7 Quick Takes – Volume 15 (Lay it Down)

— 1 —

Some of you may have noticed that I went from 7QT – Volume 12 to 7QT Volume 14 and you may be wondering what happened to Volume 13. (Ok, I noticed, even if nobody else did.)

I wish I was that clever, but I’m just careless and can’t count. But the permanent URL for last week is there, so this week is Volume 15.

— 2 —

The big news last week is that my daughter got her first Holy Communion.


Receiving her rosary from the Knights of Columbus

I don’t remember much of my first communion. (It’s far less memorable for the boys. We don’t get the big white dresses, just a shirt and tie.)

We wanted to make it memorable for our daughter. We had her second reconciliation that morning. (Saturday morning confessions are awesome.)

The parish had a nice program. Communion was during the 5:15 Saturday mass. The children processed in with the priest. Each communicant had their own row reserved. The priest had a special homily for the first communicants. Then after mass, the Knights of Columbus presented them with rosaries.

Afterwards, we had a party with the family.

I’ve seen some parishes where the children just show up dressed up and don’t do it as a group. I don’t like that. It makes it seem unimportant, when first communion is a big deal. Hopefully, my daughter will remember far more of her first communion than I did of mine.

— 3 —

Rachel Held Evans had an interview with Jennifer Knapp earlier this week.

Summary: Jennifer Knapp was a popular folk rock Christian artist in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Then she disappeared. Then she came out as a lesbian. She released one more album in 2010.


Although I have a general contempt for most Christian music, I remember liking Knapp’s albums, but I hadn’t listened to them in years. I loaded the mp3s on to my iPhone for a listen.

The evangelical Christian lyrics can get a bit cloying after a bit, but lyrics aside, her first three albums are really good folk-rock albums. Kansas is a classic, although I really like her second album, Lay it Down. Good to have three more albums back in my rotation.

— 4 —

Ever wonder what it’s really like to be a Catholic Marriage blogger? Check out Confessions of Two Catholic Marriage Bloggers over at Real Catholic Love and Sex!

— 5 —

This week, there have been several posts about bringing children to mass, including this one from Dr. Greg. The general consensus in the Catholic blogosphere is that children have every right to be at mass. “Let the little Children come to me.” right?

Unfortunately, Catholics don’t always do a good job of explaining their love of children or that mass is about worshipping as a community (babies and all), not about the worship service.

I say this because nobody bothered to explain this to us when our children were younger.

Growing up Catholic, I knew children always went to mass, but I never understood why. My earliest memories of mass is that it was extremely boring. My mother told me I one heckled the priest when I was three years old.

K was raised Protestant. In the tradition she grew up in, congregations show just how much they care about children and children by offering nursery service and “children’s church” to give the children something fun to do and to help the adults better appreciate “grown-up Church”.

So, when K found that the Catholic Church had NO nursery and NO children’s church, you can guess what she logically concluded…

Trying to explain why having little children at mass in my smart-ass bad Catholic way hasn’t been very effective. (“We go to mass to be with Jesus, dear, nobody really pays attention. The homilies aren’t that interesting. Trust me, you aren’t missing much.”)

But now that I think about it, children at mass isn’t for the parents or the children. It’s for the community. They need to see new life in the Church.

That and sometimes the priest needs to be heckled by a three year old. 🙂

— 6 —

This week, I found and actually took the time to read Melinda Selmys’s blog Sexual Authenticity. There is some FANTASTIC stuff on this blog (at least for those of us who like to geek out on sexuality and sprituality).

Melinda is a former lesbian who is now a married Catholic woman with six children and who describes her current sexuality as “queer”. Her insights are honest, refreshing, and thoughtful. This blog made me rethink a lot of the conventional wisdom in both the Catholic world and the secular world.

— 7 —

And here is a video of a cat dressed as a shark riding a roomba chasing a duck.

The Internet is over. Thank you for playing. We can all go home now.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


7 Quick Takes – Volume 14 (Dazed and Confused)

— 1 —

It’s been a rough week, to say the least. 7 Quick Takes is supposed to be lighthearted (or at least not a downer), so it’s been hard to get in the mood to write with all that’s going on. I tried to get a 7QT up last week, but posted a rather cynical observation about the news media instead.

Cynicism kills the mood even more than tragedy. There is a meme going around on the internet about how to maintain hope in a tragedy.


But cynicism is the polar opposite of this. If looking at the helpers reminds us of the good in humanity, cynicism focuses on the bad. And you can’t be in a good mood when you are dwelling on the worst aspects of people.

— 2 —

But life goes on, no matter what happens around the world.

My older daughter is having her first communion this Saturday. She is doing it with her old CCD class instead of her new Parochial School class because she’s been with the CCD class all year and the school doesn’t do first communion until May. Last Sunday, she had her first communion retreat.


I’m not quite sure what it was all about, but she did get to make her first communion banner. The retreat was full of the same “Kumbaya Catholicism” that I grew up with in the 1980s, but that may be normal for second graders. My mother, on the other hand, was raised pre-Vatican II and the nuns told her all her Protestant relatives, including her mother, were going to hell. She largely ignored them, but her younger sister (my Aunt) was deeply disturbed by this and has since left the Church. Bad catechesis is nothing new, but better bored than traumatized, I say.

After talking to the other parents about the retreat, I’m pretty sure the best part for the adults is that attending the retreat probably means three hours less in purgatory.

— 3 —

One of the activities at the retreat was to bake “Happiness Bread”. The children had a simple recipe for unleavened bread (Or as one of the second graders called the lumpy creation, “Uneven bread”.) Each table had a few of the ingredients to make the bread so they had to share their ingredients with the other tables, which was the point of the exercise. Unfortunately, there were a few more ingredients than the recipe called for, which made me wonder about the recipe.

The bread was baked and it was time to share. Before the blessing, my daughter asked “Does blessed bread taste better than unblessed bread?”

The director of religious education explained that blessing the bread doesn’t change how it tastes, but it changes what it means.

Note: I’m pretty sure this exercise was unintentionally somewhat heretical, giving the second graders an incorrect understanding of the theology of the Eucharist and the Priesthood, but at this point, I was just ready to get it over with and go home. 

This answer isn’t good enough for my daughter. Being her mother’s child, she has to experiment to know for sure. Before the blessing, she sneaks a taste of the unblessed bread. Then she eats a few bites of the bread after it was blessed.

The bread tasted more like heavy cardboard stock than anything I would call bread. No one could choke down more than a few bites of the “happiness bread”.

On the way home, she shared the results of her “experiment”: “Daddy, unblessed bread tastes better than blessed bread! It tastes sweeter. When you bless the bread, all the sweetness goes away.”

I don’t think that’s what the retreat was supposed to be teaching… Happiness bread gets a Jesus facepalm.


— 4 —

Other highlights from the retreat:

Seven year old boy during communion practice: “The wine tastes yucky.”

Dad: “Ever since Fr. _____ left, they started buying really cheap wine.”

My daughter really liked the wine. I don’t know if that’s a good sign or not…

— 5 —

IuseNFP, Living the Sacrament, and LoveNaturally, NFP hosted an #iuseNFP twitter party.

The party was very informative. I answered a couple questions and was able to get a lot of questions answered myself. One particular question had been bothering me for quite some time.

Screen Shot 2013-04-19 at 10.49.13 AM

Our own experience and from what I have read of that of others who have struggled with NFP, most of the problems couples have with NFP come from a combination of (1) a poor understanding of fertility or (2) an overly legalistic, rules-based view of Catholic teaching.

Sometimes the poor understanding comes from using a method that looks at the wrong signs for a particular woman. Unfortunately, sometimes instructors think their way is the “only way” and don’t refer couples out when a method isn’t working for them. This happened to us with the Creighton Model: Our FCP tried to help us get the method to work even after it should have been clear that another method might be better.

Sometimes, teachers were not always well-trained and couldn’t answer couples’ questions about difficult situations like breastfeeding or unusual cycles. This was our experience with CCL: The teaching couple was nice, but they couldn’t help us.  Plus, the materials they used at the time (2006) were in desperate need of an update, especially their postpartum section.  I have heard good things about the new CCL materials and courses, but I have no experience with them myself.

The good news is that the “new generation” of NFP promoters seems to be moving past the old problems. While a generation ago, nearly everyone who used NFP was a conservative Catholic, today many women are looking to NFP as a healthy, natural alternative to hormonal contraception. The NFP community is more scientific and less sectarian than it was in the past.

Second, the generation who discovered the various methods of NFP are leaving the scene. The Drs. Billings have died, the Kippleys are in their 70s, and Dr. Hilgers is almost as old. Given the amount of research that these people have put into developing their methods and the thousands of couples they worked with, it is understandable that each one of them would think that their method is the best method of understanding fertility for every woman at all times. The younger generation doesn’t have quite the personal attachment to their methods as the original pioneers and is more interested in finding a method that works for a couple than a once size fits all solution. There was an overwhelming agreement among ALL participants that the “NFP wars” that pitted the methods against each other had to end.

— 6 —

The other problem that couples have is that if they take an overly legalistic, rule-based view of Catholic teaching on sexuality, they will chafe against the rules and resent them.

Pope Benedict XVI warned about presenting Christianity as “a series of prohibitions”, but this has been common over the years. “Rule-based” Catholicism was especially common among American Catholics catechized before Pre-Vatican II. As the NFP community was made up of more conservative Catholics, such thinking persisted in this community longer than it did in the general Catholic population. False ideas about sexuality and about sin and grace were depressingly common in some circles of the NFP community.

Yet another twitter discussion led me to realize just how I somehow managed to be exposed to all forms of bad Catholic catechesis. I somehow managed to be exposed to Kumbaya Catholicism,  Pre-Vatican II legalism, and ex-Calvinists with a Catechism, all while completely missing what the Church actually teaches.

— 7 —

I haven’t written much lately on either blog. I have plenty of ideas for posts, but no time to develop them into full posts. I have learned a lot about the meaning of marriage and of sex and how society views it from the various gay marriage discussions as well as a conversation about why so many young people aren’t getting married. My political position is still the same: I support civil unions for gay couples and see the difference between “civil marriage” and “civil union” as one of semantics, but it has made me think about what sex and marriage mean in society. The discussion has confirmed my belief that gay marriage is more about how straight couples see marriage than about gay rights.

I will probably post a 2-3 part series on this either here or on the other blog.

I also read some excellent articles about spotting cults, a strange fear of pregnancy, what real beauty means, what sex is really like (as opposed to various cultural myths),  an EPIC takedown of the idea some Protestants have that wives should be subordinate to husbands by Arleen Spenceley, and the top 10 cliches among young Catholics. I’ll probably be posting about these later.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

Ten years ago, on this day, Baghdad fell to coalition forces.

As U.S. troops were closing in on the city, Iraqi Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Saha (M.S.S.) had the job of keeping the Iraqi people “informed” of how the war was going. M.S.S.’s boss, Saddam Hussein, didn’t want the Iraqi people to know just how badly the war was going for the regime, so M.S.S.’s press conferences consisted of half-truths, distortions, and blatant lies.

As the war continued to go badly for the regime, the press conferences became more laughable, earning M.S.S. the nicknames of “Baghdad Bob” and “Comical Ali”. He was captured after the war and now lives in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

We haven’t heard much from Baghdad Bob in the past ten years, but studies have shown own supposedly “free” press was little better in the lead up to the Iraq War. The media largely followed a pro-war storyline, even when the facts didn’t match what the Bush Administration was saying.

In the leadup to the Iraq War, the press was more interested in telling a story than in reporting facts. But this isn’t journalism, this is propaganda.

Today, we are seeing the same “selective reporting” in stories about abortion. Members of the media largely support legalized abortion, and this is reflected in the stories they chose to cover and those they choose to ignore. Stories that make people more sympathetic to liberal abortion laws are promoted, such as the unfortunate death of Savita Halappanavar, while stories that make people more supportive of abortion restrictions, such as the trial of Kermit Gosnell for the death of multiple newborn babies and a woman, Karnamay Mongar.



Not Important

Not Important

Some of the coverage would make Baghdad Bob proud. This from the Huffington Post:

In court Monday, Gosnell defied that crude image, appearing poised, elegantly dressed and oddly relaxed. He warmly greeted a local TV reporter by name, as he has done in the past.

Gosnell, the only child of a gas station operator and government clerk, had been a top student at the city’s prestigious Central High School. He became an early proponent of abortion rights in the 1960s and `70s, and returned from a stint in New York City to open up a clinic in the impoverished Mantua neighborhood, near the working-class black neighborhood where he grew up.

His Women’s Medical Center treated the poor, immigrants, teens and others without regard for their ability to pay, Gosnell has said.

I’ll spare you the gruesome details of the trial, but Google is your friend. Tip: Don’t read while eating.

Blogger Ace of Spades has an insightful take on all of this.

Unlike in Iraq, the government isn’t forcing the media to cover the story a certain way. Nor do we have, like in Britain, an unashamedly partisan press. (Everyone in the UK knows The Guardian is left-leaning and The Daily Telegraph is right-leaning.)

Instead, Ace hypothesizes that the media manipulates its coverage for what they believe is the greater good. They see themselves as educated and enlightened, and the rest of us, especially in the Deep South or the Central Time Zone, as a bunch of dangerously uneducated savages.


Kind of Like This.

You see, we can’t know about the Gosnell trial, because that might make us think abortion is bad, and such thinking Is Not Allowed. On the other hand, we must know about Savita and we must know that the Catholic Church is to blame (even though neither Irish Law nor Catholic teaching would have prevented her from getting the care she needed) so that we will know that abortion is necessary and good and that those crazy Catholics have no business in medicine or politics in a “civilized” society.

Or as Ace of Spades put it:

By deliberately misleading the public, you see, they’re protecting the world.

From us.

They have taken the exact opposite side of the proposition this nation was founded upon. Far from a well-informed citizenry being necessary for a free democracy, they’ve decided a well-informed citizenry is a deadly threat to it.

Don’t worry, though. They’re working their level-best to end that threat.

Truth does not control information. Truth is liberating. Truth is unbiased. Truth answers the questions instead of silencing the debate.

But those only concerned with their own power find truth a threat or an inconvenience. In a world without truth, all that is left is power.

Or as one famous politician put it: “Truth. What is the truth?”

7 Quick Takes – Volume 12 (Why I am Catholic)

At Patheos, several bloggers wrote about why they are Catholic in 200 words or less. In that spirit, here are seven reasons why I am Catholic.

— 1 —

Here comes everybody!

There is a tremendous amount of diversity in the Catholic Church, which many Catholics take for granted. At mass, I see people from all over the world of all races and all economic backgrounds.

Most of our social lives are segregated. We tend to only associate with those who look like us, those who talk like us, those who act like us. Many churches are just as segregated. (Unfortunately, so are some parishes.) But the Catholic Church is for everyone.

People literally from all over the world waited on Pope Francis’s election and watched his inauguration. He leads a Church for everyone, not just for people like him or people like me.

— 2 —

Children everywhere.

No, Catholics aren’t the only ones still reproducing, despite what your NFP instructor may have told you.  It’s that the Catholic Church accepts and welcomes children along with everybody else. They are part of the family, not something to be seen and not heard.

On Easter Sunday, the priest invited all the parents of newborns (born since last Easter) to stand. There were quite a few of them and they all got a round of applause from the congregation. It is hard for the wider culture to understand this, but the Church is pro-life because the Church really likes children, not because she is trying to spoil grown-up’s fun.

Furthermore, the children are there in mass. They aren’t shuffled off to a “children’s church” or “nursery”. Mass is for everyone, not just for grown-ups. Besides, sometimes the commentary of the three year old behind you is the most interesting part of the liturgy.

— 3 —

2000 Years of History

At my mother’s parish, there is a poster on the wall with all the Popes. It starts with St. Peter and ends with Benedict XVI. Some of them have been saints. Some of them have been scoundrels. There have, however, been no breaks in the line. Nor have there been any major deviations in doctrine from the Bishops of Rome. The best Popes defended the faith and spread the gospel. The worst Popes were too busy scheming in Italian politics and appointing their illegitimate sons to Church offices to bother changing the faith.

Pope Francis is the latest in this long line of Popes. Although Pope Francis’s style is quite a bit different than his predecessor’s, we know that the faith will not change. We know that the Church will continue on because it has continued on before. A change in personality at the top will not lead to the end of the Church.

When a reporter asked the then Cardinal Bergoglio about his “orthodox” beliefs on the usual hot button issues, he replied, “Yes, I am Catholic.” The new Pope is, indeed, Catholic, and all is right with the world.

— 4 —

The Church is run by incompetent fools, therefore God must be behind it

We all know about the various scandals in the Church, from the horror of the sex abuse crisis to the embarrassment of Vatileaks. We also know that the Vatican can be tone-deaf and bureaucratic at times. (Benedict XVI had a particular knack for saying things that could be misunderstood or quoted out-of-context.)

This is nothing new. Dante famously put several Popes in his Inferno. Even after the resurrection, St. Peter bumbled his way through the Acts of the Apostles. St. Paul called him out as a hypocrite for not eating with the uncircumcised, a major issue in the early Church.

It’s not just at the top, nor is it a product of Vatican II. Flannery O’Connor used to tell the story of a Southern Baptist friend’s reaction to the (pre-Vatican II) Mass.

Flannery often invited her friend to Mass. Finally, one Sunday the little girl got permission from her mom to accept Flannery’s invitation. Flannery could not wait for the Mass to be over so she could ask her little friend whether she liked it. The little girl said: “WOW. You Catholics really have something special. The sermon was so boring, the music was lousy, the priest mumbled the prayers of a language nobody could understand, and all those people were there!

Yet, despite the chronic incompetence and corruption, dull masses and boring homilies, the Catholic Church not only has been around for 2000 years but it continues to grow. Surely God must be behind it.

— 5 —

It is a Logical, Intellectual Faith

Critics of the Catholic Church portray Catholicism as superstition. They portray Catholics as an ignorant people, slaves to the whims of some distant hierarchy.

This is completely false.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a summary of what the Catholic Church believes. It has answers to the deepest questions about who we are, what our purpose is, and how we go about living it. Whether you like the answers it gives or not, everything in there has been studied in depth, discussed, and debated. None of it was arrived at lightly. It all fits together as part of a well integrated whole.

I like to think of the product of many, many lifetimes of Bible studies.

Nor does Catholicism “rest on its laurels”, because “we’ve always done things this way”, but it continues to seek the truth. It does not hide from the modern world, but engages it. It wrestles with it. It looks to the world—and even to other faiths—to find the good and the true. “Jesus” is not the secret password to get into heaven, but God among us, showing us the way to Him.

Yet even if we have missed this very important message, the Catholic Church teaches that all of nature points the way to God. God is not hiding from us, He has drawn us a map. Our human reasoning is not untrustworthy and wicked, as some believe, but exists to point us toward God’s Truth.

The Catholic Church has something for the intellectual, the child, and everyone in between.

— 6 —

It is a real, tangible faith

I recently read an article where yet another Episcopal bishop was denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Apparently, Jesus just wasn’t there and the Apostles just decided that his message was so important that they had to spread it anyway.

The Catholic Church rejected such nonsense as heresy about 1800 years ago. The Risen Christ was REAL. Mary Magdeline talked to him. He appeared to the Apostles. Thomas put his fingers in the wounds. He ate fish with the apostles. He walked with the men on the road to Emmaus. After all, “if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.” 1 Corinthians 15:14.

The Church believes that miracles still happen, and takes great lengths to verify that there is no known natural explanation for the alleged miracle.

Blogger Leah Libresco writes that “Catholicism has resisted Invisible Dragon in the Garage Syndrome fairly well.” Bold and controversial as the Church’s claims may be, they are not imaginary nor do they point to some vague “spirituality”. They are real and concrete.

— 7 —

The Sacraments

I admit, a big part of why I am Catholic is that I am a bit of a sacrament junkie.

Sacraments are real instruments of God’s grace. They aren’t merely rituals and they aren’t merely symbols. As Flannery O’Connor said, “If the Eucharist is just a symbol, then to Hell with it.” If the Eucharist is not the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, then it’s just stale bread and cheap wine.

It was studying pop Psychology that led me back to the Church. The Eucharist, with the belief in the Real Presence, is such a highly sophisticated and sublime act of worship that there’s no way that a bunch of uneducated Galilean fishermen could have come up with it. And you can get it EVERY DAY. Not just on Sunday. Not just once a month. Not just once a quarter.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), too, is a far more sophisticated act than the early Church could have realized. Dan Ariely explains the economics of Catholic Confession. (Segment begins at 6:14)

Reconciliation about far more than just asking God to forgive your sins. It is about bringing about a change in the penitent and we can see how, exactly, that works.

The Marital Act is a very tangible instrument of God’s grace in the Sacrament of Marriage. 😉 (It’s hard to wrap my brain around the idea that sex can be sacramental, but it is. And why not? It brings the couple closer together and it brings forth new life.)

Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick, too are more than just empty rituals, but real, tangible, instruments of Grace.

I am a bit of a junkie for Grace.

Which is why I am Catholic.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!