La Boucherie

Michelle and I had the most delightful anniversary dinner on Friday evening at La Boucherie, a fantastic foretaste of what must await us in farmie foodie heaven. Even though each dish we had could by itself be a contender for best meal it was really the coupling together and arrangement of the dishes in a what felt like a food symphony of ever increasing crescendos that made the overall experience what is hands down the best meal we have ever had. For those familiar with The Omnivore’s Dilemma, think of that meal Michael Pollan described with the prophet of farming and food Joel Salatin (who, it should be noted, is presently in the UK with fellow Vashon parishioner Brandon Sheard, the Farmstead Meatsmith). Similar to that now famous Polyface Farm meal, everything which was crafted into the more than six courses we were served for our anniversary dinner at La Boucherie was grown or raised on the owner’s Sea Breeze Farm also located on Vashon Island. Such locally sourced food was then artfully prepared by La Boucherie which specializes in and has begun offering courses in charcuterie.

Our guided pilgrimage into French farmhouse cuisine began with amuse-bouches and, like each course, was perfectly paired with a French wine. The pâté and salad courses revealed not only excellent food—some of which was formerly part of the ambience growing around us—but also the passion for authentic food our server shared; Rose moved to Vashon in order to cultivate such food at Sea Breeze Farm where she has been butcher, cheesemaker, and candler. Michelle just about stopped at the ecstasy brought on by the pork broth which bathed the grilled mortadella steak, chard, and carrots while the subsequent course of ravioli bolognese was for me just about good enough to die for—a fate with which I had already chosen to flirt despite my α-gal mammal meat allergy. As the evening continued on and as the al fresco dining porch was getting filled we were brought by the chef two different varieties of beef, one dry aged in Sea Breeze’s own cave, along with braised vegetables. Finally, two different desserts including a clafoutis topped with roasted hazelnut ice cream and paired with sauternes, locally roasted coffee, and herbal tea capped off our evening before we made our leisurely Passeggiata around town.

At some point, ever the liturgist, I pointed out to Michelle that our server gave us a perfect example of what diakonia looked like in a classical context, the same term being taken over into Christian usage and, therefore, was an illustration or analogue of what a diaconal liturgical role ought to be. Rose heightened the experience of the meal, explaining the food and drink she set before us, where it came from, and prepared us to enjoy it, though without intruding on Michelle and my encounter through the meal. Our server shared her involvement in the opus, the work, of Sea Breeze, being one of the butchers, cheesemakers, and having moved to Vashon to grow such food and, therefore, was interested in sharing her investment in and passion for the food. In the same way a deacon in the liturgy should be personally invested in and through ministry in the corporal works of the parish and bring this to bear into the sacred liturgy making palpable the link between those (our opus, our work) and the opus Dei (the saving work God does in making us participators in the divine liturgy). By thus connecting the terroir and meal as did our server, serving as a visible, the deacon serves as an incarnate link between the corporal and spiritual, both holding together the the earthy and haute cuisine we’re too wont to separate in our all too often insipid imagination.

We returned home reminiscing about some of our favorite films about food, films that focus on the splurge, the eucharistic self gift of the culinary artist who brings people together in conviviality, such as Babette’s Feast, Big Night, and even Ratatouille. Indeed, with the eyes of faith we can see that “To eat good food is to be close to God” and, with palettes and imaginations awakened to the delight of creation cultivated, rise to say to all people, “In Paradise you will be the great artist that God meant you to be. Ah, how you will delight the angels!”

Why New Chelsea?

As you know by your visiting this our blog or previous instantiations of our websites throughout the last eight years the name New Chelsea has remained the same despite changing hosts. But you may be wondering why this name was given to our farm in North Carolina following no small number of names under consideration. It all starts in 1524 when Thomas More—a man known as an astute statesman, a learned Christian humanist, and for his holiness in so many matters—purchased 27 acres of land in Chelsea for his family manor. It it for this reason that in front of the Chelsea Old Church, located north of the River Thames in London, there is a statue of Sir Thomas More (above) holding that livery collar (the Collar of Esses with its Tudor Rose) which symbolized his role as Lord Chancellor to King Henry viii now cloven as a testimony to Thomas’ martyrdom. This is also the reason that not too far away, tucked away within the bustle of Chelsea, one finds another statue of Saint Thomas More within Allen Hall, the seminary of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster, which sits on the former site of Thomas More’s Great Hall.

Saint Thomas More is one of the saints whose intercession I have often called upon and whose friendship I have enjoyed. Thomas More is one of the small number of married saints in the Roman Catholic canon and it is not only his defense of marriage but also, and more important to me, the witness he gave in his own marriage and fatherhood that is recognized as the ordinary but no less heroic virtue of sacramental marriage. He was deeply influenced by the contemplative Carthusian community in London with whom he spent time in formation and continued to be connected as that encounter with God he had in silence continued to nourish him as the Cistercian tradition has me. Thomas More’s public life and involvement in the intellectual Christian humanism of the early sixteenth century make him not only the patron saint of statesman but also a friend to scholars, fathers, and lawyers as we strive to hold in harmony various ecclesial, familial, and intellectual pursuits. More’s retreat from the center of London, now ironically located in the densest borough of Britain’s captial, Chelsea, is beautifully depicted it the opening sequence of A Man For All Seasons (1967). I too wish for a place which is both close at hand to remain engaged with the center yet distant enough to provide some insulation from the constant bustle which precludes contemplation. Add to all this the fact that the first parish at which I ministered, having done so for more than seven years, was Saint Thomas More which featured a bell choir named the Chelsea Chimes in which Michelle played and through which we made many good friends, and you can begin to glimpse the importance of Saint Thomas More to me and why I am inspired to inhabit the world as he did and find a similar repose in my New Chelsea.

Christmas 2013

Joy and Peace! How often we read these beautiful words especially in this Advent season as we joyfully await the peace of Christ. How often, though, do we run frantically about, anxious with ancillary concerns rather than remaining focused on making straight the way of the Lord into our heart? This Advent those of us in the Catholic fold have been invited anew by our new shepherd, Pope Francis, to radiate the Joy of the Gospel, to proclaim that peace which encountering Christ has brought to our lives. This Advent we all have the opportunity to “obey the Lord’s call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need” (Evangelii Gaudium 20). All the tales of the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets begin with a journey of displacement from a homeland—Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Elijah, Jonah, Ezekiel—each foreshadowing those pilgrimages of the Holy Family, the Magi, and countless saints who left behind that which was good in obedience to the promise of the Father.

New ChelseaThis year Michelle and I discerned to similarly bid farewell to the best we have known—and for which we shall always give thanks—in order to follow the call of the Lord to a new life in the Pacific Northwest. We have quite literally gone forth, experienced the challenges, the pain of exile from our beloved community, but like the patriarchs and the cloud of witnesses who trusted that the Lord is faithful to his promises, we remain expectant, figuratively like Mary on the donkey, for the hidden fruit which we are confident in time will mature of our journey to Seattle. For you to whom we last wrote with our Christmas greetings shortly after Joshua’s birth in Lent 2012 in order to invite all y’all to his baptism, let us resume the story there…

I baptize youOn Mothers’ Day weekend 2012, together with both of our natal families, we had two wonderful celebrations. On Saturday Michelle formally received her doctoral hood from her advisor, Dr Howard Rockman, of Duke University and brought to fruition the more than seven-year journey to earn her PhD in Cell Biology. Through the support of so many people—fellow parishioners of Saint Thomas More, Michelle’s sister, and the prayers of those more distant—this great accomplishment was one shared by many. On that Sunday, that day of the resurrection, together also with our extended parish family, we joyfully celebrated the baptism of Joshua Anthony, who that day was reborn of water and Spirit, had opened for him the door to the Church, and began a sacramental life which nourishes us in our journeys to encounter the Lord. We are especially thankful for Laura and David Olson, Joshua’s godparents, for their willingness to support us in prayer, friendship, and so many other ways as we undertake raising our son in the practice of the faith.

Michelle Casad, PhDTo further celebrate these events and thanks to my parents’ willingness to stay and care for Miriam and our little farm, we were able to go to Puerto Rico to participate in the bridal party for the celebration of the wedding of Natasha, with whom we’d become fast and close friends upon our arrival in North Carolina. It was a treat, albeit an exhausting one with Joshua in tow, to be part of this fantastic harmonizing of families and cultures and afforded the chance to make new friends as we experienced together the beaches and historical streets of San Juan and the lush beauty of the Carite Forest. In September 2012 we travelled to Boston for another wedding, this time of Joanna, who had been Michelle’s roommate during their year abroad together in Galway, Ireland and was part of our bridal party. We had a great time at the wedding of Joanna and Marty, staying at Joanna’s family beach bungalow at Plymouth for the end of the season, and catching up as we explored the Mayflower and rather large rock nearby.

The last nearly two years have brought many further celebrations for some of our close parish family at Saint Thomas More. It was a great joy to celebrate the wedding of Amy, the first candidate for reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church with whom I was privileged to minister at Saint Thomas More and for whom Michelle served as sponsor, to a lector and musician at our parish, Ryan. In addition, two marriages of which we were blessed to be part in previous summers received the gift of children to whom I am honored to be bonded as their godfather. Michael and Alesandra, who is Miriam’s godmother, welcomed their son, Matthew, while Joshua’s godparents, David and Laura, welcomed their delightful daughter, Helen, in July. We also joyfully celebrated the ordination of my colleague, Luis Royo, to the diaconate for the Diocese of Raleigh.

How does a dinosaur...As Michelle continued her cardiology research as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill we also began another chapter of our parenting by welcoming to our home Alex, our au pair from Buga, a small town in the Valle del Cauca in Colombia. Alex lived with us for one year and took care of both Miriam and Joshua as the former started pre-school and the latter took his first steps, spoke his first words, and began to eat everything in sight! Alex was not only great in caring for Miriam and Joshua but also taught them both to speak Spanish, to root for Los Cafeteros, and Salsa dance. Three days a week Miriam joined a dozen other three years old in the inaugural year of Saint Thomas More’s Friendly Frogs pre-Kindergarten. It was not only Miriam who had a blast and made many friends, but also Michelle and I who are likewise deeply thankful for the great experience we had due to the excellent teachers, volunteers and parents from the parish as we too built new friendships in Miriam’s first foray into school.

My ministry as Director of Liturgy and Catechumenate at Saint Thomas More this year included what was perhaps the most beautiful celebration of the Sacred Paschal Triduum to date as we found our stride with the present Roman Missal and since I was blessed once more to serve as godfather, this time to Sissi with whom I have been privileged to share in her journey of conversion, a journey which infused not only her life with joy but also that of her family and her new parish. Equally long in formation, this year saw the establishment of a relationship with a local Catholic artist who crafted and installed above the baptismal font a magnificent wooden relief of the Lamb of God in whose blood those reborn in baptism are washed clean and who inscribes the names of his elect in the seven-sealed Book of Life upon which he reclines.

new lamb ¡Hola gallina!

Our little farm of New Chelsea also welcomed a new lamb this spring whose leaping and frolicking was, as always, a delightful sight among the tall clover pasture beyond our backyard. As the chicks we had received to coincide with Joshua’s birth had long matured we all enjoyed the beauty of their variegated plumage and collecting an equally rainbow array of eggs.

Following the busyness of Holy Week, I made a retreat to the Trappist Abbey of the Holy Cross in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in order to participate in a Monastic Immersion Week. Much of this time I spent in prayerful discernment of the Lord’s voice and the invitation to serve Archbishop J. Peter Sartain as Director of the Liturgy Office for the Archdiocese of Seattle.

Here come the IrishAmid preparing for the transitions, I gave a presentation on Christian initiation at the annual Liturgy Symposium at the University of Notre Dame. En route we visited with Natasha and Christian, whose wedding we had attended in Puerto Rico, who had recently welcomed with joy their son, Cristian. It was delightful to reconnect with Kim and Matt who were also in the process of moving as Kim begins her professorship at Notre Dame and meet their third child, Hildegard, whom they had likewise just welcomed.

Having made the decision to move, we unleashed the summer frenzy of dismantling the little farm we had built up over our seven years there, preparing our house for showings and sale, and packing up one chapter of our life. Our flock of heritage breed Jacob Sheep found homes enriching two nearby lines while our two Anatolian Shepherds, Basil and Abe, have continued as guardians for a large flock of sheep at another North Carolina farm. Finding new homes for the chickens was relatively easier given that many people have discovered the joy and health benefits of fresh eggs from free-ranging hens even on small plots. looking for ladybugsWe received from friends and fellow parishioners not only the help without which we could never have accomplished our move but also were buoyed by their prayers and support which served as a tangible reminder of the depth of love we glimpsed and experienced among our community. Though our house and property remains unsold, we are confident it shall sell this spring and that, armed with all we were able to learn together and the fruits of what we planted there, we can begin rebuilding anew our small-scale, permaculture inspired rural idyll and setting down roots in the new community to which we have been called here.

BadlandsJust before setting out on our westward journey we bid a tearful farewell to Alex, thankful for the memories we all had together. Shortly thereafter we welcomed to our home Laura, our current au pair from Villamaría, near Manizales, in the Caldas region of Colombia. Laly was quickly immersed into our family as she experienced the last hectic week of our life in North Carolina and our two week road trip. Along our 3600 mile odyssey we visited Michelle’s brother, Dominic, and his wife, Liz, spending a day in Philadelphia one last time before leaving the Mid-Atlantic. Old FaithfulThough not quite retracing Lewis and Clark’s route from Saint Louis, their journey loomed large as we exited I-80 from Notre Dame and then headed off to cross the Mississippi River at Minneapolis where we reconnected with Michelle’s cousins and then ventured out onto the northern plains to visit Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. From there we stayed the night on the banks of the Missouri River before visiting Badlands and Mount Rushmore. From there we trekked up into the Rocky Mountains and spent several days exploring the wonderful beauty of Yellowstone before winding through Montana, over the Columbia River and into Washington. We made it into Seattle in time to meet our truck with our belongings with which we were graciously assisted in offloading by many new friends. We were also just in time to celebrate the wedding of our friend Mimi, with whom I was a student at Notre Dame and who now ministers at a parish in Sammamish.

Saint James CathedralI am enjoying my new job as I get around to the parishes and other facilities (schools, retreat centers, cemeteries, etc.) of the archdiocese. I serve principally as a resource for parishes in order that liturgies there may thrive, that is, to be spaces in which the faithful and those drawn in for the first time may alike encounter the love and mercy of God through participation therein and be missioned as disciples into the world and so renew it by their presence. Toward that end I lead workshops for liturgical ministers, assist in reviewing new building projects, have launched several new mystagogical catechetical programs, and together with a great staff am blessed to serve for various episcopal and archdiocesan celebrations at Saint James Cathedral. I also have continued offering online theology courses through Notre Dame’s STEP.

Having discerned a desire to explore a career other than academic research, Michelle has found both employment and joy as an adjunct member of the biology faculty at Tacoma Community College. All of us have a desire to see our work bear fruit and the weekly experience of knowing that her students have come to a greater knowledge of Anatomy and Physiology has been rewarding for Michelle. Beginning in January she will be adding to her docket several biology courses at Bishop Blanchet Catholic High School.

Seattle skylineMiriam continues to lead the cheer, ‘See It!’ when the Space Needle comes into view, in remembrance of the eruption all had upon seeing Seattle’s icon as we first drove into town knowing our two-week journey was only ten minutes from its terminus at our new house. Miriam is thriving in her pre-Kindergarten class at Saint Matthew, the Catholic parish nearest us in our neighborhood of North Seattle. She has especially enjoyed being a big sister and, together with Laly and Joshua, exploring Seattle’s parks, museums, zoo and aquarium, and more. Laly continues to guide Miriam and Joshua in learning Spanish, developing many skills, and widening their imagination. Miriam enjoys creating in paint, word, and music as her distinctive handwriting has emerged and she has begun to take up piano. Miriam’s influence on Joshua can immediately be heard in his broad vocabulary of dinosaur species a topic with which both of them continue to be obsessed. Joshua is happiest playing with puzzles, ‘participating’ in Miriam’s drawing activities, and occasionally sitting still long enough for her to read him books. We also hear him singing versions of songs that Miriam has brought home from school or library story time.

Woodland Park ZooDuring the first months of our being in Washington with the exceptionally beautiful weather we also explored further afield into to mountains and Puget Sound around us. As we have journeyed to the various corners of the archdiocese and been experiencing many new things I have resuscitated our blog at in order to share longer reflections and with those beyond whom we’re connected on facebook.

Michelle now has one quarter of teaching under her belt, I have been through the cycle of Deacon Convocation and celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe and Simbang Gabi as Liturgy Director, and routines are being established in other areas of our life allowing us to begin emerging the from chaotic fog that enveloped us. Though we are anxious to find a permanent place to call home and even went through the roller coaster of entering into and then losing a contingent offer on a house, we are trying to live into the admonition of Saint James (5:7-10) proclaimed on this Gaudete Sunday, when in the midst of Advent we are already called to rejoice even as we wait patiently as “the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it.”

overlooking the Puget SoundLiving once more on the West coast has been challenging but an invitation to joy. It made it possible for us to do another roadtrip to spend Thanksgiving with Michelle’s parents at their home in Modesto together with Frances, Jon, and our niece, Julia. We also were able to visit my uncle Dave and the surrounding Redwoods on our drive. What else lies ahead we cannot yet see but we remain faithful to the call and hopeful for that for which we shall soon give thanks.

Here in Christmastide more than ever we hear of peace and of joy. And yet we are also more keenly aware than ever that we are all a pilgrim people, a people journeying together in this “challenge of finding and sharing a ‘mystique’ of living together, of mingling and encounter, of embracing and supporting one another, of stepping into this flood tide which, while chaotic, can become a genuine experience of fraternity, a caravan of solidarity, a sacred pilgrimage” (Joy of the Gospel 87). While our family has set forth on a literal journey in obedience to an encounter, an invitation to be amid others in a new place in order to radiate the joy of living a life in Christ (266), “it would be so good, so soothing, so liberating and hope-filled…[for all of us] to go out of ourselves and to join others” (87) to radiate that same peace and joy born of the love of God who abides with us wherever we sojourn.

May Christ ever abide with you wherever you go and the joy of the Gospel fill your hearts and lives!

The above text and photographs were included in our Christmas 2013 newsletter (PDF).

Soil and Sacrament

I recently finished reading Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith by Fred Bahnson (2012). I first met Fred when he hosted a conference I was blessed to attend in 2007, Land • Bread • Body, when I was also introduced to the ministry he began at Anathoth Community Garden. Together with A Time to Plant: Life Lessons in Work, Prayer, and Dirt by Kyle Kramer (2011) which I read and heartily recommended to many the week it emerged from Ave Maria Press, Soil and Sacrament takes the reader deep into the spiritual experience of a man longing to connect to the soil from which we have all been formed, to others to whom we’re bound not only as husbands but also as a community of eaters, and above all to God the Father who forms us in his own likeness through the self-giving meal of his beloved Son. Soil and Sacrament begins with the author’s spiritual quest at Mepkin Abbey, the same Trappist monastery near Charleston, South Carolina where I was blessed to spend one week a year on retreat during our time in North Carolina, moves through his early experiences that brought together social justice and food sovereignty in Latin America, explores the Bahnsons’ own experiences in both Western North Carolina and the northern part of rural Orange County which I called home for seven years, and includes additional profound reflections on time spent in a modern kibbutz in Connecticut (which sent me back to watch Ushpizin) as well insights for ministry among recovering addicts and felons not far from my present home in western Washington and the salt of the earth back in North Carolina. Not only owing to the familiar landscapes both Bahnson and I have physically inhabited—if one substitutes the time I was blessed to spend in Eritrea for the author’s mission in Chiapas—but also and more importantly to the similar spiritual restlessness which has lead each of us, in our peculiar and respective ecclesial way, to embark upon seeking God in the grandeur of dirt and parenting as well as the humiliation of the academy and ministry I found my soul resonating with, probed by, edified through, and—as is the goal of all liturgy as God’s work of salvation carried out here and now in efficacious signs—ennobled by Bahnson’s lucid memoir of food and faith. I would commend Soil and Sacrament to all who want to start a community garden, see divine order in soil structure, reverence the deepest sources of nourishment, and struggle like me to be good and faithful disciples of Christ having been awakened by the likes of Michael Pollan to the ecological and social pathologies manifested in our food system which can only be redeemed by conformation to the vision of creation rightly ordered as revealed in the Eucharist as the perfection of that divine self-emptying by which creation first came into being as an expression of love.

The Eucharist and Right Relationship to the Land

The following first appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of Catholic Rural Life, a publication of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.

Each time we come together for the celebration of the liturgy, the priest takes the bread and wine brought forward by the faithful and prays, “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.”

This simple prayer which concludes the Presentation of the Gifts makes us aware of all those relationships into which we are enmeshed by our very human nature. As we acclaim “Blessed be God forever” our worship makes us aware of and invites us to make holy these relationships that otherwise often remain implicit. Condensed into the symbols of bread and wine is the invitation to all mankind to reconcile and be in right relationship with one another as laborers and recipients of gift, as producers and consumers, and ultimately as the people God has chosen for himself to be as one body a sacrament, an outward sign, of the divine reality being made manifest.

We cannot be this image of Christ for the world unless we are in right relationship with one another and with all creation. For, as Jesus taught us, “if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-24). It is only when we have cooperated with Christ to heal our broken relationships that we can then come forward and receive his broken body that reconciles us with the Father. Every time we present the gifts for the Mass we have thrust in front of us not simply another foodstuff or commodity, but the very embodiment of our relationships to the soil, to the environment, and to all God’s creatures with whom we have been placed in this garden as stewards.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the emerging social sciences brought the tools needed not only to see the relationships between persons mediated by the market and civil society but also opened the way for the Church to articulate what has come to be known as Catholic Social Teaching focused on the intrinsic dignity of the human person within such social milieu. Thus our “full, conscious and active participation” (SC 14) in the liturgy of the Eucharist stirs us to pursue justice as we come to the altar with bread and wine which are the “work of human hands,” willing even to sacrifice more of our means in order to make sure that I am in right relationship with those laborers whose very dignity is embodied in every product they craft.

In the last century the ecological sciences have, in a similar way, brought the tools needed not only to see the relationships between us and our environment but also have begun to invite us into theological reflection on our duty as stewards of God’s creation. Our worship invites us to cultivate and tend the great gift of the earth which God has entrusted to us as we see in these “fruits of the earth” our human cooperation with divine bounty. We taste in the wine the very terroir, not simply the soil but all that shaped the land, that which watered and nourished the vine, and sweetness of the sun.

Such awareness of the profundity of the mysteries we celebrate planted within me the yearning to live the liturgy more fully, to respond to this Eucharistic invitation to be in right relationship with my fellow faithful, the poor, and all people as well as to cultivate right relationship with creation so that I might be oriented to receive the grace of right relationship to God. Here are five simple things I have found to build relationship with the land:

Get to know your food from its roots. Although I live on our small farm outside of town where I raise heritage breed Jacob Sheep and keep free-range laying hens, my family still relies almost exclusively on purchased food. Subscribing to a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) has been a great way for our family to spend time at and be invested in a farm in area.

Celebrate the seasons. The liturgical year is not meant to be celebrated only in the church. Eating what is in season for your location begins building traditions that associate particular foods with particular celebrations. The harmony between the liturgical seasons and the rhythms of harvest are not accidental. You might even encourage your parish to have your annual celebration associated with local fruits rather than fungible foodstuffs.

Grow something. Anything. Start simple and practice the stability and long-duration planning needed to follow a plant through a whole year. As you spend time growing a crop or a flower you begin to develop a relationship with and can stand in astonished wonder of the life God has brought about. Soon you’ll notice that plants have relationships with one another, the living wonder we call soil, wildlife or livestock, and humans. Fostering these is what companion planting or permaculture guilds are all about. What is now known as biomimicry is the recognition that God reveals something of himself in the beautiful order of his handiworks, The Book of Nature as medieval Christians called this companion to the scriptures, from which we can learn how to better order our world.

Support sustainability. We’re used to checking only one bottom line when we’re planning projects whether at our parishes, in our home owners’ association, or at our children’s schools. But we should add two more bottom lines: sustainability and fostering community relationships. It is great to do specific “green” events but it is all the more important to make all of our works sustainable. One area we often do not think to check is our investments and retirement funds. Make sure you aren’t leveraging your own money against your efforts in sustainability.

Always think about people. We are called to stand in solidarity with all people, to put ourselves in the other’s shoes. In a particular way our building relationship with the land manifests itself in care for immigrants, supporting Fair Trade, and listening to the needs and wisdom of local farmers. Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day’s advisor, developed his idea for a Catholic Worker Farm from his keen awareness of the relationship between rampant urban unemployment and the degradation of the land taking place following the depression. Our relationship to God is opened up to us, is made incarnate, in our relationship to one another and to the land which we share and inhabit.

Chicks and Ducklings

Andy with day-old ducklingWe received our shipment of 25 day-old chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery on Sunday evening and, on Wednesday morning, ten day-old ducklings. McMurray offers Rainbow Layers as an assortment of hens from a number of different breeds. Ours were hatched on Friday and, because of the weekend, we were unable to pick them up until Sunday evening at the postal depot adjacent to RDU resulting in a lengthy time before their placement in the brooder we assembled Sunday morning. We have unfortunately therefore lost six birds because of their rough start although McMurray has refunded us the cost of them as part of their 48-hour viability guarantee. The remaining 21 birds (McMurray usually ships an extra bird or two) are doing very well. A colleague of Michelle’s is raising up two of them as a project for their son to do with his grandmother who is visiting from China and, like us, in order to have the eggs given that (sub)urban chicken raising is becoming considerably more accepted. Our ten Khaki Campbell ducklings arrived at our post-office station at Timberlyne early Wednesday morning having been hatched only the day before and are doing very well and mixed in with the considerably smaller but quicker chicks within a couple of hours.

About two years ago I built the first version of our egg mobile, a portable chicken coop made almost exclusively with lumber salvaged (with permission) from a nearby construction site. As I mentioned in a previous post my dad and I rebuilt this chicken coop into an armored poultry vehicle during Easter week this year. While our remaining chickens and lone guinea hen have been lodging in their new coop for some two weeks now, it was really in anticipation of our new birds and the expected annual predation that has come each May which necessitated improving the protection which the coop affords the birds. It is our hope that the rebuilt coop, especially when coupled with a forthcoming pair of livestock guard dogs, will provide the chickens adequate protection when we soon begin moving it around the pasture which we will start fencing next week. For the ducks we built a 4′ x 5′ floating dock that we’ll tether to a tree and let rest in the middle of our pond. I still need to add the superstructure/shelter but the hope there is that the moat will deter predators and give the ducks a rich area in which to forage while themselves adding nutrients for our fish. Enjoy the photos of the chicks and ducklings.

A View from the Upper Room

Easter fire, built and lit by Lee Casadthey entered the city, went to the upper room where they were staying…[and] devoted themselves with one accord to prayer (Acts 1:13, 14). This year I was able to convince my parents to spend Easter with us which was of course a great opportunity for them to spend time with their granddaughter but also gave us all the chance to devote ourselves to the prayer of the Church for the whole Triduum. Last year Frances spent Easter with us and so we continue the trend of gathering our dispersed families together for this central celebration of the entire liturgical year. Holy Week once again went beautifully at St Thomas More thanks to the efforts of the many prayerful and detailed people with whom I am blessed to work. We once again were moved from the intimacy of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday through the pain of the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday to the brilliant new light and resplendent joy of the Mass of the Resurrection at the Easter Vigil. Three new Christians were baptized that evening which was the best birthday present a pastoral liturgist could ever desire. In addition, my Aunt MaryAnn and cousin joined us for this liturgy which I deeply appreciated.

LinusEaster itself was tinged with more than a little pain for Michelle and me due to the death of Linus, our beagle who had been our companion since we adopted him in 2005. For several months Linus had been dying of a throat cancer. We kept him comfortable during the weeks as he prepared for eternal rest although his breathing began to be quite labored by Good Friday. He was quite restless the night of Holy Saturday and so, having returned from the church around 2:30AM, Linus and I curled up on the back porch through the night with me fully expecting him not to see the night through. No more than a couple hours after I returned from the church Easter Sunday morning Linus peacefully died on the floor of our bathroom. Michelle and I buried him atop a hill overlooking our pond on the very day we celebrate the resurrection of the body with the hope that indeed all creation is groaning for liberation from suffering, fragility, and mortality (Romans 8:22).

Once again this year I lead the neophytes and other members of the parish in Going an Octave Deeper, an eight-day mystagogical catechesis during the Octave of Easter. Each evening of the Octave of Easter, beginning on Easter Sunday itself, we celebrated Evening Prayer (Vespers) which was followed by about an hour-long discussion of one of the symbols of the Paschal Triduum. Mystagogy is primarily the honeymoon for those baptized at the Easter Vigil but is a valuable opportunity for all the faithful to remember and unpack what we celebrated in the three days. The idea struck me when trying to figure out how to invite those baptized to share their stories of faith, to come to know the community more fully, and to deepen the experience of the liturgy for all. Based on the kind of mystagogical catechesis written by the Church Fathers and included as the second reading in the Office of Readings for the Octave of Easter I paired up the symbols; I continue to find it a rich opportunity for faith sharing during this eight-day retreat. This year our celebration of Evening Prayer was all the richer due to the cantors and instrumentalists from the St Thomas More choirs who lead us in song which made for fuller participation and each evening brought us right back to the Easter Vigil in sight, sound, and smell. For Michelle and me this celebration of the Octave of Easter is of particular importance not only for remembering the Paschal Mystery and our participation therein but also because last year it was during the second-to-last evening that Michelle went into labor.

Miriam with Dorothy WhelanDuring this week we spent a morning with Dorothy Whelan and her two daughters, Sheana and Kathy. Kathy and my mom were best friends growing up in Escondido and one another’s maid-of-honor, Dorothy and my maternal grandmother played cards together for decades, my parents had their wedding reception at the Whelan’s, and Dorothy and her late husband, ✝Ed, are my sister’s godparents. Sheana and Kathy now live in Chapel Hill and Virginia, respectively, with Dorothy moving between them, so it was something of a great four-generation family reunion. Later that day we attended the doctoral thesis defense of our friend, now Dr. Anne White, PhD. It was great to see her hard work pay off and certainly gave Michelle hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A colleague of Anne’s, Sabrina Anderson, who also recently completed her doctorate, came and set up two bee hives on our property to take advantage of the white clover coming up strong on the pasture. Sabrina had completed a bee-keeping program and had all the equipment but was looking for a place to locate the hives when, thankfully, Anne connected us. Throughout the rest of the week amid the enjoyable annual spring visits from friends and planning for pasture fencing my dad and I managed to completely disassemble and rebuild our chicken coop, which I am now calling an armored poultry vehicle due to the massively reinforced protection it will afford the chicks that will be arriving next week. Miriam also had an adventurous week that included her one year checkup, bouncing on inflatables at Duke’s grad parents’ event, and another go at the infant cognition lab.

ice-cream covered Miriam kissing her grandmaWe wrapped up the week with an enjoyable Second Sunday of Easter dinner at my cousin’s home in Linden, NC which included visiting the neighbor’s Belgian draft horses while on an off-road Jeep ride that also landed my second cousin and I stuck in a ditch. Before heading home my parents took Miriam and us to Maple View for her first ice cream in anticipation of her first birthday (post forthcoming) being celebrated this Sunday in conjunction with a party for those being received into the full communion of the Catholic Church.