Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Good Saint Anne

Although not mentioned in the bible, Catholic tradition holds that Saint Anne and Saint Joachim were parents of the Blessed Mother, the pure and holy vessel that brought Jesus, their grandson, into a sinful world. Further stated is that they were a source of love and comfort to the family during his childhood. Were they there when he took his first steps? Did he race to dive into their arms when they visited? Did they tell him stories of prophets and kings from his rich Jewish culture? Did Joachim conspire with Joseph to surprise him with toys crafted of wood? I like to think they did all of those things. Jesus loved his grandparents!

The parish of my childhood honors Saint Anne with an annual nine day novena that concludes on her feast day, July 26th. The parishioner sponsored Society of Saint Anne welcomes all, as it has since 1940, collectively honoring the grandmother of Jesus and praying for members both living and deceased. An elegant gold and white satin banner bears the signature of each devotee. It is ceremoniously unfurled and carried in procession during a closing ritual that I have often attended.....

It is dusk, and candles in white paper cups flicker like wings of tiny angels. I stand silently with others; expectant. A murmur of prayer from the altar. The sanctifying rite of incense. Elevation of the ornately encased Saint Anne relic. A sweep of heraldry as the banner cascades into place. My maternal grandmother once placed her name upon that field, as did my mother and I. We will be included in petitions for God's mercy upon souls long after I, too, am gone.

I take my place in the procession as we exit, row by row. My voice is one of dozens, accompanied by haunting, timeless strains....

To kneel at thine altar in faith we draw near
Led onward by Mary, thine daughter so dear
Oh Good Saint Anne
We call on thine name,
Thy praises loud thine pilgrims proclaim

I pass row upon row of pews. The memorable fifth one, my place on the morning I accepted first communion as a child of seven years. The ones that held me when we buried dad and mom. Ahead is the holy water font where my sisters and I baptized our dolls, slipping into the comforting Saturday afternoon silence of this place during an era of innocence from my long ago past. And here stands the familiar bank of petition candles. I came home to light these in desperation, hoping for final exam week help when God temporally ceased to be important in my life during self-absorbed college years.

Miserere mei, Deus

We move outside now, into a neighborhood once solidly working class, but distinctively less so today. Along this same side walkway I hurried home from parish school, pleated plaid skirt flying. In season, jacket pockets full of chestnuts from the sheltering row of trees my own grandfather helped plant as a Lithuanian immigrant founding member of this congregation. If I dallied late to help Sister clean the chalkboards, I'd sometimes cross paths with furniture factory workers headed home on foot. Before massive wooden doors of the church, they'd pause, lunch pails in hand, to reverently remove a hat and offer a respectful bow. "Within these walls, my Lord dwells." My father and grandfather would have done the same thing. Perhaps that is why I am always happiest here. This is my home. My heritage.

Back within shelter, I reclaim my pew -  my favorite. The one I occupied the year a guest priest, a vivacious young Nigerian, delivered a homily that changed my life. "Jesus is your brother, no?" he challenged. "Well then, Saint Anne is your grandmother too!" Hmmm. I had never thought of her that way. "Who," he continued, with a distinct twinkle in his eye, "has ever been turned away by a grandmother for anything they've asked for?" I liked that. It was true! "A novena is a petition," Father energetically concluded, "Go ahead! Ask your grandmother for whatever you want!" And so I did. "You are a grandmother, Saint Anne," I reasoned, "I want to be one too!" Well and good. But, I am not sure, even today, what prompted me to bolster my request with an addendum. Perhaps it was the urgency of Father's robust words that invigorated my plea. "Twins, please, Saint Anne! I want to be a grandmother of twins."

One year later, in late August, I greeted the first of my grandchildren. Twin boys. Additional babies followed, a total of eight today - a ninth on the way. Enough for everybody! That number includes twin sisters for the boys. Two sets! I'd only requested one! When the irreverently-crazy part of my brain is active and I contemplate the mounting number of Easter baskets and Christmas stockings I am now obliged to fill, I'm tempted to send a playful message to Saint Anne: "All right! Thank you! But you can stop now!" But of course, I won't. This is my grandmother we're talking about. She knows what I need. And, with approval from her divine grandson, she will always intercede for me. That, with all my heart, is what I believe.

To all who invoke thee, now lend us an ear
Thou soothest the sorrows of all who draw near

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Dino Egg Diggers!

See that little blue one up in front? We had to pay him to sit there!
And that little red one? Him, too. To not snatch Ava's shovel! 

The dinosaur couple who live in my backyard woods are a curious twosome. Like most normal reptiles, they lay their eggs here and there, and then frolic away, leaving them to fend for themselves. But family legend asserts that this grandma has conversed with that parental pair, and is now the keeper of an extraordinary secret: These are not, by any means, common, garden variety dino eggs!

But how was that to be confirmed? The only way to solve this nagging mystery, it seemed, was to invite the grandchildren to helmet up, shovel up, team up, and follow a twisting and turning trail of clues to discover for themselves what lies within those ovate forms!

And they're off!

Plenty of parents to go around, serving as assistants who read initial clues, such as.....

Jump up and down, yell "DINOSAUR!"
Hop into the woods, 10 steps more
Flags in a row wait up ahead
Dig for a clue by the one that's red!  

Locating proper places proved productive! Unearthed eggs yielded additional clues!

Close your eyes and count to ten
Stop to think, then do it again
Look for a flag up ahead that's blue
Tied to the tree is a clue for you!

The choice was yours - mommy or daddy could read your clue - or you could give it a go by yourself!

Stay on the path that's long and narrow
Dig where you see a big yellow arrow!

Arrows and flags dotted the trail, and each happy hunter was assigned a dino symbol. The sight of that familiar shape assured that your feet were stomping in the right direction!

Look for your dino symbols up ahead
That's where you need to dig instead!

One by one, the search paid off! We started findin' and haulin' em in! Some were almost bigger than we were!

This picture of Kaylee reminds me of a wee fairy tale forest gnome who lives inside a mushroom and forages for berries during the day!

If you were just a little guy on your first expedition, it was nice to have daddy along. Ryan's egg was laid up in a tree by a pterodactyl! No way could he reach it by himself!

Nick had no trouble haulin' home the goods, but it was nice to have daddy admire his accomplishments!

Just don't think girls can't keep up with boys!
oh yes we can!

One might think that an egg camouflaged in foliage green would be tricky to find, but Brielle wasn't defeated by that tactic!

We gathered back at camp and took a head-and-egg count. Eight of each! Good! Our entire crew was anxious to dig in and shovel out!

Ava tore a little peep hole for herself. After all, it's good to be cautious. No Easter bunny has ever left eggs this big for us!

Piles of wrapped goodies spilled from each egg.

Bubble wands! Stickers! Lego sets! Star Wars key chains! Craft kits! Bath tub toys! Books! Art supplies! Fairy play sets! Candy!.......

And smiles all around, because these dino egg diggers delivered dynamite sized success!

This wasn't our first foray into the woods seeking fun-filled eggs! We did the same three years ago, posting it all, full of details on how to host your own dig at an event no grandchild will ever forget! Here's where you'll find it all!