How to Get Your Young Athlete to Sunday Mass

I’m not a fan of sports on Sundays.  I’d like to stay home, go to Mass at my local parish, then spend the day relaxing with friends.  Instead, I’ll be at a tournament this weekend, watching one of my top favorite athletes in the world do her thing.  Also, she and I will be going to Mass.  If you’ve ever had a child involved in competitive sports, you know that’s not as easy as it sounds.

Should You Even Be Playing on Sundays?

There are two questions every Catholic parent of an athlete ought to ask:

  1. Should we, as Catholics, even be participating in Sunday sports?
  2. Should my child in particular be involved in such sports?

The first question has been answered, for the moment, by silence and logic: I’ve never heard any priest or bishop forbid the faithful to watch the Olympics, professional football, or any other sport.  These activities take place on Sundays, and furthermore they require a decade or decades of training that involves, almost invariably, playing or practicing on Sundays.  If it’s moral to participate as a spectator, it’s moral to participate as an athlete — you can’t have one without the other.

That said, if at some point the Church should study the matter and determine that it is in fact immoral to play sports on Sundays, there we’ll be.  (I don’t mean kickball at home with your friends.  I mean the kind that dramatically interrupts church and rest for all involved.)  Until then, we have a conditional green light to play on.

So long as Question #1 remains a tentative yes, Question #2 is up to you as the parent to discern: There are many good reasons not to play sports on Sundays.  Some of those reasons may well apply to you.  Discern thoughtfully.

Plan Ahead. Way Ahead.

Let’s imagine that for some good reason you’ve determined that your child ought to participate in a sport that plays or practices on Sundays.  I hope if you had another option (a team with Saturday games only, for example) you took it.  But say this was your only realistic choice:  How do you make sure you’ll still get to Mass?

Answer: Talk to the coach before you sign up with the team.

Sooner or later, you are going to find yourself in a corner.  You’ll be playing in some town that only has Mass the same hour your child is scheduled to compete.  Your coach needs to know before you join the team that if push comes to shove, your player will be at Mass.

At that point, the coach might let you know that you should look for another team.  So be it.  It’s one thing to stretch the very limits of our freedom as Catholics; it’s another to abandon the faith altogether.  But chances are your coach will be willing to accommodate you, if you hold up your end of a fair deal.  What does that look like?

Don’t Be Obnoxious

You don’t have to make a big scene to the other families on the team about what amazingly holy people you are.  Come on: You’re playing sports on a Sunday, not fasting in the Adoration chapel.  You aren’t that holy.  Put together a list of parishes within striking distance and all their Mass times.  Then, when you get a break in the schedule, quietly head down the road to church.

Go to the first-available Mass opportunity you get.  You don’t want to miss your one chance to get to Mass free and clear, only to have to hurt the team later by skipping out on a game.

If you have more than one child playing at the same event but with different play times, ask around and find out if there are any other Catholic families also trying to get to Mass.  If your children’s breaks should line up just wrong, sending one child with another (trusted) family may be the only way you can get all children to Mass.

If you know you’ll have to skip a game, talk to the coach.  Have your list of Mass times laid out in a way that’s easy to understand, and let your coach pick which game your child should miss.

Be willing to accept any consequences that go with missing a game.  Charitably assume your coach has good reasons for having to bench your child if you miss a game.  If you don’t trust your coach’s decisions, look for a different team.

Be Ready to Do the Unreasonable

When you make your list of potential Mass times and locations, include every possible option, even if some of them are just horrible.  So you have to spend three hours on dirt roads getting to and from the Ancient Slobovian 10 pm Mass on your way home after a long weekend? If it’s a safe possibility, the fact that you’ll be inconvenienced is beside the point.  If you want convenience, competitive athletics is not for you.

There can be times when there is no safe way to get to Mass.  Weird things happen. In the winter you might, for example, be playing at a venue that is on well-maintained roads just off the interstate, but the nearest Catholic parishes are deep in the hinterlands with long stretches of dangerous ice patches.  Likewise, don’t be on the road later than you can safely stay awake to drive.  It’s better to skip a game and go to Mass during the day than to risk your life taking one for the team.  

But if there is a way to get to Mass without missing any games, take that option even if isn’t your favorite choice.  Don’t put the team dinner, touring around, or a relaxing morning at the hotel ahead of your obligation to attend a Sunday Mass.  Save your miss-a-game cards for when you really need them.

The How-To’s of Finding a Mass

  1. Look up your event location, then search for nearby parishes.  If your hotel is in a different area, look for parishes near your hotel as well.
  2. If you will be traveling home on Sunday, look up parishes along your route home in addition to those near the event.
  3. Click through to the parish websites, and confirm that the Mass schedule is up to date.  Watch out for holiday schedules in particular, as Mass times can get irregular.
  4. Make yourself a list of parishes and their Mass schedules.
  5. Either include each church’s address in your list so you can get directions on the fly, or print out directions from the venue or your hotel (or both — whichever you are most likely to be leaving in order to attend Mass).

If you know the tournament schedule in advance, you might be able to pick out which Mass you’ll be attending ahead of time.  Otherwise, watch for an opening as the weekend unfolds.  When you get a chance head to Mass, out you go!


File:Karol Wojtyla-splyw.jpg
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia [Public Domain]. Some guy who liked sports. Click through for details.
Related Links:

Come to Mass Ugly, Please

Is the Mass Just Like Everywhere Else?

Three Ingredients for Parental Sanity in Kids’ Competitive Sports

Sabbath 101: Giving Up the Work Habit (I know! I wrote that!  And I still believe it, even if my life interferes.)

What Happens When You Go Out to Eat on Sundays (So do what you can to minimize your impact, however imperfectly you pull it off.)


Copyright Jennifer Fitz 2017.  If you would like to reprint this article for your parish or diocesan publication, you may.  Please credit the original link.

How to Make the Best March for Life Signs Ever

If you’re going to the March for Life, local or national, you are going to end up with a sign.  If you don’t bring one, helpful people will give you one, and then you’ll have to carry it.  Or you could go ahead and make the best sign ever: It’s lightweight, compact, easy to carry, and will keep you warm if the weather behaves like January tends to behave.

Bonus: It isn’t any more difficult to make than a regular posterboard sign.

Fleece March for Life Banner Instructions

What you’ll need:

Approximately one yard of fleece fabric.  If you have an old blanket you want to re-purpose, that works too.  Err on the side of choosing a solid color unless you’re really good at visual design.

Fabric paint and stencils, or some other way to write your slogan on your banner.  Go with something that will contrast with your fabric.

A length of rope a foot or two longer than the width of your fabric.  A walking stick would work, too.

Needle & thread, a sewing machine, or a bunch of safety pins.


Step 1: Think up your slogan.  Since your banner will roll up into a teeny tiny slot in your scarf stash, you’ll use it again in future years. So pick something simple and enduring.  Yes: “Don’t Kill Innocent People.”  No: “Please Pass Prop 37 on July 16th, 2012.”  My then-six-year-old came up with Abortion is Bad for our local March, but half a decade later the girls chose the much more subtle Babies are People when we went to the big March in DC.  I Regret My Abortion and Suicide is Never the Answer are good ones too.

Step 2: Hem or pin your fabric.  Lay out your rectangle of fleece, then fold over the top edge of the future sign.  Stitch or pin the folded-over edge so that you have a slot for your length of rope or stick.  Tip: If you’re using rope, it’s a pain to work it through the slot after you’ve stitched.  Go ahead and lay it in place before you sew.

Step 3: Add your slogan.  If it’s easier (depending on how you are attaching your letters) you can do the slogan before you sew up the slot for the stick, but pre-plan so you don’t end up with your slogan cut off.  You can see below we ended up precariously close to the hem.

Step 4: There is no step four.  This is a very easy project.

You can improve on the original design by not making it at the last minute the night before you march. Everyone loves house guests who bring along unannounced DIY projects.

Using Your Banner

While you are marching, sign-holding children (or adults, if you must) stand on either side of the banner and hold the ends of the rope.  Note that if you have many small children to keep track of, you can make a longer rope and they can all hold on and make a train.  You can tie a hand loop in either end; if your hands are full, you can use a carabiner to clip your end to your belt loop, backpack, stroller, etc.  If you used polyester fleece, you’ve got an extremely lightweight sign that doesn’t blow you over like a shipwreck if the wind gusts.

If you get tired of carrying the signdrape it over your shoulders like a cape, stash it in the baby’s stroller, or stuff it in your backpack.  It’s lightweight and compact.

If you get cold, wrap up in your sign for warmth.

If you have to sit on the ground during 5,000 speeches, your sign is also a blanket.

If the baby is breastfeeding, you can use the sign to cover that dreadful gap by your waist you failed to anticipate, and which does not feel invigorating outside in the cold in January.

If the kids are boredthey can do parachute games with the sign.

If your preschooler’s head keeps bonking against the window as he falls asleep on the way homefold it up and wedge it between his head and shoulder.  (Remove the rope first, thanks.)

If your house is so small you have no place to store your sign from year to year:

  • Keep it in the car as a lap blanket in the winter and to cover your steering wheel in the summer.
  • Hide it between your duvet cover and your quilt.
  • Fold it up and stuff it in a small pillowcase and use it as a pillow.
  • Hang it up in your living room to nip in the bud obnoxious political conversations.

You’re welcome!

Tip: Don’t argue with someone sporting one of these.


Old Links for the New Year

Backstory: I’m doing some testing on this blog and needed a reprint to run so I could check what happened.  I searched “New Year” at my Patheos blog and dredged up a post which contained these two links, still of interest:

1. At in December 2014 I wrote about a Gospel passage I never quite grasped until the events literally happened to me.  And then I got it.  Read the whole thing, and then you’ll know the context for my summing up:

Is there an area of my life where I’m clinging to a past identity? Allowing what I’ve done to define me? To condemn me? What can I do, right now, to become a person who is no longer defined by that past?

When you get to mid-January and your resolutions have already fallen apart, this is what you fall back on.  This is what your efforts are about.  Every minute of your life is a new minute.

2. [Jim A., this is the book we talked about the other week.] If you live someplace with people in it, there’s a book you might find helpful. At New Evangelizers I review The Culture Map by Erin Meyer.   It isn’t what you think it is.

My background is in business and in international studies, and over the years I’ve looked in on a number of “diversity”  type presentations.  Usually they boil down to a few funny stories about what your brandname means in Chinese and an admonishment that we all need to get along and celebrate our uniqueness, pass the baklava and let’s sing a Polynesian folk song.  This book is completely different.

Getting along with others isn’t the highest ideal. But it is good for you to try it sometimes.  Take a look at the book.


Cover image for The Culture Map courtesy of


And a third link, bonus: The top result of my search at Patheos was this article: Gender Stereotyping is the Hot New Thing.  I enjoyed writing that one!

There’s a Saint Out to Get You This Year

If you don’t already know who it is, go to the Saint’s Name Generator and let some holy soul pick you for 2017.


The first year I tried this, I got St. John Bosco.  It was an obvious.

The next year, St. Matthew.  The need was clear, though I’m not convinced I kept up my end of things.

Last year, St. Andrew.  He works in obscurity, but work he does.

And then there’s this year, 2017.

So about that Rosary thing . . .

If you aren’t already familiar with the story of how I accidentally joined the Legion of Mary, you can read that story here.  An excerpt:

I’d never even heard of the Legion of Mary.  But this lady was fast.  She had my name on those forms in an instant. There’s the x for your signature, here’s a copy of your prayers to say every day, and don’t worry, it’s not a mortal sin if you miss a day, but do keep up with it.

“But I don’t go to this parish,” I told her.

They weren’t picky.

I signed.  And then I had to go home and explain this to my poor husband, a protestant who believed in neither the Blessed Sacrament nor prayers to Mary.  Oops.   Luckily he recognized the swift hand of God in answering my prayers for a better prayer life, and if it made no sense to him personally, who was he to argue with God?

And who am I to argue either?

That was all great until, as I wrote in 2015, things began to get complicated.  It is difficult to pray the Rosary (or any other talking-prayer) when you get light-headed when you talk.  The hagiographers won’t have any work to do with me, because I’m not one of those saints with heroic perseverance.  After a long period of trial and error I finally decided to sub out the Office of Readings if I couldn’t reasonably pray the Rosary, since that’s far easier to pray along with silently.  It’s reading.  They put the word reading right there in the name of it.

(I thought about making myself a rosary to read. Like a slide show or something. But then I didn’t.  I guess I should do that.  And yes, I tried apps and things, but nothing suited.)

So then, as I wrote the other day, I got better again!  Woohoo!  Which means that I transitioned, slightly unaware, from World’s Worst Auxillary Member of the Legion, But She Has an Excuse to WWAML, No Excuse.  I had forgot I could do this thing again.

But you know what?  God didn’t forget, and neither did this other guy.

Enter Rosary, Stage Left; Saint, Stage Right

Two big things happened in the last weeks of December.  I can’t remember which happened first.  One was that in the course of cleaning out the house, I came across the stunningly beautiful rosary that a friend had given me as a gift some years ago.  I used to pull it out for the Easter and Christmas seasons, but I’ve been slack about keeping up with liturgically-timed theme-changes lately, and honestly I had sort of, I’m mortified to admit this, forgotten it.  But it pushed its way in front of my nose before Christmas, you betcha.

Then I forgot it again, because it was still Advent.  I know!  But it gets worse!

Meanwhile, my boss here at the Conspiracy posts that she got St. Andrew for her 2017 saint.  He’s well-used among Conspirators, but still in good shape.  So naturally I had to go compulsively find out who my 2017 saint would be, even though it was still firmly 2016, but you know, Facebook.  Must click the link.

So I go, and I pray briefly, hit the button, get to the screen which tells you to pray, and I pray again.  A Hail Mary this time.  Hit the second button:

St. Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort.

If you are in the Legion of Mary, you are now laughing manically and thinking about wiping up the coffee you just spewed all over your screen.  Sorry about that, maybe you should read the blogs of more reputable members.

The Case of the Unblessed Rosary

So I was officially put on notice.  No shirking in 2017, not for me.

Meanwhile, I again discovered that gorgeous rosary I’d re-forgotten, but had cleverly put on a shelf where I’d stumble across it more reliably.  The second time, I remembered something else: I’d never gone and gotten that rosary blessed.

There are two reasons for its heretofore unblessed state:

(1) My friend who gave it to me is not a Catholic, she’s just an extremely thoughtful and generous person who had this beautiful thing she knew I’d treasure made for me.

(2) At the time I received it, I had no idea rosary-blessing was even a thing.  No one tells you anything when you’re Catholic.  You can go years and years not knowing all kinds of stuff “everyone knows.”   Problem I might rant about another day, but for now, on to the happy ending.

So I’ve got St. Louis M. breathing down my back, a forlorn rosary dying to be put to its proper use, and hey, the year begins with the feast of Mary, Mother of God.

So yes, even though Father was miserable with a cold today at Mass and it pained me to ask him to say one more thing with that throat of his, I totally hauled that rosary out and had it blessed.  And then I went home and used it.  1 down, 364 to go.

Get yourself a saint if you haven’t already.  Happy New Year!

File:Людовик Мария Гриньон де Монфор.jpg
You could do a lot worse than having this man on your case.

Artwork courtesy of Wikimedia, Public Domain.


If you read this blog via e-mail or feed reader, or if you have Ad Block ensabled on your browser, FYI: Among our sponsors here at the Catholic Conspiracy are people who make and sell rosaries. If you’re in the market for Catholic or Christian-friendly goods and services, do kindly see if any of our sponsors are offering what you’d hoped to find.  Thanks!

Should You Try to Lose Weight?

It’s resolution season, and for reasons I can’t explain, I keep ending up in conversations about weight loss.  It might be because we live in a society that sells an obsessive preoccupation with a particular standard of beauty to a populace notoriously unable to achieve that standard.  Hence a large number of us yearn to live up to an ideal we are nowhere close to meeting.

Thus: Unhappiness.

If you are one of the unhappy people trying to decide what to do with your body this year, here are my three thoughts.

#1 Work on Your Soul First

I don’t say ignore your body, see below.  But let’s remember what your body is: Your body is the way your soul expresses itself.  You are a body-soul sandwich, the two are inseparable, and thus if you don’t take care of your body (see below) you hamper the working of your soul.  But the soul directs the body.  The work of the body is to communicate the soul to the world.  Therefore, if you have a perfect body and a trashy soul, your body is just going to strew garbage.

You don’t want that.

As it happens, one of the means of caring for your soul involves caring for your body — the two are, after all, inextricably linked.  But if you have to choose between devoting your limited energy primarily to making yourself all shiny and buff on the outside or tending to the serious spiritual problems you’ve got going on inside, tend to the spirit first every time.  Do that and the body will start to follow along — it’s attached.

#2 Do You Really Need to Lose Weight?

There are two categories of people who think they need to lose weight:

(A) People who do not need to lose weight.

(B) People who do need to lose weight.

I have no idea which one you are.

If you took a poll of friends, relatives, and physicians, you’d probably get a variety of answers — even if you inhabit the very portly or very slender end of the spectrum.

To complicate matters even further, there are some people who determine they need to lose weight, so they change some aspect of their daily habits and thus succeed in achieving long-term weight loss.  (Examples: Rebecca, Erin, the other Jen F.) There are other people who follow the same exact steps that worked for so-and-so, with the same amount of diligence and self-denial, and do not achieve the same results. There are yet other people who try ten different things before they finally figure out the one that works.  There’s not much way of knowing which group you’d fall into.

Therefore, after you’ve done #1, I recommend skipping straight to #3, which will hold you in good stead and save you all kinds of anxiety in the meantime:

#3 Work on Being Healthy and I Mean That For Serious

I am not your girlfriend who always says “supportive” things.  I am your mother who cares about your well-being, and who is also ready to barge in and claim your rights for you:

You deserve to be as healthy as you can reasonably be.

Now there are a lot of horrible things going on in your life that are getting in the way of that.  People steal your protein bars and stuff your cabinets with sugar-coated Doritos.  Your boss threatened to fire you if he caught you exercising.  You have an evil fat-producing tumor in your rear.  You’re allergic to fresh air, sunlight, and all vegetables.

I exaggerate, but I don’t kid.  We all have things we cannot control, and other things that are hard to control, that make it more difficult for us to take care of ourselves the way we ought.  We all have things that genuinely prevent us from being able to make ourselves as healthy as we’d like.

So accept right now that you might not be able to be as healthy as you want to be.  Furthermore, accept that being as healthy as you can be is going to require overcoming some significant obstacles.

But don’t, therefore, cheat yourself of that which you both deserve and can realistically have.

It isn’t, after all, just about you.  By taking care of your body as well as you are able, you allow your soul to work as well as it is able. And that means you are able to do good things for other people.


Spare notes for people who don’t have a clue where to begin:

I’m loathe to make specific prescriptions on what as healthy as you can be will look like for you.  I’m not your doctor, and anyway doctors disagree on what the best course of nutrition, exercise, and so forth looks like.  But if you know things are not well with your body and you aren’t sure where to start, here are my three thoughts on how to make a beginning.

Visit your doctor.  There are a lot of health problems, piles and piles of them, that can cause fatigue, weight gain, lethargy, depression, exercise intolerance, etc., etc., etc.  There’s no sense beating yourself up because you can’t achieve xyz health or fitness goal when it turns out all along you needed to be treated for an underlying medical condition if you were ever going to make a go of it.

Pick a middle-of-the-road book on health and nutrition that’s not about dieting, and is about eating real foods.  Two that get good recommendations by a broad cross-section of motivated-but-beleaguered readers are The Perfect Health Diet and The Wahls Protocol.  I don’t say these books will be exactly what you need forever and ever amen.  You may find you need to blatantly ignore some of the advice.  But if you are currently living on Frosted Flakes and haven’t got a clue whatsoever, both of these sit midway among various approaches to health and nutrition, and provide a starting point from which you could then make adjustments.  There are other similarly good books you might like better, I just haven’t read them.

Readers, if there’s a book or website you’ve found helpful in showing you how to realistically improve your health, please share over at the Facebook discussion group for this blog.

Start somewhere, and then adjust and improve bit by bit.  Maybe you’ll be one of those people who gets instant, perfect results with the first thing you try.  Congratulations and please hush your mouth.  Most people have to do some experimenting to find out what works well for making their bodies as healthy as possible.  Your body is unlike any other, and your life is unlike any other, so the only way to take care of yourself is to just keep trying to take care of yourself.

But regardless of how you proceed, here’s your message for the coming year: God doesn’t make garbage.

He didn’t make you to be treated like garbage.

He made you to be loved and cherished.  When He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” He necessarily implied that if you don’t love yourself, you aren’t going to be any good at loving your neighbor either.  Taking care of your body is a way that you serve God.

 File:The one man power in our jury system LCCN2011661381.jpg

Artwork: Joseph Keppler [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  That’s a “P” in the word Puck, just FYI.

Wowzers Life is Good

#1 Guess who’s going on a diet and getting a massive makeover this year?

That’s right: My house!

So far we’ve hauled two truckloads of junk to the thrift store, shoved off a minivan-load of books and toys to other families, persuaded some anonymous kind soul to rescue an ancient free-to-good-home sofa off the curb, and dispatched to the landfill  sundry other items which had mistakenly taken up residence on our property — which has never actually been a landfill, it just looked like one, thanks.

While other people were piously praying the O Antiphons, Superhusband and our eldest daughter were mortifying themselves by removing 40 acres of popcorn ceiling. The other 4/6ths of us did support crew.  (Thank you, Costco, for existing.  Amen.)  Hallways are now primed, painted, and back in service; after a break for the feast, the living room is underway.

Pro Decorating Tip for People Still Living in 1979: If your home is built like a cave, go for shiny ultra-white every time.  Harvest Gold doesn’t look so sunny if there is not actual sunlight present.

Tiny tree wrapped in a big white gift box.

Festival of light for us, indeed.

#2 This is possible because . . .

Whoa boy, I haven’t been this healthy, functionally speaking, in three years.  I do not know what’s going on.  There are several possible explanations that correlate.

Drug theory: In October I was the worst I’d been since forever.  Went to my GP about the neuromuscular problems that had cropped up with a vengeance, he came up blank after mostly-normal bloodwork and referred me out, but the appointment is for May 2017.  I know!  That’s a lot of months of “try Tylenol,” kids.   As it happens, my situation most closely mimics the symptoms of “mitochondrial disease” which I put in quotes because that’s a very broad category of problems, not a single illness.  The going treatment is a combination of symptomatic support (aka, “try Tylenol”) and a set of available-OTC vitamins and, um, things.  So I googled around, picked one of the vast number of debated protocols, and tried it.

Prayer theory: I checked in with several of my chief prayer-people back in October when the situation was very ugly, and they have been working on my case with extra diligence.

Random Coincidence theory: Lots of diseases have a relapsing-remitting course, and I might just be enjoying a lucky break.

Some Other Thing theory: Maybe I needed to accumulate enough hours doing carpool and then I’d be healed.  Or who knows.  We’ll see how things unfold.

#3 Regardless, it’s possible.

I was banned from painting anything, ever, way back sixteen-and-some years ago when we first converted the soon-to-be-nursery from Vintange Mint to You’d Be Willing to Raise a Child Here.  (I recently got clearance to repaint some rusty shelving that’s going on the back porch, though.  I think the craftspersons are either desperate or delusional.  Or maybe the rule is: If we were otherwise going to send it to the landfill, Jennifer is allowed to try to paint it first.)

Needless to say, I’m strictly support personnel for this recent venture, since the goal is to make the home presentable to the general public.  Still, even the low-profile jobs are a pile of work.  In addition to emptying the living room and doing the house-diet runs, the boy and I have been cleaning up the yard.  Since I track my activity level, here’s the change:

This time last year, I was good for an average of 5,000 steps a day, with one rest day a week.  I was hitting a lot of higher-count days, and also I didn’t figure out about artificial heat sources until late in the season.  [The deal with that: I was needing an extra two hours of sleep through the cool months to make up for the energy spent keeping myself warm at rest.  That would be eleven hours of sleep a day.  That’s a lot of time spent not-awake.]  If I broke that rule and tried to go longer than a week without a rest day, I’d be completely laid low for a week or more.

This fall, going straight to avoiding making my body produce its own supplementary heat (at rest – when you’re up moving around, you generate heat regardless), and with a more regular daily routine, I was at 5,000 steps a day, steady, no rest day needed as long as I kept it mostly under 6K on the upwards end.  Note that one cannot accomplish very much with this activity level.

That’s where I was mid-October, and also having Fun with Pain and things like that.  (“Try Tylenol!”)  I was completely wiped out by a cold in November, to the point that I skipped Thanksgiving.  That was fine, emotionally, but obviously things were not good.

Once I got past the cold though, things went upwards fast. Pain and Things dropped off to non-interfering levels, and my stamina creeped up and stayed up.  I can talk without getting lightheaded.  I can sing, somewhat.  I’m averaging 10K of steps a day, no rest days needed.  Though I get the normal muscle soreness that comes from increased activity (yard work, moving things around the house, Costco), it’s all just the normal thing.

(That itself is a gift: Being reassured that yes, you have all along known the keen difference between normal muscle soreness and This Is Not Right.  And kids? Don’t take Tylenol for normal.  Not worth the side effects.  Normal pain is just normal, enjoy it and use it wisely.)

So yes, things are astonishingly good here.  By which I mean, normal.

#4 Dread Diseases Will Teach You Useful Skills

A skill I do not possess is the ability to sing well.  I enjoy singing, but I am not skilled at it. Not being able to sing, however badly, did not make me happy.  So over the past several years I’ve gotten practiced at lip-syncing along when there’s a hymn at church I really want to sing, but also I don’t want to faint.

You know who is grateful I possess this skill? Everyone who came to the early Christmas Eve Mass at my parish.

Yes, everyone!

I was the parent-on-the-scene with the Junior Miscreants Choristers up in the choir loft, who sound angelic when they sing, but are not, in fact, actual angels.  Now, other than the part where I mistakenly signaled the children to kneel during the Consecration and they flopped around like pious fish in confusion, I was mostly a beneficial presence, I tell myself.  But it would have been very, very unhelpful if I had sung along to the carols loud-and-proud like we do down in the pews.  So isn’t it wonderful that I had several years of practice fake-singing-and-enjoying-it?

Yes it is wonderful.

You’re welcome, world.

#5 My living room is beautiful.

In a half-painted, construction-site sort of way.  Also, my yard’s looking less and less like a landfill every day.  Merry Christmas!


FYI if you were looking for interesting Christmas-themed reading, I’ve linked a few things in my Twitter feed.


Dear Protestant Friends, Please Don’t Have Church on Christmas

I’ve heard there’s a stir among some Christians concerning assorted Protestant congregations declining to have services Sunday morning the 25th.

I wish to encourage this habit.  

I’ve already told my mother-in-law that if *her* mother-in-law, whose Baptist church is hosting a service Christmas Eve only (during which time she’ll be busy with the family), if she in her deprivation would like to visit my Catholic parish Sunday morning?  I will absolutely attend two, yes two, Christmas Masses so that my poor beleaguered Protestant relative has company.

[I’m obliged to be at Mass on the vigil, firm commitment.  And, yes, I hate crowed Christmas Masses just as much as everyone else. But I’ll take one for the team, you bet.]

I’ll be honest, I’m surprised to hear about this year’s church-service defecting.  Years ago (2011?) my son was sitting with my husband at his evangelical church on a Sunday Christmas morning, and the pastor in his sermon asked, “And why are we here this morning?”  To which my son responded: “Because it’s Sunday.”

Which was correct.  In years when Christmas didn’t fall on a Sunday, my then-Protestant husband came to Mass with the mackeral-snappers, because that was the only Christmas-morning action in town.

Thus a year or two later my husband came to Mass with us one Christmas non-Sunday morning and promptly forgot to ever go anywhere else.  Within a month he’d gone and reverted to the Catholic faith.  Thank you Protestants!  Keep up the good work!

So it’s with mischievous hopefulness that I’m hearing so many non-Catholics won’t be having church this Sunday.  You Catholic friends?  Stand in the back and help the vagrants find seats in your pews.  Thanks everyone!

Related: 10 Reasons It’s Safe to Come to Mass this Christmas


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Artwork by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/1530–1569) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

PSA: Read Dickens’ Christmas Carol

Some people I know have a favorite film or TV version of A Christmas Carol.

These people are otherwise smart, friendly, tasteful folk, but boy are they wrong about that.

There is no good version.

I despised A Christmas Carol forever and ever amen because I grew up watching everybody and their brother’s rendition of the show.  I hated them all.  I assumed it was because the story itself was trite and overwrought. No.  It was because someone should have had the sense to strictly forbid the inevitable evisceration of an excellent book.

There are books out there that have been written as books because the written word allows you to do things that cannot be done in a play or on film.  Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of those books.

Do you love yourself?  You should. Jesus loves you, so you should too.  And therefore, since you are visiting this blog and thus we know you are a literate person of a certain age, you owe yourself the gift of reading the book.

It’s a short book.  Unlike other books by Charles Dickens, you can enjoy this book.  Yes, even you.  Even though we all know you hated both pages of Great Expectations that you pretended to read while your English teacher was looking.  Ordinary people who have the sense to mostly avoid Dickens should, nonetheless, read A Christmas Carol.

It’s an excellent story, and it’s out of copyright so you can even read it for free (though I prefer paper myself).

Here it is at Project Gutenberg.

Here it is for Kindle.

Here’s a review of a nice library book I found, Walking Dickens’ London,  that you might enjoy to go with.   I see looking over the review that I recommend this book as a convenient way to get perspective on Rerum Novarum If you double-love yourself, of course you’re reading that, too.  But A Christmas Carol is a tad more accessible to most of the kids.

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No one keeps Christmas better than Scrooge.  A Christmas Carol bookplate courtesy of Wikimedia [public domain].

Quick Note on Living Wages & Social Justice: Profiteering

While waiting for the timer on the pizza to beep, I came across Theodore Seeber’s post about a hypothetical scenario (linked from yet another blog writing on yet another topic) concerning a business owner who sources his clothing from a sweat shop.

There is much to say on the topic of just wages, and if you check the early archives of this blog you’ll see where I’ve gone and said a goodly portion of it.  The question of culpability looms large, in that often we cannot know or control every aspect of a commercial transaction.

The one concept I thought worth highlighting from Seeber’s comments is that there is a moral distinction to be made between solidarity and profiteering.  Everything else equal, if the business owner is profiting from the low wages and poor working conditions at his factories, it is a serious sin.  That should be contrasted to the situation of, say, a subsistence farmer whose hired workers live and eat just as badly as the employer.

In terms of economic theory, the challenge is overcoming the idea that just because an exploited worker is better off being exploited than being dead, does not therefore mean that we have a free and fair exchange of labor for wages.  Anytime your only alternative to a course of action is certain suffering and death, we cannot say your choice has been “freely” made.

For more details, see Rerum Novarum.

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Pope Leo XIII, who knew what he was talking about.  Courtesy of Wikimedia [public domain].

Book Notes: Pope in a Box & Marrying Well

I asked for a coloring book and what I got was . . . encyclicals.

The Complete Encyclicals, Bulls, and Apostolic Exhortations

The good news is that if you pick up your kid after school still wearing your pajamas, but you’ve got a volume of apostolic exhortations on the passenger seat of your minivan, that counts for something, right?

What’s in the book: Pope Francis: The Complete Encylclicals, Bulls, and Apostolic Exhortations, Volume 1 contains Lumen Fidei, Evangellii Gaudium, Misericordiae Vultus, Laudato Si’, and Amoris Laetitia.  Other than a brief introduction at the beginning of the collection, what you get is the English-language text and footnotes, right like it came off the Vatican’s website, forever and ever amen.

Why it’s better ran than reading on your digital device:  Because reading on paper is better than reading digital.

Pros & Cons, in no particular order:

  • If you like books, this a book.
  • The text is a nice size, but there isn’t a ton of white space for notes.
  • If you leave this paper-book, rather than your iPhone, sitting by your easy chair, you are far more likely to skip Facebook and mindlessly scroll through an encyclical instead.

Is it better than printing off a copy and putting it in a binder?  Well, there isn’t as much white space for notes.  Also, you might be shy about writing all over such a nicely-published product.  On the other hand, think of how much amusement your heirs will receive as they gather around at your wake and try to decipher your more acerbic comments.  Unlike binders full of printed-out encyclicals, you’ll probably never wonder if you should just recycle the bound version.

Is it healthy to keep this kind of product lying around the home?  It’s much better for you than reading press coverage, that’s for sure.  On the other hand, if gathering all the Holy Father’s magisterial comments into one volume is going to cause you to mutter, “Dammit, Jim, the answer to the Amoris dubia is right there in paragraph 64 of Evangelii Gaudium! don’t say you weren’t warned.

Verdict:  I reluctantly concede that I gained more spiritual benefit from this review item than I would have from acquiring a second coloring book.  Looks like it starts shipping December 26th, so ask the wise men to bring you one for Epiphany.


Earlier this fall I received, also from Ave Maria, a review copy of 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person by Jennifer Roback Morse and Besty Kerekes.

101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person

This is a super book.  I kept it lying around at hand, read a page or two at a time, and breezed right through it.

What it is:  A collection of practical advice on dating, discerning marriage, and preparing yourselves for lifelong, life-giving marriage.  Each “tip” is a few paragraphs long, so it’s not overwhelming.  After a couple decades of marriage I can affirm all the advice is spot-on.  The book is charitable but unflinching on the tough topics — this isn’t your girlfriend telling you, “Whatever you choose is fine,” this is your mother letting you know that in fact cohabitation is a bad idea and you’ll have a more successful marriage if you resume living separately until the big day.

Unlike a certain strain of neo-Victorian sentimental claptrap, the book takes no opinion on who should do the cooking or whether feminine genius involves crochet.  The tips do advise you to consider whether you and your intended spouse hold compatible views on money management (but observes that different couples happily manage their money differently — the goal of the book is to guide you into marital happiness, not fiscal prowess).

Who would like this book: People who are looking for sound guidance on how to find the right spouse.  I would give this book to a young person who generally takes your advice and has expressed a desire to think and act carefully where marriage is concerned.  I would not give this book to an adult child with whom I’d just finished arguing bitterly over the current love interest or relationship habits — awkward.  I think the book does have great potential for book clubs both for young persons (high school and up) and for parents who want to be more intentional about guiding their children towards good relationships.

Verdict: I’m glad to have this one on my shelf.  It’ll get lots of use.


Related #1: YOU from Ascension Press


You’ll recall that I’ve been working through this set since mid-August.  I’ve been going slowly because I’m reading every word and paying close attention — there is a ton of material and the stakes are high.  So far, I hold with my initial extremely positive impression.  The parent book (finished) is top notch.  You want to do this study with parents at your parish.  It hits the perfect three-part requirement:

  • It’s short.  Parents don’t have a lot of time to read.
  • It doesn’t assume parents are already on board with the Theology of the Body.
  • It provides a ton of depth and insight for any parent, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum.

I’m halfway through the teacher’s manual (which also contains 100% of the student text) and am very impressed.  FYI: This text is targeted towards the average teenager living in today’s typical teenager’s environment.  If your child is a very sheltered homeschooler who doesn’t do digital devices and thus is enjoying an innocence other kids just don’t get anymore, this series is not for you, until your student is ready to step off into the deep end of Other Kids’ Lives.

But most students at your parish probably go to public school or to a private or parochial school that’s sordid enough to keep up. [Remove head from sand, please.]  YOU is for that kid.  The depth and scope of the material is sufficient that I’d advise starting no sooner than ninth grade. (Ascension’s Theology of the Body for Middle School would be the right product for younger students who are already dating and/or using the internet freely.)

My first choice on format would be for parents to complete the parent book first, and then go through the student series in class with their children afterwards.  There is nothing dumbed-down, at all, about the student material.  It will not be boring or childish for grown-ups.  You can safely assume that many of the parents of your parish youth have questions or doubts about chastity; if you let parents use this program as a Please Don’t Get Pregnant Push Off Sex Until College safety net, you’re cheating your kids and your parents both.  Don’t go there.  Get the parents involved as much as you possibly can.

Final verdict coming after I’ve completely finished the whole works.

Related #2: All the coloring books.  My friend Sarah Reinhard reviews the ever-expanding array of Catholic adult coloring books over at the Register.

Related #3: Jimmy Akin All Year Long.  Julie Davis at Happy Catholic reviews Jimmy Akin’s A Daily Defense: 365 Days (plus one) to Becoming a Better Apologist.   What I want for Christmas is the complete collection of Ronald Knox’s detective stories, but this would be a pretty happy second choice.

Related #4, gifts for you, since it’s the week of Mandatory Joy: Back when Msgr. Knox was just Mr. Knox, he wrote this satirical application of the Historical-Critical Method to the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.  After enough years of priestly ministry, he went on to write “Hard Knocks,” a moral analysis of church bazaars; go here and scroll down to the bottom.  Happy Advent!

Book covers courtesy of Ave Maria Publishing and Ascension Press.