07 December 2006

The Christmas Meme

Found this at Happy Catholic:

Christmas Meme

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Hot chocolate, please - with lots & LOTS of marshmallows! Egg nog on Christmas morning, though - and make it the Real stuff, trusting in all the brandy, nutmeg, etc. to kill any germs from the eggs.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Oh, always wrapped, with gift tags carefully printed so as to disguise handwriting.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Colored

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Yes

5. When do you put your decorations up? A couple of weeks before Christmas.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Prime rib.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child: The beautiful decorations and lights.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? Maybe seven or eight. But I enjoyed suspending disbelief for the entertainment of the adults.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? No.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? With meaningful things. I think a lovely custom is for a husband and wife to go together one evening for dinner and to buy a single ornament for the tree.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? Love it - IF I don't have to drive in the ice.

12. Can you ice skate? Not very well at all.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? I think the Bible my mother gave me the year I was received into the Church.

14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you? The opportunities for fruitful meditation.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Petits fours.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Baking with my family, and Christmas Eve dinner.

17. What tops your tree? An angel.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? I like giving, especially on those rare occasions when I find something which is both unexpected and delightful for the recipient.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song? Angels We Have Heard On High.

20. Candy canes: on the tree.

21. Favorite Christmas movie? Not much of a movie person. I used to like the animated shows on TV - Charlie Brown Christmas, and the Rudolph sagas with Burl Ives.

22. What do you leave for Santa? Sugar cookies.

I tag whoever feels so inclined...

22 November 2006

What kind of pie are you?

You Are Apple Pie

You're the perfect combo of comforting and traditional
Those who like you crave security

And, wouldn't you know it - I have one in the refrigerator right now!

Happy Thanksgiving ...

12 November 2006

Hope said, Yesterday I just about decided to stop writing on here, convinced it wasn't life giving to anyone, not even me. In the process of changing to beta blogger and categorizing a pile of posts I got to see how I keep going around and around the same subjects. I know this is how the journey works but if I get tired of it I figure you do too.

That's part of why I haven't been posting much. I left a comment on her post which I hope encouraged her to just decide what she needs for her journey... it's hard to know what will help those who drop by. Ultimately, though, reflective blogs like this one are offered only as a by-product of the inner work that's going on.

Writing down one's thoughts in a public forum helps one shape their form and content more than in a personal journal.

I may be more in evidence around here in future, though. I've had a long-playing issue with my back and it got acute last week. I'm OK, just so long as I don't try to write with a pen. Great, huh? I (used to) fill a large notebook every three months or so.

However, I've been sleeping a lot lately. (Well, "a lot" = normal amounts ... 8 hours a night, on average). My dreams seem to bleed off a lot of what I used to write about in my journal and in here. Strange how that works. Fortunately the writing projects on my list are still fully absorbing...

...but so is the process of getting to where I can work on them. That's the biggest reason why I haven't been blogging much lately. There's just so much to process.

I'm going to be moving sometime in the next two years. OK, no big deal, ... everyone moves, sooner or later.

Not me.

I've lived in the same area all my life. I am typing this less than 5 miles from where I was born. While I'm not a surfer type, I'm in love with Southern California and always have been. There is so much about it that I love and would miss if I were away. I have a tendency to focus on what I have now, not look ahead. I'm in the process of gently but firmly turning my attention to my new home: Dallas, Texas.

Before I can schedule the moving vans, however, I have a huge pile of work to do. The house I live in needs upkeep before it can be put on the market. I have far too many possessions - legacies from two other households besides my own, plus a writer's hoard of books - and much of that must be disposed of. There is so much paperwork to do that I don't even want to think about it, but I must... and I need to start now.

I look to God for strength and guidance as I contemplate this momentous change in my life. He has provided each step of the way, unfolding the path as I got up courage to take each step. It's still scary.

And I am, like Hope, still sometimes thrashing my way out of the enclosing darkness of old stuff. I'm a recovering codependent, going on 17 years now. I'll be in recovery to the day I die. Every day is a challenge to be assertive about what I want and need. In order to know what that is, I have to look within and face the parts of me that scuttle under my mental furniture as soon as I turn on the light. I am plagued by old notions, old tapes, old memories.

My first instinct with people is to submit. I always think others are better than I, more worthy, more clever, more [insert valuable trait here]. I have to learn that is not what's required to practice humility. Humility means that I know where I stand before God - which means I cheerfully proceed to the bottom of the table, the end of the line, as the obtuse, yet ransomed, sinner I know myself to be. False humility means supposing all are better than I in the earthly world, thus selling myself into slavery to people who aren't capable of mentoring a hamster, much less anyone like me.

Part of my recovery has been to honestly, unflinchingly assess my strengths as well as my weaknesses and errors. I have lots of strengths, and a few of them are head and shoulders above most people's in that area, however limited in scope it may be. And that's OK! God needs all types to get His work done.

Another issue in recovery for me is the constant discipline of accepting joy. My chronic attitude towards life is hesitant, cautious, fearful, cringing. I've been through some stuff in my days, much of it shocking and unexpected. The fear was natural and self-protective, but it causes a real problem when God is trying to give me something good. So I must discipline myself to trust Him and accept the good He provides.

And I write and write and write about this, here and (when I was handwriting) endlessly in my journals. It will be of no interest to most persons; still, the discipline of putting it out there where it can be read is helpful to me. It helps me be accountable, in a way.

And there are few things as healing in this long, sometimes dreary road of recovery than to get a comment on a blog past which says, in effect, "me too." The blogs like Hope's which I read tell me that I'm not alone. I need to know that. It helps.

Still, focusing on one's problems can sometimes impair one's ability to "act as if," which is a valuable technique of recovery. I feel like that happened for me; it was one reason why I sort of shut down on this blog. Making the transition to "normal" life has been very difficult for me ... and I've only just begun! Gads. But if I focus all the time on what I don't do I'll miss the new little strengths I'm building, which are what will keep my new life together when the time comes.

The tiny strengths include such infinitesimals as shining my sink and swish and swipe'ing the baths, doing a load of laundry each night during the week, etc. I've also added such routines as filling my gas tank when it's still half full, and making my bed each morning. All tiny things, done by millions of people every day without thinking about it. But I had to learn those things... and not just the routines, but the reasons for them, and the mindset which makes them possible.

The mindset is FLY - Finally Loving Yourself. I don't do any of that stuff for anyone else; I do it for me. I deserve to have a tidy kitchen and clean bathrooms. I'm worth having a full tank of gas so I don't have to worry about it. It's appropriate for me to have clean clothes ready to wear, and clean towels. FlyLady's system helped me get from the horrible place where housework was a loathsome burden and emotional drag to being a way in which I can take care of myself and further my healing. That journey's barely started, too ... but I've been keeping the sink clean and the bath tidy for over two years now. That is longer than ever before in my entire life.

So, it takes a while. And not everyone's going to want to read about it. I still will post about it here, though, not only because it makes me know that my struggle is Out There for people to read, but also in hopes that it will give someone the hope and encouragement I've felt from the blogs and testimonials I've read. It has helped me get to the place where I could actually accept some good news into my life and consciously choose not to be in a bad place any more.

26 October 2006

22 October 2006


It's been so long since I posted ... any of you who still check back once in a while deserve an update.

I'm healthy, but I've had a lot of migraines lately. To keep going in spite of the headaches, I've had to be relentless about my schedule, especially when it comes to getting to bed early. In order to do that, I have to leave the computer off. As I may have mentioned some weeks ago, I've realized that I have a kind of addiction to computer-related stuff. Fortunately, I get paid for it at the office. At home, I must treat it as I do potato chips, and simply Not Go There; less time to blog.

I've been seriously pursuing my writing, using A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves. The exercises take time... less time to blog.

Part of writing is reading. As part of the no-headache strategy, I've been avoiding the TV in the evenings after work, preferring to read short stories and other non-upsetting types of things.

My personal life continues to astound me. I do not deserve the joy of these days. But who can deserve such a gift? So I have to learn to accept it as that - a gift.

However, it brings along with it other inescapable assignments. For example, I need to accept losing control of my life's future. (Just when I think I've got that figured out, God turns over another rock and says, "You forgot this part." Sigh.)

In the next year or two my life will likely undergo profound changes. Most will be of the best and happiest variety... but I still feel a bit like a deer in headlights about it.

One day at a time.

The encouragement and prayers and blessings of so many of you are still active in my life, and not forgotten. I keep you in my prayers and hope all is well with you. I'll check back when I can.

16 September 2006


Less and less of it around, these days.

I was over at Messy Musings (looking through my bookmarks, catching up), and found this post:
This morning as I was driving the kids to school, my step-son asked that we turn on the radio. I was enjoying the quiet. The boys are not very talkative in the morning and I was having a nice "think."

After that, I started thinking about how little quiet there is in this world. Olivia had a post where she talked about there being televisions in the checkout at WalMart and how people can't seem to go anywhere these days without one. I have said the same thing about cell phones. What do these people have to talk about in the grocery store, the car, the mall, at a restaurant? Olivia was observing how far heaven seems from us at noisy times like her time at WalMart. I think that's a profound and remarkable observation.
At the building where I work, they installed little TVs in the elevators. Then BIG ones in every single elevator lobby. Just business news ... in the elevators, weather and news headlines ...

As I drive home at night, I often see the TV displays hanging from the ceilings of minivans. Yesterday in front of Starbucks a man was talking loudly, gesticulating ... in the old days, one would have thought him either a bit "tetched" or doing a one-man show ... nope, had the little silver doo-dad on his ear.

People are always on the phone. Here in California, in 2008 we'll no longer be able to drive while holding a phone to the ear - good idea.

My ex used to have the TV on constantly. Even - especially - at bedtime.

I live alone now, and almost never have the TV on. I just don't think about it. Big exception: Sunday evenings, when Biography Channel shows Poirot and Sherlock Holmes and Midsomer Murders. I do spend an inordinate amount of time at the computer, however. But at least I'm reading ... thinking ... writing.

The news media on television has made scare-mongering into a fine art. They can do anything with a breathless "Oh, my God" kind of feel to it. If one listens to that too much, I really think anxiety starts to set in.

Even in church, the notion of silence is pretty much old hat. Talking, music, etc ... gotta have something going on all the time.

It is only in the last 60 years or so that we've had all this aural input all the time. That's not too long. We don't know what it's doing to our brains, our nerves, our ways of thought. Is it just coincidental that family life is getting more and more difficult ... ?

I'm gonna break my own rule...

...and comment on Current Affairs(TM).

As we all know, the Pope made a speech in Germany which was erudite and obviously carefully crafted, including a quote from centuries ago to illustrate his point. "...the Holy Father did not mean, nor does he mean, to make that opinion his own in any way. He simply used it as a means to undertake - in an academic context, and as is evident from a complete and attentive reading of the text - certain reflections on the theme of the relationship between religion and violence in general, and to conclude with a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come." (source)

Amy's been giving it some thought, and I like her latest:
What did he say that was wrong? He said, if you want to bring it all down to Islam, that in Islamic texts, there are passages that forbid compulsion in religion, but that historically, Islam has used violence to force conversions. This, the Pope said, leads to a conclusion about the image of God borne of holding these two realities as one: that God is not bound by his own Word. Such a belief would leave one beyond/outside of reason, for this God would then be totally unknowable.
and I wondered this, too:
What is astonishing about this - or perhaps not, to those who have been paying attention - is that critical thinking, discussions of history, and philosophical analysis is not allowed, apparently, when it comes to Islam. We will wait a few days to pass final judgment on this, but we are waiting for Muslim scholars - and for scholars of Islam to weigh in on this. Will they come to the Pope's defense, as a fellow intellectual, one who has been quite friendly to and open to dialogue with various viewpoints in the past, as friends and colleagues for decades have acknowledged? Will they see this as one more dangerous threat to freedom of speech and intellectual inquiry in the face of barbarians?
She concludes, and her thought parallels mine in these spots:
I have much more to say, but have to go do things. I simply think that in some way, this represents a breaking point - a point of clarity which I can't but think is not completely unintentional.

It is a point of clarity for the Muslim world: Can you discuss the presumption out of which you operate? Can you explain how the expressions of Muslim law, as lived out in your societies, are consistent with other teachings of your own religion, not to speak of thinking about basic human rights, which the rest of the world has arrived as via...you know...centuries of...reasoned thinking?

Or can you not do this? Do the assumptions out of which you operated make this impossible? Then how are we to dialogue with you? Or is that even not what you want?

And it is a point of clarity for the West - we are rooted in a tradition of discovery, exploration, reason, learning and dialogue.

Is this who we are....or not?

Because if not...there's a force of dhimmitude that's quite willing and ready to absorb you, shut down the voices of those who so unkindly "foment" discord by simply exploring a little history and philosophy.
I believe that what we have seen here is a man - an old man, by his own admission - doing his part to help us win the war against the liar who is trying to bait us into self-annihilating hatred. (Regular readers of this blog will know that "liar" in this context means Satan, who does not discriminate against any religious group when collecting his unfortunate victims - a soul's a soul.)

I think Benedict meant to do this ... or was inspired to do it.

He has made a scholarly, reasoned speech. His point was obvious. The quote was not only taken out of context, it was framed in headlines which were deliberately inflammatory, incomplete, and misleading. "Pope takes private time after slamming Islam."

And two things happened: some Muslims went ape, and the New York Times squatted down and deposited this response:
... In 2004 when he was still the Vatican’s top theologian, he spoke out against Turkey’s joining the European Union, because Turkey, as a Muslim country was “in permanent contrast to Europe.”

A doctrinal conservative, his greatest fear appears to be the loss of a uniform Catholic identity, not exactly the best jumping-off point for tolerance or interfaith dialogue.

The world listens carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly. He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology, demonstrating that words can also heal.
The Pope's going to Turkey, you know ... at the end of November. Why do this now? Is he really that stupid?

Probably not.

In order to disable the enemy, you need to find his weakness.

Any man who loses control of himself over rhetoric is pathetically weak. He's not only easily distracted, he dissipates his energies in furious gestures and yelling words.

The other enemy preaches peace at all costs, and demands with sombre tone that a "deep and persuasive apology" be issued for speaking about faith and reason.

Benedict has flushed those enemies out from cover. And, now that they're in the open, he's going to walk right onto the front lines, in full spotlight, by visiting a country where a book entitled Assassinating the Pope: Who will kill Benedict XVI in Istanbul is ranked as one of the bestsellers on the Internet! (Yet more proof that celibacy is not equivalent to castration.)

Amid all the "reaction," there was this gem... forgive me, but I laughed out loud in disbelief: "How can (the Pope) imply that Muslims are the creators of terrorism in the world while it is the followers of Christianity who have aggressed against every country of the Islamic world?" prominent Saudi cleric Salman al-Odeh said. "Who attacked Afghanistan and who invaded Iraq?"

Uh, no. More like going next door and saying, "Excuse me, neighbor, but the varmints under your front porch done showed up in my yard and bit my kids. I'm gonna give you a hand to get rid of 'em so we can both be free of 'em. Why don'tchya'll go on down to the hardware store and get some 'Varmint-Not' while we show those pestiferous critters some un-hospitality?"

Someone wise once said, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them." Good advice, these days.

02 September 2006

What do people want? Musing about deconstructionism vs. beauty in a couple of areas of life.

JohnL at TexasBestGrok (found while looking over the sidebar at Bookish Gardener) has an interesting post about aesthetics in business. His subject is "Ed Bailey, whose ownership of 61 McDonald's locations in the ultra-competitive Dallas dining market has made him one of the most successful restaurant franchisees in the world." Ed's secret was to spend more money on his stores than anyone else, making them aesthetically pleasing.

JohnL then writes:
Mr. Bailey knew then what Virginia Postrel would later identify as the "aesthetic imperative." In Ms. Postrel's words:

Aesthetics--the look and feel of people, places, and things--is increasingly important as a source of value, both economic and cultural....

Aesthetics shows up where function used to be the only thing that mattered, from toilet brushes to business memos to computers and cell phones. And people's expectations keep rising. New tract homes have granite countertops, so hotel rooms have to have granite countertops too. Family restaurants used to be all about price and food, but now they have to worry about their decor. We've gone from Pizza Hut to California Pizza Kitchen. If you're in business, you have to invest in aesthetics simply to keep up with the competition.
(emphasis mine)
The Catholic Church - may God bless her abundantly - is far too monolithic to keep up with "trends." That's why, in some parishes, you can still hear 70s flower-child songs at Mass, played by guitars, instead of hip-hop and punk riffs. It's not wrong to let holy inspiration suggest new ideas about ways to celebrate in worship. What's wrong is to deny access the Latin Mass, Gregorian chant, and intricately carved altars, or to convince the laity that they were forbidden, which is essentially the same thing.

We need both. I'm open to both. But I'm convinced that all Catholics have the right to experience their heritage, which includes the beauty and, yes, majesty, of liturgical art and music from prior ages in the Church.

The zeal of wreckovators to purge the Church of architecture of previous ages makes one wonder if their real reason is because what they're putting in its place is ... ? (tawdry and ineffectual? ... oops - did I say that out loud? shame on me!)

Beauty is not the enemy!

This Church is ancient. It is the original. We are told that to be old is to be out of date, worthless, not relevant; however, this Church was already ancient - over 100 years old - when Trajan took the Roman Empire to its maximum extent, 300 years before the Western Roman Empire would fall.

The Latin Mass - that arcane ritual which was tossed aside so casually 40 years ago - fed the spirituality of millions people for almost 2,000 years. If it was so inimical to faith, how did the Church manage to toddle along without the fresh ideas of those who didn't read (or dismissed as "not going far enough") the documents of the Council??

|| Memorandum ||

From: God
To: All who think the Catholic Church needs lots and lots
of busy tinkering with architecture, literature, philosophy, theology, et al.

Cool your jets.

YHWH:(various secretaries in His employ)

* * *

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of attending the Concours d'Elegance at Pebble Beach. This is considered the premiere event of its type in the United States.

You could say that it's all about old cars, and you'd be right. You hear people say lots of stuff about old cars. Like, old cars - who wants 'em? They don't have air conditioning. They aren't sensitive to the car seekers of today. The youth aren't interested. Young people would never show up to see old cars.

Oh yeah?

(image found here)

How about an old car of such beauty and intrinsic worth that it has been restored from the ground up to its original beauty ... and even runs?

(image from Madle)

Yes, those are old cars. No, not everyone would want one at home. They are expensive to keep, etc. But, for car enthusiasts, they are the basics - like learning art history for an artist, or singing bel canto for a future opera star, or learning about roux for a future chef. To see these beautiful autos restored to their former glory - absolutely authentic, right down to the tires, which are specially made - is inspiring.

Those automobiles were built for fashion, of course; but they remain as icons because to experience them is to capture some of what it was to explore the possibilities of automotive transport. The art of their construction re-breathes ideas from prior years, while looking forward to the next. It is one thing to look at an image. It's another to see the sheer bulk of them, the gleam of chrome, the upholstery and appointments, and to hear the engine run. It is to understand what people felt when they bought and used cars in those days. It hearkens back to the history of motoring. Without those carefully-preserved automobiles, we would not have access to the experience.

Not much of a leap to think about how that applies to church architecture.

To experience one of the incredibly beautiful cathedrals in France, say, is to have a clue as to the devotion, faith, tenacity, and priorities of the people who had them built, and the pride they took in their work.

To alter a church on the theory that The Spirit of Vatican Two requires it is to try to seize the elusive winds of fashion.

Why adopt deconstructionism in church art...

(St. Vibiana's altar in 1945, left; Our Lady of the Angels altar at its consecration, right.)

...just as a renewed appreciation for the finer things in life is reviving worldwide?

(St. John the Baptist, Costa Mesa; the stunning result of a renovation completed just this year [h/t Gerald; a commenter on the post wrote, "Wow! It's like someone at that parish suddenly woke up and said, 'Gee, we're not Protestants. Howz about we restore some grandeur and the promise of Mystery?'"] Gerald has been running a series of incredibly beautiful photographs of churches, by the way; do check them out.)

Simplicity can be beautiful, and inspiring:

(image from John Pawson Architecture, of the Novy Dvur Cistercian Monastery, Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sept-Fons; Czech Republic 2004.)

The austerity which arrests and focuses the attention can still overflow with beauty.

The Roman Catholic Church is known for her mysticism and her abundant and enduring contributions to the art of the Western world. We need to trust the generations before us which preserved timeless design principles, and let their contributions stand until we can understand them more clearly. To have new does not always mean the old must be destroyed. Truly brilliant design doesn't require that the old be destroyed to allow the new; nor does it compromise one for the other. Instead, it allows the two to mutually complement, support, and inform.

(Maybach image source)

Which flower are you?

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

Found at This Garden Is Illegal, by way of Bookish Gardener.

26 August 2006

More on donor-conceived persons

Very thoughtful blog from Buffalo Girl. Found via Family Scholars, which has been running some posts about the topic.

It's so sad.

We seem to be in a time when the conclusions of those who think for a living and have carefully done research are either unknown, or disbelieved. We have torrents of news and noise coming at us via the airwaves and Internet, but one gets the idea that we're missing whole huge hunks of the wisdom we need to live fully this great life we've been given.

For example, there is a group that insists that:--
The child has the right to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up within marriage: it is through the secure and recognized relationship to his own parents that the child can discover his own identity and achieve his own proper human development.

That seems like a perfectly reasonable statement. Unpopular, these days, but hardly the fruit of some half-baked ranting. Instead, it represents conclusions drawn after careful, slow consideration of all the aspects of the problem, moral, philosophical, physical, anthropologic ... but we refuse to listen. Instead of respecting the moral equivalent of "don't touch that stove or you'll get burned!", we stubbornly insist upon doing these things, rediscovering only later that there really are consequences:
Just like the other six babies she has borne, this one will go home with a childless couple who paid Jill £12,000 in expenses to be their surrogate.

If her past experiences are anything to go by, Jill knows what is in store once her job is done.

She will return to her two-bedroom flat in Brighton, where she lives alone with three rescue cats, and cry her eyes out, telling herself that she is simply feeling hormonal and it's not the baby she weeps for.


Jill's remarkable story can't help but raise some disquieting questions about the morality of surrogacy; questions those involved appear reluctant to confront.

In their desperate quest to become parents, do the childless couples who seek out women like Jill ever know just how emotionally needy or damaged they might be, or question their true motives? And if they do know, do they care enough to think twice about proceeding?
--quoted by Genevieve at feminine genius; source here.

* * *

“As I have said many times before and will say again, it does not matter how or why or for what outstandingly noble reason we were given away, back, forward or bloody sideways by our natural mums, it is still perceived by most as abandonment and there is a deep and unabiding loss.”
(source) --Sara at Umbilicly_Challenged

The ones who defend the children's rights go on to show that they understand the fears and pain of those who resort to science to get children:

The suffering of spouses who cannot have children or who are afraid of bringing a handicapped child into the world is a suffering that everyone must understand and properly evaluate.

On the part of the spouses, the desire for a child is natural: it expresses the vocation to fatherhood and motherhood inscribed in conjugal love. This desire can be even stronger if the couple is affected by sterility which appears incurable. Nevertheless, marriage does not confer upon the spouses the right to have a child, but only the right to perform those natural acts which are per se ordered to procreation.(57) A true and proper right to a child would be contrary to the child's dignity and nature. The child is not an object to which one has a right, nor can he be considered as an object of ownership: rather, a child is a gift, "the supreme gift" (58) and the most gratuitous gift of marriage, and is a living testimony of the mutual giving of his parents. For this reason, the child has the right, as already mentioned, to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents; and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception. (emphasis in the original.)
It is understandable if one cannot agree with this stance; but it is reasonable, I think, to request that one seriously read and consider the statements and evaluate the reasoning behind them.

Parents have no right to a child.

The child has the right to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents; and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.

Not the kind of thing one hears about the topic these days. Magazines, doctors, and TV dramas all urge one to believe differently from those statements.

In charity, I suppose that many parents who resort to medical means of conception may never have encountered the alternative ideas about "best practices" for a whole, fully human, life.

Sadly, some parents are so focused on what they want that they completely forget that The Baby is going to be a human being, different from them, and complete with instincts and needs and desires which they've thwarted to fulfil their personal goals:
"Lets look at this from our point of view. Here is our biological mother our flesh and blood the woman who would naturally be raising and loving us totally denying that we are her child. I’m sorry but you just cant do that. We are your kids. We’re your kids just as much as your own kids, but yet you only think of us as some sloughed off egg that you are giving to a substitute mother who no matter how much love she has just can’t be the same as you? For 25 thousand dollars or whatever? You don’t bond with us when you are carrying us and you deny that we are yours because you have deluded yourselves and deny who and what we really are. That is so totally not right that I can’t believe anyone would think this is normal!And why are you doing this? For the most part its money from what I understand. Some of you have already admitted that in other posts. Would any of you do it if you did not get compensated for it? Or maybe if you didn’t get that feeling of belonging or acceptance that you never had as a kid? How do you think that makes us kids feel? You may be able to deny us but we don’t want to deny who you are. That makes us feel very rejected. That leaves a hole in our hearts whether we admit to it or it manifests some other way like in depression or a fear of getting close to someone else."

The child is not an object to which one has a right, nor can he be considered as an object of ownership: rather, a child is a gift, "the supreme gift" (58) and the most gratuitous gift of marriage, and is a living testimony of the mutual giving of his parents.

Read it all.

May God have mercy on those of us who have failed to trust our lives to God's love, and in our pride and ignorance have reached out to play with the pretty, warm flames.

And let us remember that a whole education does not consist of censorship; i.e., removing certain texts from the curriculum which have fallen out of favour with the current fads of thought. Instead, all the main schools of thought must be presented. Because, in the end, it's not some abstract thing we're dealing with, but life and our ability to live it well. Instead of thinking we know what we're doing - we who've had so little training in even how to think, much less what others have learned before us through centuries of observation and hard lessons - we need to get constructively lazy about life, and spend hours reading the thought of those who went before us, and respect that thought. We do not want to suffer the lack of children, so we take steps to avoid it, without having sufficient education or depth of thought to begin to imagine what it will do to those who bear the consequences of our actions:
I cannot control people's actions and I'm not trying to. In the end, people will find a way to justify their actions no matter what they do. I am just glad that there are people like you out there who wish to be more informed to make such a life-altering decision. Donors are not saving lives (of recipients), they are **creating** lives. Many people do not realize the intensity of the situation. My biological father is sick and tired of "the whole sperm donor thing" but it is my life. Though, in reality, it is irrelevant to any success or failure I will have but it is nothing less than significant to define my background, where I come from, and how I am treated, as something miraculous, taboo, unnatural, and medically supernatural.

No one knows better than donor-conceived people that blood does not make two people family... so why not save a life that is already on this earth and adopt?

...But that's just me.

--quoted in a post on the Buffalo Girl blog

25 August 2006


Via JoyfulWoman, I found my way to dancing on the ceiling and this meditation, which ends thus: --
People don't get touched enough. Many walk around with a bad case of skin hunger. There is something very attractive about people who live large and unapologetically. Their hearts show through. They are not bound up with notions of being appropriate. They are tuned into life. And I am all the richer for Sam and his hugs.

They are not bound up with notions of being appropriate.

I've typed and deleted some paragraphs here. I'll leave it at this: if one doesn't care for touch, or sex, it is best - kindest - not to marry someone with an affectionate nature. ;)

13 August 2006

Reformation ... or ruination?

This is a cogent, well-written article which had its inception in the current situation in the Episcopal church, but which repeatedly goes past that specific issue to show that it is part of a general trend away from the hard work of self-knowledge and repentance. Found via Drell's Descants.

12 August 2006

Who's your daddy?

When you have a child with a man you've never met, it only makes sense that you might be letting yourself in for sometimes unpleasant surprises.

just sayin', is all.

Thoughts on mothering

Over at Genevieve Kineke's feminine genius, there's a wonderful thoughtful piece about the mother who seems to pride herself in being unable to tolerate the common tasks of motherhood.

Genevieve writes,
...she has a very good point. While mothers ooh and aah over many silly things for the sake of the child, there is the ubiquitous problem in our culture wherein the child is the centre of the universe and his ego is fed at the expense of teaching him authentic humility. Mothers are supposed to create a bridge between the child and his father, and ultimately between him and God the Father, Who says two things to each child simultaneously:

1. You are fearfully, wonderfully made and I adore you, My little creation; and

2. Repent! For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

A good mother's love will allow the child to understand unconditional (undeserved) love while teaching him humility, concern for others, and a sense of purpose.
When, after Genevieve considers some other aspects of it, she starts a new paragraph with:--
What this article screams between the lines is that this woman was not mothered.
...reading those words felt like a discovery. I wish she'd developed that thought more.

Genevieve finishes with this:
Her last defense shows her ignorance (despite a brilliant academic career):

All us bored mothers can take comfort from the fact that our children may yet turn out to be more balanced than those who are love-bombed from the day they are born.
If she only knew what true love was, she would never dare drop a remark like this. She, the apple of God's eye, surrounded by the breath of the Spirit, and entrusted to the loving care of an attentive angel, heaps scorn on "love-bombing." Perhaps if she would stop obsessing about her own accomplishments and hourly self-fulfillment, she would find time to lift her head and give thanks -- for being love-bombed by the Almighty, Who saw fit to bless her with these two boys.
Tempus fugit, my dear. Love is all that lasts.

It is not that mothers haven't felt this way at one time or another; for most, however, one can hope that it's a temporary state of mind, rather than something to write proudly about.

I don't think it's fair to pick on this mother. She's no philosopher. She reminds me of that line in the Deteriorata:--
Be assured that a walk through the oceans of most souls would scarcely get your feet wet.
Just because someone is "educated" does not mean they're wise, thoughtful or intelligent; in fact, it's a good bet that the more seriously they take their university degree, particularly in the liberal arts, the more likely it is that their natural sense of wonder and openness to simple joy is significantly, perhaps permanently, impaired.

While I read it, a word kept coming to mind: accedia. It's used to describe the state which sometimes descends upon monastics, but I think it can also apply to any of us in a vocation, even motherhood. However, as with most such states, the only way out is through. Dodging it, as the bored mother does, is often just a way to prolong one's needed soul-work.

I keep coming back to the idea that the bored mother was not mothered, herself... there's a lot to contemplate, there.

Dear God, please bless all mothers today, and particularly "love-bomb" that bored one. Bless her richly, Lord, as you know her heart. And, while you're working on her, please protect and guide her children. Amen.

The book meme

1. One book that changed your life:

Story of a Soul

2. One book that you've read more than once:

Little Women

3. One book you'd want on a desert island:

A blank one. (and a pen)

4.One book that made you laugh:

Diary of a Provincial Lady

5. One book that made you cry:

The Notebook

6. One book that you wish had been written:

The one I wrote that gave me a comfortable income for life. ;)

7. One book that you wish had never been written:

anything by Judy Blume

8. Two books you're currently reading:

Ship of Fools
Stranger in a Strange Land

9. One book you've been meaning to read:

The Spiritual Life

I tag my friend over at Happy Trails.

09 August 2006

Stray thought...

...and not well thought-through, but this came into my mind this afternoon:

In the 60s and 70s, women were urged to get out of the kitchen and away from the home and demands of the family, and enter the workforce. Much of the rationale for it - not all, of course - was that women ought to do this, on principle, because they were "better" than just homemakers.

That principle is still cited today. Today in some circles one is considered rather odd if one considers one's calling to be homemaking.

Are we happier because of this? Are women truly fulfilled, demonstrably better off, clearly light years ahead of where they were?

Most women these days are more or less ignorant of what it takes to make a home. The FlyLady membership has topped 300,000 and is steadily growing. Many of us - and yes, I count myself among them - never learned the simplest techniques for taking care of a family. It isn't difficult; but there's nowhere to learn, these days. The concept of do it now, do a little bit, rest, balance, release perfection, etc. are all things many of our grandmothers knew and didn't even know they knew it. Now we have to rediscover it and learn it all over again.

What got me off on this kick was putting together my "control journal." This is a FlyLady thing. It means to write down one's routines, so as to stay on track throughout the week and get things done in little bits, instead of killing oneself trying to do it all on Saturday. I couldn't even grasp the concept for months and months; now I'm beginning to figure it out. So I wrote down my routines, morning and evening. The morning routine goes until 7:30, when I leave for work. The evening routine starts when I get home.

All of a sudden I realized that those hours in between were just - lost. I've never considered work part of my Life. It is a blank to me. I go in, I do my work, I go home. I have interesting, good work, for good pay, in lovely surroundings with great people. I earn my money fair and square. But, at the end of my life, when I look back over my time on earth, will I remember the days I spent at the office? Of course not.

I think doing anything out of principle, because someone just said you should, is a risky deal. And I think it's time for us women to take a long, hard, honest, unflinching look at what the feminists told us, and see if it really fits. Is it really what we want? Is it really who we are inside? We have a duty to ourselves, so that we can faithfully discharge our responsibilities towards our families and towards society. Society happens to need lots of well-adjusted, healthy, smart children. We are not being generous with our progeny. That is a serious thing, because we are putting ourselves and our fellow citizens at risk. Are we so incredibly happy, joyful, fulfilled, that it's a worthwhile trade-off, to stint on raising sound, happy families? Or are we getting a few hints from the weeping we cannot stop as we leave our newborns in the hands of others when we go to the office, or the anguish we feel as our empty-headed teenagers behave in ways we know are risky and will not bring them joy, happiness, or fulfillment?

We women have tremendous power. We knew this before, and we know it now. Do we have to blindly swallow the rhetoric of a bunch of women who wanted to tear apart society for their own ends?

What, exactly, is so wrong about devoting oneself to one's family, if that's what one's called to do? Should girls be taught to deny those yearnings to make a home and raise children because it's somehow more healthy to sit at a desk each day and go out to clubs at night?

Like I said, not thought-through, yet. And rather larger of a topic than I have time for tonight. I just think it's time for us to get brave and push back a bit against those who Know Better Than We What We Want.

Paul the apostle tells older women they should be guides for the younger ones. I think maybe that's true; we need to reflect seriously upon our lives, and help the young women around us to truly choose, not just reflexively do what they're told - by anyone.

08 August 2006

In which naïve researchers "discover" some old news

I've been marveling over this article about how if kids listen to filthy song lyrics, they'll start having sex sooner. It's being reported as if it was a "discovery."

The reason it's news, I suppose, is that the strident voices of the 60s and 70s and 80s tried valiantly to convince themselves, us, school districts, etc. that kids aren't influenced one tiny bit by raunchy lyrics and R-rated films... just as you hear supposedly well-educated priests and liturgists say that there's nothing wrong with dumbing-down the words of the Mass or providing only dreck music.

Of course, they conveniently ignore or dismiss the fact that the economy rests largely upon people being gullible enough to march out like zombies and buy whatever's advertised on television...

Anyway... in the 60s, the assumption was that the parents were being "mean" and wanted to keep young people from having "fun" and "finding themselves," by trying to "hide" sex, etc.

It never occurred to the hormonally-challenged young that maybe - just maybe - the code of mystery and silence about sexual activity was not meant to blight their youthful existence, but was rather meant to help them make the most of their growing-up time. It's a lot easier to learn if you're not distracted by trying to do family-making behavior without the family to go along with it, and without the experience or wisdom or even enough knowledge to manage such a weird thing, anyway.

We natter on and on about "natural" foods, yet try to live in opposition to our instincts.

What's really sad is that a lot of kids have no idea what the alternative is. They don't know how to make a family, or be in a relationship. They're clueless about children, in a fog about finances, and totally without an original thought about history, politics, or any of the great books.

The parents and establishment of today is just as determined to keep the way of joy and wholeness from kids as previous generations worked so hard to shelter children from the brutality of a lawless, amoral world.

Perhaps this latest "discovery" will help the kids to wake up to what life can hold for them when they learn to really love, not just have sex... even if it's too late for their parents.

07 August 2006

Don't just tell ... show 'em what's going on?

Very interesting post via Quintero at L.A. Catholic, about a group of parishioners who recorded the liturgical abuses etc. on a CD and sent it around to some at the Vatican who might be interested.

According to the poster, it was helpful.

Such a presentation - simply letting the images and words speak for themselves - might be very enlightening to those who otherwise might dismiss such reports as exaggerated, simply because they're unfamiliar with the extent of the, ahem, creativity we're subjected to, because they're, you know, in Rome.

05 August 2006

Last century's hangover

Bobbie at emerging sideways posted a link to this collection of old advertisements for various kinds of drugs.

She writes:
this is a collection of vintage ads run in medical journals. some of these are terrifying to think of the lives ruined, the addiction created and the loss of dignity taken by medicine. i know they didn't know then what we know now, but it's still such a clue into how trying to anestitize a generation from their emotions and facing their past has brought us here. fascinating.
I was fascinated by them myself, in the way one would be fascinated by the gun that was used to kill someone you loved... a morbid fascination, full of dread, afraid that if I look too long, the horrible things will reach out and grab my soul, too.

You see, my mother was prescribed medications to slow her fast-beating heart and calm her revved-up mind. Today we would call her condition "bipolar." Then she was just out of control, completely. She would talk a mile a minute ... for hours on end ... brilliantly, wittily, and with a streak of humour that would leave you sore and tired from laughing so hard ... but in the end, only tired, wishing she would just wind down and go to bed. She interpreted all such suggestions as personal slights, and got so extravagantly wounded by them that no one ever dared say anything like that again. Then ... whether from the drugs, or just the natural low point of the cycle ... she would sleep for days, drag herself to sit in front of her dressing table, smoking cigarettes, not eating, and barely able to take care of herself.

Life with her was never dull, I'll say that.

Anyway, all the doctors would do was prescribe phenobarbitol, and she took it lavishly and got so addicted that my father, in blind rage, brought her off of the stuff cold turkey one horrible week when I was very young (5? 6?). He could've killed her, doing that. All I remember was being taken upstairs to her room to see her. She was in her negligée, by the window, looking out, talking to "the chicken man" - the guy who delivered the "Chicken Delight" we sometimes had when she couldn't cook. I wasn't put off by that - my mother had a famous imagination, and told the very best stories - but by the attitude of my grandmother and the clear embarrassment of my father. He was always embarrassed by her. Come to think of it, she was perpetually embarrassed by him. It's really a wonder I'm here at all. ;)

Anyway ... I've been spared that particular horror in my life, though before Imitrex, I was prescribed extremely strong medicine to help me cope with the severe migraine I dealt with almost daily. I depended on the medicine and loved to feel it take hold, numbing the pain, allowing me to get through the day. Fortunately, I wasn't addicted.

But I, too, have my cycles ... a week of feeling great, then a week of illness and migraine... and, sometimes, I wonder ...

Bobbie was right, though: so many were medicated out of dealing with their griefs and sorrows and the natural adjustments of life - growing old, losing friends, etc. It was just another part of what contributed to the mess of the 60s and 70s.

And yet ... I once woke from surgery with the anesthetic completely worn off. I was still mostly paralyzed from the epidural, but I could hear and feel everything. I have never in my life felt such pain, and I hope to God I never do - that no one ever does. I lay in the bed whimpering "help me... help me..." while the nurses scurried around and prepared an injection of morphine. It was a relief beyond words to feel the stuff work its way up from my arm to my brain, so that the pain went away, and I could relax into the dark fog. So I'm not against drugs. But we cannot use them to escape the psychic work of growing and loss and grief and healing.

23 July 2006

The pace of change

Karen Hall has expressed frustration with the pace of Pope Benedict's course correction. (Thanks to Dom and Julie D. for the link.)

I empathize, and sympathize, especially since I live in the Land of Mahony.

However, I come down on the side of those who counsel patience.

The last thing - the absolute, very last thing - we need is to have another upheaval. The problems of today stem from changes made at lightning speed after Vatican II.

Benedict is proceeding slowly, carefully, thoroughly, and with exquisite tact and gentleness. However, gentleness does not rule out discipline. I think Pope Benedict has made it crystal clear that people may choose to submit to his winsome, reasonable "suggestions," or they can spend this inning on the bench.

Karen's concern for souls in the meantime is understandable, even laudable; but I join with the voices of those in her combox who counsel trust in God. He has his eye on the sparrow. He knows whether people have been misled, or lied to; he knows when they are acting from malice, or are determined to have nothing more to do with Him. He is more loving, more merciful, and more knowing that we can ever imagine. He can't be thwarted by bishops being bravely naughty about liturgy. For every bad bishop, there are legions more faithful Catholics. There are still holy religious who pray faithfully and live sacrificially to save souls.

By going carefully, I sense that Pope Benedict is allowing people to see the logic of what he's doing, and identify the right course by their own reasoning. I think he would not want to be identified as a catalyst for change. I think he sees himself in an important role but with no strength of his own beyond his ability to be appropriately submissive to the Holy Spirit.

Recovery of the sacred

Philip Blosser blogs on the book Recovery of the Sacred: Liturgy and The Loss of History. He writes: "Last month, Adoremus Bulletin (June 2006) reprinted an excerpt, "Liturgy and The Loss of History," from James Hitchcock's analysis of the liturgical reform following the Second Vatican Council, Recovery of the Sacred (originally published in 1974 by Seabury Press, reprinted in 1995 by Ignatius Press, but currently again out of print). Although Hitchcock's analysis is more than three decades old, it provides sometimes uncanny insights into the history and dynamic of the early post-Conciliar liturgical reform that make it perhaps as timely as it was when it was first published. Certainly his discussion is relevant to conversations we have been having recently on this blog. Here are a few excerpts..." (I have copied in only a few from his extensive selection):
... Among other things the most radical innovators failed to notice that few contemporary men choose to live only amid the artifacts of their own time. Well-made old houses are if anything more popular than newer ones. The antique market provides steady opportunities for decoration and investment. Proposals to destroy historic landmarks raise public outcries. Museums are crowded by people wanting to see old masters, and symphony orchestras have trouble filling their seats if they play mostly modern works. For better or for worse, a determined holding onto a good deal of the past seems to be a feature of modern man, probably because he senses how fragile these survivals really are.

* * *

A circular action was involved. which soon became a vicious circle leading to the rapid breakdown of liturgy. Liturgical innovators were vaguely dissatisfied with the traditional forms but did not realize the extent of their dissatisfaction until they began to experiment. As they peeled away the layers of historical accretions to liturgy, they found, sometimes with shock, sometimes with satisfaction, that the core of belief which underlay traditional worship was not at all the same as their own, that what was involved in liturgical reform was nothing less than a profound revolution in the nature of belief itself. The vicious circle formed, however, because if a crisis of belief provokes a crisis of worship, it is also true that a crisis of worship provokes further crises of belief. The symbols and the reality they were meant to express were so closely welded that it was impossible to alter one without altering the other.

The drive for radical liturgical innovation thus became a principal cause of the widespread crisis of faith which began to appear in the Church. In its origins this crisis affected only a relatively few persons, who were moved to begin the restless search for a truly “relevant” modern liturgy. As radically transformed liturgies began to be celebrated, however -- in colleges, seminaries, high schools, convents, living rooms, sometimes even in churches -- the crisis became more and more a public thing and began to affect more and more people. The stability of the liturgy for so long had been an effective public symbol of the stability and unity of belief and, equally important, it had been a means by which this stability and unity were preserved and reinforced. Now the diversity and sometimes the shocking unfamiliarity of liturgy became an equally effective public symbol of the instability and diversity of belief and a means of intensifying and propagating this....

... The officially mandated liturgical changes were being implemented as early as 1964 and were largely in effect before the flood of departures from the Church and from the priestly and religious life began. So long as the liturgy was stable, so was Church membership. As with other changes in the Church, the disaffection with liturgy seems to have come about not because the liturgy did not change but because it did. The sense of the meaning of tradition was broken; symbolically there had been a repudiation of the past which the fathers of the Second Vatican Council had certainly not intended but which their actions signaled to some people.

19 July 2006

and yet, for all of that ...

(in the posts immediately below, I mean) ... I find myself yearning for the kind of love for Bible study and talking about the Lord that one can find in the best Protestant churches, like this one. The Catholics are hobbled right out of the gate with the execrable NAB translation, and the lack of application commentaries. Can you imagine what a good Catholic "Life Application Bible" would be like?? Wow. It would have notes tying all the scripture references back to the Rosary, the Way of the Cross, and the saints and orders. It would show in charts the development of doctrine which Dave Armstrong points out in various places.

Hmm... some enterprising individual ought to start pitching such a thing ... I hope it's already in the works someplace. It would reap a harvest of souls... especially since it would be so nice and fat and thick and full of pictures. The Catholic Encyclopedia is great, but Protestants start in the Word, and so many are sincere, but ignorant of the implications of what they're reading. "But how shall I know...?" (Acts 8:26-39)

* * * * *

But, even as I waffle and waver, hope just insists on reviving. Look at this letter to Bishop Skylstad from Cardinal Castrillon-H (found at Open Book, here):

Congregation for the Clergy

Prot. N. 20060481

The Most Rev. William Skylstad

President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

3211 Fourth Street NE

Washington DC 20017-1194


Your Excellency,

This Congregation deems it opportune to write to you regarding the closure of parishes in the dioceses of the United States, since in recent times certain dioceses have wrongly applied canon 123 CIC and stating that a parish has been "suppressed" when in reality it has been merged or amalgamated.

A parish is more than a public juridical person. Canon 369 defines the diocese as a "portion of the people of God which is entrusted to the bishop to be nurtured by him". Similarly, "A parish is a certain community of Christ's faithful, stably established within a particular Church, whose pastoral care, under the authority of the diocesan bishop, is entrusted to a parish priest as its proper pastor (cf. can. 515)."

In this light, then, only with great difficulty, can one say that a parish becomes extinct. A parish is extinguished by the law itself only if no Catholic community any longer exists in its territory, or if no pastoral activity has taken place for a hundred years (can. 120 #1). When a parish is "suppressed" by competent authority in reality the still existing community of Christ's faithful is actually "merged" into the neighboring community of Christ's faithful and constitutes a larger community, and the territory of the extinguished parish is added to the other, forming a larger territorial unit. While the parish church and the physical parish plant may be closed and the name of a particular parish extinguished, the spiritual needs of the portion of the Faithful which once constituted that parish, must continue to be provided for in accord with their rights in law.

In the case where the portion of the Christian Faithful is reallocated among pre-existing or newly created parishes, the corresponding patrimony and obligations of the closed parishes must follow the Faithful in an equitable and proportionate fashion in accord with the corresponding responsibilities and pastoral duties assumed by the parishes ad quem. The wishes of any existing founders and benefactors must be respected, as must any acquired rights as expressed in canon 121 or 122.

Often when a bishop calls his action a "suppression" it is in reality a merger of two communities of Christ's faithful. Thus canon 121 applies: "When aggregates of persons or of things which are public juridic persons, are so joined that from them one aggregate is constituted which also possesses juridic personality, this new juridic person obtains the patrimonial goods and rights proper to the previous aggregates...." The "suppression" of a parish is in most cases then a "unio extinctiva". If a parish is divided between more than one existing parish then can. 122 would apply.

Thus the goods and liabilities should go with the amalgamated juridic person, and not to the diocese. This would also seem to be more consonant with the requirement that the wishes of the founders, benefactors and those who have acquired rights be safeguarded, In most cases "suppressions" are in reality a "unio extinctiva" or "amalgamation" or "merger" and as such the goods and obligations do not pass to the higher juridic person, but should pertain to the public juridic person which remains or emerges from the extinctive union. The goods and liabilities should go to the surviving public juridic person, that is the enlarged parish community.

In conclusion, this Congregation notes that the erroneous use of can. 123 in the dioceses of the United States is not uncommon and therefore asks Your Excellency to bring this matter to the attention of the individual bishop members of the Episcopal Conference.

I take this opportunity to renew my sentiments of esteem and with every best wish, I remain,

Yours sincerely in Christ,

/s/ Dario Card. Castrillon-H.

/s/ Csaba Ternyak

Bolded paragraph my [Amy Welborn's] emphasis. (Examples of a properly "suppressed" parish would be, say one in an area where the population had died out completely or near to it - in some areas in the Great Plains, for example. I think.)

If there's anything I appreciate about the Vatican, it's its elegant, tactful way of applying the clue-by-four.

Not traditional, not liberal

The Secular War on the Supernatural ... via the Happy Catholic:
Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand has an excellent piece about how a lack of belief in the supernatural spells out how well we are able to know and love God and His Church. Seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? Read this anyway. You'll have your "Aha!" moment somewhere along the way.
Now let us abolish the terms "conservative" or "liberal", the terms "left" and "right" which are secularistic. I suggest that we say from now on "those who have kept the sense of the supernatural and those who have lost it". That is the great divide, that is the essence.

Do you look at the Church and her teaching, whether dogmatic or moral, with a supernatural eye, or do you look at it with secular lenses? That is the divide. Left and right confuses the issue. Let us re-discover the greatness and the beauty of the supernatural and I claim that it is so difficult in the polluted world in which we live, that if we don’t pray for it every single day, we are going to be infected. It is the air that you breathe, the newspaper that you read, the television show that you see, time and again you will see this is a fight and attack on the supernatural.
I did read it, and I agree with the quote above. There are parts in the article which make me a little uncomfortable, but it's been a long time since I was in that mindset, and Dr. Alice von Hildebrand comes to the Church from a different place than I, perhaps... see what you think.

Dave Armstrong does a satisfying round-up

... in his list, 150 reasons why I am a Catholic (revised).

Satisfying, because, as an evangelical convert, he explicitly talks about some of the things I feel strongly about... in particular, that Catholicism retains its access to mysticism, which is so lacking in many Protestant churches.

It's too long to quote, but I recommend you take a look at it yourself. Dave is clearly one of those gifted men who uses his mind with the same avidity that other men practice the bench-press. ;)
Your Famous Last Words Will Be:

"What we know is not much. What we don't know is enormous."

14 July 2006

The SSPX and the Mass

At What Does the Prayer Really Say, there is a post up entitled "Tridentine Dreamin'" (link thanks to Amy). In it, Father Zuhlsdorf describes how he thinks the SSPX could be welcomed home to Rome:
First, the excommunications of the bishops would need to be lifted: piece o’ cake - the Pope can do that with the flick of a bik. Second, a canonical structure would need to be set up: again, it’s pen stoke time - provided they can be a little creative and, importantly, pick the right guy to head it up (I have suggestions). Third, the SSPX wants to continue to exist: - again, noooo problem.

However, the Accord would include statements of a theological nature. First, they would need to agree that the Novus Ordo is valid: okay… this can be done - the hardliners will demure but most will do this especially if we all see some real liturgical discipline being inplemented in the world. Second, they will need to admit that the Second Vatican Council was vaild: yah yah… Lefebvre signed all the documents, didn’t he.

But here is where things get tough: There will be some kind of statment on religious liberty and this is where things will come to a halt with the more theologically minded on both sides.

It all sounds doable but the religious liberty issue is the real thorn here.
Father doesn't elaborate on that last statement, but when I read it, what I think is this:

If you are going to tell people they have the right to assert the primacy of conscience so that they can rationalize their way out of guilt about cohabiting before marriage, contraception, etc., then you must cease and desist the witch-hunts to purge the church of all who would cling to the liturgy which created so many saints.

One is no less disloyal than the other. And those who cling to the old liturgy are at least zealous to preserve the Church.

I like Gerald Augustinus' blog, The Cafeteria is Closed, but he's been outspoken about his opinion about the SSPX. I've had to restrain myself from cluttering his comboxes with impassioned rants. I cut him more slack than he will cut the SSPX, however; he's still a very new Catholic, and is as zealous in his own way as the SSPX is.

I have read the documents of Vatican II. It is incredible that, after all this time, people still think that council mandated the willful destruction of churches, turning the altars around, communion in the hand, banal music, stripping the churches of art, religious in street clothes, or any of the other abuses which have permeated the Roman Catholic "faith experience."

We have much to reclaim.

21 June 2006


I've been traveling blog-land today, after searching for "Tiber" amongst the blogs, because I wanted to read the thoughts of converts. Every time I get furious at the idiotic choices and empty words of Some Bishops and stomp off, I find myself exposed to Benedict XVI's amazingly clear, flowing exposition, and he draws me back. I'm fascinated, encouraged, admiring ... he is truly filling the role of pater for us. Anyway ... it makes me want to read others, to refresh my memory about how it was all those years ago.

Along the way, I found Musings of a Discerning Woman, a blog by a woman who's going to be a religious sister. God bless her and her order. But I read this, and it just kind of irked me:
One thing that has begun to just annoy me - and which I'm guessing I need to start getting used to - is the focus on one element of my future life as a woman religious. The # 1 question is not "how did you know God was calling you to be a Sister", or "what sort of ministry do you think you will do", or even "do people still do that", but rather different variations of the fashion question:

-Will you wear a habit?
-Will you wear a uniform?
-What will you wear?
-You won't be one of those pants wearing nuns will you? (yes … jeans even!)

Sometimes if I'm feeling generous I politely explain that my community is an active apostolic order and chooses to wear simple clothing like the people we work with (and that the traditional habits were once the simple dress of an earlier age). But the question persists, as do the strong opinions. I think it comes down to an odd mix of an American cultural obsession with the habited nun (after all you can buy nun salt & paper shakers and fire-breathing-nun-themed toys) with a desire to know who the nuns are by sight so they can be sure to be on their best behavior around them. And most of these folks are not Catholic, so maybe that's a factor too.

Note that she says, "my community chooses."
After Vatican II, lots of communities "chose" to do that (among other things).

A lot of communities folded.

I'm not saying that there isn't a time and place for donning street clothes in certain apostolates. But I would like religious to simply consider this: maybe people ask those questions because they want to see religious in habits. Maybe it means something to them. Maybe the desire to see distinctive garb was not magically removed from the human psyche by Vatican II. After all, brides still usually wear distinctive clothing. Police wear uniforms. Nurses have their uniforms, doctors white coats, even painters wear white. Goths wear black lipstick. Why would anyone have their lip pierced if they didn't want someone to see it because it meant something? Lawyers in offices which have adopted business casual for everyday are often advised to keep a full business suit hanging on the back of the door just in case they have to unexpectedly dash to court or meet with a similarly-dressed client. If it's court, the judge will wear robes. If dress doesn't matter, why are these things so?

Instead of the orders "choosing" or "deciding" how to dress ... wouldn't they seek to be led by the one they serve? What does he want them to wear? What will lead and reassure people, help them feel his whisper in their souls, awaken their yearning for mystery and the Love that makes people leave the ordinary choices of life for a life in which he makes the choices?

(Though I guess if one bristles at the notion of a "he" wanting anyone to do anything, the question is moot.)

Just wondering.

Oh, and about that pesky spirit of Vatican Two stuff ... you know, where it was mandated, or permitted, or suggested that religious abandon their habits ... sorry, didn't happen. Pope Paul VI said this: "17. The religious habit, an outward mark of consecration to God, should be simple and modest, poor and at the same becoming. In addition it must meet the requirements of health and be suited to the circumstances of time and place and to the needs of the ministry involved. The habits of both men and women religious which do not conform to these norms must be changed." (Quoted at domestic-church.com.)

Since I'm obviously "for" religious habits for the active apostolates, here are some of my favorites.

Of course, it's probably just coincidental that these orders are being overrun with applicants...

Moving, and moving on

Via Sigmund, Carl and Alfred I found this blog, written by Vicki. She writes movingly of her mother's death as well as so much about her daily life. While I read about her grieving, my heart ached for her.

My mother died fourteen years ago. It doesn't seem possible, in a way, that so much time has passed. And yet, by remembering it ... facing up to it ... I know that I can move on ... and have, in spite of myself.

As Vicki writes about her impending move, that, too, brings up things I'd rather not contemplate. I don't want to move, either, but I shall, one day. My dear one lives far away. In time, I will join him.

It's time for me to shed all possessions which are not mine: those I neither bought, nor chose to keep, nor love. A lot of those things belonged to my mother. My sister and I went through them once, together, all those years ago, and divided the ones we weren't ready to part with. Doing it again will be another kind of grieving, because I wanted to have the time to sit and enjoy those things... and haven't used my time for that, yet.

During the last three years I've had what I always (thought I) wanted: time alone to live as I please. To some degree, I've enjoyed that. But life has preoccupied me, and I didn't take the time I wanted to lounge in the garden, read, and go through my possessions. But, again: I was grieving changes in my personal life, proximate and long ago, choices I'd made which had torn my heart apart and slowly depressed my life to a sad fog.

Grieving is a part of life we don't talk much about and can't prepare for. If one isn't taught how to grieve, it may not take place. Yet the human person needs to grieve tragedies in life. If grief is suppressed or denied, it will work its way out in other, less healthy ways. It has to happen.

For me, one of the great gifts of Catholicism was its coaching in grieving. Catholics don't pretend away the sadness. Visiting a grave is considered one of the corporal works of mercy. It is OK to weep and to offer one's suffering as one would offer any other suffering, laying up "treasures in heaven." There are saints who also suffered terrible losses, and whose perseverance in spite of personal tragedy is inspiring, because they were no different from us, but they stayed in touch with God, even as they went through the valley of the shadow of death.

This day, this moment, I'm not conscious of grieving. I've been having more and more moments like that lately. Instead of feeling guilty about it as I did for so many years, I'm grateful. It's finally become clear to me that I'm allowed to have a few hours, even a whole day, of well-being and joy. That is the "reward" of grief well handled: one's life is open to the return of joy, in its season.

Even in my joy, however, I will never again be unaware of the landscape of grief. I remember stumbling through weeks in a haze, preoccupied with my mother's illness, then the arrangements after her death, and the long journey through her accumulation of possessions. When someone cuts me off in traffic, or speaks brusquely to me, I'm able to remember sometimes that they, too, might be grieving. You just never know. And, until you have walked that foggy, slippery path, you will not have sympathy, because you do not know what it does to you, and how it cannot be hurried.

Today, at this moment, I know joy. I feel well. The sun is shining. I have work to do, and the prospect of a delightful weekend ahead. If I refuse to enjoy what God is granting me in these moments, I do not alleviate the grief of someone else who just now is sobbing disconsolately over the loss of a loved one, an important relationship, or a hoped-for change in life. I can pray that they will be comforted and led in their feelings of desolation, even as I accept the refreshment of a break in my own journey.

It is summer in my soul today.

18 June 2006

More mid-life musings

Found Arwen/Elizabeth's blog again via Fructus Ventris' blogroll and enjoyed reading her natterings about her yearned-for pregnancy. It's wonderful to read that she's doing well. She's a thoughtful young woman.

She wrote one post about how easily she cries, and, as I read it, I thought about myself at that age. I rarely wept. The day my dear one walked out of my life, I did not cry about it. I went through terrible times which rocked my soul and tore me up inside, but tears were not the way I handled it. Instead of crying jags, I had migraines.

Weeping was something I refused to do, so part of my life was staying away from incidents or situations which would touch me emotionally. That was part of why I married the man I eventually did, and it was certainly the reason behind my refusal to have any children.

There was a time a few years ago when all that changed. My dear friend supported me from a distance while I wept the tears I had not shed for thirty years. One of the thoughts which triggered hours of uncontrollable sobs was the acknowledgement of the horrible consequences of letting him go from my life when I did. I went on into life without the possibility of knowing what the skin of his back felt like, or realizing one day I was with child, or watching him with his babies. At the time, I deliberately shut such thoughts from my mind; if I had not, I would have collapsed.

Now, my cup of joy is full, and I can read Arwen/Elizabeth's posts without having tears overwhelm me - not because I'm suppressing them, but because they've all been cried, and I can be happy for her. However, beneath my joy, there is still the deep ache of knowing that I'll never lie with that man and have the joy of giving a child life with our love.

There has been some discussion on other blogs recently of Why childless people hate me by Emily Yoffe. Her mention that people have a skewed sense of the time involved in parenting resonates with me. During my worst and darkest years, I could not get through a day without an enormous effort of will. The thought of putting a child into that mix was - unthinkable. I never seriously considered it. I could have done tremendous damage to a child; I couldn't even take care of myself.

My choice was also influenced by the fact that my sister was born the week before I turned 11, and my parents divorced when I was 13. I spent a lot of time taking care of that little girl, and it wasn't easy and I didn't have help... not to mention I was nowhere old enough or mature enough or experienced enough to take care of a child. But that wasn't an acceptable response in those days. I had to do it; to remonstrate would have been labeled "whining." So I did my part, and it did a lot to satisfy any fledgling material instincts. I have changed diapers, and helped with homework, and ineptly advised and counselled about all types of things.

But it wasn't my child.

To all the childless by choice, I would echo Emily Yoffe's advice: be open to reconsidering. I was influenced heavily by Paul Ehrlich, but he was wrong. We cannot assume that we, with our tiny minds, can know the truth about what might happen. God can and will provide for us. Time speeds up phenomenally as you get older and as children grow. More children really can be easier than fewer, because they can help and entertain each other. We need partners in law firms and vice presidents in corporations, but none of those will be remembered for those roles the way a mother is remembered for hers.

God only knows why my life turned out the way I did. I don't know why he allowed me to make the choices I did. They were not what he would have chosen for my life, but he stayed by me and protected me as I blundered my way through a wilderness of depression and hurt and fear. Maybe that's what it took; I'm incredibly stubborn. He has granted me some time with the one my heart loves. One day, I will meet my dear one's children. Perhaps one day they and I can sit together and go through old photo albums, and maybe I'll see images of their father holding them when they were very young. I likely will weep, a mixture of joy and delight and the deepest ache a woman's heart can know, short of the loss of one of her own. I certainly won't be able to explain in those moments that I loved their father so dearly and wanted to experience the everyday mysteries of life with him... only with him, ever.

I want to touch them and hold them so much ... these young people, now grown and forming families of their own. When I look into their eyes I see their father, and I love them instinctively. It is the closest I shall ever know to that unreasoning, fierce attachment a mother feels for her child. I could not love them any more if they were my own. It is the bond I feared when I was young; the one which will slay me inside if anything happens to any one of them.

It is high risk behavior, this loving. All that is mine is transmuted into ours, us, we, let's. When I was grieving four years ago, weeping constantly for weeks and weeks, it was because I'd gotten through life without ever feeling that way, and I was having to come to terms with the reality that I never would. Like Arwen/Elizabeth in her grieving before her pregnancy, I had to let God do whatever it was he needed to do in my heart, and accept the pain without a murmur. I had to give up and let the grief rampage through my heart and soul until I was empty and quiet. And then, just as inexplicably, God heard her prayers and gave her the dearest wish of her heart. And he did the same for me.

Those who escape the realities of family... I wish them well. For their sakes, I hope they don't wake up one day, as I did, and suddenly have to face up to all they pushed away out of a misguided bid for self-protection. We were not made for ourselves, but for each other. It is only in giving up all rights to ourselves that God can, finally, enter in.