Nature Builds on Grace

So imagine for a moment that in the space of two weeks you learn that your kid has a potentially life-threatening (but otherwise probably benign) tumor in her heart, and then you travel out of town to get it removed via open-heart surgery, and then you come home after and basically you’re done.*  In two weeks.

That’s crazy.  Far too crazy to be eligible for fiction, what with no foreshadowing, no crises, and a shocking denouement in which you get home and have to forbid your kid to clean her room, until you finally break down after a couple hours and let her clean her room.

Also it can’t be fiction because everyone was fine.  A little edgy, sure, definitely some adrenaline happened.  Garden-variety hospital snafus happened (ex: The Night of the Beeping Monitors). There was sunburn during the lead-up to the climax, and also my sister sitting alone on the beach nobly guarding my phone, which was actually with me in the beach parking lot talking to the insurance people. But mostly everything was fine.

Truth: While we were busy with our dramatic medical incident, many friends were enduring much worse suffering.  That is, if by “worse” you mean people-actually-died ‘n stuff.

Since there can therefore be no riveting memoir, here’s my how-to quick guide on How to Throw a Successful Medical Crisis in Just Two Weeks!

 

1.  Try to recruit about a thousand people to pray for you.  If you do this, then your most anxiety-prone child of the bunch can be the one who needs to have her sternum cracked and her heart sliced open, and it’ll be fine.  By “a thousand” what I mean is: The actual, literal number 1,000.  That’s my ballpark estimate of how many seriously praying people were on this job.  Do that.  You want these people.  What they do matters.

2. Happen to invite the exact right relatives to come stay with you.  Try to get them to arrive for vacation the day before you go in to receive the shocking diagnosis.  Whom to invite?  The ones who keep the house clean, provide competent medical advice, have a couple cousins of just the right ages and personalities to provide 24/7 emotional support for the kids, and who are restless enough to keep everyone busy with activities so you don’t have much time to sit around dreading things.

2a.  Dessert.  The children insist you want to invite the relatives who firmly believe in running out to the store to buy three boxes of brownie mix, because there weren’t any brownies in the house.  I say if you do the dishes, vacuum, and wash the sheets before you leave . . . you make all the brownies you want, I can be healthy again after you go home.

3.  Go to the beach.  Oh, you just want to sit around googling statistics about rare surgical procedures?  That’s why you arranged for your sister to show up: Because she is going to take you to the beach, and once you’ve viewed one excision of a right ventricular mass you’ve viewed them all.  Go to the beach. Your kid is gonna have a very boring and painful summer once surgery happens.  For goodness sake go to the beach.

Backlit tree with egrets at sunset.
Sunset at the rental house on John’s Island. It’s hard to be stressed here.

4. Comparative Advantage for the win.  So you are going to ask all your friends with relevant experience for their advice, and then you will take it.  One of the things you’ll learn is that there are different types of work for different people at different times.

  • The aunt who is perfectly capable of watching your healthy kids is the person who needs the power of attorney so she can do her thing and not need to call you at just the wrong time.
  • The ICU nurse who has gotten your kid stable post-op, and she is not tired, and she is one-on-one with your kid, is the person who should stay up all night after surgery watching your kid while you go to the hotel and get as much sleep as you can.
  • The spouse who does better on disrupted sleep should take night shift in the step-down unit.
  • The spouse who does better at asking hard questions and won’t be intimidated by the platoon of physicians descending on your room during rounds should do day shift.
  • The people who cook astonishingly good food available at local restaurants should feed you during shift change.
Dinner at Fuel. Tourist tip if you’re ever in Charleston: King Street is for people who like normal food. MUSC neighborhood is for people who feel cheated if the taco is just a regular taco with no purple cabbage on it.

5.  A sane parent is a priceless treasure. There is no substitute for a parent who is willing to do whatever it takes to support a child in a medical crisis.  Thus more sides to the shape of parental-sanity:

(A) If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to do the whatever it takes when the need arises.

(B) Whatever it takes includes doing some hard things, but not all the hard things.  If you don’t have to be there doing a thing, go do something that makes you better able to do the things only you can do.

So yeah: I totally made a teenager deliver me my good cruiser so I could go on a bike ride when it was my turn to get out and get some fresh air.  Yes, the spouse and I got out for couple-time during shift change, so we could see daylight, talk to each other without interruptions, eat something good and be ready to go back in for more.

 

Lawn by the ER at MUSC
If your kid kicks you out of her room because she doesn’t want to smell your heated-up frozen dinner, then go lie down in green pastures on the lawn by the ER. It’s okay to take pleasure in good things even when your kid just had major-major surgery.

6.  You can just be real about the situation.  Back to that whole 1,000-person prayer team:  Yes, the SuperHusband and I, and everyone else, were worried and scared.  Left to my own devices, not only could I worry about this child’s impending doom, I could also conjure up scenarios in which other children met tragic fates while we were all distracted by the one having the official crisis.  Drowning? Fatal car accident?  Nobody’s safe!  Ever!

Nobody is ever safe.  Our kid came through surgery just fine, and other people were receiving bad news.  Our days were getting better and better while other people’s lives were getting worse and worse.  It’s a fallen world.  You don’t have to pick a single All-Purpose Mood that somehow perfectly matches the gravity of the situation, because the truth is that the situation is complicated, and some really good things are happening and so are some bad things.  So just whatever.  Don’t feel beholden to the Feelings Police.

7.  Eternity is for real.  The thought of my kid dying is unbearable.  Also: It could happen on my watch.  Indeed, the expected death rate for my children is 100%, so unless we all die in the same train wreck, some of us get to be bereaved.

This is awful.  Believing in God doesn’t take away the intense grief that comes with losing someone you love.

But here’s what it does do: It means you aren’t hanging all your faith on doctors.  You can be sensible and do practical things to try to ensure the best odds possible on your kid’s survival, but the weight of Everything Forever And Ever Amen doesn’t hang on your shoulders, and it doesn’t hang on the doctors’ shoulders.  When you know that God has everything under control, you don’t have to be in a non-stop panic, frantically trying to save your kid from eternal nothingness.

You ask God to spare you the suffering, and hopefully He spares you the suffering.  But you also know that the separation of death is temporary, and no matter how bad things get in this life, no matter how black your grief, no matter how much your life sinks into the abyss of loss if the worst should happen, it isn’t the end of the story.

And then if your kid’s not dead and actually she’s recovering pretty well, you can leave her to the spouse who has day shift and get out for fresh air and sanity.

Green sea grass with sailboats on the water in the distance.
View of the marsh and estuary from the Lockwood Drive greenway.
Concrete walk along The Battery, Charleston, SC, with house and palmetto trees.
The Battery, where cars are as slow as the bicycles that pull over to let faster traffic pass.

 

*It’s not done until Pathology says it’s done . . . but we’re not going there right now.

Ableism Entrenched

Up at the Register: Are People with Disabilities Welcome at Your Parish?

Ableism is the counterpart to “racism” or “ageism,” the often-insidious discrimination against people with disabilities.  Ableism is happening when a parish that has three wheelchair-accessible entrances decides to lock all doors except the one with the stairs.  No malice, just complete indifference.

When you park in the handicap spot even though you don’t need it, that’s ableism.  It’s also ableism when you assume the person with the tag must be faking just because you can’t identify an obvious disability.

Here’s an example of how pervasive ableism is:

We’re at the “atrium” of the children’s hospital today, a big sunny play space where kids can do fun stuff.

Children's Atrium, MUSC Children's Hospital

L. is in the teen corner doing arts and crafts, and it gets to be a few minutes before closing.  The other family there is a patient with her dad and a sister.  The dad calls clean-up time, and I get up and go help with putting away all the craft supplies.  I’m not really paying attention to who is doing what, other than that I start with putting away the things we personally got out (because I know where they came from) and also I tell L. to go sit in her wheelchair and hold all our junk for the trip up.

Here’s the entrenched-ableism mindset: In my brain I compose an explanation for why my kid is not helping clean up.

My child has a broken sternum from open-heart surgery less than 3-days earlier, and I am feeling the need to be ready to explain why she can’t walk around putting things away.  In a children’s hospital.  Where everyone else is there with a kid (or is the kid) who also can’t do all the things.

Mind you, not a person batted an eye.  But you know you are used to living in an abelist world when you just automatically prepare to fend off stupid accusations against a kid with an invisible (and thankfully temporary) disability.

Which is why we have parishes that lock people out of Mass if they can’t climb stairs.  And that’s a problem.

Things You Don’t Expect

Despite the fact that there’s a well-known link between vaccines and Calvinsim, earlier this month L. went in for a booster shot.  This was not a regular well-visit.  It was just come in, get jabbed, go home.

Still, the pediatrician came into the exam room and did a once-over to make sure the girl was healthy before giving the shot.  Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, lungs, heart.

It was all pleasant chit-chat until the stethoscope came out.

I quieted down so the doctor could listen, and the listening grew more and more intense.  She asked to L. to lie down, and did all the possible angles with that stethoscope.

And then she said she was referring us for an echo.  “Sounds similar to a common benign murmur that occurs at her age, but I think it’s a little bit more pronunced than it should be.  We should take a look.”

Okay.  No big deal.  The referral went into the black hole of office bureacracy, and honestly the chief reason I got on the stick and made administrators get an appointment time pinned down was because the kid wanted a clean bill of health for sport camp.

The echo tech told us she’d do the ultrasound, and later in the day a cardiologist would look over the files.  He’d send a note to the pediatrician, and she could follow up with us if need be.

I watched with interest, but also with the confident ignorance of people who have seen enough ultrasounds to know that the shapes on the screen don’t look like the pictures in the textbook.

And then as she wrapped up, the echo tech said, “I’m just going to go speak to the doctor now and have him look at this.”

That was when I knew things were up.

***

So one thing that kept grabbing my eye during the echo was a pulsing ball at the middle of the screen.  It looked kinda like a ping-pong ball bobbing in a lake.  I told myself it was probably a weird view of some body part being caught at just the wrong angle.  It was inconceivable to me that it might actually be a pulsing ball of . . . something.

Here’s a picture of the human heart, not drawn to scale:

At the bottom in blue is the right ventricle.  One does not store a blue ping-pong ball in one’s ventricle.

But there it is, a probable myxoma, extremely rare for a young teen, extremely rare in this location.  For various reasons, most of them called you do not want a pulmonary embolism, out it must go.

We were not expecting this.  We were expecting to be told someone’s valves were going through a growth spurt and would be ship-shape again in due time.

We were not expecting: Please keep your heart rate down until we can open your chest in a couple days and get this thing out.

***

The kid cried, not at the prospect of pain or death, but at the prospect of missing out on sport camp.  Also she had grave reservations about hospital food.

She’s a good Catholic all around.

***

There’s something else about expectations that happened.

When the cardiologist came in, he joked around a bit.  He had a little banter about no boyfriends until you finish grad school, and later: Don’t be an orthodontist kid, be a surgeon!  It was all couched in the expectation that of course you’ll go to grad school.  He was the good dad of jocular firmness, the kind that cracks terrible puns and grounds you until your homework is done.

I don’t know if he plans that talk or it’s just how he is.

Here’s what he knew about our kid before he walked in the room: She was referred from the pediatrician who works at the non-profit clinic in the ‘hood, and she needed open-heart surgery.

Kids in either of those situations can feel like they don’t have much of a future.

In two minutes of joking, he communicated this: You have a future! You’re gonna do great things!

***

God provides.  If the appointment referral hadn’t fallen into the black hole, we would have had all this information two weeks earlier.  Because there was a delay — a delay that has done no harm, even though it could have — we are hitting just exactly the moment on the calendar when we have a maximum of support through a tough week, and exactly the right amount of time to get through extended recovery before school starts.

Also, the hospital the cardiologist wants to work with lets you order your own meals, and there’s food the kid likes on that menu.

I couldn’t have expected any of this.  But the silver lining is so bright right now it’ll make your eyes water.

Can Goodness Fix Abuse?

In conversation surrounding Simcha Fisher’s piece on why the Fr. Luke Reese criminal trial is something the community needs to know about, a related topic came up: What role do victims play in their abuse?

For some perspective, Fr. Reese is charged with carrying out an 18-hour ordeal in which, at its peak, he dragged his wife in front of the altar (Fr. Reese is a married priest, yes the Catholic Church has them) and beat her there.

There are no counter-charges that Mrs. Reese was in some way abusing her husband and he was merely physically defending himself.  This is not a case of brawling.  This is assault and battery.

And yet — and the argument is even more deeply entrenched in cases of emotional abuse — some people labor under the idea that abusive behavior is “provoked” by the victim.

This is false.

Why the confusion?

We know a few things about healthy relationships:

  • You can make your relationship stronger by being kind, considerate, and generous.
  • You can help each other grow in virtue and avoid sin by making an effort to avoid tempting yourself and others.

So, for example, if you want to get along better with your workmates, greeting them cheerfully and completely your work promptly can help you all form a better team.

If you and your date are determined to remain chaste, choosing to avoid actions the other finds alluring can make it easier to abstain.

If you and your neighbor want to live on good terms, observing quiet hours can make it easier to get along.

These things work when everyone involved wants a healthy relationship.

It is the nature of abuse to try to pretend there is a “good reason” for the abuser’s behavior.  But there isn’t.

It is normal to get a little frustrated at other people’s faults.  A normal married couple might argue over who should do the dishes.  A normal married couple will not physically assault each other over who should do the dishes.

That’s what makes abuse different from normal behavior: The action or reaction in no way matches the circumstances.

How to Have a Better Marriage

If you and your spouse are both desiring a happier, more joyful marriage, there are things you can do to help with that.  You can pay attention to your spouse’s preferences, and find little ways to show consideration.  Maybe that is by taking on a chore your spouse finds tedious, or by giving attention to some detail that other people might not care about, but which especially pleases your spouse.

She likes tulips not roses, so you bring her tulips.  He hates cilantro, so you serve it on the side.  Of course you do these things, because you love each other and you want to please each other.  You might go so far as to choose an outfit that your spouse particularly admires (and which you agree is becoming on you and fitted to the occasion), even though left to your own devices you yourself wouldn’t spend so much time on your appearance.

An abusive person is not abusive because you brought the wrong flower or served the wrong meal.  An abusive person isn’t going to be “cured” by your selecting a nicer outfit next time.   Healthy people don’t beat their spouse over failing to coordinate the day’s plans, or failing to keep the house clean, or failing to make the children settle down.  Healthy people don’t kidnap, rape, and beat their spouse even over suspected infidelity.

Healthy Responses to Very Bad Behavior

If you thought your spouse was cheating on you, healthy, proportionate reactions might include:

  • Asking your spouse to explain his or her behavior.
  • Attending counseling, with or without your spouse (or both).
  • Asking your spouse to cut ties with a specific person he or she committed adultery with previously.
  • Refraining from intercourse if there is reason to be concerned about sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Insisting your spouse be transparent about internet and social media use.
  • Considering whether a civil divorce or other legal action is a necessary way to handle the fallout from marital infidelity.

Some of these actions are very serious responses to very serious concerns.  None of them involve assaulting your spouse.

 

File:Historic image of Rod Liddle.jpg

Image courtesy of Wikimedia, CC 4.0.

What Doesn’t Protect the Church

I’ve been writing about the allegations of sexual molestation against Cardinal McCarrick over at Patheos:

Soldiers for Christ Hiding Under the Bed is about the connection between covering up for sexual predators and the inability of the Church to be an effective witness to wider society.  Not a surprising connection, but one that needs to be made.

Promiscuous vs. Predatory: How to Tell the Difference is a response to the suggestion that McCarrick was guilty of simple sexual immaturity, not predatory molestation and sexual harassment.  It contains links to my growing collection of essays related to the topic of abuse in the Church.

Rod Dreher has been covering this topic as well, from the point of view of a journalist who investigated McCarrick in the past, but was unable to pull together a story he could break.  In Uncle Ted & The Grand Inquisitor, he shares a disturbing comment he received from a reader:

We MUST protect our brand, our shield, our faith!

I fully support Pope Francis and his softened tone, and even swipes at capitalism because the media love him. And image is everything.   Similarly with Cardinal Dolan, I will fight to the death to defend him, and would go to extreme lengths to protect him because he is so well liked in the leftist NYC media.

In short, we must handle these issues swiftly, legally, but privately!  As a successful advertising executive in NYC I am looked up like an alien because I am a weekly mass attender, and a conservative. I am respected by my liberal media friends because I loathe the Trump-Palin-Brietbart wing of my party, and trumpet my cause in a more Bill Buckley.

Image is everything, and when it comes to the One True Church we MUST protect her!

Dreher’s reader is wrong.

Let’s see what the Bible has to say about fighting the Church’s enemies:

11 Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. 13 Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. 14 So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, 15 and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:11-16

What are our weapons?  Truth, righteousness, the Gospel, faith, salvation, and the word of God.

Covering up for sexual predators does not fit on that list.

If the allegations against Cardinal McCarrick are true, the man should have been removed from pastoral ministry decades ago.  By all means, when you see a priest, or anyone, doing what they ought not be doing, if no laws are being broken, begin by confronting the sinner privately.  We all sin.  Would that we were all given the chance to quietly confront our own failings and rectify them.

But when you have evidence of decades of predatory behavior, with untold hundreds of clerics at every level of the hierarchy complicit in silence and cover-up, and how many lives of young men ruined by the crimes inflicted upon them . . . there is no quietly cleaning this up.  “Discretion” does nothing to help the Church.  There is a time for genuine public penance, and now is that time.

Dreher’s reader is correct: the Church’s image matters. But when we hide behind some limp notion of “handling things privately,” the rot festers.  No one is fooled.  The public rightly views us as hypocrites of the worst sort.

So let us instead make the Bride of Christ holy, without blemish, and irreproachable before Christ.  That image, and that image alone, is the one for which we should strive.

File:Vincent van Gogh - The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise, View from the Chevet - Google Art Project.jpg

Artwork via Wikimedia, Public Domain

Pat the Bunny for Young Adults

When I was a kid we had Pat the Bunny. It’s a little board book that shows Judy and Paul doing various activities, and then you, the reader, do that thing too:

Judy can play peek-a-book with Paul.  Now you play peek-a-boo with Paul.

Judy can read her book.  Now you read.

And so forth.  There’s a tiny book-inside-the-book you can flip through when it’s time for you to read.  There’s a piece of cloth for you to lift up when it’s time for you to play peek-a-boo.   The title comes from the page where Judy pats the bunny, and then there is a fuzzy bunny-shape on the page for you to pat.  Hard not to like a book like that.

Over Father’s day the Art of Manliness ran a piece on the importance of doing strenuous outdoor things with your son.*  It’s the same concept: First your son learns how to do challenging things with you, and then he goes on to do them himself.

So now we’re moving on to Pat the Bunny, Young Adult Edition:  Mommy can organize a month long trip in a foreign country, now you organize a month-long trip in a foreign country.

This was just what I’d hoped the boy would learn from last year’s adventures, but I don’t think I was quite ready when he came to us a couple days ago, observed how he has been a very low-budget child to raise up until now, and would we kindly chip in towards him spending a month wandering around France this summer?

Um, okay.

This is what young adults do.  Some of them go off and get their own apartment.  Some of them take a summer job on the other side of the country. Some of them hit the road and travel around.

Can he do this?  Yes, and he knows how.  He’s done international flights and trains and public transit.  He’s done hotels and apartments and restaurants and grocery stores and hut-to-hut hiking.  He’s familiar with the French obsession for regulation headshots slapped on anything and everything, and how to hunt down a photo-booth when you need one.  He’s even demonstrated his ability to read a French neighborhood and know whether it’s one non-locals should be wandering.

What he hasn’t done is doing the thing all by himself, with the parents tucked away on another continent.  Of course not, he just turned 18.

When his great-grandfather was 18, he was wandering France, too, though with somewhat more supervision and quite a lot more danger.

18-year-olds are adults.  They are young adults with not much experience.  It’s the job of parents to give them experience.  First you do it with your kid, and then your kid does it on his own.

Yes, he even knows about taking pictures of the map.

 

*I’m a firm believer in doing adventurous outdoor things with your daughters, too.  Girls are different from boys, but they benefit from outdoor sports just as much, sometimes for the same reasons, sometimes for different reasons.  Humans are made to play outside.  It’s good for us.

Passwords that End in Question Marks

I spent an hour on the phone with the bank today trying to figure out why my daughter couldn’t log into her new bank account.  Everyone else’s online access was working fine, including my ability to see into her (joint) account from my own ID.

The tech guy finally suggests we try logging in using someone’s mobile app.  Two phone-wielding teenagers are lurking in the living room.  There is assorted stalling, but finally IT Boy Young Man is drafted for the job.

I show him the new password we’re trying to enter on the “change password” screen that is our gateway to the new account.  (You can’t proceed with the bank-issued password, for obvious reasons.  Kindly choose something the lady at the bank doesn’t know.)  This is where we keep failing.  We fill out the form and nothing happens when we click “continue” but there is no error message either.  Just nothing.

ITYM starts to enter the data on the post-it-note I hand him.  The new password ends in a question mark.

“I bet it is rejecting your password because it looks like a SQL injection attack,” ITYM says.

Um, okay.  That sounds like something you would say, child of mine.  “So how about trying the password but without the question mark at the end?”

He tries it.  We’re in.  I try it on the PC, we’re in.

I helpfully tell the tech guy at the bank what the problem was, since we can’t possibly be the only people ever who accidentally thought up a password that looked to the machine like a deadly weapon.

We’re not convinced the bank guy is taking notes.

I’m thinking: I could have saved an hour if I’d used my in-house guy instead of calling customer service.  Also, I’m glad the bank has thought up a few security precautions, even if their help desk team does dwell in ignorance.

File:ATM means that you can withdraw money from the store with your ATM card. - panoramio.jpg

Photo by Jaakko H., CC 3.0.

My St. Anthony Story for Today

So I have this devotion to St. Anthony that is mostly about finding things.  Typical Catholic.

This spring the relics of St. Anthony toured the Diocese of Charleston, and of course I had to go.  My specific prayer request was about figuring out (“finding”) my new small-v vocation, now that my last homeschooler is in school.  I’ve been feeling the waters in a lot of different directions, but nothing was quite coming together.  A lot of things were definitely NOT coming together.

So yesterday afternoon after four days forced offline, and a period of prayer and fasting as well (though not as much prayer as I’d like to be able to say I accomplished — just small and targeted prayers), in the space of an hour I got an e-mail accepting a book proposal for a book I can write this summer, and one for a teaching job that starts in the fall.  Perfect combination: I can write this summer while being with the family, and then have work in the fall about the time the manuscript is done.

(No announcements yet — details and contracts still need to be hammered out.)

This morning I got up, and you should know that my usual routine is to make a hot beverage and open the Scriptures, either picking up from where I left off in the Bible (Ezekiel at the moment), or from the day’s Mass readings, or Morning Prayer with iBreviary.  One or another, it just depends.  I had to shake off some scrupulosity and give myself the freedom to just go with whatever was going to work that day.

So today while the hot water was supposedly warming up, I was sitting in front of the PC goofing off, Missal in my lap to go sit outside and pray the readings once the drink was ready.  (You can talk to people online first thing in the morning, no problem, but everyone knows that Jesus wants you to have your hot drink in hand before you converse with Him.  Yeah right.  Cue Coffee with Jesus.)  Eventually I figured out the kettle wasn’t plugged in, eventually I remembered I was supposed to be praying instead of reading online, and thus eventually I made it out to the porch.

Hitch: My bookmark in the Missal wasn’t on the right day, and I was too lazy to go back inside and look up what day we’re on.

But hey, there are saints days in the back, so I figured, I’ll go see if anyone’s having a feast today.

Hitch: That requires knowing what day it is.

But I did some hard thinking (rather than go inside and check the date, hmmn) and remembered that yesterday was the 12th, I think, so that made today most likely the 13th.  I flip to June 13th and who should the saint be but . . . St. Anthony of Padua.  My guy.

But interestingly, my edition of the Daily Roman Missal doesn’t talk about St. Anthony finding your parking space for you.  What it talks about is this: Here’s a saint who was a phenomenal evangelist.  He preached from the Scriptures so thoroughly, with such a reliance on the Gospels, that he got called the “Evangelical Doctor.”

Whoa.  St. Anthony I barely knew you.

And yes, I’d read the biography before, but it went in one ear and out the other — great Franciscan saint, middle ages, preaching or miracles or something, blah blah blah.  Mostly you could count on him to find things, and also one year one of the kids in my class did a great St. Anthony costume for religious ed.  That was truly all I remembered.

I mean, come on, find my hotel for me, that’s all I need.

But also, I asked for his intercession on the question of my vocation.  And on the vigil of the feast day (which was already the feast day in Padua), I got invited to:

  • Write a book on evangelization.
  • Teach in a school where evangelization and Scripture study are the top priorities.

Sooo . . . yes.  Ask and you shall receive.  Mind whom you ask for help, though.

Some short biographies for those who want to parse out yet more parallels:

 

St. Anthony at the Cathedral of Strasbourg.

 

How To Have Competent Young Adults

So Saturday the internet went out, and here’s what happened next:  Mr. Boy, now officially all graduated and legal and I guess technically Mr. Young Man, says to my husband, “Would you like me to clean the house, or would you like me to get on the phone with AT&T and get our service fixed?”

Now he does not have superhuman powers, so it still took until Tuesday for AT&T to actually show up.  But they did, and the friendly service guy, who is not at fault for AT&T’s corporate lapses, worked with Mr. Young Man to figure out what had happened and get it fixed.  (It was them not us . . . my IT Boy Man would have fixed it if it were us.)

Here is another thing that happened on Saturday: My 16-year-old and I got into a huge fight about the state of our front yard, eventually came to a truce-type-moment, and she proceeded to carry out a massive landscaping renovation.  First thing Monday she phone around to mulch dealers, got the best price on pinestraw, calculated how much she’d need, drove the truck (and I drove the other truck) out to pick it up, loaded the truck with a bazillion bales of pinestraw, and came home and made our yard look 10,000 times better . . . and then pressured-washed the driveway.

File:FEMA - 7305 - Photograph by Liz Roll taken on 11-16-2002 in Tennessee.jpgFile:Blithewold Mansion - Water Garden.jpg

Our yard Before & After, as visualized by Wikimedia.  [Public Domain and CC 3.0  Daderot at en.wikipedia respectively.]

 

So how do you get yourself some teenagers who are able to take the initiative and do responsible things?

By letting them take the initiative and learn to do responsible things.

For the boy, I’d say the turning point was letting him unschool 7th grade science.  Every day he was required to read or do some kind of science thing, and make a note of what that was.   I knew I could count on him to educate himself in that area, and indeed he did. Mostly he read technology websites that year.  In later years we bought him computer pieces for his birthday or Christmas when he wanted to build or re-build a computer.  By spring of 12th grade he’d landed his first regular IT job.  He’s 18 and pretty much already has a profession, because we let him do the thing he was interested in.  We didn’t send him to lessons or anything complicated.  We let him experiment and take risks and just do the thing.  There was a lot of trial-and-error involved, but it was his trial, not ours, and now he knows how to avoid the errors.

I’ve already documented some of E.’s artful adventures.  Note that nearly all the things from this beautiful backyard patio area have now been moved around for other decorating needs.   Having a child who can paint means never knowing where your paintbrushes are (except when they are left sitting by the kitchen sink).  The reason the girl is confident she can take on a front-yard renovation is because she’s been let loose with the weed-whacker and the leaf-blower and the pressure-washer many times before, even though she doesn’t always do it the way I wish she would.  (See: Bitter Argument Saturday Morning, Why Did You Chop Down That Oak Sapling?)

Now notice here that my IT guy did not help with the lawn.  Note that my lawn girl did not lift a finger to fix the internet (shout-out to the grandparents who pay for her data plan . . . she had internet while I didn’t, ha.)  There will come a time when they are older and they’ll have to take on a certain number of big projects that they don’t particularly care to do.  At 16 & 18, a realistic expectation is that your kids will go big and deep on the things that are most important to them.

But that’s a good start.  If they learn in their teens that they can take an interest in something, master all the skills, and be turning out professional-grade work as a result?  I think that’s about where they need to be.

So parents,  if you are terrified of the mess your kids are going to make, or you are tempted to over-program and over-schedule their lives, or you worry that your kids aren’t “well-rounded” because they tend to focus mostly on one or two types of interests and not ALL THE THINGS, relax.

Set a few boundaries, sure.  But mostly: Just let your kids do things.

 

Top 10 Papist Travesties Your Congregation Should Trash This Instant

Now many of my non-Catholic readers aren’t so much protesters as “Mere Christians” and can happily get along with some Jesus-art, whether plain plaster or glow-in-the-dark like the Good Lord intended. But there are always a few who are true Protestant’s Protestants, and need to clean house of any popery that might have sneaked into the pews* by accident.

As a history buff and confirmed papist, I’m here to help you root out all traces of Romishness quicker than you can say “whore of Babylon.”  Here are the ten biggest offenders:

The Trinity.  Does the Bible even use the word Trinity?  No it does not.  Obviously invented by bishops.

Illustrated Bibles. Your KJV comic book Bible is really just the Book of Kells in sheep’s clothing.  Seriously you weren’t thinking of buying that I hope?  Honestly the whole thing has to go.

Hospitals.  Monks and nuns and bishops and all that stuff. If you opened a hospital, people would basically think you were Catholic.

Universities.  Talk about pure popery from the get-go.  Avoid.

Latin.  There’s nothing more Romish than the language of Rome.  Sure, the language was invented by pagans, but then what is Catholicism but paganism warmed over?  When looking up plant species or medical terms, it’s safest to translate the Latin into German first.

Guitars.  No one really knows where they come from, except of course it was Spain. Now you can find them in virtually every Catholic church in the world.  Bonfire. Tonight.

Martin Luther.  Father of the Reformation Schmather of the Schmeformation.  Not only is there an eerie parallel between the Martin Luther Insult Generator and the Pope Francis Insult Generator, but the man was a closet papist the whole time.  It was the proto-typical Jesuit Plot, long before anyone even admitted there were Jesuits.  No good Protestant will get within 10 miles of a building with the word “Luther” in the title.

Methodists.  The better English-language Catholic hymnals basically consist of the Wesley brothers, Fr. Faber, and a couple bits of  Thomas Aquinas, translated.  We suspect the Illuminati are behind the rumors that John and Charles Wesley didn’t like Catholics.

Mendelian Genetics.  You thought nothing of sitting around the dinner table trying to figure out where little Josiah got his blue eyes from. Let’s just say that “Augustinian Friar” is not the chicken at your late-summer potluck.

The Big Bang.  As a Christian who believes God created the universe ex nihilo (Google Protestranslate suggests: aus dem nichts), you no doubt are in the habit of recognizing God’s hand in the science of creation.  Aren’t we all.  But the whole idea that God spoke and bang! the world was made?  Forget it.   Well known, openly acknowledged Jesuit plot.

 

 

*Pews themselves have a suitably Protestant pedigree.  They can safely stay.