Welcome Knights and Columbiettes!

I had a great weekend with you, thank you for having me!

If you’d like to continue the quest of bringing your family, friends, and community back to the Catholic Church, the book you want is Return by Brandon Vogt.  You can read my endorsement here.

Here’s Brandon’s quick article on Seven Steps to Bring Any Young Person Back to the Church.

This works.  Do this.

Cover art courtesy of https://helpthemreturn.com/game-plan.

I’ve got a new book out! Me and thirty of my favorite co-authors, that is.

The general update on me is that I’m holding steady.  No particular news to report, and I’m still keeping up the torrent of punditry at Patheos.

But look .  . I accidentally went and got published again!  Here’s the scoop:

Now out from CatholicMom.com: As Morning Breaks, Daily Gospel Reflections.  It’s available as a Kindle book (very affordable – $2.99), but FYI if you want to get this as a gift for someone, it’s not necessary to own a dedicated device in order to read it. Any PC, tablet, whatever, can read Kindle books, just download the free software from Amazon.

 

What’s in the book?  A reflection on the daily Gospel reading for every day of 2015.  This is from the team at CatholicMom.com, so if you’ve been reading those Gospel reflections online, it’s that.  You can preview the first month, which lets you get a taste of each contributor’s style and the kinds of ideas that will be coming your way each day.  If you just want to see my name in print, scroll down to the 16th.

Why is this book better than a bake sale?  Because you can support a good cause without your kids whining over who got the bigger brownie.  All the proceeds from the sale of the book go to help underwrite the cost of keeping CatholicMom.com up and running.  FYI if you weren’t aware, CatholicMom.com is basically the largest womens’ mag in the faithfully Catholic world, brought to you free everyday thanks to the contributions of dozens upon dozens of volunteers who give their time and labor to make it happen.

It’s the place where aspiring Catholic writers are incubated, and it’s the place where established Catholic writers who get paid for everything else they publish still turn up to contribute their work pro bono.

It’s a good cause, and you get more than your money’s worth for what you buy.  Check it out.

A Feast Day Gift for You & Your Friends

If you are looking for some Petrine thoughts out of me today, take a look at the workbook I put together for today’s CCW retreat.  It’s conveniently stored on this page here on the blog, and this is the direct link to the PDF. It is not for sale, but you may use it and reuse it and pass it around.

Please keep the retreat folks in prayer.  Might I observe that the Joyful Mysteries are perfect for this sort of occasion?  Those of you who won’t see this request until after the retreat is over, consider yourself part of the post-retreat-letdown-prevention wing of the prayer group. Thanks!

NFP Saves Thanksgiving

Also, I reviewed a good book.

Back to NFP: So yesterday I woke up at six (normal), and thought it might be prudent to see if I could sleep until seven, what with having a long day ahead, and having been so tired all week.  Success.  Seven rolls around, SuperHusband’s alarm goes off, and now there’s no more stalling except that old married-lady trick: Reach for that thermometer.

Here’s the thing you need to know, you innocent ones, about women of a certain age: We pretty much know whether we actually need to get a temp that day or not.  Round my castle, yesterday was not that day.

But if you want five more minutes of laying in bed, a sudden diligence in Following the Method is a dodge that even St. Josemaria WAKE UP Escriva can’t get down your back about.

So I got my minutes.  Thermometer beeps, and if you don’t go turn on a light and check and see what it says, and write that down someplace, Josemaria’s gotcha.  So I do that, because I don’t want to be in deep trouble with select saints.

100.0.

Benefit of NFP: You know a fever when you see one, the way baseball fans know a bad batting average when they see one.

–> This caused the surreal experience of knowing I was sick, but since I still only felt like a tired person waking up in the morning, I had no idea exactly what sort of sick I might be.  Also, NFP saved Thanksgiving, because:

(a) If I hadn’t known I was sick, I would have gotten up and prepped for co-op.

(b) I would have felt tired and unmotivated, but I would have chalked it up to a moral failure on my part, made extra coffee, and pushed through it.  Probably grabbed some allergy medicine when I felt a little sneezy.

(c) Well, yes, by 10:30 my throat would have been very, very sore.  But I would have assumed it was from talking too much, not enough fluids, something like that.

(d) My friends at the co-op would have observed my pathetic __insert doubtful behavior here__, but they do that every week, so even they might not have realized I was a walking bio hazard.

(e) Germs.  Incubation periods. Major holidays around the corner.  Doesn’t take a public health official to add it up.

So you see?  Moral of the story: The quest for holiness had side benefits for the wider community.

***

What happened instead is that I called in sick, other people went about their lives happily, and I spent the day mildly ill (not that bad, if you don’t have to talk to anybody and can sleep a lot of the day), read books, and then goofed off on the internet while my children faked doing schoolwork.  Which means two more side benefits for the wider community:

1. NFP related: I discovered Simcha’s new book, print version, is now available for pre-order from OSV.  The book doesn’t include every single NFP Secret, like the one I’ve just shared, but it does cover the most important bits.

2. As linked above, I finishing reading and wrote a review for Fr. Longenecker’s book More Christianity.  It’s a good book.  You should consider reading it, if you are one of the qualifying candidates.

front cover More Christianity, revised edition

A couple notes re: full disclosure on this one, since no one is pestering me at this very minute to get off the computer:

  • I read the first edition (issued by OSV).  The cover pictured above is the revised and expanded edition from Ignatius.  You can still buy the old version direct from Fr. L, but I bet the new one is even better.
  • Fr. Longenecker sent me a review copy because I had been so kind in my comments about Catholicism Pure and Simple, a book I paid for with my own money and think was money very well spent.  I’ve also reviewed The Gargoyle Code (loved it), and astute readers may have noticed I tweet an awful lot of Fr. L’s posts from his blog.
  • This is because he writes good stuff. My usual rule for when he, or anyone, says dumb stuff, is to take it up privately or else just ignore it.*

I would torment you by saying, “I also read a pretty bad book yesterday,” but that would be unkind, unless I meant to tell you which bad book it was.  I do read bad books, though not usually an entire bad book.

–> If you reach the point where you have read all the very good books, and need a list of books that are pretty good but have a few glaring weaknesses and possibly even some objectionable content, e-mail me.  I know a few.  But I bet you haven’t read all the very good books yet.

*I know this is difficult for you to believe, longtime readers of a blog with a whole category called Rant-o-Rama.  But I assure you, my curmudgeonly powers far exceed anything you witness on the internet.

Cover art courtesy of Ignatius Press.  Ordering information here.

7 Takes: Sinner’s Guide to NFP Giveaway Day

1.  If you didn’t come here from there already, go visit our hostess.  She’s got an especially entertaining set of takes up, including a bit of other interesting bookishness, Tom Clancy edition.

2.  Of course you want this book:

The Sinner's Guide to Natural Famiily Planning by Simcha Fisher

That is why you’re here today, right?  Excellent.

3.  I read this book.  This is how I know you want it. Or, if you answered #2 incorrectly, you would want it if only you were in your right mind this morning.

3.5: What if you already have a copy?!  And now it’s too late to win one!  You’re allowed to enter and win for a friend instead.  See?  Thanksgiving present.  Perfect.

3.75: As I told you last week, it’s AOK to enter this contest, win the book, and never come back to this blog again.  I so don’t care and am not keeping track.

4.  Here’s the scoop on the book, and why you need to reform your ways if you didn’t answer #2, 3, 3.5, or 3.75 correctly:

(A) You know how you hate NFP?  You use it and all, or you would, but it’s maybe not the rapturous experience that you always dreamt of, when you first read the words “cervical mucus”?  This book is about that.  NFP Frustration.

(B) The book doesn’t talk about cervical mucus.  It doesn’t have 10 Ways to Get a Better Temp Rise, Faster! Now! A Full 4/10ths of a Degree or Your Money Back!!

Most books are better if they don’t include that.  –> Except if you’re trying to learn NFP.  In which case the amusing way in which this contest is being run will help you with that.

(C) Every stupid thing about NFP ever. said. by some idiot who clearly has a Josephite marriage and prefers it that way (did Joseph?  I’m skeptical.), REFUTED!  Blammo!  In YOUR PLACE crazy people.  Done.

(D) Except charitably.

(E) Downright Theology of the Body, if you must know.  Only, it’s not, “I drank the TOTB water, and now I drool unicorns and rainbows.”  It’s more like: “Hey!  TOTB Water!  You can brew beer with that!”

(F) It’s a short book.

(G) There were points where I did not laugh out loud.  I laughed so hard sound would not come out of my body.  I would have rolled on the floor laughing, except that I was laughing too hard to fall out of my chair.  I’m sure it was weird looking.  There are certain chapters you might not want to read in public.

(H) We aren’t doing the whole alphabet.

(I) But I thought up another thing: This book is the perfect marriage book.  So if you know somebody who’s married, or who is thinking of getting married, this would be a great gift.  I’ve been married 47.5% of my life.  I know what it takes.  Simcha’s nailed it.  On the head.

(J) It’s pronounced “Sim-ka”.  Like the “ch” sound in “School”.  Because Simka’s so chool.

(K) Yeah, I was saying it wrong too.

(L) I didn’t ask how to pronounce “Fisher”.  We’re all just winging it on that one.

5.  How to Enter the Contest

[UPDATE: I made an easier entry method over at AmazingCatechists.com.  Go there for the simple name-and-a-comment version.  You can also make it your 4th entry, if you’ve done all three here.  Now back to how it works here . . .]

The giveaway takes place 100% 98% in my combox.  I just cleaned out my spambox, but you’ll be more likely not to end up permanently moderated if you don’t choose a name like, “Free Nike’s Cheap” or “Real Louis Vuitton.”  If your name is also the name of a famous piece of merchandise, or includes a grocer’s apostrophe, you might wish to use an alias for this one.

To enter the contest, leave a comment here in this post.  Not a different post.  This post.  Give yourself a username (it can be anything, but if you win, Simcha’s going to call you that name), and leave an e-mail address in the field that asks for it, which only I the moderator can see, a nobody else. If you like, go get yourself a free e-mail account solely for this contest, if that’s the way you roll.  You don’t need to fill out the “website” field, though if your entry is especially amusing, people might want to know about you.

You get up to three entries within your comment.

Entry #1: Say something nice to Simcha!  Examples of winning entries:

“Hi, Simcha!”

“Thanks for writing this book!”

“Your kids are cute!”

“I’m not stalking you, Simcha, I just want a free book, that’s all!”

Entry #2: There’s nothing in Simcha’s book about how to actually use NFP.  So tell us where you learned NFP, or give us a link to a useful website you like, or something else that will help the puzzled people who have no idea why 4/10ths of a degree is so, so, important.

#2: Alternative: If you have no clue about those 4/10ths, you can say that.  You could also say something like, “I don’t know why cervical mucus is such a big deal,” or “I wish I could be as cool as you NFP-using ladies, but instead I answered the call to holy orders, but I need this book for my couple that does marriage prep, and the finance council won’t give me $4.99.”  Or whatever.

Entry #3: NFP.  Discuss.

#3 Alternative: Tell us a good joke.  Something clean, or I’ll have to edit it.

6.  You don’t have to do all three entries.  But you increase your odds of winning if you do.

7.  The drawing will be done using accounting methods, not literary ones.  You don’t have to be clever to win, you just have to vaguely sort of follow instructions.

The contest closes at Midnight on Monday, November 4th.  By “Midnight”, what we mean is sometime after midnight in NYC, and probably no sooner than about 4 – 5 AM Tuesday, later if we’re lucky.  By “Tuesday”, what we mean is, “A day that comes after Monday, and it might even really be Tuesday.”

If you are the winner, I will announce your username from the combox on this blog so that everyone knows, sort of, who won.  I will also e-mail you using the address you gave me.  If it becomes apparent that you expired from the shock and pleasure of it all, we’ll pick a new winner.

–> Simcha will then send you your copy of the book in the digital format of your choice, from her collection of possible digital formats.  She’s really nice about helping technically-challenged people figure out how to open their book.  I tested her on this to make sure.

Enter now!

Sinner’s Guide cover art courtesy of Amazon.com.

Faith, Science, Halloween – assorted links and book recommendations

Faith, Science, and Reason: Theology on the Cutting Edge

(1) Link for those who haven’t seen it: Up at the blorg, my thoughts on the belief in invisible things, and a book recommendation for who those who believe in invisible things both animate and inanimate.

(2) Julie D. reminds you that Nov. 1 is a Holy Day of Obligation.

(3) I demonstrated my incompetent streak yesterday by attempting to open my review copy of SImcha Fisher’s new book, but luckily the author herself came to my help when I pleaded.  She regrets associating with me, I’m sure.

But hey! I read the book!  It’s very good, and fills a niche about the size of a deep sea trench in the literature on NFP.  Also, I laughed at select passages — not out loud, but that silent, tears-rolling-down-cheeks thing that you do when something is too funny for laughing out loud.  (There were other parts that exhort the reader to maturity and selfless love and all that.  I was duly solemn during those parts.)

Giveaway opens Friday, and I will sit on my hands and not quote any punch lines.  Therese-like self-control here.

 

Cover art courtesy of MTF.  LOVE these guys.  Love ’em.

7 Takes: Shakespeare Makes Me Sick, Rant-o-Rama, and Other Beautiful Things

http://cdn.conversiondiary.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/7_quick_takes_sm1.jpg

1. So. Shakespeare. 

I started the week all productive.  New quarter.  Got the checklists printed out, vowed, “This time I will stay on track!” all that.  Also, I had to pick Mr. Boy’s next literature choice.  I went through the Kolbe Jr. High Lit Course Plans, and Merchant of Venice kept popping out at me.  I was leary after the Great Poetry Fiasco of 2013, but I heeded the little voice.

And I got a brilliant idea: Since two big kids are always hanging around wanting to talk to use from 9-10, formerly known as “Kids Are In BED AND PARENTS HAVE ADULT TIME”, yes I am shouting by the end of that sentence, I figured out a way to either get the children to go to bed, or live out the homeschool fantasy of everyone sitting around reading Shakespeare together in the evening.  Win either way, right?

So Tuesday night I hand out copies (mismatched, but we rolled with it) of the play, we divied up the parts for Act 1, Scene 1, and it went pretty well.  Some of us were having so much fun, we went ahead and started scene 2.

At which point, Splash.

Yes.  My child vomited over Shakespeare.

Said child reported after, “My stomach felt weird, but I wasn’t sure . . .”. So hard to tell the difference between a stomach virus and Literature Dread.

[Everyone’s better now, thanks for asking.]

When we restart, I’m issuing a bucket with each manuscript.

2. I updated my e-mail software.  I hate it.  That is my excuse for why I can’t find your e-mail anymore.  I will grow and change and find your message and reply to it.  Soon.  But not before late afternoon today.

2.5. Visit our hostess for useful information about this:

photo 3 7 Quick Takes about haunted houses, affordable weekend wines, and #TWEETSONAPLANE
I borrowed this photo without asking. Because I never, ever, want to lose the link to this post. If Jen F. makes me take it down, I will. But you know why she’s a superstar blogger? Because: Affordable Wine. Doesn’t get much more Catholic than that.

 

3. Let’s talk about your vocabulary, hmmn?

Good Catholic friends, please tell me you know that you’re not supposed to take the Lord’s name in vain?  So I will charitably assume that if you gasp “Oh my God!” when talking about someone else’s clothing choice, or the water bill this month, or what happened in Congress, that you are in fact moved to prayer.  I think you should cut it out, because everyone *thinks* you’re just taking the Lord’s name in vain, and maybe you even are.  But I’m not going to presume.

What with being Catholics, we tend to cling tightly to our right to use “strong language”.  All those things St. Paul has to say about our word choice are trumped by our Lord’s choice insults, yes?  So we say.  I’ll not take up that fight today.

But if you’re going to resort to coarse, over-used cliches of insults for lack of a broader vocabulary — perhaps your imagination is foiled in the face of tribulation — would you please kindly restrict yourself to accurate metaphors?

For example, some people accuse the Church of thinking sex is dirty or shameful or I don’t know what.  It’s nonsense of course — quite the opposite: If we are very particular about chastity, it’s because sex is so powerfully good, holy even, and should not be profaned in any way.  We only have seven sacraments, and one of them has to do with sex.  Yep.

So, please oh please oh please, speak as if you’ve been catechized.  Do not sling around crude terms for the marital act as your insult of choice — let alone as your darkest and strongest insult.  Do you really think that intercourse is some foul, nasty, evil thing? When you search for some vivid way to describe a sordid injustice, is the first thing that comes to mind your experience with the marital act?

I certainly hope not.  Clean it up.

4.  Come see me talk.  St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Columbia, SC, Saturday Nov. 9th, daytime.  I’m just doing a panel in the afternoon, on the “Classroom Management” topic. In the morning I’ll be listening.  I kinda wish I could listen in the afternoon, too, the other panelists look pretty interesting – I can’t find an internet link, but the overall topic is stuff like bullying, working with special needs students — useful.  Contact the Diocese of Charleston Catechesis Folks to get more info or to RSVP.  There’s a nominal cost that covers lunch -n- stuff.  Gorgeous site, too, do visit the church and cemetery if you come.

5. Speaking of sex . . . I’m hosting a blog tour and giveaway for Simcha’s new book on NFP.  Where should I do it?  Here? Amazing Catechists? Patheos?  I need to pick a spot.

6. Speaking not of sex . . . My friend Karina Fabian has a new book out I haven’t read it, but I keep meaning to blurb it.  If you like clean adult sci-fi, Catholic-themed usually, fun and a quick read, take a look. I’ve never not enjoyed reading one of her books, though I don’t do the zombie thing — I had to crop her cover for my presentation on finding a publisher this past summer at CWG, because, gross.  Firmly planted in my Hardy Boys Not Thomas Hardy preferred category.

Picture

7. Aren’t these beautiful?  I can’t decide whether they’re in budget or not.  I do need a holy water font for the house.  I’m nervous about the glass.  But wow. Pretty.

About that Book You’re Reading this Summer

. . . here’s what you need to know:

Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry WeddellYou’ll be reading ​Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell, which I happen to think is one of the most important Catholic books on the market today.  Important enough that I’m putting together a local book club in my own town, to meet and discuss the book. And so are you?  Yes?

And because you like to talk about things on the internet, you’ll be visiting CatholicMom.com’s Lawn Chair Catechism discussion group.  Led by Sarah Reinhard, whom you’ll recognize as one of my favorite writer-people.  And who is an extroverted friendly person, so I bet sheee never clams up when it’s time to drop the J-word.  She’ll be doing one of those linky-link festivals, or you can participate in the combox at CatholicMom.com, or at a participating blog near you.

(This blog is very near you.)

Because you don’t have a ton of money . . . Our Sunday Visitor is watching out for you: From now until the end of the month, you can purchase the book from the publisher’s website for $10, free shipping, no minimum.  This is basically the wholesale price.  Sarah asked OSV for a little coupon, and they responded with extreme generosity.

Because actually you’re illiterate very busy, but you like to talk about evangelization, or at least just complain about what’s wrong with the world . . . CatholicMom.com has pre-released the weekly discussion questions, which include a cliff-notes executive summary of each chapter.  Find the link at the Lawn Chair Catechism landing page.

Lawn Chair Catechism at CatholicMom.com

Because you’re exceedingly irritated that I’ve suddenly started using Facebook to post links to this event, and not a single cat photo . . . send your hate mail to Christian LeBlanc, Fr. Longenecker, and the SuperHusband.  They started it, not me.  I just write stuff and talk a lot.

Blurry Cat Photos are over-rated. Read Forming Intentional Disciples instead.

Who else to blame?  Will Duquette say you should read it too.

And so does Mark Shea, but he’s friends with Sherry Weddell, so he’s probably just making it up.

I, on the other hand, have never even met Sherry, or even stalked her on the internet, so you can believe me.

PS: Pope Francis Says: You probably don’t want to answer all the “your parish” questions on the internet.  But discuss in the privacy of your own local evangelization group?  Yes indeed.

BADD 2013 + Theology of the Body for Every Body

Theology of the Body for Every BodyIt’s BADD time again, May 1.  Of course I forgot, again, even though I knew it was coming up.  But look, over at New Evangelizers, I reviewed Theology of the Body for Everybody. Which hits on exactly this topic. The whole living-in-a-body experience we human persons get to enjoy.  Go look.

***

Blogging Against Disablism Day And now you’re back, and here is my annual BADD comment, 2013 Edition:

People don’t want to be treated like dirt.

Profound, I know.  (Hence Leah Perrault’s whole book on the topic.  See “book review” above.)

When you read around at crotchety disability-rights sites, there’s a lot of conversation about how to think about disability.  Something that confuses bystanders is the insistence that it’s not about the medical condition.

Which puzzles, for several reasons.  The first is the happy-sad problem.  Given the choice between hearing and not-hearing, seeing and not-seeing, walking and not-walking, everything else equal, we go for the ability every time.

Now someone might say, “I’m so glad I had this stroke, because it caused me to learn so much about __{insert profound revelation here}__.”  And what they mean is typically not, “I always wanted to know what it was like to slur my speech!”

Rather, the “I’m so glad” is usually code for, “I discovered there was this whole part of my life I’d been ignoring, and now I’ve grown in ways that matter far more than any physical ability, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”  People say that, and they mean it.  For good reason.  But still, if they could have the spiritual growth and the ability to remember words on command, yeah, they’d take both.  Nothing wrong with being able to talk.  We know this, instinctively.

But here’s the other thing we know instinctively: Humans deserve to be treated with respect.  And the disrespect of disablism falls into two big lumps:

1. Can’t be bothered to have you around.  Too much work.  So terribly haaaaaarrrd to put in a ramp.  So coooooomplicated trying to have one Mass, anywhere in the diocese, ever, with an ASL interpreter.  So very, very overwhelming, having to change the seating arrangement, or modify the assignment, or find one more volunteer to assist the kid who needs assistance.

The message is pretty clear: It’s not that we don’t love you.  We just don’t love you enough to go through any inconvenience for you.

2. Your kind of suffering is not my kind of suffering. This is straight out of the eugenics playbook.  It’s no surprise that the recent fashion for killing off disabled children before they see light of day is always couched in terms of “avoiding suffering”.  Better to be dead than to be you.

The feeling may well be mutual, but that’s no solution.  The solution is to quit being such a wimp.  To quit dividing the Fates of Man into a two-part list, labeled Normal Problems and Pitiful Freaks.  This isn’t 1930.  Get over that nasty notion that you must be ranked among The Fit in order to deserve life and respect.

***

And since BADD is the annual day for airing our pet peeves, I’ll share one with you: If you never really appreciated your kid-job-marriage-finger-toe-brain until it was gone . . . could you keep it to yourself? Or just let everyone know you have a gratitude-deficiency-disorder. I guess I could cultivate some compassion for that.

See all the BADD entries, which are by no means Catholic nor genteel, here.

Book Review: Getting the Marriage Conversation Right

(There’s a book review coming at the bottom of this, but I need to lay out some preliminary matter first.  And this is a post concerning sex.  Not for children.)

To be Catholic is to be aware of a long list of my own faults.  Let’s review a few of them:  I goof off too much (not just on the internet, everywhere).  I lack patience for the most trivial of inconveniences.  When I’m irritated, I use my verbal powers for evil and not good.  I spend way too much money on myself, and far too little on the poor.  I procrastinate.  On any given day, there’s a decent chance I spent the time I meant to spend praying (not an exorbitant quantity) doing some other more entertaining and entirely optional thing.  For those who are familiar with the Little Flower, we could safely describe me as the Little Weed.  The anti-Therese.

And that’s just my public sins.  For every one you see on the kitchen floor, there’s a hundred more in the walls. If Therese is one of our few Doctors of Church, I’m guaranteed a spot among the vast number of Patients of the Church.

So be it.  Some people talk about so-called “Catholic Guilt”, and those people are invariably the ones who missed out — in whole or in part — on the real deal: Catholic Mercy.  If I don’t crumble in despair at the state of my soul  (and yes, actually despair is one of my sins as well), it’s because there’s hope for me.  Not hope that I’m going to wake up one morning suddenly meriting Heaven.  But because Someone Else has gone ahead and opened Heaven for me.  He loves me with His whole being, and will do anything — anything — to give me an shot at eternal happiness, mine only for the asking.  And not just me — He loves everybody that way.

My experience with evangelization is that few of us are converted because we suddenly discover how wretched we are, and thus desire to jump into the cosmic shower.  Quite the opposite: We long to know God, and having been drawn to Him, we begin to see, bit by bit, what life in Heaven looks like.  And what kind of baggage we’ll be leaving at the door when we get there.  Some things we drop like an old stinky garbage bag, in a flash of horrified understanding. Other things we keep stuffed in our pockets, sure they are part of us, or sure that these are little treasures we can sneak through eternal security . . . and it is only late in this life, or at the beginning of the next, that we catch on to the fact that, oops, we’ve been running around with the spiritual equivalent of a moldy rotten banana shoved in that coat pocket.

I’ve got rotten bananas in my pocket. (Usually only spiritually, though there was that one time I waited a month to clean out my tote bag . . . ick.)  But if your argument consists of, “Jen, you stink!” my response is, “Um, why yes, I do.”

I hate the topic of Gay Marriage.

Hate it.  Let me count the ways:

1) Because I know that the people who favor gay marriage do so for entirely understandable reasons.

2) Because I’m not an idiot.  I’ve known plenty of folks who favor same-sex unions, and who are, put simply, better people than me.  And they’re far and away better people than some of our rotten-to-the-core unrepentant clergy who’ve spent decades hiding despicable offenses.

3) The division concerning gay marriage doesn’t have its roots in questions about homosexuality.  For the last fifty years, the going cultural norm has been that whatever I desire, sexually, should be acted upon.  That marriage vows are no vow at all.  That children and marriage have nothing to do with one another.  That children have no particular need to be raised in a home with their mother and father.  That any parent-type figure will do just fine.

An aside: People have a hard time accepting that adopted children feel a genuine grief concerning their biological parents.  That very illusion — that your parents were unable to care for you, but hey, you have nothing to cry about — feeds into the destruction of marriage.  Something my dad said to me very plainly when he remarried after my mother’s death — I knew it, but he was absolutely right to lay it on the table  — was, “Your stepmother is not a replacement for your mother.”

It is a beautiful and wonderful thing when some loving person can step in and fill some portion of the blank left by the loss of loved one.  But it doesn’t erase the loss.  Acknowledging the loss makes it possible to delight in the sheer gift of this new and full and lively relationship, because we can accept it on its own terms, not pretend it is the other gift now gone.

4) A significant portion of the so-called Christian world doesn’t even acknowledge the horror of abortion.  An even larger chunk, including many people whose genuine faith in Christ I don’t doubt for a moment, think sterilization and contraception are AOK — desirable even.  And I don’t want to contemplate the numbers in the Church who approve or encourage the sin against purity we used to discreetly but emphatically call “self-abuse”.  Before you start citing the ancient Jewish law concerning homosexual acts, review the details concerning Onan, eh?  Struck dead on the spot?  Actions speak louder than words.  Disapproved.

5) I know that condemnation is the way of the world.  To ask for so-called “mercy” in the wider world is to heap condemnation upon yourself.  So I know that for many people dear to me, if I ever say, “Well, actually this one thing you’re doing is wrong,” those people I love will hear my words as code for, “Actually I hate you and I was just faking nice.”  Which isn’t true.  See my sins above — faking nice is not one of my virtues.

So to discuss gay marriage, at all, is to be accused of hatred.  I can discuss contraception, and people just think I’m a little daft.  I don’t mind that.  But I dislike the fact that to open this topic is to have a number of people I respect, admire, and count as friends, be tempted to assume the worst about me.  Well, the worst about me lies elsewhere.

[For the record: People hate you just as much if you talk about modesty in any specific terms.  Which I will be doing at NewEvangelizers.com in a couple weeks.  I’m racking up the voodoo rays this month.]

On to the Book Review

Getting the Marriage Conversation Right: A Guide for Effective Dialogue by William B. May is a short, readable booklet, written for a Catholic audience who wants to defend the sacrament of marriage, but suffer from poor rhetoric.  The assumption is that you the reader agree with the Catholic teaching, but perhaps you articulate it poorly.  You may even be currently basing your arguments on any number of details that simply aren’t Catholic.

Or you may be a Catholic who wants to follow Church teaching, but doesn’t understand why the bishops are so adamant about not allowing civil unions as a peaceful live-and-let-live alternative.

There is a single refrain that explains the disconnect between reality and popular culture.  The going definition of marriage in our society is this:

“Marriage is the public recognition of a committed relationship between two adults for their fulfillment”.

And let me observe right now: If this is your definition, it is logical to accept gay marriage.  Trouble being, that’s not what marriage is.  It is what civil marriage has become.  But it’s not what it is supposed to be.  Here’s the Real Ale definition of marriage, the one the Church is trying to defend, too little too late:

“Marriage unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union.”

This is the radical reality that animates the entirety of Christian thought on marriage and sexuality.  Each child has a need to be raised by his mother and father.

Sometimes bad things happen — death, or serious sins such as an abusive parent, or a rapist father — that make this need impossible to fulfill.  When that happens, we have no choice but to go with the next best thing, whether it be single parenting, or remarriage, or adoption.  The next best thing, in the context of a response to tragedy, becomes the very picture of self-giving love.  Anyone who steps into fill the void for a child who is unable to be reared by both his mother and his father?  A true hero.

We live in a fallen world, and marriage faces countless obstacles.  Getting the Marriage Conversation Right addresses each of these difficulties in turn, and explains how we are to understand a proper response to _______ problem.  The book repeatedly admonishes us to avoid the temptation to condemnation, and maintains a thoroughly Catholic — that is, merciful — response to the many problems that individuals may face.

No hate-spewing.  No tsk-tsking.  No “they deserve what they get”.  None of that.

Who Should Read This Book?

The audience is those who accept, or wish to more fully accept, Catholic teaching on the sanctity of marriage.  If you aren’t interested in being convinced, you won’t find this book convincing. It’s a book of explanations for why the Church teaches as she does, and how to effectively communicate that teaching to others.

The reading level is all-adults.  The tone is conversational and the word count is short and to-the-point.  This is an excellent resource for a parish study group.

Helpful for Outsiders?

If you are in favor of same-sex unions, will this book help you understand the other side?  A lot depends on your mentality.  This is an unabashed defense of the Catholic teaching, written by and for those who want to agree with it.  There is no effort to create, within the book, an apologetic geared towards the worthy opponent. Yes, if you read the booklet with a desire to understand, in the spirit of true dialogue, why people oppose same-sex unions, you will in fact learn why people oppose same-sex unions.

But if it’s going to make your blood boil to see anyone lay out a defense of a position you abhor, then yeah, it’s going to make your blood boil.  No way around it.

Summary: Good book.  Short, readable, gets straight to the heart of the matter.  This is the first title I’ve read on this topic, and it does a good job at what it does.  For those who oppose same-sex unions, but don’t really know why, or how to explain their position, this book makes a good start.

Boilerplate:This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Getting the Marriage Conversation Right. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your seasonal needs such as First Communion gifts as well as ideas and gifts for the special papal Year of Faith.