Category Archives: parenting

On Obligation versus Obligation

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like “obligation.”  It’s my Asperger.  It’s my Americanism.  It’s my modernism.  But I balk at being required to do something.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of “obligation” and the faith, and I thought I’d look up what the word actually means.  While today it means more a “requirement” or “responsibility,” it originally meant “pledge.”  Before that, it came from a Latin word for “binding.”  In one sense, an “obligation” binds the person to do it, but also binds one party to another.
St. Augustine’s oft-misquoted “dilige et quod vis fac” comes into play here.  “Dilige” is the root word for “delight” or “delicious,” but it’s also the root for “diligence.”  So while St. Augustine is misquoted as saying “Love and do as you will,” with “love” here meaning “follow your delights” (something St. Augustine quite obviously would not endorse), he really means “Love your duty from that that do as you will.”
This is really a functional definition of “obligation.”  It is always an act of love.  Socrates says he accepts the death penalty because he loves Athens too much to be exiled.  The patriot loves his country so much he offers his life in military service, which involves obligations.  The student has an obligation to study, but if she loves learning, the obligation is easier.
I have obligations to my body.  I have had to drastically adjust my diet and lifestyle since epilepsy was added to my list of ailments last month.  Out of love for my family, I fulfill the obligations of my new condition, whether I really desire them or not.
I have obligations to my children.  Some are difficult.  Some are enjoyable, but I do all of them because I love my children.
I have obligations to my wife.  I keep those obligations because I love her.  Some of those obligations are tedious, like chores, while others are more pleasurable.  But they’re still obligations.  One of the things Natural Family Planning teaches about marriage is how to make love when one doesn’t feel like it: it’s an obligation.
Thus, when we speak of obligations in the Church, or even not obligations but “requirements” of devotions, the purpose is not to be legalistic as such: it’s to provide a tried and true guideline for building a relationship with Christ.  Just as hugging and kissing daily strengthen a marriage, so prayer and certain practices strengthen our relationship with God.  Sure, I could skip checking for discount flowers at the grocery store, but when I bring my wife flowers, she feels loved and I grow in love for her from that appreciation.  Sure, I can skip my Rosary, but when I give Jesus and His Mother that spiritual bouquet, they feel loved, and I grow in love for them.
Studies show that married couples should make love at least once a week, on average, to feel happy and fulfilled in their marriages.  That, again, can be an “obligation” if one or both isn’t “in the mood,” or especially if they have to schedule a time, and if legitimate impediments exist, they are usually stressful situations that will either strengthen or weaken the marriage depending on how they’re handled: do the couple turn to each other or away from each other?.
Similarly, frequency of Confession and Communion builds our bonds to Jesus Christ.  It’s an “obligation” because it binds us to Him.  We should receive the Sacraments because we love Jesus.  Sometimes, the experience can be full of spiritual consolation.  Sometimes, it can be dry.  Sometimes, we receive indicators that we need to improve our relationship with Christ.  And as with marriage, when crises, however frequent or infrequent, impede us from coming to Him Sacramentally, do we turn to Him for help or away from Him?

“Why did he do it?”

A young woman goes to college.  She comes from a decent home and family that has its issues like any family.  She maybe has a genetic propensity for autism or bipolar or something that wasn’t quite caught because his parents were able to manage it with love, discipline and counseling from time to time.  She was never really engaged in her faith, and whichever comes first, the usual college combination–skipping Mass, “partying” and collectively anti-Catholic ideology among professors and classmates–cause her to abandon the Church.
She meets a boy. He considers himself an atheist.  They base their relationship on sexual attraction and what bands they like but say religious, philosophical and political matters are irrelevant to their relationship.  They *might* discuss a bit of modern philosophy or New Age “mysticism,” and they might talk pop psychology.  They start fornicating.  Then they decide they “love” each other.  They use contraception, unknowingly conceiving and aborting several babies.  At one point, one of the babies escape all the “Plan B” mechanisms and manages to implant.  Worried about her career, she has an abortion.
Then they decide that maybe they should get married.  They “wait” to have children till they’re “ready.”  They spent 10 years living for careers and vacations and things, having a relationship based on a self-centered “love.”  Maybe they self medicate with booze or cigarettes or worse.  Maybe they go to the professional drug dealers and get Prozac or Ritalin.
After a few years, they decide they’re “ready” to have kids.  They have their boy and girl.
They say they’re going to raise their kids “open minded” and refuse to have them baptized.  Maybe they expose them to bits and pieces of Islam, Buddhism, Wicca, any anything but Christianity.
Believing that children need lots of “stuff” to be happy, wanting their kids to have whatever they believe they were deprived, and believing that they have to limit themselves to 2 kids, so they want the most of the experience, they fill their kids’ lives with toys, video games, movies, etc.  But they also fill their kids’ lives with workaholism and competitiveness: sports, scouting, fine arts, clubs, and lots and lots of homework.
Their son can’t keep up, and starts acting out.  Quite often, the child in this all-too-familiar scenario is probably just stressed.  “I don’t want to give him an MRI,” says the doctor.  “That might have dangerous side effects, and it’s really expensive.  Let’s see how he does on Ritalin first.”
So the kid goes on Ritalin.  He’s on the equivalent of 2-4 cups of coffee a day.  He focuses better at school and his many activities, but his schedule is still stressful with no time for true relaxation or recreation.  He still needs to burn his energy, and he’s stimulating it chemically with a drug that produces rage as a side effect.  So he starts bullying other kids.  And he starts trying to channel his rage through video games and movies.  Oh, and since he’s chemically stimulating his dopamine and endorphins, he loses his ability to feel satisfaction from oxytocin.  He just starts craving more dopamine and endorphins, so more video games and more movies.
Now, if he was relatively neurotypical and just stressed, this would be bad enough.  If he even legitimately had ADHD it would be bad enough.  But what if he actually has something else, like bipolar?  So the the effect of the stimulants is even worse.
They try different meds over the years, never actually doing medical tests to see if and what meds he needs, even though they have tests available that in many cases the DSM says to do first.  Hundreds of dollars a month in prescriptions and doctor visits are so much more cost effective than a few thousand dollars at one time to actually find out what’s wrong.
Meanwhile, the daughter goes on similar spiral, but this, as Aslan might say, is not her story.
Meanwhile, the parents who didn’t put much thought into values before they married start to do so.  They realize they have little in common.  They rarely spend time together.  Going off “the Pill” to have kids then going back on changed her hormonal reactions to him and vice versa.  They’re burdened with stress of money, jobs, the kids’ demanding schedules and the kids’ mental and behavioral issues.
Maybe the mother decides to start taking the kids to church, and they fight about that.
There’s some anger and abuse.  One or both commits adultery.  They divorce.
Now the kids, as Maggie Gallagher documents in _Abolition of Marriage_, have lost their trust in relationships.  They both come to think of marriage as something temporary and mutable.  They have lost their one mooring in life.
The son starts expressing his anger at his Christian classmates, arguing all the time in favor of atheism, abortion, etc.  The daughter becomes sexually active.  The son starts using marijuana and other drugs.  All those resume-building activities begin to implode: grades collapse; he starts dropping out of his activities.  He spends most of his time watching violent movies and pornography and playing video games.  All the activities meant to “build social skills” never taught him to make friends.  His original genetic propensity, whether it’s for autism or schizophrenia or bipolar, is now largely irrelevant except that it’s compounding his lifetime of stress, betrayal, materialism, overstimulation, drugs, etc.  He doesn’t know how to approach girls, and girls find him creepy.
His parents have tried to give him everything the world has to offer but they’ve deprived him of the most important things a  human being needs: God and a stable family.
Depending on who reaches into his life at this point, and whatever his earlier issues, he grabs onto whatever sense of hope and acceptance he can find.  We could go several ways from here, but this all-too-common story lends itself to several results.
But our particular instance is following the path to hate and violence.
He’s been inoculated against Christianity, of course, by his parents and by the schools.  He’s been taught that Islam is a “religion of peace,” so he starts reading the Koran.
He’s been taught that socialism is a great thing and capitalism is bad, so he starts reading Marx.
He starts reading  Hitler.
Eventually, the violence he imagines becomes reality.  Maybe his mother has found true Faith in her middle age, and desperately tries to get him to come to church with her as she tries to atone for her younger lifestyle.  Maybe he is interested in a girl who’s not interested in him.  Maybe he’s had a girlfriend who recently broke up with him.  Maybe he’s been taught by the media, the movies and the few books he’s read that Christians are the real enemy.  Maybe he’s just filled with hate for all the institutions he’s come to mistrust.
Thousands upon thousands are in his situation.  Many turn to suicide.  Many turn to matricide or patricide.  Many murder the girl they’re interested in.
Many join gangs and commit gang murders.  Many just retreat into themselves and into the games and drugs, committing a slow suicide.  Many live lives of abuse and fighting without actually killing.  Many find Jesus and overcome the hate.
So what makes one person “snap”?
If any of these few circumstances could clearly explain why people commit mass murder, then it should happen far more often than it does.  If guns are the reason, it should happen far more than it does. If guns are the reason, then there wouldn’t be suicide bombers and fertilizer bombs and madmen driving trucks through crowds.
If, as the Joker claims, all it takes is “one bad day” to make someone like him, why aren’t there?
There’s a movie called Conspiracy Theory where a guy says all notorious assassins owned the same book, and to the extent that it’s been reported, all the notorious mass murderers in the US in the past 20 or 30 years have had one thing in common: hatred of Christianity.  Many of them have shouted or posted “Allahu Akbar.”  Most of them seem to have some sort of admixture of Communist, Anarchist and Nazi leanings.
As long as a person has some faint fear of God, he’s going to have a line of conscience.  Once we strip that line of conscience away from him, it doesn’t matter what tool he uses, he will find a way to kill as many people as possible before he kills himself.  He might do it in the name of “The Revolution,” or “The Master Race,” or “Satan” or “Allah,” but he will do it.  Should we put tougher restrictions on certain kinds of weapons?  I don’t know.  It seems to me the government should do a better job of enforcing the gun laws that are already on the books.
But to address the real problem is to address, across the board, the moral and spiritual rot of our society and requires each of us to look at our own responsibility, not for our political choices but for our moral ones."Occupy Rome" Protestors Desecrate a Statue of Our Lady

Update on the vehicle issue

Updated 12/11/2018:  John died suddenly after a seizure on October 11, 2018, in the middle of Hurricane Michael.  We are devastated at the loss of our husband and father.  We were never able to get him the new van he so desperately needed, and I ask his intercession to Almighty God for all those who are in need of one.   If you wish to help me (Mary) and the children, the fundraiser link for our living expenses is here:  https://www.givesendgo.com/GHRS#.W8QNumXt9jQ

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“Joy of Love”–What’s missing

The media are abuzz with Pope Francis’s long-anticipated Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation _Amoris Laetitia_, and from what I’ve seen on Facebook, the following Bingo game could be quickly won:

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I’ve read the first three chapters, and I’ve read that, like every other document from Pope Francis, the several assurances of orthodoxy in the first few chapters are followed up by a buried lied of “freedom of conscience” somewhere in the middle.

Let’s set aside that “freedom of conscience” and “Let’s adopt a new tone instead of authoritarianism” has been said over and over since  Vatican II.  Let’s set aside that some of the same people who, almost 20 years ago, were having conniptions over a very similar, but more more succinct, document from Rembert Weakland are now saying, “Let’s celebrate!  The Pope didn’t change doctrine!”

As usual, I sympathize, though don’t entirely agree with, the Pope’s critics from the “Right.”  My reaction thus far is really disappointment.  The document is the epitome of lukewarm.  It’s so insipid and boring I was outraged by the waste of time.  It really adds nothing to what previous documents have already said on any of the subjects at play.

When it comes to marriage and family issues, there are four groups of people:

1) Those who want a clear-cut, black and white moral code.

2) Those who “freedom of conscience” *from* the Church.

3) Those who simply don’t care.

4) Those who want to follow the Church but are struggling with difficult situations.

Group #2 are the only ones who have any cause for celebration in this document, and they are celebrating.  However, from what I’ve read directly or seen quoted, it *really* doesn’t say anything that isn’t somewhere in the post-Vatican II magisterium already.

Ostensibly, the whole point of the Synod was to address group 4, but so far it seems to be more of the same:

Yes, extreme circumstances may mitigate culpability.  However, this seems addressed in a way that’s more about alleviating the responsibility of pastors than providing mercy to those who struggle.  Emphasizing lack of culpability works out to the same as emphasizing sin in a punitive manner: both escape the Biblical responsibility of the clergy to help those who are in need.

This has always been my problem with group 2, the so-called “liberals” or “progressives”: too often, I’ve seen Acts of the Apostles cited by liberals to support socialism or communism rather than Christian community.

The Pope says we should “admire” and “be supportive” of families with disabled parents or children, single mothers, and so forth.  But “being supportive” is very different from “supporting”.  He mentions civic responsibility, but not clerical responsibility.

Instead, it’s the cop-out of “personal conscience.”  So much easier to say, “You’re not really responsible for the sins you commit out of  desperation” than to say, “We’re going to try to provide you with practical help so you don’t have to be put in a situation of desperation.”

 

To Hipster Dad and Trad Dad

A few days ago, Aleteia started the latest round of parents-at-mass wars by reprinting a CatholicMom.com column from last June, by one Thomas Tighe, a self-described “hipster dad,” who writes about one of those incidents I’ve blogged about before where people come up and say rude comments to parents trying their best to teach their kids how to behave at Mass.  Now, whether Mr. Tighe’s description of his attempts really qualifies as “his best” is a matter for debate but of prudential judgement.  I know, though, that when our kids were little, one of the major reasons we shunned the cry room as often as possible was to avoid the bad example of parents who brought snacks and non-relevant toys (we would always try to get the kids to bring religious books and sometimes religious toys).

Sometimes, a cry room is necessary.  Sometimes, a vestibule or a trip outside church is necessary.  Indeed, I got so used to taking my autistic son out of church that I realized at one point last year I preferred being outside, listening on the speaker.

I like the anecdote about Ven. Fulton Sheen, when a lady took a crying baby out of Mass during his homily: “Madame, you needn’t take the baby out on my account.  He isn’t bothering me.”
“No,” the lady replied, “but you’re  bothering the baby!”

Yes, parents of young or disabled children have no Mass obligation, but that is precisely why attending at all is an act of heroic virtue.

Nevertheless, I’m inclined to agree with Tighe, especially given the absolute vitriol that people were spewing in response to his column.  For example, Steve Skojec weighed in with the perspective of a “certain kind of traditionalist.”

Skojec takes the “absolute silence” perspective, including suggesting that it’s a sin to drop a book.  I’m sure he’d be deeply offended by the sound of my wheelchair or the number of times I drop things at Mass!

I wish I could get people like you to stop quoting Mark 10 as a justification for irresponsible parenting. I have always brought my children to Mass, letting the little children come unto Him…but I’ve also always reminded them that the Mass is a supreme act of worship of Our Lord on the Cross, not a friendly gathering where Jesus told the little guys cute parables. . . .

Yes, when the Apostles were complaining about children, they were mad that the children were being perfectly well behaved and wearing their blue blazers with brass buttons.  And when Jesus said you can’t get into Heaven unless you learn to be like children, He meant perfectly silent and well-dressed.

When people have offered actual help, or talked to our kids helpfully, I’ve welcomed it.  Once, when my kids got distracted by the Christmas Tree at the Christmas Eve vigil, the pastor gently said, “I realize you’re excited because it’s Christmas, but please wait till after Mass to look at the tree.” Another time, as my eldest daughter loudly proclaimed her responses at our parish, a lady behind us kept whispering in her ear.  I braced myself when the lady approached me after Mass.
“How old is she?” she asked.
“Five,” I said.
“You must have taken her to Mass since she was a baby.  I kept leaning over and telling her how impressed I was that she knew her responses.  I have a daughter who’s a nun now, and she knew her responses when she was 5, too.”
A few times, we went to Sunday evening Mass at my alma mater’s campus chapel.  We were flabbergasted when the young priest pointed to our kids as an example of how to behave at Mass!   “Those little children know how to behave at Mass better than you college students!” Then when the baby woke up and started crying, he said, “Now, see?  You’ve woken up the baby!”
I went to daily Mass there once with my son, when he was 2 or 3 but not yet diagnosed autistic.  Father asked if I wanted to lector.  I said, “What about him?”  “He’ll be fine!”   I shrugged my shoulders, got up to read, and my son started following.  I gestured to return to the seat, and he did.
My eldest daughter once got up and laid prostrate in front of the altar after a homily about kids at Mass.
She had grown up attending a monthly “Reform of the Reform” Latin Ordinary Form liturgy in Northern Virginia, and the occasional High Mass Extraordinary Form in Richmond.  When she was 2, she sang her Latin Mass parts well enough to impress a Juilliard-trained composer and choral director.
After we moved to SC, there was a monthly EF low Mass we would try to attend.  Once, when she was 5 or 6, confused by everyone being silent during the liturgy of the Eucharist, she began singing the “Salve Regina,” perfectly.  She was sitting a few rows behind me, with her godfather.  I turned to shush her, but almost everyone smiled and gestured as if to say, “she’s fine.”

A few years later, at another parish, I was sitting up front with the younger two, and an elderly couple behind us kept leaning over and whispering what I sensed were gentle admonitions to my son.  After Mass, they asked, “He’s autistic, right?”  I said, “Yes.  They both are.”  They said, “We have an autistic grandson.  We know how it is!”

But we’ve had enough nasty comments to know some people will never be satisfied.
One of the times I tried to bring my son to the low Mass, he whispered some questions but was relatively well-behaved.  Nevertheless, this older gentleman came up and yelled at me, saying, “I raised nine children, and I taught them to behave themselves at Mass!”  I really got the impression that he was as mad about my daughter’s devotion as about my son’s curiosity.  Two other ladies followed him and said, “Don’t listen to him, you’re doing great!”

I often tell the story of taking all four kids to a “Holy Hour” by myself. They’d been to Benediction many times, and knew some of Evening Prayer from my saying it at home.  I was holding the baby.  The then 6 and 4 year old were focusing on the prayers. My son was walking up and down the pews, but being quiet, as he’d done at the aforementioned college mass, which was a huge improvement for him.
They used illicit, barely recognizable, texts for Vespers and Benediction, politically correct, Charismatic and “interfaith friendly.”  At Benediction, they “voted” on which hymn to sing instead of “Tantum Ergo,” and sang “Amazing Grace.”
At the Magnificat, Divine Praises and other points, my kids said the correct translation with me.  Afterwards, the deacon who led it came up and told me how distracting my family was, and children shouldn’t be present at such a “solemn event.”

The last time we had a direct encounter, my wife was in the back with the younger two, who were both sleepy, as they often are, from their meds.  These two old ladies told my wife that our kids were distracting them by sleeping!

So, whether they’re actually being bad, or they’re actually participating, or they’re being quiet but sleeping, we’ve gotten both positive and negative feedback from strangers and clergy.

Yes, there are some people who are blessed with peaceful, well-behaved children, and like other people blessed with particular virtues, they shouldn’t lord it over others.  But there are also some whose kids’ perfect behavior can be a bit scary to the rest of us.

For the past several months, we’ve been regularly attending a Byzantine church that we have visited from time to time over the past 5 years, and I always found the kids seemed to be better behaved and attentive there.  In Advent, I suggested going to the OF Vigil Mass (it didn’t work out because we all got sick), and the kids said, “Do we have to?!”  They find the chanting both soothing and easy to participate in. They love having the icons to pray with. Like me, they find incense bothers them allergy-wise, but they also find it calming (even when they were smaller, they seemed to settle a bit at Vespers as soon as the Censer passed).  They like the community meal after Liturgy.  When there are a lot of children, the DRE gathers them and brings them up to sit in front of Father during the homily.

On Sunday, we were a bit late as usual.  It was Theophany, so there was an especially long liturgy.  I brought three because our middle daughter was sick, and my wife stayed home since I’m the one who usually does.

We stood/sat in the back.  In the second to last row, there was a visiting family–very obviously Latin Rite traditionalists.  The father and sons were all in suits.  The wife and daughters, all in dresses and veils (while veiling is traditional in the East, it’s not an “obligation,” and from my research veiling is usually avoided in the Melkite Church to avoid confusion with Muslims).   My two youngest ended up right behind them.  I was across the aisle.  My teenager was at the other end.  We’d been told to take empty holy water bottles when we came in.  So my son kept playing with his holy water bottle.  After a while, he came over and told me that he realized we had forgotten to get his morning pills before we left the house! I thanked him for holding it together so well, and took him out to the car to take his pills.  I was happy he was holding it together so well, but still trying to keep him in control.  He kept bugging his younger sister, and she kept shushing him.  The lady in the veil in front of her kept turning around and admonishing *her*.

Later in the afternoon, since I didn’t recognize the family, my wife asked our daughter if she recognized the lady.
“Which lady?”
“The lady who kept turning around and correcting you,” I said.
“Oh, *that* lady,” she sighed.  I should note that, of our four children, she’s the most resistant in matters of faith and has already developed the impression that God is a dictator Who just has a bunch of rules and wants to “get” people, in spite of our efforts to teach a balanced view of the faith.  If she grew up in one of these, “children should be seen and not heard” families, what would her faith be like?

What does it mean to be a “Successful” Parent?

Our Lady told St. Bernadette, “I cannot promise you happiness.” Many parents, however, say, “I just want you to be happy.” I say, “I just want you to be a Saint.” As Mother Angelica says in the opening sequence, “We are all called to be great Saints. Don’t miss the opportunity.” That should be every parent’s priority. Education is about formation of the person. Careers are how we provide for needs. They should also be apostolates–as CS Lewis and St. Josemaria, among so many others have said, being the best scientist, showing people a God’s hand in creation, or the best housewife, showing His love to everyone, is a more important and effective Apostolate than being a theologian–but work, like the Sabbath, was made for man. We treat our children like they exist only to be money-making or power-grabbing machines in a competitive world. It can be difficult to teach them how to honor God by doing their best to be their best while teaching them to avoid unnecessary stress or the “rat race.”There can be an equal temptation, though, to turn that quest for sanctity into a competition if its own, as if a formally recognized “St.” Degree, as Mother Angelica calls it, is the objective.  There is no more perfect formula to raising holy kids than there is to raising kids to be MDs or music stars.  

The popular but misused teaching of St. Augustine, dilige et quod vis fac, often mistranslated as “love and then do as you will,” really means “Love your duty and then do it.” Dilige is, after all, the root of “diligence,”though also of “delight,” etc.  Years ago,  I read a fantastic “testimony,” as the Evangelicals would say, by a Catholic “revert” who was led astray by the popular misuse of that expression.  I can’t find it offhand but here are a couple other sites that share the same critique of the popular version.  In reality, it’s the Little Way of St. Therese, or the maxim of Teresa of Avila (requoted by her popular namesakes) to do small things with great love and find God among the pots and pans.

Any parent who gets that message through is successful.

#NFPAwarenessWeek – Evangelizing By Testimony

Since Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae on July 25, 1968, the week containing July 25 is now considered #NFPWeek.
If someone is able-bodied, and effectively using NFP to space children, whether that means having 6 instead of 12 kids, or “stopping” at 2, or whatever, then I think it’s important to share stories.
If someone is struggling with NFP, pastors and other laity need to be aware of different methods to provide more effective help. It seems like proponents of almost every method say, “Ours is *the one*, and you don’t need to learn about the others,” but each method has advantages and disadvantages and are better suited to different couples and situations. For those who say, “Trust Providence,” I say that NFP *is* trusting Providence.
In our case, I think most people in our families assume we are experiencing secondary infertility. Just this evening, my wife was holding her brother’s new baby, and her sister said, “Next baby will be yours,” as if she’s presuming we’re “trying” but can’t. Yes, from time to time we pause to consider it, and, yes, we have had a few “close calls,” and if God blessed us with another baby, we’d figure it out, but as our close friends have put it, “If anybody has grave reasons, you two do.”
When we were first married, we used sympto-thermal method (CCLI), charting temperatures, getting up each morning to take temperatures, etc. Our first month of marriage, when “phase 2” rolled around, we were praying over whether to abstain.

We tried “Bible roulette,” prayed to the Holy Spirit and found a few passages about not worrying about what other people think, and that addressed a few of our other side issues. Then I looked up from the Bible and saw that my wife was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Consider the Lilies of the field. . . .”
The second month, on the first day of Phase 2, the Gospel was “Anyone who welcomes a child welcomes Me. . . . ”
So while we charted, our prayer led us to openness to a baby. One of our main concerns was my wife being the primary wage earner. We’d hoped I’d be done with my MA by the end of our first year of marriage and able to get a full time job. If that didn’t happen, we figured we should time a baby to be born in early summer, so after September, we began abstaining during Phase 2, until April when we figured we’d at least have Winter break, and in May, my wife woke me up one morning and said, “Good morning, Dad.”
I was never able to get full time work in spite of trying, so we made do withwe a lot of help for a couple years. Over Christmas 2002, when our eldest was 9 months old, the holiday got the better of us, and we got a bunch of signs from God, and we knew a baby had been conceived, and we would name that baby Lewis or Louise. It wasn’t the best timing but seemed to be God’s will. In March, we suffered a miscarriage.
As time went on, we learned how difficult it can be to use sympto-thermal method once you already have a baby, and if you’re using “ecological breastfeeding” as a form of child spacing. However, the charting we’d already done had given us a general sense of the “unofficial signs” of ovulation, such as ovulation pain. We moved from sympto-thermal to rhythm.
That June, we had a “method failure”–early ovulation, which nothing but abstaining from day 1 until 3 or 4 days after ovulation occurred could account for–but better timing in that by the time our second full-term baby was born, my wife’s short-term disability insurance’s maternity leave coverage would be in effect.
Lactational ammenorhea ended about 8 months of time after each birth. When that ended in October or November 2004, we started looking into Billings Ovulation Method, I misunderstood some signs, and by January 2005, we learned there was another baby on the way.
My own career had been on the upswing that year, and a week before our son was born, I started my first and only full time job. My wife was able to get a year of leave from her school district, and started tutoring online part time.
During that period of amenorrhea, we studied Billings Ovulation Model. We also tried practicing NFP more
“conservatively,” waiting from Day 1 till 3 days after we thought ovulation had occurred. That time, weren’t even sure when ovulation occurred, or how it was possible, but our youngest daughter was born in May 2007.
In the meantime, we had moved to SC, I had had a few health scares, and I began feeling a new kind of pain and pressure in my upper back. Over the next several months, I studied the various methods, indicators, and available devices in great detail. I found out that Marquette had developed a model using the ClearPlan Fertility Monitor, so we bought one of those. After a couple years, the device burnt out, and we started just using over the counter test strips because they’re cheaper, and we then knew how to read them. We found a website called myfertilitycharts.com, and we began using that to chart. Our youngest is now 8, during which time both of us have had health problems.
1) God sent us the method we needed it when we really needed it
2) If we had followed the more worldly advice of “waiting,” we might never have had kids at all (which we knew and was why we didn’t).

“but, Daddy, at school they said, . . .”: Why I homeschool

A few years ago, we tried brick and mortar.  We had our girls in a pretty good Catholic school and our son in a pretty good public school.  At Christmas that year (kindergarten), he started talking about the (alleged) religious symbolism of the candy cane.  We asked if he’s heard it at CCD, Lord’s Brigade, or on EWTN.  He said, “No.  From [my teacher].”  Indeed, our town’s general homeschool community, which my wife follows on Facebook to keep up with events, Is largely made up of secularists who find the local public schools too religious!”

But, still, even if you set aside questions of the moral and psychological dangers, bullying, peer pressure, subversive agendas, disputes about curriculum or teaching models, ability of the school to accommodate learning or physical disabilities, and so forth, those  two years, and the continuing aftermath, have highlighted a dilemma that troubled me my whole life.

My children’s generous uncles and aunts, starting with the Wii that I expected to be a one-time capitulation, have given them a steady stream of video game systems, so each of them now has at least one DS-whatever, and they’re constantly talking about the next thing they want.  I recall when I was laying in the hospital two years ago, watching my daughter play her DS, and thinking–whether I was actually hearing this or hallucinating, I may never know–the nurses, the hospital patieht rep, and others complaining about my kids having so many video games when we always say we’re struggling financially.  We are, and we’ve purchased very few of the games they have, and of course games have horrible resale value.  The point is that they’ve been roped into a materialistic cycle I’d always wanted to avoid.

My son’s hand me down DS broke over Thanksgiving.  His uncle sent him a hand me down Of what .i thought was the latest middle for first communion.  

Today, I took the kids to the park to fly a kite we bought at a dollar store.  We were having a good, old fashioned, inexpensive, fun time, but while I assembled the kite, I heard him talking about how he wants to save up for the latest model, which apparently is literally the “new 3DSXL.”  Within what I thought was reasonable for his fragile psyche, I lost it a bit and got a bit preachy.  We had a moment, hugged it out, but when I tried to talk about living in the moment, he said how at school they always talked about preparing for the future and planning for emergencies.  In his mind, having a second DS in case one breaks qualified as an emergency.   I’d been enjoying those 6 months when he carried around a box of Legos.

But how do you teach your child to be humble, to have poverty of spirit, to put others first, etc., when schools, and ironically Catholic schools especially, teach pride, ambition, and competitiveness?

The Jesuits have always been controversial for their accommodation of local cultures, and for their frequent interference in politics,  but I do not understand how an Order which rarely produces bishops or cardinals and has taken 500 years to produce a Pope because it teaches against pursuing advancement has contributed so much to the competitive approach to education we find in modernity.

When a dress code is not just about teaching modesty and obedience but wearing a “blue blazer with brass buttons,” is that teaching children to follow the examples of John the Baptist, Martin of Tours, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, or Pier Giorgio?  Even the Monarchs who’ve been canonized generally dressed below their stations.  

When a school advertises its “high academic standards,” makes students compete for titles like “valedictorian” even to the point of destroying friendships, gives awards for “perfect attendance,” etc., his is that teaching children to live the Beatitudes?   Help that homeless person you pass on the way to school, get a few minutes late, lose perfect attendance and lost the edge on being “#1.”  Besides, helping the homeless is dangerous, might be illegal, and you need to direct them to proper charities.  Is that a message that teaches kids to be Saints..

I know I could do a lot better as a parent, but I also know that what Ai consider better is the opposite of the World.

That’s why I homeschool.

What were the writers of _The Middle_ thinking?

To the Writers and Producers of <em>The Middle</em>
What were you thinking?

In the summer of 2012, a priest-friend on Facebook suggested your program as an example of one of the few truly wholesome, family-friendly sitcoms on the air today.

For the most part, we’ve found that to be true and have become huge fans of the show.  We’ve now seen every episode in reruns or first run and have watched most of them with our children.

However, the previous two episodes  (“Valentine’s Day VI” and “The Answer”) have left us scratching our heads.

There was a very clear contrast between the wholesome relationship of Darrin and Sue, and the implied fornication of Axl and Devin.  Axl, a stereotypical “millennial” college student, attending college just because he’s expected to, with no real career goals, surprises his girlfriend with a rented bounce house, paid for by what?  Credit card debt? Then comes home the next day to brag about having “celebrated” the night before.  Darrin, who already has a decent, well-paying job, surprises Sue with a “micro-house” that is paid for, and proposes marriage.

So, what happens?  Frankie sarcastically dismisses Axl’s “bragging,” and Mike hypocritically gives him a thumbs up over fornicating with some other man’s daughter while getting enraged that Axl’s friend has proposed marriage to *his* daughter.  Frankie and Mike convince Sue that’s she’s right to want to “experience” the world and accumulate a lifelong burden of debt rather than settling down with a man who loves her and has already demonstrated the ability to provide for her?

I suppose it’s sadly realistic to how most parents think in this culture, but it was so very disappointing.

“The Rapture” and Cosmic Braxton Hicks

The “Rapture” is back in the news, with the mainstream Left Behind remake starring Nicholas Cage hitting theaters.  A writer at the Huffington Post has a great piece dissecting the Rapture theory from a Protestant perspective that’s really Catholic. He gives a great explanation of the difference between the Rapture and the Second Coming, the purpose of Revelation as a liturgical text (see Scott Hahn’s The Lamb’s Supper), and so forth.  However, he misses the other “proof text” for the Rapture, Matthew 24:36-42:

* 36p “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son,* but the Father alone. 37*q For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38In [those] days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. 39They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be [also] at the coming of the Son of Man. 40*r Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. 42*s Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.

If you’re driving around with a bumper sticker that says, “Warning: in case of Rapture, this car will be unmanned,” you’d better stop and think about what Jesus actually means here: the people who will be “taken” in this metaphor *are the ones going to Hell*: “It will be as the days of Noah.” Noah was left to start the world new without the previous corruption.  The “rapture” if it happens in some literal way, would not be about leaving the good people behind so they don’t suffer; it would be about taking out those who are more evil so the remnant can rebuild.

However, the qualifier of all this that we know not the day or the hour.  We should be watchful and ready, not just for the end of the World but more realistically for our own deaths, and be right with God.

Which brings me to the teaching that begins this whole chapter, 24:6-8:

b You will hear of wars* and reports of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for these things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. 7c Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place. 8* All these are the beginning of the labor pains.

I have never understood why people take, “You will hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not alarmed” to mean, “We should be alarmed!  There are wars and rumors of wars!”  This has been the reading of this passage not just from Protestants but from Catholics, even going back to the ECFs, and it puzzles me.

What just struck me, however, was that, maybe, this is a case where the problem comes from the interpretations being made by celibate males in a “separate spheres” world.  They didn’t know how labor works.

In a world where female midwives deliver babies and the men are off hunting or fishing or farming, and get news, “Hey, your wife just gave birth!”–perhaps in some cultures to barely see the baby–most men just don’t know how labor works, and even in cultures like ours, few pay attention or remember enough to get the metaphor.

“The beginning of the labor pains” is *weeks* of, “I just felt a contraction!”  “I wonder if I’m going into labor!” Then labor itself is often stereotypically long (“36 hours of labor,” and so on).  The childbirth classes say, “It’s never like the movies. You don’t just suddenly go into labor and deliver a baby.”  Actually, our children’s births were “just like the movies.”  My wife’s labors were extremely fast when they came on, but always had weeks of “Braxton Hicks”–which can begin as early as the “second trimester.”  Like most couples with a first, we thought labor was starting every time she had one.  Then, when the time came, it was unmistakable–like true love or aortic dissection.

She started having “really bad back pain,” after we’d spent the day making the final preparations for birth.  We got to the ER 2 hours into labor, and the triage nurse said, “You’re 10 cm dilated!  Why did you wait so long?”
“I didn’t!!  I just went into labor 2 hours ago!”

With the second full-term birth, we were more nonchalant about the Braxton Hicks. Woke up Sunday, February 29, and boom!  Labor, 9 AM-2 PM.

Our son was more the “Is it time yet?”  We went to the hospital, I think, 3 times.   had to cancel a final exam because we thought she was going into early labor.  The third time, we spent the evening at the hospital, and we were now past due date.  We joke that the Dude has never liked change or going places.  The midwife scheduled an induction for the next morning and said to be at the hospital at 6, IIRC.  She woke up at 3 with labor.

The Boy

The Boy

With our youngest, we had just moved into a new townhouse in a new town a week before.  My parents had taken the eldest.  We had two toddlers in a new house in a new town, and had not even finished pre-registering at the hospital.  They were all in bed, and I was up watching a movie when Mary came and told me her water broke.  We jumped in our minivan–which thankfully had OnStar.  I contacted OnStar, and they patched me through to the hospital, so they had some knowledge we were coming.  I panicked about the younger kids and missing the birth.  A security guard came and took them to the cafeteria with her during her lunch break (may God bless that security guard at Lexington Medical Center).  By the time I got into the delivery room, the baby was born.   The doctor had just gotten in there a few minutes before.  As I understand it, the conversation went something like,
“Hi, I’m Dr. So-and-so.  Do you normally–”
“AAAAH!”
Baby.

Over and over, Jesus (and St. Paul) tells us, “Just when they’re saying ‘peace and security,'” “I will come like a thief in the night.”

Liberals say . . .

The Constitution means whatever they want except what it says.  Animals have rights, but people don’t. Babies aren’t babies unless you want them to be. Gender means whatever you want. Sex and marriage are about self-gratification and not procreation and child-bearing. Life is about pleasure and should be “terminated” if it isn’t pleasurable. Money can be created ex nihilo but the universe wasn’t. If you suggest it’s more important that kids learn in school about how their bodies actually work than about dinosaurs, evolution, and various forms of pleasure seeking, you’re “anti-science.” And they call us “wing-nuts”. . . .

Thank you, Bishop Jugis!

The Most Rev. Peter J. Jugis, JCD, bishop of the Diocese of Charlotte, NC, has finally come to the defense of Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, OP, STD, of the St. Cecilia Mother House and Aquinas College in Nashville, TN, saying he found nothing wrong with her talk and that she’s always welcome in his diocese!!
Meanwhile, Deacon Greg Kandra shares an anonymous email from a mom at one of the Charlotte Middle Schools that supports Charlotte Catholic High School, saying that the majority of parents there really are faithful Catholics and are usually very supportive of Fr. Matthew Kauth.  She claims the dissenters are a very vocal minority who fed the controversy with support from outside forces, that most of the parents were mainly upset about the consent issues (the aspect to which I agreed).
If you took the time, as I did, to request this action, please also take the time, as I did, to thank His Excellency.

Why “Gay Marriage” Matters

Even many who profess faith in Christ insist that “gay marriage,” even as a civil entity, doesn’t hurt anybody.  Examples like “husband” and “wife” being changed everywhere to “spouse 1” and “spouse 2” should be enough for starters.  Then there is the increasing persecution of those who oppose the homosexualist political agenda: CEOs being fired from companies they co-founded,

Brendan Eich, who helped invent Java and Firefox, fired from Mozilla for a $1000 donation made 6 years ago.

and nuns being persecuted by the Church.

Should be speaking everywhere, not silenced

Of course, the latter was justified by “Catholics” bearing false witness against the Holy Father by saying his statements that homilists must talk about more than a few disjointed moral teachings means that none of us is supposed to talk about the specific examples, ever.

It all goes back to my old saying that we lost the Culture Wars before they began, at the 1929 Lambeth Conference.   The slippery slope that  led us to the current gay marriage debate started when the Anglicans became the first Christians to permit birth control, as Pius XI and Paul VI predicted.  Anyone who has tried to teach Catholic morality even in CCD, much less Catholic school, in the past generation or two knows how awkward it is to tell kids divorce and remarriage is a sin when their parents are divorced and remarried, that swearing is a sin when even their mothers cuss like sailors, or that birth control is a sin when everyone else uses it.  I went to high school with kids whose parents were NFP instructors, and even *they* would say things like, “It’s a sin for us but not for other people,” or “It’s better to tell teenagers to use birth control than to have them get pregnant or STDs.”

I think the persecution of Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, OP, STD, has as much to do with her speaking about the negative consequences of divorce as anything else.  Indeed, the claim of Aquinas College that Sr. Jane is outside her academic credentials by talking of anthropology negates the traditional hierarchy of academic disciplines that a Dominican should be the first to recognize.

Soon-to-be St. John Paul II, who doesn’t mince words in Evangelium Vitae about the Conspiracy of Death, writes in Theology of the Body that the entire of Catholic anthropology is based in the Creation Account: indeed, that is the whole point of TOB.  From man being made male and female in the image of likeness of God and to be “one flesh” to the fact of Original Sin, JPII’s explication of the first three or four chapters of Genesis and Jesus’ teachings on marriage shows how everything else in theology stems from those passages.  He argues that the danger of Darwinism, and its importance to secularists, is that without a Creator, without teleology, without man being a soul/body hybrid, without Original Sin itself, then man is not a moral creature, and ultimately anything goes.

Something similar is at work in the Culture Wars in the contemporary West.  From contraception at one end to “marriage equality” at the other, advocates of “most favored sins” tend to promote each other’s cause: nobody wants to be perceived as a “hypocrite,” after all.  If some “bossy” Thomistic nun wants to start talking about sexual morality, then so much for “voices of women in the Church”!

And that’s the ultimate agenda of the Culture of Death (and, yes, Pope John Paul himself states repeatedly in Gospel of Life and elsewhere that it’s a conspiracy).    It’s even the agenda of those who, in the name of preventing child abuse, expose children to graphic “sex education.”  Obviously, Satan wants everyone in Hell, and Satan’s agents, whether they realize they are or not, need to encourage others to sin so they can feel justified in their own filth.

The 1988 Don Bosco film that used to run on EWTN before the 2004 version came out has subplots involving a brothel next door to St. John’s Oratory.  In one scene, there’s a commotion outside the brothel: two prostitutes get into a “cat fight.”  The boys stop their play and study to see what’s going on.  The Saint cuts through the crowd and pulls the two hookers apart.  “You people can drown in your sins, if you want!” he cries.  “But if a single one of my boys is lost because of you, not one of you can be saved!”

Harsh, you say?  Remember Our Lord calls for anyone who causes a child to sin to be drowned (Matthew 18:6).

That’s what’s at stake in “gay marriage.”

When I can no longer watch Wheel of Fortune with my kids because of a contestant introduction like, “So you’re getting married? . . . You found some nice young lady to marry you?” “Gentleman, actually,” that affects my family.
When we’re watching The Middle, and an ad comes on for Modern Family with two men talking about “their wedding,” and a cake topper with two men, that affects my family.
“Why?” asks the person who actively or passively supports same sex marriage.  “Are you afraid of them?  They’re nice people.”
No.
“Do you think you’re kid’s going to be gay?”
No.
Every child at some point wants to know why boys can’t marry boys or girls can’t marry girls, and “because they’re not supposed to” is usually a sufficient answer.

If society isn’t going to back that up, and if “the Church” isn’t even going to back that up, then one is left stranded explaining Natural Law.  It’s hard enough having to gloss over other issues.

They do not think parents have the right to teach their children morality or even to protect their children’s mental purity at a young age.   Then there are the increasing accounts of children at young ages becoming addicted to porn or committing sexual abuse because of things they’ve seen online.

When that stuff is literally everywhere, there comes a point when parents are forced to explain certain things to children that are not otherwise age appropriate–and that’s exactly what these demonic perverts want.

Apparently an STD doesn’t Qualify A Nun to Talk about STDs (so to speak)

So, thanks to screaming protests and threats by thousands of “parents” at a Catholic high school in Charlotte, NC, not only has Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, OP, STD, of the St. Cecilia Dominican Congregation and its affiliated Aquinas College in Nashville, TN, been disinvited from future speaking engagements in the Charlotte Diocese: she has now “voluntarily” stepped down from both speaking and even teaching at the famously orthodox college.

Why has Sr. Jane been subjected to more censure than the “nuns on a bus” or the Leadership Conference of Women Religious or the National Coalition of American Nuns?
For citing studies that argue that homosexual inclinations are learned, not innate and supposedly for stepping outside the range of her academic expertise!

I’m sure if a nun had said, “Studies prove homosexuals are born that way and have no control over their behavior,” the few parents who might have voiced objections would have been ignored.

If the expression of the Truth is not safe in those circumstances, an orthodox nun from an orthodox order and college speaking at the invite of an orthodox pastor under an orthodox bishop, we’re all doomed.

The “parents” who came to the “parents only” meeting and apparently exceeded the number of enrolled families should be ashamed.   The injustice of this whole thing breaks my heart.

Of all the stupid examples of “Common Core” I’ve seen

This has to be the dumbest:

The correct answer is simple: “There is not enough information.” The very first word problems I ever remember were focused on simply knowing how to read the problem and whether there was enough information, not enough information, or too much information. It’s on every standardized test: “D. There is not enough information to solve this problem.”

I’m as pro-homeschooling/”parents are the primary educators of their children”/subsidiarity anti-educational bureaucracy as the next paleocon. I’ve seen some legitimate complaints about “Common Core,” besides the complete destruction of local authority and academic freedom, such as math problems where the solution is “the most correct,” rather than simply “correct.” One of the first such examples was something like 357 + 249 =
Students were asked to use multiple methods of estimation to show that the answer could be estimated at 500, or estimated at 600, but the “most correct” response was 606-or whatever the particular numbers were in the example. Recognizing the importance of estimation as a step, I still think it’s stupid to confuse the issue by using “multiple answers” in one problem, and saying that the “correct” answer is “the most correct.” After all, if math is subjective, then everything is, and if that’s how accountants and bureaucrats do math, that explains both our government and corporate America.

Nonetheless, many examples of how bad “common core” supposedly is seem to say more about the people presenting them. If I see a hand-written example of a “Common Core Assignment,” and the person can’t spell properly, it kind of diminishes their credibility. It would be nice to see the original assignment photocopied, as presumably in this case.

Many of the “Common Core” math strategies that get criticized are the same strategies that have been used successfully for years by private tutoring services and charter schools–the same ones that NCLB-type (neo)conservatives advocate as being so much more effective than “failed” public schools.
Similarly, (neo)conservatives complain about how we’re failing to “compete” with schools in other countries, or how kids in the US were expected to know far more by the time they finished 8th grade 100 years ago than they’re required to know today, how to get into college 100 years ago you needed Latin and Greek but now people graduate college without basic English, etc., yet suddenly it’s “Why is my kid being required to know this in elementary school when I didn’t learn it until middle school or high school?”
Those kinds of self-contradictory arguments only serve to undermine our cause, especially when they come from homeschoolers.
People get so reflexively angry about “Common Core” that they want to search out any fault they can find and then shoot the messenger when told that the fault they’re finding isn’t in the problem.

As the saying goes, “There are three kinds of people in this world: those who are good at math and those who aren’t.”
I’d say it’s more like, good at math, good at elementary math but not higher, good at higher but not lower, and just not good at math. I’m in the third category. My brain isn’t wired for memorization, partly because I want to understand how things work. Common Core seems to be targeted at explaining processes, so kids are better prepared for higher level math, but it doesn’t work for those whose brains are wired for memorization, and that is the real problem with “Common Core,” No Child Left Behind, and everything in between: you can’t standardize education because you can’t standardize people.

“I should be able to love whomever I want”–Really?

I think I’ve made this observation before, but the problem is not the redefinition of “marriage”; it’s the redefinition of “love.”
The foundational argument for “same sex marriage,” the premise that makes even many otherwise pro-life Christians nod their heads in agreement, is “I should be able to love whomever I choose.”  As soon as somebody–whether it’s Phil Robertson or Rick Santorum or whomever–points out the obvious implications of that argument, people scream “bigotry!”, “Slippery slope!”  and so forth.

I’ve never understood why “slippery slope” is a logical fallacy, since it is precisely how things so often work (a friend pointed out once that it’s a deductive fallacy but not an inductive fallacy, which makes more sense).  Anthony Kennedy’s argument in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that people have the right to decide for themselves whether the unborn baby is a “blob of tissue” or a “person” was the same argument he used to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.  The Supreme Court’s decisions about “gay marriage” in June 2013 have been quickly followed by moves to legalize polygamy (though, I would argue, Catholic ethics notwithstanding, that that would be a step in the right direction from our current situation of serial divorce and remarriage, as the author I link suggests) and efforts to normalize pedophilia have already begun.

So much for “that’s just a slippery slope argument.”  However, the slope began when we redefined “love” as “romantic feelings.”  The premise “Shouldn’t someone be able to love whomever they choose?” sounds good on the surface, but it’s quite a leap from that to “Shouldn’t someone be able to marry whomever they choose?”  In between are several presumptions.
It all goes back to the redefinition of love.

1.  “Love” does not necessitate “marry.”  That should be obvious.  We are called to “love” everyone, including our enemies.  That does not necessitate marrying them.   Marital love is supposed to be about learning how to love other people.  Ideally, marriage should be based upon a combination of attraction, friendship and practicality, but, sometimes, marriage is exactly the milieu, like the family, in which we learn to “love our enemies.”

Marie and Frank Barone, _Everybody Loves Raymond_

“Didn’t I teach you anything? You got a problem with your woman, you don’t go out and get another one. Then you got two problems.” –Frank Barone

2.  “Love” does not necessitate “have sex with.”  One of the ways the normalization of same sex attraction has effected “heterosexuals” is that it’s impossible to just be friends: look at the efforts to turn every fictional friendship into a sexual relationship.  This was already a problem a few generations ago, as C. S. Lewis discusses in _The Four Loves_.

Holmes and Watson

Like these guys

3.  As St. Gianna Molla put it so succinctly, “Love is a choice.”  You *can* love whomever you *choose*.  But the lie of “choice” in the same sex argument, like the lie of “choice” in abortion, is that they claim the right to choose somethiexng they say they have no choice about.

4.  Love is not a feeling.   People these days define love as “how someone makes me feel.”  “I love you” comes to mean the same thing as “I love spaghetti.”  Love becomes entirely about the subject, and the object of the love becomes just that, an object for use, whether it’s a food or another person (this is of course the standard Catholic argument on all these subjects, and I’ll be accused of “parroting,” I’m sure).

Karol Cardinal Woytyla, _Love and Responsibility_

When we see love in the light of those conditions, it takes way the argument that one’s choice of a marriage partner should be based primarily upon attraction.  All of the madness in our society comes from a failure to understand “love.”

“I love you” is not about how “you” make “me” feel; it’s about how “I” make “you” feel.

Part 2: Reflections on The Memorial of St. Wenceslas

I realized that yesterday was the feast of St. Wenceslaus. When my Dad played for daily Mass, the last three days in September were an opportunity to break out some Christmas music: “Good King Wenceslaus,” and then the angel songs for Michaelmas and the Guardian Angels. It’s become a tradition for one of us to call the other on September 28 and for us to sing it together. In 2011 and 2012, I didn’t quite have the energy to sing the duet, but we tried. This year, it didn’t happen. So, here it is:

Good King Wenceslas; click for a Youtube of the Irish Rovers rendition (happened to be my first hit on YouTube, and since my Dad likes them, it fit)

The hardest part of this last 6 months for me (Thursday having been the sixth mensiversary of my surgery–another day that went by in a blur) has been my inability to sing. Not only can I not carry a tune, but I can barely sustain a sentence speaking. I’ve already explained in my previous post why I opted not to get surgery, and even if I got it, I wouldn’t be able to sing.

I cry almost daily about it. I first mentioned it the day I “got my voice back” after my “temporary injection.” I was watching the 2004 _Phantom_ movie with the kids and couldn’t help but burst out with “Angel of Music,” only to croak like Carlotta in “Poor Fool He Makes Me Laugh.” I keep dreaming that suddenly I try and, even though I still can’t talk, I can sing like I did before.

Once in Fifth Grade, my friend’s father followed me to the car leaned down when my Mom rolled down the window, touched me on the shoulder, and said, “I know what happiness is! Teach this kid a new song!”

The late Laurie Beechman (1953-1998), Broadway’s longest-running Grizabella. Click here for an amateur recording of one of her performances. Everything comes to a halt when the audience applauds.

When I was in high school, and my great ambition was to return to St. Jude (now closed) as a teacher or principal, another friend, Jeff, my future best man, would joke that “twenty years from now” (which is now), I’d still be walking down the hall singing Andrew Lloyd Webber shows (all parts, all the way through), come into teacher’s lounge, and Mr. Z would still be sitting there, saying, “John, shut up!” Or the time his dad was preparing a sample interim for a demonstration of how to write them in the “new” gradebook software, and wrote, “John Hathaway is a terrible student. He’s in my Trig/Pre-Calc class. He sings in the halls, falls asleep in class, tells jokes, and has a 110 average.”

Side story: the latest I ever went into the pool was in mid-October (I think the 15th), when their family came over for dinner, and Jeff convinced me to go swimming. The next day, at lunch, a girl who graduated the year before sat at our table. We were talking about swimming the night before, and she said, “You were at his house?” (Our parents were friends through church and Cursillo). “Yeah, his mom and my mom are friends,” he said. “And my dad and his dad,” I replied. “And my dad and him,” Jeff retorted, referring to the amount of time his dad I and would spend talking about computers. A few years later, during my parents’ annual Christmas party, which had a particularly big guest list that year, Jeff went to get a regular cup from the cabinet instead of a disposable. His sister scolded him and said that was impolite: “That’s for family.” “But I’m like family, aren’t I, John?” he replied, and I validated. When Mary met Jeff, he asked her, “Do you like Barry Manilow?” She said, “I don’t know yet.” He said, “Well, you’re going to have to.”

Here Comes the Night (no link)

_Evita_ got me through the Clinton years, and Eva’s poignant prayer at the end of “Waltz for Eva and Che” has always been a catharsis for me: “Oh, what I’d give for a hundred years, but the physical interferes–every day more, O my creator! What is the good of the strongest heart in a body that’s falling apart? . . .”

Back in VA, when I’d see a sign for Dumfries, or Mary would talk about her friend who used to live in Carlisle, PA, or just being on the VRE or Metro, would evoke “Skimbleshanks.”

“They were sleeping all the while I was busy at Carlisle Where I met the stationmaster with elation! They might see me at Dumfries if I summoned the police If there was anything they ought to know about.”

Allie (who, after her most recent growth spurt and personality growth, is starting more to fit her full name, Alexandra) has always preferred Provolone. One time, I bought her some when we had gone to Wal-Mart for one specific reason, and she said, in the car, “Well, are you gonna sing it?” Whenever we’d pick some up at the grocery store, or go to Subway, I’d sing the verse from the Italian mouse in “There Are No Cats in America” from _An American Tail_:

“The Times were harrd in Sic-cily; we hada no provolonay! The Don, he wa-as a tabby wi-ith a taste for my brother Tony! When Mama went to pleada for him, the Don said he would see her. We found her Rosary on the ground. Poor Mama Mia! BUT–“

During our first two years here, when I was doing my gardening, I would see my sunflowers, think of “Like a sunflower, I yearn to turn my face to the dawn,” and start singing “Memory,” or just doing labor which always leads to “Look Down” or “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” and thus everything that follows. I’d sing “Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer” when I was in a joking mood about Josef & Clara’s mischief and bickering.

In the ICU and rehab, I kept playing songs in my head, like Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love” or the Four Seasons’ “Working My Way Back to You.”

Now, I just keep thinking of the best song from _Love Never Dies_: “Till I Hear You Sing”

Love Never Dies

Part 1: “We only read you when you write”

I truly thank God for Facebook and for the technology that both keeps me alive and compensates for each new problem that comes along. It can be tough sometimes to tell if I’m staying up because of FB or because of the pain, but I only have to think of the many nights before the Internet (and, thus, before Mary) when I would lie awake in pain and have nothing to do except read if I felt well enough, no one to talk to, etc. And now, with my vocal cord paralysis, it has been quite a living Purgatory as someone who “loves to talk.”

In July, I had a window of opportunity when my “temporary injection” gave me a voice that just sounded like laryngitis, which, when you think about it, it technically *was*. They inflated my vocal cords with a substance (the doctor kept referring to it as “gel,” but the nurse said it was Botox) to see how well it worked. People asked me to say something profound for my “first words,” and I quipped, “It will probably be something like, ‘[N], stop that!'” As it happened my first words, two days after the injection, were, “Let’s see if this works.” Then I began to recite the Gettysburg Address, which I have mostly memorized because of a great lesson on critical reading I built around it. When I started calling family members, the joke was, “I never thought the day would come I’d be glad to hear John talk.” When I called Mary’s parents, and got disconnected, her dad called back and said, “Mary, some guy just called impersonating your husband!”

When it wore off much sooner than expected, and the scope showed no change in my paralyzed cord, the doctor jumped to the most advanced procedure, reenervation, when they bypass a nerve (he didn’t say where they get the nerve from to restore nerve activity in the paralyzed muscle. He even said that he was reluctant to do the procedure on a Marfan and that it was probably too late (as I later read, the procedure works best 3 months after the paralysis, and this was already 5 months). Everyone with Marfan synrome who had vocal cord paralysis after an aortic repair told me that the laryngoplasty (the standard surgical method) didn’t make much difference, and a couple said they lost their voices entirely. Given the risks of the two surgeries, and the minimal benefit I got from the injection (since I still couldn’t sing–more on that later), I decided to leave well enough alone. If God wants me to have it fixed, or He wants to heal me miraculously, He’ll do it just like He did with my aorta (both times).

In the meantime, I constantly think the way I used to, gathering ideas I’d like to share with Mary, the kids, my parents or her parents in conversation, and then remembering I can’t. Somehow, it’s very difficult, though, to “keep in touch” with family online. My mom’s the only one who seems to use email much. My siblings have always been less “into” technology than I am.

Online, I can still share my thoughts. Fittingly, since we met online, chat has become the most effective means of communication for Mary and me. Skype was literally a life saver for me in the hospital, and my future sister-in-law suggested we keep in touch that way, but I just figured out how to get my account working on “my” laptop. I also just finally fixed a glitch on our web mail with Comcast. Even when I had a pretty clear speaking voice after my injection, I still had to wait for times when it was quiet to call. I was sharing all these frustrations with Mary last Sunday afternoon and she said, “Hey! Your voice actually sounds pretty good right now!” I realized it did, and, though I missed my OCDS meeting yet again we sampled a re-entry to the social scene by arriving late to a gathering we’d been invited to, and the next day I called my parents. Even so, ironically, I just don’t know what to say anymore. Thoughts I just want to share for the sake of sharing I do on Facebook and on here and consider them “shared.” Writing this long two-part piece has taken me about 2 or 3 hours so far, and I’m not even finished editing from the versions I posted on Facebook. So I really don’t know what my family members have or have not read on Facebook or my blog, and emailing seems redundant: so much I wish I could say and yet I’m at a loss for words or motivation.

I don’t know which part of my ICU experience I look back on with greater dread: the time period where I was mostly anesthetized and dreaming/hallucinating, or the few weeks where I was fully aware but unable to communicate except by tapping on letters on a board. My hands weren’t steady enough to write and, honestly, I haven’t really tried to write other than signing my name since I’ve been home.

I was essentially “locked in,” having the trach in my throat keeping me from speaking at all. Once I got over the paranoia and the shakes enough to trust the computer, everything changed, and everyone noticed it, but prior to that, although I did get some reading done, I spent most of my time praying the Jesus Prayer. It was very effective spiritually, but I don’t think I’m quite up to that level of hermitage yet.

I’ve blogged before about the greater significance of “Ships” (written by Ian Hunter; popularized by Barry Manilow), always one of my favorite songs, now that I’m an adult, how I always dreamt of acting it out with my dad or with my kids, and having one of them sing it for me when I’m gone. Now, the lyrics are all the more poignant. While searching for an image to go with the song, I found this Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem:

“He said, ‘It’s harder now, we’re far away. We only read you when you write.”

Give Kids The World: Ice Cream for Breakfast

Give Kids the World Village is having a special fundraiser/awareness campaign called “Ice Cream for Breakfast.”

Ice Cream For Breakfast is a grass-roots awareness and fundraising campaign inspired by one of the more unique traditions of our thousands of visiting wish families. At Give Kids The World, families are treated to complimentary, all-you-can-eat ice cream in the Village’s Ice Cream Palace from morning until night- even for breakfast!

We hope you will help support the Village by setting a goal, creating a mini-campaign online and asking your friends and family to join you in your efforts. Once you meet your goal we encourage you to host your own ice cream social or just meet your supporters for a scoop at your neighborhood ice cream parlor.

You can read more and either make a donation or start a mini-campaign by clicking here.
Give Kids the World Village is an amazing entity: an all-inclusive, self-contained resort for “Wish families” in Orlando, FL. The resort itself has enough to fill a week, especially for families with disabilities. While we were there last November, we encountered families who ended up spending most of their vacations in the hospital, although we were all blessed with relatively stable help. Families are supposed to come through sponsoring “Wish” programs like Make a Wish, though I’ve read of at least one family that raised their own funds independently. It’s a “once in a lifetime” vacation, and a particular child can only be sponsored once, but families with multiple children with severe illnesses have been known to come back for other children.
In any case, the wish child and immediate family are always welcome to return and visit the resort for “day use,” play miniature golf, ride the carousel, etc., and eat at the restaurants (below) for a nominal fee. The child gets a “star” in the Castle of Miracles:

Allie's Star is somewhere in this "constellation"

Allie’s Star is somewhere in this “constellation”


Many of the volunteers we encountered were relatives of past wish children. They say that the staff is like over 90% volunteers, and they ranged from teenagers to college students to working adults to retirees.
The Make a Wish process is a lot simpler than one might think. The child no longer has to be terminally ill: just a diagnosis of a condition that may likely cause death before age 18. Indeed, I saw on my Facebook news feed the other day an article from Make a Wish about how “Wish children” tend to have better prognoses. We applied for Allie, got a letter from our primary care physician, and within 2 weeks got a letter that she was approved. This was about a year ago. Two local volunteers met with us, talked in detail with me and with Allie about her wishes, her interests, etc., and with me about our family’s overall situation. I explained that while it was Allie’s “wish”, the urgency pertained to my health, and they put us on a fast track to get in for November.
I hadn’t blogged much about it because I’d intended, and still intend, to write a book about our experience, based around selections from the literally thousands of digital photos we took.
Anyway, a week at GKTW includes 3 days at Disney World, 1 day at Sea World and 2 days at Universal/Islands of Adventure. It includes all the Make-a-Wish amenities (like cutting in line and free professional photos), plus things that are specific to GKTW: every morning and evening at the resort has an “event.” The family gets a food card for 3 meals a day at one of the restaurants (the Ginger Bread House, all you can eat buffet, sponsored by Perkins, a sandwich shop sponsored by Boston Market, or an “Express breakfast” at the Ice Cream Palace). Then there’s all you can eat Ice cream from early in the morning till like 11 at night, and the possibility of having pizza delivered to the villa: an option we used one evening just for the sake of trying it, but they feed you so much you don’t need to.
In addition to the “cutting in line” and free photos at the amusement parks, GKTW has characters representing the various parks almost every morning. There is some sort of party almost every evening, and the family gets copies of all photos taken by GKTW photographers, along with options in the going away package to get different albums, posters, etc. We have a nice poster hanging on our wall of our family with “Belle.”
"Tale as old as time . . ."

“Tale as old as time . . .”


The founder of GKTW, is Henri Landwirth, arguably one of the most amazing “unsung heroes” of the world. A Holocaust survivor, Landwirth got his US citizenship and was immediately drafted to the Korean War, later using the GI Bill to get a degree in hotel management. He worked his way up in the hotel field and got into the hotel business in Florida right when NASA and Disney World were getting started. He also made friends with some of the astronauts. Eventually, he started a number of charities, including an astronaut scholarship, a charity to provide clothes for homeless and abused children, and, of course, Give Kids the World. He had been involved with Make-a-Wish since the seventies, serving as one of the main providers of hotels for wish families. When he learned that a little girl passed away before her arrangements could be made, he started GKTW to expedite travel arrangements. Over the years, it grew from free hotel rooms to the villas to the full resort it is today.
We made ample use of the unlimited ice cream, stopping every day right before we left for the parks to get shakes and/or sundaes “to go,” and having “ice cream for breakfast” on our second to last day. However, we didn’t many pictures there.
Our last meal at the Ice Cream Palace

Our last meal at the Ice Cream Palace

11 “Hollywood” Films (and a PBS Cartoon) with Pro-Life Themes

PersonhoodUSA has posted a great piece on BuzzFeed called “10 Hollywood Movies that Accidentally Affirm Life.”
As some commentors have said, many of these are pretty intentionally pro-life (except _Horton_, given that “Dr. Seuss’s” widow sued pro-life groups for quoting the book), and I have blogged previously about _Knocked Up_, _Juno_, and _Waitress_.  However, one that is not on the list and is definitely unintentional is _Finding Nemo_, which includes the title character witnessing the deaths of his mother and “brothers and sisters” while he (along with his siblings) is still inside an egg.  Nemo is, of course, born disabled, and acceptance of his disability is a major theme of the movie.
Another good cartoon (though not a “movie”) that I’ve blogged about before is the _Magic School Bus_ episode “Cracks a Yolk,” starring pro-choice feminist Lily Tomlin. 

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