My Parents’ Very Unusual Christmas Gift

MY PARENTS' Very Unususal Christmas Gift

A humongous box of firecrackers? A kitten in a basket? Those gifts may be unusual, but they are nothing like the very unusual Christmas gift I received from my parents. My parents’ very unusual Christmas gift was something that can’t be packaged and tied up with a string. They gave it not only to me but to my siblings as well. It was not something that we touched, but something we experienced. The very unusual gift that my parents gave was that of a slow Christmas.

Just what is that?
I’m glad you asked. A slow Christmas is the opposite of a chaotic Christmas. For most people the holidays are hectic. A frenzied rush of trying to get everything done. This frantic mode seems to permeate everything we do from shopping for presents, to decorating the house, to cooking holiday treats, and opening gifts. The hustle and bustle of getting ready for Christmas can easily cause us to miss the true importance of the holiday. My parents’ slow Christmas helped us to have a deeper appreciation of this special day.

Here’s what it was like:
I can still see it. The sheet that my parents hung in the opening to the living room to hide where the tree and presents were. It was Christmas morning and Christmas Mass came first. It was hard, knowing that all our gifts were right there ready to be opened and played with, but we were not allowed to go in and look. The slow Christmas had begun.

After Mass, my parents knelt and said extra prayers as they always did after Mass. I knelt too, trying to pray, but my mind kept wondering what was behind that sheet. If I prayed, it was probably that my parents would hurry up and finish their prayers.

The family had to be fed when we got home, so mom warmed up her cherry nut bread and wassail. We sat down together, said grace, ate breakfast and cleaned up. Then we were finally allowed to go behind the sheet to the tree full of presents. The lucky thing about being the youngest…I got to in go first! We did not all rush in at once. You see, my parents only let us in one at a time. It didn’t make much sense to me back then, but now I know they wanted to see the joy of each individual child’s face as they came in.

The best part!
First came the gifts from Santa, which were not wrapped. After we spent time oohing and aahing and playing with our Santa gifts, it was time to open the wrapped presents. This was the pinnacle of our slow Christmas.

First, we all had to be there. If someone had stepped out to go to the bathroom or get another mug of wassail, my parents waited till they got back. Nothing could be opened until all eight of us were there.

My dad would slowly get one package from under the tree, read the tag silently to himself, then make eye contact with the person who it was for, and drawl out the words, “to Sharon from Mark,” or whoever it was to and from.

After carefully handing the present to the person, everyone gave their full attention to the family member opening the present. We all got to experience the delight of the person opening their gift. If you were the person who had purchased the gift, it was extra special watching them open and enjoy what you had lovingly picked out for them. We did not rush right away to another gift. Time was given to enjoy the gift and of course to thank the person who gave it to you.

When it felt right, my dad would leisurely get another gift and repeat the process. One.  Gift.  At.  A.  Time. This, of course, took a while to open all the gifts under the tree but savoring the moment and being fully present during each opening was actually a gift in itself. We obviously grew in the virtue of patience, and we also learned that it is truly better to give than receive.

Something different…
As a child, I took all of this for granted. A slow Christmas was the only type of Christmas I had experienced. But as an adult, I came to see that other families did things differently.

I remember the first Christmas I spent away from home. As I watched this family open gifts I was in shock. They sat around the tree and opened their presents all at the same time. Yes, ALL at the same time! They did not open one gift at a time. They did not stop to enjoy their loved ones opening the presents they gave them. And hardly a “thank you” was spoken. It all seemed to be about me-me-me and what I was getting, not about others and the joy in giving.

Though I did not experience a peaceful and slow Christmas that first year away from home, it opened my eyes. I realized what a special ritual my parents had created. Exchanging presents the way we did, not only was a way to show appreciation and gratitude, but it strengthened our bonds with each other.

Traditions
Every family has their traditions. Put the tree up on Thanksgiving; put it up on Christmas Eve. Have turkey; have ham. Watch the Nutcracker; watch A Christmas Carol. Have a hurried and frenzied Christmas; have a slow Christmas.

My parents’ very unusual gift of a slow Christmas was intentional. The peaceful pace was a way to honor the sacredness of the day. From taking our time at Mass and breakfast to not rushing through the opening of the gifts. The method they established of opening the presents fostered a sense of altruism and was a tradition that I knew I wanted to continue as I got married and started a family.

A slow Christmas is something I have strived for over the years, and honestly, I have fallen short many times. The one part of the slow Christmas that I have managed to carry on year after year is that of opening one – gift – at – a – time. A tradition started by my parents. A tradition I have passed on to my children. And it is a tradition I offer to you.

God bless, and have yourself a very merry, slow Christmas.

© Rose of Sharon 12.22.2019

07.20.1969 Welcome

Man on Moon

Our family didn’t have a TV in 1969, but that didn’t stop my parents from making sure we (along with 500 million other people around the world) watched THE television event of the century.

I sat squashed between my brothers on my grandmother’s couch, my swinging legs unable to reach the hardwood floor. The historical event went past our normal bedtime and my eyelids were drooping as much as my limp pigtails. However, I do remember being awake as grandma’s black and white TV displayed the shadowy figure of astronaut Neil Armstrong bouncing along on the grey surface. I was mesmerized.

The moon has always fascinated me. From this impressionable moment as a child when I sat in my grandmothers living room watching man walk on the moon, to the many camping trips I experienced with the moon acting as my tent’s nightlight, to now.

Now, when I have a much deeper understanding of the significance of space travel. Now, when I have a richer appreciation of the celestial body that was perfectly placed in orbit around our earth to anchor us in our rhythms of life. And now, when I feel I have a personal connection to she who reflects sunlight to me in the nighttime of my fear.

As the 50th anniversary of this monumental event approached, my mind kept pondering the moon and her beauty and my soul felt called to write a tribute regarding this time in history. The poem below is that humble attempt.

07.20.1969  Welcome

“Honor, greetings and blessings to you,
conquerors of the moon.
Pale lamp of our nights and our dreams.”
Pope Paul VI, July 1969

Honor, greetings and blessings to you,
high respect, great esteem.
Best wishes and good will,
divine favor, celestial dream

to you, conquerors of the moon.
Collin, Aldrin, Armstrong: Mike, Buzz and Neil.
Space seekers, summit reachers;
Lunar landing, serenely surreal.

The moon, pale lamp of our nights,
calendar inspiration, force of tidal sea,
lightly illuminate, faintly reflect,
our eventide, then dark apogee.

Of our nights and our dreams:
Mankind dark-side, aspiration peers to blue.
And her peaceful presence glowingly concurs,
honor, greetings and blessings to you.

© Rose of Sharon 07.20.2019

Moon

 

“Why Are You So Good To Me?”

Why Are You So Good to Me

My husband Danny and I have been together for over two decades. From the very beginning of our courtship, he treated me so well that I used to ask him all the time, “Why are you so good to me?”   I had recently come off a relationship that was not so good, and the nice things Danny was doing were in stark contrast of what I was used to. His acts of kindness went above and beyond anything I could imagine. From little things like opening the door for me, sending me cards and flowers, and cooking special meals for me, to big things like the day the rabbit died. Continue reading

My Personal Letter to Cardinal DiNardo

Letter with no return address

His Eminence,
Daniel Cardinal DiNardo
Archbishop of Galveston-Houston
1700 San Jacinto
Houston TX 77002

Your Eminence,

I am a cradle Catholic and daily communicant who has spent countless hours volunteering in numerous ministries in the Church-most notably with the youth. I am writing because I am deeply troubled by this horrific crisis in the church. Continue reading

Five Things the Faithful Need to Do During This Crisis in the Church

What Do I Do

Scream, cry, hide in shame, and walk around in dumbfounded shock. These are some of the things I have done since the resurfacing of the horrible scandal that is rocking the Church. The information that is coming out is horrific. It is truly sickening. Anger, disgust, and hopelessness want to flood my spirit. I feel like I will drown if I don’t do something. But what in the world can I do in the enormity of such grave sin?! I ask myself the question, but it also gushes out of my heart as a desperate prayer-plead to God.  And in his beautiful love, he responds. Here are five things to do during this crisis:

  1. Keep going to Mass/Reconciliation

In a time when you could find lots of excuses to stop going to Mass and walk away from your faith…keep the faith! Keep participating in the sacraments. Don’t stop going to Mass or Reconciliation! Don’t walk away from Jesus and the Eucharist! Nothing would make the enemy happier than to see you walk away. We need lots of grace to get through this spiritual battle and receiving our Lord and Savior’s precious body and blood is vital.

In regards to going to Reconciliation, the passage from the Lord ’s Prayer rings true; “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us” (Mt 6:12). During this terrible time in the Church, resentment and holding a grudge will be tempting. The sacrament of Reconciliation helps us to face our own sinfulness and lets us experience the healing beauty of God’s mercy. We need to be at our best during these worst of circumstances; therefore, going to confession is a must.

  1. Pray and Fast

There is nothing more powerful in the face of evil than prayer. First and foremost, pray for the victims, that they will find healing and peace. Pray for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (and maybe you) who are struggling with their faith during this crisis. Pray for the church leaders, and all that work for the church, that they may courageously follow the direction of the Holy Spirit and provide strong leadership during this moral catastrophe. And don’t forget (gulp) to also pray for the perpetrators of these horrible crimes.

In regards to fasting, Cardinal DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says, “The Holy Father is…inviting, and I am asking this as well, that all the faithful join in prayer and fasting…Jesus remarked once, ‘This kind can only come out through prayer and fasting’ (Mark 9:29); a humble reminder that such acts of faith can move mountains and can even bring about true healing and conversion,”

To read more about the benefits of fasting and ideas on how to fast, check out https://www.catholicgentleman.net/2014/04/spiritual-weapons-fasting/

  1. Write Your Bishop

Write an actual letter with an envelope and stamp. Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance and pour yourself out on the paper. Keep it honest and concise, but make sure to let the leader of your diocese know your concerns. Monsignor Charles Pope writes about taking this action in his article entitled, In the Midst of Clerical Misdeeds, a Crucial Moment for the Laity. http://www.ncregister.com/blog/msgr-pope/in-the-midst-of-clerical-misdeeds-a-crucial-moment-for-the-laity

If you need some tips in writing to your bishop, check this out: https://avemariaradio.net/tips-write-bishop/

Also, at the end of this blog is a letter written and delivered to Cardinal DiNardo by my brother Eddie Scales, along with a link to where he got the information on the forty-day period of prayer and fasting that he mentions in the letter.

  1. Affirm your Priests

Though this is a dark time for the Church, remember there are many virtuous, celibate priests out there. They have given their life to serving Christ and his people. It is a sad time for these faithful priests who are learning about their brother priests who have committed grave sins. Make sure to thank the priest(s) at your parish for their service. Write them a note. Send them a card. Invite them over for dinner. Let them know you are praying for them and that you appreciate all their hard work. And while you’re at it, encourage your priest to speak to the congregation about this crisis, if they haven’t already. Yes, it is a difficult topic to address, but it must be done!

  1. Stay Informed/Educated

This advice is coming from someone who hates watching the news and following current events. I’d rather not think about those things or deal with them, mainly because it always seems so negative. However, it is important that we do not do what some of our church officials have done in the past…sweep things under the rug and look away.

Knowing what is going on can fire us up to help make the world a better place. Staying informed gives us opportunities to pray for specific people or specific issues. Staying educated can help you have healthy discussions about current issues. That is why it is good to have reputable sources to help you stay abreast of the latest news. In regards to the topic of this article, I recommend:

The National Catholic Register (owned by EWTN)  http://www.ncregister.com/
Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire  https://www.wordonfire.org/
1430am Catholic Radio in Houston KSHJ  http://www.grnonline.com/stations/1430-am-kshj-houston/

The church is in dire need of reform and renewal. This will not be easy! It is a long rough road ahead. Along with prayer, fasting and continued participation in the sacraments, there is hope.

© Rose of Sharon


open letter to his Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo,
archbishop of Galveston-Houston.

I am a lifelong Catholic, active in the church, fervent in my faith, faithful to the Magisterium and disgusted by the abuse and cover-ups that have plagued the Roman Catholic Church. I am heartsick and ashamed over the 1000+ victims of abuse in the state of Pennsylvania and all the other boys and girls, men and women who have been sexually abused by priests and further victimized by the bishops who covered up for these crimes. I pray for justice for the victims and their families and their communities.

Something must be done, and I am asking you to lead your flock, and to be a leader in the Church in addressing these crimes. We are all sinners and we must confront our sinfulness, and the Church must do the same. Christ would have it no other way.

I believe in the Catholic Church, founded by Christ and sustained by the Eucharist. We are one body in Christ. As such, I invite you, your Eminence, Cardinal DiNardo, to join us in observing a forty-day period of prayer and fasting as an act of reparation to God for these sins. From the feast of the Queenship of Mary on August 22, through the month of September, we will join our sorrow with Our Lady of Sorrows, and make daily sacrifices for this intention.

Your servant in Christ,
R.E. “Eddie” Scales
Parishioner of Sts. Simon & Jude in The Woodlands, TX

Corruptio optimi pessima (The corruption of the best is the worst of all)

http://www.catholicallyear.com/2018/08/sexual-abuse-sackcloth-and-ashes.html

Afraid of the Dark

Afraid of the Dark

The words “the Boogie Man will get you” terrified me as a child. This was one of the many fictitious reasons I was afraid of the dark. Along with the imaginary witches in my closet, the werewolves outside my window, and the monsters under my bed.

I combated my fear of the dark by keeping my bedroom door open and making sure the hall and bathroom lights were on when I went to bed.  But the lights did not stay on long…my money-conscious parents always turned them off.

My fear of the dark continued into young adulthood. This time my reasons were valid. I knew the crime rate escalated at night. I had read the scripture passage that speaks about how “people preferred darkness to light because their works were evil” (John 3:19) and I did not want any part of that! It was in these young adult years that I was horrified to discover that there was another kind of darkness…an emotional darkness; a black depression that wanted to smother me. And leaving the lights on did not work, for this darkness lasted through the night AND the day.

I learned that the way to combat my dark fears was to call upon the True Light. For it says in Psalm 27 “The Lord is my light and my help; whom shall I fear?” And Paul encourages us in Romans 13:12 to “throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” For “light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” Ephesians 5:9. This Eternal Radiance has brightened my soul way more than I could ever begin to describe.

And as the famous song says…I’m not gonna put it under a bushel! NO!
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine,
Let it SHINE!

© Rose of Sharon

Let it Shine

 

Eight. Sick. Severe.

Home sick

I was eight. I was sick. It was severe. I had all the classic symptoms. Distress, sadness, anxiety, and most prominently the shedding of endless tears. It went on day after day after day. The diagnosis? Homesickness. It was my first time to attend summer camp and I was not enjoying it at all. Neither was my big sister who was a camp counselor. I had thoroughly embarrassed her.

Fast forward a handful of decades, and here I am still at summer camp! (I eventually got over my homesickness and kept going to camp.) As an adult camp worker, I can tell you that homesickness is still alive and well. In matter of fact, homesickness has been around for a long time. The Old Testament speaks of the sadness that the Israelites felt who had been exiled from their home.  “By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.” Psalm 137:1

That sadness, that wistful yearning is in us all. We all long (whether we realize it or not) to go back. Back to our true dwelling place. Back to our place of highest joy.  Back to our place of total fulfillment.  Our home in heaven. A place that has no sickness or tears. A place of perfect contentment and infinite joy. A place where we will be united with our big family-the family of God. And of course…it is a place that I won’t embarrass my big sister.

© Rose of Sharon