Monday, September 23, 2019

The Power of a Word

I don't know about some of these companies' mottos and such.  I don't care who makes it my way, or who has the spiciest chicken or whatever the king is doing.  What has made an impact on my life are the simple words of the Saints, calling us to do something better.  St. Mother Teresa's call to respond to Jesus's plea on the cross of "I Thirst" and St. Benedict's rule guiding us to moderation and to strive to do all things for Christ, That in all things God may be Glorified, (Ut in Omnibus Glorificetur Deus); these are real and meaningful, and things I can impress upon my children.  So, ahead of the swish, the apple, or the golden arches, place the words of the Saints; if you paint them on your hearts, you give your children a chance to paint them with their lives.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Candle Making

In my opinion, beeswax candles are incomparable.   They smell better, they are better for you, they are a natural product of little worker bees, etc.  Even though rubrics concerning candles for liturgical use have changed, and the vast majority of churches use either 51% beeswax candles, or some varying sorts of oil filled things made to look like candles, I don't think the reasons to use them have changed.

It has to be awkward to read/sing the Exultat at Easter Vigil and know you are using the wrong thing... particular these parts...

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious.

I know there are financial constraints, etc.  It is unfortunate, but it does not have to be the case for your own home.  Make yourself some candles, get them blessed, enjoy.

Over the years we have collected a fair bit of equipment, and made candles a few different ways.  Lots of people go the hand- dipped method.  My problem with it is that you always have to have a few pounds melted, you never use up everything.  Yes, you could dip, and then pour others.  My other problem is that I love consistency, and I just can't get them as consistent with dipping (maybe SOME people can.)

I have moved away from the tin tapers because I fought with them too much and silicon/polypropllethan (whatever plastic they are) are so much easier.

Start with good wicks.  We use Atkins and Pearce square wicks that are made for beeswax, and they are super.  They are very consistent and burn very well.  You will have to test wick sizes to match candle size and wax type.  For these I used #1/0 for the tapers and #1 for the colonials.

Use beeswax.  There are lots of sources, and I'm sure you can find some local too.  I like having a stock of the pastilles in both bleached and unbleached varieties.  It makes quick candle making sessions possible.  Ultimately, the local beeswax is going to be more expensive, but will be worth it just for the smell.  Depending on how much and how many you burn will effect you choice.  We have some sources on the resource page.

Get your mez together.  Just like in the cooking world, the concept of Mise en place applies here as well.  When we started making candles, we only made them outside, but since we got a handle on it all, I make them inside with minimal clean up or mess.  You will need molds, a thermometer, a melting vat, a spoon, and a double boiler.

My super fancy double boiler.

Don't melt wax directly, it doesn't boil.  It goes from liquid to flash fire.  Keep the temp below 180F.  I usually poor at 165-170F . Color starts getting weird at 180F.

Prepare molds for pouring by threading a wick through the base and securing it at the top, bobby pins work well, and move it all to the side so it is easier to pour.

No pictures of the first pour... I scared all my helpers away.

You will notice that the wax contracts and that after 5 minutes or so there is a void at the bottom.  Fill that back up, but don't go over the cooled section of the original pour (the white in the pictures above.  If you do, two things will happen.  1. You will have a weird looking end with a place that is liable to crack, and 2. You may get wax running down between the cooled part of the candle and the mold, disfiguring the final product.

I was making 7/8" Standard Tapers and 1" Straight Colonials.  They take about 35 minutes to cool.  When you pull them out, I like to leave enough wick with which to wick the next candle, and secure it with a bobby pin before cutting the candle loose.

They will still be warm and capable of warping, so hang them on your wife's cast iron wall hanging rack.

I then like to weigh my candles, especially if I am using new wax or molds.

12" x 3/4" Taper      = 2.6oz
10" x 3/4" Taper      = 2oz
10" x 1"    Colonial = 2.6oz
6" x 1"      Colonial = 1.5oz

I like to polish them with wax paper/parchment paper or panty hose before I call them done, It gets rid of any roughness, I get to inspect for imperfections, and it gives a cleaner finish.

At this point, I get them blessed, and I keep them in a cool spot.  We posted here about Candlemas and the blessing used there.  The older blessing outside of Candlemas can also be used, and... I find it very comforting.  Here it is in English:

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord. All: Who made heaven and earth. 
P: The Lord be with you. All: And with your spirit

Let us pray. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, bless + these candles at our lowly request. Endow them, Lord, by the power of the holy + cross, with a blessing from on high, you who gave them to mankind in order to dispel darkness. Let the blessing that they receive from the sign of the holy + cross be so effectual that, wherever they are lighted or placed, the princes of darkness may depart in trembling from all these places, and flee in fear, along with all their legions, and never more dare to disturb or molest those who serve you, the almighty God, who live and reign forever and ever. All: Amen.

They are sprinkled with holy water.

Friday, August 23, 2019

'Twas a Starry Night

My stencils finally came in, so we got stars painted on the blue background.  Please pardon the mixing of liturgical colors in this photo series.  When I started it was the Memorial of St. Rose, so we had white.... by the time I finished it was after evening prayer and in preparation for the Feast of St. Bartholomew, and I had already switched the chalice veil to red...

Monday, August 12, 2019

In Which I Draw Arches

I friend of ours was concerned that there was not enough western influence in our budding chapel, so he gave me a book on Gothic Art.

I did some math, played with a few styles of Gothic arches, and ended up here...  It is sized for the eventual altar I want to build... and it needs stars... and another coat of pain.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Peace of Space, Up in Smoke

(No children were harmed by the excessive amount of incense it took to get this picture, just like this.)

After all, we are a blog about the Domestic Church...

The second hardest thing, in my opinion, about building the prayer life of your family, of your Domestic Church, is creating a place apart to pray.  (The hardest thing, of course, is actually taking the time to pray, but that is a topic for another day.)

I have no doubt that there are very holy families that do not have a prayer space, prayer corner, etc., but dollars to donuts it is easier in the long run.  Our pastor here, Fr. Jerabek wrote an excellent article on the topic of home chapels:  Having a Home Chapel. If there was any question on our stance, we are keen on the idea.

I have mentioned it elsewhere, but we have had some prayer corner of some sort in each of our homes since we got married, and I always had a space set aside in my classrooms when I taught.  If nothing else, there is often a need to step aside from our busy lives and go somewhere safe.  I do think it begs the question of how to make that space set apart.

It is easy enough to say that sacred art, a kneeler, a Crucifix, candles, etc are sufficient; but it can be difficult to give children that sense of space.  We are lucky enough, now, to have a room set aside as a chapel, but we still have to remind the kids not to run though, not to eat, not to drag their dirty shoes through, and the like.  It was even more difficult with "dual use space."

OK, don't freak out on me and go all asthmatic...

Here I would make the argument for incense.  No, before we start, I'm not saying burn incense every day, or every time you pray as a family, or even every week. Incense can give a sense of place and a bit of peace to the space your family prays in.

Another caveat, I am a Novus Ordo Latin rite Catholic.  While I certainly appreciate the Extraordinary Form, it is not my regular form of worship.  I am heavily influenced by the Eastern Churches, particularly the slavic Byzantines, but I am a Latin.  The reason I make this clear is that some of the nuances and interpretations of the use of incense differ slightly as you move across the different Ritual Churches in the Catholic Church, not to mention the Orthodox Churches.

Don't lose me now, just a smidge of history...

Jews and Christians have used incense for millenia in the worship of God, not to mention many other religions using it in their ritual worship.

We can see in Exodus the exact instructions for burning incense:

For burning incense you shall make an altar of acacia wood,a
with a square surface, a cubit long, a cubit wide, and two cubits high, with horns that are of one piece with it.
Its grate on top, its walls on all four sides, and its horns you shall plate with pure gold. Put a gold molding around it.
Underneath the molding you shall put gold rings, two on one side and two on the opposite side, as holders for the poles used in carrying it.
Make the poles, too, of acacia wood and plate them with gold.
This altar you are to place in front of the veil that hangs before the ark of the covenant where I will meet you.

On it Aaron shall burn fragrant incense. Morning after morning, when he prepares the lamps,
and again in the evening twilight, when he lights the lamps, he shall burn incense. Throughout your generations this shall be the regular incense offering before the LORD.
On this altar you shall not offer up any profane incense, or any burnt offering or grain offering; nor shall you pour out a libation upon it.
Once a year Aaron shall purge its horns. Throughout your generations he is to purge it once a year with the blood of the atoning purification offering. This altar is most sacred to the LORD.

Exodus 30:1-10

There was an explicit recipe for the aforementioned specific group to use.

And the Lord said to Moses, “Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part),  and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy;  and you shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you; it shall be for you most holy. And the incense which you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves; it shall be for you holy to the Lord. Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people.” 

Exodus 30:34-38

We can see more of the theology behind the use of incense in Psalm 141

Let my prayer come like incense before you; the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrifice

In the modern Catholic Church, grains of incense are used in the the building of a new altar, in the preparation of the Easter Candle, instructions are in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal for incense to be used at most official functions and actions of the Church.

An important change should be noted that while the Jews offered incense as a sacrifice, we are more in line with the Psalmist, using incense to symbolize and visualize our prayers rising to heaven.  The one, necessary, sacrifice has already been made for all.

I'm not a theologian or a member of the magisterium, take what I say with a grain of... incense...

From our various faith traditions, we see the importance of incense to the point of some Patriarchs insisting that they should jealously guard their use of incense and use it wherever possible.  

In the west, incense was probably not used much in the lay home until the last 60-70 years.  In part due to cost, and also the tradition just wasn't there. More and more people are burning incense, and we are seeing an increase in the liturgical use, as well.  It seems we went 20 years or so, where it just wasn't used, except at funerals... I could be wrong, just my 2 cents. 

I recently exchanged a slew of emails between various Latin and Byzantine clerics and a couple of liturgists about how to interpret the rubrics for home use, and the conclusion is fairly simple:

There are no official instructions from the magisterium as to the official use of incense in the domestic church.


Don't get me wrong, the use is encouraged and allowed, but the Priests actions of blessing and purification simple don't have an equivalent for home use.  Furthermore, we no longer have the restrictions imposed by the levitical laws on who and what may use what and how.  On top of that, it is right and proper to bless one's children (although traditionally done with the tracing of a cross on the forehead.)  

Ooooooo kayyy...where are we going with this...

Like starting a new diet, you need to include your Doctor; starting a new spiritual practice you need to consult your spiritual father, whether that is your pastor, or spiritual director.  

I can tell you what we are doing, and what helps use to be more prayerful, I'm not saying it is THE liturgical practice for the Domestic Church.  I encourage you to evaluate the needs and prayer life of your family and do what seems sensible to you.  One of the best pieces of advice I received was from a Sub-Deacon in Philadelphia "If it's going to make you scrupulous or cause scandal, throw it out".  In that, don't be me and stress out about it, and don't pretend to be a priest.

Our main family prayer time is Vespers, shortly before the kids go to bed.  We will light the censer above (note: a thurible is a censer with chains, and a thurifer is the one who carries it... does that make the one who carries a hand censer, a censationalist?)  I put a little bit of incense in the censer before we start prayer.  Then our oldest son rings the bell, and we start.  SOMETIMES, I will stoke it up and add incense before the Gospel Canticle, since that is where incense is used in Solemn Vespers with a bishop/priest/deacon, but I don't cense anything.  We burn incense on feast days, solemnities, and some Sundays.

But wait, there's Myrrh

The next step for us is to take the traditional Litany of Saints and modify it a bit with our patron Saints and then the boy and I will process around the chapel with candle and incense and bow at each of the Saint's images as we pray for their intercession.  No actual censing, but a nice link between the idea of icons as windows to heaven, and prayers rising up with the incense.

Any last minute comments, critiquest, criticisms... compliments?

Start small.  The resource page has several places that sell both censers and incense.  Don't get a thurible (the liturgical one... the one with chains.)  I would recommend starting with an Ethiopian frankincense.  It is light, traditional, and really won't bother most people's airways.

Sometimes, even in our house, the censer get sent to the fume hood after prayer......

Pax et Bonum!
-The Voborils

Friday, July 26, 2019

New Candles

The two big 1.5" candles on either side of our family altar were getting rather low.

And, there is nothing like a new pair of 12" candles to start the evening.   These are hand dipped "tapers" that are 1.5" at their largest.  These came from St. Andrew's (look in resources if interested.)  They are one of the few places, I know of, that will make a candle this thick ... hand dipped.  I am on the fence, and we shall see if we get these particular ones again.  I am intrigued by the hand dipped idea of it.... but I also like super straight flawless pillars.  Thoughts?

It might look like an light unbleached beeswax, but they call this "ivory"