Togas in the Backyard

Dorothy GillI must confess: I’m not a particularly energetic, clever or imaginative homeschooler. I just have attitude. 

And while I’ve been at this for over 20 years, like the Velveteen Rabbit, I sometimes sit still in the bracken of stacked teacher’s manuals and hope that the other homeschool moms won’t notice.  As they hop sideways, on their hind legs and whirl round and dance, I am longing to join them, but am keenly aware of my lack of artistic legs.   So while scope and sequence recommendations and Common Core standards do not intimidate me, I have always longed for the creative flair.   

Above all, teaching history requires imagination.  While I generally detest for-classroom text books with their “read the chapter, answer the questions approach,” left to my own devices I can never seem to fully launch into the “living history” method that homeschooled kids love.

This is where belonging to a homeschool support group really pays off.  With all sorts of talented homeschoolers —   left-brain, right brain, and menopause brain — you are sure to find people who will complement your strengths, compensate for your deficiencies and create magic for your students. 

Ancient History assignments had my kids merrily creating maps, time-lines, poetry, vocabulary or costumes for the Big Day. We recited the bloody portions of “Horatius at the Bridge” (did I mention I have only boys?) 

Birthed in the crucible of necessity, the modern homeschool co-op harnesses this diversity (sorry, I usually avoid this word)  and yields a blend of arts & crafts, literature, research, home-ec,  drama, composition and public speaking — all rolled into performance art.  They don’t teach history to your kids, they invite them to discover history.

I experienced textbook-free, blended-age learning in an Ancient History co-op with families from Holy Rosary Parish in Portland, Oregon. My first clue that I was onto something special was my kids asking, “When do we get to go to co-op?”  They were actually begging to do history!  Soon, they became the enforcers of the schedule, hounding me for assistance as they prepared for the Big Day each week. The younger kids would listen to stories read out loud and maybe draw a picture while the older ones would work on reading a novel or encyclopedia article.  Their Ancient History assignments had them merrily creating maps, time-lines, poetry, vocabulary or costumes for the Big Day.

My math brain boggled at the cornucopia of offerings: carpentry, cooking, plays, painting, pottery, sewing, singing, sculpture, science, weapon making, architecture and games.   No one mom could hope to teach such a series of classes, and not collapse in exhaustion.  And yet, joined together, the burden was light as our kids experienced a culture distant in both time and space in a way that no text book could compete with.  It was memory-making magic.


In studying Ancient Rome, we examined the five century development of the Republic and worked through the Pax Romana.   But instead of only reading, we immersed ourselves. Tarquin brutally ruled over all in the household chores one day, which led to Brutus leading his overthrow, and the tension between the patricians and plebeians which led to a workers strike and no dishes getting done until terms of tribune representation were agreed upon.  We recited the bloody portions of “Horatius at the Bridge” (did I mention I have only boys?)  and constructed catapults and armor.

When our Ancient History adventure was over, we celebrated. The dads joined in, all of us wearing bed-sheet togas and declaiming in simple Latin.   We reclined in the backyard at our plywood table and guzzled grape juice “wine” from goblets as we were served by “slaves.”   We ate with our fingers off a common platter, dipping figs in honey and bread in olive oil.  

We will never forget these lessons and memories that our co-op adventures have brought us.  And while my legs remain as inartistic as ever, to my kids I am a dancing real homeschool mom.

The dads joined in, all of us wearing bed-sheet togas and declaiming in simple Latin.   We reclined in the backyard at our plywood table and guzzled grape juice “wine” from goblets as we were served by “slaves.”

pax2pax3ROMAN ‘SLAVES’ PREPARING FOR A BACKYARD FEAST: AnAncient History homeschooling co-op by parishioners at Holy Rosary Parish in Portland, Oregon culminated in a ‘feast’ for all who taught their kids about the legacy of ancient Rome.


by Dorothy Gill

What Our Readers Say About REGINA


Rev. Anthony Patalano, Rector, Holy Family Cathedral, Anchorage, Alaska

What you are doing is WONDERFUL! I will offer several Masses for you and the success of REGINA.


Dr. Tracey Rowland, John Paul II Institute, Melbourne, Australia

This is fantastic!  I have been raving on about truth, beauty and goodness for a decade, and now finally someone has done what I have been arguing for in theory.  This is exactly what is needed.


Molly O’Donnell in Portland, Oregon

You are to be commended.  It is truly a work of art – interesting, informative, funny, human, thought provoking, real and the list goes on….  Congratulations!  I love the dedication to our beloved pontiff and agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments.  I also like that you addressed the issue of pornography which is so huge but generally swept under the table.

Grace Sakelson in Hawaii, USA

I LOVE IT!! It is a wonderful magazine, so insightful and inspirational! Very beautifully done!

Dr. Stefan Schilling in Trier, Germany

You have done a beautiful job. Much success for REGINA in the future!

Rachel Cellaigh in Cheltenham, England

I loved my first issue. I am so impressed with the magazine and as a fellow Catholic in this culture we need to inform and keep our faith strong. I truly want the magazine to be a success.

Suzanne Salvo, USA

My jaw-dropped!! REGINA is my Vogue or Cosmo or even Oprah’s mag!

**standing ovation here**

W. Shawn Conway in Indiana, USA

I love it. Short, easy to read, yet substantive stories. And beauty attracts. I have forwarded REGINAMarvelous – His blessings on your endeavor.

Christoph Pitsch in Tokyo, Japan

I will introduce some of my friends to REGINA. Also my mother. I hope your plans can be realized and the readership of REGINA will grow.

Lisa Edson in Portland, Oregon

Thank you! I wanted to share with you how much I have enjoyed your publication. I look forward to finishing this wonderful edition and look forward to the one coming.

Ron Juwonoputro in Norwalk, Connecticut

Awesome first edition congratulations!!

David Reid in Vancouver, Canada

Thank you for sending me this magazine. Can I reprint some of the articles for the Vancouver Traditional Mass Society Newsletter?

Stephen Little in Indiana, USA

Thank you so much for …the magazineit’s so cool! I have shared this with my Little Women. And the emphasis on princesses and beauty – my girls are TOTALLY enamored of becoming true princesses right now!

Karl Keating in California, USA

REGINA is a fine-looking publication. Congratulations! Your inaugural issue has quite an array of women on the cover. I am especially pleased to see Empress Zita and Madame Curie. (I visited the latter’s tomb in Paris a year or so ago and noted that it was the only tomb in the whole of the Pantheon that was strewn with flowers and notes from admirers.)

Michele Inman, USA

I’m so excited for you – I just KNOW it will be a HUGE success! This is perfect timing, and needed very badly.

Why The Media Always Get It Wrong

“Habemus Papam!” The smoke billowing from the Sistine Chapel was white. On March 13, Pope Francis greeted 100,000 joyful Catholics who thronged St. Peter’s Square.

It was a perfect time for the talking heads in the “24-hour news cycle” to begin their incessant – and wrong — speculations. Columnists, politicians, and anyone who can get close to a microphone were telling the faithful what the church has to do to become more relevant.

In the days since the accession of Pope Francis to the Throne of St. Peter, the din has only gotten louder. I have a request to all of above: Put a sock in it. There is nothing as unattractive as a person with great knowledge or experience on more mundane matters discussing things about which he or she knows absolutely nothing. In the days leading up to the election and since, the punditry class has continued to ferret out dissenting opinions seeming to determine the best way for the Church to “get with it” is to harangue it.

CBS had to find two gals in the square of the estimated 250,000 that demanded ‘wymynpriests.’ Other networks did the same, and more. From divorced couples in their second marriages to homosexual activity to a plethora of other gripes, the news media was out in force not trying to understand the orthodox position, but rail against it. So let’s go through the list: women priests? Ain’t gonna happen. Same-sex marriage? Ditto. Birth control? See one and two. Pope Francis is a staunch defender of traditional Catholic doctrine (a key word, remember it).

Unlike many of the people spouting off in the media, this writer has spent much of his life reading, learning and understanding the doctrines of the church. Not only do I know the doctrines of the church, I understand their bases, and where they originate. I also know the difference between doctrine (women priests and same-sex marriage) versus discipline (clerical celibacy). Many in the punditry class not only get the two mixed up, they never attempt to understand them in the first place. That’s where I get angry, and I’m not the only one. Many Catholics are tired of having a caricature of our beliefs paraded around by people who don’t want to know any better.

When it comes to women in the clergy, this question was decided by John Paul II more than 17 years ago, and is considered part of the magisterium of the church (that means teaching authority, pundits), but it is also considered part of the infallible deposit of faith. To simplify, JPII’s statement simply said women can’t be priests because it is outside the realm of the church to change something that has been handed down to it. This isn’t politics, it is doctrine.

As far as same-sex marriage goes, we believe that man and women have different natures. We don’t buy into the current fashion that men and women are interchangeable except for the (to quote Monty Python) “naughty bits,” and that any differences are sociological or bred into the person. We believe the nature of a man and a woman is essentially different. They are complementary and that allows for the procreation of children as a real and necessary part of marriage. In fact, in our religion it is a sacrament, one of seven.

You, Mr. or Ms. Pundit, see marriage as a strictly social construct.  We see it as a physical and metaphysical union. Your limited outlook sees marriage as a matter of politics; we go far beyond that. Would it hurt to find out why Mother Church teaches on the matter? Google it if you don’t want to sift through the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or use Wikipedia. You can have your questions answered in seconds.

And while we’re on the subject of doctrine, I realize that many denominations have synods or conventions or confabulations of some sort wherein they determine what their doctrine is or isn’t. That means some ecclesial communities have women clergy or now bless same-sex unions. Let them, and more power to them. If people want to go that route, they can join those communions. We don’t and can’t put doctrines to a vote. Then they’d cease to be “doctrines” –by definition.

It’s the same with contraception. Does it interest you to know that this issue was discussed in some of the earliest documents the church has? It was proscribed then, and is proscribed now for the reasons that, among other things, frustrating the sexual act objectifies the people involved. Isn’t that something you are against? Would it interest you to know that up until 1930, every Protestant denomination taught the same as the Catholics? Yup, it wasn’t until the Lambeth Conference in that year that the Anglican Church broke with almost 2,000 years and other denominations quickly followed suit.

And bringing on such old dissident war horses like Matthew Fox or Sr. Mary Pantsuit of the Sisters of Charity, who ceased living the rule a long time ago, makes no difference. These people bring to life a famous quote by the Anglican convert Ronald Knox. He said the basic difference between Catholics and Protestants is that with Protestants they lose their faith and then their morals, with Catholics it’s the other way round. These people lost their moral bearings, but still want to call themselves Catholics, when in fact they ceased to be Catholic a long time ago.

Many of our modern-day politicians are in the same boat. My own congresswoman from the Connecticut Third Congressional District likes to trot out her First Communion photo,  but when it comes to abortion, birth control and same-sex marriage, she talks more like a Democrat than a Catholic. But, she still likes to call herself a Catholic. I can call myself an elephant, but that doesn’t make me one. The point is we’re not going to change our stance on moral teachings or any other doctrine just to “get with” the times. These are considered immutable truths. I know thinking of things as true and false is not something you’re used to in your world of ‘relativity,’ but some of us do think that way.

Ronald Knox said the basic difference between Catholics and Protestants is that Protestants lose their faith and then their morals, whereas with Catholics it’s the other way around. These old dissident war horses lost their moral bearings, but still want to call themselves Catholics.

And just so we’re clear: We don’t meddle in politics except when politics meddles with our beliefs. Abortion and same-sex marriage are two issues that encroach on our beliefs. We have a right and a responsibility to speak out against something that we believe is morally wrong.  Does that mean we’re perfect and without sin? Nope. That’s why our churches have confessionals – and guess what, confession is coming back in style. It’s a lot cheaper than hiring a shrink and the priest can say three little words that a shrink can’t, “Ego te absolvo.”

And we know we’ve had problems with scandals, but if you look at it, we’re not better or worse than other segments of society – just more visible. We’re working on those difficulties and the hurt our people caused. It means we’ve got work to do, but we’ve faced issues just as painful. But if you want a real good side-bar to the abuse story, find out why so many above-mentioned psychiatrists and psychologists put offenders back into circulation. Many of our bishops were only doing what the professionals were telling them, you know, the experts. That’s the part of the story yet to be told.

The point is, if you’re going to opine about us, at least have the intellectual honesty and journalistic integrity to find out what we believe and why. If you’re not going to do that, please gasbag about something else, and leave those of us who take these things seriously alone.  What you have is not an opinion, but a prejudice because, in the final analysis, you want it that way.


dumb2Bill Riccio, Jr. is editor and publisher of the West Haven (CT) Voice, a weekly periodical. He is an assistant organist at St. Mary’s Church, Norwalk (CT) and an instituted acolyte in the Diocese of Bridgeport. He may be contacted by email.  Bill Riccio photo be Stuart Chessman.

Featured photo attributed to Vdp (edição), This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.


Letter to a Young Mother

letter1Some say that it is now ‘open season’ on Catholics in America. That anyone who is faithful to the Church’s teachings – indeed even her hospitals, colleges and schools – will now be persecuted by our federal government, and that many of our great institutions will have to close.

Remember that the Church has survived ferocious persecution in the past. Recently, I visited a ‘priest’s hole’ in a still-functioning roadside tavern in England. The owners thought of it as a quaint artifact, with no clue about  the terror and torture that Catholics faced in the England of “Good Queen Bess.” Such is the power of cultural amnesia.

On a practical level, you will have similar challenges in raising your family that I had/have.  It is time to FOCUS. Your job is to protect your family:

NEVER take the easy way. You will regret it later. This goes for food, education, socializing, TV – everything.

REMEMBER that kids are like sponges. They absorb all influences around them, so you MUST BE VIGILANT about what these are.

REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE IN CHARGE. This goes especially for teachers, social workers and shrinks – they will NOT have to live with the consequences of their decisions as far as your kids are concerned – YOU WILL.

FIND A GOOD PRIEST. The Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) is a good place to start, or any Latin Mass community. You need other faithful families around you so your daughters will have friends. This is CRITICAL so they do not feel ISOLATED growing up.

YOUR NUMBER ONE EDUCATIONAL PRIORITY is to make sure your daughters can read with ease and for pleasure.   Reading is still the best way for them to reach out beyond their immediate environment to worthwhile thoughts and places, to reach the Truth. DO NOT rely on the schools to teach them this, or you may be disappointed. The best way to do this is to read to them when they are young. (HINT: When they are 6, 7 or 8, try reading exciting adventure stories like Nancy Drew, but very slowly. Soon they will become impatient and grab the book out of your hand. Presto!)

BE CLEAR-EYED ABOUT CONSUMERISM. You do not need the latest styles, or the approval of your Facebook friends. I wore old clothes for years, and dressed my kids in consignment clothes until they were 12. I refused to buy videogames or pay for cable TV and insisted that my kids work menial jobs when they were/are teenagers. But my kids saw Europe, and got serious scholarships.

SHOW YOUR KIDS THAT THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE TRULY ARE FREE. I took mine to Church where they were exposed to great music and liturgy, every Sunday no matter what. All homemade food, served with style. When I had no money, I could still put a sheet on the table with a candle. I could still read them to sleep. I could still pray with them.

LEAD, do not FOLLOW. Do not worry about lecturing too much. Do not try to be ‘friends’ with your kids.

“You will have challenges in raising your family: No guaranteed income. Bad influences on TV and the internet. Bad-to-mediocre schools. Bad-to-mediocre clergy. Weird neighbors. Friends and family who go off the rails. A culture that derides your basic beliefs.”

Finally, PRAY for the grace you need to be a good wife and mother.

My grandmother Concetta came to America as a young woman with nothing but the good family and strong faith of her village in Italy. She married, had 6 kids and buried her second son at age 2, while she was pregnant with my father. When my dad was born 3 months afterwards, she named him “Vittorio Angelo” – “Victorious Angel.”

Grandma Concetta had a hard life. My grandfather drank. She had to send two sons off to WWII, and she died from the stress when she was the same age I am now – an old woman, worn out. But she taught the Faith to her sons and daughters, which endures now to her great-great grandsons, recently baptized. I never met my grandmother, but her Faith and goodness profoundly influenced my life nonetheless. In fact, I would say that it was the SINGLE GUIDING LIGHT of my entire life.

THIS is what we pass on. THIS is our legacy. The Faith is, in the end, all that matters. And truly, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.


Porn: The Growing Epidemic

There is a growing epidemic rushing through our country unlike anything we have ever seen in history. Even though it has invaded our homes, our marriages, and even reached our children, leaving havoc in its wake, the media will not mention it. Today, pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry and it does not seem to be slowing down. Through the internet and our iPhones, pornography is overwhelming huge numbers of, particularly as I see it, Catholic men, and it is hard to underestimate the terrible effect it is having on husbands and their families today.

Porn addiction is like any other addictive drug. It is a form of slavery, leaving one feeling empty and guilty, yet searching for more. In his heart man knows that with pornography he has lost his God-given dignity, his freedom, and become a slave to his passions. Thankfully, many regularly come to the Sacraments to receive healing and strength. Trusting in Divine Mercy is always the answer.

Pornography is destructive for various reasons but perhaps most importantly because it strikes at the heart of our interior life and numbs our spiritual senses to the invisible realities that necessarily guide our life. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Purity is the necessary condition to seeing the invisible world. One has only to think of the purity of innocent children and their amazing capacity to see God’s presence all around them.

Yet the first effect of impurity is blindness of understanding: one can no longer see spiritual realities and the thought of eternity disappears. As St. Alphonsus Ligouri writes, “When a raven finds a dead body, its first act is to pluck out the eyes; and the first injury that incontinence inflicts on the soul is to take away the light of the things of God.”

Man’s fallen nature is so weak that he must recognize the need for God’s grace to live purity. St. Alphonsus writes, “Man cannot of himself acquire the virtue of chastity: God alone can give it.” Prudence therefore dictates that we must avoid the near occasion of sin and beg the Lord in prayer to receive the grace of chastity. Some of the saints have recommended three Hail in the morning and at night in honor of Our Lady’s purity as a proven practice to obtain this grace.

Some suffer from unchastity precisely because they are too self-reliant and proud and the Lord therefore does not immediately bestow the gift. St. Alphonsus states that humility is as necessary as self-control in the fight for chastity: “It happens, not infrequently, that God chastises the proud by permitting them to fall into some sin against purity.”

The great promise given to us by the Lord is that for those who humbly acknowledge their weakness, prudently avoid near occasions of sin, and ask the Lord for help, the grace is always there to overcome the temptation. “God is faithful, and he will not let you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

In this technological age we live in, I also see a grave mistake being made by far too many parents and I wish I could warn them before it is too late. Parents who allow their children, particularly their teenage boys, to have unsupervised access to the internet are inviting impurity and destruction into their families. I wish more parents understood that boys are learning from the internet that girls are to be the plaything of men, mere objects of pleasure.

Absolutely no teenager should have a computer with internet access in his or her bedroom. A house computer should be in a public space, have internet filters installed, used only when the parents are supervising, and regularly checked for the history of the web searches. Once again, parents are making a grave error when they give their children unhindered access to the internet, in particular with their sons. It is not that they do not trust their boys, but that parents need to have a clear understanding of the effect of Original Sin, traditionally called concupiscence; parents who are not attentive to this weakness in their sons will learn to regret it later.

Two good websites today to help men with addiction to pornography are and There are also two very good pamphlets available: Breaking Free by Stephen Wood and The Pornography Pandemic by Patrick Trueman.

I hope this will help create awareness of this epidemic and help for those who have hope of restoring their dignity after having lost their way through impurity. May Our Lady inspire and protect our families from this onslaught in our culture today.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Father Greg Markey is the Pastor of St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in Norwalk, Connecticut. The parish, located in a suburb of New York City, is a vibrant, growing one, with a strong tradition of celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

The Catholic Wedding of the Year 2012

By Lucy Mc Vicker Archduchess Kathleen of Austria is everything a princess should be – poised, graceful, elegant, articulate, God-fearing, humble, and virtuous. She is also an American with a passion to defend the poor, the lonely, the pre-born and their mothers.  I know about this passion, because I was blessed with this inspiring friend … Read more