24 December 2015

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas one and all, from our family to yours. May the year ahead be full of life, blessings, and togetherness!

21 December 2015

St. Sharbel

I was blessed with a very special privilege earlier this month. The relics of St. Sharbel came to Portland.

Relics are pieces of the saint themselves, or something they've touched. It sounds a bit morbid, it's true. However, the veneration (honoring the saint as the servant of God that they were and continue to be in Heaven) through the reminders of their relics is an ancient, and Biblical practice. In the Old Testament, the bones of Elisha were brought out to a dead man, who upon being touched by the prophet's bones, came back to life (2 Kings 13:20-21). We also see the use of relics int he New Testament, as in the woman who was bleeding who touched the hem of Jesus's cloak and was healed (one of my favorite Bible stories that is found in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 9), and in the early Church, when people were healed by St. Peter's shadow touching them (Acts 5:14-16), and in Acts chapter 19 when St. Paul's handkerchiefs were taken to people, and they were cured of diseases. Catholics don't believe that it is the saint themselves working this miracle- all power and miracles from God, working through the saint. To think that the saints have power of their own is misguided thinking.

St. Sharbel Makhluf was a Lebanese monk and member of an Eastern Rite Catholic Church, the Maronite Rite, who lived in the second half of the 1800s. Sharbel grew up in a "pious" household with his mother and stepfather (after his father died); his stepfather later pursued holy orders and became the village priest. Sharbel, whose baptismal name was "Josef" was drawn to the monastic life from an early age, and in 1851 became a monk, and eventually a hermit. He died on December 24, 1898, and his body remained incorrupt throughout most of the 20th century, until 1955 when his tomb was opened a fourth time and only his skeleton remained.

Sharbel was beatified at the end of the Second Vatican Council by Pope Paul VI, and later canonized as the first Eastern Rite saint canonized for the universal Church in Rome. Canonized simply means that the Universal Church recognizes the person is indeed in Heaven and that their life was one of devoutness and is raised as an example for all Christians. St. Sharbel has a large following in Mexico, although I am unsure why. The first time I had heard of this holy man was there- they sell candles with his picture and there are numerous churches throughout Tijuana with statues of this saint.

St. Sharbel Maronite Catholic Church, Portland, Oregon
I first saw the announcement that the Saint's relics were coming to Portland in November in an official announcement from the Archdiocese. I didn't even know there was an Eastern Rite Church in the Portland-area, and I knew even less that it was less than 15 minutes away. I had never attended a Rite other than the Extraordinary form of the Latin Rite (Latin Mass), and I didn't know what to expect. I looked around and found the parish's website, which did offer a great deal of information.

The Maronite Rite, first and foremost, is said in English, Arabic, and Syriac (Aramaic). There were booklets to follow along with the reading, and I neglected to find one. The church was rather full, but it was full of the families that regularly attend this parish. Isaias and I were able to squeeze in next to a wonderful family. I loved seeing many families, with young children in the parish. However, the incense, the priests, the Sign of Peace- it was a magnificent celebration of the Eucharist. I loved seeing other women in veils. I loved the close-knit community of the parish. Arabic, when not filled with the trash on TV, is actually a very beautiful language, and after Mass, was spoken quite openly and fluently. I confess my own ignorance of the presence of Middle Eastern Christians in my own community. It was wonderful to meet them, and to pray for the persecuted Church of their homeland with them.

After the celebration of the Eucharist (or as they call it, Holy Mysteries), there was Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and veneration of the relics. The saint's relics, when not in his tomb in Lebanon, are transferred from parish to parish in a small wooden box, more than enough, I am sure for this holy man. I was able to touch my rosary and Isaias's rosary to the relics and pray before them. It was trulyl an honor to be in such a place with so many other faithful and devout Catholics.
Benediction and placing the Body of Christ in the Monstrance for Adoration.

Veneration of the relics

Adoration of the Body of Christ. The rosary was being said at the same time.
 It was an amazing experience to meet other member of the universal church. A lot of the time, people think of the Catholic church as ONLY the Roman Rite, but there are 23 other rites that are also members of the Church, celebrating the same Mass, with few cultural differences, for centuries. It was magnificent, and I hope that I may get the chance to meet these people again.

19 December 2015

December (So Far...)

Christmas is just a few days away, and there is still so much to DO! I had barely realized that I have not posted any updates since the beginning of the month, so here is a little bit of a photo update.

These were the ornaments and decorations I had really wanted to take to Mexico, but somehow, they didn't make it last year. I was quite happy to see them this year.
Isaias is really learning about salvation history and Advent through using the emails I get from Holy Heroes. I really love their program, their homemade videos, and their Catholic focus. Isaias really looks forward to his "Advent Time" part of his school day, when we make our Jesse Tree ornament, read the Bible, and light the Advent wreath.
Tamale Day came and went. I love tamales. I love making them. But they are a lot of work. These are rajas con queso, jalapeƱos with cheese and some other veggies for flavor. Total time needed for tamales- 6 or 7 hours before they go into the pot. I spent several days preparing them.
Baby Reyes got in on the tamale making, too.
 Cecilia was in a dance performance at school. Hector took amazing video for me, and she was so adorable. I love her so much.
We went to Las MaƱanitas for the Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12. It was a long night, but Isaias wanted to be there. He is really learning to love the Church and love going to Mass.   
Chocolate chip cookies. This is an old semi-secret recipe. Maybe someday I will be brave enough to share it.
My baby is home with me for Christmas. It was a ridiculous crazy day, but she arrived, happy and safe after missing her flight in the AM, spending all day with her aunt in San Diego, and boarding a flight as an unaccompanied minor. Shout out to Alaska Airlines for making her feel awesome and for helping me get her home without breaking the bank. And super kudos to my sister-in-law who went through hell to get her to me.
 I was waiting until Cecilia got here to really jumpstart the Christmas spirit around the house. First activity: putting up a Christmas tree! I must have the only kids in the world who don't enjoy this part. I had to force both of them to help me hang up ornaments.
Besties. Isaias's personality has brighten 100% and is so full of energy and excitement to have his sister here with him.

01 December 2015

Christmas Album 2015

I love scrapbooking. I've done it for years and years, since before I had children, since before high school. I have a terrible memory, and putting memories and pictures down in an album helps me remember things that I would never have remembered. Several years ago, a scrapbooking blogger named Ali Edwards developed a concept where one scrapbooks ONE story a day during the month of December. It's sort of an Advent calendar, sort of a scrapbook, and throughout the years (since 2008) it has become my FAVORITE tradition during December.

Last year in Mexico, without a phone/camera that worked all the time, I was STILL able to complete 2014 (as in, assemble the album, take the pictures, and journal my thoughts in the pages. I'm still working on printing the pictures and putting them in). I love looking back over the years, and seeing what things we do every year, what things we've done once or twice, and how our family has changed and grown over the years.

This year, I am of course, doing this project again. I am sharing a few pages here, and I will include links to the designers and companies throughout the post. None of the suppliers are reimbursing me; I simply want to give credit where it is due.

This is going to be a picture-heavy post. You have been warned.
Cover and Numbers: I am not a big fan of decorating covers. I have found that through time, the decorations on the covers wear off and get ruined. While I love that the albums are getting enjoyed, I'd like to preserve their longevity. The album is a 6" x 8" canvas-covered SN@P album from Simple Stories. I chose this album because it was literally the last one at the craft store in my budget. Hey, I've gotta do what I gotta do. My page numbers are little metal buttons from Recollections. They match the papers that I chose really well and they are cute. I am not adhering numbers down this year beforehand. I will see where they fit nicely after I add the photos. I've had problem with numbers covering faces or having to tweak them later, only to have them not move so well. Since these won't be moved after I've attached them, I've decided to just wait on pinning them down.
Some people go all-out on their inside covers. I have in the past, as well. But seeing as I'm super broke this year, and also going on 8 months pregnant, I'd like to keep things simple. My inside cover page is simply letter stickers (Simple Stories) and a card from this year's kit (will be discussed in a moment). I slipped the card into a clear 6"x8" page protector, put in some glitter, and sealed the top with washi tape from Recollections. The chipboard stickers on the left side came with this years kit.

Papers and Pages: For this year's papers, I decided to go with Lori Whitlock's paper line from Echo Park Papers "The Story of Christmas". I really liked the mix of natural, graphic, and "cute" designs on the paper, offering a wide array of options. The pieces of the kits are sold individually or all together (which I bought). I thought that I wasn't going to have enough stickers or papers to make the whole album, but I was very wrong. The pre-packaged kit contained everything I needed to fill this 6"x8" album though, and still have enough left over.

The pages are all from Simple Stories, except for one, that I cut from a larger page protector that I had on hand. I really like this method of scrapooking. There is no gluing, just slipping pictures into 4x6 or 3x4 pockets. Easy-peasy. I bought several different sets of the pocket pages, and also used the ones included with the album.

This is the only page that I pre-arranged with a certain message. This is the page that should fall on the day that Cecilia is arriving to spend Christmas with us. I wanted it to be VERY special.

Christmas Day and Envelope Page: I like to use more than one page for Christmas day pictures. I end my album on Christmas Day (some people like to go through December, but I am too lazy). The number buttons at the beginning of the post only go through 24, so I used a "December 25" card for these pages. The page on the right is the page protector I made; I can't remember where it came from originally.

The envelope at the back of the album came with the album. At first, I was just going to remove it, like I did with the cardstock pages that came with the album. But then I used some of the stickers included in the kit and made a place to save the Christmas cards I get (which are far and few between). I definitely don't like tossing cards, so including them in this albums is a good way to 'corral' them.

Well, that is my album for 2015. I can't wait to start filling it up with December memories!