Pull up a chair in my domestic church and let's chat!

I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Nicely Done!

We returned from a quick trip to Houston this past Tuesday evening and I am having a tough time getting back into the swing of things. School starts next Tuesday and it seems like we have a thousand things to do before then. Of course, catching up on the blogosphere is high on my list. As I made my first pass through my favorite blogs I was both humbled and tickled to see Rosemary has nominated me as a nice blogger.

“This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world. Once you’ve been awarded please pass on to seven others whom you feel are deserving of this award”.

Rosemary definitely deserves this award and like Rosemary, I would include Michelle on my list as well.

Seven more day brighteners are:

Barb at SFO Mom

Kitchen Madonna

Sarah at Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering

Julie D. at Happy Catholic

Jen at Et Tu?

Smockmomma and MamaT at the Summa Mamas

Kelly Clark at The Lady in the Pew

Feel free to post your own list of bloggers that spread a little niceness through cyberspace.

Friday, August 24, 2007

I don't think so!

As you can probably guess from yesterday's post, I will not be looking for a parish that offers this!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Confession and Anonymity

Lately, I’ve run across several articles dealing with confession. I have grown to appreciate this sacrament in the last few years. Yet, I still feel like I have a long ways to go to get a really mature handle on confession. I definitely see the benefit of frequent confessions. However, I have heard over and over it is a good idea to find one priest to be your primary confessor. This spiritual mentor will have a memory of your past confessions and can better guide you towards holiness. Intellectually, that makes perfect sense. But am still behind the screen and anonymous. I am actually quite relieved that the priest is not keenly aware that the sins I am confessing are remarkably similar to the batch I confessed just six weeks ago.

I do know that I really enjoyed going to our previous pastor for confession. When he arrived at our parish his tone from the pulpit could be somewhat scolding. For that reason I avoided his line during confession. However, there came a time when it would be painfully obvious that I was avoiding his line so I took a chance. My goodness! He was marvelous in the confessional. You could just feel the love and compassion emanating from him. He was a bundle of absolute joy over being able to offer God’s forgiveness. From then on I sought him out for confession. Still, I stayed behind the screen.

Another good confessor was a parochial vicar where I sometimes attend daily Mass. This relatively young priest would always stay and say the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet after Mass. Then he would offer to hear confessions. I always took advantage of this when I was there. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a schedule to know when he was saying Mass so finding him in the confessional was hit or miss. He has since been transferred so I am once again without a favorite confessor.

I know that some people are very comfortable with the face-to-face mode of confession. I also know that theoretically there should be no problem with having the parish priest with whom I work with on multiple projects, hear my confession face to face. But I am just not there yet. I like my anonymity. Behind the screen it is easier to just stay on topic, cover the sins, formulate a plan for avoiding sin, receive my penance and absolution and move on. Face to face and I would be tempted to turn it into a gab session with more venting and less repenting.

Does anyone have any experience with utilizing a regular confessor who truly knows you, both inside and outside of the confessional? I would love to hear your perspective.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Episcopal philosopher suggests it is immoral to pray for our troops

Okay, I am seeing red and feeling like a mama bear. Through a series of links I found myself on the official web site of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA). Their online newsletter features this article:

Reflections on praying for our armed forces
By David Chandler, August 14, 2007
[Episcopal Life] The Book of Common Prayer has a familiar prayer that likely we have all prayed. It is titled "For those in the Armed Forces of our Country," and is on p. 823:

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I confess that I struggle praying this prayer, on moral and theological grounds. Morally, it seems to me that any realistic assessment of praying for our troops necessarily entails a prayer that sooner or later those who are against our troops will be injured or killed. Morally, I have become my enemy in such a situation. I have adopted their morality. This is simply wrong, not an option. Put another way, as a Kantian in ethics, I must treat the enemy as an end in herself or himself, never merely as a means. To me that means they are of absolute value, regardless of any danger they may pose to me or my cause.

Dr. Chandler apparently thinks it is immoral to pray for the safety of our troops in harm’s way. As the wife of an Air Force pilot and the mother of a soon-to-be Army officer, I can tell you this makes my blood boil. I would love nothing better than for everyone to lay down their weapons and live in peace. However, as long as our troops are threatened I will be on my knees praying. How dare this man suggest that those who pray for the troops have sunk to the level of their foes! American troops are not out for military conquest. They are trying to help a nation establish freedom and security. It has been an imperfect operation, but all such undertakings are fraught with miscalculations. Our troops do not wantonly initiate violence. They respond to those who violently threaten and undermine the mission.

I agree we should pray for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and for the conversion of those who seek to obstruct the establishment of democratic peaceful governments. However, I find no moral dilemma in praying for the safety of our troops and the success of their missions. I am very happy to say that our parish dedicates one of our Friday Holy Hours every month to pray for our Armed Forces. I am very sorry that the Episcopal Church chooses to highlight a point of view that discourages such prayers.

Catholic Magazine for girls publishes its final issue

Sad news. I just received word that after two years True Girl magazine will be shutting down. Production costs were just too great to sustain the magazine. I served as the health editor for this magazine and submitted an article for each issue. I did get paid for my work so I am sorry to lose such a writing opportunity. However, a much more serious issue is the loss of such a wonderful publication for Catholic teenage girls. The tone of this magazine was perfect. It was never preachy. Faith, fun, and fashion were seamlessly integrated. Articles on praying the Rosary were juxtaposed with crafty jewelry projects. Teen issues like friends, school, college plans, and hobbies were presented through the filter of Catholic teaching. I really don’t know of another publication that fills this niche. Please pray for our teenage girls. They are constantly assaulted with cultural messages that run contrary to the way of Christ. I am sorry to lose True Girl as an aid in countering the secular influences. True Girl editor, Brandi Lee, should be very proud of the valuable work she did in providing a truly Catholic magazine for teenage girls.

Monday, August 20, 2007

No Compromise with Evil

This past weekend I was back in Virginia Beach for another soccer tournament. This should be the last out-of-town tournament for a couple of months. My daughter and I attended Mass at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church. This is a very nice parish in the midst of a very interesting diocese. The Diocese of Richmond spent thirty years under the direction of a bishop who was very out of sync with Rome. The innovations and “creativity” displayed during many liturgies of the diocese are painful to watch. There is also a strong contingency among the lay leaders of the diocese who openly dissent from Church teachings. You can follow the events of this diocese as it struggles to regain some semblance of orthodoxy at Richmond Catholic.

St. Matthew’s is different from many of the Richmond Diocese parishes. The Tabernacle is front and center. There are kneelers (and people kneel during the Eucharistic prayer). There are statues of saints. The Eucharistic vessels are made of a noble metal, (not pottery and glass). The wine is poured into the vessels before the Eucharistic prayer instead of consecrating a large flagon and pouring the Precious Blood into chalices after consecration. In other words, this parish takes the GIRM (General Instructions of the Roman Missal) as the standard and doesn’t try to do its own thing. It is a sad assessment of the state of liturgies in this diocese when finding a Novus Ordo Mass done pretty much the way it is supposed to be done is an event worthy of commentary.

However, the adherence to the liturgical rubrics is not what struck me this weekend. The priest’s homily focused on the Gospel reading (Luke 12: 49-53).

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

This seems like such an odd thing for Jesus to say. After all, Jesus frequently greeted his apostles with the words, “Peace be with you.” We call Jesus the Prince of Peace. As he preached the Beatitudes he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Yet Jesus’ words in Sunday’s Gospel are not a contradiction. As the priest so succinctly explained, Jesus did not come to bring peace if peace requires a compromise with evil. Peace comes only when we follow Jesus without exception. These are important words when our culture is steeped in moral relativism. Tolerance is more important than Truth. Getting along is better than getting it right. As the Anglican Communion tries to find its way amid its recent turmoils, one of its Archbishops proclaimed “division is a greater sin even than heresy.” (Of course, one must assume he does not apply this principle to division from Rome)

Jesus specifically instructed us to follow Him, even if it means conflict--even if it sets father against son and mother against daughter. To be faithful to Jesus and faithful to the Gospel means we must be prepared for conflict. An unwillingness to stand firm in our convictions because it will bring about disagreements reveals a lack of faith in Jesus. Jesus gives us the strength to prevail. He gave us His Church and He gives us Himself in the Eucharist to keep us strong for the battle. We must trust Him.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

School Days Catholic Carnival

Sarah has used a Back to School them for this week's Catholic carnival. There are lots of great posts that will shake you out of those summer doldrums. Take a look!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Spiritual Power of the Family

I’m sure you are familiar with the saying, “So many books, so little time”. As an avid bibliophile these words go straight to my heart. However, I now find myself identifying with a variation of this sentiment: “So much papal wisdom, so little time”. Every time I delve into the Encyclicals, Apostolic Letters, Apostolic Exhortations, or other works of the Popes, I am amazed by their wisdom and clarity. Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Viate was prophetic as it addressed the principles of natural law that must be applied the developments in reproductive science and medicine. He recognized the slippery slope of dehumanization that contraception initiated. John Paul II was a prolific writer and his words on the dignity of women, on sexuality, on the sanctity of human life, on the Eucharist, and on a plethora of other topics could keep me reading and studying for many years to come.

Yesterday, I discovered his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio on the role of the Christian family in the modern world. I was trying to establish the origin of the phrase “Domestic Church”. Pope John Paul II used this phrase on numerous occasions to describe the family. I am working on a presentation for parents and I wanted to offer some insight into this title for the family unit. The earliest reference by Pope John Paul II to the Domestic Church that I can find is in Familiaris Consortio. This is a ninety-four page document so I have not read it all yet. However, what I did cover left me overwhelmed. This document was released in 1981. Why weren’t we listening then? If we had taken to heart Pope John Paul II’s words at that time, so many of our social ills could have been averted. Over twenty-five years ago warned us that forces were trying to reshape the design of the family into something that was contrary to God’s plan. He exhorted us to protect the family because it is the foundation of our society. He also explicitly addressed how the family relates to the whole Church:

49. Among the fundamental tasks of the Christian family is its ecclesial task: the family is placed at the service of the building up of the Kingdom of God in history by participating in the life and mission of the Church.

In order to understand better the foundations, the contents and the characteristics of this participation, we must examine the many profound bonds linking the Church and the Christian family and establishing the family as a "Church in miniature" (Ecclesia domestica),(114) in such a way that in its own way the family is a living image and historical representation of the mystery of the Church.

It is, above all, the Church as Mother that gives birth to, educates and builds up the Christian family, by putting into effect in its regard the saving mission which she has received from her Lord. By proclaiming the word of God, the Church reveals to the Christian family its true identity, what it is and should be according to the Lord's plan; by celebrating the sacraments, the Church enriches and strengthens the Christian family with the grace of Christ for its sanctification to the glory of the Father; by the continuous proclamation of the new commandment of love, the Church encourages and guides the Christian family to the service of love, so that it may imitate and relive the same self-giving and sacrificial love that the Lord Jesus has for the entire human race.

In turn, the Christian family is grafted into the mystery of the Church to such a degree as to become a sharer, in its own way, in the saving mission proper to the Church: by virtue of the sacrament, Christian married couples and parents "in their state and way of life have their own special gift among the People of God."(115) For this reason they not only receive the love of Christ and become a saved community, but they are also called upon to communicate Christ's love to their brethren, thus becoming a saving community. In this way, while the Christian family is a fruit and sign of the supernatural fecundity of the Church, it stands also as a symbol, witness and participant of the Church's motherhood.(116)

Our families have a distinct role in the Church’s mission of Salvation. We have a responsibility to participate in the saving of souls. And we’re not just talking about our own souls. Our family lives must always proclaim the Gospel through our family prayers, words, and deeds. What an awesome concept. Imagine if we all used this as the guiding principle for our families.

Great. Now I have another idea for an adult education class. We need to work our way through Familiaris Consortio and discover the spiritual potential of our families.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Religious Education Deja Vu

I wrote this post last year:

To teach or not to teach, that is the question. It is that time of year again. CCD will be starting up in another month and our parish needs teachers. I have been an on again-off again catechist for years. I feel compelled to teach in one form or another which is probably why I am blogging. However, do I really want to commit to a year of teaching seventh graders in preparation for confirmation? You see, my desire is to teach the parents of these seventh graders so that they can properly prepare their own children. My frustration with teaching CCD is that I feel like I am working independently of rather than in conjunction with parents. Parents must be the primary catechists. Unfortunately, as with most Catholic parishes, we don’t have an established culture of adult religious education. So here is my dilemma. Do I break new ground and work to initiate a parents’ religious education program or do I put my energy into the established program and hope I can teach the children well enough to have a “trickle up” effect on the parents? Is there a way to do both?

As you may remember, I ended up teaching seventh grade CCD last year. While I made every effort to include the parents, I don’t think I was wholly successful. Last week I once again trudged to the CCD office. Not only was I offering to lead a discussion group on the book Keeping Your Kids Catholic, but I was suggesting we try to offer a series on Pope Benedict XVI’s book The Apostles using the study guide available on the Our Sunday Visitor web site. This year we have a new DRE. She is young, well educated at Franciscan University in Steubenville, and sensitive to my concerns about adult education. When I proposed bringing a faith formation program for the parents, once again I was met with, “This sounds wonderful, but we can’t field enough teachers for the CCD program. Won’t you please teach seventh grade CCD?” Déjà vu.

Right now we are stuck in a cycle of poorly catechized parents that don’t support faith formation at home. Their children are in the parish CCD system where we provide a band-aid fix with classroom style religious education. These children then do their time in CCD and are sent out into the world. However, an hour a week for eight months out of the year cannot make up for a lifetime lacking in family faith formation. These children are very likely to grow up to be poorly catechized parents and the cycle begins anew. I really think the only way to break this cycle is to address the parents directly. Their lack of involvement is more out of ignorance than out of indifference. When was the last time you heard a DRE or a priest tell parents that parents are the primary catechists of their children? It is the parents’ responsibility to form the faith of their children. The parish is here to help but children learn to live the faith when their family lives the faith.

What I see right now is a religious education culture that all too willingly takes on the total burden of faith formation in children. It is a system that gladly excludes parents because “most of them are so ignorant about the faith anyway, they really aren’t any help. We are the experts so just leave it up to us.” Unfortunately, teaching the faith is not like teaching algebra. We catechists can give children facts and talk about examples of how the faith is lived, but children will not really embrace living the faith unless their families live the faith. We may plant seeds that lie dormant until some future experience causes them to germinate. But wouldn’t it be much better if their families were to nurture these seeds so that they sprout now?

In spite of my misgivings, I will probably end up teaching seventh grade CCD again. I probably will not see my dream of adult education in our parish be realized this fall. What I am going to suggest is that we invite our families to attend the Saturday morning Mass on one specific Saturday every month. I think if families see other families doing something extra for their faith, it will strengthen them in their convictions. Perhaps we could even come up with some sort of monthly family newsletter to suggest little things each family could do in the upcoming month to bring our Catholic faith into their homes. Maybe if we can find just a little energy to focus on building up our “domestic churches” we will have fewer poorly catechized parents and much more faith formation going on in our families.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Parenting Principles

This comment from the post below really tugged at my heartstrings:

For those of us troubled parents who know we aren't doing as well as we ought and aren't sure what we're doing wrong, what would you recommend? I could echo (and agree with!) all your complaints about modern youth, were it not for the fact that I fear I'm raising more just like them.

Tired and frustrated mom

I am by no means a perfect parent and my kids aren’t perfect kids. By the grace of God we have managed to successfully navigate some of the bigger challenges of this parenting adventure. Some of our strategies were very deliberate. Some evolved by accident and were very successful. Please take a look at the series of posts on Keeping Your Kids Catholic linked on the left sidebar. It is really as much about general parenting issues as it is about faith issues. Volumes are written about parenting so condensing my thoughts to a single blog post by necessity makes some ideas very superficial. Still,I hope this helps.

First and foremost, remember parenting is a vocation. You are called to this vocation by God. He is there with you every step of the way. You just have to remember to ask for His help and guidance. In other words: Pray! Pray! Pray!

Children need to be loved and nurtured, but they are children. They are not miniature adults. God has given you authority over your children because they need you to establish boundaries for them. As they mature, you can gradually allow them more and more autonomy. I think too many parents are afraid to exercise this authority. They are more concerned with being a child’s buddy than with being his protector and teacher.

As parents we need to set the priorities of our family. We don’t exist in a vacuum. God created us as individuals as well as part of a family that exists for a purpose. We must orient our family towards serving this purpose. Please see this post where I discuss Cardinal Arinze’s five pillars that support a Catholic family. Our families must be oriented towards the eternal rather than the material world. Our priorities are set by this standard. From day one, my children have been taught that our family goals, expectations, and standards are not governed by what everyone else is doing. We answer to God, not the Joneses. So from an early age they have been conditioned to be different.

In practical terms, what has this meant? Our faith has been front and center in our family life. Mass is non-negotiable. We will attend Mass every weekend. Traveling, sports, or the desire to sleep in do not keep us from Mass. We always say grace before meals. We pray for each other and try to pray together when we can. I wish that we had been more diligent about saying a family Rosary. When we have done it I can definitely see the fruits of such family prayer.

We have raised our children with pretty strict standards for manners. As soon as they were talking, we have expected them to answer adults with a “yes ma’am”, “yes sir”, “no ma’am”, and “no sir”. All requests are accompanied by “please” and all favors are received with a “thank-you”. This level of respect has continued through their high school years. This aspect of their upbringing has probably elicited more positive comments than anything else. Good manners open many doors. More importantly, good manners train you to think of others. They teach humility.

We have lived a pretty modest life when it comes to material goods. Our income has afforded us a very comfortable lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean the kids received everything we could afford to give them. We have never purchased a gaming system. We have computers and computer games, but no Nintendo, X-box, Playstation, or whatever else is out there. We didn’t subscribe to cable television until we had to get cable to get the high speed internet about three years ago. Even so, we only subscribed to the bare minimum we could get away with and still get internet service. It really isn’t much more than the broadcast channels, the shopping channels, and C-span. The kids get presents at Christmas and on their birthdays, but anything in between has to be from their pocket. No one gets (or even asks for) designer clothes. We shop for quality and value—not status. The teens drive the family minivan. They don’t get their own cars. As a committed bibliophile, I admit I have splurged on books.

We have insisted that the kids spend their time on worthwhile pursuits. That is part of the motivation behind the absence of video games. Those gaming systems are time sinks and after you have invested endless hours in them, what do you have to show for your efforts? Instead we have had a ready supply of books, bikes, and soccer balls. The kids fill their days with Boy Scouts, music lessons, and sports. Through Scouts as well as the parish youth group they’ve engaged in a lot of volunteer work. When they were young I would try to take them with me when I delivered donations to the St. Vincent DePaul thrift shop. They need to learn to share their time, talents, and treasure.

These family standards have set my kids apart. I know it has not always been easy because they may not have been up on the latest television show or as skilled as their peers at the latest video game. However, they have also learned that they can survive being different. I think this adherence to principles set by a power higher than the popular culture has made them far more independent in their thinking. This has made it easier to resist peer pressure.

Keeping a family focused and disciplined is not easy. It takes a tremendous amount of energy on the part of parents to make it work. Parents must be consistent in enforcing family standards and these standards are ideally established early. However, don’t give up hope if your children are older and you haven’t gotten off to the start you think you should have. No family is beyond a need for improvement and no family is incapable of improvement. Stick to the principle I call Pizza Dough Spirituality. Keep prodding and nudging your family into little, very manageable changes. With prayer and God’s grace you can bring your family to holiness.

Coming to a Church Bulletin Near You...

Rants with a sense of humor are always best. Julie at Happy Catholic published offered her parish priest’s light-hearted but oh-so-serious reminder of church etiquette. I love point number three:

Please remember appropriate clothing—even/especially during the summer the church should be décolletage-free zone (if you don’t know this word I have one other word for you...Dictionary)

Then Deacon Greg offered his bulletin announcement from 2004. Do you think this will get the message across?

BRITNEY SPEARS CONCERT CANCELLED! Unfortunately, our efforts to get pop sensation Britney Spears to perform a benefit fundraiser for the parish have proven unsuccessful. Her calendar is full. Therefore, those who have been arriving at Mass every Sunday dressed for a Britney Spears concert should know that they don't have to do that anymore. Modest church-going attire will do nicely. We will notify you if the situation changes.

PLANS FOR PARISH SWIMMING POOL SCRAPPED! After much study, our finance committee has determined it would not be feasible to construct an indoor swimming pool in our church. Among other things, they report, it would interfere with the valuable work now being performed each Sunday by our ushers, who have enough difficulty navigating the aisles without doing it in flippers and a life vest. As a result, we can now announce with certainty that those who have been arriving for Mass as if dressed for the pool need not do so. Also, we hope to keep the air conditioning cranking all summer long. So you do not need to wear shorts, halter tops or bikinis to Mass.

I would certainly love to see these announcements in every parish bulletin.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Reminders to pray for families

I have no illusions that today’s popular culture is in line with the orthodox Catholic culture I try to create for my family. However, some days I really feel like I have entered an alien universe. I found myself in a waiting room yesterday morning. I hadn’t really planned for much of a wait so I was without my own reading material. I picked up the latest issue of Redbook and perused a few pages. I had read Redbook on a more regular basis during my college years, but my interests took me in other directions as I got older. Returning to it now I was greeted with the latest installment of a series entitled Sex and the Single Mom by Emily Listfield. This month’s issue details how Ms. Listfield can’t wait to send her thirteen-year-old daughter off to camp for a month so she can enjoy a month of sexual pleasures without worrying about being discreet around her daughter. Never mind that she doesn’t have a husband or even a steady boyfriend. This is going to be a month of uninhibited lusty adventures. Well, the month doesn’t turn out exactly as planned, though not for her lack of trying. Am I really supposed to find this entertaining? As a modern American woman am I supposed to relate to this? I thought feminism was supposed to liberate women from being sex objects. Yet here we have one of the radical feminist magazines celebrating a woman who defines herself by her sexual prowess.

Then I left the waiting room and went in for my appointment. The woman who was helping me began to chat about her only child. He is soon to be five. She laughed about how this little tyke was always calling her “dumb-head” or “rude-head” or “meanie” when she told him to do something. Isn’t it amazing how they pick up these things from older children? Of course she doesn’t tell him it is wrong to call his mother these names. Highlighting something as negative just makes him want to do it more. She just lets the names go without comment and figures he will quit using them if she doesn’t make a big deal about it. Am I that far removed from raising pre-schoolers that I don’t understand this parenting style? I think the child will more likely continue this pattern of disrespect because his mother’s silence means consent. Do today’s young parents really believe that bad behavior will extinguish itself without correction? Our labeling of something as bad is what perpetuates a child’s inappropriate behavior?

Most (but not all) of the parents I interact with through soccer teams, school, Boy Scouts, or church activities are closer to my own image of parenting than those I encountered yesterday morning. Yesterday’s experiences were stark reminders of the broad spectrum of parenting styles that are shaping our culture’s next generation. I will do what I can within my own little domestic church to influence this culture. I hope this blog helps others build up their own domestic churches. I really encourage anyone who might be interested to take a look at the series of posts, Keeping your Kids Catholic, linked on the left sidebar. This book by Bert Ghezzi has been a huge help to me over the last twenty years. Finally, we all need to get to our knees and pray. Place all families under the patronage of the Holy Family. The health and holiness of our families will determine the health and holiness of our society.

Monday, August 06, 2007

More About Girls Seeking Virtue

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on t-shirts for smart girls, take a look at this Washington Times book review of Girls Gone Mild by Wendy Shalit:

Indeed, the current establishment, Ms. Shalit writes, has left girls dangerously adrift. Parents explain how to protect against pregnancy and disease but give their daughters no information on how to safeguard their hearts. American Library Association-recommended Web sites offer tips on anal sex for teens who want to remain virgins.

On a trip to the local mall, one can find thongs for tweens, scantily dressed Bratz dolls in tube tops and miniskirts, even a suburban dentist who advertises: "We're bringing the sexy back, by replacing all the teeth you lack."

With the adults AWOL, a few brave girls are taking charge, leading protests and campaigns to fight our pornified culture. Fifth-grader Ella Gunderson started a public-relations nightmare for the department store Nordstrom when she wrote a letter protesting the skin-tight, low-cut clothing on sale. Her campaign landed her on the "Today" show, among many others, and Nordstrom soon came out with a new clothing line called "Modest and Modern."

In Pittsburgh, a group of teen girls led a successful "girlcott" against Abercrombie & Fitch after the company came out with a line of racy T-shirts bearing messages like "Who Needs Brains When You Have These?

My daughter and I did a little back-to-school shopping on Saturday since Virginia was offering a sales tax holiday for clothing. Her response to our outing: “That was a quick refresher course on why I don’t shop in the junior department!” We were able to pick up a couple of shirts in the Misses department that looked young enough for her but were not revealing or skin tight. For the most part, her everyday wardrobe is anchored by t-shirts from the various soccer tournaments she attends. I am not complaining. I am grateful that we don’t have the typical mother-daughter tussles over the appropriateness of clothing. Of course this is my daughter who insisted on wearing soccer shorts under her ankle length First Communion dress. Her penchant for comfortable soccer-ready clothing goes way back.

So maybe the tide is turning. There seems to be a movement among a segment of our youth to embrace the respect for human dignity embodied in chastity and modesty. I detest the non-stop media coverage of Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, and Nicole Richie. But maybe their very public meltdowns will spur young girls to seek virtue instead of vice. St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Princess Schmincess

I am sure you have seen them: those T-shirts with the rhinestone messages that all the teen girls are wearing. They usually say something like “sexy”, “diva”, “princess”, or “hot”. The idea of a rhinestone-embellished shirt is cute. The typical messages are not. So a couple of moms decided to do something about it. They started Mind Candy Clothing. Now those shirts offer a different sort of sentiment.

I love this. I always was a math/science geek in high school. Zipping through geometry proofs did nothing for your social life. Most guys were pretty intimidated by a brainy female. It was such a joy to move on to college. I attended Rice University. At the time I was there, only twenty percent of the students were women. (Women are now close to fifty percent of the student body) It was thrilling to enter an environment where the women were unabashedly bright and articulate. I no longer felt pressured to dumb down my vocabulary or to hide my fascination with numbers.

Today I think it is much more socially acceptable for high school girls to be openly brainy. Yet in spite of some progress, our popular culture still values the sex appeal over the SAT scores. These t-shirts are a rather clever way to push back against the Paris Hilton and Britney Spears role models.

Friday, August 03, 2007


Please read this poignant post from the writer of the Just Love blog.

She walked into Planned Parenthood with two older friends. They were high school girls…they could drive. She looked up to them, so when she began having sex at age twelve, she knew she could talk to them about it. She sat down in an unfriendly waiting room and filled out some paperwork. Even though she knew she could lie about her age and name, she filled in the truth on every line. When she was finished with the papers, she was led back to a room and had her first pap exam. Then, she was shuffled into another room where she was asked, “What kind of birth control would you like to try?” She chose the pill, and she was given a years supply, along with a bag overflowing with condoms. It felt like a jackpot to her! “I can have all the sex I want, and it will be safe!” She thought to herself. Little did she know how wrong she was…

The writer goes on to reflect on how things might have turned out differently if she had walked into a pro-life pregnancy care center instead of a Planned Parenthood clinic. She challenges each of us to support these centers that care for both the soul and the body. She ends with these wise words:

Just remember, as a good friend recently reminded me: God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.

Do read her whole post. Then listen carefully for the sound of God’s call.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Serving up theology at family meals

The kitchen theme just keeps popping up everywhere! Today’s Arlington Herald has this wonderful article about a new cooking show and cookbook, “Grace Before Meals”, hosted by Fr. Leo Patalinghug.

What began as a joke in the kitchen will become a published cookbook this fall and a cooking television series next fall, said Father Leo Patalinghug, the break dancing, martial arts guru, who also happens to be skilled in the kitchen.
The media project, “Grace Before Meals,” aims to bring families together around the table, said Father Leo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, who recently was appointed to serve as director of pastoral field education at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.
Although there is an undeniable novelty about watching a priest hosting a cooking show, Father Leo said what is most important is the actual “movement” to get families to come closer together. The cookbook and the show are simply the vehicle to make that happen and to “strengthen families,” because families are the “domestic church,” he said.
The show, in which the priest will visit families and cook with them, will potentially air on PBS next year if the production company is able to find enough sponsors, said Father Leo, who stressed family meals as a necessity to the integrity of the family.
“It’s a movement before a TV show. It’s God’s movement to bring God’s family to His table,” said the energetic priest.
The cookbook, which is in its final editing stages will be published this fall. Each recipe is linked to a feast day in the liturgical year, a family milestone or even disappointments. Cooking gives families a reason to come together, said Father Leo.

I have tried to have our family eat together as a family as much as possible. As children become teens, it is harder, but the kids know it is a priority to maximize the number of knees under the dinner table. Missing the family meal is the exception rather than the rule. Even when the children were very young and I worked full time we would eat together as a family. The meals were prepared quickly and utilized a lot of convenience foods, yet they were still family meals. It meant our dinnertime was later than the average American family but it also meant that we had our family time together as well. And that family time always included prayer. It may have just been a quick “Bless us, O Lord…” Still, we established the pattern of always including God in our family gatherings.

I remember when a girl my daughter’s age stayed with us for a week. The girls were around twelve at the time. Both of her parents were busy attorneys. Our guest commented that she could not remember when she had sat at the table and eaten a meal so many times in a row. I read recently that many young couples don’t think buying a kitchen table is a necessity. Their first furniture purchases are a bed, a sofa, and a television.

You can find out more about this family strengthening television show and cookbook and how you can support this project here and here.

Divine Office of the Kitchen

David L. Alexander published this last week so with a hat tip to The Man With Black Hat, I am sharing it with my readers as well.

Divine Office of the Kitchen

Lord of the pots and pipkins, since I have no time to be
A saint by doing lovely things and vigilling with Thee,
By watching in the twilight dawn, and storming Heaven's gates,
Make me a saint by getting meals, and washing up the plates!

Lord of the pots and pipkins, please, I offer Thee my souls,
The tiresomeness of tea leaves, and the sticky porridge bowls!
Remind me of the things I need, not just to save the stairs,
But so that I may perfectly lay tables into prayers.

Accept my roughened hands because I made them so for Thee!
Pretend my dishmop is a bow, which heavenly harmony
Makes on a fiddle frying pan; it is so hard to clean,
And, ah, so horrid! Hear, dear Lord, the music that I mean!

Although I must have Martha's hands, I have a Mary mind,
And when I black the boots, I try Thy sandals, Lord, to find.
I think of how they trod our earth, what time I scrub the floor.
Accept this meditation when I haven't time for more!

Vespers and Compline come to pass by washing supper things,
And, mostly I am very tired; and all the heart that sings
About the morning's work, is gone, before me into bed.
Lend me, dear Lord, Thy Tireless Heart to work in me instead!

My matins are said overnight to praise and bless Thy Name
Beforehand for tomorrow's work, which will be just the same;
So that it seems I go to bed still in my working dress,
Lord make Thy Cinderella soon a heavenly Princess.

Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love and light it with Thy Peace!
Forgive the worrying, and make the grumbling words to cease.
Lord, who laid Breakfast on the shore, forgive the world which saith
"Can any good thing come to God out of poor Nazareth?"

UPDATE: This lovely prayer is the work of Cecily Hallack. Thank you to the reader who shared this information.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Another Generation of Aprons

I haven’t dropped off the planet. I’ve just been in Greensboro, NC with my daughter for a soccer tournament. The schedule was busy with many last minute changes due to rain delays. The girls made it to the finals of this very large tournament. They lost the final game to an extremely strong, very skilled team from Canada. Our girls had six wins during the four days and a large number of college coaches watching the games so it was a very successful tournament.

I love these mother-daughter outings to soccer tournaments. These are great times for bonding, listening, and learning. My daughter is finding her way to being a strong, intelligent, independent young woman without rejecting her femininity and the unique grace of womanhood. See her on the soccer field and you see a fiercely competitive player who is not afraid to get physical. She positively gets fire in her eyes. Off the field she is gentle, loving, and nurturing.

Thanks to Kitchen Madonna, my daughter is now sporting a very feminine but not too frilly apron. She chose the Belladona style. This has a cute scalloped edge. She loves the criss-crossed straps that just slip over her head with no bows to tie. (As an aside, this style is also great for anyone who has trouble managing the fine motor movements of tying bows due to arthritis)

Wearing an apron somehow proclaims that your full feminine genius is at work. And since I recently visited the Kitchen Madonna Apron World I can confidently tell you that in addition to gorgeous fabric and meticulous stitches, Kitchen Madonna aprons are made with lots of prayer. I am partial to ruffles so I wear her Elisabetta style. I put on my apron and I can feel those prayers girding me up for my daily tasks. Add in a few prayers of my own, and I can face anything.

I am so happy that my daughter wanted a high quality apron of her own. I love that in the midst of choosing a college and pursuing great career ambitions, she still embraces the beauty and grace of being a woman.