Friday, December 12, 2014

The Amazing Mystery of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Such a fitting title for Our Blessed Mother !    With today being the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe I thought it would be fitting to talk about the amazing miracle that this beautiful image is.
If you read the story of St. Juan Diego below this post (if you want the whole story), you'll know that the Blessed Mother appeared to Juan at the top of Tepeyac hill.  She came with a message for Juan to send back to the bishop to build a church there in her honor.  So Juan went back and asked the bishops but they did not believe him that he saw Mary.  So for a second time Mary appeared to him, and he let her know that maybe he wasn't the best man for the job, that maybe she should send someone else. Mary then told him that she could have asked anyone she wants but she wants Juan to be the one to do this. So he goes home that evening, and his uncle fell sick. Asking Juan to go to the neighboring city to ask for a priest to hear his last confession. Juan , trying to avoid the path he took before  and goes another way. Mary then meets him where he is at, and apologizing, Juan tells Mary he is unable to because his uncle is deathly ill.  Mary in response tells him:  

"Listen, my son, to what I will tell you: Do not be afflicted about anything, not even with illness or any other harmful things.  Am I not here, am I not your Mother?  Are you not under my protection and care?  Am I not life and health?  Are you not in my lap and walk under my care?  Do you need anything else? . . .  Worry no longer about your uncle’s health, as he will not die now, and have the certainty that he has been cured."    

She then asks him to go to the top of the hill and gather roses, which was very unusual for that time of year to bloom since it was winter and not exactly in a spot that roses generally bloomed, and bring them back to her. She arranged the roses on his tilma and he went back to the bishop with the miracle that they wanted from Our Blessed Mother.  Juan then opened his tilma and behold, the roses fell and the beautiful image you see up above appeared on his tilma. Right then and there the bishop had the church built at the foot of Tepeyac Hill.  

Though this is such an amazingly short and simple story, the beautiful part and amazing part is how Our Blessed Mother used such a simple and humble soul. Juan was an Aztec Indian , he wasn't rich, he wasn't noble, but just a poor man who lived a simple life.  He walked 15 miles to Mass each day and She treats him as though as he was the most important person in that time. She talks to  him with extraordinary love, encouraging him to continue on with this important mission.   Mary also leaves proof that she was there, one of few instances that this has happened. 

So you ask , what is so important about this image? What makes it so amazing?  Well there are several reasons : 

  1.  This image was left on a tilma made of cactus fibers. This was a very inexpensive way to make a tilma and was not meant to last but maybe no more than 7 to 10 years at the very most. This image has lasted well over 500 years. It was exposed to smoke from church candles, and other  natural elements ( such as the rays of the sun, hands of pilgrims that touched it, and saliva from mouths that kissed it, the humid , dusty , salty air around the Basilica, being handled by scientific researchers, ) it has stayed in tact since 1531.

2. Two reproductions of this image have been made by artists using the same fibers that this image was on.  They were exposed to the same elements this miraculous image had been exposed to and they found after a couple of decades those reproductions were not able to with stand these elements and they just disintegrated.  There was also an attempt to embellish the image by adding a crown , adding gold to the rays of the sun, and the moon with plated silver. These have long worn away and the silver caused the moon to turn black in the image.  The colors on the tilma are the same today as they were in 1531.

3.  Third Amazing fact. Scientists from NASA cannot explain how the image was imprinted on the tilma. There are no brush marks, no lines, its as its like a photograph. NASA used infared imaging and it comes up with an image behind the drawing like a photograph. Thing was , cameras did NOT exist in 1531.  Nor did printing or any of the sort like we have today.

4. Our Lady's eyes are the most amazing. Scientists came across the fact that there were literally microscopic images in the eyes. The eye on  the right, of Juan's face , just as she saw it , and in the left eye a group of people , thought of as the bishop and those who witnessed the miracle of the roses and image. Ophthalmologists have studies this and have concluded that it was just as like the eyes were alive and the images in the eye were that of what the normal human eye would replicate from images that are seen.

I could go on and on about some of the amazing things that I have learned about this beautiful image that the Blessed Virgin Mary left behind for all to see .
The best thing to do is to check out more online to learn about what has been found about this miraculous image.  I could literally  write a really long post on it, but I'd love to share what we did today.

With such a wonderful event to celebrate we decided to enjoy the day since this day is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe with coloring pages and eating some tasty Mexican food.

Hannah and Katie working on their Holy Heroes color page 

              Maggie catching up on some of the Jessie Tree Ornaments that we got a little behind on.

                                                                      Mexican Pizza 

We decided to go ahead and make our favorite, Mexican Pizza. This is very easy to make and the cost is minimal.
What was used :

Tortilla shells. Is this not cool that we have this brand in our area? So fitting for such a special feast day. 

                                    Also used was:  refried beans and Mexican taco cheese. Be sure to put another tortilla on top, sort of like a sandwich.

              Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cooking time will vary , but I just check on it. When the cheese is melted and the tortillas are a bit on the brownish side, they are done. 

The girls putting it together.Sorry for the cloudy spot in the picture. I didn't realize the lens had a finger print on it until after I was done taking most of the pictures. 

What it should look like after you cook it. My girls like to cut up like little pizza slices with our pizza cutter,  but you can leave it whole and eat with a fork if you'd like. 

 We made guacamole dip with tomatoes , sour cream and black olives, but use what you like. We also were sure to top it off with a bit of Tabasco sauce. We like our Mexican food spicy.  Also since the Aztec and Mayan Indians were both known for drinking cocoa we topped our food with a glass of wonderful tasting chocolate milk. Yum!

The girls  ( along with Maggie's doll Rebecca) joined us for this wonderful feast this evening. Marilyn was at swim practice and work , and dad sadly couldn't join us as he's getting over the winter ick.

Our Lady of Guadalupe,
Mystical Rose,
make intercession for holy Church,
protect the sovereign Pontiff,
help all those who invoke you in their necessities,
and since you are the ever Virgin Mary
and Mother of the true God,
obtain for us from your most holy Son
the grace of keeping our faith,
of sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life
of burning charity, and the precious gift
of final perseverance.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Feast Day of St. Juan Diego

Feast Day of St. Juan Diego 

Okay, so I'm a little  behind here with my posts lately but I'll get caught up soon.  Yesterday was the feast day of St. Juan Diego.  If you don't know the story of St. Juan Diego , here is a little recap.  

Juan Diego was born in 1474 in Mexico. He was a native Aztec Indian who had converted to the Catholic faith.  One day on December 9, 1531 Juan Diego got up  very early in the morning to walk his 15 miles to Mass.  On his way there, he heard music and followed it up to Tepeyac Hill. There he saw the Blessed Virgin Mary and she identified herself to him as such. She gave Juan a message to give to the bishop ," "I vividly desire that a church be built on this site, so that in it I can be present and give my love, compassion, help, and defense, for I am your most devoted mother . . . to hear your laments and to remedy all your miseries, pains, and sufferings."   Eagerly , Juan ran to the bishop and gave him the message that Mary had given him. The bishop sent him away, and did not believe him at all.  Juan Diego went back to the spot and told the Blessed Mother that they did not believe him. Juan did not feel worthy of this duty as he was a poor man. He asked her to send anyone but him. Mary then told him that she could have picked anyone, but she chose him to send this message. 
So once again Juan Diego went back to the bishop, and still not believing him, wanted him to ask Mary for a miracle. Not knowing what kind of miracle, the bishop told Juan that She would know.  So off he went back home. The next day his uncle, whom he had been living with, had gotten very ill. He thought he was dying and sent Juan off for a priest to come and give him his last rights and to hear his confession.  Juan tried to avoid the spot where he had seen Mary and go a different way.  It truly didn't matter as Mary found him where he was anyways. She asked him why he had not gone back to the bishop and Juan explained to her that his uncle was sick and dying.  She then told Juan to go to the bishop and that his uncle was cured.  Before doing so , Mary asked him to go to the top of Tepeyac Hill and gather some roses to take back to the bishop ( this was amazing in itself because of the time of year it was, and the type of roses that bloomed were not really from that area). Juan climbed the hill, gathered the roses in his tilma and went on his way to give them to the bishop.  While Juan was on his way to see the bishop , Mary visited his uncle and cured him. 
Juan went back to the bishop and layed before him the roses from his tilma (cloak) and they all stood before him amazed. Not only did the roses fall from his tilma , there also was the image of Mary. 
Soon after that a church was built on that very site and thousands converted to the Catholic faith.  

St. Juan was cannonized as a Saint in 2002. Such a long time from when he first saw Our Lady on Tepeyac hill.    Since then Catholics all over have been able to enjoy his Feast Day.  Just like we did yesterday. 

Yesterday we decided to make the tilma that St. Juan wore on that very day. Okay, so its not exactly like the one he wore, but its close enough.   
 Maggie had tons of fun coloring the picture and roses.   These were taken from the same coloring pages that we used a long while back to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Along with the rose coloring page too.  We cut up the grocery bag ( you can ask to get them at your local grocery store) to make the tilma .Click here for instructions.    
While we were working  on this  project, we all sat and listened to our Glory Story of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  This is something my girls never get tired of listening to.
This has been a true gem from Holy Heroes. These audio CD's really liven up the stories that we have read about these glorious Saints.  Even right now you can go to Holy Heroes and get this CD for Free (with a small cost in shipping)  and you get two great stories on one CD.  We are definitely working on our collection of these wonderful stories.  I think our next one will be that of St. Joan of Arc , though I will admit its hard to pick which one to get next because they are all so very well done. 

                                        Maggie posing her tilma after making it. 

After we were finished with that, we usually have a very tasty Mexican meal.  This time I will admit , we cheated with our dinner.  We all decided to get tacos.  In our area  just recently a Taco Bell was built  ( sad , I know). So dad and I went out and we brought home tacos. 
Trust me, it was a BIG hit. 
Yes, I had to learn to really let go and NOT make the meal this time. I will say I felt a bit relieved that someone else was able to make it. Granted with this said, We have one more feast coming up. That would be Our Lady of Guadalupe.  So I'm sure I will be making something tasty for that.    

So there you go. In a nutshell this was our fun feast day.   Its your turn.    What are some of the things  you do to  celebrate the Feast Day of St. Juan Diego with your family? 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Dec 6 St. Nicholas Feast Day

The one thing I've enjoyed quite a bit since becoming Catholic are all the wonderful feast days. You have the opportunity to learn about an amazing Saint and you get to eat. I mean, how can it get any better than that?

One of our favorite feast days ( of many) is the Feast of St. Nicholas.  Each year the girls set out their shoes to see what Saint Nick brings them the next day .
Every year they get a Matchbox car, an orange ( in this case a clementine orange that fits in their shoes) , and  Saint Nicholas coins.
This year I was able to find a download of pictures I was able to put on the gold coins I normally get at the grocery store.
You ask yourself , she has girls, why a Matchbox car?  Well that has just been a tradition that their father started one year when he realized that he was finally outnumbered and we didn't have any real cool boy toys in the house.  The girls don't seem to mind and they like to see what kind of car they get each year.

Now back to the St. Nick coins.  This year I was so happy to find a download of actual Saint Nicholas icons that I could cut out and put on the coins.  This was such a hit with the girls that Maggie tried to take the extra coins I had on our Saint Nick cookie plate because she wanted to collect all of the pictured coins.
I had actually stumbled upon them at the last moment when I was actually looking up something else for our feast for the next day on the website Catholic Cuisine (click this for the link).  They really are beautiful, and I think it truly added to the plainness of the gold coin, and gave it some actual meaning, don't you think?

Also to back track a little bit the girls and I had tons of fun the night before making Saint Nick cookies.  I mean, really the internet is great and so chalk full of amazing ideas out there for this time of the year. How could we not take advantage of some of these already made ideas this year?

So while big sis had to go to work last night. The younger three and I went to work  fixing up some yummy fare  to eat for the next day.  We started first with the Saint Nicholas cookies.  These were very simple to make and easy enough for them to work on their own.  The idea came from another one of my favorite blogs : Shower of Roses.  These were basically made with Nutter Butter cookies, mini chocolate chips , mini M&Ms , red sprinkles and frosting ( the original recipe calls for those melted white chocolate ).

                                            Kat , Maggie and H working on their Santa cookies

      They turned out pretty cute I must say.   We did have to use a plastic sandwich bag to pipe the crosses on the cookies because I some how lost my cake tip, but it worked just fine.  What we did with the cookies was smear the frosting on the bottom and then sprinkled the coconut on. Maggie doesn't care for coconut so I told her to just frost the bottoms and not add the coconut to them. 

I will say if I had read the instructions on the blog better than I did before I went grocery shopping. I would have known that it was melted chocolate and not white frosting. My bad really, but they really did taste very good this way too.

While the girls were finishing the cookies I started in on what was going to be for the next morning.  I also found this recipe on Catholic Cuisine and quickly went to work on it. I mean, cheesecake and cherries all in the same sentence sounds amazing!

What better way to start off our morning with a Cherry Cheese Coffee Cake Candy Cane?

This was so yummy! I made it the night before, put it in the fridge and then when I got up just put it in the oven one more time to warm it up just a little bit. Of course if you like cold pastries you can eat it cold too.  So we started off our day with a breakfast of scrambled eggs, hot cocoa , cherry cheese coffee cake, and the girls always take their clementine oranges and eat them along with their breakfast too.                                                                                                                                                        

After that we had a nice afternoon and the two older girls got ready to go to a Christmas dance over at our local high school. We only live two blocks away from the school and it was something fun for them to go out and do. Not to mention Katie actually had a friend ask her to the dance so the girls got all dressed up and had fun talking with their friends and dancing. How fast time has flown.

In the meantime  while the two older girls were out enjoying the evening. Hannah parted her ways upstairs to play with her tablet and Maggie and I broke out the Saint Nicholas memory game I printed out from the St. Nicholas Center website.  I know I'm always up for a game of memory, and the neat thing is we both ended up with the same amount of cards in the end. So we both won! 

After all of this today. We ended the evening with a good book. There are just so many books out there and I honestly have a long ways to go in our book collection , but I pulled out a book that I had found at a yard sale this summer.  I'm glad I did buy it because it was an amazing little gem. Jacob's Gift by Max Lucado.

The story starts with a young boy who is working in a wood shop (circa before Jesus' birth) and his teacher (Rabbi) notices his one little apprentice  gets into his craft quite a bit. One day his Rabbi announces that whoever builds the best project will work with him to build the new synagogue.  Jacob gets very excited and wants to be the one who wins this spot, he just has to be selected.  As the Rabbi notices this , he reminds Jacob that he has a gift and like all gifts they must be shared with others.  So Jacob gets to work on what will be his best project ever. In the end Jacob faces a tough choice, and with that he finds that a new baby (Jesus) is without a place to sleep.  

This book is definitely a book to get for Christmas time. I love how the Rabbi teaches young Jacob that like all gifts , they are given to us by God, and when you give a gift to one of God's children, that you are indeed giving a gift to God.  

I think this all chalks up our day quite nicely, don't you think?   I'm curious as to what everyone else does for their own Saint Nicholas Day.  Feel free to share in the comments what your family does. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent 2014... Preparing for Christmas

I honestly think that this is our favorite time of the year. We love all holidays, but this time of the year is truly our favorite.  While most people are rushing around getting presents, and attending parties, we have the pleasure of celebrating Advent. 

Unlike most holidays , we get to slow down, pray, focus and prepare. Not for presents, not for snow , but for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Of course while we prepare , we have fun baking cookies ,  making bread, decorating our Christmas tree, and setting up our Advent wreath. 
                                      The girls decorated this year.
I made our wreath back in 2012. So we've had it for a couple of years. It managed to survive our move a year ago though I did have to add new poinsettias to it as we lost one, and get new candles. Over all it still looks as wonderful as the day I made it. Though I do have to invest in some taper holders because the candles I had when I made it were larger at the bottom than the ones I have in it now. 
                                       Yes, as you can see the purple candles seem to be leaning a bit.

The one thing we've added this year is the Holy Heroes Advent Adventure.  I've known about it for a while but have never had the chance to use it until this year. Every year we worked on our own thing , but this year was different . So I am happy to give it over to my girls and not have to do the planning this year. ( Yes, this is  my poor attempt to put a plug in for something fun we've found.) 

I'll admit, I don't mind at all not having to figure out what we are going to do to prepare for Advent this year. Just the thought of not having to Google tons of activities to put together to make Advent meaningful, or having to try and figure out how to explain Advent in a way my children can understand honestly is a great gift in itself.  

 Even though we are getting ready to do Day 3.  I find Holy Heroes  gives me time to enjoy Advent right along with my girls.  Its all right there for me.  What more could I ask for? 
Each day starting on Day 1 they send an email to my inbox. I open it, go to the link and check out the activities, and print anything out we need. They also made it easier this year to buy the workbooks that go along with it to save your poor printer from dying a slow painful ink death. Or if your like me your still going to kill your printer because money is tight, and you wish you could order the workbook  That's alright  though, maybe next year we'll be able to order the workbook to go along with it. 
 Here Maggie is working on her Day 2 work page on Creation.  We watch the videos that go along with it and then do the work pages together. I like how they are set up in levels for various ages. Honestly , she loves to do them all whether they are easy or challenging. The nice part is we get to spend quality time together. 
        Here Maggie is showing her first ornament she is getting ready to hang on her Jesse Tree.

They also have included the Jesse Tree videos and activities with the Advent videos as well.   I have decided to have each of the girls color one of the ornaments each day we watch the videos. That way everyone has had a chance to color a few ornaments for the tree. The nice part is they include an ornament for everyday during Advent.  

Another nice feature  of Holy Heroes are the cute videos they have that explain everything. The actors are children and I think that's what makes it very appealing to my girls. Seeing young children explain the faith in a way they can understand. Its not over their heads and its not beneath them either.  The videos include either an explanation by the Holy Heroes kids ,a cute skit, or even having a Bible verse explained using a visual like  a Lego castle. You just never know what is going to come next each day in your inbox. The videos are not very long at all. So computer time is limited to maybe a maximum of 5 minutes,tops. The videos help them see what it is they are learning about.  

The best part about Holy Heroes is that its available to all for FREE.  The videos are free, the work pages to go along with the videos are free, the activities are free, yes, did I mention its all free? They do offer items you can purchase of your own free will should you decide you'd like to own them, but its NOT necessary to do so to participate in the program. 
   So if you haven't had a chance to try out Holy Heroes, never fear!  You can still join in the fun. A nice feature they have is a calendar where you can click back to the days that have already gone by and you can start from the very beginning. So it will be as if you never missed a thing. 
All and all we are happy to be able to include this program in our Advent season to help us draw closer to God while we wait for Christmas Day. 

We were not paid, nor given anything by Holy Heroes for my little review there. Just stating my own opinion of something that can benefit others during this Christmas Season.