Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Let Us Strive Not To Let Things...

...Be Our "Undoing."

Today, I read on someone's blog that a certain political ad had been her "undoing."  As this statement was a bit on the dramatic side, it got my attention and caused me to reflect.

Over the years, I have gone through many stages.  I don't have an extremely stable outlook on life.  Perhaps this is a bad thing, but it has also been an interesting ride.  I have gone from being a Reagan conservative to a liberal feminist to a Rush Limbaugh fan;  from a devout Catholic to a person who wanted to join the Anglican Church to a Latin Mass aficionado; from a public school teacher to a homeschool mom.  I have been on both sides of the political and religious spectrum.  Right now, I am pretty much in the middle.  I think that Ellen DeGeneres is the funniest woman on the planet.  I don't think the Catholic Church should be forced to pay for medical insurance that provides services that go against its teachings.  But, I also cheer on Ben McKenzie as he travels the country encouraging people to vote.  Yes, he's encouraging them to vote for Obama, but at least he is a classy guy.  And, even though I think Romney has a lot of good ideas, that whole 47% thing really, really pissed me off.  But, Obama's "guns and religion" comment from the last campaign pissed me off, too.

So, as you see, I am a person who is difficult to pigeon-hole.  Maybe I should be on meds...  Whatever.

Now -- back to the "undoing" thing.

How do we not allow other people and their opinions to be our "undoing?"

By looking for the virtue that most people have.  I am not talking about homicidal, child-molesting sociopaths here.  I am talking about your regular, mostly law-abiding citizens.  And, by and large, these regular, law-abiding citizens have within them goodness.  Seek out that goodness.  Appreciate it.  Enjoy it.  And try to stand, and I mean really stand, in the shoes of "the other" before casting judgment.  Before letting "the other" and his/her opinions be your "undoing."

I mean, even if you don't agree, can't you understand why a lot of people would think that it is only fair to allow gay people to marry?  I understand this.  And -- to risk being "excommunicated" -- there are some advantages I see to having gay marriage be legal.  When I was a young woman, living near San Francisco, the AIDS epidemic was in full swing.  And a lot of this epidemic was brought about because of people having sex that probably didn't involve a lot of commitment.  By allowing gay people to marry, the more conservative among us could figure it this way -- "at least the gay people are now being encouraged by our societal laws to form truly loving and lasting relationships." I also read the 2012 Democratic Platform yesterday.  And I discovered within it a statement that churches would not be forced to perform marriage ceremonies that go against their beliefs.  That's right.  I bet a lot of us didn't know this.

And on the other side of things, I hope the more liberal among us can see -- even if they don't agree -- that religious people might take it as a violation of their freedom to have to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives to their employees.  I mean, last time I checked, condoms were not that expensive and didn't require a prescription.  Yes, I have bought condoms.  They make great water balloons.  And yes, condoms are a bit of an effort to use as compared to some of the birth control methods that do require a prescription.  But at least, dear ladies, with condoms your eggs are not being used as the "chattel of the pharmaceutical companies" (favorite O.C. quote ever). 

With that being said, I really don't believe that Obama and his people are actively trying to persecute us religious folks with the "contraceptive mandate."  I think they are actually sincere in their ideas that this law is necessary for ensuring the well-being of women.  We may have a legitimate debate about how to define and bring about the true well-being of women in our society and in the world.  But, I am willing to concede that the Democrats truly want the best for women, so I am not going to villify their motivations.

So, as this election season -- thank the Good Lord -- draws to a close, I hope we will choose to see the good in others.  I hope that we will not jump to hasty and unfair conclusions about the motives of the "other side."  In my life (and this will probably be another blog post on another day), I have often been treated the most kindly by people with ideas that are very different from my own.  So, when I am tempted to become impatient and irritated at "wrong" ideas, I call this to mind.  And then I don't become "undone" -- by anyone or anything.  Usually, anyway. ;-)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

That Whole Lena Dunham Thing

Did y'all see that Lena Dunham commercial?  The one that playfully compares having sex for the first time to voting for the first time, in order to -- drum roll please -- get people's attention.

Before I comment in my usual rebel without a cause style about this commercial, I want to mention something.  I just read that Ms. Dunham got many hateful tweets from conservatives about this commercial.  Although, of course, she got many positive comments from liberal people.  Yeah.  Go figure.  Anyway, it is just plain wrong for conservative people -- who are supposedly Christian and believe in charity and believe in loving the sinner and all that -- to send this young woman hateful messages.  And if you are a conservative who does this kind of thing, I have some news for you.  You are basically helping Obama win the election because of your hypocrisy.

So, as for the commercial.  It has been said that this ad treats women as unintelligent.  That it is demeaning towards them.  That it is disgusting.  Someone even said that she can't believe the thing even exists.

Well, this is my take on it.

I think the ad is not meant to be a serious, logically reasoned argument for the positions of President Obama.  I believe it is intended as over-the-top humor, meant to grab the attention of a young person who is otherwise not paying attention.

Envision This:  Eighteen-year-old student studying in one of the common areas of any of a number of liberal (or fairly liberal) institutions of higher education.  There is a TV in the room.  The TV is on.  Said young woman is engrossed in her organic chemistry textbook.  Suddenly, she hears, "Your first time should be with..."  What does she do?  She looks up from the chem book and watches the rest of the commercial, which is encouraging her to vote in the next election.  For Obama, yes.  Because the person who made the commercial is campaigning for Obama, as is her right as a citizen of this country.

Now, if this hypothetical young college student is diligently studying her textbook and she happens to hear the following words emanating from the television -- "It is your right and duty to vote..." -- well, she will probably not look up from those engrossing diagrams of carbon-based compounds.   Because, after all, she has a test the next day.

Let's face it -- sex does get people's attention.  You may not like this, but it is true.

As for the political positions embraced by Lena's commercial.  They are the positions of President Obama and many of those who support him.  You may not like these positions, but you should not be angry that a commercial supporting the President supports these positions as positive things.  I mean, commercials for a candidate are going to portray his positions in a positive light.  This is to be expected.

So, as a Catholic, wife, mom, citizen, and person with a rather inappropriate sense of humor, this is how I am going to respond:

1.  I am going to appreciate Lena Dunham as the beautiful, clever, funny, talented young woman that she apparently is.
2.  I am not going to be offended by her, as I do not believe she intended to offend me.  And, even if she did intend to offend me, I am still not going to be offended.
3.  I am going to try to view the issues that she brings up -- women's rights, gay rights, foreign policy -- through her eyes before I respond.  Why?  Because in order to build up a fraternal society, in order to have fruitful discussion, we need to be willing to see things from different perspectives.  Even perspectives with which we do not agree.  If you want someone to consider your position, you have to be willing to consider theirs.  Otherwise, you are just going to have a nation that is full of people in trenches who are unwilling to talk to each other.
4.  I am going to discuss this ad and these positions with my husband, children, and any others who wish to have a calm, civilized exchange of ideas.  I am not interested in throwing grenades.  I am not interested in having a "culture war" with you.  One of the popes once said that war is not good for anybody -- even the victors.  I found this to be a fascinating statement.  And maybe it applies to culture "wars" even as it applies to conventional "wars." 

And as for those who cite this ad as evidence that the Obama campaign is dismissive of the intelligence of women, I would like to respond by saying that there are other ads and techniques being employed by the Obama campaign that are much more cerebral in nature.  For example, Ben McKenzie -- double major from University Of Virginia in Foreign Affairs and Economics, successful actor, speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, supporter of a couple of rockin' good charities -- has been out campaigning for Obama in places like Iowa and Wisconsin.  And he has been doing so in his characteristic intelligent and low-key manner. 

This whole thing kind of reminds me of the firestorm over Ronald Reagan's "It's Morning In America" commercial.  The one where he rode the horse around and told us all how great things were going to be again.  Many liberals became literally apoplectic over the whole thing -- saying it was dismissive of people's intelligence and demeaning to anyone with a sense of reality.  The shoe, as it seems, is now on the proverbial other foot.

Yes.  This is kind of a rant.  I will blame it on menopause.  Menopause is a convenient excuse for many things. ;)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What Women Want

This is much more complicated than "What Guys Want." But I will give it a shot.

Like guys, women do want sex. Let's not kid ourselves here. Women enjoy sex -- just the same as their male counterparts -- in spite of what some ultra-conservative types may tell you. I get really annoyed with the ultra-conservative types who try to lay all this heavy-handed crap on the ladies. Like it is their responsibility to control the men, because men just can't help being horny. I will not argue that women's sexuality differs from that of dudes, because it does. But, they still have desire. And it can be very strong. So, who is responsible here? We are responsible for ourselves. I would never -- for a stinking minute -- let my son get away with the idea that a girl could be responsible for his sexual actions.

Thank-you for letting me get that off of my chest.

Now, what else do women want? It depends on the woman. So, I will just tell a story that I think sums up what a lot of women want. Because it is a story that embodies the love, care, tenderness, consideration, and respect of another human being.

I was in the airport a few weeks ago. And I was sitting in the terminal next to a lovely young family -- husband, wife, two little girls, and a baby boy. The wife was holding the baby and her husband was seeing to the needs of their two girls -- who were probably about 3 and 5 years old. He was getting them snacks and helping them with their games. And he was doing this with great patience and gentleness. Not a hint of annoyance could be seen on his face. And it was an especially sweet sight because he was a rather manly sort of man -- with big muscles and tattoos. His wife was a slender, very feminine-looking creature. And as she sat holding her baby boy, the infant decided he was hungry. She was a nursing mum, so things had to be arranged for her to do this discreetly in the airport terminal. Her husband went to her and tenderly took the baby from her so she could arrange her clothes and seating position. He then handed their son back to her and quietly held a blanket in front of his wife and child so that she could position the baby at her breast without giving everyone a peep show. This manly man then tucked the blanket very gently around his wife and the baby. And he kissed her. Again, he did all this carefully, patiently, lovingly -- without a trace of haste in his actions. And the look on the wife's face as her husband did these things for her reflected her love and appreciation for him. I have never seen a more gracious and grace-filled interaction between a husband and wife.

Not all women desire to marry. Not all women desire a family. Some women want the single life and a career. Some women want a hot lover to go with their single life and their career. Some women want to marry, but not have children. Some women want children, but don't desire marriage. The permutations of what women want are seemingly endless. And I do not wish to disparage any woman's hopes and dreams. But, I have also seen that many women fear marriage and family life because they fear how they will be treated by men. They fear giving their hearts because they have been hurt. Or they have seen loved ones and friends be hurt, and they wish to avoid the pain they have witnessed. And I wonder -- if more women had confidence that their men would treat them the way the husband in the above story treated his wife, would they be more willing to open themselves up to love?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Morning Almanac

There is a lovely Catholic mom who is named Elizabeth Foss. She has a blog that I love; and she always does these Monday Morning Almanac things. So, I thought I would try it, too. But, I am a little different than her -- so, my post will be different, too... Hope you enjoy!


*Noticing God's Glory:  There is algae growing in my doughboy pool and in my birdbath. There is a gigantic orange spider living in its intricate web on the sliding door which leads from my kitchen to my back yard. And there is a 15-foot ant trail going from the outside of the house, through the garage, under the wall that is between the garage and the inside of the house, and into the downstairs bathroom. Once inside the bathroom, the ants circle around its perimeter and go back out the way they came in.  Now, if you really study these things, instead of just trying to kill them off -- you cannot possibly freaking tell me that their is no God. No offense, or anything...

*Listening To:  Van Halen. There is no better way to keep the passion alive in your marriage than by listening to Van Halen, either by yourself or with your spouse. People could save a lot of money on marriage counseling if they realized this simple fact. Rock on, Eddie...

*Clothing Myself In:  Tennis shoes that have holes in them. Jeans that, though they may not be perfectly sexy, fit. A yellow cotton LL Bean t-shirt. And a pink hoodie with navy blue stripes around the cuffs, waistband, and the inside of the hood. I look like an Easter egg on top. But, after I shower, I will put on one of my Harley shirts...

*Talking With My Daughters About:  How dudes sometimes suck, but that there are also plenty of nice ones. My advice to them is to find one of the nice ones -- one of the nice ones who is also hot. I mean, why sell yourself short?

*Talking With My Son About:  Army ROTC and how cool the whole military thing is. I refuse to be one of those nervous nelly moms, as that attitude would not be in conformity with my Van Halen-listening, Harley-t-shirt wearing persona.

*Thinking And Thinking:  About sex. Yeah. I'm Italian.

*Pondering Prayerfully:  Three of the nicest people I have known in my life have worked for -- or been volunteers for -- Planned Parenthood. Go figure. The Lord loves to challenge us, doesn't he?

*Carefully Cultivating Rhythm:  Zumba. Have you ever heard of it? A mix of aerobics and Latin-type
dance moves. I try to do it at least four times a week.

*Creating By Hand:  Sorry. I just don't do this.

*Learning Lessons In:  How to let my house be a little bit messy. I am kind of a neatnik. Well...I am a total neatnik. But, this makes everyone else in the family sort of frustrated. So, I am learning to happily appreciate messes that are happily made by people who are baking, quilting, scrap-booking, putting together fashion outfits, and working on music.

*Encouraging Learning:  One of the drawbacks of homeschooling and sending my kids to good Catholic Colleges? They have not had a lot of exposure to people of different "stripes." I am trying to rectify this. After all, people of different "stripes" can be a hell of a lot of fun.

*Begging Prayers:  One of my daughters is experiencing significant health challenges. Pretty tough when you're a fun-loving 22-year-old. If you're a praying type of person, please say a little one for her. If you're not a praying type of person, please hold her in your thoughts.

*Keeping House:  Trying to do less of this. See "Learning Lessons In" above.

*Crafting In The Kitchen:  Thank goodness for Trader Joe's.  That's all I can say.  Chopping and measuring and sifting and I just don't see eye-to-eye.

*Loving The Moments:  When my husband gets a little smile and a little twinkle in his eye that make him look just like he did when I met him 27 years ago.  This happens a lot when he listens to Van Halen.  Long live Eddie...

*Giving Thanks:  That I get to be a wife and mother.  Couldn't want anything more.

*Living The Liturgy:  Advent is coming.  I'm not sure exactly when, but I know there will be an announcement in the church bulletin.  If I miss it in the church bulletin, I will know it when I see the purple stuff in the church.  Then I will make sure to go to Confession.  Maybe I will even get an Advent wreath for my house.  I say this every year, but it has not happened yet.  Well -- maybe it happened once or twice.  A domestic decorating goddess, I am not.

*Planning For The Week Ahead:  This is basically pointless, as life has taught me many times.  But, I absolutely have to get the oil changed in the minivan.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bullying And Family Life

Yesterday, I spoke about the need for kids to be allowed to stand up for themselves against bullies.  Today, I would like to speak of how our homes and family lives can be used to shield our children from bullying and its negative effects.

Young people, common wisdom holds, are very peer-oriented.  It is quite important to them to feel accepted by their confreres, to "fit in."  And this makes them especially vulnerable to bullying.  Bullies can make their targets virtual outcasts at school and in other social situations, as most kids -- even those who aren't doing the bullying -- feel unable to stand up to these mean people.  So, the victims of bullies are often victimized twice over -- by the bullies themselves, and by the otherwise nice kids who don't befriend or stick up for them out of their own fear of the bullies.  I had this experience myself in school. When I was bullied, the kids who actually liked me would often avoid me because they were afraid to become targets themselves.  So, not only did I feel abused by the mean kids, I also felt very alone.

And this is where a positive home and family life are so important for young people who are victims of  bullies.  Now, I realize that for some kids, a good home life is a near impossibility.  And that is an issue to be addressed separately.  For now, I am speaking to parents -- married, single, straight, or gay  -- who have the ability to create a haven in their homes for their kids.  Who can make their relationships with their kids into safe harbors against the storms of life, including bullying.  And I believe this to be a grave parental responsibility.  I know that we as parents have plenty of our own problems, and it can be tempting to play down the problems that our sometimes difficult teens are having.  Really, though, in the long run, if we can reach inside and dig out of ourselves whatever is necessary to help our kids, we are not only helping them -- we are helping ourselves.  I mean, let's face it.  Nothing makes your life more miserable than a miserable kid. (Yes. I guess I am appealing a little bit to our own adult selfishness here.  Please forgive.)

I know that in my own experience of growing up, nothing comforted me more in the face of the bullies at school than looking forward to Sunday dinner at my grandparents' house, where my cousin would be over.  We used to play "The Flying Nun" and my cousin always got to be the Mother Superior.  We would attempt to "fly" by jumping off of my nana and grandpa's front porch.  And if you don't know what "The Flying Nun" is, then Google it. #generationgap ;-)

And after a tough day in the presence of bullies, what could be lovelier than a meal with a dad who will truly listen - or - having your mom read aloud from that ridiculous hippie-era book, "Flowers for Algernon," that your stuck-in-the-60's English teacher insists upon assigning - or - sitting on the couch watching a movie with your siblings, while your parents make you popcorn?

You, as parents, may say to me, "My kids just aren't interested in doing these kinds of things with us." Well, I beg to differ. With a little finesse on your part, dear parents, most of your kids would be happy to hang with you, to accept this kind of comfort from you.  You just have to be a little bit clever about it. Ask yourselves what would have made you want to hang out with your own parents when you were young.

After all, isn't it really in the home, with our families, where we are truly meant to find our comfort and sense of belonging in this life?  I think so.  And it is our job as parents to teach our children this, to give them this gift.  For if our kids know that they actually do have a place in this world, a place that is secure, then it will be much easier for them to say -- "Who gives a flying f**k about these bullies, anyway?"

Monday, October 15, 2012


Bullying.  A REALLY big issue among young people these days.

Of course, there have always been bullies. Many people, though, are blaming the current extent of the problem on today's technology -- iPhones, texting, Facebook, etc.  And I do not doubt that these things have greatly exacerbated the phenomenon.  I wonder, though, if something else is going on. Something having to do with the fact that -- at least since my kids were small -- children have been discouraged from standing up for themselves in the face of bullies. They have been told to "use their words" and to just avoid/ignore these nasty people. But, as we all should know, real bullies do not care about words and they will often hunt you down if they smell fear.

When I was in the third grade, there was a real bully in my class -- a girl, who was a fair amount bigger than most of the other children.  And she was downright mean. She would, for example, pin the second graders to the wall and demand their ice cream money.  The school authorities, for whatever reason, seemed helpless in the face of her nastiness. This girl used to come up behind me each and every day, as I was walking to my mother's car after class, and punch me. I would go home and cry about this to my parents. I had no idea what to do.  I had complained to my teacher, but no one at the school stopped this occurrence.  And I was at my wit's end.  One night, my father told me, "The next time she hits you, turn around and punch her."  I was terrified at the thought of this. I had never fought with anyone. Well, except for my siblings.  But, I decided to follow his advice. The next day, she walked up behind me and hit me, as per usual. I then spun around and let her have it.  Me -- in my Catholic school uniform skirt, bobby socks, and pigtails.  She ran off crying.  Upon returning to school the following morning, I was the hero of grades one through three and the girl never bothered me again.

I had a similar experience in middle school.  There was a sturdily built bully boy who used to constantly get in my face -- and the faces of others -- with his little nasty ways.  He used to crowd and body slam me fairly often.  One day, I slugged him.  His days of pestering me came to an end, and we even developed a sort of "friendship" -- mutual peace through the end of eighth grade, anyway.

Kids nowadays, though, would be suspended or even expelled, and their parents possibly sued, for standing up for themselves in the manner I have just described.  Don't get me wrong.  I am not for violence among children and teens.  But, true bullies -- in my opinion -- need to be faced down, especially at the beginning of their "bullying careers."  If a kid learns early on that his nasty behavior won't be tolerated by the nice kids, there is a better chance to nip the whole thing in the bud.  As it is now, good kids are being put into a position of weakness and vulnerability, while the bullies have all the real power.

And this is just ass-backwards.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Today begins the Year of Faith in the Catholic Church. Faith is more than just a belief in God. As the Catechism says:  Faith is man's response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to man, at the same time bringing man a superabundant light as he searches for the ultimate meaning of his life.

Sometimes, in our journey of faith, things go pretty smoothly. It is easy for us to see God and his goodness in the beauty of creation, in the friendship of others.  We may have good jobs, incomes more than adequate to provide for our needs and the needs of our families. If we are students, we may be getting good grades and have a lovely group of companions, with wonderful futures on the horizon.  We  may be blessed with good health -- physically and mentally. If we are married, we may feel truly of one heart and mind with our spouses. And it is easy to see God in our good fortune. It is easy to pray and to trust.  After all, we aren't feeling let down by him, at least in any major way.  We can pretty effortlessly see that "superabundant light" of which the Catechism speaks.

And then there are those other times. The times when we can't see even a flicker of that "superabundant light." We all have these times, methinks.  The times that truly suck. We graduate from high school or college and suddenly all of our closest friends are hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away. As new grads, we may be unemployed for long periods of time. Or, if we are fortunate enough to find jobs, they may be significantly below our skill level and pay something like $9.75 an hour. We might break up with our boyfriends, our girlfriends, or even our spouses.  Our parents may be nearing the ends of their lives, and if our relationships with them have been difficult, we often have the sad realization that we will never have the kind of conversation with them or affection from them that we have always hoped for. We might have lost jobs, houses, and retirement funds in the recent economic crisis. A crisis that still isn't over.  We may be having significant health problems that seem as though they will never really be resolved.

So, what do we make of these crappy times? How do we have faith during them? How do we even pray at times like these?

Well, for me, during times like these, I find it necessary to keep things simple.

During times like these, I can't listen to the Super Catholics on EWTN. I can't hang with the people who talk incessantly about the Big Issues in the Church -- Latin vs. English, OCP vs. Chant, the priest abuse crisis, how we need more vocations, whether or not Nancy Pelosi should be excommunicated, whether or not Obama should have been allowed to speak at Notre Dame, which Catholic colleges and universities are "Catholic enough," whether or not girls should wear sleeveless shirts and/or dresses and cover their heads at Mass, whether or not pants (on women) are proper, and on and on...

During times like these, I just like to imagine myself hanging out with Jesus in the evening, cooking some fish on the fire. I like to reflect on his gentleness toward people -- toward sinners, toward the poor, toward women. When you think about it,  Jesus was pretty gentle toward most everybody, because he knows how we struggle. He knows about all our problems -- and he does not wish to add to our burdens. He tells us that his "burden is light."  And when Jesus was harsh, to whom was he harsh? The hypocrites. Those who laid heavy burdens on people without lifting a finger to help them. The "thieves" selling things in the temple area. He was angry because they were "thieves," not because they were selling things. At least, that's how I read it.

So, during difficult periods in my life, when I am not feeling that "superabundant light" too much, I reflect on Jesus' gentleness. I say simple prayers, such as The Jesus Prayer.  And, frankly, sometimes that's the only prayer I can manage. I attempt to show my love toward the members of my family in my attitude toward them and in how I perform my "job" as a homemaker. And I try to be extra thoughtful and gentle to the people who cross my path each day -- especially those who are homeless or who are unemployed or who work very hard for very little money.  I just try to live the Christian life in its most elemental form, trusting that the Lord will get me through the hard times. Eventually, anyway.


Jesus Prayer:  My Jesus, mercy...

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Catholic Church And The Gay People

My daughters, who are 22 and 24 years old, have begun teaching a group of 11th graders who are preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation.  Their first class was last night, and something very interesting came up.  It turns out that the majority of the young people being taught by my girls thought that the Catholic Church "hates" gay people.  One of the kids actually thought that the Church categorically condemns gay people to hell.  Now, I presume that most of these teens have attended church and religious education classes at least fairly regularly throughout their lives, otherwise they would not be enrolled in the Confirmation class.  Something, therefore, has gone awry in their instruction, if this is what they believe the Church's attitude toward gay people to be.  And I am wondering if many Catholics -- and people in general -- have this same erroneous belief.

I don't want to brag about my kids, but they do have a proper understanding of Church teaching when it comes to morality; and they recognized that some corrective action needed to take place immediately in this situation.  So, they located a Catechism and read this aloud to the young people:

"The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible....  They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.  Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.  These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives...."

Not really hateful, is it?  Not really condemning.  Now, what the Catholic Church does advocate -- for EVERYBODY -- is the idea of chastity.  Chastity is, basically, reserving the sexual faculty for its highest purpose -- the bonding together of husband and wife in marriage and the bringing forth of children to be loved and raised in a stable family situation.   Is this easy for ANYBODY?  Absolutely not.  And the Church recognizes that it is ESPECIALLY difficult for gay people, as they are attracted to persons of the same sex and do not (generally speaking) wish to enter into marriage with somebody of the opposite sex.  So, the Catechism also states the following (emphasis mine):

"By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they (homosexual persons) can and should GRADUALLY and resolutely approach Christian perfection."

Apparently, then, the Church does not expect gay people to suddenly and effortlessly stop being gay -- with all that entails.  (Note the word "gradually" in the above statement.)

You may disagree with this teaching.  I understand that.  I do have a lot of sympathy for the position that many people hold, which is that gay people are that way by nature, and should not be criticized -- let alone condemned -- for entering into relationships, and even marriages, with people of the same sex.  But, if we are going to have any kind of discussion in our society regarding these issues, we need to start from the correct premises, one of which is that the Catholic Church does not hate or condemn gay people.

I also am willing to admit, after hearing what those teens in my daughters' class thought, that perhaps the Church has often fallen down miserably in helping people to have a compassionate and loving attitude toward homosexual persons.  With all the heated debates that are raging concerning gay rights -- especially the issue of gay marriage -- the Church has gone to bat very heavily to defend the idea of traditional marriage. And it has pointed out the danger (frightening many people) that Catholics may be forced to "approve of" gay marriage, under threat of civil lawsuits for not performing religious marriage ceremonies for homosexual persons and/or providing services for their wedding receptions.   I do not know how real these supposed "threats" to our religious and civil liberties are.  I am tempted to think they are being exaggerated to "encourage" Catholics to vote the "right" way.  But, I am realizing that in its current defense of traditional marriage, the Church has perhaps forgotten to -  first and foremost -- instruct its members in the proper attitude toward the homosexual person.  An attitude which should be one of "respect, compassion, and sensitivity."  For even if we "win the battle" for traditional marriage, we will have lost the "war" if the Church fails in this regard.  And by the "war", I mean that we as Christians are obligated to show all people -- including gay people -- the love which Christ has for them.  So, if we just make people with same-sex attraction abide by our moral ideas, but we do not show them the love of God through our love for them, I don't think we will be making Jesus very happy.  I think we will have dropped the ball in our calling as Christians.

Maybe the Catholic Church has put the cart before the horse here, at least somewhat.  And maybe it's time to reverse this.  We need to show people -- ALL people -- true charity before attempting to instruct them in anything.  And by "true charity", I mean loving them unconditionally.  Even if they do not wish to adopt our positions -- religiously, morally, or politically. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Being A Mom. Being Overwhelmed. Situation Normal.

A lovely Catholic mother of nine was recently talking about feeling overwhelmed.  She seemed to be of the opinion that if she was doing things as God wanted her to do them, she would not feel thus. 

Ahem... NO.

As the very wise Father Buckley has stated:  Just because you are a Christian doesn't mean that you will ride your surfboard on a continual wave of joy all your life.

True that...  And so, if you are a mother, you are going to feel overwhelmed sometimes.  It doesn't mean you are doing anything wrong, at least as far as being a Christian is concerned.  Especially if you have nine children -- or even one, for that matter.  Motherhood -- as well as any other vocation -- is going to leave you feeling overwhelmed from time to time.  Or even quite often.

First, let's remember that thing called "The Fall."  It happened in the Garden of Eden.  And nothing has been the same since.  If you are a Christian, you believe in "The Fall."  And if you are not a Christian and you don't believe in "The Fall," I bet you would still be willing to admit that a lot of things in this world, for some reason or another, seem awfully "f-d" up.  So, even if we are doing the very best job we can as mothers, we should not expect smooth sailing all the time.  And, perhaps, if we can accept the imperfections and frustrations inherent in life -- and even the feeling of being completely overwhelmed at times -- we will actually have more peace of mind.  Because at least we won't be beating ourselves up by blaming these normal feelings on our supposed shortcomings as Christian women. 

Stuff happens... You know?

One day, when my kids were 4, 2, and newborn, I awoke to the following.  The 4-year-old had peed in her bed, the newborn's diaper had leaked all over my bed, and the 2-year-old had thrown up sometime during the night (apparently without waking up) -- leaving me to find her, her bed, and the wall next to the bed absolutely covered in dried barf.  And I am not good with barf -- ask any of my kids.  I can take massive arterial bleeding better than I can take barf.  My husband was hurrying out the door to work as I discovered all of these things, so he was unavailable to help.  I cried.  I didn't know which mess or which child to attend to first.  I was all bleary-eyed, exhausted from taking care of the new baby during the night.  Did I feel overwhelmed?  You bet your little backside.  Did I feel this way because I was lacking something in my relationship with the Lord?  No.  I was feeling this way because there was pee and barf all over my house, and I was the only adult present. 

Another day, I thought I was finished with meals and messes for a little while.  If you are a mother of three little children, you will know that life is a constant whirlwind of meals and messes.  I was looking forward to some quiet playtime with my kids.  But, as I walked into the kitchen, I discovered that my then 3-year-old daughter had colored the bottoms of her shoes with blue marker and walked ALL OVER the white kitchen floor.  I wish I could say that I had a sense of humor about the whole thing, but I did not.  A massively poopy diaper followed by blue footprints all over my white floor were not my idea of a good time.  And I felt -- OVERWHELMED.  Again, not because of my lack of a spiritual life.  Simply because I was very tired and there were these freaking "decorations" covering my linoleum.  Yes -- that is what my daughter told me she was doing -- "decorating" the floor, because white was boring. 

Now, I admit that having a good prayer life will help you through these difficult times as a mom.  But, life is life.  And the world is fallen.  So, when s**t happens to us as moms, and we feel overwhelmed, we shouldn't beat ourselves up over it.  Jesus felt overwhelmed, too.  Remember how he used to try to escape the crowds for a while, to have some peace and quiet prayer time?  Of course, the people always managed to find him in his places of respite -- just like our kids always manage to find us. 

Admittedly, it is wise for us mothers to look at how we are structuring our lives.  It is wise for us to examine our daily routines and our expectations of ourselves and others.  At times, we can find ways to do things more efficiently, leading to fewer occasions when we feel stressed to the max.  And we should examine our spiritual lives.  They are important.  A positive spiritual life can definitely help us deal with difficult circumstances in more positive ways.  Just like Jesus taking his quiet prayer time apart from the crowds helped him in his mission on earth.

But, life is life.  It can be overwhelming.  I think it's healthy to accept that.  So, let's just say a little prayer, do the best we can from day to day, and try to remember that "this, too, shall pass..." 


Thursday, October 4, 2012

This Whole Titus 2 Thing...

For those of you who don't have any idea what this means, there is a book in the New Testament which is The Letter of Paul to Titus, and we more mature women are told the following:  Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be discredited.

This passage seems to be floating around the Catholic lady blogosphere, so I thought I'd toss in my two cents.

Now, I will be the first to admit that St. Paul and I have had our troubles over the years.  He has often annoyed me with all his seeming demands on women.  I find his personality irritating.  And if he and I had lived at the same time, I probably would not have converted to Christianity if he had come to my community to teach.  I most likely would just have gone home and continued with my previous lifestyle.  On the other hand, if St. Peter was the one who had shown up in my town, I would have been all over getting baptized.  But, with a little help from my classically educated daughter, Bridget, and giving more consideration to the culture in which St. Paul lived, I am not so inclined to be as frustrated with him these days.

Now, I am no Bible scholar, but I have realized a few things.  The first is that St. Paul seems to have had a rather high-strung personality.  Therefore, it is possible that more mature menopausal women -- who were assertive and energetic and possibly argumentative -- got on his nerves, causing him to come down on them in a way that seems a bit harsh today.  Secondly, he also admonishes the older men and the young men in a fashion very similar to that in which he instructs the "older women."  Nobody ever talks about that, so it could be that St. Paul is getting a bum rap.  Maybe he was not a chauvanist pig.  Maybe the people who take what he says out of context to further their own agendas are the chauvanist pigs.  Just sayin, ya know???  I also find it rather interesting that he doesn't specifically admonish the "young women."  So, I guess they get to do what they want???  Or, maybe he was a little sweet on them and so didn't notice their faults???  (kidding, kidding... I am Really.Just.Kidding... maybe...)  Also, due to the scholarly research that my daughter did for her Senior Thesis at Thomas Aquinas College, I have learned that St. Paul actually acknowledges that women have a great deal of authority -- buying, selling, acquiring property, and many other such things.  So, when you really look at it, he is not calling for women to be doormats.  I think he just wanted the Christians, including the "older women," to inject some degree of sanity into the crazy, partying society in which they lived.  And I believe his rather caustic personality makes it seem as though he was a very harsh taskmaster.  If he lived today, I think he would be a Mixed Martial Artist -- and we all know that the very best MMA fighters are really big softies underneath.

So, as one of these "older women," I look at it this way.  We can be fun.  We can laugh.  We can wear cute clothes and go to the salon for hair color, manicures, and pedicures.  We can even get tattoos and blast Van Halen while doing the dishes.  But, we should love and care for our husbands and children, showing them daily how much we value and enjoy them.  We should try to greet others who cross our paths with warmth and a smile.  We should try to be charitable towards all.  We should listen more than we talk and avoid, at all costs, gossip and behavior which excludes and hurts others.  It is my opinion that women can be among the most beautiful and comforting of all God's creations.  On the flip side, though, we can be among the most hurtful.  Let's try not to forget this.  Let's try to be the best of who we were made to be.  Because, maybe, this is what Titus 2 is really all about.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Expectations -- Or, Let's Have A Little Heart

I am a sensitive person.  I think most people are pretty sensitive, even if they pretend not to be.  And in our sensitivity, sometimes we get our feelings hurt or become offended when it is uncalled for.  We look at an action or omission by a relative, friend, or acquaintance and take it as a personal affront, when we really should be looking for the reasons behind what a person does or doesn't do.  Because, at times, what we need to do is have some compassion on the person who has supposedly "offended" us. 

Let me explain, using examples from my own experience.

Now, I don't mean to excuse my bad behavior here.  If I had been a bit more organized and thoughtful, the following incident would not have occurred.  Be that as it may, though, this is what happened.  It was my first year of homeschooling my kids.  I was pretty dang overwhelmed, trying to do all the normal housewife things (shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, bills, etc.), while, at the same time, attempting with all my might to provide my children with a good home education combined with a happy social life and healthy activities.  I was going, going, going from morning until bedtime in a way that I had never done before.  And I was pretty exhausted.  Now, my mom's birthday is in November.  And I completely forgot about it.  No card, no phone call, no nothing from me for her.  So, my dad called me and pretty much chewed me out.  I felt and still feel awful about it.  But, it also made me realize something.  When someone does something that is UNCHARACTERISTICALLY rude or insensitive, it might be good to check with that person to see if he or she is all right before you become offended or angry.   Because, often, I have seen (both with myself and those close to me) that when the "normal" rules of etiquette are not being followed (birthday remembrances, thank-you notes, expected appearances for certain social events such as wedding or baby showers, customary phone calls...), at least sometimes it is because something is wrong with the life and/or health of the "offender". 

More recently, someone close to me has been undergoing some significant health issues.  She is having to take the time to address these issues with a professional, while simultaneously keeping up with her job and other life obligations.  It has been pretty tough and she is dealing valiantly with the whole thing.  You would not realize, by being in her company, that life has not been easy lately.  Apparently, though, she forgot to write a thank-you note to someone for a small gift that was given to her.  And the giver of the gift was letting me know about this.  Now, the recipient of this gift is usually right on top of her thank-you notes and other such niceties.  And the gift giver knows this.  So, instead of becoming irritated over some seeming "offense," maybe it would be better if said gift giver inquired as to the life situation of the seeming "offender."

I have had and been witness to many other situations such as these two.  I have been unwell and have known others to be unwell -- either spiritually, mentally, or physically -- barely able to keep up with the basic demands of daily life, when others (even close friends and relatives) become offended at our apparent social gaffes and use these gaffes as occasions to heap even more demands upon us, to let us know of their disappointment with our failures.  And it just makes everything that much harder.  It might even push some people over the ragged edge upon which they are currently standing.

Again, I do not mean to be making excuses here.  I am all for manners and considerate behavior.  But, if someone you know -- who is normally a polite person -- acts out of character in this regard or slips up a little bit, instead of taking it as a personal affront, try to realize that the person might be in a difficult situation herself.  Without bringing up her supposed failure, inquire gently as to how things are going in her life.  Maybe she won't want to talk about it, but a little concern instead of harsh judgement might go a long way in helping her heal or get successfully through a painful time.