Posts filed under All Saints' Day

All Saints Links and Musings...

Today is a good day. To put it simply... I'm able to sit up and type. I am reminded of when I was a kid and had "good" sick days... the ones where I was sick enough to be relieved of responsibilities but healthy enough to play and read all day. Then there were those "bad" sick days when I just cried in bed wished with all my heart to fall into a state of blissful, ignorant sleep. This week has been mostly like the latter. So I'm calling it all gift and moving on. 

Deep thoughts elude me. I'm going with an All Saints' dump...


I don't consider myself a particularly sentimental person when it comes to stuff... but the loss of 15 years worth of handmade All Saints' costumes was a crushing blow to the delicate balance of my pregnant emotions. I'm over it now (mostly) but am intentionally avoiding thoughts about the countless hours of labor (and cash) that went into all of it. It is a year when I needed to fall back on the huge selection of generic tunics in different sizes and uniquely lovely items that I was ready to be put back into circulation. But alas... 

Gone. Like Elvis and his mom.

And that's not a knock on Elvis. It's a reference to the obscure Switchfoot song, Gone, that plays like clockwork every time I am reminded of the impermanence of stuff and life itself. Because my brain... "like Al Pichino's cash, nothing lasts in this life." If I live a long life and my mind fails me at the end, I imagine that I'll still retain a mighty cache of odd music with which to torment my caregivers.


The children who initially frustrated me by failing to obediently return their last years' costumes to the appropriate storage box... are now finding my full favor upon them as we discover that we haven't lost everything. Thank you, Jesus.


So after a brief (sort of) pity party, I picked myself up by the bootstraps, returned to my couch of nauseas misery, and immediately began looking to eBay to solve my problems. Because, you guys, I no longer even have a basic white tunic or a piece of fabric that can do duty as a veil. I had carefully packed them up... so that we could accidentally donate them

We then trekked to Goodwill where we found one lonely item. After which I returned to my couch. 


So I tried to rebuke that prideful part of me that wants a souped up All Saints' costume showing. Doesn't your fixation on the material aspects of the holy day just fly in the face of the whole purpose of the day? Hmmmm?? Yes. But...

It's a holy day. I'm lousy at making cool things happen on holy days. I am not at all that kind of blogger. This is one of my only claims to success in the whole liturgical year. Detachment? Sure. I just involuntarily detached from 15 years worth of loving costume labors! But I suppose you could say that I'm clinging to the hope that we can still pull off something cool. The kids love it. It's our Halloween replacement. Bring it.


I do promise to share the fruits of this year's mad dash to costume glory in the midst of pregnancy misery... after the fact. I already know now that I will not have anything together in time for a significant sneak peak. What I can offer is stuff I've already done, primarily in the way of explaining our approach to the beautiful pairing of two of the most excellent holy days of the year: All Saints' and All Souls' Day. And also why Halloween doesn't make the cut. There are multiple reasons...

1) Practical... Two amazing holy days in a row is pretty much all this mama can handle. Since Halloween isn't a holy day, it gets the boot without much thought.

2) Theological... Not claiming that the Church specifically teaches one thing or the other about a secular celebration of Halloween (she does not), but applying our understanding of our Catholic faith to the practical decisions we make regarding participation in culture.

3) Spiritual... I've only got so much energy to bring to the table. I'm going to invest where I see the greatest dividends.

I've written a few times on these topics but was finally able to capture last year what was really at root of my emotional and intellectual response. It's not an argument about the historical roots of Halloween, but rather the more important question of: How does Halloween impact the way we encounter Christ in our culture?

I'd love it if you'd take a read. This really isn't about fighting over family preferences, but about how can we all better serve the Lord in our unique ways. My response won't look exactly like yours. But the conversation is worth having...


Here's the real power behind the costumes and cupcakes... the great feast of All Saints! I regret that it has so often been reduced to the-holy-day-that-we-celebrate-during-the-day-at-our-Catholic-school and (maybe naively) hope for a revival of what could be a day full of great joy and powerful graces for the entire Catholic community. I've written far less than I've wanted to over the years about this blessing of a holy day... certainly in no small part due to exhaustion from pulling all nighters making handmade costumes... but here is a summary of last year. I love the memory because it shows the how the dynamic energy and love and talent of youth - toddlers to teenagers - can positively impact culture.


Ah... the great overlooked beautiful holy day! Let's bring it back, shall we? I've been seeing a revival in recent years but it is TOUGH to find the energy right after All Saints' (and often Halloween) festivities. Not many moms have that kind of energy. That's one of the reasons we give Halloween the boot and we still often find ourselves tacking on All Souls' as an afterthought. My ideal All Souls' Day activity? The cemetery... hands down. Hoping we can make it this year.


There are many, many great resources out there for this one-two punch of holy day excellence. However, when I am running short on time (and I always am), my one-stop shopping for feast day resources is Shower of Roses. Jessica's site isn't just a collection of fluffy craftsy stuff... but activities and resources that truly reflect the depth of beauty of our liturgical year. Definitely look up her All Saints' and All Souls' posts! HERE

Posted on October 23, 2015 and filed under All Saints' Day, All Souls' Day, Liturgical Year.

To be a saint... will it. {And take lots of pictures}

All Hallows' Eve. 2014.

We drove to Mass in the cold rain, costume pieces sticking up here and there and a toddler letting us know we hadn't planned nap time well. It is our family tradition to attend the vigil Mass of All Saints' Day in full costume and then go directly to our celebratory party. All the various opinions about secular Halloween vs. All Hallows' Eve aside... it's often just a crummy day for trick-or-treating in Cleveland. My heart went out to all the little Elsas... their pretty dresses covered by jackets... and their hair imperiled by raindrops. Someday, someone will get smart and move the secular holiday to July for us Northerners. It will kill two birds with one stone: 1) We won't have to decide between awesome costumes and warm/waterproof costumes and 2) We'll have the weekend free to devote to only ONE costume related party that happens to fall on one of the greatest feasts of the Church year. (Since some of you might not know where I stand on that. wink. wink.)

I dropped the kids off outside the church and kept driving in circles with the exhausted toddler. At one point, I stopped the van to climb in back and nurse her. Because there just isn't any use in bringing a hungry and tired one-year old into a quiet church until her issues are settled. A woman stopped in the rain to walk around my running van. Not able to see me behind the tinted windows, she became suspicious and wrote down my license plate number. Yes, I get it. Big white rumbling vans with tinted windows in church parking lots are creepy... especially on Halloween. I laughed and then stopped laughing... wondering if I would have to talk to a police officer while nursing a toddler dressed like St. Zita. 

Fortunately, I got our pictures taken before the downpour. With my low tech camera. My success to failure ratio in the cloudy conditions was about 1:40 since the random raindrops kept throwing my ipad out of focus. What a relief to finally get in the car and on our way after that effort! And after "someone" broke a house window with "something" (a first for us). And after Our Lady of the Snows fell out of the van and got her costume wet. And after a crying toddler increased her volume. And after... oops... I forgot to eat lunch...

HEROIC VIRTUE, DON'T FAIL ME NOW! (Open secret: The real purpose behind All Saints' Day festivities and costumes is to test out our virtue muscle. Weak and floppy? Yes. All ye holy men and women, pray for us!)

I drove the van... and it didn't stall. (Thank you, St. Christopher!) And then we attended a wonderful party at which I got a bunch of very dark and pixelated photos. Someday a DSLR. Santa?? 

I'm posting youngest to oldest here. A couple kids have noticeably more pics than the others. It's not because I love them more. It's because I made their costumes MYSELF and I'm preserving the memories I made slaving over the sewing machine. In other words, I am very proud (pray for me) and am giving in to the inclination to show off my small successes...

ST. ZITA... 

The idea for Peaches' costume came from a desire to make her a pinafore style dress that she can wear through the Winter. My fabric came from a gently used men's button down shirt and some scrap fabric and lace that have been in my stash for years. Pinterest tutorials set me in the right direction but I ended up modifying in order to make it perfectly Zita... and Peaches. Total cost: FREE (because I have no idea what I paid for the remnants and eyelet.)

We borrowed Cookie's spatula. "Give us this day our daily bread."

The kerchief was a scrap from the shirt sleeve attached to a bit of FOE (fold over elastic) because it is soft and gentle on a baby's head. Don't you just love the back of the dress? Buttons and pocket intact from the original shirt. The whole project was about 2-4 hours. It's very hard to tell total time when sewing between daily duties but that's my best guess.


I love adorable store bought costumes as much as I love handmade... because the former allows me more time to indulge in the latter. This king knight costume has been in our stash for a few years and I do like it, particularly because it fits multiple sizes. The sword and shield were gifts to Cub last year for Christmas.


Another easy winner. The dress was a garage sale find with sparkle added for our Lord of the Rings party. The cape was worn by Button for her cold weather First Holy Communion. The flower was donated by a big sister.


Another lovely child who put together her costume mostly unassisted. The dress was a garage sale find and a Lord of the Rings party repurpose. Although she seems to have grown a bit since then and her sister had to take out the adjusted hem. My beautiful people... always growing...


Except for the rose brooch and arrows, this costume is entirely a repurpose from the Lord of the Rings party. Aragorn baptized into Hubert. I made the cloak way back when. The rest of the outfit was borrowed or thrifted. The bow and arrows are his. 


I almost helped her with her costume. But then I didn't. Because she had already done it. I let her into my fabric stash and she designed and stitched up something rather lovely. Rather.


There are lots of pictures for this one because I spent the most time on it. This is how I did it: I spent about 8 hours buying fabric, fretting over what I should do with it, researching DIY patterns on the internet, and being generally grumpy with my kids. Then I threw my hands in the air, admitted defeat and sent Professor and Crash to the fabric store to buy a couple patterns. Great decision... 

There are 7 basic elements to this costume: 1) White Hooded alb 2) White Scapular 3) Black Cape 4) Black Hooded cowl 5) Black belt/rope 6) Tonsure 7) Rosary.

I modified a basic costume tunic pattern by adding a hood. The cloak and cowl were modified from a vampire style costume pattern. For materials, I used white cotton and a lovely black wool/poly blend that I scored for 65% off. This is not a throw-away costume. He will wear it every year of his life and provide photographic proof to me within a week of All Saints Day. Or else.



You know they all come from a big family because no one is freaking out about a one-year old throwing herself (voluntarily) off the step in a fit of toddler rage. And they caught her before she landed. Impressive. You know I'm the mother of a large family because I just stood there and took pictures.


A harried-hoodie-wearing-big-van-driving-homeschooling-mama-with-sleeping-baby. So... did I pull it off??

Chewing on a toy found on the van floor. Waiting for the cops to arrive. They never did. My guess is that they were preoccupied with the gaggle of preteen boys running through the parking lot wearing black hoodies and white hockey masks and wielding bloody plastic machetes.

I hope that your feast day celebrations were wonderful! Link to your costume/celebration posts if you'd like in the comments. I'd love to see them. Costumes are not necessary to enter into the richness of the liturgical year but they sure do add to the fun and make the feast days memorable for the kids! And for the big people. Sometimes it even raises the most important of life's questions. Such as... Do Dominicans really wear plaid shorts under their habits??

Posted on November 4, 2014 and filed under Liturgical Year, Family Life, All Saints' Day.

Dancing Among the Graves {All Souls' Day}

I love going to a Catholic cemetery. And I believe it is important to take the children. Unfortunately, the first experience many kids have of tombstones involves frightening Halloween decorations -- bloody limbs reaching out of the dirt and webs and spiders everywhere -- encouraging an association between burial and horror. I'd like to teach mine instead that death is the place where God greets souls and welcomes the pure of heart into His kingdom. And to encourage them to pray for those in purgatory. Sin is real. Hell is real. But there is no fear of it rising materially in the grassy rows of headstones. 

A cemetery is a place of sorrow and goodbyes. But it is also a place of deepest prayer, serenity, and hope. As they grow, my little ones will learn soon enough how quickly the soul can turn from Christ. And how terrifying that can be. So I hope to give them the gift of Truth and Beauty and clear the cobwebs from places that should be hallowed.

I encourage you to take your children to visit a Christian cemetery. Teach them about holy death. Read the names together and touch the engravings. Pray for the living and the dead.

We picked a recent sunny day and visited our Matthew's grave site. I didn't want to leave. Not because I think he lives there. No. I know that his soul has departed and his body decayed. But because it is beautiful to think of him and to be in that place of peaceful silence. He was born to new life in 2009. My tears are for me, not for him. Because I know the truth about holy death.

We cleared the earth from around the edges and wiped the grave stone where debris and dirt had gathered. Then we circled around his memorial and my husband led us in prayer. The children were reminded that they had a brother. And that this world is not the only place where siblings dance. 

When you take your children to the cemetery for the first time, choose a cheerful day and let them run in the grass and explore the names. Let them dance and play respectfully. Let them laugh and wonder out loud. I remember the time that one of our sons discovered a tombstone bearing his full name. And he marveled and wondered about that man. What had he looked like? Where was his soul now? It did not frighten him... it drew him in. Not to death, but to the life of the soul.

Our Matthew is in the baby section where the Catholic cemeteries bury all ages of babies without charge. The little stones are covered with flowers and stuffed animals and birthday cards. On this October day, there were little pumpkins and scarecrows and pretty mums. There was an inflatable green dinosaur and a few hot wheels for the boy who left his parents at 5 years old. 

I cried. I always do a little. But my children didn't. They ran and marveled and prayed with us.

Dear Parents... please teach your children that when the soul is right with God, that death is good and holy. And to walk among the headstones is a walk of solidarity with the love of the saints for their heavenly Father. There are no monsters there. No souls remain to walk and terrify. They have been judged and moved on. There is only the sorrow of the living, the love and hope and prayer that we bring when we come... 

... And the peace of Christ which passes all understanding. 

My children know the cemetery as a place of tearful goodbyes but also afternoon sunshine, and prayer. Their brother's body is buried there. And he is beautiful.

May your feast of All Souls' be filled with joy, hope and may you enter deeply into the mystery of what it means to give all for Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God!

For an excellent November activity to help children remember to pray and sacrifice for those who have died, check out the Ora Pro Nobis candy boxes at Shower of Roses.