The Frugal Catholic: “The Physical Fast” by Martha Wild King–March 13, 2011

The result of my fasting prayer--number five.

Upon becoming Catholic, I felt called to fast and pray on a regular basis–something I had practiced 25 years before.  I learned that The Church used to prescribe rules for the Lenten fast (including abstaining from all meat and eating only one full meal per day).  We Catholics, now, are only required to fast on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and on Good Friday, the day that Jesus Christ was crucified.  Anyone over the age of 18, but under the age of 60, should eat only one full meal on those two days.  They can have small amounts of food in the morning and evening, but The Catholic Church encourages Catholics to observe this fast.  Extreme fasting, however, can be physically harmful, and that does not advance us spiritually.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines “fasting” as refraining from food and drink as an expression of interior penance, in imitation of the fast of Jesus for forty days in the desert.  Fasting is an ascetical practice recommended in Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers; it is sometimes prescribed by a precept of the Church, especially during the liturgical season of Lent (538, 1434, 2043).

Of course,”ascetical” means practicing self-denial, and in this instant age of gratification, that self-mortification is a healthy habit. To start the spiritual gift of fasting, pick a day and practice it.  For me, it is every Tuesday (the T being in the shape of the cross), and during that day, I chew nothing except the Host of the Eucharist.  I will drink fluids–juice, tea, water, and wine or cocoa at night– but I  focus on prayer when hunger hits.  My main thrust for prayer is that  my five children will find the fullness of the Catholic Church and that abortion will be stopped and adoption replace it. (Two of them already have found Catholicism.)  This day is also a time to pray that the governmental mandates being forced onto practicing Christians will stop.  The fasting day begins, of course, with praying The Rosary and The Divine Mercy Chaplet. And fasting can assume  forms other than how I do it.  Patty Raymond of Saint Cecilia Catholic Church says, “I find ways to fast each week to deny myself the comfort of food that I may feast on the comfort of God’s presence.”  Another parishioner fasts by giving up wine for that day.  Still others fast from such things as watching television.

After the fast, you will be glad for self-mastery.  You will be pleased that you have more prayerfully  focused  since Jesus stated in Mark 9:29 (RSV) in referring to an unclean spirit which had possessed a child, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.”  Our power as people is in denying ourselves.  Jesus confirmed this  to all in Luke 9:23 (RSV), “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  You will understand that your prayers are being answered in ways you may see now or thirty years from now.  For example, twenty-five years ago I fasted weekly that abortion would stop.  Perhaps those prayers were heard by my daughter’s Russian mother who chose to give her life.  I believe they were.

Of greater importance is that through prayer, fasting and alms giving (money to the poor for food that you didn’t eat), you will be controlling the passions of the body, and that is something from which anyone could  benefit.  As Neil Raymond adds, “Jesus told us that sometimes we need to fast along with prayer.  I’m taking Him at His word.”

The Frugal Catholic: “The Communion of Saints” by Martha Wild King–January 2, 2011

Helen Rogers King, the mother of my husband, Michael, had Alzheimer’s for sixteen years.  We watched her pass from a vibrant mother of four men to a woman who did not even know her husband.  She and Captain David L. G. King met at the Shipyard Commander’s office on Mare Island, between San Francisco and Oakland CA.  Captain King’s ship was undergoing repair shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack.  They were married one month later.

Helen, a Protestant, regularly took her four sons to church.  Despite this observance, she was a woman who never discussed her faith.  She likely viewed religion as a private affair.  So when she died, it suddenly hit me that I truly did not know if she had made Jesus the King of her heart or not.

Jesus did, beyond a shadow of a doubt, reign in the heart and mind of Mabel Riggs Dunfee, a Presbyterian from West Virginia and my grandmother.  If I had to put my finger on someone who shaped my life through her faithful prayers, it would be her.  Even today, when I see a pink sky, my thoughts recall how Mabel wanted to float away on a pink cloud when she died.  Well she did just about float away on a cloud when she passed away at nearly 102; so each pink sky reminds me of her presence near me and her prayers for me.

When Helen died, I needed to know that she was with Jesus, but I did not know how I could find out.  As I knew Mabel was in heaven, I tried an experiment to prove Helen’s location via my daughter Hannah.  Hannah, our third child, was at Eastern Washington University near Spokane WA, and I was very concerned about her spiritual condition.  Without knowing much about The Communion of Saints, as I was not a Catholic at the time, I said to Mabel, “If Helen is up there with you, I want the two of you to get together and pray that Hannah will ask Jesus into her heart.”  Within two weeks, Hannah made Jesus her Savior and I knew that Helen was now part of the Communion of Saints.

So when I came into the Catholic Church in 2009, I began to understand that I have an army of prayer warriors.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church  states it thus:  956– Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness….  They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus….  So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.”  Or as St. Dominic, dying to his brothers stated, “Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life”

When people ask me to pray for them, I immediately turn the prayers over to my Blessed Mother as I would to our stockbroker.  She is my constant prayer warrior on duty at all times.  Yes, I will write the prayers down in my little prayer book, and I will say them as I pray my Rosary, but I know that Mary will be constantly praying for that person’s needs.  What a comfort!!  I know too that it says in Revelation 5:8 (RSV) “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints….”  What is in those bowls except the prayers which we ask the saints to pray for us.  Just because my grandmother Mabel isn’t on this earth anymore doesn’t mean she isn’t still praying; she surely is, and her prayers are helping fill those bowls.

Giving those prayers to the Communion of Saints, so great a cloud of witnesses, reminds me of the beautiful statue of The Blessed Mother that Mrs. Betsy Miller gave my fifth child for her first communion.  At the bottom of the statue is a little drawer where one can place prayers.  When I hand my prayers to Our Blessed Mother and to The Communion of Saints, my concerns are constantly being offered up, and I can live each day more fully for Him.

The little drawer for prayers being constantly offered up.



The Frugal Catholic: “Christmas in Simplicity” by Martha Wild King–December 26, 2010

In between our bites of business at a Saint Cecilia Catholic School Parent Group meeting December, we shared what events or memories made Christmas special.  The conversation showed me that this elaborate season really makes the best impression when we celebrate in simplicity.

The Three King's Shop--keeping giving simple
  • Mary stated that all the families in her native Irish village would light a candle and put it in their windows to welcome the Christ child.  Everyone could see the candles while going to Midnight Mass or coming home.  She has also added the tradition of listening to a favorite uncle reading Christmas stories on a CD or cassette tape.
  • Kathy shared how her big family would celebrate Christmas Eve with a large Italian family.  No one gave gifts; they just shared pizza and a pinata and made lots of noise.  Then they would attend Midnight Mass as a group.  They spent a relaxed Christmas at home with their children.
  • Janice and her siblings have worked hard to keep the while family in one place this Christmas.  Her mother did it, and not the job of non-stop cooking is in the hands of her brother, sister, and herself.
  • Chris was the youngest of six children in a family of modest means.  For them, the time was about baking cooking, reading The Night Before Christmas, and waking up in chaos.
  • Sherry grew up with one sister, but the extended family included seven and eight siblings per parent.  Her family always made candies that went out to such community stalwarts as the letter carrier and the bus driver.  Her family could not afford to buy many gifts, but they always had somewhere to go: their grandmother’s home.  Now Sherry says she collects “lost souls” or people who cannot afford to go home for Christmas, like military singles, and the celebrate Christmas Day together.
  • Sarah has a tradition of reading.  She has collected twenty-five children’s Christmas books, both sacred and secular, over the years.  She wraps them and puts them under the tree.  Her children un-wrap a book and read it that night.  She adds that some parents even number the books so that if it is a long one, then they will schedule time to read it on the appropriate day.  Also the first Christmas celebration Sarah’s family attends is the Christmas Viking Festival in Poulsbo WA which has St. Lucia coming on a Longboat with torches.
  • Ellen remembers setting up a Nativity scene at her grandmother’s house and putting little cloth elves around the house.  One year her family decided to make presents, and her little brother (she was nine and he was seven) went into the garage and made her two doll chairs.  They were lopsided and rough in appearance but she stated, “That was the best Christmas present: I’ll never forget it.”  She also shared how she realized the idea of keeping holidays simple and focusing on what matters instead of what we think matters.  She learned that from her son when he expressed at this past Thanksgiving, “One day is not going to change my perception of our family.”
  • Finally Erika affirmed it succinctly.  She helped out with the Saint Nicholas Three King’s Shop at the SCCS Christmas Festival.  This was a “shop” of gently used donated goods which the children could purchase for their families.  Erika stood there amidst  hundreds of donated items and said, “This is what I want!  I want to do more giving and less buying–using what we already have.”  Her wish came true because her sweet family came in when she was gone and bought Christmas presents for each other at the half-price sale!  I wish you could have seen the joy and sparkle in their eyes when they were picking out their wonderful treasures for Erika, their Mom and wife.

The Holy Family set for us the best example of the simplicity of love and giving.  The Christmas story tells us in Luke 2:6-7 (NAB) “While they were there, the time came for her to have her child and she gave birth to her firstborn son.  She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in  a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”  Let us each find room for the Christ Child in our hearts and in the simpleness yet grandeur of His birth.

The Frugal Catholic: “Learning from Proverbs–Freezer Bowl Soup and The Frugal Catholic Casserole” by Martha Wild King–October 3, 2010

Probably one of my favorite Biblical passages as a woman is Proverbs 31.  I have read that passage nearly every day for about 30 years.  From it, I have gleaned advice from the Proverbs 31 woman in our modern-day world.  Even though written in King Solomon’s time (probably by his mother Bathsheba), the Proverbs 31 woman is quite hip and most modern.  She is a working woman from her home yet a strong mother and wife.  She uses her resources wisely.  But one quality I love about this woman is that she plans her meals for her household.  This is good advice for the busy progressive woman, and I can almost see her approving of the two tricks I am going to relay–Freezer Bowl Soup and The Frugal Catholic Casserole.

The first thing to do is to acquaint ourselves with this mom.  She can be found in Proverbs 31:14-15 (RSV) The passage reads as follows, “She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from afar.  She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and tasks for her maidens.”

Freezer Bowl Soup in progress

Freezer Bowl Soup was one of the first food tricks I learned.  You make meals and have a lot of ingredients left over.  What do you do with all those bits and scraps of vegetables, meat, or broth?  Do you toss them into the disposal, or do you put them to good use?  If you want to reinvent them, get a plastic covered bowl and put it in the freezer.  As you prepare meals, whatever is left over on the chopping block, toss into the freezer bowl–those scraps mentioned.  When the bowl is full, put it in a pan or Crockpot–frozen and all–add some broth and some seasoning of whatever you have on hand, and presto–home-made soup.  Do not include in the bow leftover fish, broccoli, or cheese as they don’t work well.

leftovers for The Frugal Catholic Casserole

The Frugal Catholic Casserole is another delicious concoction that anyone can make.  What is lurking around in your refrigerator?  What is lying dormant in your freezer?  The Frugal Catholic Casserole has seven ingredients in all.  The only other items you need are a casserole dish (I use a 9 by 13 one) and a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven.  First, mix the first five ingredients together, put in the dish, and add cheese and croûtons, in that order.  The casserole takes approximately one hour to cook.  This casserole is best made in the oven for that crisps the croûtons (versus in a Crockpot).  Listed below are the seven ingredients.

  1. Meat or protein–Check your freezer/refrigerator  for some leftovers and chop them into chunks or even use the Crockpot on high for about 3 hours to cook frozen pieces of chicken or beef to add.
  2. Starch–This can be leftover rice or pasta or baked potatoes.  If using fresh potatoes, chop and cook in the microwave until tender.
  3. Vegetables–Use anything around: frozen, leftovers, canned, or those dying vegetables in the refrigerator–you know, those carrots that go limp when you pick them up.  Also, if you like the flavor, add a chopped onion.  Like the potatoes, Imicrowave the diced onions so they will be tender.
  4. Sauce–This can be a canned soup with a bit of milk or water or some salad dressing, canned coconut milk, a can of diced tomatoes, but just something moist.  Even some almond milk heated with a few tablespoons of cornstarch for thickening works too for those who are gluten intolerant.
  5. Spices–just grab whatever is available including something from your neighbor’s  herb garden.  I often snatch the rosemary growing by my neighbor’s fence. We have an agreement; so make sure you have such an agreement before trying this at home!
  6. Cheese–Have some cheese with some fuzz on it?  Well cut off the disagreeable green, wash the hunk, grate it, and add to the top of the casserole.
  7. Croûtons–Find some stale bread or chips that have lost their freshness.  Rip them up and add to the top.

Bake the casserole for one hour at 350 degrees; pour some wine and milk, and have a family supper with very little expense, and don’t forget to give thanks before consuming.  Always remember where it came from and WHO gave it to you.


The Frugal Catholic: “Water It Down” by Martha Wild King–August 8, 2010

One of the first things I had to comprehend in my new Catholic faith was the sacrament of Baptism.  I had been baptized as an infant in a Protestant denomination.  I had each of my children baptized because, as a Christian, that is what you do.  What I did not understand was WHY you have your children baptized or why one is baptized as an adult.

Now, I think I understand it a bit more clearly.  We are baptized because, “baptism is the first of the seven sacraments, and the ‘door’ which gives access to the other sacraments.  Baptism is the first chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification.  Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist constitute the ‘sacraments of initiation’ by which a believer receives the remission of original and personal sin, begins a new life in Christ and the Holy Spirit, and is incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ.” (see the definition of Baptism in the Catechism of the Catholic Church).

Furthermore, when we enter any Catholic Church in the world, we find the Baptismal font and the Holy Water into which we can dip our fingers, cross ourselves, and remind ourselves of the amazing gift Christ gave us when He freed us from our sins.  It is in that water that we find our remembrance.

Likewise, when The Frugal Catholic thinks of the simple yet profound gift of life-giving water, I recall ways it can free me financially.  Here are some:

  •  Add water to the last bit of cream rinse or shampoo, shake the bottle, and stretch it out longer.
  • With drip or pressed coffee, when you are finished, do not throw out the used grounds.  Add HALF as much coffee again in the same filter or to the same coffee press.  Proceed by adding the same amount of water as usual.  You will have a fresh pot with one-half of the expense.  I tested this one on my unsuspecting husband who could not tell the difference between fresh and the half-old/half-new mixture.
  • With any stubborn residue on the floors or counter tops, soak for a while with water, then wipe off.  Water softens so you can easily remove.
  • Why use a fancy mop?  Just add some water to two rags, step on each of them, and waltz around your kitchen or bathroom floor mopping away.  And if you want a floor cleaner, use one teaspoon of vinegar in a quart of water in a spray bottle.  You spray the contents and proceed to clean with the “foot/hip” action.
  • Do you find cabinets full of various cleaning solutions for your windows, kitchen counters, and bathrooms?  Most of these solutions are full of water so save money with the WILD WATER mixture instead.  This mixture contains one-cup water with one cup-white vinegar and one teaspoon of cornstarch mixed in a clean spray bottle.  Shake well each time you use, spray, and wipe with a soft cloth or newspaper.
  • Want a better tasting jug of water to sip on daily?  Just add some dry fruit to your water bottle.  It gives a delightful, subtle taste with nearly nil calories.

So be frugal; learn to “water it down,” and, while watering, realize what our precious Lord gave us through this clear, amazing substance.

The Frugal Catholic: “My 34th Birthday in Jesus” by Martha Wild King–July 11, 2010

It was June 20, 2010, and I was sitting in Saint Cecilia Catholic Church for evening Mass.  Michael and Deahna were out of town at a softball and soccer tournament.  It was the usual evening Mass blessed with the contemplative quietness of eventide.  Just before my beloved time of taking the Lord into my body in the Eucharist, I realized it was my 34th birthday in Jesus.

You see, 34 years ago, alone in my bedroom in  West Virginia, I asked Christ into my heart on June 20, 1976.  My 27 years had been mainly spent in the First Presbyterian Church in Huntington WV, but Jesus was only in my actions and not in my being.  Hard times from a divorce had driven me astray from religion, and on that day I contemplated ending my life.  Fortunately, my cousin, Alan Wild, who had been quite WILD, had asked Jesus into his heart a few years before and had become a changed man; so I had gone to visit Alan and learned that I would drink wine, laugh, and be myself but still know Christ intimately.  There was nothing to fear in knowing Jesus.

That evening after visiting Alan, I sat on my bed and asked Christ to take over my life and come into my heart.

Nothing dramatic happened.  Billowing curtains did not follow and the room did not illuminate.   The next day,however, I had a desire to read the Bible; and that daily hunger for God’s word has persisted for 34 years.  Yet from that craving, I understood that I was missing something.  For years, I clandestinely asked The Blessed Mother for help; secretly because Protestants do not revere Mary.  I longed for a closer walk with Jesus, and I wanted to respond the way she responded by wholly taking Him in.

The FULLNESS of my Christian faith has now been achieved in the Roman Catholic Church.  I can read 46 books of the Old Testament Sacred Scriptures as Jesus had rather than just 39, as the Protestants use.  The fullness is also found in the Seven Sacraments,  2000 years of  Sacred Tradition and Magisterium  of  The Church, and, above all else, the Eucharist.  All of these are what I celebrated on my 34th birthday as I walked forward and ate His true flesh and drank His true blood.

It was my first birthday communion as an active Catholic.  Knowing His sacrifice, His love for me–a sinner, His unwavering desire to please His Father and His Sacred Heart, to partake of The Eucharist was the greatest gift a girl could receive.

"He leads me beside still waters..."

Psalm 23: 1  A Psalm of David “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. (RSV)


The Frugal Catholic: “Consecrating What’s Most Important” by Martha Wild King– May 23, 2010

I will be 62 later this year, and The Good Captain, my husband of 30 years, will soon be 58.  On May 5, 2010, we were officially married in the Catholic Church.  Needless to say, a number of people have asked us why we were doing this.

I was divorced but a born-again, re-committed Protestant Christian when Michael and I met in October 1979, and we “tied the knot” August 1980 in a  Protestant wedding performed by Dr. Graham Smith in Alexandria VA.  However, when Michael came into the Catholic Church this past Easter 2010 ( I had joined the year before), Father Carroll said it was time to “get married in The Church.”  My annulment, which had taken a year, was granted the week before Michael was confirmed; thus, I had my First Communion the same night as he did.  By getting married in the Church, our marriage became a Sacrament which will draw us more fully into Christ’s grace and strength.  It is for that reason we chose to get married in The Catholic Church.  We have lived as husband and wife since his confirmation with the exception of husband and wife relations.  We have waited until we were married in the Catholic Church just as we waited for our first marriage.  We have waited because to NOT wait would have been a sin, and at this age, my only desire is to please God first; for in that pleasing, I know that only good will occur.  So we were married in the morning mass.  The choice of Wednesday, May 5th, was made by Michael because Fr. Carroll told him that that was when there were the smallest number  people.

Before the ceremony, I laid out a few items on the table to take with me.  There was something old–an antique locket I wore for my first marriage and the pearl earrings I wore when I married Michael.  There was something new–a silver bracelet he had just given me.  There was something borrowed–a white rosary from my youngest daughter.  There was something blue–my blue garter from my marriage to Michael in 1980.  Finally, there was a penny for your shoe–a 1980 penny for when we were first married and a shiny 2009 penny for when I came into the Catholic Church.  In addition, we also brought our Guest book dating back to 1980 for all to sign.  Yet the little miracle I want to finish this story with is of my simple wedding bouquet.  While sitting in Catholics Come Home the night before, I heard an older lady share  that she felt  that she couldn’t go to Confession (which was the topic) since  her first marriage wasn’t annulled.

Afterwards I approached her and told her how I too longed to join the Roman Catholic Church, but believed because I had been married before, it wouldn’t happen.  Fr. Carroll, however, encouraged me; and the rest is history or HIS STORY.  I shared that the next day I would be married to my husband whom had likewise converted to Catholicism.  She paused and said, “Do you have any flowers for your ceremony?”  “No,” I answered.  “Well,” she said, “Wait here.”   Reaching for her cane, she and walked outside Conger Hall and  shortly came in carrying a fragrant bouquet of The Lilly of The Valley in a small glass jar.  “I was going to leave these in the church by the Confessional, but I want you to have them for your wedding tomorrow.”

I’m reminded of what Sister Faustina Kowalska said in her (Diary, 1208), “May You be blessed, O God, for everything You send me.  Nothing under the sun happens without Your will.”