Sunday, April 19, 2009

Four little surprises









Last Thursday master 7 woke me to tell me that the easter chicks had finally come. 
He and dh had put two broody hens at the back of our silky bantam enclosure with about 8 eggs. We weren't sure if any of them would hatch as bantams are notoriously broody and will sit on practically anything.(ours have tried to hatch apples,ping-pong balls and even marbles!).
Unfortunately or as usual with our bantams we weren't exactly prepared for the arrival of babies. 

However a friend lent us two rabbit hutches which we lined with tarps and filled with clean straw and wood shavings.Why two hutches? Well you see the two broody hens were still being broody and not the least bit "clucky". They totally ignored the little chicks , concentrating all their efforts on keeping us away from the unhatched eggs.We decided therefore to put the hens in the larger hutch with "their" eggs and the babes in the other under a lamp and with the heater on in our schoolroom.
All poultry seemed to settle well until the next morning when ds again woke me with the startling news that there was a lot of noise coming from an unhatched egg.
 Unfortunately he had removed the egg from the mothers. Also he had started to help the chicken out of the shell.
We discovered this was all wrong when oldest son did a quick internet check on looking after newborn chicks. the nutrients that remain in the shell are consumed by the chick thus enabling it to last several days without food. Also when we went to put the wet chick back with the hens they rejected it viscously and started pecking at its neck.

So for Friday we all became surrogate mothers to this little chick which surprisingly we named Baby. Baby loved putting its head under our forefinger and curling up in our palm. We were convinced she(note the message we are subtly giving all 4..."you are hens!!")thought she was of the species "hand",as anytime anyone put their hand near her she would come cheeping to it.
However she did need to learn about her sisters and so the following day was spent reintroducing her to the idea that she was a silky bantam chick



Success has been achieved and all 4 are happily eating, and cheeping in their little play-pen. And the mothers? After removing the eggs we put them back with the rest of our brood of mature silky bantams.


Monday, April 13, 2009

The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection

I hadn't heard of this painting before today, but look into the eyes of these two apostles, I see such a mixture of conflicting emotions; expectancy, fear,....and hope; "ah at last maybe it really was true after all" and resurrection in the hearts of believers that starts and grows and trusts in That which is eternal!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Home Sweet Home!

Easter 2000

Dear L,

So now we have all been Catholics for just over a week! And as I said to our oldest son, D.today, I don’t ever want to loose the wonder and magic that we feel at having come into God’s Church! It feels SO right and also so wonderful and awe-inspiring that our Heavenly Father could have given us this special gift!

Last Saturday was such a special day for us. We went early in the morning to Confession. We were all so nervous that the car journey was rather an anxious one!!

What we hadn’t thought about was that in order to receive this sacrament we had to be members of the church, so privately at the same time as confession Father Aiken welcomed all those who weren’t, into the church. When C.whispered in my ear that he was now a Catholic I just felt all goose-bumpy and teary! And of course as each one came out each was welcomed by the rest of us! Sort of like our own private homecoming.

I forgot to say that Father A was just saying Confession for us at this time, so when another priest came up thinking he was supposed to be saying confessions he got a bit confused (he is rather ancient and just a little bit doddery…no disrespect meant though) So C.explained to him the special circumstances and then he had to welcome us and congratulate us. As he shook hands with C.he said” you’ll never look back you know”. Then the lady who had come to do the flowers also heard so she welcomed us too! (All very humbling for us shy types!)

Father A then took us to the front of the church and went through the service with us. We told him the saints the older three had chosen for confirmation. We are very lucky, we think, to have such a conscientious priest and also one who is not fazed when things don’t go smoothly to plan (as you will see later!)

Then it was a trip along to the florist who had made the girls’ hairpieces. They chose simple bands of white rose buds with dark blue ribbon to match their dresses. (Forgot to mention that I spent about an hour and a half plaiting the girls’ hair in about thirty plaits a-piece!!!

We arrived home to another phone-call from Anna and Mark to let us know they were still praying for us in our last few hours as protestants so of course we had to tell them with great excitement that we were now all Catholics!! I should say that these wonderful friends contacted us every day the week before Easter to encourage us and pray for us…I’m not sure who was getting the more excited as the hours went by!!

Needless to say no Cromb was very hungry Saturday afternoon, so rather than have our usual Sabbath meal we ate a bread and cheese snack and then slowly started to get dressed.

Here I should digress to say C.and I have different ideas about getting somewhere on time. When back in ’93 we went on a holiday to New Zealand my wonderful husband would have been at the airport the night before (!) to ensure we got there. I have a more laid –back approach, which I am beginning to see, is not always easy to live with either.

So back to those sixty odd plaits that had to now be undone and brushed out…. But I think we got to Mass almost on time and Father Aiken very graciously welcomed us and showed us to our seats, in the front row, that had been reserved for us. The boys looked so handsome in their black trousers and white shirts and ties (why Clive even wore a tie…and he hadn’t even done that when we were married!) and the girls too looked very nice in their navy-blue pinafores with cream long-sleeved blouses underneath. Even Toby had formal clothes to match his brother, complete with black bow tie and braces.

But I shouldn’t digress too much about clothes I know although I will always be grateful for advice to wear something special as it really did feel like we were honoring Jesus in this.

On our seats we found beautifully decorated candles for each of us. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble, with tiny sprays of flowers and golden ribbon. Again although he didn’t do them personally I’m sure Father A. was behind seeing all this was done. We next met Adam who would be coming into the church with us. Please pray for him as his family is not Catholic and although he says they have not been actively against his step it does make practicalities in a family difficult. How wonderful though to meet a young man so convicted to make this journey on his own. Very inspiring for our young boys also. Like us, speaking to him later, he knew it was a step he just had to make.

Then very shortly after this the Easter Vigil began. We have never attended this service before and although we had heard what was going to happen, and also although we had attended services on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, it was the most moving service we have ever been part of. Speaking to C. after I likened it to our marriage service, one of those things you just want to live again and again.

I know I’ve already gone on long enough for an e-mail letter, so I’ll just add highlights that stand out a little more than the rest!! Having people we had gotten to know do some of the readings was special. Two ladies especially stand out as they had put on a beautiful afternoon tea when we had visited Father Aiken on the Tuesday. They are always so kind and thoughtful and seem to know intuitively how to make things nice.

I haven’t got all the parts of the service in front of me but I remember when we prayed the litany of the saints and we asked in particular those saints that our three children had chosen to pray for us that I felt a bit emotional and also had a feeling of the wonderful continuity of God’s church/the timelessness too of it that you just don’t get as a protestant.

All this time after a quick feed from me, T. had been asleep in C’s arms. But now he chose to wake up! I tried to calm him with a quick feed but nothing doing this boy was not going to be left out in our reception into the Church. Just before we were asked to stand I looked around for Anna to take Toby but she was out disciplining one of her youngsters! So unfortunately Adam had to say” I believe and profess all that the Holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God” over T.’s loud proclaiming and so did the rest of us until I was able to sit down with H.and C. while the rest of the family and Adam were confirmed.

That too was a very special point that I had to swallow hard when Father Aiken said to Duncan” Thomas Moore be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit”, to our oldest daughter “Catherine Laboure be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” and to Andrew “Dominic Savio be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. To come from a very austere Baptist through to a symbolic only Anglican and now into His Church is to quote an over-used expression “AWESOME”!!

And then of course the culmination of all those months that looking back seemed to have flown by but at the time sometimes seemed very long, to receive all of us, each one of us our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: no more pretence in our Anglican waiting no more remembrance only in our Baptist waiting and no more blessings only in our months of attending Dulwich Parish. But Jesus, Himself really here now. I will never have words eloquent enough to do justice to this. For me that first time home it was just like as I said to Him “ Oh Jesus, now I know what has been missing in my life”, that He said to me “my daughter, I have been looking forward and waiting for you for all eternity, welcome home”

At the end of the service so many people came up and welcomed us and congratulated us. It was very humbling when they said “and all those Sundays when we watched you come up for a blessing, and now here you are”

Oh all those good people who had been faithfully praying for us coming into the church. One dear older gentleman quietly said to me “and as a mother you must be just so happy” ;that is something special I will treasure that a man could empathize like that.

Our friends had given us a beautiful crucifix as a welcome gift. And a young friend of theirs gave us a Catholic Bible. A dear little nun (I just mean she is small of stature) wished us welcome in a quiet sweet way. Several people expressed that they hoped they would be able to get to know us and were looking forward to doing so. One lovely lady said she “just counted it a privilege to have sat next to us a few weeks ago”(perhaps I should invite her to come stay with us to “really “meet us!! I think we must have been the last to leave, but as we floated back to our car Father Aiken called out cheekily “oh look at all those Catholics!” to which I responded “Yes isn’t it wonderful”!

We had invited some protestant friends back for a late supper and of course they asked a few questions. Actually they were pretty good really but having met with other friends since I know that many are finding it hard to match Clive and Alison who always seemed such Bible believing Christians with a church that as every good protestant knows involves so much superstitious mumbo-jumbo!

Easter Sunday we spent with the H’.s and their extended family. That was so gracious of them to include us in what they usually keep as a family celebration. We walked into their house to the “Halleluiah Chorus” and beautiful banners that welcomed us into the church. We all enjoyed a wonderful day.

Each day that goes by C.and I have to talk about this wonderful thing that has happened, and our children are just so happy to be Catholic. Caleb said a few days before Easter “oh I can hardly wait until Saturday” and then on the way home Saturday night he said again “isn’t it so absolutely wonderful to be Catholic at last”

Well I’m sorry that this description of our Easter seems so focused on us rather than on the Lord but we really are just about bursting with gratefulness for what he has done for us. We would love to hear about your Easter celebrations. Thankyou for your many prayers,I have really felt them!

Sorry if this is rather a long reply to your query, as you can see the answer is “yes”!

Love,

Alison

Friday, April 10, 2009

0 Deus, ego amo te


0 GOD, I love thee, I love thee-
Not out of hope of heaven for me
Nor fearing not to love and be
In the everlasting burning.
Thou, thou, my Jesus, after me
Didst reach thine arms out dying,
For my sake sufferedst nails, and lance,
Mocked and marred countenance,
Sorrows passing number,
Sweat and care and cumber,
Yea and death, and this for me,
And thou couldst see me sinning:
Then I, why should not I love thee,
Jesu, so much in love with me?
Not for heaven's sake;
not to be out of hell by loving thee;
Not for any gains I see;
But just the way that thou didst me
I do love and I will love thee:
What must I love thee, Lord, for then?
For being my king and God. Amen.

Prayer of St Francis Xavier, early Jesuit missionary
translated by Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

“I See His Blood Upon the Rose” Joseph Plunkett

I see his blood upon the rose

And in the stars the glory of his eyes,

His body gleams amid eternal snows,

His tears fall from the skies.

 

I see his face in every flower;

The thunder and the singing of the birds

Are but his voice—and carven by his power

Rocks are his written words.

 

All pathways by his feet are worn,

His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,

His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,

                                    His cross is every tree.

Good Friday


There He hangs—pale figure

pinned against the wood.

God grant that I could love Him

as I really know I should.

 

I draw a little closer

to share that Love divine

and almost hear Him whisper

“Ah, foolish child of Mine!

 

If I should now embrace you,

My hands would stain you red.

And if I leaned to whisper,

the Thorns would pierce your head."

 

Then I knew in silence

that love demands a price

‘Twas then I learned that suffering

is but the Kiss of Christ.

(“Poem to Christ Crucified” by Caryll Houselander)

How did I ever end up Catholic?!? Pt 4

As I said in an earlier post we left New Zealand in 1989 to come and live in South Australia. Dh felt lead to attend a local church and we found one only a block or so away from where we were living. Citywide Christian Assembly was our spiritual home for a few years. But when the elders suggested that we should allow them to parent our kids we moved on (as did many others)

After this we tried a spot of home church before attending St Cuthbert’s Anglican church one Christmas. Another home for a time until dh suggested we attend Christ Church North Adelaide.

At the same time we met a wonderful home school family. They were kindred spirits to our children, and they were Christians too…. even if they were Catholic!!

I started reading the Bible again with a hunger and excitement I hadn’t felt since I first started reading it in Wanganui in my first year of teaching.

And from now I will add quotes from the journal I kept at the time:

“Before now my knowledge of church history went something like: there was the early new testament church with Christ’s apostles and followers but then the true church went ‘underground’ and didn’t emerge again until Luther nailed his famous proclamations to the church door….but in our history period in homeschooling we are studying the early middle ages and that means reading about saints.”

“And when I read even about Luther I discover he died longing for his Catholic faith…and never giving up a strong devotion to Mary!!”

“When I read the writings of these saints I am confused because they seem Christian…but they were Catholic and loved their Catholic faith”

“I read today about the Bible in the Young Josephus”(Josephus was not a Christian) I hadn’t realized that there several Jewish groups at this time and only the Hebrew Jews took a Bible such as the Protestant churches have today…the other groups ,even til today acknowledge the books in the Catholic Bible; History again keeps talking back to me”

“ I have never read the Gospel of John chapter Six before with my eyes and heart open. Esp verses 56-61 and 67 spoke to me today”

“I told dh today that I can no longer receive communion at Christ church, if I am not truly receiving Christ…and can it be coincidence that every Sunday the choir sings at the time a hymn by John Henry Newman…all around me now I feel the presence of the saints and especially those who have walked the road of conversion into the catholic faith”

“Asked a retired bishop today what are the truths in the Anglican church; he paused and then said’oh you can pretty much believe whatever you like you know’….but we have always taught our children that there are absolutes in the faith; or else where stands the creed. And if there are absolutes where can we find them…where is the accountability in the truth that is being preached in God’s name. Do all churches have the right to make up their own truth…for if they are lead by the same Spirit then why don’t they all agree.”

“ I am reading the Catechism of the Catholic church and discovering Scripture supports it and vice versa!”

“Andrew shared Sat. night his doubts re confirmation in the Anglican church…good healthy discussion followed with dh, A and myself. Things cleared and we are all honestly searching”

“Today dh has been reading from Hillaire Belloc’s “A Shorter history of England” and says it doesn’t paint a pretty picture of 16th century England”

“ God sent Jesus in total brotherhood to us and as the older brother he must show us the way…and the way was the cross…note to self: Hebrews 2:14 is this a reference to communion”

“ A has said he doesn’t want to be confirmed unless he can receive the fullness of the sacraments.”

“dh shared his doubts this morning about apostolic succession in the Anglican church ie is it dependent solely on the laying of hands or also on the continuation of the celebration of the Mass. My prayer: God lead us to your truth and not to any other.”

“If we have not yet received the full presence in communion what difference could it make in our lives if we do? Is God calling us to a faith in obedience not fully understanding yet holding firmly to that which we believe He would have us hold to.”

“went to see Father F. Dh really identified with his journey from Anglican to Catholic church. Father F quoted St Augustine in describing his own journey ‘faith comes before understanding’’

Inside me a hunger and longing that I couldn’t ignore was growing more insistent as I read books from others who had walked this journey previously:

Books such as

“Rome Sweet Home” by Scott and Kimberly Hahn

“Surprised by Truth” ed by Patrick Madrid

“Covenant with Jesus” by Father Robert Fox

“Welcome Home: Stories of fallen-away Catholics that came back.”

“What Catholics Really Believe” by Karl Keating

“Catholic Christianity” by Peter Kreeft.

“Fundamentalism and Catholicism”

But two were especially crucial “Evangelical is not Enough” and “On Being Catholic” both by Thomas Howard. In his dedication in the former amongst others he lists “the missionaries of the China Inland Mission: these embody the evangelical integrity I honor”. This man had come from such a strong Evangelical Protestant family. A family whose influence had even stretched to one poor soul in far off New Zealand. Yet here this man who so honoured his family could still say”At the Easter Vigil in 1985 I was received into the Roman Catholic church….".Yes I believe that the Roman Catholic church is the Ancient Church. I accept its claims. I believe that here one finds the fullness(“catholicity”) of the Faith. Hence I mourn the spintering in Christendom. I pray daily for the reunion of Christ’s church..”

What then was I waiting for. CS Lewis describes himself as the most reluctant convert in all Christendom yet I would prefix our entry into the Catholic church as the most certain, the most definite step I would ever make in all my Christian walk. Throw open the doors, let the Alleluia’s sing, I’m coming home, I know I am!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

How did I ever end up Catholic?!? Pt 3



And so to Tonga and more “happy hours”, school teaching, leading the Wednesday morning service…and being very –incredibly lonely! To not speak your own language for weeks at a time makes you lean in very close to the Lord. Especially when you are the only palungi(non-Tongan) in the village and very much “under the spot-light”.Again this was a year of learning about
community and also receiving so much wisdom from the very giving hearts of the people of “the friendly islands.”

During the year a friend visited, as did the missionary ship “the Anastasis”. Said friend and I returned to New Zealand and were married in his Anglican church.






Then it was back to Tonga and work there until the end of the next year when on the advice of a midwife in Tonga we returned to New Zealand to have our first child.

Just a word on church in Tonga, if you




have never heard the wonderful music of a Tongan church choir you really have missed something!


In New Zealand we settled in the small rural community of Dargaville where we attended the Baptist church. We taught Sunday school, attended a home group and felt at home in this small community. Our church was a hodge-podge of people who had left other Christian communities; (Brethren both open and closed; Presbyterian, Anglican ,Salvation Army, and “non-denom. Charismatic”) so learning to “meld” did make for some interesting times!! At this period my thoughts on the Catholic church wnt something like “its not even a Christian faith…they add and take away from God’ word, they blend truth with untruth…the Pope is probably an antichrist”!!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

How did I ever end up Catholic?!? Pt 2

So here I was in a strange town amongst strangers.

The Catholic Church was on a hill not far from the public library so I thought “why not?”. One of my new flat mates encouraged me. And it felt right to be going to church again.

I remember saying the Nicene Creed (“Lord I want to believe please help my unbelief ")

Also at this time I read “By Searching” by Isabel Kuhn. This book had a big influence. I went out and bought a Bible and wrote the verse “Canst thou by searching find God?” Quickly I added to it “if you search for me with all your heart…”

Of course I thought in my ignorance that it was all about me finding God, I little realized that He had not given up offering Himself to me all along.

Then things started to get confused, a fellow teacher and friend invited me to her Baptist Bible study. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, their pastor mentioned the need for “believers baptism”(wow I’d thought I was already baptized) but he informed me this wasn’t a proper baptism. Ah well I wanted to get Christianity correct and he certainly spoke with authority and like my good old dad could quote Bible verses with authority! So I went ahead and got baptized in the Baptist church …but for good measure the week before I still went ahead with my confirmation in the Catholic Church!

I’ll fast forward a bit now, the next year I continued teaching but on the opposite side of the North island. Became part of a “cell group” of young people from a whole range of church backgrounds. We met once a week for prayer and Bible study, went on retreats, had a garage sale to raise funds for missionaries in PNG and met and then supported a missionary family in India













And so the following year I gave up teaching and went to a Bible school. Nothing Catholic about it and no Catholics present. But what a wonderful year!


There were people from Fiji, Tonga, Canada and even Australia. (!)We taught "Bible in schools" held "happy hours" at college , lead services in different churches.




I had never felt so awake to the community of God's people before!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Wattle birds





The wattle birds are back in our yard.The other night we saw them as they swooped and dived trying to catch small flying bugs in the air. It was very hard to photograph but wonderful to watch!Query: does anyone know why these honeyeaters would only appear in our yard in early autumn and spring.

How did I ever end up Catholic?!? Pt 1



I was asked recently about my journey of faith from the Baptist church to the Catholic. I have thought how to do this explanation without making it very long…and it could be because the journey itself was a long one, sometimes step by baby step other times running in leaps and bounds, times of pain and sorrow and confusion and times of jubilation and joy!

To begin: I was born into a family with a Catholic mother and agnostic father. However because my father married a Catholic he promised to allow his children to be brought up in the Catholic faith. Consequently when only a few weeks old I was baptized.

The year of my 5th birthday I started school at the local Catholic school and the day after my 7th birthday made my First Holy Communion. All smooth sailing so far? Not exactly. Dad bless his heart never made any bones about his dislike for the Catholic church and mum kept her faith very personal (i.e to herself) The Church itself was undergoing some pretty big upheavals around this time too (Vatican II) and so any formation I had in the faith until I turned 14 was minimal or I slept through it(!!)…nothing stays in my memory except my father’s logic which made more sense to me than anything of faith (After all he could quote passages of scripture that seemed to support no God!!) I went to the public school from 8 on. One highlight in public school was a “Bible in School”s teacher who read us a beautiful children’s version of Pilgrim’s Journey…(ah so faith was about a journey; the die was cast)

At 14 I turned my back on my mother’s faith and on all people of faith. I remember shouting in our school oval that if there was a God why didn’t he come and strike me down for my disbelief in crying out against Him.







….But at the same time whenever I went to stay with some good women of faith(my aunts) there would come into my heart a wistfulness…”if only it could be true”

And so began another period of the journey-“the atheistic period”. At times I would be incredibly angry and at others deeply depressed. As St Augustine said: “Man is filled with a God-sized whole that only God can fill” It wasn’t terribly bad and yet nothing terribly good happened either. Life was frustrating and unfulfilling.

When I was 23 I left home to take up my first teaching position as a “New Entrants” teacher in a rural city. God provided situations and two people in particular that made me receptive to Him again.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Spiders and moths anyone?



These are some of our recent nature "finds" in our back-yard. Warning : some viewers may find these images "distressing".

Saturday, April 04, 2009

More on a donkey


























These images come from the book"Easter" by Brian Wildsmith. I think they make a great meditation for this time of Lent. How the seemingly insignificant things we do,that nobody else notices can be of great import.

A shower or two!




These photos demonstrate how attached we are to rain at the moment in this "neck of the woods"!! The small containers collecting droplets that ds(7) put out put me in mind of the stories one hears of droughts in the outback for years at a time where children were born and grew up never seeing rain...and so their first reaction when finally the "heavens opened" was one of screaming terror! No my son isn't frightened of the rain but as you can see we are just slightly obsessional about it