7 Quick Takes – Volume 20 (High and Dry)

— 1 —

Real Catholic Love and Sex will be moving to WordPress. We’re moving the site now and should have it ready for everyone shortly.

Kate and I have been very dissatisfied with Blogger. It’s a very limited platform with a few glaring design flaws that Google seems to have no interest in fixing. We’ve each had a post “eaten” by Blogger. Unlike WordPress, there is no revision history or way to restore deleted drafts.

I’ve been very happy with WordPress for this blog, so it will remain where it is.

— 2 —

A great video about everybody’s least favorite font.

Not too bad for a flyer for a bake sale or a child’s birthday party, but probably not the best font for a Papal Tribute.

— 3 —

Katie of NFP and Me asks “Should we teach NFP to kids?” Specifically, should teenage girls be taught the basics of NFP as part of “the birds and the bees” talk?

Yes. Yes we should. Because knowing your cycles is basic women’s health.

Charting gave this woman an early alert to cervical cancer—and saved her life!

This woman was able to detect the early signs of aggressive cervical cancer from her chart. The cancer was treated successfully.

It’s also useful for guys, too. Will Sacks of Kindara Fertility explains why guys should know about fertility, too.

I can’t believe I lived 29 years before I knew this, It’s kind of like Being A Human 101. We should all know how to create and not create other humans, and understand how that process works. It’s pretty basic stuff. Your body needs food and water, and if you want to create another human, do this, and if you don’t do this; it’s that basic.

It’s also useful for guys to know that girls are designed differently and that’s OK. Our hormones are the same every day. We are the same every day. Women change during the month.

While teenage guys don’t have to worry about periods or cycle problems, it would have been great to know why a girl could be she’s happy and affectionate one week, then moody and withdrawn two weeks later.

— 4 —

Because I work in a technological field, I have been drafted onto the Technology Committee of my daughter’s Catholic school.

Basically, the computers in the school are well past retirement age and the school doesn’t have enough money to replace them. Computer lab has become as much about learning the virtue of patience as it has about using computers.

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Although homeschooling has gained popularity among some Catholics who want to raise their children in the faith, Catholic school is still important. Many parents were very poorly catechized and simply aren’t able to convey the faith or a sense of community to their children because they never had one. Catholic schools can and do provide that sense of Catholic community and background in the faith that would otherwise be lacking. It’s not uncommon for the school to bring parents back to the Church or to get them to take their faith more seriously. (Parent-to-parent community is also important—it’s not all about the kids!)

Many people think that Catholic schools are only for the wealthy or that they take in loads of money from tuition. This may be true for some, but many are operating on a shoestring budget. They do a lot with a little, but many need your support.

— 5 —

To celebrate G.K. Chesterton’s 139th birthday on May 29th, The Anchoress presents a 30 Quote Chesterton salute. My favorite?

It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.
Orthodoxy

That’s certainly true in blog posting. It’s easy to write serious posts, far harder to write funny or lighter stuff.

— 6 —

Speaking of falling by force of gravity…

Yesterday was a “team building day” at my company. As part of team building day, I did a high ropes course.

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I volunteered to be one of the first people on the course, then spent most of the time stumbling around the course and dangling from my harness. The person behind me was grateful because I showed her everything not to do.

It was then that I realized my role on the team and how I add value to the organization.

mistakesdemotivator

— 7 —

Doing it every day is a lot of fun, but it sure can be tiring.

Posting, of course. (What did you think I was talking about?) This is my fifth post since last 7QT—and it’s tiring!

Highlights include:

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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7 Quick Takes – Volume 19 (A Little Bit of Everything)

— 1 —

I’ve started a series on Real Catholic Love and Sex called “Wild Wednesdays”. Basically, this is a non-theological post about how to improve your marriage inside and outside the bedroom.

The first post is about the importance of play in your relationship and how play can help you find new love if you’re single or keep the fires burning, if you’re married.

So have fun and play games together. If you like these posts, I’ll continue the series.

— 2 —

This week I learned about the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, which is the four ways that people find God.

Wesleyan-Quadrilateral

John Wesley, Anglican priest and founder of Methodism built on the the Anglican tradition of “scripture, tradition, and reason” by adding a fourth element: Experience.

In the 20th Century, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) wrote of the importance of experience to understanding the Christian faith. Sound philosophy does not rise from experience alone, but experience keeps philosophy grounded in reality. Blessed John Paul II incorporated much of Edith Stein’s ideas into his own work.

This is why apologetics based in scriptural proofs and logical deductions and “because we always did it that way” often ring hollow in spreading the word.

— 3 —

Unfortunately, the Anglican tradition ain’t what it used to be…

There is a controversy in the Catholic blogosphere over blogger Simcha Fischer’s reaction to a statement from Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA.

I have been involved with the Episcopal Church off and on during my life. My grandmother is Episcopalian and I’ve always had a fondness for that denomination.

I actually prefer the Episcopal “mass” to the Catholic one. Episcopalians still have the altar rail (as opposed to Jesus-to-go from a dozen EMs) and unlike many Catholic parishes, they know that paying the musicians is money well-spent. The Book of Common Prayer is far more elegant than either the old (prosaic) or new (awkward) mass translations.

As a child, the Episcopalians had the best Vacation Bible School, because they skipped the cheesy bible games and took us all straight to Narnia.

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Aslan has left the building

But it’s nonsense like Bishop Schori’s statement is why I can’t be an Episcopalian.

The problem isn’t that she says demon possession is a gift from God, but the way she deconstructs Scripture in order to be able to call demon possession a gift from God. I’m not smart enough to do that. I don’t think St. Luke and St. Paul were smart enough to do that, either. More importantly, I don’t think God would have made the truth of Scripture only accessible to people who have received Doctorates in Divinity from elite divinity schools nearly 2000 years after the important stuff happened.

My own moment of disillusionment with the Episcopal Church was a retreat centered around finding the deeper spiritual meaning of the book Eat, Pray, Love (It says pray, it must be spiritual, right?)

Searching for God in pop culture while denigrating the miracles documented in scripture, let’s just say it turns Christianity into a world where it is always winter, but never Christmas.

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This is not to imply all Episcopalians agree with Bishop Schori’s statements. My grandmother would be appalled by such nonsense. Note to Catholic readers: Episcopalians are Protestants and, therefore, put don’t put that much weight on statements of the clergy, even presiding bishops.

— 4 —

Moving from mental masturbation to the old fashioned kind…

The Atlantic has an article about how the key to understanding the culture war is a person’s views on masturbation.

Quite simply, the Catholic belief that:

“Masturbation is an offense against love, because it makes the excitement of sexual pleasure an end in itself and uncouples it from the holistic unfolding of love between a man and a woman….Living by the motto “For sex I do not need anyone; I will have it myself, however and whenever I need it” makes nobody happy.” YouCat 409.

is completely opposed to the idea that

“The fundamental sexual unit is one person; adding more people to that unit may be intimate, fun, and companionable, but it does not complete anybody.”

The Grand Unified Theory of the culture wars is that it turns on the questions of whether sex is about one person or two.

You know my position on this, but I have to ask that if sex is only for one—only about yourself—isn’t this a recipe for really bad sex when you DO have a partner?

— 5 —

Speaking of recipes for bad sex…

The big discussions over the past week have been about “spit cup” sex ed, where women are taught that having sex before marriage will make them gross, dirty, and unlovable. This has been covered extensively in the Evangelical blogosphere and in the Catholic blogosphere.

Most of the chastity programs are focused on virgin teenage girls. But what about the guys? Bonnie Engstrom has a fantastic article about how guys are impacted by chastity education gone wrong.

As much has been written about this over the past few months, I think bloggers have only just scratched the surface. This issue is far bigger than sex.

— 6 —

As for dealing with the big issues in my life….

Our 7QT host has a fantastic post about questions her spiritual director likes to ask.

Spiritual direction seems like having a spiritual “life coach”. Which has been enough to inspire me to go find one.

Combine that with the fact that Confession is cheaper than therapy and often more effective, the Church seems to have everything in place to solve all of my life issues.

— 7 —

Which still leaves me with my technical issues…

Because of some problems with Blogger eating a post, Kate and I will probably be moving Real Catholic Love and Sex to WordPress. Right now, Bluehost looks to be the best deal, although I have had good experience with HostGator in the past.

Unfortunately, this means the blog will no longer be free for us. Ideally we’d like the ad revenue to cover the cost of the site, but don’t know if this is possible or how to go about doing this?

Anyone have any helpful hints about not losing money off a hosted blog?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 Quick Takes – Volume 18 (American Jesus)

— 1 —

Friday again. As I mentioned last week, I’ve been spending more time working on the Real Catholic Love and Sex blog.

Here are this week’s posts:

I’ve noticed more readers seem to need help with following the Church teaching on sex than with sexual issues themselves, which brings me to my next quick take…

— 2 —

Calah Alexander of Barefoot and Pregnant wrote a post “Sloppy Seconds Sex Ed” about problems with abstinence-only sex ed.

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The reaction of the Catholic blogosphere went something like this:

“I had NO IDEA abstinence-only was so bad. That is TOTALLY not what be believe! Theology of the Body!”

“But people should wait until marriage.”

“Wait, I remember the spit-cup demonstration from Catholic school.”

“What???”

“Yeah.”

“That’s not right.”

“We need to remember that sexual sin is serious. We can’t ignore it. Catholics don’t take sexual sin seriously anymore.”

“I grew up Catholic back then and we were taught that sexual things were shameful and dirty. We were taught impure thoughts would send us straight to hell.”

“I never heard that. The Church never taught that.”

“That’s what I was taught growing up.”

“That’s really strange. We weren’t taught anything about sex in Church. We were told it was OK to use the Pill at pre-Cana.”

So while it’s easy to criticize Protestant Purity Culture, it seems like most Catholics (at least American Catholics) have no shortage doctrinal misunderstandings and sexual issues. I’ve written about how the conversation about sex in Catholic circles (at least in the United States) can get incredibly neurotic, and the reaction to Calah’s post shows that I wasn’t far off base.

My favorite post of all of them has been Elizabeth Duffy’s. It basically boils down to “Let’s not sugar coat it, abstinence is a sacrifice.” Because if abstinence doesn’t involve some sacrifice, you’re doing it wrong.

— 3 —

But where I was off base in my earlier post is seeing neurosis about sex as a problem with the Catholic Church. No, it’s a problem with American Catholic culture.

Like most Americans, I always thought that the United States of America is, in fact, the center of the universe. But then I found this post on our facebook feed.

Ten Things Americans Don’t Know About America

Essentially, the rest of the world thinks Americans are narcissistic, materialistic, and emotionally stunted. Part of me is insulted, the rest of me knows they’re right.

— 4 —

There is an old joke that goes something like this:

Q: If someone who speaks many languages is multilingual and someone who speaks two languages is bilingual, then what do you call someone who only speaks one language?

A: An American.

Which is why I find how people think in other languages fascinating. Knowing only one language really limits one’s perspective on how they see the world.

On that note, here is a really cool Chart of Emotions that Have No Names in the English Language

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The Russian emotion Tocka (“longing with nothing to long for”) is perhaps the most powerful, but they all convey a feelings that we all feel, but don’t have words for.

— 5 —

I have learned long ago never to argue with fundamentalists.

Its like casting your pearls before swine. Or is it like wrestling with a pig? (You get dirty and the pig likes it.) I’m sure it’s some pork-related analogy.

What I have also learned is that having a discussion with ex-fundamentalists can be just as difficult. Although they have stopped drinking the Kool-Aid themselves, sometimes it can take awhile to realize that normal people don’t know about the Kool-Aid and don’t understand why red liquids in a pitcher can trigger horrific memories of abuse.

What's wrong with Cosmopolitans?

Perhaps the most harmful element of fundamentalism is the distortion of what is normal that goes along with it. Because everyone should be able to enjoy a cosmopolitan without fear.

— 6 —

One of the hardest things families struggle with is family prayer time. Plenty of good Catholic families have started with high hopes of “praying a family rosary” only to find that getting children to pay attention for one decade of the rosary, much less all five, requires a minor miracle.

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But sometimes minor miracles do happen.

In my case, the minor miracle is called the “iPhone 5” (you do have to admit smartphones are a minor miracle) combined with the Laudate app and the iPod connector in my car stereo.

When I leave to take the children to school in the morning, I put the rosary podcast on. (The fourth podcast, by Christian Peschkin, is my favorite.)

While I started doing it exclusively for myself, this morning, my older daughter asked if I was going to put the rosary on. More amazingly, the two of them are quiet while the podcast is playing, and, most amazingly, do NOT interfere with each others’ personal space.

I don’t know whether they are paying attention to the prayers or not, but if it keeps them quiet and on their own sides of the car, I consider it a minor miracle.

Perhaps minor miracles like this is why Pope Francis is releasing a new app?

— 7 —

Spring is finally here! After weeks of clouds, rain, and cold, it’s in the low 80s and sunny. Still a bit cool for mid May in the South, but I’ll take it.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 Quick Takes – Volume 17 (No Need to Argue)

— 1 —

This blog was started in the hopes that it would be a platform for all the things I had to say about pretty much anything I wanted.

What it has become is a once a week 7 quick takes.

I also feel called to spend more time and energy on the other blog, Real Catholic Love and Sex. It seems like people have a lot of misconceptions about sexuality and marriage and not many people are addressing them in a way that real people can relate to. So much of the material out there is overly dense and theological, negative and judgmental, or simply too idealistic and abstract to be of any value.

I don’t have the time or energy to write for one blog, much less two. Since this blog is no more than a vanity project anyway, I doubt I will be doing more posts than a 7QT.

— 2 —

Perhaps I spend too much time arguing on the internet. It’s easy to get worked up over things, but it can be hard to let them go.

duty_callsI usually do learn something from discussions with others, but at some point it’s time to drop it and move on. A good sign of this for me is when I start to become emotionally invested in the argument.

Besides, as Catholics we really don’t need to spend all this time and energy discussion theology. Prayer and the sacraments are far more important.

http://realcatholicloveandsex.blogspot.com/2013/05/keeping-your-faith-when-someone-is.html

— 3 —

Excellent post from our 7 Quick Takes host on her thoughts on having more children.

My own take is that Jennifer has an excellent understanding of how Church teaching on avoiding pregnancy should be viewed. NFP is not meant to be “Catholic birth control” or “marriage insurance” or the best thing that ever happened to marriage, as some NFP advocates claim. Nor is it something the Catholic Church looks down upon, as if it were a concession to human weakness with the most faithful couples just having babies as God sends them.

The Catholic Church NEVER concedes to human weakness in matters of moral theology. To do so would be heresy, denying the power of God’s Grace to help us overcome these weaknesses. This is why NFP is not and cannot be a “Trojan Horse in the Catholic bedroom”.

Instead, the Church teaches that new life is a gift and couples should welcome it. Sometimes, however, responsible parenthood demands that couples avoid pregnancy for a time. But, as Jennifer’s article illustrates, pursuing new life is supposed to be the joyful, happy part of marriage and avoiding pregnancy is supposed to be the sacrifice. Ironically, both secular culture AND the ultratraditionalists both have it completely backwards.

This is why I believe that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to abuse NFP out of selfishness. When couples are having problems in this area, the problems are more often rooted in fear, not selfishness, which is a completely different problem. Taking a negative, judgmental tone toward couples who use NFP only makes the anxious more anxious, the faithful scrupulous, and those who aren’t there yet want to run away.

This is not meant to be anti-NFP at all. The fertility charts can be very useful in diagnosing women’s health problems, so it’s always good to learn the method and to chart, even for single women. But no couple should feel judged for following the “rules” to avoid or not following the “rules”. That’s between the two of you and God.

— 4 —

Teen ministry is usually pretty cheezy, but this is a pretty good article from LifeTeen.

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And yet another reason why we shouldn’t judge people who are doing their best to follow Church teaching, even if they aren’t as as far along as we are. Nor should we judge ourselves if we aren’t as far advanced in our spiritual lives as others.

— 5 —

An excellent observation about the U.S. political system and each party’s attitudes toward women and children.

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Holly Grigg-Spall is a U.K. citizen and is not Catholic, but her observations are relevant to Catholic discussions on the issue. A “Catholic” Vice-Presidential candidate who is obsessed with the Atheist philosophy of Ayn Rand is as much of a “Cafeteria Catholic” as one who supports gay marriage and does not oppose legalized abortion. (Interestingly, Catho-publicans forget that Joe Biden is not as supportive of gay marriage his predecessor, Dick Cheney, and that once you cut past the partisan rhetoric, Biden’s position on abortion is actually closer to Mitt Romney’s than Barack Obama’s.)

— 6 —

Yet another great reason to pray the rosary.

Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 6.26.17 PMIt seems vaguely sacrilegious, but insomnia was what got me started praying the rosary. Hey, what could be a better way to fall asleep than repetitive prayers? Good to know I’m not the only one.

— 7 —

But then again, maybe good sleep is one of the gifts of the rosary. So many problems are caused by poor sleep, especially for parents.

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As someone who has had anxiety issues, I can easily get into a negative feedback loop: Anxiety -> Poor sleep -> Unable to deal with life -> More anxiety. Although a good night’s sleep isn’t an official “Promise of the Rosary”, perhaps it should be?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 Quick Takes – Volume 16 (Grace)

— 1 —

In the online world I have changed my avatar on twitter and other social media sites.

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So, why the Buddy Christ?

  • I feel the need to be more anonymous. I do blog about personal topics and I don’t want my online life bleeding into my real life.
  • As a reminder not to take myself too seriously.
  • As a reminder for others not to take me too seriously. I am not the magisterium, I am just a guy with a blog.

— 2 —

I still haven’t felt much of a call to blog other than 7QT. I have no shortage of ideas, but it’s turning ideas into a blog post that’s the problem.

— 3 —

Last week’s 7QT featured questions for Jennifer Knapp, one of the few Christian musicians I actually like.

Rachel Held Evans posted Jennifer’s responses this week.

The most interesting thing was why Contemporary Christian Music is so limited. It’s a product, sold to an audience, with a specific purpose. This limits the range of artistic expression. So even a very talented artist like Jennifer can’t do much more than sing about Jesus.

On the other hand, secular music isn’t comfortable with expressions of faith (unless you’re Bono).

— 4 —

Sheila Gregoire of To Love Honor And Vaccuum had a great post up about “Board Games to Play With Your Spouse.” These are some great Phase 2 ideas for couples trying to find something fun to do and still manage to keep their clothes on.

Gregoire is not Catholic, although she is supportive of NFP/FAM and has some very “Catholic” ideas about sexuality. I wish there were some better practical advice like this on Catholic blogs.

— 5 —

Here is a really good article on young people and confession.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is such a beautiful sacrament, but one I don’t think has been fully appreciated or understood.

Older Catholics raised before Vatican II often had a very legalistic understanding of the sacrament. List your sins, do your penance, get your absolution. The confessionals were small and dark and confession was often (incorrectly) seen in a negative, shameful light. Many people went out of fear that they broke the rules more than true contrition or desire to be reconciled to God.

So after Vatican II, all of that changed. Confession became more like therapy. Out with the old, scary, confessional. In with the bright, airy, reconciliation room. A more personal and less legalistic understanding of sin led to a de-emphasis of the sacrament. Mortal sin is a matter of deliberately turning against God, not simply breaking a rule, so if you haven’t turned deliberately turned against God, you’re OK, right?

So people catechized this way didn’t know much about confession or why it’s necessary.

But people still sin and still have a deep need to be unburdened and reconciled to God. Confession isn’t about avoiding punishment, it’s about righting your relationship with God. Going to confession is not a negative, shameful sign that you are a sinner, but an act of forgiveness and mercy.

Pope Francis is a big fan of the sacrament and I hope to see a bigger emphasis on it.

— 6 —

I have recently started making a habit of going to Daily Mass.

I started going once a week during Lent and kept up the habit. Last weekend, I was cleaning up and found a copy of The Catholic Miscellany that I hadn’t read. I looked through it briefly and read an article by Alison Griswold about going to daily mass.

Alison talked about the sacrifices she made to get up early and get to mass. Even though she’s not a morning person, it’s well worth it.

As for me, the daily mass at our parish is in the evening. So all I have to do is leave work on time and not stay late. If she can get up early, I can leave work on time.

I’ll make the sacrifice.

— 7 —

I’ve read a several stories about families who gave up TV, or at least gave up cable.

For the most part, K and I don’t watch TV. But it is a godsend as an electronic babysitter. (Yes, we’re bad parents.) Basic cable comes with our internet service (I don’t think our cable company can block it) so it’s not an additional cost to us.

For those of you who have given up TV, how do you make that work in your family? Has it been worth it? Or have you substituted other forms of electronic entertainment (Netflix, Hulu, Video games, etc.) instead?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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.

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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.

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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.

mr_rogers_helpers_quote

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.

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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.

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— 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.

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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!