Why a Chapel?

For as long as I can remember,  I have wanted to have a chapel where my family could pray together daily, as well as individually whenever a bit of quiet time with God was needed. I made a few attempts in our old house to make the “Back Room” into a chapel, but we always needed the room for something else – storage, guest sleeping quarters, play room, sewing room. We just did not have enough room for everything, and the chapel always had to be the loser. God stepped in, knowing that I needed to be near Him, and in time I was given keys to my parish church, where I could go sometimes to be quiet in His Presence. But the distance between house and church was far – almost an hour. That prevented me from going very often. I began, very slowly, to learn how to find quiet in my soul even with noise in the house. Still, every now and then I needed to go back to the church to recharge my batteries in actual, physical, tangible silence.

When Ian and I looked at this new house, I immediately saw where the chapel would be, and in my mind and heart I solemnly vowed that it would not be a multi-purpose room. This time God would be first. It did not even enter my mind that this room could ever be anything else. We would have to build walls eventually to enclose it and separate it from what would be the living room, and I really prayed that the walls could be built soon so that the chapel would not be lost to storage or clutter. Providence heard my prayer, and a wall had to be built right away. The previous owners of the house had removed a wall from just the place I wanted one. It turns out it had been a load-bearing wall, and the upstairs now had no support!

When told that this room would be our chapel, a visitor to our unfinished basement asked, “What will the room be used for normally?” I didn’t know what he meant, so he asked, “I mean, when it is not being used as a chapel.” I said it would be used as a chapel every day, but he did not seem to understand what I meant. Later, another person suggested that it could be a quiet place to go and read, and that we could keep all of our bookcases in there.

It never occurred to me that people would not understand what I meant by “chapel.” I did not mean a temporary place where sometimes we would gather to pray as a family and sometimes play board games. I did not mean a quiet place to read. One might as well ask,”What do you use your kitchen or bathroom for when it is not being used as a kitchen or bathroom?” I meant a place set apart all the time, where one can go and know that no one is going to be sewing or listening to music or doing homework. A place set apart to pray; that is, talk to and listen to God without distractions. One needs silence for that, and in a home with 12 people living in it, silence is hard to come by.

Now I can understand using space wisely, especially when room is tight and many tasks have to be done in one place. I know that I cannot at this time have a dedicated sewing room. I do not sew often enough to merit that (although one could argue that more sewing might be done if there were a place in which to do it). I understand that I cannot have a dedicated classroom, even though we do school every day. The dining table will have to serve as school desk for 10 children, and I will have to cook and plan meals at the the stove while I teach them.

For me, though, praying is different. I know I must pray always and make my life and every part of it a prayer, but I have to recharge sometimes. Now that we have moved, I do not have keys to the local church. I can’t drive the 3 hours to my old parish to find quiet. There has to be a place where I can go every day. I want to cultivate that inner silence in my own heart, and in the hearts of my children. I want them to know Who God is, and the only way to hear Him is in silence. I want the chapel to be the heart of our home. I want it to be normal and natural for each of us to go there separately or together every day, and as many times a day as we want to. I want this room to be available all the time, to encourage prayer and reflection.

Like that Providential wall that provides support for the main part of the house, prayer is the absolute foundation without which our lives fall apart. The chapel will be a visible reminder of that need in our lives, and, I hope, a place in which to find the One Who can fill that need.

Building a House into a Home

When Ian and I saw this house a few months ago, we could see the possibilities: the little girls could share this room, the boys that one; this could be the living room, that could be a guest room; if we build a wall here, we can finally have the chapel I have always wanted. The back yard was huge, and we could see our children playing and riding their bikes around the neighborhood.

Look at those bike paths!

Lots of room to play!

So we moved in and painted a few walls in anticipation of the floor that would be put in shortly, and we’d move beds into the proper rooms and everyone would know where everything was and everything would have its own place. We would postpone restarting school for a few days because of the temporary chaos of cramped quarters on the main floor. As soon as the basement was done, we’d set up our dining room table so the kids would have a place to do school and we’d be able to unpack all our books and put them into shelves for easy access.

Margaret among the boxes

School Among the Ruins

A month later….

We have started school, using various tables and sofas and chairs that are surrounded by boxes and dressers in what will one day be the dining room. We also eat meals here and pray our nightly rosary.

so much stuff!

Taking a Break from Unpacking and Painting

The kids are sleeping in sleeping bags in two bedrooms, and Ian & I are sleeping in a tiny room that may have been an office at one time. It has been one long camp out!

Robert camping out

Robert camping out

I have taken lots of pictures of the process of tearing down, rebuilding, tiling and painting, so I’ll highlight some of those projects in upcoming posts.

A New House, a New Home

We have been in our new house for almost a month already, but it is still not home. Robert (3) keeps saying tearfully, “I want to go home!” I know how he feels. We lived in our little house on the prairie, which we affectionately called “Windyside Manor,” for almost 14 years. All of my children, except my oldest daughter, were born inside that house, and all of them learned to walk and talk there. I had never before in my entire life lived in any house or apartment for more than 3 years. Although we had put this house on the market a few years before (I still think it was providential that it did not sell), I did not think we would ever leave Colorado Springs.

Home, Sweet Home

Ian and the kids painting Windyside Manor

Ian and I looked at the new house a couple of months ago, and we both could see our family living there and being happy. Immediately I saw exactly where we could have a family chapel, and we quickly figured out what children would fit in which rooms. Best of all: we’d all be together under one roof every day.

Loveland Home

Our New Place

The kids and I picked out paint chips for the bedrooms and bathrooms and the chapel. The day after we moved in, my In-Laws came to spend 2 nights and days with us and got the basement rooms painted before the floor was installed.

Dad's organization skills got the basement painted in 2 days!

Dad getting it done. Go Dad!

We are all still living out of boxes and suitcases, and sleeping in sleeping bags because our basement is not finished yet. What we thought just needed a coat of paint and flooring has turned out to be a huge project, involving removing and rebuilding walls. Apparently the previous owners removed a load-bearing wall, so putting it back became a priority!

Future Chapel!

New walls

Gratefully, we all get along in our close quarters on the main floor. We have a bathroom-and-a-half upstairs, but we were down to one toilet for a while. Not fun. Especially last week when three kids had sudden flu-like symptoms with no warning. Did I mention we don’t have a washer or dryer hooked up yet? You guessed it: the laundry room is in the basement. I have gotten to know Lupita at the laundromat really well.

Some good news, though, is that the contractor we hired is wonderful. He and his wife have been working in our basement almost every day since we moved in, and have laid laminate flooring in both bedrooms and part of the hall, built that all-important load-bearing wall, and today will finish laying the tiles in the bathroom. Tomorrow they will grout them, and the next day they’ll install the toilet! We’ll have two places to bathe, and THREE TOILETS! If you are a mom of many like I am, you will rejoice with me! Alleluia indeed!

Gotta go!

The Long-Anticipated Third Toilet


Leaving Home: Finding God

Even though it took almost an hour to drive to church, and despite its leaky roof and faulty plumbing, Immaculate Conception Parish was the closest thing to heaven I had ever seen.  I loved going there for Mass, for friendship with godly people, for Spiritual Direction and Confession, and sometimes just to be alone with God. I loved to clean the rectory because it was peaceful and quiet. With the priests busy with appointments and meetings and Altar Boy training, I had uninterrupted silence two Saturdays a month: my own silent mini-retreat. Now that we have moved it is over 3 hours away, but I have felt a strong urge many times in the last month to just drive there to kneel and cry.

Why so sad at leaving a church: Aren’t there other good Catholic churches where we have moved? Isn’t there a Latin Mass closer now? Isn’t God in Loveland? Yes, yes, and yes. But Immaculate Conception is more than a good Catholic Church. More than the Latin Mass. It is home. I found God there so palpable. I could see Him and touch Him, and enter into His Most Sacred Heart. There I saw His Blessed Mother honored. Immaculate Conception is not only the name on the collection envelopes: it is the soul of the parish.

For me change is very difficult. I want permanence: to be sure that the sun will rise and set, and that everything will be where I saw it yesterday. Living in the semi-chaos of changing houses and towns is hard, especially since we cannot unpack everything yet. I cannot find a certain pot or the dishwasher detergent. The plan was to move into the main floor and finish the basement within a week, and then unpack everything and put it into its new place.

At least that was MY plan.

God has a way of showing me again and again that I am not in charge. My plans are not the ones that matter. This life is not permanent and I must not get too comfortable here. I am reminded that I am a child and that unless I become as a little child I cannot enter His kingdom. I must become docile to His will. I must not cry when God plays peek-a-boo with me.

Yes, I am a child, and a very beloved one. God takes care of me wherever I am, and loves me beyond anything I can imagine. I suffer when it appears that God has left me. I cry when I think I am alone. He is only hiding his Face for a little while and it is my task to find Him. I am sure I will find godly people in my new home. In time I may love the Latin Mass community here. Everyone is very friendly and the priest very devout and holy. I will find that God is here even in Loveland.

We’re Moving!

One month from today we will take up residence in a new-to-us house in Loveland, Colorado. We have lived in our current house near Colorado Springs for almost 14 years, and all but one of our children was born here. There are a lot of memories within these walls, and we thought we would be here forever.

Fun with boxes My beautiful picture
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But Ian’s job changed a year ago. He had to temporarily shut down AquinasandMore.com, and take a job in another city. After more than 12 months of commuting and spending many nights away from home, we have finally sold our house and bought a new one closer to work. As of April 9, we will no longer have to say prayers over the phone.

Pilgrimage Day 100!!! New Pilgrimage Podcast!

Chartres Cathedral - our destination

Chartres Cathedral – our destination

To celebrate the first 100 days of preparation for our pilgrimage, here is some exciting news: Starting tomorrow, Monday, March 10, Ian & I will be doing a weekly podcast to record our preparations for the 2016 Chartres Pilgrimage. We’ll have that website available for feedback and for posting interesting information. Join us!!! Just click the picture of Chartres Cathedral to go there.

I am copying all of my recent posts related to the Pilgrimage to the new website, and all future Pilgrimage posts will be there instead of here.

Here is MORE exciting news: We are moving! After almost 14 years in this house, we have sold it and have bought a new one further north to be closer to Ian’s work. But that’s a whole ‘nuther post!

St Francis de Sales and Our Lady

St. Francis de Sales is one of my favorite saints. The more I get to know him, the more I love him and want him to help me become a saint.

Both my pastor and an assistant pastor at our parish have said, in their sermons, that we should approach Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist as if it were the FIRST time we were going to receive Him, the LAST time we were going to receive Him, and the ONLY time we were ever going to receive Him. Think about that as you read what our illustrious saint has said:

“Think for a moment of the piety of the Madonna when the angel told her that the Spirit would overshadow her. What sentiments of humility, confidence and courage! At the very moment when she understood that God had given her His heart, that is, His Son, she gave herself to God. Her soul was flooded with charity, so she could say with the sacred spouse, ‘…My heart trembled within me, and I grew faint when he spoke.’ [Sg:5:4] As far as we are concerned, we receive a similar grace in Communion, because not an angel but Jesus Christ Himself assures us that in it the Holy Spirit descends on us. Heavenly power covers us with its shadow and the Son of God really comes to us. He can say that He is conceived and born in us. Truly then, the soul can respond with the Madonna, ‘I am the servant of the Lord; let is be done to me as you say.'” [Lk 1:38] ~St. Francis de Sales