Uncategorized

Gosh it’s quiet today

August 22, 2017

And

then

there

was

one…

(well, two if we’re counting bebe on board.)

If you need me I’ll be at Starbucks all day staring off into space and stroking my 2-year-old’s head/unpacking the house. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

Happy back to school week, internets.

Abortion, Bioethics, Catholics Do What?, Culture of Death, euthanasia, Parenting, Pro Life

Eradicating people, not disease

August 15, 2017

Perhaps you’ve seen the headlines that Iceland is on track to “virtually eliminate Down Syndrome,” having achieved a close to 98% success rate in preventing DS fetuses from coming to term.

The energy and enthusiasm with which this is being reported belongs to a cancer-research breakthrough, not to what essentially amounts to a successfully-executed eugenics campaign. Make no mistake, advancements have not been made in ameliorating the negative effects of Trisomy 21 on human beings suffering from said condition, but rather, in the field of prenatal diagnosis and the dissemination of information to expectant women on the likelihood of their fetuses being “defective:”

“Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women — close to 100 percent — who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy.

While the tests are optional, the government states that all expectant mothers must be informed about availability of screening tests, which reveal the likelihood of a child being born with Down syndrome. Around 80 to 85 percent of pregnant women choose to take the prenatal screening test.”

Maybe Icelanders are just particularly harsh? I mean, they do have some long, dark winters up there. But wait, there’s more:

“Other countries aren’t lagging too far behind in Down syndrome termination rates. According to the most recent data available, the United States has an estimated termination rate for Down syndrome of 67 percent (1995-2011); in France it’s 77 percent (2015); and Denmark, 98 percent (2015). The law in Iceland permits abortion after 16 weeks if the fetus has a deformity — and Down syndrome is included in this category.”

Let’s explore an analogy here. Suppose we are able to craft foolproof, super-effective predictive prenatal testing that determines with near 100% accuracy whether or not your child will get cancer and whether that cancer will be a fatal, particularly virulent form that will end in certain death.

Perhaps they’ll survive infancy but succumb to leukemia  in toddlerhood. Perhaps a sarcoma will claim them in the tween years. Maybe they’ll  make it to their early 20s, but then carcinoma takes them down. Imagine, for a moment, the medical community rejoicing in this innovative predictive technique, exclaiming that now at last we have defeated the big C. Cancer-free fetuses can be virtually guaranteed, provided the little tykes still make good lifestyle choices and don’t smoke.

Do we rejoice? Has a disease truly been defeated, in this scenario? Are kids who are genetically doomed to cancer better off being aborted before their parents have a chance to bond with “defective” babies who will only end up breaking their hearts by dying young? Is the greater community served by not having to bear the brunt of their medical costs and the resource-draining care they will require?

It’s a little more shocking put in those terms, isn’t it?

We ought to be shocked. We ought to be mortally offended, in fact, by the suggestion that a nation claims to have nearly “eradicated Down Syndrome” when in fact they’ve just gotten really, really good at pushing prenatal testing and recommending  selective termination of “undesirable” outcomes of conception.

Look, no parent gets any real choice in terms of how their kid turns out, health wise or otherwise.

Little Johnny may grow up to be a serial killer through no fault of his mother or father. Sarah might drop out of college and burn out on weed and work in an auto parts shop and get divorced at 29 and never buy a home. Isaac might win a Nobel Prize and negotiate lasting peace in the Middle East. Any given child might be a human being, in other words: wildly unpredictable and beyond the grasp of foolproof human manipulation.

And guess what? That’s the way it was designed.

Look how profoundly God’s first two children screwed things up. There is surely no clearer precedent for not being fully in control of one’s offspring’s destiny, from time immemorial.

And speaking of destiny and screwing up, who are we to say what “quality of life” really means?

Would a child destined for death by leukemia at age 7 be better off dead rather than being born only to suffer and die? Does a kid with DS have less inherent value than a typically-developing kid, or experience an impoverished version of reality simply because he has 3 chromosomes in a location where most of us have only two?

This is a dangerous path we’re treading down. Dangerous for what it signifies in terms of worth, value, and human rights, and dangerous for what it says about a society willing to blithely accept the lie that only certain “kinds” of human persons are valuable, are acceptable, are worth having around.

Look where that kind of thinking is getting us in our political and cultural landscape here at home in the US.

But, but, that’s totally different! Racism is a whole different disgusting animal apart from prenatal screening and selective termination. You can’t compare the two.

Can’t I? Isn’t there a common thread running through both philosophies, that certain people are less suited to live with the rest of us, that certain people are worth more or less than other types?

If we think that we can live in a civilized, post-racial society and at the same time celebrate the willful eradication of a certain “kind” of people, we are fooling ourselves.

Until we embrace the value of every human life: frail, fallible, weak, unwanted, unreliable and ultimately straight up mortal, same as the rest of us….we will continue to reap the whirlwind of violence and social unrest.

Culture of Death, mental health, Pornography, Sex, sin, spiritual warfare, technology, Theology of the Body

Sex, violence, and the internet: every parent’s battle

August 9, 2017

My boss brought to my attention a startling and, frankly, disturbing piece of research that surfaced last week correlating the age of a boy’s first exposure to pornography and his resultant attitude towards women. In results that ought to startle nobody who is familiar with the concept of the “latency period” in human development, according to this small study of 300 college-aged men, the younger a child is introduced to pornography, the higher the likelihood of violence in his interactions with the opposite sex.

The study authors were surprised, as they’d been expecting to see a correlation between promiscuity and earlier age of exposure. What they weren’t expecting to find was that the younger the child was when he was exposed, the more likely that he would hold a violent attitude towards women:

“That was a shock because scientists had expected that men would be more promiscuous the earlier they came to pornographic material.”

For male children who are exposed to pornography later in life, their attitude towards the opposite sex tended toward a “playboy” mentality leading to higher rates of promiscuity and an increased number of sexual partners.

I feel like any parent in possession of a grain of common sense could have predicted the outcome of the study, provided they were familiar with what the Church has traditionally identified as “the latency period” of childhood development. The notion being that pre-pubescent children are, by design, not in possession of the necessary mental faculties to process sexual images or events when they are prematurely exposed, and thus sex can actually become conflated with violence.

This is part of why sexual abuse of children is particularly horrifying, and why the normalization of pornography in our culture has such profoundly troubling consequences.

You see, introducing children “gently” to pornographic content and premature sexual information, ala Planned Parenthood’s method of classroom instruction of school children, is not the way to craft sexually healthy humans.

Putting porn into tiny, still developing brains that are neither emotionally nor biologically equipped to receive or process such information leads not to sexually-savvy adolescents down the line, but to children whose neural pathways have conflated sex and violence in a devastating intersection of dopamine and digital content.

In a society plagued  concerns about rape culture and violence against women, this is something that should grip our attention. The more we learn about pornography and it’s effects on the brain, the greater our efforts to prevent – and honestly, at this point, mitigate – a massive public health crisis.

Porn is not harmless.

It’s not harmless at age 5, (the youngest age at which the men in the above study were exposed. Sob.) and it’s not harmless at 26 (the upper age range of the study). It’s not harmless at 13, which, according to this study, is the average age of first exposure. The wider-studied average appears to be age 11.

And this is really important:

Most said that they had first encountered it by accident, rather than searching it out or being forced to watch it. And how exactly that happened didn’t appear to determine how men would relate to women.

Whether they’d been exposed by accident or by design, it was the age at which they were exposed, not the method (or intention) of exposure, that determined whether they’d tend more towards violence or more towards promiscuity.

Parents, teachers, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, caretakers: this is on us. We cannot turn our children loose with internet devices, however carefully we’ve filtered and password-protected them. We cannot hand over the remote and expect kids to safely navigate Direct TV or Netflix. We cannot check out of the essential and critically important task of raising healthy adults who have a shot at a healthy interior life and decent sex some day.

Porn is not harmless. And it is not inevitable, either.

At least it doesn’t have to be, for our children.

I spend hours each day on the internet, and it has been years since I’ve come across hardcore pornography. Softer porn is harder to avoid, but as an adult with a fully formed brain and conscience, plus the necessary technological and common sense, I can easily click away plus take steps to avoid questionable content in the first place, based on the sites I click and the search terms I craft.

But I am 34 years old and female. And if I can still not help the accidental exposure to soft core porn in my daily use of the internet, imagine with the digital landscape holds for your 10 year old son or your 15 year old daughter.

Do not give your kids smartphones. Do not allow them to peruse the internet without the screen in your plain site and safeguards in place to enable safest searching. This isn’t prudishness; it’s sanity. It’s not a matter of cultural or religious preference, it’s the difference between living in a civilized society and a barbaric wasteland. Does it sound weird and inconvenient? Yep. But the devastating public health crisis we find ourselves in the midst of demands some weirdness and inconvenience of us, the grown ups.

Why do you think co-eds get raped while lying unconscious behind dumpsters on college campuses? That kind of behavior doesn’t develop in a vacuum. A normally-developing and sexually healthy 19 year old male doesn’t violently assault an unconscious female simply because he’s had a drink or 10. That is not normal human behavior. It is the result of a broader cultural dysfunction that has whispered temptingly that we can have our cake and eat it, too. That porn is healthy and acceptable and normal under the right circumstances, and that the consequences of what is done alone behind the privacy of a screen doesn’t reach out tentacles into the wider community.

Wrong.

We were wrong, and it is beyond time to correct course.

Fight for the future generations of men and women who will become the mothers and fathers and leaders of tomorrow. Don’t resign yourself to the inevitability of a sexually depraved future of men unable to care for or bond to women, of women unable to imagine or demand anything more of the partners they’ll settle for.

We can do better. We can do better than an unsupervised 5 year old whose 14 year old neighbor shows him porn on an iPhone. We can do better than a 14 year old girl sexting topless pictures to her first boyfriend, but actually to the entire lacrosse team, whose goalie will upload the images to an amateur porn site specializing in underaged content.

Talk to your kids about porn. Talk to your kids about technology. About social media. About boundaries. About saying no to immediate perceived goods for a greater good down the line.

We do not have to settle for the status quo when it comes to kids and healthy sexual development.

And neither do we have to wring our hands and lament the passing away of the civilized world. Stand up and fight! Your kid will not die without an iPhone. Your kid will not die if you pull them out of public school for their own safety and sanctity, if that’s the reality of your particular situation. Your kid will not die if you forbid the viewing of “Game of Thrones” or “Girls” in your home. Your kid will maybe even thank you some day, on the precipice of 40, surveying a wasteland of divorce and domestic destruction all around him and observing the apparent miracle of his own reasonably happy family.

We cannot settle for this. We must not settle for this.

Some excellent resources for educating about porn, combating the effects of habitual usage, and best practices for parents:

Digital resourcs:

The Digital Kids Initiative 

Fight the New Drug

Porn Kills Love

Print resources:

Good pictures, bad pictures

The porn myth 

Freedom: Battle strategies for overcoming temptation 

Your brain on porn 

Good pictures, bad pictures jr.

Theology of the body for tots 

benedict option, Evangelization, Family Life, motherhood, Parenting, school

Getting schooled at home (whether or not you’re homeschooling)

August 8, 2017

Like other neurotic and vaguely millennial (by the skin of my teeth, I tell you. 1982.) mothers of modern times, I stress somewhat obsessively over the choices we’ve made slash continue to make for our children. Gluten? Screen time? Appropriate catechetical formation? Vaccines?

The list of things to research on the internet and form opinions about (well informed or not) is basically endless, #thanksgoogle. And so I know that I’m not the only Catholic mother who has engaged in a little internal hand wringing about how I should maybe be thinking about homeschooling my children,  sorely ill-equipped for such a venture though I may be.

A painfully necessary aside: I love homeschooling. I think it’s amazing and brilliant and that the majority of the kids who come out of it are overwhelmingly impressive, not to mention some of my favorite human beings on earth (most of my mother’s helpers have been wonderful homeschooled gals). And yet, I hope to God that our wonderful Catholic school never a. gets shut down by the government or b. becomes astronomically unaffordable…because I am in no way, shape, or form equipped to engage in it at this present moment in my motherhood. Also, I myself am a product of Colorado public schools, and right now, I can’t imagine sending my kids there in their present form. Your public school might be awesome. Many of our public schools here in Denver are … less than awesome. But yours might be! And it might be the best option for your family. This is not an essay written at you to shame your academic choices, so please click elsewhere if that’s what you were expecting to find.

So if you are publicly schooling your children, or homeschooling them, or letting them wander around your homestead keeping bees and marking up their nature journals and conducting astronomy experiments at night, or serving Mass at 8 am at the start of your local parish school day?

Then you are probably doing an awesome job.

As long as you’re engaged.

For the past couple years I’ve watched some of my homeschooling friends sit down to outline their yearly curriculum at the end of summer with something like a vague pang of envy, because while I have zero desire to engage in the behavior of homeschooling, I sure wouldn’t mind some of the outcome: brilliant kids with a love for learning and a companionable relationship to their mother/teacher. (A caricature, I know. But still.)

This year, however, it has occurred to me that I actually can have the best of both worlds. Our school encourages parental involvement and is earnestly forthcoming about curriculum and classroom goings-on, but I don’t just mean tracking what they’re learning and quizzing them on vocab words in the car, I mean engaging meaningfully over the ideas and content they’ll be soaking up and making the most of the time we have together, helping to connect the dots in their little brains between what happens in the classroom and what happens around the dinner table.

Public-schooled though my siblings and I were, the most valuable curricula on our schedules was transmitted not within the four walls of the school building, but around the family dinner table, when our parents would engage all of us in robust (sometimes alarmingly so, ask any of our childhood playmates) political and religious discourse, covering everything from current events to world history to politics to moral theology. It didn’t matter than the youngest in our sibling set was separated by 17 years from the eldest: we all got schooled in the fine art of loud family dinner table debate.

And thus it was there, in the domestic school of rhetoric and reason, that the most enduring lessons were driven home to my siblings and I: that logic is essential to comprehending reality, that reason and faith must be wedded to one another to make any sense out of life, and that if you didn’t have an opinion about something before one of our roundtable spaghetti-sessions, well, you might afterwards. Or else you’d have some good book recommendations assigned to you.

My parents engaged us in the art of daily living, and though we have our flaws and our domestic dysfunctions same as the next family, there is an enduring sense of unity and fraternity that knits the nine of us together, which I have no doubt is rooted in those hundreds of hours spent debating, discussing, and dissecting the universe.

So just because my little people will be out the door for 8 hours a day starting later this month does not absolve me from being up in their business and intimately engaged in the formation of their minds. Far from it! In fact, precisely because they’ll be out of my care for 40 hours a week, no matter the impeccable caliber of our teaching staff, it behooves me to be inversely more engaged during their time that we do have together.

For us, that might mean limited sports and social activities on school days. I figure if that becomes ingrained in our family culture from the earliest days, it will be that much easier to resist the surging tide of social pressure to sign up for All The Things.

I don’t mean that nobody will ever play soccer, just that family time and chill, unstructured sibling interaction will always take precedence. That dinners at home and breakfasts together, so much as is possible, will always trump completing homework assignments or attending tae kwon do classes.

We choose to send our kids outside the home to educate them, entrusting them to the care of competent strangers for 40 hours a week. But we do not cede our parental responsibility – or authority – during those 40 hours, or the other 128 in a week.

And because we send them out, it is even more essential that we do maximize those hours when they are home, and that we actively and intentionally engage with the content and curriculum they’re being exposed to in school.

As a public school graduate, I can attest to the hours and hours my parents – but mainly my mom – spent interacting with the local school board, meeting with teachers, questioning content and curriculum choices, and more than once choosing to exempt us from certain unit studies or entire courses altogether. (I’m looking at you, 5th grade sex-ed and 7th grade health class.) They weren’t being prudish, but prudent. I got a sex education at home, and in an age appropriate and mostly satisfactory manner, and my parents exercised their God-given authority over my education and moral formation.

Was it embarrassing to be pulled out of classes? I honestly remember being the envy of my 5th grade class because while they were blushing furiously, learning to insert tampons into plastic scale models, I enjoyed 45 minutes a day of free time in the science lab during those 2 weeks, fiddling with equipment and reading for pleasure. If I felt any embarrassment at being singled out or “othered” while my classmates were rolling condoms onto bananas, it was more than compensated for by the strong identity my parents formed in each of us that we were, in fact, different from many of our peers, intentionally so, and that it was acceptable and even preferable to be so.

So where I’m going in this rambling, kind of all over the place essay on parental authority is that you are the parent, and your authority is vested not by any municipality or school board, but by Almighty God Himself. And whatever He is asking of you this year where your children’s education is concerned, know this: the role of primary educator is intractable.

So whether you’re unschooling, homeschooling, inner-city public schooling or attending St. Gregory’s Classical Rhetorical Academy of Wisdom and Theology, you are ultimately responsible for exposing that kid to as much truth, goodness, and beauty as you can cram into 18 years, however your family deems best to achieve it.

And that won’t be on the standardized test.

Happy back to school season, fellow parents. May God inform and inspire all our choices where our children’s minds (and hearts, and souls, and bodies) are concerned, and may we be endowed with the mental fortitude to implement them.

Endow

The gift of life at any cost {Endow Voices}

August 3, 2017

I met a girlfriend for drinks last month and we got to talking about infertility during a lull in the conversation. Knowing what I do for a living, she raised her glass ever so slightly and asked me, “can you explain what the Church teaches about surrogacy? Because friends of ours are struggling and it’s so sad and if I weren’t already pregnant myself I’d volunteer to carry a baby for them, they’ve been trying so long.”

I took a big sip myself and smiled at her; “that’s beautiful. Of course you want to help your friends.”

And then I did my best to explain why that kind of help cannot be – and will never be – okay.

Infertility is a brutally heavy cross, and it’s easy enough to explain the “rules” when you’re not sitting in the bathroom, gutted over another negative pregnancy test, another cycle of “no.” But also easy – and becoming all the more so as science and technology speed along – to lose sight of the fact that the entire industry which has sprung up around the problem of childlessness deals not in products, but in people.

…….

(Head over to Endow Voices to read the rest) 

About Me, Family Life, motherhood, NFP, Parenting, pregnancy

Anticipating baby number whaaaat?

August 1, 2017

Oddly, or perhaps not, as veteran moms to many would likely tell me, I am actually more excited about this pregnancy than about any previous pregnancy save perhaps for number one. (And let’s be honest, number one was marked with periods of stark terror, lots of late night googling, and overpriced and precocious maternity purchases.)

I don’t mean that numbers 2, 3, and 4 weren’t all delightful and filled with moments of sweet anticipation, but there’s something about this pregnancy, coming during a year of intense transition and turmoil for our family, that has been so grounding and so sweet. After the first 24 hours of shock wore off, I shifted almost immediately from “well, that wasn’t in the 6-month plan” to “I can’t wait to meet this little person,” which, for me, a woman for not given to acute fits of maternal emotion, seemed unusual.

This little baby is softening my heart already. (Along with the rest of me, but that’s the price of admission to the mother club.)

I’m sure it’s due in part to my other children’s excitement for a new sibling. At 6 going on 7, Joey is old enough to understand that a baby is really growing inside me, and in fact, spent the first trimester taunting me that I was having twins because “mommy you’re soooooo sick, there must be two babies!”

(He got deep enough into my psyche that I did actually request a 14 week ultrasound and, sorry, kid, only one bebe on board. Whew.)

I’m just starting to show now at 19 weeks, though if I’m out in public with all 4 kids I can still kind of suck in and feign midsection thickness if I’d rather not cop to it. The kids have started talking to my belly, putting their hands on the entirely wrong part of my abdomen and whispering sweet nothings to fat rolls that are just sort of being rearranged. (I need to order that Blanqi asap, because Luke blew my last one out beyond all elastic recognition.) It’s charming, if not humbling, to have one’s fluffy midsection lovingly stroked by adoring sibling hands eager to suggest names (The big boys favor Leo and Nicholas, Evie prefers “Boobie Trap”) and to narrate the day to day action in our house to their little brother or sister in utero. Even Luke, not quite 2 years old yet, has taken to kissing and patting the belly before bedtime, insisting on being tucked in with a naked babydoll some nights who he solemnly tells me is “my baby, mama.”

It’s hard not to catch their enthusiasm. And it’s hard not to look at each of them and wonder whose eyes, whose nose, what shape head (size XL: guarantee). I was watching them ride plasma cars in a death defying swoop down the driveway into the street last night and realizing that for as numerous as they are, as they grow and mature, I’m seeing them more as a collection of individuals – starkly and startlingly unique – and less as a pack of toddler wolves. Improving bathroom manners go a long way toward alleviating that perception, to be sure. It’s fascinating to watch their personalities come online, seeing different interests and abilities bubble to the surface, along with specific character flaws and even tendencies to sin. I thought I had one of each four temperaments, officially, but the older and louder Luke gets, the more chagrined I find myself that I ever fancied him a phlegmatic. Homeboy be choleric, loud and proud.

I’ve been trying to not rush ahead in anticipation of the process this time, and instead accepting each week for what it brings. I usually psyche myself up for an early delivery (and I usually do deliver early) but I end up mentally and emotionally “done” at 38 weeks. I don’t want to do that this time. I don’t know if this will be our last baby (and given our track record, I rather doubt it) but you never know. And if it is my last pregnancy, I want to enjoy it, to the extent that it’s possible. I want my kids to have at least one memory of mommy being joyful while expecting a sibling and not laid out on the couch destroyed by fatigue, and having these two most recent additions 28 months rather than 18 months apart has done worlds of difference for my mental and physical health. #thanksMarquette

I hope that I can hang onto this rosier vision of gestation as the weeks and months (and pounds) tick by, but I know that by month 8 I might be crying uncle and googling “earliest safe induction by massage” and all that. For now though, this baby is the best thing going in the hectic and slightly overwhelming life of our family, and it has never felt more accurate or more sincere to speak of another sibling being the greatest gift I can give to my children. I’m so glad this baby is here, and so unworthy of the beautiful children I’ve been tasked with. I can only hope they’ll go easier on me at assessment time since I’m parenting them in zone defense rather than one on one. Kids, if you’re reading this on your hologram pads in 2032 in some ancient internet archive: mommy loves you and is doing her best, even though she keeps feeding you hot dogs and trying to fall asleep at 7 pm.

Catholic Spirituality, Evangelization, feast days

Ignatian spirituality for moms

July 31, 2017

My spiritual director (who is probably off somewhere directing an 8 day Ignatian retreat right now) will probably cringe at this attempt to condense the richness of Ignatian spirituality to a blog post, but then again, he probably isn’t reading. St. Ignatius is a household favorite thanks to CCC’s “Francis Xavier and the Black Pearl” featuring a heavy supporting role by the original SJC himself, so it’s not uncommon in our house to see a kid running by holding up a giant plastic crucifix from the dress up box yelling “let this be our weapon!”

I was first exposed to Ignatian spirituality by my now husband while we were dating. I was in an emotional and spiritual tailspin after being cornered by a young priest after an innocent ice cream run one night with a group of visiting Nashville Dominicans. He urged me to continue discerning religious life since it seemed like I could be “running from a vocation.” Meanwhile, I’d been dating Dave for all of 4 weeks and sent him a frantic email (probably from a hotmail account) something along the lines of OH MY GOSH WHAT IF I’M SUPPOSED TO BE A NUN WE SHOULD COOL IT MAYBE?

To which he sanely, sagely responded with my first taste of St. Ignatius: follow the peace. 

He said (and I paraphrase), when a soul is seeking to please God and do His will, the enemy will frequently act upon that soul with violence and unrest, trying to use anxiety as a tool to divert, distract, and destroy. But the Lord doesn’t work on our souls in anxiety, but in peace. God’s will beings peace, even when it is difficult, and sometimes even when it is excruciatingly painful.

As a person prone to anxiety in general, the idea that God’s will brings peace was a revolutionary concept. Because on some level I knew this, but on another level I was pretty sure that God’s will = whatever is most arduous and unpleasant. Don’t make me unpack that bad theology for you, just suffice it to say I had the wrong idea about the Big Guy.

After learning about this little nugget of Ignatian discernment, I was hooked on wanting to know more. I have yet to make an 8 day silent retreat (something about kids, responsibilities, etc.) but I’ve read his Spiritual Exercises, and there are some profound truths that are particularly applicable to the office of motherhood, namely, that the purpose of the Exercises, in Ignatius’ own words, is “to conquer oneself and to regulate one’s life in such a way that no decision is made under the influence of any inordinate attachment.” 

If I could live my life based on that solitary concept, all my stresses and daily struggles would melt away. Melt, I tell you.

Because what is the problem most days living with a rowdy crew of small humans? It’s that I have these desires to regulate my life based upon, say, hours of daylight and a progression of productivity and pleasure while the small ones I have care of are continually presenting alternate routes involving bodily fluids, cuts, scrapes, and very distressing situations involving fidget spinners and stuffed animals that cannot be resolved at any other moment before bedtime.

In other words, I am inordinately attached to my plans. And therein lies the heart of most of my vocational struggles. I want to get a certain amount of sleep, achieve a certain level of cleanliness in the home, whip out a certain number of pieces in a set amount of time, heck, just plain drive places and show up at the time I said I’d be there.

Expectation, meet reality.

Ignatius says that in making his Exercises, it becomes possible “to conquer oneself.” I would settle for conquering even a small part of myself, say, my temper or my appetite for the internet.

The Exercises are divided into four “weeks” of varying length with four major themes: sin and God’s mercy, episodes in the life of Jesus, the passion of Jesus, and the resurrection of Jesus together with a contemplation on God’s love.

This last bit, the part about contemplating Jesus’s resurrection and God’s love, is kind of the summation of Ignatian spirituality: to find God in all things.

The tricky thing about the Exercises, as I found when reading them for myself, is that they’re really not designed for me to read, but for a director to read and then apply to me. The Exercises are not really a DIY thing, but the Examen prayer, on the other hand, is a super handy tool that can readily be applied by viewers at home.

The Examen of Consciousness is a simple prayer directed toward developing a spiritual sensitivity to all the ways God approaches, invites, and calls. Ignatius was big on a spirituality of presence: of being present to one’s life as it is actually unfolding, and to what God has put into your path each particular moment.

Ignatius recommends that the examen be done twice a day, suggesting the following five points:

  • Recalling that one is in the presence of God (even if someone is screaming softly in the background)
  • Thanking God for all the blessings one has received (yes, even the mixed blessings that were kind of cross-shaped)
  • Examining how one has lived the day (air that dirty laundry)
  • Asking God for forgiveness (and make a note of any little humans whose forgiveness you need to ask)
  • Resolution and offering a prayer of hopeful recommitment (ah, the sweet relief of the bedtime fondness one has for all one’s children)

See? Basically custom tailored for motherhood. (Or fatherhood. Just, I’m a mom so, you know, write what you know.)

Today being the feast of St. Ignatius, I can’t think of a more appropriate habit to take up than printing out an Examen to tuck into your Bible or prayer journal or tape to your bedside table and give it a go.

And someday, somehow, I’m going to make that 8 day retreat. Maybe in another decade or two 😉

St. Ignatius of Loyola, patron of soldiers and educators (alternative titles for “parent” if ever I read them), pray for us!

St. Ignatius of Loyola by Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1620-22

 

Culture of Death, euthanasia, Parenting, Pro Life, Suffering

Charlie Gard: martyr of the culture of death

July 28, 2017

Sorry, is that language too strong for you?

It must be the pregnancy hormones rendering me a raging, maternal she-bear grieved over the state-sanctioned murder of an innocent child.

But, but, he was going to die anyway. Extraordinary means! The Cathechism says! Etc. Etc. Etc.

True. All true. And yet, his parents wanted to pursue further treatment. His mother and his father, the two human beings who, entrusted by the God with whom they co-created a child with an immortal soul, were tasked with the immense, universe-altering task of making decisions on his behalf.

It’s called parenting.

And when the state steps over the bounds of parental interests – nay, tramples upon them – insisting that government knows best what is best for its citizens, (particularly when government is footing the medical bills as is the case with the socialized NHS) then we should all of us, no matter our religions or our socioeconomic statuses or our nationalities, be alarmed.

Charlie Gard was a victim of the the most heinous sort of public power struggle: a child whose humanity was reduced to a legal case and an avalanche of global publicity. And no man, not the President of the United States or the Pope himself, could do a thing to turn the tide in little Charlie’s favor once the momentum was surging against him.

The British courts and the Great Ormond Street Hospital, convinced of their own magnanimity and virtue, ruled again and again against the wishes of Charlie’s parents, frustrating at every turn their attempts to seek a second option, to try experimental treatments, to spend privately-raised funds to secure care for their child not available in their home country.

To no avail.

Charlie Gard, baptized earlier this week into the Catholic Church, went home to be with Jesus today. His innocent soul in a state of grace, we can be confident of his intimate proximity now to the sacred heart of Jesus and to the sorrowful heart of Mary. May his parents feel the comfort of knowing that they fought the good fight, and that they brought their child to the font of eternal life by baptizing him into Christ’s Church and surrendering him into heaven’s embrace as he passed from this life.

And may they find, through the powerful intercession of their little son, now whole and free from suffering, the grace to forgive his tormentors and executioners here on earth.

Charlie Gard, pray for us.

(*Comments are closed because I won’t spend my weekend arguing with people about how this particular baby is better off dead.)

Catholic Spirituality, prayer

When prayer is hard

July 25, 2017

You’re the God of the hills and valleys, and I am not alone.

I promise this isn’t another reflection on the difficulties of real estate or the minor aches and pains of pregnancy. Pinky swear.

I’m coming out of the fog of what has been a spiritually (among other things) difficult season, and I’m just starting to want to even pray again, so I’m no expert on spiritual growth or perseverance, but I’ve noticed some things that I’ve found helpful and perhaps worthy of further reflection.

First, I’ve never in my mature, adult Christian life been tempted to just skip Sunday Mass. I’ve always been mildly scandalized by the notion, and probably indulged in a little bit of scrupulosity over sick children or a sick self keeping me home on Sundays past.

No more. I get it now, what it’s like to feel alienated (or apathetic) enough towards God that the thought of sitting though an hour of liturgy on Sunday morning leaves me cold. If not for the good ‘ol Sunday obligation and a husband of faith, I would have stayed home in bed and felt only mild reproach. Some of this I attribute to the depression making me feel less “myself” and some of it to plain old fashioned temper tantruming towards a God who wasn’t listing, didn’t care. That’s what it felt like anyway. I’m glad my experience of worship isn’t purely subjective, that something objectively “other” to me is happing up on that altar, and that the Church requires me to bend my knee in worship even when my heart and my brain are like DON’T CARE.

The Eucharist is still there, whether or not I feel like worshipping.

Which brings me to my next point: Adoration. And how glad I am it exists, that even when I can’t feel or hear or see God, I can literally go plop myself down in a pew in front of Him and look at God. That is such a profound gift. And so reasonable and human, like He would know that we would need the tangible gift of His presence to keep us going, and that we’d be too weak and fainthearted to do it without Him.

He’s not wrong. So off I’ve dragged myself to the adoration chapel, sitting fidgety in a chair for 15 or 30 minutes of relatively passive sunbathing, knowing that whether or not I feel His presence, He is present. It’s a complete intellectual exercise at some points, but I’m glad to have that tangible something to “do” when talking to Him feels ridiculous and I’d rather not, frankly,

Which leads me to: the Rosary. If ever there was a prayer for “I have nothing to say to you God and You’re not listening, anyway and I don’t feel like pretending,” it’s the rosary. A trip through the gospels from memory, no heavy thinking or feeling required. Sometimes the rosary gets a bad rap for being “rote prayer,” but when I’m not feeling particularly prayerful I’m sure glad to have something from heart memorized to lift my mind and heart to heaven, particularly when I’m feeling rather earthbound. The rosary is another great “I don’t feel it, but something is happening” reality, since Mary pretty much only asks for two things in almost all of her apparitions: repentance and rosaries. So I tell God, “I’m sorry this is how I feel, I’m sorry this is how it is, I’m sorry I have nothing to give you except this blindly memorized prayer that your mom is obsessed with, so here goes nothing.

Bam. Rosary and repentance.

Finally, I’ve been reading the Psalms a lot this summer. Not a lot as in I’ve been reading a ton of Scripture, but a lot as in, when I do pick up the Bible, that’s where I flip. It’s all there: praise, lament, accusation, rage, rejoicing, reconciliation, repentance, and just plain despair. It’s comforting to know I’m not inventing the wheel here, and that God thought it fit to enshrine as sacred the human experience of WHY ARE YOU LETTING THIS HAPPEN? But still I trust in you.

If your prayer life is dry or non existent or resentful right now, might I recommend any or all of the aforementioned exercises until the storm passes or the despair subsides, or at least offer you the knowledge that you are not alone.

Because you are not alone.

Catholics Do What?, Contraception, infertility, Marriage, motherhood, NFP, Parenting, PPD, Sex

NFP in real life: hard, but worth it {an interview with the Denver Catholic}

July 24, 2017

Jenny Uebbing, who writes at Mama Needs Coffee, recently asked her readership, “What do you want/need from the Church in order to live NFP?” and the resulting comments were numerous … and eye-opening.

Many people are seriously struggling with living it out.

The difficulties are as varied as the people themselves: Crosses in all shapes and sizes, including infertility on one end of the spectrum and super-abundant fertility on the other, making it hard to space children apart. Long periods of abstinence, medical problems, feeling isolated from instructors, finding trained doctors or other like-minded people are just some of the other common hardships.

“People are so hungry for support from the Church, who they’re trying to be faithful to,” Uebbing said. “And a lot of people are feeling that the Church doesn’t see them in this particular struggle, or have anything to offer past marriage prep short of an emergency intervention when they’re on the brink of divorce. There’s no middle ground.”

….

(Read the rest over at the Denver Catholic)