Update on the Radio Silence

Short version, since last I wrote:

  • The kids started school! 3/4’s are being farmed out to TOTAL STRANGERS, and 1/4 is home with me, thriving in the silence that comes from emptying the house each day.  So I was offline for a bit, focusing on the transition and all that.
  • Then 1/4 of the children came down with the wicked nasty evil virus you don’t want.  Thank goodness it was the homeschooled child, I think I would have cried if I had to pull a kid out of school for a week with an uncontrollable fever during the child’s first week of school ever ever ever.  Instead: Documentaries were watched.
  • Then 1/2 of the parents caught it (me).  Not as badly, actually!  More tropical depression than cat 5 hurricane.

So all that sucked up three weeks right there! Whoohoo!

I’m doing better now, thanks for asking, but am having to catch up on all the regular-life business that got neglected, and continue the transition to school year activities.  (Example: This week, I’m going to REMEMBER THAT ORCHESTRA STARTED and actually bring my children!  That will be neat! Teachers love it when you do that.)

That’s all I’ve got time to say now.  Headed to Adoration this afternoon while a child is at PE, and as always I keep my readers in my prayers!  I will write soon, I think.

 

File:Flamencos andinos (Phoenicoparrus andinus), Laguna Cañapa, Bolivia, 2016-02-03, DD 63.JPG
You know who takes good photos? Diego Delso. That’s who.

PS: Let me just say that if you have the option of sending your child to a good Catholic school or a good Catholic homeschool? Do that.

 

Photo: Andean flamingos (Phoenicoparrus andinus) in the Cañapa lake, Bolivia. Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 4.0

Can You Be Too Tired to Pray?

I noticed for the first time, just this morning looking at the readings, that the Transfiguration was something of a warm-up for Gethsemane:

Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake,  they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.

(From Luke 9, via the USCCB daily readings.)

Fittingly, when I made that observation I was laying in bed with the iBreviary resting on the mattress next to my face, just barely awake enough to pray.  I might be saint-material yet.  I’ve got the “before” thing going on, anyway.

File:Lincoln City seal.jpg

Photo via Wikimedia, CC 2.0.  This week finds me in greater metro Portland, OR for my niece’s wedding.  We went to the coast, where there were no seals, but I have been doing my best baby-seal imitation in my sister’s backyard since I got back.  Little icons of the apostles, that’s what we baby seals are.

Culture, Evangelization, and a Free E-Book: Getting Along with Traditionalists

In a conversation on a private forum, the topic of culture and evangelization came up.  The discussion question was whether the concept of “Engaging the Culture” is relevant in a society as diverse as our own.  Can we even say that there exists “a culture” to engage?

Excerpts from my response:

I spent a year of my undergrad work in International Studies sitting in a classroom on another continent with a 100 classmates from around the world, all expats using a second language for their coursework. Did my thesis on a question of “cultural exports” in international trade. Since that time I’ve been living immersed in one of the most diverse and misunderstood American subcultures on this continent (to which I am bi-cultural, or probably more accurately quad-cultural), at a time of tremendous demographic change in the region where I live . . .

Trust me: There is an American Culture, there is a “Western” Culture, and there are myriad national cultures, ethnic cultures, religious cultures, and social-sub-cultures within all the different lumped-up mega-cultures.

Knowing where someone is “coming from,” by which I mean knowing all the forces that form and shape them, is very helpful in being able to connect with them. It doesn’t shortcut the process of listening and learning from the individual, but to the extent that you are fluent in the culture of the person you are evangelizing or discipling, you have way more ability to recognize and address unspoken needs and concerns, and way more ability to understand what the person is trying to say.

Being aware of cultural gulfs — even if you’re only aware that there is a possibility of one, but don’t know where it lies — is a great help in avoiding disastrous misunderstandings.

All that was one train of thought. For a nice book recommendation (not mine) concerning culture and thus indirectly the question of evangelization, see my review of The Culture Map over at New Evanglizers.

Then I concluded with a remark in the other direction, because you can really trip yourself up by leaning too heavily on cultural assumptions:

. . . interestingly, every single inter-personal disaster I have seen in church work over the past decade or so stemmed from watching one person assume all sorts of crazy things about another person based on the fact that the second person came from or identified with this or that ethnic or social sub-culture.

 

Which reminded me there was a book I’ve been meaning to write.  I hear so many times about how difficult is to get along with Traditionalists and other foreign-types.  I’m sure someone else has the Getting Along With People From Other Countries That Speak Spanish segment sufficiently covered, but what about the much more pervasive and feared Radical Traditionalist?  Not everything in a mantilla is a sweet little immigrant grandmother just doing her special immigrant customs, you know.  So I had to write a new book.

I thought it would fit on an index card, but it’s a little bit longer.  Here’s the galley of the first in the series, which is my free gift to you, my loyal readers:

How to Get Along with Traditionalists

Click the title-link to immediately download the PDF, no ads, no shopping cart, no mailing list.  It’s yours for the clicking.

Be sure to the check the last page for more titles in the series, because rad-trads aren’t the only dangerous beasts in parish life.

Enjoy!

File:President and Mrs. Reagan meet Pope John Paul II 1982.jpg
President and Mrs. Reagan meet Pope John Paul II, The Vatican, Rome, 1982. [Public Domain] via Wikimedia. Listening is important, because not every person in a mantilla is the spouse of the President of the United States, either.

On Meeting the Rich Young Man

This past Monday the Gospel was from the story of the Rich Young Man. We read it this year in Mark chapter 10, but you can find the account in Matthew 19 and Luke 18.

A week in, I still want to write about it, so I will.

MK 10:17-27
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

A lot of people are recorded in the Gospels asking our Lord questions, or asking Him for other stuff. The first thing I notice here is what the question is: What must I do to inherit eternal life?

Now it’s possible that the man is just trying trip Jesus up or start an argument. But there’s evidence to follow that this is the thing he wants to know. Asking this is commendable, because I think a lot of us just don’t even care about the question or the answer. We assume we already know the answer – whether eternal life is possible, and if so, what it’s like and how we obtain it. But here’s someone who isn’t presuming.

Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.

This initial answer has obvious rhetorical bearing on the fact that Jesus is God. But for we mere humans, the question of goodness comes around at the end, back to the question of eternal life.

Our Lord proceeds to lay out what goodness looks like:

You know the commandments:

You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother.”

Now here’s this shocking answer that I don’t think shocks enough:

He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”

How many people can you say this about? Some, I’m sure. But most of us? I don’t think so.

Jesus, looking at him, loved him

Catch that? I infer from this exchange a series things:

  1. The man was telling the truth. He really had been keeping the commandments.
  2. He knew that it wasn’t enough. That’s why he approached Jesus and asked the question: He’d been keeping the commandments, and was stirred by a sense that there was something greater for him. That being satisfied with his (impressive) observance of the law was not the way to eternal happiness.
  3. Jesus isn’t about to go all table-flipping. What follows isn’t a rebuke. It’s the next thing. Here’s someone who wants the next thing!

and [Jesus] said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

So this is the next thing. The man’s reaction isn’t all zip-a-dee-doo-dah:

At that statement, his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

This is the moment when people love to hate the rich young man. But really? Have you done this? Have you done something close to this? Because if you’ve freely given up everything you owned and all your security and all your safety, you’re in rare company. You probably don’t read this blog, and you probably do know that it’s a big thing.

I don’t mean it was taken from you. I mean you gave it up freely.

Everything?

Even the women who followed Jesus and supported the disciples from their wealth didn’t give up everything – hence that wealth. The Apostles still had their livelihood to turn back to. After Jesus died, they went back to fishing.

I would hazard that most serious Christians disciples whom I know personally are already feeling the pinch just by taking a bit of risk, or choosing to live a little more simply, or choosing to give a little more generously.

Now think about the man’s reaction from another angle: Why did his face fall?

Because the man took Jesus at his word.

He didn’t convert the command in his head to something less – something easier to live with. Nor did he take it to mean, “Here’s a suggestion, but you might have other ideas and those could work too.”

The Gospels tell us the man went away sad, but we don’t know what decision he made. What we do know is that when he left, he was actually wrestling with the decision. He was taking it seriously. He was counting the cost.

It’s really easy to follow Jesus when you’ve got nothing to lose. It’s a lot harder to convert when it means necessarily giving up things you’re not sure you can live without, or not sure you want to.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God!”

This comment should scare you. You probably have things left to lose.

The disciples were amazed at his words.

So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”

They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?”

Even the disciples had things left to lose, at that point. Eventually they’d get down to nothing, but that was later.

Meanwhile, back to that question of goodness:

Jesus looked at them and said, “For men it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”

Sooner or later, we reach the limits of our human perfection. Some of us are sufficiently bad that we hit the wall early and hard. Some, like the rich young man, have to be squeezed to find out where the faults lie.

Christianity isn’t the worship of our human goodness. It’s the worship of the Goodness that comes to rescue us when ours is fresh out.

File:ChineseJesus.jpg

Artwork: Chinese depiction of Jesus and the rich man (Mark 10) – 1879, Beijing, China [Public Domain] via Wikimedia.

#TOBTalk – Because It’s All About Sex

Another girl in the accounting department and I both reverted to Christianity after we got married.  (Recall – I actually converted at work.  By which I mean, literally in a meeting with the customer.  Yes indeed.) So one day we were standing there in the cube farm when I learned this fact, and I knew enough about her past life and mine to be able observe in solidarity, “It’s a lot easier to become a Christian after you’re married.”  She knew what I meant, and she agreed on the spot.

Mortal sin is a potential hindrance to conversion every time.

Just being married, though, didn’t put me out of the woods on that point.  The priest who ushered me back into the Church helped the spouse and I get our marriage convalidated, introduced us to NFP, and generally kept us pointed in a safe direction.  I was finally learning the fullness of the Catholic faith.

A couple years in, Family Honor hosted a Theology of the Body conference in Charleston, not unlike the one coming up this fall in Southern California.  I packed up the baby and went.

A decade and some later, I’m still unpacking it all.

The trouble with Christians is that we’re both body and soul. The tendency is to treat Christianity as being only about your soul, as if it were the “real” prize and your body were just the packing peanuts.  Don’t ingest, don’t expose to open flame . . . just kind of keep the packaging from making a mess and you’re good.

Our bodies aren’t packaging.  Our bodies are an integral part of us, and how we live in them is what our Christianity is.  When we say humans are made in the image of God, male and female, the human body is part of that divine image.  We literally can know something about God by looking at our bodies.  Our bodies and souls, together, provide a snapshot of God.  That’s what it means to be an image of something.  My photo isn’t me, and it doesn’t tell you everything there is to know about me, but it is an image of me. It does reveal things about me you wouldn’t know if you didn’t have the photo.

Even when we talk about mortifying our bodies, in pious Christian language speaking of “hating” the flesh, what we mean is this: Use it properly.  Live a rightly ordered life.  To prepare your soul for heaven is to prepare your soul for your heavenly body.

One of the things I do is teach sex-ed.  I write about a lot of things, but I write about topics like porn, and BDSM, and name-that-thing-nice-girls-don’t-talk-about, because what we do with our bodies is what we’re doing to ourselves.  You matter.  You were created to be treated with love and respect.  We live in a world where people have no idea what that looks like.  They don’t know what it means to be loved and respected.

That’s what the Theology of the Body is about.

What does love really look like?

***

Sometime in the months leading up to my conversion, I failed to fill out my time card at work properly.  The department secretary, a Christian, came and told me I hadn’t given her the form I owed her.

I started making excuses in my defense.  She said, “I forgive you.”  I kept making excuses.  She kept repeating: “I forgive you.”

This was utterly foreign to me.  I had no understanding — none — that it could be possible that I did something wrong, and someone would acknowledge it was wrong and simply forgive me.  No recriminations.  No gloating.  Nothing.  Please just fill out the form now, our relationship is restored.

There’s a long list of before-and-afters for me as a Christian.  People who knew me before my conversion can vouch for the fact that I was no picture of saintliness.  People who know me now will observe that my principles have radically changed, but my ability to live up to those principles is still woefully lacking.  We call ourselves “practicing” Catholics because we still don’t have it right, even after years of trying.  We’re still practicing.

Studying the Theology of the Body doesn’t make me holy.  But what it does do is make it possible for me to try — because I finally understand what it is I’m supposed to be trying for, and why, and how it works.   We can’t practice a skill we don’t even know we’re supposed to have.  And when that skill is living in the half of your being that is integrally connected to the other half your being, well, wow.  It’ll change your life.

#TOBTalk image courtesy of http://kennedybrownrigg.com/tobtalk/.

 

 

When You’re a Catholic Who Doesn’t Have It Together

I have this friend whose job is to hold my life together.

I don’t mean that she’s a kind, caring, conscientious person — though she is that, too.  I mean that I pay her by the hour to take care of some non-negotiables in my life that would otherwise fall by the wayside.

I think one of Satan’s more pernicious lies, and it cuts two ways, is other people have their act together.

Well, some of us do, some of us don’t, and on our best days many of us are half-n-half.

How Do You Know When Someone’s Life is Coming Unglued?

There are people who do their best to keep their public face together despite inner collapse, and people who brandish a veener of chaos but secretly have their act together.  In my experience, people who are losing it exhibit a few common signs:

  1. The friendships get erratic.  If someone you had every reason to believe was your friend suddenly loses his temper, quits coming around, gets cagey about commitments, or won’t take your calls, unless you’ve really done something to deserve it, it’s probably not you.  Psychopaths will give you good reasons for why you deserve to be maltreated.  Your friend who is coming unhinged, in contrast, is the person who knows better, doesn’t have an excuse, and is probably too tired or overwhelmed to even explain why.
  2. Simple stuff goes out the window.  “Simple” is relative of course — if your friend never did keep up with the dishes, dishes in the sink are just a sign of situation-normal.  When your friend is losing it, what tends to go are the things that hit either the low-priority-high-pleasure corner of the spectrum or the should-do-usually-do spot.  Doesn’t get a thrill out of changing the oil, but always managed to do it before without any difficulty.  Always loved sending Christmas cards, let it go this year.
  3. Small requests seem monumental.  You’re unlikely to see this one overtly, because it often shows up indirectly.  Your friend probably won’t come out and say, “I was hoping to attend, but if they make everyone find a White Elephant gift I’m just not coming to the Christmas Party this year.”  It sounds so lame.  How hard is that?  Instead, the friend just doesn’t come, or else the friend values the event enough to pull off the cost of admission, but there’s a spike in #1 and #2 behaviors to go with.

I’d like to pause here and say that while these “no longer have it together” behaviors can be associated with depression, a lot of people who don’t have their act together are not depressed.  These are things that you see among people who are the opposite of depressed: People who are working their tails off to hold their life together and do as much as they possibly can, despite the fact that the odds are against them.

Confounding Situations

There are a couple things that can make it hard to really believe your friend is going over the edge.

Your friend still accomplishes quite a lot.  Demanding vocations abound.  If someone’s running a parish, or a business, or a family, there will always be one more thing to do.  As your friend is working like crazy to hold together as much of that vocation as possible, you’ll see results.  You’ll see activity.  You want to know why Father just lost it in his private meeting with you (see #1, above)  about the candle budget, when he didn’t have any problem pasting a smile on his face through the entire two hour long Vacation Bible School songfest?  Because he just endured the songfest, and it used up every ounce of willpower he had.

Your friend doesn’t talk about his problems.  There are people who just love to talk about their problems, and there are people who don’t.  It’s a spectrum, and for a lot of people who are overwhelmed by significant, difficult, persistent life problems, there are some common reasons they aren’t going to bring up those problems in conversation:

  • The situation is confidential, embarrassing, or involves another person whose privacy would be infringed.
  • There are in fact no real solutions to the problem (and yes, they’ve investigated).
  • The problem is the sort best discussed only with those few people who have experience with it.
  • It’s depressing talking about what’s going wrong when you could be enjoying hearing about something good.

It’s easy to spout platitudes about the importance of “sharing one’s burdens” or “talk therapy,” but consider the hubris involved in appointing yourself the one person who must be informed of your friend’s every moment of difficulty.  Consider instead the possibility that your friend loves and values you, but still doesn’t care to talk about the situation right now.

Your friend continues to pursue personal interests, even impressive ones.  A difficult life isn’t necessarily an unhappy life, nor a life devoid of all talent.  There’s a tendency to say, “Gosh, she’s able to take care of that dumb horse of hers, how come she can’t help out with the church picnic like everyone else?  She’s just malingering.”  That dumb horse, as it happens, is the thing that keeps her sane, the one thing she’s going to hang onto until the bitter end, because when your whole life is a train wreck, you want a little refuge of sanity.

In the same manner, an overwhelming life doesn’t mean all your talents suddenly dry up and blow away.  If your friend was always perfectly capable of spitting out a copy of a Dutch Renaissance Master on a leisurely Sunday afternoon, unless his hands fell off, he’s probably still going to be able to do that (and even if his hands fall off, he’ll probably find a work-around and get back at it).  That he does something he finds easy but you find astonishingly difficult doesn’t mean he’s got his act together.  It means he’s still capable of doing some things that are easy for him.

The Two People This Matters To: You and Everybody Else

I write about all this for two reasons.  The first is that it’s easy to think everyone else has their life together, and therefore you’re a crappy person and a failed Christian if you do not.

Can moral failure be the reason your life isn’t working out? Sure.  But it’s also possible that your life is hard regardless.  For most people, moral failure is the bitter rind that surrounds our life, no matter how good or how bad the rest of the fruit is.  It’s the seed you spit out and eat the rest.

Your life can be going to pieces despite no particular uptick in sin, just an uptick in lousy life circumstances.  Don’t confuse the two.  Keep working on the holiness, but don’t measure the holiness by your outward success.

The second reason is that it’s easy to think everyone else has their life together, and therefore they are crappy people and failed Christians if they do not.

Pastoral Perspectives on Apathetic Catholics

There are categories of Christians who get a pass.  If they have some obvious or publicly acknowledged excuse for their inability to meet spec, the whole parish pats itself on the back for winning at the Welcoming and Accepting contest just for letting the miserable slobs in the door.

Meanwhile, there’s this cycle of desperation that causes the rest of the parish to eat its young.  It goes like this:

  1. Parish leaders are falling apart at the seams because they can’t do it all.
  2. Therefore they beg pewsitters to step up and do it all.
  3. Pewsitters were already falling apart at the seams themselves.
  4. Leaders burn out, pewsitters either develop a talent for ignoring pleas or else they give up and go home.

There are other types of dysfunction, but this is one I keep seeing.  Are there people in your parish who would step up and help out if only they understood the need and were invited to help?  Yes there are.  Invite them (and very often they go uninvited because they have some outward reason you think they won’t meet spec, when really they’d love to be wanted and put to work).

But there are other people who seem to have it all together and they simply do not.  They cannot help you, or they cannot help you in the way you are asking of them.

Suffering is Not New

Let’s quit talking about the modern world.  For a hundred years and more, people have been writing about about how the pace of the modern world is the problem.  Well, it is, in the sense that none of us have to live in any other world, so this world’s the one that’s going to give us trouble.

But life isn’t difficult because it is modern, it is difficult because it is life.  Not having your act together is one of the facets of human life since shortly before we got kicked out of the Garden of Eden.   The poor will be with us always, and when we get a turn at experiencing some sort of poverty, that’s just us having our turn at being those poor.  Not having your act together is, technically speaking, a sort of blessing.

File:The Scream Pastel.jpg

Edvard Munch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  I think Gary Larson’s Wiener Dog Art version is a little better, though.

Effort & Illness: The Confusing Habits of Sick People

Since I surround myself with people who know better, no one’s yet given me the dreaded words You don’t look sick. Even people who do look sick often don’t look as bad as they feel*.  As Jen Fulwiler explained it last year:

I feel self-conscious that I’ve been doing better, and have no visible symptoms of being ill. . . . I worry that the folks dropping off the food are starting to suspect this is some kind of scam. The other day a super sweet lady from the parish came by with a steaming gourmet dinner for our entire family, complete with appetizers and dessert. I had just gotten back from a doctor’s appointment so I was dressed up and wearing makeup; I’d been resting most of the day so I was unusually energetic. She seemed tired from having worked so hard to cook for our entire family in addition to her own, and I used my Neurotic ESP to determine that she was wondering why I wasn’t cooking for her.

I told Joe that I should get some crutches for when I answer the door for people delivering meals, as a symbolic gesture to assure them that their efforts were not wasted. He looked at me like I was insane, and pointed out the obvious fact that my problem is with my lungs and that I would have no use for crutches under any circumstances. I said that I know, but they sell them at the grocery store, and I didn’t know where to get my hands on a ventilator — and, again, it’s all for symbolism anyway. He backed away from me slowly and went to pour himself a large glass of wine.

Yes.  This. I put a short section in my catechist book on invisible disabilities, because it’s something that comes up in religious ed more often than you’d think.  Mostly among catechists, but among students as well.  That one chapter is the one I get the most thank you letters about.

You can be seriously ill without being 100% incapacitated.

It’s pretty rare for someone to be completely felled in a single blow.  This causes confusion, because you see people wandering WalMart who look like they’re going to collapse any second now.  So if your sick person still has good balance and coordination, and manages to answer the phone in a cheerful manner, you think, “Must not be that sick.  There are people at WalMart who look much, much worse.”

The people at WalMart might be worse.  But that doesn’t cause the sick person to be less sick.

Some people are good at putting on.

I knew a lady once who would answer the phone cheerfully even if you woke her up at 4AM.  It wasn’t that she wanted you to call then.  She just had excessively good phone manners.  And thus the Perceived Illness Paradox: Some people complain a lot, other people don’t.  Some people are good at masking their symptoms, other people aren’t.  Some people are good at coming up with clever work-arounds that keep them high-functioning, other people aren’t.  You really can’t judge how someone feels inside by how they’re acting outside.

Rest makes a difference.

Anyone who races knows you manage your training schedule so that you peak when it counts.  There are days when you can ride hard and fast, no problem, and days when you can’t.  Depends on how much sleep you got.  What you did the day before.  What you did the week before.

Illness doesn’t change that, it just changes the scale.

Figuring out an unpredictable body is exhausting.

Normal people spend most of their time operating well within the margins of their abilities.  If you knew you had to ride 100 miles on your bike sometime soon, you’d have to plan ahead to make sure you could do it.  You’d strategize how to make it happen with as little trouble as possible.  But you wouldn’t feel the least bit of guilt if you misjudged: “Wow, that was easier than I thought it would be, why did I make such a big deal out of it?”  Or conversely, “I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t realize how hard!”

Sick people have to figure out the 100-mile ride about everything they do . . . and then get in trouble if they misjudge.  “Why’d you spend half an hour answering e-mails? You should have rested up so you could talk to your mother on the phone!”  Or “Why’d you put off that phone call, look, you talked for twenty minutes, no problem!”

It’ll make you bonkers.  You hear the mail truck go by, and you think to yourself, “Should I walk to the mailbox?  Or get a kid to do it for me?  What’s the best thing here? How will this decision impact my family life?”

What you like is easier than what you don’t like.

Sick people are confusing because their gifts don’t go away.  Okay, if your gift is watching football on TV, everyone will think, “Look he spends all day watching football games, he must be sick.”  But what is hard for you is effortless for someone else. What is easy — even fun — for you is difficult for someone else.  It’s not about the sheer physical energy required.  It’s the mental energy.

So my son might say to my daughter, “I see you have plenty of time for scrapbooking.  Why don’t you research computer components?  What’s wrong with you?  Just lazy, I see.”  And she’d point out to him that he received a photo album for Christmas, and he’s supposed to put his photos in it.  He had time to build a computer, and even more time for playing computer games . . . why so lazy with the photo album?

Everything costs.

There’s service to your fellow man, and then there’s letting your fellow man turn you into his servant. We live in a hyper-critical age.  What you wear, what you eat, what your hobbies are, how you spend your money — all of it is subject to the approval of seven billion self-appointed guardians.  That doesn’t change when you’re sick, it just becomes harder to please the seven billion, because you’ve got less to please them with.

Normal people might say, for example, “Is it worth it for me to give up an hour of my time to visit my crotchety uncle who invited me for dinner tonight?”  When you’re sick the question becomes, “Is it worth it for me to set aside an entire afternoon to rest, and give up getting any chores done, at all, the entire day, so that I can physically pull off the feat of visiting my uncle for an hour?”

In normal life, a dysfunctional friend is the one who makes inordinate demands on your time and energy.  In sick life, everything is an inordinate demand.  But some of those demands are very gratifying, so you organize your life to make them possible. The chief sin of sick people, I suspect, is in gratifying too many whims.

Order in all things.

Sick people are confusing because of the scale change.  With so little room for covering-over, it becomes obvious what the sick person values most.  It becomes obvious where the conflicts lie, because there’s no margin where you can quick slip in a nod towards other people’s priorities.  As in academia, the rivalries can be so bitter because the stakes are so small.  “Just a few minutes of your time” is now also, “all your time”.  How are you going to spend all that time? The way you want?  The way I want? Something in between?

The Darwins have a novena started on just this question.

*Sometimes things look so bad that you assume the other way, “It’s not as bad as it looks, I hope?”  To which I’ll observe: A badly scraped knee looks horrible.  But it feels even worse.

Rant-o-Rama – Catechesis Edition + Proof I Can’t Proofread But You Should Write Your Story Anyway

1. If you haven’t seen Dorian Speed’s posts on Catechesis, look now. #2 is up.  Don’t neglect the combox.  But here’s what: If your parish has to wring hands over whether to give the 2nd Graders a pre-sacramental quiz, the question isn’t, “Should we give a quiz?” The question is, “How have we gotten into this bind, and what do we need to do radically differently from now on?”

The answer is not in the quiz.  It’s not about the quiz.  Soul at a time.  Soul. at. a. time.

2.  You should never, ever, write something like this:

There’s a fine line between humility and stupidity, and I try my best to stay on the better-edited side of that line.

Yes, I used the word “try”. I was trying.  I was. trying.  I proofread that post.  I did.  Proofread. Solemn assurances of truth-telling.  And yet we’ve found three egregious typos in it so far today.  Read it yourself and see what else you find.

[Hint: I tell you that if you like to write, you should write the stuff you like to write.  Not complicated, and yet weirdly people get all confused about this.  Also I plug the CWG, because trust me your favorite best-selling mega-busy author is not your critique service.  But the CWG?  We do this.  Amateurs welcome.]

3. Back to catechesis: Allow me to tell you a terrible story. I once had a DRE tell me how much she loved her current job, because it was so different from her previous parish.  “Here, all the catechists go to Mass on Sundays!”

I was happy for her. I was.

But seriously.   Problems in catechesis run deep.  It’s not about the quiz.  The quiz conundrum is the nasty festering ulcer everyone’s tempted to chop off, and maybe it does need to be chopped off, or filled with leeches or maggots or I dunno what.  But until you figure out what’s causing that festering wound, new ones are going to keep popping up.  There are bigger problems.  Deeper problems.  Fix those.

4.  Prayer and fasting.  That’s how.