A blog where families who love and live the Catholic Faith can share, encourage and support each other.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Big Crunch

By Sue Elvis

Can you believe I let my son have a ferret for his 14th birthday? Well, perhaps you can. You might know about my silly too soft heart.
“Please, Mum! I’ve always wanted a ferret. They make good pets. They become real friends,” begged Callum.
I didn’t think our pet shop would have a ferret. They’re not exactly run-of-the-mill pets. Perhaps it was safe to say, “Well… we could go into town and have a look. No promises though.”
Just as I expected, the pet shop was all out of ferrets and I drew a sigh of relief. Callum looked very disappointed. He’d set his heart on having a furry ferret friend.
“Can I ask if they expect to get any ferrets soon?”
I didn’t think there was much chance the pet shop was expecting a shipment of ferrets so I let Callum ask. How was I to know it was ferret season, the only few weeks of the year when ferrets are available?  Two ferrets would be up for sale in two weeks’ time. And yes, Callum could reserve one for his very own.
Callum’s face lit up. His subdued mood disappeared instantly. “This will be the best present ever, Mum! Wow! You’re the best mum in the whole world. I can’t wait… I don’t suppose I could have both ferrets? No, of course not. One will be just fine!”
Two weeks later we went to collect our new family member: a long, wriggly, white creature with pink eyes and sharp teeth. Callum called him Finn.
We’d done a bit of reading about ferrets. Ferrets are very much like cats or perhaps a tiny dog. They can be given the run of the house. They will curl up on their owners' laps. They enjoy being taken for walks on the end of a lead… apparently…so we were told.  Callum could just imagine it. Finn would become his constant companion. He’d sleep on his bed, sit on his shoulder and nuzzle his ear while he was studying. He’d go everywhere with him. He’d be a real friend.
But before the dream could come true, Callum had to overcome one little problem. He was afraid of those sharp, sharp teeth. Whenever he approached too closely to Finn those teeth snapped shut, trapping a mouthful of skin. The ferret would then hang in the air, refusing to let go. It was almost impossible to dislodge him. And it hurt! We tried squeezing Finn’s jaws. We tried spraying him with water. We tried spraying our hands with a foul tasting liquid. Eventually we would escape his clutches. We’d regain our freedom…until the next time.
How can you become best friends with something that attacks you as soon as you come within striking distance? Did Finn sense Callum’s fear? “He’ll settle down soon. Handle him firmly. He’ll learn you’re the boss.” But Finn didn’t learn. He knew who was in charge and it wasn’t his owner.  It wasn’t long before Callum’s inclination to go near his new animal disappeared completely. Finn became a neglected pet.
“You can’t just leave Finn in his cage all day,” I pointed out. “He gets bored and he needs exercise. You need to walk him and let him out for a run.”
Reluctantly Callum agreed. He tried dragging Finn around the garden. Then he tried letting him run around the lounge. Unfortunately he didn’t warn the little girls. Soon Finn was hanging from the bottom of a skirt. Terrified girls screamed. The next time Callum let his animal loose he made sure the girls were safely on the other side of the door. The rest of us sat with our feet hidden under our bottoms in an attempt to preserve our toes from being pounced upon. We braced ourselves for possible attack as Finn charged from one end of the room to another and back again. Around and around he went, occasionally choosing a victim to leap upon. After a few minutes I could stand no more and ordered Callum to return the animal to its cage.
Callum was not happy. Finn had changed his life. He was no longer a carefree teenager who looked forward to each day. No, every day he had to face ‘the problem’. He had to face those teeth when he cleaned Finn’s cage (ferrets are so stinky!) and when he exercised him. Callum knew nobody liked his pet. We were all afraid of it. Finn hadn’t become part of the family. He hadn’t become Callum’s friend. He was ‘the enemy’. Callum no longer wanted to own a ferret. What was he to do?
Callum returned to the pet shop and asked if they’d take Finn back. But the pet shop didn’t want him. Callum wrote a notice: ‘Ferret free to a good (any) home’. But no one with a silly too soft heart read the notice. We started asking around: “Does anyone know of someone who wants a ferret?”
Surprisingly, a friend said, “My neighbour is looking for a ferret. He wants to get rid of all the rabbits on his farm.”
Someone wanted a ferret? I couldn’t believe it. Please take ours! We packed up all Finn’s food and cage. We enclosed him in a cardboard box, put him in the car and escorted him under guard to his new home, as quickly as possible before the farmer changed his mind.
Life returned to normal. Callum was no longer stressed out. His day no longer revolved around an ungrateful pet. Our home no longer had a strange unpleasant odour. The girls sighed with relief. We didn’t have to worry about our skirts being attacked. Peace returned to our home.
Occasionally we wondered how the farmer was getting on with Callum’s ex-pet. Was Finn earning his living? Or did his new owner regret accepting our vicious animal? We didn’t dare ask. We didn’t want to know. We didn’t even want to think about it. All we wanted to do was forget we ever had a ferret.
That was five years ago.
The other week we got together with our friend, the farmer’s neighbour. Somehow the conversation got around to rabbits.
“Hey, you remember that ferret of yours?” I tensed up wondering what our friend would say next. “He was a great rabbit catcher. Cleared my neighbour’s farm and all the farms around… “
“It’s a pity he isn’t alive anymore.”
“Oh?” I decided it was safe to share our sorry tale. I could admit we'd felt we were passing on our problem to someone else. I could say how frightened we were that the farmer might want to give Finn back to us. It was quite ok to be honest: the animal was dead. He could never be returned to our home to terrorise us all.
“How did he die?”
“It was a dog.”
“A big crunch?”
“Yes, a big crunch. I wasn’t going to tell you the details. I didn’t want to upset you. I thought you loved your ferret.”
Loved our ferret?
Crunch, crunch, crunch… then one day, no more crunch: Finn's reign of terror came to an end. He encountered a crunch bigger than his own. Crunch, munch, no more ferret.
Whoops! Just had a thought. Could there be some ferret lovers out there, who may be offended by my story...

Finn you were a good ferret. It wasn't your fault that a too soft hearted woman bought you and took you home to a house full of screaming, terrified girls. It wasn't your fault your owner was the possessor of sensitive skin. You were designed to run free and chase prey. And what a fine rabbit catcher you turned out to be. We are all very proud of you. 

You came to a sad end, Finn. A tear forms in my eye as I contemplate the 'Big Crunch'. Not a nice way to go. I wouldn't like to be big crunched.

Rest in peace, good and faithful ferret. You will never be forgotten.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How I'm Doing With My Schoolwork

By Vicky

My unschoolwork is going very well, thank you for asking!

I'm reading lots of good books and keeping myself occupied with heaps of creative projects. My mind is full of ponderings and my curiosity is burgeoning! Rather than being an excuse to waste my days, my unschooling has inspired me to a full and fascinating life of discovery and exploration.

I, recently, read Tolstoy's 'Anna Karenina' and I've just begun to read Dicken's 'A Tale of Two Cities.' I've read books on encouraging creativity, mentoring children, unschooling families (Suzie Andres' Little Way of Homeschooling) and purgatory. Now, I've moved on to books about creationism and other forms of unschooling. The children have joined me in discovering old classics and indulging in quality reading on all sorts of topics. I'm well on my way to becoming well-read!

In between all this reading, I'm busying myself with completing my latest portrait, smocking sundresses, knitting a jumper, gardening and nature study. My Maths has been covered with my recent budgeting tasks and my baking efforts. My music has been taken care of with classical CDs and spiritual music, which I listen to in the car.

All in all, I think I'm getting quite a full and varied education. I'm reasonably sure that I'm covering all the key learning areas and, despite the lack of formal testing, I'm fairly sure that I'm achieving a good level of understanding.

What's that? The children? Well, actually I think they're doing quite well, too! In fact, with their energy and youthful enthusiasm, they make my unschooling look rather ordinary!

So, thank you for asking! Unschooling is working for us and life is busier, livelier and so much more exciting than it ever was before, when we allowed plans and curricula to control our learning and form our minds.


(Just in case, I've inadvertently made myself look like Superwoman, I must point out that I'm tackling all of this in small doses and at a very leisurely pace. It's relaxed learning with no schedule and no expectations - and it feels luxuriously lazy!)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

God's gaze of delight

By Anthony English

Woman Being Grateful
"Man is more himself, more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him."
- G. K Chesterton, Orthodoxy.

In his apostolic letter Dies Domini (on the Day of the Lord), Pope John Paul II spoke of the seventh day of creation, when God "rested".
The divine rest of the seventh day does not allude to an inactive God, but emphasizes the fullness of what has been accomplished. It speaks, as it were, of God's lingering before the "very good" work (Gn 1:31) which his hand has wrought, in order to cast upon it a gaze full of joyous delight. This is a "contemplative" gaze which does not look to new accomplishments but enjoys the beauty of what has already been achieved.
That ability to see the good where it is there─rather than to focus too much on the real (or imagined) evil in people, in things─is, I think a divine gift and the secret to happiness. A contemplative gaze, a "gaze full of joyous delight", requires a day of rest, a time to stop and be thankful for the blessings God has given us. And they are many.

Gratitude and Joy

It's tempting for many to spend their time and nervous energy meditating on what has gone wrong, or what might go wrong. Sometimes God throws someone in our path to remind us to count our blessings. Sometimes it takes a stranger to remind us we've got a beautiful family. So many others are telling us "you've got your hands full", or "you've got your work cut out for you." People can spend so much of their time pointing out others' difficulties, picking out their faults. It's a recipe for misery. Our hearts were not made for such petty thoughts.

It's true that others will know we are Christians by our love. God has given us so much that is good, in both the natural and supernatural spheres, that the marks of Christianity could just as well be joy and gratitude.

In times of sorrow it is difficult to see the good, the touch of grace. But those who have done it, those who have the ability to see the goodness and blessings around them have a deep peace and joy. And with that peace which the world cannot give, they are able to share their peace and joy with others.

Joy is the fundamental thing

Chesterton spoke of this joyous outlook in his wonderful book Orthodoxy:
Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent position of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live.
There are so many of us overwhelmed with anxiety and fears, living in a world of the imagination, that we miss the goodness which God has poured into everything. "What if this [insert your favourite fear] happens? What if everything goes wrong?" Even our imaginations can benefit from penance from time to time. Stewing over the possible evils we may face rarely leads to peace of heart.

For those who are overwhelmed by financial or emotional insecurity, a day of rest seems to be just what the Divine doctor ordered. It is a time to embrace God's "gaze of delight", to step back and see that life is good, full of blessings. It is those who manage to see the finger of divine providence in all the circumstances of life who are most happy.