Ants and candles

Original artwork!

Hello readers! Are you still there?  I'm glad you are!

I just wanted to let you know that I have still been posting YouTube videos. I plan to complete the St. Joseph Baltimore First Communion Catechism and then re-evaluate if I want to continue teaching this way. It's kinda fun actually, and doesn't take a whole lot of time. However, I did not anticipate the quarantine and having all my kids home again so soon. Plus, the volunteer job I have did not slow down. It was at its most intense at exactly the same time we all had to shelter in place. So, my plan for once a week turned into once a month.

Here's a link to my channel if you're interested: Holly's YouTube Channel

I also thought you may be interested in a few thoughts I had jotted down and didn't complete a while back. I've added a bit more to it just now.


A few minutes have opened up, so I've decided to sit down to add my thoughts on the corona quarantine. Unlike many others it seems, my life actually got much, much busier after the threat of the virus hit. The most intense work of my volunteer job as the enrollment coordinator for my kids' school was not phased since I coordinate it all from home on a laptop anyway. The lottery went on as scheduled, as did re-enrollment. So, while others had a little more time to enroll their children in the charter school, I was furiously working behind the scenes. All the extra work would have been fine if I did not have to also coordinate home school online as well. By the second week of the stay-at-home order, I was so sick of technology!

In my mind, as I ping ponged from task to task (almost all of which involved technology), I continued to recall an ant pile I had encountered as a child. The ant pile crawled with red and black ants and I, with a child's curiosity, wanted to see what happened when the ant hill was destroyed, so I kicked it over.

What I saw then reminded me of what I was observing in my fellow humans (and myself too). It was as if our ant hill had been kicked over and we were all frantically running around to build it back up again. Everyone was breathless as they zoomed back and forth to Walmart to check for more toilet paper. Adam walked in with armloads of macaroni and cheese, Ramon noodles, hand sanitizer (he called it liquid gold) and paper towels. It was crazy.

Things have settled down a bit now, but at that frantic time I recalled something I had read about St. Francis.
A traveling pilgrim saw Saint Francis working in his garden, hoeing a row of beans. The traveler, a spiritual seeker, asked the saint, “What would you be doing right now if you knew this was the last day of your earthly life?”  Saint Francis replied, “I would continue hoeing this row of beans.” And he proceeded to do just that.
Whenever I feel that breathless, oh-no-the-ant-nest-just-got-kicked-over feeling, I say to myself, "ok, back to hoeing my beans." Which basically means do my duty. Go through my normal routines and take care of my family.

It was also during those first crazy corona days that I drew the masterpiece above. Notice the darkness around the candle says corona. A friend saw my picture and she gave me the following quote.

"All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle."

Shine on.


St. Patrick Breastplate Prayer

In the last episode of Scattering Agates, I promised a link to the St. Patrick's Breastplate prayer (below). If you have missed the other four Scattering Agate YouTube videos, you can find them here 

St. Patrick Breastplate Prayer

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

I arise today, through
God's strength to pilot me,
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

I summon today
All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul;
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.


The First Pancake

I just completed my very first lesson on my YouTube channel, also titled Scattering Agates. I am so excited about this new adventure and also so nervous. As I type these words, I am still shaking from the recording session I just did.

I compare this first episode to that first pancake (pictured above: an actual first pancake). You know, the one no one wants because the first pancake is usually a little burnt, or not cooked enough, or a wonky shape.  Eventually, it gets eaten and it tastes just as good as the others even though it is not perfect. In fact, with pancakes as with other creations, there rarely is a perfect production. Listening to one of my favorite musical artists the other day, I thought about how they have a lot of good songs, but only a handful of great songs. Artists of all types produce great works because they do it. If I stopped making pancakes because the first one turned out bad, or worse, not at all out of fear they could turn out bad and my kids might refuse to eat, people would starve!

I've noticed my kids, who are hardly great at anything (yet) because they are young, have moments of bravery and inspiration only to slink back into themselves out of fear of failure and rejection. Fear stops people from doing a lot of things, but it seems that fear of failure and rejection are barriors we don't readily recognize in ourselves or others. For instance, I might tell someone I would never jump out of an airplane because I'm afraid of heights, but I would not tell someone I am afraid to teach religion lessons on a YouTube channel because I might fail or be rejected. Well, I actually would tell someone that, but normally people don't divulge these types of fears, and often don't realize that's what stops them in the first place, at least this has been my own experience.

Coupled with fear of failure and rejection is the expectation of perfection. My jaw practically falls to the floor any time one of my children gets upset that they can't do something right the first time. I remember when one of my kids refused to do his school work when he messed up once. It was a new subject!! I tried not get mad because it was so utterly ridiculous. I began to repeat this question to him: "Are you God?" He'd say he wasn't and then I'd tell him, "That's right, because only God is perfect." Another tactic I use with my kids to help them to persevere is to point out how often babies fall down when learning to walk. It takes time and practice to do anything well.

All this has got me wondering how many times have I been stuck because of fear? How many exciting projects and creations have I missed out on, or others did not get to benefit from, because of fear of failure, rejection and not doing it perfectly? Too many! That is why I am going ahead with this YouTube channel idea. Instead of allowing fear to stop me, I am just plodding ahead. I'm not sure how it will be received or where it will end up, but for now I'm ignoring fear.

Here is a link to the Scattering Agates YouTube channel. My first video is up. It's a little burnt, and has a wonky shape, but you can just eat it anyway! I don't want you to starve!


Purple & White, Darkness & Light

Welcome to the season of Advent! The season of joy, hope, and expectation has arrived. This year it came very quickly after Thanksgiving. I had to hurry to eat the last piece of pumpkin pie to make room for the Christmas cookies.

So, what are you giving up for Advent? 

But wait, you might ask. I'm supposed to give something up?  Isn't that what we do for Lent? I thought Advent was a time of preparation for Christmas? Isn't it supposed to be a joyful and hopeful season? A season where we light the three purple candles and the one pink to prepare for the coming of Christ, the light of the world?

You are correct in assuming this about Advent because it is that too, but let's reflect on those purple candles we will light until Christmas.

The Church has assigned a color to each season of the liturgical year. The seasons of Advent and Lent were given the color purple. Purple is not only a color of natural depth and beauty, its traditional symbolism is also rich with meaning. It represents royalty, agony and penance.

In ancient times purple was the color of royalty because of its scarcity. In John's gospel, it is a royal robe of purple the Roman soldiers place on Jesus, when they also crown him with thorns and mock him, calling him King of the Jews.
"And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him." (John 19:2).

Another meaning for purple is sorrow or agony. In the Church of All Nations, which sits in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem, the very rock Christ prayed in anguish over the night before he died is exposed. Here is how one online travel guide describes it:
"An atmosphere of sorrowful reverence pervades the Church of All Nations. The architect, Antonio Barluzzi, evoked the night-time of the Agony by leaving the interior in semi-darkness, relieved only by subdued natural light filtered through violet-blue alabaster windows."
Those violet-blue (I'd call them purple) alabaster windows made a lasting impression on me when I visited this church in the late 1990's. I remember as I roamed around this church by myself, I could imagine how alone Christ must have felt in those long hours before His arrest. Whenever I am feeling desperate or alone, I recall those deep purple windows and Christ bowed over that rock.

Lastly, and most importantly, purple in the liturgical year represents penance. Penance is defined in the Modern Catholic Dictionary as, "[t]he virtue or disposition of heart by which one repents of one's own sins and is converted to God."  Penance is clearing out the things that keep our hearts closed off to the Divine, such as sin and disordered attachments, sort of like I had to clear out the pumpkin pie to make room for the cookies! The liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent give us time the time and space to prepare our hearts for the important feasts to come: Christmas and Easter.

That is why I began by asking what you gave up for Advent. We can give things up that we are strongly attached to that make us too comfortable or too distracted get rid of the gunk that has piled up in our hearts. Many of the activities we occupy ourselves with are just avoidance techniques. We don't like to face our sins and our wounds. It's not fun. But, just as we prepare our houses for special guests by clearing off the counters and scrubbing the dirt and dust from behind the canisters of flour, so we give our souls a good cleaning, or more accurately, allow Christ to clean our souls by God's grace (sacraments, especially confession, are where we receive the grace we need for this necessary task).

Once we clear the soul of sin and attachments, we can then fill the extra time and space with prayer, spiritual reflection and quiet. The purple peace can then penetrate our lives and wrap around our hearts to heal and sooth our weary souls. It is then that the great feasts of Christmas and Easter can be celebrated with gusto as we throw off the dark purple and embrace the light white (the liturgical color for feast days).

Enjoy Scattering Agates: Episode 5 all about Advent: