And because glue guns are awesome. And because I had scraps of satin fabric... I lined the inside of the hats. I wanted red but gold was a fine alternative.

  • Red Piping Bias Tape on Professor's Fulton Sheen biretta. (I left a gap at the top of the poster board when I glued it so that I could hot glue the piping in later.)

  • Red Yarn for the pom pom and a plastic pom pom maker. But you can use these instructions if you don't have one.


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This is the 2-year old's biretta. Because I didn't have enough piping bias, I used hot glue to strengthen the attaching pieces. And because the hot glue was ugly, I decided to paint it with a black paint pen. And because the black paint pen was "glossy" the seams are shiny. I wasn't thrilled. You can also see here how the lining is far from perfect -- just folded and glued in place -- but also how a kid would think it is cooler than plain black.


Measuring...

The other thing I want to tell you is that I found the measurements tricky. I was not particularly careful and was rushing.  I measured once (hastily) for the Professor (15 years old at the time) and ended up with a hat that fit a two-year old. Fortunately, I had a two-year old on hand, but you should probably take more time to measure than I did. And then... I made the second one too small as well but it was much closer and wearable. I'm not making a third one, son.

The rest of the costume:

  • Altar server cassock that fits (like Professor's) or even one that is several sizes too large held together with thread and safety pins (like Cub's). Or... DIY if you are totally awesome.

  • Red or black sash. Lend your kid one of your inexpensive pashmina scarfs that he can poke a hole through with a dull safety pin. Let it go. It's for a good cause.

  • Roman Collar. You could probably come up with something better but I picked out two lengths of wide white satin ribbon (wide enough to cover the notch and extend a bit above the collar), measured necks, and stiffened it with Heat n Bond. Then I used sticky Velcro dots to hold the collar together and in place on the cassock. The other option was to sew something in but I didn't want to alter the cassocks too much.

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Are you going to try your hand at making a biretta for All Saints's Day? 

Please link your pics back here in the comments (or email them to me) if you do. I would love to see your creations and I'll add your link to the post.