What We Did Today
The Feast of Saint Therese of Lisieux

Tea and a Field Trip on Michaelmas!

Usually we do "tea and a craft" on feast days ... and though we did have our tea, the craft part will have to wait for another time because today we whiled away the afternoon hours in a CASTLE!

As you can imagine, this field trip was right up our home-learning alley! We were joined today by our closest friends and fellow co-op-ers (new word alert!) at Hammond Castle in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Our group was led on a program called "Life in Medieval Society." (And HUGE thanks again, Wendy, for setting it all up!)

Now as you might expect, I took many, many, many pictures at the castle today - so I thought instead of posting them all here in this post, I would make up a photo album just for this field trip. It is parked over there on the right hand sidebar; its title, plainly enough, is Castle Field Trip. I will slowly be adding notes to this photo album, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy our pictures! :)

Before I move on, though, a quick note first about the Castle. To prepare for our field trip, we showed the kids an episode of Fetch with Ruff Ruffman (a new-ish PBS show kind of like Zoom) in which the contestants played out their game at none other than Hammond Castle! Of course their visit was set at night and the castle was all tricked out to appear haunted (we had to reassure a few of the younger ones that the castle was not really haunted nor in the least bit scary) but the neatest part was - the man in the show who acted as their tour guide - was the very same man who led us on our tour today! And he was very nice, very informative and more than a bit of a riot! :) (Some inside skinny - the Fetch episode was taped this past June over a period of two days and nights. The scene where the kids had to go down in the dungeon so badly scared one of the young girls they had to have her parents come to the castle to reassure her! The part where another girl drank from a soup bowl was completely ad-libbed (and regretted). And there was a terrible lightning storm right in the middle of filming!)

As for Michaelmas, well, I think this was a really fun way to honor this feast day! Any kind of festive activity is a great way to mark the special days on our liturgical calendar! Considering St. Michael's role as a protector and defender, knights and armor (particularly swords) really fit in with the day. Plus, the castle was surrounded by wild Michaelmas daisies (we were thrilled to discover) and the gift shop sold swords, dragons AND an archangel statue! (We bought a plastic sword and a small purple dragon; the angel statue was beautiful but out of our price range!)

We did manage to start our day off with a delicious blackberry tea. Because we had a busy afternoon planned, I decided to serve our tea at breakfastime. It began leisurely enough until it dawned on me we were starting Earlybird's Friday speech therapy today - beginning at 8:45 a.m. - and here I was just pouring tea at 7:30! So we ate up rather quickly but not before talking a bit about the archangels (Michael, Raphael and Gabriel) and saying a prayer to each of them. I also found a lovely prayer for this feast day in a book recommended by Elizabeth, called Let's Say Grace: Mealtime Prayers for Family Occasions Throughout the Year. My copy came just the other day, just in time to start our day with this beautiful blessing:

Holy God,

Your care for us is more than we can imagine, and your love touches us in so many ways. As once you sent your archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael to guide and protect your chosen ones, let them be our companions, to lead and watch over us. As we begin the season of autumn may we celebrate your presence in the beauty of nature, and be messengers of your love to all whom we meet.

Bless this meal we now share, and bless all we do in Jesus' name ~ Amen.

Now about that Michaelmas-blackberry connection. :) Well, legend has it that when the archangel Michael threw Lucifer out of heaven (on what would become Michaelmas), the devil landed in, of all places, a blackberry patch, where he promptly spat on the berries, rendering them inedible! So by long held tradition on Michaelmas you should eat your fill of blackberries before they're no good! This is a charming British custom, one I'm only too happy to incorporate into our feast day celebrating.

Now if I had my way, I would take my blackberries in the form of Rebecca's Michaelmas Blackberry pie, but for today we kept things a bit simpler.


This was our Michaelmas breakfast ~ Blackberry Harvest Yoplait (a rare treat for my boys who generally only see Stonyfield Vanilla), biscuits with thick blackberry jam, and mugs of Bigelow Berri-Good herbal tea, sweetened with honey (this is really good iced, btw - and has plenty of vitamin C to boot).

I have to share with you a lovely site from our autumn garden this morning. Remember a few days ago I mentioned that our Easter lily plant seemed on the verge of re-blooming, after spending the whole summer relegated to its pot, and left to its own devices parked by the front gate? Well, today it bloomed! And this lily - the symbol of purity and the archangel Gabriel - looked just lovely against all the autumn blossoms.


We also found what I like to call Michaelmas daisies blooming behind the back fence the other day. (Technically they may be New England asters - but they do bloom just around Michaelmas!)


And so begins a most busy and festive autumn feast season! There are so many upcoming special days to enjoy ~ The Guardian Angels (10/2), St. Francis of Assisi (10/4), Our Lady of the Rosary (10/7), All Hallow's Eve (10/31), All Saints Day (11/1), All Souls Day (11/2), Martinmas (11/11), Thanksgiving (11/24) ... and at long last the beautiful Advent season beginning the most holy and beautiful time of year, as well as the new Church year. There are just so many wonderful opportunities to embrace our faith and celebrate our traditions - such a rich tapestry of colors, flavors, stories and prayers to be woven!

As this day comes to a close, may I wish you all a most blessed Michaelmas and autumn season!

"This day, which comes as the nights grow longer and longer, is the Church's fearless welcome to the dark and the cold." (A Companion to the Calendar)