7 Quick Takes – Volume 7 (Scenes from an Italian Restaurant)

— 1 —

I decided to give up alcohol for Lent…which lasted for slightly over two days. I swear I’m not an alcoholic!

K and I had our delayed Valentines’ date last Friday. We went to a well known local Italian restaurant. (Who would have thought you could find good Italian food in small-town South Carolina?) Since we were looking at a half-hour wait, they suggested that we could get a drink at the bar. Completely forgetting what I had given up for Lent, I decided to have a beer while I passed the time.

Oops.

But after paying $5.00 for what I am pretty sure is the Italian version of Budweiser, I’m pretty sure that still counts as a penance.

— 2 —

Which makes me wonder if I should be giving up alcohol for Lent anyway. I don’t miss it all that much, and I do find a beer or glass of wine makes an evening out go a lot smoother. Has anyone given up giving up something for Lent when it just doesn’t have any spiritual benefits or otherwise seems pointless?

Anyone have an experience with un-giving up something for Lent?

— 3 —

But if I give up giving up alcohol, I have to pick something up. I am thinking about going to Daily Mass once a week. I went on Ash Wednesday (who didn’t?) and I was also able to go yesterday.

The best times for me to go are on Wednesday at 8:30 AM at my daughters’ school OR at Thursday 5:15 PM at my home parish.

Either way, Daily Mass is a different experience than Sunday Mass. School masses are unique on their own. The students sit with their classes, except that the kindergartners sit with the fifth graders. The older students are role models to teach the little ones how to behave. It is this sense of community and service that is the biggest difference between Catholic school and public school.

Non-student masses, like at my home parish, have their own unique character. Daily Mass is in the old chapel, with it’s pre-Vatican II art and architecture. It has all the old “Catholic” stuff: Statues, stained glass, and iconographic stations of the cross on the walls. Sunday mass is in the utilitarian modernist Church building which has absolutely no redeeming aesthetic or spiritual value.

The Catholic Church once made her priests take an Oath Against Modernism. It is a shame she did not require the same from her architects.

By Let Ideas Compete. Some rights reserved.

The old chapel (1935). The new church (1979) is in the background on the left.

But what stands out the most about Daily Mass is that because it’s not an obligation, it has a very different feel than the “here comes everybody” that is Sunday worship. People are there because they want to be there (with the possible exception of some of the students). It’s not just the devout either: I’ve seen non-Catholics, “bad” Catholics (including myself), and people in all stages of their spiritual journey. Everyone is seeking something and, daily mass isn’t a bad place for seekers.

— 4 —

When we went out on our date at the Italian restaurant, I noticed that many of the patrons were enjoying the seafood specials or the many delicious meatless pasta dishes.

Which makes me wonder: Is this defeating the purpose of Lent? By eating better than we normally were if we were not supposed to be in a penitential season?

Or is this completely within the the spirit of Lent? That we make the best of what we have instead of bemoaning what is not available?

Put another way, is learning to appreciate what we have and making the most of it consistent with the sacrificial spirit of the season? I think so. Making the best of what’s around is how we avoid “fasting like the hypocrites”.

— 5 —

I got into a recent conflict online about Catholic homeschooling.

Don’t get me wrong, homeschooling can be a great option for some families. It can be the best option for some families. But I don’t see it as a substitute for good Catholic schools.

I recognize that many homeschooling parents want to be able to send their children to Catholic school, but have legitimate concerns about quality and especially cost. I understand, and I agree completely. I believe those responsible for the decline, especially the clergy, will have to account to God for what they have done with the Catholic school system. But I see “Catholic homeschooling” as a symptom of the problem—a reaction to what is wrong with the Catholic school system—rather than a true solution. To rebuild the Catholic Church will require rebuilding our Catholic schools.

— 6 —

On my twitter feed, I have noticed several people passing the hashtag #sellingsickness.

content_female

Basically, the United States health care system is a for-profit, fee for service model. Which means that there is a conflict of interest in the system between selling you healthcare and getting you well.

While I do understand the value of modern medicine, I am also aware of its limits. The body is a system, which means that if you take medicine to change the functioning of one system, you may be changing far more than you intended.

Personally, I have found that many kinds of medicine make me feel worse than the illness. Eating well, exercising, and living a psychologically healthy lifestyle will do far more for your health than taking the latest pill.

— 7 —

While most people are interested in who will be the next pope, I don’t think enough attention has been paid to the name he will choose.

My money is on Pope Paul VII. I don’t think we will see a Benedict XVII and it’s still a bit soon for a John Paul III. John XXIV is a long shot. Leo XIV is a good dark horse candidate. Of course, a Pius XIII would be sending a very strong message about the direction of the Church, which is why I doubt we will see one.

On that note, Pat Archibold at National Catholic Register has a bit of advice for the future Holy Father for a few names to avoid.

http://www.ncregister.com/blog/pat-archbold/7-names-the-new-pope-should-avoid

I don’t know, maybe a Pope Lando or a Pope Luke is just what the Church needs…

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Let’s Talk About Sex (Follow Up)

This is the entire follow up post to my article about changing the conversation on sex.This was originally only posted at Real Catholic Love and Sex, but then I realized that some people might have problems posting because of internet filters. I have enabled comments, for anyone with this issue.

When I posted the original article, I noticed that a lot of the Catholic conversation on sex was very legalistic and focused on technical issues. I asserted that Catholics should change the conversation on sex.

And boy did I ever get a lot of conversation about sex! Some people agreed with me, others disagreed with me. Some were very informative. All were respectful and civil.

So, what I have learned?

Good Catechesis is Essential

Growing up, I didn’t hear anything about Catholic teaching on sex and marriage. I knew the Church frowned upon premarital sex. I had some vague idea that contraception wasn’t officially approved, but I was pretty sure there was a loophole.

The first time I heard why the Church opposed contraception, it was presented as a negative. Contraception was sinful, led to divorce and abortion, and was causing the downfall of Western Civilization.

When I first heard all the teachings on sexuality, they were presented as a series of rules based on this Natural Law reasoning. It was even in Question and Answer format, just like the old Baltimore Catechism. It was a list of things we should do because they are virtuous and a list of things we should not do because they are sinful. The only explanation given was because the Church said so and as good Catholics, we were to obey the Church.

The Baltimore Catechism fell out of favor because although it was good at teaching children the details of the faith, without showing them the big picture, it was easy for children to get confused about what the Catholic faith is all about. It was easy to think that Christianity was just a series of rules where you have to earn God’s love.

But Christianity is a love story. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his first encyclical, God is Love.

We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John’s Gospel describes that event in these words: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should [not perish, but] have eternal life” (3:16).

God loves us unconditionally. Although we may refuse his love, we need not earn it, nor worry about Him withdrawing it.

To have a truly Catholic view of sexuality, one must view sexuality in the context of this love story and our relationship with God. Love is never legalism.

Because God loves us, he wants us to succeed. God wants us to love better. Catholics believe God’s grace can change people to enable us to grow in virtue and come closer to him. That’s why He gave us the sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

But we cannot do it alone. If we try to follow the law without God’s help, we will be miserable and we will fail.

Natural Law Arguments Against Contraception Aren’t Convincing

Traditionally, the Catholic teachings about sex were not based on the relationship we have with God and each other, but were thought of as coming from the Natural Law.

St. Thomas Aquinas

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the purpose of sex is procreation, therefore, a reasonable man would not want to use his sexuality in a way that contradicts procreation. Deliberate wasting of semen was a serious sin. However, sex that did not lead to conception “by accident”, such as if the woman were infertile, was no sin because the spouses did not intend to frustrate the process.

Aquinas, though a brilliant theologian, was limited to the science of his time. He had a very different understanding of the nature of semen than modern science does. He had no understanding of the menstrual cycle or times of infertility.

Aquinas paid little attention to female sexuality.  He condemned male masturbation as worse than rape(!) for wasting the seed, but did not address female masturbation at all. His idea of the purpose of sexuality being only for procreation, fails to address the clitoris, an organ which serves no other function than female sexual pleasure.

The Catholic Church has progressed since the middle ages, and Aquinas’s writings were never official doctrine. Still, Aquinas’s logic is the basis of the modern Natural Law understanding of Catholic sexual ethics.

The Church recognizes correctly recognizes the bonding the spouses as a second purpose of sex, but insists that the bonding aspect cannot be separated from the unitive aspect.

Modern science also seems to have found a third purpose for sexuality: Sex is good for your health. Regular orgasms bring health benefits. This is especially true for women, although the concept is nothing new.

With modern understandings of reproduction, is non-procreative sex really that immoral? With the bonding and health purposes of sex, is it that unreasonable to engage in non-procreative activities when regular sex is not available? These are reasonable questions and an Natural Law argument alone cannot answer them.

That being said, the Natural Law arguments against sterilization are common sense, though less often presented. Note that the birth control pill and other forms of hormonal “contraception” are not really “contraception” at all, but temporary chemical sterilization.

The problem with sterilization is that healthy human reproductive system is designed to reproduce. Surgically or biochemically altering a working reproductive system to have more sex is very unhealthy and seriously disordered. This alteration has multiple unpleasant health consequences, from annoying to deadly, whether chemical, bioactive, or surgical, for men and for women. Charting your cycle and avoiding these side effects is good for your health and good for your marriage. Additionally, treating fertility as a disease to be medicated is a profound negative social statement about our bodies. This is why I believe fertility awareness is good for ALL couples, not just Catholics.

Confusing the argument against contraception with the argument against sterilization weakens both.

Understanding Theology of the Body is Critical

So, how does sexuality fit into our relationship with God? How do we few sexual ethics as driven by something more than just nature and reason? Does our sexuality have a deeper purpose?

In the late 1950s a young Polish priest recognized that the old Natural Law arguments were resting too heavily on Church authority and convincing fewer and fewer people. So, he set out to rethink the reasoning behind the teachings. Instead of starting with nature and reason as Aquinas did, he started with the human person.

What is the ethical way to treat our fellow humans? The dignity of the individual makes it unethical to use others as objects for our own ends. What is the meaning of love? Love must be self-giving. It is acting in the best interest of the other. To use is the opposite of to love. The purpose of our sexuality is to love, not to use. An ethical use of sexuality is one that “uphold and affirms” the dignity and value of other persons. Using psychology and ethical reasoning, he re-explained the reasoning behind Catholic sexual teaching. The result is the book Love and Responsibility.

Pope Paul VI invited him to be on the Papal Birth Control Commission, but Communist authorities in Poland kept him trapped behind the Iron Curtain. Perhaps Humanae Vitae would have been better drafted (and better received) had he been there.

The priest became a bishop, then a cardinal, and eventually Pope John Paul II. One of the first acts of his Papacy was to present a series of lectures called “Love in the Divine Plan”, or Theology of the Body.

Pope John Paul II

If Love and Responsibility is the “reason” side of John Paul II’s philosophy on sexuality, Theology of the Body is the “faith” side. The lectures cover the following topics:

  • The Original Unity of Man and Woman [before The Fall];
  • Blessed are the Pure of Heart;
  • The Resurrection of the Body;
  • Virginity for the Sake of the Kingdom (consecrated celibacy);
  • The Sacramentiality of Marriage; and
  • Reflections on Humanae Vitae.

The central question of Theology of the Body is that if we are, as the Catholic Church teaches, a unity of body and soul created in the image and likeness of God, then what do our bodies teach us about God? Likewise, what role do our bodies play in living out the gospel in our lives?

A full discussion of John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility and Theology of the Body are beyond the scope of this blog post. But John Paul II changed the question:  The proper use of our sexuality is not one of nature, but one of vocation. Theology of the Body does not contradict Aquinas, rather, it further develops Catholic doctrine on sexual morality.

The question Catholic sexual ethics attempts to answer is how do we use our sexuality and our bodies for “the good works that God has prepared in advance that we should live in them”? (Ephesians 2:10). Such an question demands not just a series of rules about what we should and should not do, but a lifestyle based on showing love: to our neighbors, to our spouses, to God, and to society.

See, don’t they look happy?

Because loving and giving of ourselves is what we were created to do, only in using our sexuality consistent with these purposes can we find true sexual satisfaction and true happiness.

When we want to use our sexuality in a different way, this is often a sign that something is wrong. Sometimes the problem is primarily physical. But we should not mistake a “scratching an itch” to satisfy a physical urge for the total self-giving and communion of persons that God has called us to. In fact, knowing that the fullness of sexual expression in a marriage may not be prudent for unusually long periods of time may be a prompt to better learn her body or to seek medical attention.

But in other cases, struggles are the sign of deeper psychological, relational, or spiritual problems:

  • Is the couple using sex to get intimacy because they have not fully developed their sexuality?
  • Does the couple have an inappropriately strict view of chaste behavior? For example, married couples should remain close, even when abstaining from sex. Engaged couples should be growing in closeness in preparation for marriage.
  • Are individuals or couples using the pleasure of orgasm as a drug to escape the problems of life?
  • Are there sexual issues in the marriage that make sexual satisfaction difficult during the infertile phase?
  • Does one spouse not respect the body of the other, seeing the other spouse as “legitimate” means to an orgasm?
  • Is one spouse unusually afraid of pregnancy to the point of being fearful of sex?
  • Does the person have a negative view or sexuality, thus failing to see understand the concept of how sexuality can be an instrument of love and not just a physical act?
  • Does the person have a negative view of women’s bodies, thus failing to understand the value of the self-knowledge of fertility awareness?
  • Is there a misunderstanding about the nature of God and our relationship with Him, leading people to view chastity as a negative, enforced by an angry God?
  • Does the person have unresolved issues from past sexual, emotional, or spiritual abuse?

When struggles bring issues to the surface, it can be painful and difficult, but it also makes them apparent so that we can deal with them.

As St. Augustine once said: “God does not command the impossible but while He commands, He warns you to do what you can and to ask for the grace for what you cannot do and He helps you so that you may be able”. Sometimes God’s grace works by pushing you to seek professional help.

Not All Abstinence Messages Are Created Equal

Another part of the problem is that sometimes Catholics get confused by non-Catholic messages that are superficially similar, but in reality are very different than what the Church teaches.

For example, when I was a teenager, a common tactic to convince young people to abstain from sex before marriage was to compare those who had sex before marriage to licked Oreos/dirty spit cups/unsticky tape. These tactics were most common among evangelical Christians, but were also used by some Catholics and even secular groups, especially in 1990s where abstinence based-education was often driven by fear of HIV/AIDS.

Such fear-based tactics are both theologically and psychologically problematic and, while well intentioned, sent the wrong message.

Instead, the Catholic concept of “chastity” is a positive message. It is one of self-control and self-mastery, not repression and denial. Indeed, viewing sexual morality as a series of prohibitions and obligations without the context of a loving relationship, both with others and with God is a guaranteed recipe for misery. Abstinence is a behavior and virginity is a state of being, but chastity is a virtue. Chastity is not saying “no” to our sexuality, but saying “yes” to it in a way that is truly loving.

Conclusion

Catholic teaching on sexuality is more than just a series of rules or technical requirements, but is a way of using our sexuality to be the people God created us to be. Unfortunately, the teaching has been poorly presented, often misunderstood, and occasionally mixed with non-Catholic beliefs.

Furthermore, from those of us who were raised with the overly simple “Jesus loves you” catechesis of the 1980s and 1990s, to those who were catechized with rules without explanation, like was common before Vatican II, many of us don’t really understand the big picture of the Catholic faith.

The solution to this is to learn what the Catholic Church really teaches.

Theology of the Body is critical to understanding Catholic teaching. Unfortunately the writings of John Paul II that are accessible to us are the English translation of a Pole speaking Italian on very dense theological matters.  So most of us will need some help.

Edit: I recommend Men and Women are from Eden by Mary Healy as a basic introduction to the topic and an excellent alternative to Christopher West’s Theology of the Body for Beginners.

Love & Responsibility Foundation and Fr. Roger J. Landry have some great resources on the subject. Dr. Edward Sri’s series on Love and Responsibility is an excellent summary of the rather dense book. Many people like Christopher West, although I, personally, am not a fan of his style. The Family Honor program teaches parents how to communicate this message to their children, with age appropriate material for children to teens.

Because Catholic sexual teaching can only be understood in the context of ALL Catholic teaching, you may need to brush up on that, too. Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclicals are fantastic. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an authoritative source for what the Church actually teaches and can be found at the Vatican’s website. For something a bit easier, a new youth catechism, YouCat, was released in 2011.


Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism series is incredible. We’re going through this in Adult Religious Ed (what the parents do during CCD) and I’ve learned something new every week.

This is the Year of Faith, so I encourage everyone to learn more about their faith. Think of it as something good to do for Lent.

7 Quick Takes – Volume 6

— 1 —

My daughters started Catholic school this week. This means that I have to get up early and drive them 30 minutes to school, which means my morning commute goes from 15 minutes to 50 minutes.

But they absolutely love it, they are learning a lot more than they did in public school. Most importantly, they are gaining an appreciation for the faith, which they hadn’t shown before. So, I would say it’s time and money well spent.

— 2 —

My post to change the conversation on sex has created a lot of conversations about sex. I have learned a lot from everyone: Catholics and Protestants, those who agree with me and those who don’t. I would like to thank everyone for keeping the conversation productive and civil.

I am currently drafting a “here’s what I learned post” that will probably be posted to the Real Catholic Love and Sex blog with a link from here.

— 3 —

Still trying to wrap my head around the fact that the Pope has resigned.

In all the media surrounding Benedict XVI, I realized that I had not fully appreciated his three encyclicals: God is Love, Saved By Hope, and Charity in Truth.  I look forward to his upcoming reflection on faith.

These are perhaps the best explanation of the Christian message I have ever read. So if you haven’t read them, go do so!

— 4 —

I heard an excellent recommendation to let your friends and family pick what you will give up for lent. They probably know what you really need to give up and perhaps don’t want to.

For me, my daughters decided that I should give up alcohol. Perhaps it was the way they said it that was the most convincing: “You should give up beer for lent. You drink it all the time.” “Daddy, please stop drinking alcohol.”

I’m not an alcoholic, I promise! But its something to give up for lent.

— 5 —

The children wanted to give up schoolwork and chores, which, of course, never works. But I did talk K into giving up all housework after 9:00PM.

You see, she likes having a neat house and she likes doing things her way, so she spends all evening cleaning up from dinner and the day and is exhausted by the end of it. By giving up housework in the late evenings for lent, this makes her let things go or delegate them (i.e. ask me to do them). Net result: A less tired wife and more time for us.

— 6 —

We are doing Valentines Day today. It’s a weekend, we have childcare, the restaurants are less crowded. No meat, but we were probably going to have pasta or seafood anyway.

And unlike yesterday, the charts are in our favor. 😉

That’s one of the “hidden benefits” of NFP. You learn to adapt and not put so much pressure on one specific date.

— 7 —

Because not being so concerned about dates can work well for you. Today, February 15,  is what we like to call National Chocoholics Day. It’s the day when all the Valentines Day candy goes on sale. So, if you haven’t given it up for lent, go buy yourself some discounted chocolates.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Off He Goes

So, the Pope has resigned.

I’m not quite sure what to make of it. This hasn’t happened in over 600 years.

Being late to this party, other better writers have written much about what I want to say.

Benedict XVI has been the best Pope I can remember. Since I can only remember two, this means I think he was a better Pope than John Paul II.

342x284xPope-Benedict-XVI-342x284.jpg.pagespeed.ic.4c_fe9lb0s

Thanks for the Memories!

This is not to diminish who John Paul II was or what he did for the Church and the Papacy. But I think the changes Benedict XVI brought are far deeper and will be longer lasting.

The changes to the English translation of the liturgy, the expansion of extraordinary form, the Anglican use, etc. will be with the Church for years. He reached out to SSPX, only, not surprisingly, to find that SSPX isn’t really interested in reconciliation. (Or, as my mother said, the Latin Mass isn’t necessarily about the Latin Mass.) The guiding principle in all this seems to be that Benedict XVI did not want liturgy to be a barrier to union with the Church or to worship, whether this was for Anglo-Catholics, Latin Mass aficionados, or the ordinary Catholics at Our Lady of the Suburbs.

He also had a far better record on dealing with sexual abuse scandals than his predecessor. His episcopal appointments have been excellent.

But what really sticks out to me is his writing.

John Paul II was brilliant, but difficult. How many of us can get through Theology of the Body without Christopher West telling us what it is supposed to mean? (Or arguing about whether West himself knows what it means.) I had a recent twitter discussion about Mulieris Dignitatem trying to explain that “virginity” was about religious life, not hymens; women’s vocation to “motherhood” didn’t necessarily mean having lots of babies; and that buried in Section 31 near the end was a paragraph that proved that speaking of “feminine genius” didn’t imply gender stereotyping or rigid gender roles.

In contrast, Benedict XVI writes with a beautiful simplicity. He writes about the basics of the Christian message. His encyclicals have been about the “Good News” of the Gospel that “God is Love” and the core virtues of Christianity that St. Paul wrote about in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Charity in Truth” “Saved in Hope” and an upcoming reflection on Faith. He wrote books about the life of Jesus, the Word made Flesh.

Benedict XVI seemed to understand that only through getting back to the basics can we understand the fullness and richness of the faith. Without a proper understanding of the basics of love and charity, how can we understand complicated issues such as family life, the vocation of women, Catholic social teaching, or the Gospel of Life?

The media thinks Benedict XVI is a hardliner, an arch-conservative because he insists on the proclaiming truth of the Christian message, which, logically, means pointing out the falsehood of all that is contrary to it. But a man who grew up in Hitler’s Germany must know the danger of relativism and of the existence and reality of evil.

God issues press release on the resignation.

God issues statement on the resignation.

His final act as Pope may be one of the most profound. He stepped aside. Being Pope is a difficult job. With modern medicine able to extend our lifespans, a man may live far longer than he is able to do the job. A Pius XII or John Paul I dying suddenly on the job is more likely to be the exception than the rule. We saw this in the long slow decline of John Paul II. The once vigorous young Pope became old, frail, and weak and not able to do what he did in his younger days. While this is to be expected for all of us, Benedict XVI shows that there is no shame in a responsible abdication in favor of one better able to carry out the mission of the Church.

Our current cultural expectation is that the Pope is an old man. Will Benedict’s resignation become the norm? Will we elect sixty-something year old Popes who resign in their eighties? Such a precedent will inevitably lead to a younger and more dynamic Papacy.

But whoever is elected, we can be assured that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide and protect the Church. As Jesus said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” Matt. 16:18.

Date Night

Date_night_poster

With Valentine’s Day approaching, Kate at Real Catholic Love and Sex asks “How do you get ready for “Date Night?

Choosing the Date

The most important thing is choosing what kind of date you are going to have:

  • Something fun in the daytime?
  • Dinner and a movie?
  • Going out on the town?
  • A concert, play, or other specific event?
  • A nice romantic dinner followed by an early night in? 😉

Any of these can be a fun experience depending on what you want.

I think it’s a good idea to balance “romantic” dates with “fun” dates. “Intimate” dates with “activity” dates. It’s good to do different activities and keep things fresh.

Also, since we use NFP, we check the chart.  We all know what hot romantic dates in Phase II can lead to. 🙂

Getting Ready

For guys, getting ourselves ready is pretty easy. Basic hygiene, appropriate dress, perhaps a shave?

So, for me, preparation for the date means preparing the kids for the date.

If we have a babysitter, this means picking up the sitter. If we are taking the kids to Mimi’s/Grandma’s, this means getting the kids ready to go. This means making sure they have everything ready to go and the bags are loaded in the car. It also means keeping them out of trouble while K gets ready.

K always dresses up for date night. She looks stunning. Always. I make sure that I am well dressed too. It’s not for me, it’s for her. I don’t want her to be the beautiful woman with the complete slob of a husband.

The Date Begins

We leave the children with big hugs and kisses and tell them good night. Then the date can begin.

The drive is our chance to transition. To go out of parent mode into date mode. We like to take my car on date nights because it’s nicer, it’s not a minivan, and we can hold hands while I’m driving.

The Big Red Boat - Not a Minivan

The Big Red Boat (Not a minivan)

I put something romantic on the iPod and off we go.

The Perfect Date

There is no such thing as a perfect date. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like there is a lot of pressure to have a fantastic date, especially if you don’t get a date night very often. But the key to date night is to just relax and enjoy yourselves. Enjoy each other and reconnect.

7 Quick Takes – Volume 5

— 1 —

The funny thing about blogging is that inspiration comes and goes. A couple of weeks ago, I was writing a post every day. But I haven’t posted since the last 7 quick takes.

Which means that I should probably pace myself and keep more posts in draft for the dry spells. But I’m impatient and like to post as soon as possible.

— 2 —

The girls visited the local Catholic school this week and absolutely loved it, so we are making the switch.

I then look at the tuition bill and realize that I do NOT live in a “low cost of living area”. If the public schools are unusable, it’s not low cost of living.

I think that the Catholic Church needs to take a serious look at how Catholic schools are funded because the tuition model puts in a lot of perverse incentives that undermine the teachings of the Church. How are families who believe that “Sacred Scripture and the Church’s traditional practice see in large families a sign of God’s blessing and the parents’ generosity.” Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2373, supposed to be able to afford a Catholic education for their children? Some of the most Catholic families I know do not see Catholic education as an option for their children for this reason.

— 3 —

If you haven’t seen, Kate has a “Date Night” linkup at Real Catholic Love and Sex.

So if you have any date night ideas, please share.

— 4 —

With the Super Bowl last week, there has been plenty of discussions about the ads and the halftime show.

Was Audi promoting having the courage to get the girl or sexual assault?

Was Beyoncé’s halftime show empowering or objectifying?

What the hell was GoDaddy thinking?

But the most divisive ad at the Super Bowl was from an unexpected source:

I really don’t understand the debate over this, because it’s obvious the cream only exists as a sugary glue to keep the two delicious chocolate cookies together. 🙂

Oh, and in other news, the Baltimore Ravens held off a late comeback from the San Francisco 49ers with a controversial non-call on 4th and Goal to win the game.

— 5 —

I got into a discussion about whether or not couples should learn NFP as a requirement for getting married in the Catholic Church. While it is not a requirement for the Sacrament of Marriage (and of no use to women beyond their reproductive years), I think that marriage preparation a great time to show couples that the Catholic Church really does have a very good option to help couples space their children according to the principles of responsible parenthood.

While some couples may be fortunate enough to never feel like they need NFP, most couples will. While there is nothing wrong with “honeymoon babies”, I agree with those who recommend using NFP at the beginning of the marriage so that couples can get used to the method and learn how to abstain in a healthy way before they really need it. Building a better marriage by learning marital chastity and how your fertility works is part of responsible parenthood.

Our diocese has no requirement, but we are considering offering our couples we counsel for marriage a copy of Taking Charge of Your Fertility. The book is cheap on Amazon, it approaches the subject from a non-judgmental women’s health perspective, and it may get them to see this as a viable and healthy option instead of an absurd impossibility.

What are your thoughts on this?

— 6 —

I can tell I’m uninspired. I’m struggling to get seven quick takes out.

— 7 —

If all else fails, maybe I can talk about the weather?

We didn’t get any blizzard. Just a day of rain and followed by coldness here. Our weather is frequently unpredictable, but rarely interesting.

Everyone in the Northeast dealing with “Nemo”, be safe and stay warm!

Fortunately, experienced northeasterners are used to this. Unlike here in the South, where flurries send everyone into FULL PANIC MODE, making a run on the grocery stores for bread and milk.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 Quick Takes Volume 4

— 1 —

Wow, is it Friday already? 7QT snuck up on me this week. So did February for that matter.

— 2 —

Several other bloggers had an impromptu “series” on Protestant Purity Culture.

To dramatically oversimplify things, Purity Culture is a very messed up way of looking at love, sex, and relationships, and a lot of people have been hurt by it. Realizing what it was and how it has affected K and, therefore, our marriage has been enlightening.

Growing up as a lax Catholic, I had no idea what it was. Most Catholics are completely oblivious to it and can unintentionally say the wrong things to those who are recovering from it.

I might write a post about it on this blog or the other one, but for now it’s a quick take.

— 3 —

Elizabeth Esther mentions that her post on purity culture and virginity broke all records for her blog. She wonders if she should write about sex more often.

The Sheenazzing Awards are out and although Kate and I didn’t win, we did a lot better than I expected.

So far, my top posts on this blog are about sex as well. Which is ironic considering the purpose of this blog was to cover a wider variety of topics.

So, does sex sell or do people really want to talk about it?

— 4 —

And now for something completely different…

We looked at enrolling A and B in a nearby Catholic school. I was amazed. The children were all polite and well behaved. The curriculum was SO. MUCH. BETTER. than that in the public schools.

I’m not surprised by the quality of Catholic eduction, but I’m disappointed in just how bad even good public schools can be. Their motto seems to be “Lower the standards so everyone can pass them.”

— 5 —

Did I mention that Catholic schools have a lot of really great teachers? Like Mandi at Messy Wife, Blessed Life. She has a great 7QT about teaching at a Catholic school.

— 6 —

On the topic of Catholic schools, Cardinal Dolan has an article about the recent round of closings of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York.

Cardinal Dolan wonders why so few Catholics send their children to Catholics schools.

Umm, do you know how much tuition is, Your Eminence? Do you know how many “large Catholic families” homeschool because they can’t afford tuition. Do you know how many smaller Catholic families can’t afford tuition?

The reason why Catholic schools are closing is because no one, the bishops or the laity, want to do what needs to be done to make them an realistic option for many Catholic families.

— 7 —

I do read a variety of sources, but I have my favorite bloggers. Rae Jericho at No Wealth But Life and Vita Catholic is one of them. She was posting every day for the month of January, so there was always something new to read on her blog.

This week, each of us inspired the other to write a post:

In blogging, whatever gives you an idea (or a laugh) is a gift. Or as Rae said, “Misunderstanding is fine, so long as everyone benefits.”

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!