Elaine Javier

Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Access Bars Practitioner, and Catholic Homeschooling Mom and Blogger

Creating a healthier and happier world using the very best food, herbs, and holistic modalities. Let’s start healing with ease and joy physically, emotionally, and spiritually!

Pope St. John Paul II, St. Louise de Marillac, and the Most Holy Rosary for Families

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"There are two immediate things which the Catholic families of America can do to strengthen home-life. The first is prayer: both personal and family prayer. One prayer in particular I recommend to families: the one we have just, just been praying, the Rosary. The second suggestion I make to families is to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn about the faith and to answer the questions that come up especially the moral questions which confront everyone today. - Pope Saint John Paul II

"The faults of children are not always imputed to the parents, especially when they have instructed them and given good example. Our Lord, in His wonderous Providence, allows children to break the hearts of devout fathers and mothers. Thus the decisions your children have made don't make you a failure as a parent in God's eyes. You are entitled to feel sorrow, but not necessarily guilt. Do not cease praying for your children; God's grace can touch a hardened heart. Commend your children to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When parents pray the Rosary, at the end of each decade they should hold the Rosary aloft and say to her, 'With these beads bind my children to your Immaculate Heart,' she will attend to their souls." - St. Louise de Marillac

Years ago when I felt so lost and confused as to what God’s plans were for me I would frequently visit a beautiful church near my home and work called Our Lady of Hope in Potomac Falls, Virginia. I remember a couple of times hearing the voice of a small child singing with its mother. I didn’t know it at the time but I would visit around 3:00 in the afternoon and the child would be singing the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I was awestruck and thought, “What a voice! Just like an angel’s voice!” And then the child and its mother would silently pray the Rosary.

God did help me find my way and He did help me find a loving and devout spouse. From the beginning of our relationship the Rosary has been very special to us. Even though we lived in different states (I was in Virginia and Martin was in Texas) we would recite the Rosary over the telephone faithfully every night. Our son was born a few years after we married. The recitation of the Rosary is a devotion that is so sacred and meaningful to us that we hope for our son to continue and pass it on. May the beads of the Most Holy Rosary bind our child to Mary’s Immaculate Heart always.

This family picture was taken in the fall of 2013 in Norfolk, Virginia. It’s still one of my favorites.

Padre Pio, Confession and the Rosary

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Last year I attended the Syracuse Catholic Women’s Conference with a friend and it was a fantastic experience. There were engaging speakers, time for prayer and devotions, Confession, and Mass with the bishop.

I remember sitting and waiting my turn for Confession. There were a number of diocesan priests hearing confessions and many good nuns assisting to make the wait easier for us. I quickly noticed that a number of ladies didn’t mind waiting for a certain priest. I was curious about that. From a distance the priest’s side profile reminded me of Padre Pio.

When it was my turn one of the nuns pointed to the confessional of the priest that looked like Padre Pio. At once I felt very comfortable because the priest was very attentive, genuinely kind and easy to talk to. As the priest was granting me absolution he gently touched my forehead. It was such a warm gesture. As I was thanking the good-hearted priest I asked his name. He told me, “I’m Father Dellos from Utica.” There was a joy that he radiated.

I remember feeling so much gratitude that day. I told my friend that I felt like I was being showered with so many blessings all day long.

The following quote is by Padre Pio. This is one of my favorite quotes about the Blessed Mother and the Rosary.

“Go to the Madonna. Love her! Always say the Rosary. Say it well. Say it as often as you can! Be souls of prayer. Never tire of praying, it is what is essential. Prayer shakes the Heart of God, it obtains necessary graces!” - St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Pictured is a statue of Padre Pio given by my sister in law as well as a children's Rosary she got from a pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal. Beside Padre Pio is a sleeping St. Joseph statue and on the other side is a picture of my paternal grandmother (a devout Catholic who helped convert her husband and many of his family members to the Catholic faith). St. Pio of Pietrelcina, please pray for us!

Our Lady of Fatima and the Rosary

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This picture was taken at my father in law’s memorial service over two years ago. He passed peacefully on the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima on May 13, 2017. This is the most beautiful statue of Our Lady of Fatima I have ever seen.

I love the following quote by Sister Lucia because she is saying that everyone can pray the Rosary. No one is excluded. Religion or religious sect has no bearing. Our Blessed Mother asks everyone to participate. This quote is so fitting because today is the 102nd anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun in which the sun “danced” witnessed by at least 70,000 people in Fatima, Portugal.

“All people of good will can, and must say the Rosary every day. Why? In order to put ourselves in contact with God, to thank Him for His benefits and ask for the graces we need. It is the prayer which places us in familiar contact with God, like the son who goes to his father to thank him for the gifts he has received, to talk to him about special concerns, to receive his guidance, his help, his support and his blessings.” -- Servant of God Sister Lucia

Through the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima may we remember to pray often especially the Most Holy Rosary and may we always be thankful for all the graces Our Lord bestows upon us.

Jim Caviezel and the Holy Rosary

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This picture was taken this past summer with Fr. Fred Mannara, the pastor of the Most Holy Rosary in Syracuse, New York.  My family and I had just met Fr. Mannara the day before at a Macedonian festival!  Father warmheartedly and graciously invited us to visit his beautiful parish that seats at least 1400 people.  And so we took him up on his invitation.  He was so surprised and excited to see us the very next day for Sunday Mass that he asked us to bring up the gifts and stay after Mass for a personal tour.  What a wonderful day full of blessings it was!

The month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary so I would like to share my favorite Rosary quotations on Sundays.  I really am drawn to Jim Caviezel's talks and message.  Here is part of a presentation he did in the spring.

"I believe Jesus wants the full truth about Mary - that she is the world's Spiritual Mother, the Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix, to be proclaimed by the present Pope, so that Our Mother can utilize her 'full power' of intercession to bring peace, true peace, to the world.

My friends in Jesus and Mary, the present world scene is one of unprecedented moral breakdown, natural disasters, and even greater global threats of war and terrorism are now looming in our midst. The power of Satan is evident, no matter where we turn. Our whole world is in desperate need of the peace of Jesus Christ. And his peace, both spiritual and global, will only come to us - as it did originally - through the person of Mary, our Mediatrix and Advocate!

At Fatima, Our Lady promised that 'In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph... and a period of peace will be granted to the world.' Let us trust in these words of Our Lady. Let us pray, especially before our Eucharistic Jesus, for true and lasting world peace through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of All Peoples.

She will keep her promise, but we must do our part. As St. Bernard has written, and as I have seen in my own life: 'You will not go astray if you follow her... you will not get lost if you call to her. If she is holding you by the hand you will not fall. If she is protecting you, you have nothing to fear. You will not grow weary if she is at your side.' But you must reach out to her.

My brothers and sisters, be faithful, call out to your Mother, pray the Rosary for world peace! Adore Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and Heaven will respond!

Before I leave you, this path will not be an easy one for our bishops and laity who accept this challenge and the fight to fulfill the will of God is never easy... but from God's gospel and Mother Teresa's personal creed, they echo this sentiment: Blessed are you when people hate you... when they exclude you and insult you... and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man.' In the final analysis, it is between you and God... it was never between you and them anyway."

- From Jim Caviezel's presentation delivered at the World Day of Prayer for Peace through the Mother of All Peoples, Amsterdam, June 1, 2019

I wish you peace and love this holy month of October.  God bless you and your families!

Hello Again

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I’ve been hearing the singer Neil Diamond’s voice almost every day for the last couple of weeks. And I’ve noticed that his voice and songs were sounding stronger and stronger by the day. Tonight I decided to listen to a couple of his songs like "Sweet Caroline” and “Hello Again.”

When I listened to “Hello Again” I started to feel like that was Dad’s beautiful voice talking to us. Today is my father-in-law’s second death anniversary and it is also the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima. Dad died on the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, Portugal. He was a great, well-loved and respected man who was 107 years old when he passed. We miss him very much.

If you don’t know the lyrics or the song of “Hello Again” you should take a listen. I think it’s Neil’s warm, soothing fatherly voice that made me think of Dad. After a few minutes of remembering Dad I started to tear up because I then heard God’s voice calling out to me. God was now saying, “Hello again.”

Every time I stray and every time I get spiritually lazy God finds a way back into my heart. He’s always waiting; always watching; always loving and forgiving us.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us! 
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!

Dad in Heaven, pray for us. We love you!

What This Death Row Prisoner Who May Soon Be Canonized As A Saint Can Teach Us

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“May your love draw down upon you the mercy of the Lord, and may he let you see that within your soul a saint is sleeping. I shall ask him to make you so open and supple that you will be able to understand and do what he wants you to do. Your life is nothing; it is not even your own. Each time you say ‘I’d like to do this or that,’ you wound Christ, robbing him of what is his. You have to put to death everything within you except the desire to love God. This is not at all hard to do. It is enough to have confidence and to thank the little Jesus for all the potentialities he has placed within you. You are called to holiness, like me, like everyone, don’t forget.” -Venerable Jacques Fesch (in a letter to his mother)

I was reminded this morning about the word I chose for this year when I read this article (see below). I had chosen the word “holiness.” It’s about the famous Parable of the Prodigal Son and Venerable Jacques Fesch. I’d never heard of Blessed Jacques Fesch before but I was drawn to his story. I love what he says above, “You are called to holiness, like me, like everyone, don’t forget.” It doesn’t matter where we are in this life. If we’ve failed ourselves, our families, our society, Blessed Jacques Fesch teaches us that it’s never too late. As long as we’re living we can change. We can do better. We can beat the odds. We are meant for much more. 
Many times I gain inspiration from the saints. They help me pause and remember what my purpose is. After all the saints are our friends and they are in heaven constantly rooting for us. Peace, love, and good health.

https://aleteia.org/…/meet-the-death-row-prisoner-who-disc…/

*The picture above is of the beautiful Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine in St. Augustine, Florida.

Ash Wednesday

It's very rare for me to be up by 6:00 or 6:15 in the morning.  I've never been an early bird.  But yesterday morning was different because it's the start of the Lenten season and my family and I attended Mass for Ash Wednesday.  Even our five year old had to get up! 

There were two takeaways from the priest's homily.  He said, "You are dirt!"  We are reminded of Original Sin and that we are a sinful people.  Our bodies will die but our souls will live forever.  

I really resonated with the second takeaway.  Father said, "Prayer is like breathing.  It is necessary."

Prayer really needs to be our everything and I think it's the perfect Lenten activity to start again with God if someone's been away from the Church or feels like they're just going through the motions because they have to.  One young lady who I am health coaching picked the word "prayer" for her word theme for 2018.  Prayer is the best way to tighten our relationship or lack of relationship with Jesus.    

The saints can teach us how to pray.  Not only did St. Pio of Pietrelcina and St. Jean Baptiste Marie Vianney spend countless hours in the confessional reconciling people to God, these two holy priests had such a deep, rich, unwavering relationship with Jesus and Mary.  

I love this beautiful quote by St. Jean Vianney.

My little children, your hearts, are small, but prayer stretches them and makes them capable of loving God.  Through prayer we receive a foretaste of heaven and something of paradise comes down upon us.  Prayer never leaves us without sweetness.  It is honey that flows into the souls and makes all things sweet.  When we pray properly, sorrows disappear like snow before the sun.

Doesn't that sound so poetic?  Let us open our hearts to our loving Father and let us do all that we can to make this Lent the best Lent ever so that one day we may enter into His everlasting embrace.

You are dirt!
Prayer is like breathing.  It is necessary.

The Catholic Diocese Of St. Thomas In The U.S. Virgin Islands

Several weekends ago, we had a pleasant surprise from a visiting priest at our parish.  His name was the Most Reverend Herbert A. Bevard, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  And he gave a most heartfelt homily that touched me deeply.  

St. Thomas, he said,  is beautiful, a tropical paradise.  There are white sand beaches and pristine aqua blue waters everywhere you look it seems.   And if you stay at a Marriott or a Ritz Carlton or any of the numerous resorts there, hotel employees attend to your every need.  

Yet for all the beauty and luxury most tourists see, the Diocese of St. Thomas is ironically the poorest diocese in the United States.  Its eight parishes are among the poorest in the nation.  But because the diocese is part of the U.S.  it does not qualify for support from any international mission organizations, and so it is dependent on the generous support of other parishes in the U.S.   

Bishop Bevard lamented today's culture.  "We are a throw away society.  When we don't want something, we just throw it away."  The poor in his diocese are victims of this mindset.  They  live next to dumps and abandoned cars, looking for their next meal or anything of value as they rummage through refuse and piles of trash.  You can imagine the stench that must be overwhelming.  They are struggling to stay alive while most of us have never missed a meal.  This is extreme poverty.  

Bishop Bevard described a sad experience.  He would visit villages when he could and bring a bag of fruit and another bag of candy for impoverished children.    When the children saw him, they would run towards him and eat all that he had.  But one time  one little boy came too late.  By the time he got to him, there was no more food to give.  The little boy begged but the bishop said that both bags were empty.  He told the little boy to go back home and ask his mother for food.  Sadly, the boy said that it wasn't his turn to eat that day.  He had eaten yesterday and today was his sister's turn to eat.

The bishop said that it was his first time to ever hear such a thing.  For most of us, a lack of food is not a problem.  Usually we have an abundance of things to eat.  So the little boy's heartbreaking situation is so foreign that it is beyond comprehension.  As head of the nation's poorest Catholic diocese, the bishop is the voice of the many hungry children who desperately need help from those who can generously give.  

In his homily, the bishop also mentioned that he had converted to Catholicism.  He was eleven years old when the idea of becoming a Catholic came to him.  He had never stood inside a Catholic church before but he decided to talk to a priest.  The priest asked him to serve Mass with him the next day.  The young Herbert Bevard was surprised as he did not know that Mass was said daily.  The priest also explained the miracle that happens each time the priest consecrates the bread and wine.  Because of that he wanted to become a priest.  He told his parents and his parents' response was to send him to military school.  He never had the opportunity to go to Mass or see a priest during those years but his desire to become a Catholic never waned.  He prayed the Hail Mary often and this sustained him. 

After graduating from military school in 1964, and with his parents no longer resistant to his desire to become a Catholic, Bishop Bevard was baptized in the Catholic church.  In 1976, he baptized his mother and brought her into the church.  He also eventually baptized his father and  brother.  What a beautiful conversion story!  

And the bishop explained that all of this was possible because of the goodness of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  He said, "Remember the Blessed Mother always.  Give everything to the Blessed Mother.  She will ensure your admittance into heaven."  

Before ending his homily the bishop  asked for prayers.  He asked  that we pray for the people of his diocese, and to also pray for the priests of the diocese  who work so hard and who have left their homes and families to do God's work.  Finally he asked, "And pray for me."  

Yes, Bishop Bevard.  I will pray for you, a kind hearted and humble servant of God. I will pray for you and your Godly and holy mission.  May Our Lord and His Blessed Mother protect you and strengthen you all the days of your life.  Amen.

Special Mission Request

In your generosity please consider supporting Bishop Bevard's mission by giving to the Catholic Diocese of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  You may send your donation via online banking or mail a check to:

Bishop Bevard

P.O. Box 301825

St. Thomas, V.I.  00803

Contact information:

Email:  chancery@islands.vi

We are a throw away society.  When we don’t want something, we just throw it away.
Remember the Blessed Mother always. Give everything to the Blessed Mother. She will ensure your admittance into heaven.

The Night My Mom Cut Jesus' Hair

Recently, I remembered a story that my mom told me many years ago.  I was a teenager at the time.  She came home from work  late one night and said, "Tonight I cut a man's hair and he looked just like Jesus!"  

That got my attention so I listened intently.  She continued, "He was my last client and he told me to just cut but keep his hair long."  

She said he was the best client she ever had.  He was quiet the whole time.  He didn't complain or give her a hard time.  He just sat at her station quietly.  And at the end of the service he paid and then left.  My mom never got his name and she never saw him again.

Although I will never know the story of this man, my mom's encounter with a man who had such a physical similarity to Jesus made me contemplate Jesus.  It made me realize that Jesus is always with me, and will always be with me through the best and worst of times.

This incident happened in 1997, before my mom was diagnosed with three large tumors on her spinal cord.  My mom's neurosurgeon told her she had a 75 percent chance of paralysis.  That thought put my parents on edge for many days and nights.  She was very afraid before the surgery, and suffered greatly after it.  

During my mom's time of hardship I remember a great number of family members and friends lifting her up in prayer.  That, I believe, is the beauty of prayer.  Prayer brings people together for a common good.  Prayer allows us to unite for the sake of our loved ones.  Prayer is incredibly powerful and strengthens us in the most trying of times.

Mom's surgery was a very trying time, but she made it and recovered.  And the outcome of that surgery has had many positives!  Foremost, my mom and dad's faith grew a hundred fold and they have become more devout to our Lord and his Blessed Mother.  They have also become more committed to each other.  And their faith was strengthened for all the other surgeries and trials they endured over the years.

Because they believed in God who is all loving and healing, I witnessed and I also believed.  What my mom went through would have never been possible to endure without the Lord's strength and goodness.  Without a doubt He carried their burdens.

My mom's surgery for the ependymoma  happened 20 years ago.  Today, she is feeling well (and continues to recover from a recent surgery but that's another story).   Thanks be to God we got to celebrate her 70th birthday this month of July.  

And thanks be to God for my mom's beautiful life and for Jesus reminding us of His abundant love and blessings.  

Because they believed in God who is all loving and healing, I witnessed and I also believed.

100 Days Of Catholic Homeschooling

When my family and I were living in Central PA, we sent our little boy to the daycare in our neighborhood twice a week.  It was a new and beautiful facility and very convenient.  We could walk to the school to get exercise and enjoy nice weather.  It truly was a wonderful experience for him for he really learned a great deal from the dedicated teachers and interacting with the other children in the toddler classroom.  

But something clicked for me one day as I was watching and taking pictures of my son in the school Halloween parade.  He was probably a hundred feet away when he spotted me in a crowd with other parents also watching their children from a distance.  Without a blink his face lit up like a firefly as he exclaimed with joy, "Mama!"

I will never forget that.  That moment changed everything for me.  I realized then and there that no one could ever take the place of a parent's love for their child and no one could ever teach them better.  For me it all made sense.  That moment solidified my desire to homeschool my child.  

Years ago I became familiar with Seton Home Study (named after St. Elizabeth Ann Seton) when I lived in the Diocese of Arlington.  I was impressed with the stories I read about Catholic homeschooling families.  I also talked with friends and acquaintances who used Seton to educate their children and they were so happy they did.  What really caught my interest with Seton was its curriculum which was known to be challenging, flexible, and conducive to the preparation and transition to higher education.  Most importantly, Seton is also very centered on helping develop a child's faith.  

As the title of this post suggests we have, indeed, survived 100 days of Catholic homeschooling.  We started our son Constantine in pre-K in the fall of 2016.  It hasn't always been easy but there is not a day that I don't feel so blessed and grateful for Seton.  

Let me be frank.  We've had our moments of crying sessions and not so pretty scenes but that is life.  We live, we learn, we apologize, we forgive, and then we start again.  But I have to say that there have been countless, extraordinary times during this whole homeschooling process of my son learning as well as for me that have been priceless.  

Choosing to homeschool our son was a family decision.  My husband was very supportive from the beginning.  We talked and prayed a lot about it.  I think that it's important to explain to the child the options of homeschooling and public and private schools.  Periodically, I ask our son what he wants to do.  And I'm thankful that he chooses to be homeschooled.  

Here are some thoughts of what we have experienced as a family and why I think Catholic families should consider using Seton or supplement with Seton.  First of all, I love the flexibility and support that Seton provides.  Seton is just a phone call away so parents and students can get their questions answered.  Also, you can work at your child's pace.  For pre-K, the parent may choose to teach the material in one to two years.  

The curriculum that the parents are given is meant to be used as a guide. Parents do not have to follow every single thing listed on the curriculum because as parents we know our children best and we learn as we go.  That's the beauty of the curriculum.  It offers the opportunity for parents to learn the child's strengths and weaknesses.  For me, I want to help my son realize his talents early on so that by the time he completes high school he knows what he wants to do in life so that he can serve God in his best capacity.  

For families like us who move a lot, homeschooling just made sense.  I couldn't imagine pulling my child out of school every time it's time to move.  So Seton became a viable option.  Also, just a few days ago our area accumulated approximately 28 inches of snow. Since we live in the snowiest city in the US, it's a wonderful perk to not have to worry about missing school because school happens at home.  Another plus is that I love that our son's risk of catching a cold, the flu, or any other disease traveling around the schools is greatly minimized.

Both parents can have a profound impact on the child's education.  I love that day in and day out I know exactly what my son is learning because I teach his lessons.  If I'm not available then my husband can teach.  I am aware that there's that pain of trying to undo the negative and bad influences that a child may learn from his or her peers or others.  I believe that as our son's primary teachers, God has given us the responsibility of teaching our son the beauty of our faith, English and literature, math, science, art, history, languages, as well as culinary arts, integrative nutrition, and physical education.  If there's something that we are not equipped to teach him then we can seek other resources and plan field trips.  The possibilities with homeschooling are endless.

We continue to grow closer as a family because we find the time to pray together.  Seton may not be for you and your family.  But if you hope for your child to grow in love with the faith, I think that you will appreciate Seton.  I love how Seton connects every subject back to Jesus Christ.  It's wonderful because we are teaching our son to learn and love our faith.   We start our day praying the rosary.  It's the first thing we do unless we attend Mass first thing in the morning.  After the rosary, we start with religion, next literacy, and finally math.  Then we're free to practice handwriting, do art projects, learn Spanish, and play.  Before going to bed, we gather in our bedroom to pray together as we remember our loved ones' intentions.

One of the biggest misconceptions of homeschooled children is the lack of social activity.  That is far from the truth.  At the moment we are so fortunate to live in a fantastic neighborhood with young children all around and a homeowners' association that plans family and kid friendly activities all year round.  We are also part of an active parish community.  My son is almost always talking to people wherever he goes regardless of whether he's speaking with new acquaintances, people passing by, friends or family.  We teach him to be respectful of our pastor, elders, and everyone he encounters.  He's a fun-loving child who takes the initiative in greeting others.  In homeschooling our son we encourage curiosity and creativity as much as possible.  There's never a dull moment with homeschooling.  

We live in an age of possibilities.  Homeschooling may not be for every household but what I can say is for us the benefits outweigh everything else.  If you are considering to homeschool, pray about it.  You will be amazed at how the Holy Spirit leads each one of us.  If you are Catholic, I highly encourage you and your family to look at supplementing with Seton.  Not every family is able to homeschool but because Seton's curriculum is so rich in Catholic teaching and wisdom I think it's perfect to use in building a strong faith foundation in the home.  I'm astonished every single day because even in the pre-K level I'm learning something new about the faith.  Even if your child is going to a Catholic school I really believe that using materials from Seton will help form a special bond with your child.  

One of the greatest joys that I hear almost everyday is this:  "I love spending the day with mama and daddy!"  That special bond that I get to experience on a daily basis beats anything and everything else.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, please pray for us!

Where To Start If You Are Interested In Catholic Homeschooling

  • Check out the Seton Home Study website here.  You can request a packet of information.  
  • For those in the Philippines who are interested in homeschooling with Seton, there are a number of Filipino families using Seton already.  There is a lot of support available.  You can find a Facebook homeschooling page called ROCKERS Philippines here.
  • Read the book Catholic Home Schooling by Dr. Mary Kay Clark and get your copy here.  This book was a huge help to me and really gave me the confidence in deciding to fully homeschool my son. It's full of wonderful tips and pointers that Mary Kay Clark used with her own children whom she homeschooled.  For the first person to reach out to me, I have an extra copy and will mail it to you!  Comment below and send me a message on Facebook, Instagram, or an email to info@elainejavier.com.
As the title of this post suggests we have, indeed, survived 100 days of Catholic homeschooling... It hasn’t always been easy but there is not a day that I don’t feel so blessed and grateful for Seton.

          

On The Street Where We Lived

Somehow Stone Barn Road reminds me of Cherry Tree Lane in the Disney film Mary Poppins probably because of the fantastic, well thought out planned walking community, the well-manicured landscapes, and the cobblestone curb appeal throughout.  I even imagined adding two pink cherry trees in the backyard and an adorable English garden with a butterfly way station.  I have to confess that I've had a difficult time letting go of our beloved home in our neat little village in Central PA.  We moved out last month and my son and I still think fondly of it.  It was where I had hoped we could spend more time -- more time to see our son grow and more time to spend with our friends.  But God has different plans for us.  

So we are moving again.  This is our fifth move in seven years and so the adventure starts back up again.  I have to mention that this exercise of constantly moving has helped me to appreciate the present moment.  We never know how long we will stay in an area so I think that I've learned to really savor the here and now and take nothing for granted.   

We are Catholic first before all of our wants and needs.  I stand committed to our faith foremost before anything else and this has helped me throughout times of tribulation.  For me there is no other way but to let God guide us in everything that we do.  

I am hopeful in our future in the new place.  What lies ahead are new places to see, new people to meet, and new memories to make.  My husband's company has been very good to us.  But more so, God has given us much more than we have ever imagined.  

Goodbye Stone Barn Road.  Goodbye Central PA.  I arrived unwell, weak, and exhausted and I left healed, renewed, and faithful.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the cherished memories.

We are Catholic first before all of our wants and needs.

Birthday Celebration For Our Blessed Mother

What a special week it has been for the Catholic church!  First, Mother Teresa was canonized by Pope Francis on Sunday.  And today is the Blessed Virgin Mary's birthday.  

I thought it fitting to start a family tradition of celebrating Our Blessed Mother's birthday each year by going to Mass, presenting a special bouquet of The Bouqs fresh, organic flowers, and making a nice chocolate ganache tart to share since she is so cherished and loved in our household.  After all, she is our mother in Heaven and on Earth and has interceded for us all of our lives.  Since I am Catholic homeschooling my little boy this special feast day of the Birth of The Blessed Virgin Mary makes teaching this holy occasion very delightful and fun.

Very early on I was convinced that my vocation was to be a wife and mother and to bring my children up close to the Church.  I was ten years old when I envisioned taking my children with me to daily Mass.  I knew then that there is a correlation with having a deep sense of faith and attaining true happiness.

By teaching our children about the Blessed Mother and the saints, our children learn to love and better understand the faith.  They learn how to live holy lives dedicated to Christ.  

Today I think that it is appropriate to pray Mother Teresa's quick novena, the Memorare prayed nine times,  in honor of the Blessed Mother's birthday.  Many times Mother Teresa would say the Memorare nine times consecutively whenever she was in need of guidance especially during hard times and challenges.  It is a most beautiful prayer that my family and I like to conclude with after praying the Rosary.  


Memorare

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.  

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee O Virgin of virgins, my mother;  to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful.  O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer.  

Amen.  


Happy birthday, Mama Mary!  We love you.  Please pray for us.  

Favorites

The Bouqs.  They deliver the most beautiful farm-fresh organic flowers.  I love all of their bouquets!  

Chocolate Ganache Tart by Sweet Laurel.  I keep telling my husband that we have to live in L.A. for at least a year because I want to take one of Laurel's baking classes and, of course, order her delicate and delicious cakes.  Also, I love the recipes on the Sweet Laurel blog.  They are so good and healthy!  She is one to follow on social media.

 

By teaching our children about the Blessed Mother and the saints, our children learn to love and better understand the faith. They learn how to live holy lives dedicated to Christ.

Stress

It has been an extremely busy summer for me and my family.  We've been traveling a lot as well as working on our home.  Let me just say -- we are about to be homeless again.  I feel like we're a small group of nomads who move on average every one to two years due to my husband's job.  Since 2009, when we got married, we have moved four times.  This next one to the great state of New York will be our fifth move in seven years.  

If you know me very well, you know that I can push myself to my limit and add unnecessary stress in my life.  I can be inflexible at times and internalize negative feelings.  Sometimes, I dump my steam off on to my husband, uncharitably.  I am sorry when this happens.

A couple of weeks ago I was putting our son to bed at a very late hour.  Defiantly, he started screaming and squirming in my arms because he still wanted to keep playing.  At this point you can imagine that I had little to no patience in me.  As I was trying to calm Constantine down, in a flash he flung his Thomas the Tank Engine toy towards his bedroom door, and Thomas the Tank Engine went "clunk" as he hit the door hard.  As a parent I was not about to let him off the hook so easily.  I sternly stared at Constantine  and scolded him harshly for the next few minutes.  I wanted to be clear that throwing his toys recklessly was unacceptable and disrespectful.  I even began warning him that his daddy and I would be prepared to give his toys away if he continued to mistreat his belongings.  As I was mentioning all of this in his embrace, he looked up towards the crucifix situated above his closet door, stared at Jesus for a moment and calmly and quietly said, "Please pray for me."  All the anger and stress in my being started to fade away.  I was astonished at the wisdom of my three year old's words -- "Please pray for me."  He was asking Jesus to pray for him.  As I carried him to my parents' bedroom, I recalled the whole story to my dad.  Then Constantine gently nudged me, "Mama, please pray for me!"  So I said, "Yes, I will pray for you."  I tucked my little boy in bed and slowly shut his bedroom door in awe and admiration as I pondered what had just happened.

That night my little boy reminded me of a couple of things.  I remembered a similar situation a couple of months earlier in which he was throwing a temper tantrum and I was passing onto him an idea.  I told him, "Whenever you feel angry or upset, you can clasp your hands and say, 'Mama Mary, please pray for me.'"  I was trying to help him to better cope with his emotions since emotional intelligence is an important core area to work on with small children.  Constantine's simple prayer was another lesson for me in how to better deal with stress and the madness of daily life.  Whenever I feel upset or stressed out, calling on the intercession of Mama Mary is such a soothing, effective practice.  

Constantine helped me to remember that we are not alone.  For several months I had complained and stressed about our upcoming move, without any thought of others or prayer.  Instead of lifting this negativity up to the Lord, all I could think about was how unfair my situation was.  I think it's also important to bear in mind that no one is an island.  People need others to talk to and express themselves in a community or support system.  We should not be shy to ask others for prayers.  If you or a loved one need prayer, feel free to send me your prayer requests via private message or comment below.  I am more than happy to pray for your intentions.  Mama Mary, please pray for us and the whole world.

As I was mentioning all of this in his embrace, he looked up towards the crucifix situated above his closet door, stared at Jesus for a moment and calmly and quietly said, ‘Please pray for me.’

Bethesda Revisited

My family and I keep going back to Bethesda.  It's become the meeting place to see our good friends from Dallas.  We last visited in September of  last year and had a blast.  This past trip was just as enjoyable.

We first visited a lovely church nestled in the city called Our Lady of Lourdes.  As my son and I approached the back entrance we were welcomed by an awesome image of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette.  

I suppose St. Bernadette inspired my prayer for Eucharistic Adoration.  St. Bernadette was the peasant girl in Lourdes, France who encountered the Mother of God, Our Lady of Lourdes, several times.  She was simple and innocent and so I let my prayer be simple as well.  These days when I pray I usually pray more so for others.  My thoughts were of our friends' oldest who will be attending medical school.  

In the past I found myself in prayer visiting the Blessed Sacrament almost always focusing on my own issues and problems.  I know better now.  God knows everything, even our most hidden thoughts and fears. I think prayer should be simple, not complicated at all.  That's why I love the rosary so much.  It's a prayer simply saying "I love You Jesus and I love Your mother."  The beauty of the Blessed Sacrament is that Jesus is right there waiting for us.   I place all my trust in God and say, "Jesus, I love You!"  over and over again.  It is always refreshing and comforting.  

We went to visit our friends next.  This time we met with father and daughter and had a nice dinner at a Spanish and Latin American restaurant called Guardado's in Bethesda.  It's quite cozy and friendly and a good place to catch up.  We ordered a number of tapas dishes like the delicious special -- stuffed mushrooms.  For our entrée we shared the seafood paella.  We also shared a carafe of sangria.  Overall, the food was very good!  Since we had leftovers I recooked the paella the next day with lots of dark leafy greens and minced garlic and it turned out even more delicious.

I will always remember Bethesda.  It's a place where we can always worship and give thanks to Our Lord and where we can enjoy and cherish camaraderie just as we have in the past.  Thanks again Bethesda for a wonderful trip!  Till next time!

Jesus, I love You!

Bruno Versus Jesus

Oh, the joys of parenthood!  My boy was in one of his defiant moods as I was struggling to get him dressed in time for church.  We were running late as usual.  I had tried to calmly brief him that we were going to church because it's Sunday.  This was not working in my favor.

Feeling flustered and perturbed I blurted out to Constantine, "Who do you prefer?  Bruno or Jesus?"  Without pause he answered, "Bruno."  I flashed back, "Wrong answer!  Do you think Bruno will help you get to heaven?!"  Then the little boy responded, "Daddy, heaven."  Sighing in relief I said, "Yes, that's a better answer.  Daddy will help us get to heaven."

This was an opportunity for me as a parent to weigh in on the effects of what is too much for a little child.  There is no doubt that Bruno Mars is a talent and huge iconic force today but my husband and I will not adhere to him or any other public persona getting in the way of our family's obligation to spend it with the Lord.  Foremost, God comes first before our own wants and needs.

The dangers of bombarding our children with too much TV and Internet are real and it's important to set the parameters straight and clear at a young age.  Besides the questions of how much is too much and possible harmful effects on our children, we have to ask if what our children are exposed to will be a benefit to them spiritually.  Can it help build their character and moral fiber?  

It's easy to turn on the TV to keep our children preoccupied but do we let them go unguarded?  I've grown accustomed to this behavior enumerating in my mind all the must haves that I want to get done before the day is over but what about my most important responsibility?  I have asked myself from time to time, "Am I spending enough time with my boy?  Am I pointing him to Christ?  Am I showing him how to love Him?"

It's a balancing act that needs to be played out throughout the day and it's taxing. My consolation is always prayer.  It's what gets me through the day.  As a wife and mother I know that I cannot do it all, not without His help.  I can always count on His help.

Though we are fans of Bruno Mars we are bigger fans of Jesus Christ whom we hope to spend eternity with in heaven.  God bless my little boy and all the children.  May we help the little ones get to heaven.

My consolation is always prayer.

EWTN

I remember when I first started watching EWTN when we lived in Delaware, I was more dozing off than watching.  I did my best to pay attention and listen but found myself asleep within a few minutes.    After a couple of weeks I was drawn to the beautiful message of EWTN's foundress Mother Angelica.  She helped me by opening my mind and heart.  Mother's no-nonsense comical wit, joyful humor, and intelligent knowledge of the faith completely caught me off guard and I became a fan immediately.  I was hooked!

When I was pregnant with Constantine I began my day going to Mass at 8 a.m. and then rosary or  Perpetual Adoration in the chapel for about 30 minutes to an hour.  I would drive home, hop on the treadmill and walk and pray the rosary with Mother Angelica and the Nuns of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery and then watch noon Mass on EWTN.  This became my daily routine for nearly nine months which helped strengthen my faith and keep me fit during my pregnancy.  I really believe that this was the reason for my smooth and super easy delivery.  I wanted no meds for a natural delivery and thanks be to God my baby boy was born healthy.

Even after delivering my son, in times of need Mother Angelica was there for me.  When having a challenging day she was always able to address my problems and give me comfort and peace of mind.  Amazingly her segments on EWTN Catholic Classics and Mother Angelica Live were just what I needed.  I would turn on the TV and in those old reruns she would give me advice on exactly what was on my mind.  This happened several times, not just once or twice.

Mother was a friend to all.  When I think of Mother Angelica I am reminded of saint Pope John Paul II and venerable Mother Teresa of Calcutta because she was a force to reckon with, a beautiful spirit and living testament of God's love and mercy, a servant of God always giving more and more.  Her faith and wisdom will be forever etched in my heart.

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation passed away on Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016.  She was 92 years old.  She was a living saint who loved Jesus more than life itself.  She greatly touched my life, my family's, and millions upon millions of others.  May she be at peace with our Lord, reap the rewards of eternal life, and continue her earthly mission in heaven.

Dios ti agngina Mother Angelica for sweeping the world with the evangelization of the Gospel!  We love you!


New York Times Bestseller 


Favorite Quotations By Mother Angelica

God has something very special in mind for you. He wants you to be a saint.
Patience is adjusting your time to God’s time.
Prayer creates a disposition of assurance - not that you’re going to get every answer that you want - but assurance of God’s presence and His love.
I don’t care if you’re five or one hundred and five, God from all eternity chose you to be where you are, at this time in history to change the world.
It’s so important that you make the right choices now. Don’t listen to the world, listen to the Eternal Word.
Jesus is giving you such an opportunity to be holy, holier than all the saints that have ever been, because the world is in such need of shining lives, beacons to see by.
It is true that when you tithe your time to God He multiplies it (and your work) in ways you cannot imagine.
Love is what the Lord asks of us. If we must love even our enemies, imagine how we are expected to love our family members.
When you are angry, love is leaving you. Anger, impatience, and criticism are the effects of the draining of love.
Don’t complain about the Church. You are the Church, and God has destined you to proclaim the Good News by example, by family life, by holy single life, by faithfulness.

Even after delivering my son, in times of need Mother Angelica was there for me.

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Heaven

My eyes grew large -- really large, the first time my son said "heaven."  He kept repeating the words over and over.  He's a late talker just as he was a late walker.  I was thrilled that my boy was talking but at the same time shakened.

Constantine actually said, "Daddy . . .heaven." about ten times.  For a short while, it was as if he couldn't stop.  Goosebumps formed and apprehension came over me.  What was my son trying to say?  

Many times when we think of heaven, we think of God's kingdom and the faithful departed.  But my husband is alive and well!  I viewed my son's words as a contradiction that gave me pause.

As I walked downstairs and pondered just what happened, I decided to clean up a bit and go through a small stack of mail lying in the laundry room.  The first envelope that I opened happened to be from the life insurance company.  And there it was all laid out.  The life insurance plan in the event that my husband were to suddenly pass away.  Despite my best efforts not to, tears streamed down my face.  I cannot imagine my life without my loving, adoring husband.  He's my rock and my best friend.  I didn't want to think about it anymore so I shushed my mind.

Later that night words of wisdom came to me.  I remembered an episode of Mother Angelica of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) that was taped years ago in which she said the words, "We are born to die."  And though perhaps we don't like to think about it, she's absolutely right -- everyone is born to die.  Death is an inevitability.  Accepting that truth has made me realize that life is just a stopover.  But while our time here is temporary, heaven is eternal.  

We need to do all that we can to get to heaven and help our loved ones and even our not so favorite people get there too.  I realized that that means living each day as if it's our last.  It means living the faith and not allowing ignorance of the faith to stand in our way.  It means seeing Jesus in every person.  

During our wedding, the celebrant said something that struck me during his homily.  He said a spouse's role is similar to a bridge, supporting you as you attempt to cross into heaven. I am Martin's bridge supporting and helping him and he is my bridge.  Martin is the gift from God that I must cherish and love all the days of my life, "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part."  

So yes, Constantine, you are right!  Not only is daddy the head of our domestic church which is our home, but he is our bridge to heaven!

We are born to die.


Lessons From A Bank Robbery

It was the worst of times for me career-wise.  I was working in the most snooty, high profile, nerve wracking financial banking center in Northern Virginia in the midst of the First Virginia Bank/Branch Banking & Trust (BB&T) merger.  No one knew what was happening.  No one knew what they were doing.  We were all running around with our heads chopped off.  As the head of a demoralized branch I felt defeated every single day.  It felt like I was walking on egg shells.  This was a nightmare.

My ship was sinking fast.  Problem after problem bashed me in the face.  Every day my staff would complain to me, even cry to me.  Customer complaints poured in by telephone and in person.  The load was unbearable.  (Every week it seemed like branch managers in the region were resigning.)  I spent nights at the office even weekends till 1 or 2 in the morning.  I broke bank rules but I had no choice if I wanted to try to keep things afloat.

And then the unthinkable happened.  In my almost seven years in bank management I had dealt with a cruel death threat, firing and hiring of team members, the evacuation during 9/11, a sexual harassment case, but I had always prided myself in making safety and soundness my top priority, that is protecting and safeguarding my team members and the bank's assets.

Friday, January 2, 2004 was the day.  The robber was keen enough to realize how disorganized and unprepared we were.  We were sitting ducks and for the robber it was perfect timing.

Frankly, that day was a blur.  I was inside my office with the door shut assisting a customer with his cash order.  If I can recall, he had ordered at least $25,000 in twenty dollar bills and I was there with him verifying the cash.  I was finalizing the transaction as the robbery was taking place.

I was one of the last branch personnel to learn about this horrible incident.  The teller who was robbed later said that he had a gun inside his jacket, handed her a note, and she gave him the money from her drawer.  We closed down the bank the rest of the day and followed bank protocol.

The good news was no one got hurt and the teller kept her drawer within cash limits and stayed calm during the entire robbery.  That night I wrote down my thoughts.

Life is so delicate and fragile; too short and valuable to let pass by.  Today I am grateful to God for watching over us.  Everyone of us is connected in some way.  The robber today, the rich, the poor, the young, the old -- we are all human, all equal in God's eyes.  The robber could have taken our lives, but it was not God's will.  I see things differently.  I know that we cannot judge others.  We cannot take advantage of others, be mean-hearted or mean-spirited.  Everyone makes the mistake.  We study each other's faults, accuse one another, and argue endlessly.  At the end, we shame ourselves in front of God.  We must learn to appreciate each other and appreciate everything that life can offer.  If we learn to not want and instead appreciate, then we can see the beauty in life that God wishes us to see.

That day I learned all about forgiveness.  I forgave the robber and everyone who had ever hurt me in the past.  And I learned a very important lesson.  My leadership skills were put to the test during the most difficult, grave times in my banking career.  I learned to stop complaining and started listening and caring for my team members and customers again.  I came to understand that good leaders don't give up.  They stay the course the best they can and help all with compassion and heart.  Foremost, they stay true to themselves and give thanks to God always.

We must learn to appreciate each other and appreciate everything that life can offer. If we learn to not want and instead appreciate, then we can see the beauty in life that God wishes us to see.



A Christmas Prayer

I love this Christmas prayer which is actually a novena.  It's supposed to be recited for nine consecutive days leading to Christmas.  It's called the St. Andrew Novena a Christmas Anticipation Prayer.  

"It is piously believed that whoever recites this prayer 15 times a day from the Feast of St. Andrew through Christmas will obtain what is asked for.  Imprimatur:  Michael Augustine Archbishop of New York, February 6, 1897."

Hail and Blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold.  In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayers and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ and of His Blessed Mother Mary.  Amen.

I wish that I could remember where I found this prayer.  All I know is that I came across it sometime in 2010.  I wrote it down in my planner and recited the novena daily from St. Andrew's feast day (November 30) through Christmas day.  I think that it's a beautiful prayer and a nice tradition to start with the family.  I hope to make it part of my family's devotions next year.  

God bless everyone and Merry Christmas!

Advent

The saying:  "Better late than never" holds true.  I meant to post this article at the start of Advent but I never got around to it.  I'd say there were many distractions that kept me.  But here it is with just two more days till Christmas.

My family and I certainly did not start off with our best feet forward at the beginning of Advent.  As my family and I hurried to get to Mass I started asking myself:  what does Advent mean to me?

We were really, really late.  It was embarrassing because we seem to not learn.  We missed the first and second readings and even the Gospel.  Father was in the middle of his homily already so we decided to wait to enter until he finished.  I could barely hear because the speakers were not working properly on our corner of the church.  So that meant that I missed the homily too.  Then my thoughts traveled back to my initial question.

The meaning of Advent tends to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the season.  We all have our wish lists and to do lists and it can all get hectic and stressful.  We act like St. Martha many times -- worriedly rushing to prepare and cook our favorite foods and baked goodies, buying presents for ourselves and loved ones, mailing Christmas greeting cards, decorating the inside and outside of the house.  There's so much to do and it seems like we're always on a time crunch.  The truth is that we make Christmas all about ourselves.

But if you think about the beginnings of Christmas, wasn't it all peaceful and silent with the birth of the most perfect human being that ever lived?  If we focus on the Christ Child He can help us answer our questions about Advent.

Mary, Joseph, the wise men, and the shepherds and animals knew.  On that cold, winter night, all fell silent and still.  All were in awe with the perfect greatness and presence among them.  They all adored Him. 

Several months ago the retired priest at our parish was giving a homily that really struck a chord.  During his homily my eyes welled up and I felt chills rushing through me because of a simple, powerful phrase.  The priest said Jesus is telling us, "Show me, show me how much you love me."  

I believe that is what Advent is all about.  The Child Jesus is telling us just that:  "Show me how much you love me."  Maybe it's not enough to get all the cooking done, to check off everything on our Christmas gift lists, and to get all those Christmas cards done on time.  Jesus is telling us that there is so much more.

To me Advent is about recommitting myself to Christ.  It's about putting Christ first above everything else.  It's about committing to getting to church early to pray and adore Him, committing to family prayer and devotions, and almsgiving.  For me it's about teaching my son the faith.  I think Advent means something different for every one of us.  

For others, preparing for Advent could look like going to daily Mass for the rest of Advent and the Christmas season.  Or what about going to midnight Mass with the family?  After Mass have a midnight snack and talk about the humbling experience of the very first Christmas.  What was it like for Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in the manger?  What about volunteering at a soup kitchen or a crisis pregnancy center to help those in need?  Advent is about sharing Christ with others.

To really show Christ love means to be dynamic Catholics in action.  It's doing what others would rather not do.  It's not always easy but let's face it -- what Jesus did for us was not easy.  Now is the time to show Christ how much we really, truly love Him.

The song that I remember from the first Sunday of Advent during Communion was Christ Be Our Light.  It's so fitting because it's such a cheerful, optimistic prayer.  I love it because it's like starting anew and asking Christ to help us lead the way during Advent.  So ask Jesus to be your light during this Advent and Christmas season.  Ask Him to show you what Advent means to you.   Let the Lord of lords and the King of kings be your light and your peace for a blessed Christmas season for you and your loved ones.

 

The priest said Jesus is telling us, “Show me, show me how much you love me.”