Funniest Parish Rumor Ever

This morning after Bible study one of the ladies asks me, “What are your degrees in?”

It’s a good question, and one I occasionally have to clarify.   I studied economics and I have a degree in economics are two different things; in my case the former is true but not the latter.  Every now and then an author blurb goes to print without my clearing it, and I cringe at the odd inaccuracies.

So I answered, “I have a BA in international studies, with a not-quite-a-minor in economics.  My master’s degree is in business administration, with the bulk of my coursework in accounting with a little bit of finance.”  Again, I don’t have an accounting degree, though I did graduate with enough upper-level courses to work professionally in accounting.  But I’m not a CPA, which people ask me whenever they hear I studied accounting.

“Oh,” the lady at Bible study says.  “So do you have a PhD in theology?”

Pardon me?  “No.”

“Oh.  Someone said you had a PhD in theology.”

No.  No no no.  “Nope.  Business.  Master’s degree in business, no PhD in anything.”

“Sometimes Father Whippersnapper seems to defer to you during Bible study.”

“That’s because he has a graduate degree in theology, which I do not, but I am more experienced with arguments among non-academics bickering on the internet.”

***

As parish grapevine experiences go, it was more amusing than horrifying, so it worked out.

–> I got to share a little bit of mine and my husband’s conversion stories (answer to the follow-up question of “How come you seem to know so much?”), and I conceded I do write a bit of Catholic non-fiction

More better: I got a few minutes of living vicariously through one of the other Bible study ladies, who overheard the conversation and shared with me about her experience in internal audit and fraud detection, which is one of the coolest things accountants get to do and I’d be totally looking into that if I were looking for an accounting job.

It was a good day.  And to my credit, I read just far enough into Love and Responsibility to know, as any good Junior Moral Theologian who happens to be married should know, the answers to these sex questions over at the Aggie Catholic blog,* which topics I alluded to in the rough cut of my most recent NCRegister post, now up: “What Do Priests Know About Marriage?”  My very smart editor removed the explicit references (which the Aggie post answers succinctly, so you’re set if you have those questions) to keep it PG rated.

*I do not write for the Aggie Catholic blog.  I have been to Texas three times, though, so it’s practically the same, for parish rumor-mill purposes.

File:Young Nun at Prayer by Sergei Gribkov 1852.jpg

Artwork: Young Nun at Prayer by Sergei Gribkov.  I’m not a nun either, in case anyone is asking.

PS: Parents, this is a grown-up blog.  I teach children in regular life, but on the internet I cover adult topics.

Four Ways to Avoid Becoming a Bitter Catholic

Up at the Register this morning, I’m talking about ways to not become a person you hate being, in the aftermath of other Catholics being truly horrid:

Bitterness isn’t born ex nihilo. Bitterness is the festering of a spiritual wound, and many Catholics are infected by bitterness because they have suffered real, penetrating, stinging wounds at the hands of their fellows.

When you see someone being rabidly ugly, that didn’t come from nowhere.

When it’s you being rabidly ugly, it often feels like “righteous anger.”

Hmmn.  Are you filled with a sense of peace? Do people generally agree that the way you speak and act is gentle and life-giving?  Do even some of your opponents speak of you respectfully, because your are well-known as someone who is rational, calm, and has good sound reasons for your beliefs?

Or is it maybe possible that, fault of the hurt you’ve endured at the hands of people who had no right to treat you that way, you’ve started to get a little bitter?

Maybe a lot bitter.

It isn’t easy, but there are some things you can do to help yourself heal.  These are some of the things.

And then there were ducks . . .

FYI it’s my editor Kevin Knight at NCR who wins the award for my favorite photo caption ever.  That’s his genius, not mine, concerning the ducks.  But he is so, so, right.  Ducks, guys.  Make that #5.

Related:  Do you you know Catholics who have grown parish-shy? This fine cat photo was my illustration for Taming the Feral Faithful: How to Lure Serious Catholics Back to Your Parish.  You can find an index with this and many other articles about discipleship and evangelization at my D&E index over at the Conspiracy.

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Photo: w:User:Stavrolo [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

What It Takes Not to Be a Nazi

Fourth of July a fellow on a bicycle saw me photographing the parish war memorial in Sigolsheim.  He asked me where I was from, and I told him the US, and he proceeded to thank me for coming.  Periodically throughout the conversation he thanked me again, and before leaving he repeated merci about seven times.  There was a reason for that, which I’ll get to.

A typical way of inscribing a war memorial in France is to write Mort Pour La France, but in Alsace that’s not usually the case, for the obvious reason.  A Nos Morts is the common alternative that glosses over the whole question of whom you died for, and gets to the point: You died.  Here’s the memorial outside the parish church in Uffholtz, A Ses Enfants Victime de Guerre:

Uffhotz War Memorial

Here’s Sigolsheim, in two parts.  You’ll notice WWII was disproportionately bloodier than WWI for Sigolsheim, including a significant number of civilian deaths:

Sigholsheim War Memorial 1

Sigolsheim War Memorial 2

That’s because the Nazis dug in and held hard, and a giant set of battles were held in the village itself, which you can read about in extensive detail here.  When German empires decide to assert themselves, annexing Alsace is the default method.  (And why not throw in Lorraine while you’re at it?)   This is the reason that headquartering European postwar peace initiatives in Strasbourg is so symbolically important.

Persuading the Third Reich to retreat from Alsace was bloody-difficult, and American soldiers played a major part in that work, which is half the reason the fellow on the bicycle was so profuse in his thanks for my coming to visit and taking an interest in the local history.

Here’s the village of Kayserberg’s thank-you plaque:

Kaysersberg Allies LIberation Memorial

The American flag flies above Sigolsheim at this war memorial:

US War Memorial Sigolsheim

Everything in red on this map of the the Allies’ Alsatian offensive is American forces:

Map of the Allied Offensive to Retake Alsace

American soldiers aren’t buried at the Sigolsheim memorial (there are American war cemeteries elsewhere).  There is a cemetery, though, for the French forces killed in battle in the immediate vicinity:

French war cemetery Sigolsheim

You’ll notice in the picture above that most of the graves are crosses, and a few are not.  Here’s a detail of the rounded-rectangle gravestone in the bottom right:
Detail of Jewish headstone

It would obviously not be kosher (pun intended) to use a cross to mark the grave of a Jewish soldier.   It is not only American and native-born French soldiers, however, who were instrumental in liberating Alsace.   The Zouave soldiers buried at the Sigolsheim war cemetery have grave markers like this:

Detail of Muslim headstone

In other words, if you’re grateful France is free, don’t just thank an American — thank a Muslim.  Ah, but how much did those Muslim soldiers contribute?  About like this:

As the video shows, the cemetery is built on a hill in a half-circle, and the graves are laid out in four equal sections.  The two flanking sections are Muslim graves, and the center two sections are mixed Christian and Jewish graves.  History is complicated.

Whether the fellow on the bicycle would have thanked me so profusely if I were a North African tourist I couldn’t say.  I’m not one.  What we do get mistaken for in Alsace is German tourists.  We look the part and come by it honestly, if distantly.  German tourists come up and ask us directions, in German, which doesn’t get them very far.  Locals either attempt to speak German with us or else apologize that they have no German (neither do we — how about French?).

So here are a couple of my cute German kids walking towards the gate out of the KL-Natzweiler Concentration Camp, up near the village of Struthof in the Vosges mountains:

Walking towards the gate - KL-Natzweiler (Struthof) concentration camp

People who didn’t walk out might have died here in the cell block:

Cell block, Natzweiler-Struthof

At which point they would have been incinerated in this crematorium:
Crematorium Natzweiler - Struthof

When we talk about concentration camps and the evil of the Nazi regime, the usual thing is to tell kids, “If you were Jewish . . .”

Struthof, as KL-Natzweiler is often called locally, is different, in that it was chiefly used not for eugenic purposes but for those who resisted the Nazi regime.  Thus more to the point for our nice German boy in the photo above: Let’s talk about the draft.

His great-grandfathers were all about his age (17) at the start of World War II.  They had the luxury of being second- or third- or more-generation Americans, and they all volunteered and served in the War for the US.  It was not a difficult decision.  They were the age your brother is now, I told the girls.

Had he been seventeen and American, the boy would have signed up too, I’m fairly certain.  But what if he had been seventeen and German — which, after a week of being mistaken for a German tourist (or an Alsatian local), is not at all a stretch of the imagination?  He would have had to decide between going into the Nazi army, or going to Struthof.

Which is why a guy on a bicycle, about my age, resident of a nearby village, passing by on July 4th evening outside the war memorial in Sigolsheim couldn’t stop thanking me for being an American who came to Alsace.  He saw I was interested in history, and started suggesting sites.  “Do you know there’s a US war memorial up on the hill?” he said.

Yes.  Just came from there, actually.

“And have you seen the three castles down by Eguisheim?”

Yes.  And the other one, and some other ones . . .

“Let’s see, so maybe you should go to –”

“Well actually,” I tell him, “we only have a few more days here.  We’re going to try to go to Mont Sainte Odile and to–” I try to remember the name —  “Struthof–?”

He stops.  “Oh.  Struthof.  That’s hard.”

I know.

But you can’t really appreciate the significance of the war unless you know the whole story.

“The concentration camp,” he says.  “Struthof.”

“Yes.”

“My grandfather was there.”

White flowers with red centers.detail of white blossom with magenta-red center.

Flowers at the Sigolsheim war memorial, in bloom on July 4th.

Evangelization and the Case for Catholic Fiction

Convergence of two happy things: The Catholic Writers Conference is coming around again, and I’m putting together an index of my writing on discipleship and evangelization.  In trolling my posts at New Evangelizers, I came across this one that is apropos of the conference season.  And yes, if you’re a Catholic who likes to write (fiction or otherwise), you should give the Catholic Writers Guild a good looking over.  More on that soon.

Evangelization and the Case for Catholic Fiction

Why bother with Catholic fiction?  As I write this, I’ve just returned from the Catholic Writers Guild’s annual live conference (our online conference is held in early spring), and once again I’ve met dozens of great Catholic authors eager to reach a Catholic audience.

I’ve also had a few discouraging conversations with publishers.  “We’re really only able to sell retellings of saints stories. We’d like to do other fiction, but we can’t.”  “We love that children’s fiction series, but we can’t break even on it, so we had to cancel further installments.”   “We want to do fiction, but . . .”

It’s a hard market. Over the past 50 years, Catholics in the pew have taken the notion that anything true, good, and beautiful is indeed “Catholic”, and run with it . . . right out of the Catholic market, and into the secular bookshelves.

And there’s something to that.  After all, we Catholics don’t need to decorate every story we read with a crucifix and a Hail Mary in order to be edified.  Reviewers like Julie Davis at Happy Catholic mine the treasures to be found in all kinds of strange corners.  The Catholic faith truly is universal, and so it’s no surprise that all good literature evangelizes, regardless of the label that goes with it.

Still, there’s a place for explicitly Catholic stories of every genre.  Why?

Catholic identity

Our faith is not just a cultural identity, but yes, we’re human, so it does matter to us that we aren’t the only Catholics out there.  My daughter is a big fan of the Anna Mei series from Pauline Books & Media.  These stories are your basic middle school coming-of-age stuff, and the Catholic faith is part of the fabric, but not the crux of the plot.  Still, I love that my daughter can see a Catholic character turn out for Mass on Sundays, or say grace with her family.  We all need to know we aren’t the only ones doing this religion thing.

Solid answers to hard questions

John McNichol is a house favorite at our place, since we have that middle school boy sci-fi / alien-attack demographic sewn up tight.  McNichol gets criticized for putting  religious conversations in his dialog.

Well, guess what?  That’s what teens really talk about.  McNichol is a veteran middle school teacher and father of 10 bazillion teens, so he knows that, and he puts real questions teens ponder into the mouths of his teen characters.

But here’s the rub: unless it’s Catholic fiction, those questions aren’t going to get a Catholic answer.

Catholicism is not generic

You know what irritates me on Facebook?  Vague “spiritual” feel-good platitudes being spouted by people who should know better.

Oh, I know, I need to lighten up a little.  And I’m the first in line to be ecumenical when ecumenical is possible.  But sooner or later we need for Catholics to claim their faith as the one and only.

Catholic fiction lays down the gauntlet: our faith is not one choice among many.  It’s not just a “flavor” or a “style” of religion.  A sincere faith means we’re going to have an awful lot of explicitly Catholic stories to tell, because our faith offers something you can’t find anywhere else.

Are you with me on this?  If so, here’s what I propose we do next:

1. Talk about it.  

There are lots of folks in the pews for whom this idea is absolutely radical.  It’s just not on their brain.  At all.  So mention it.  Drop a line in conversation like, “I love being able to find good Catholic novels for my kids.”  Or, “It’s so refreshing to read something that isn’t trashy for a change.”

2. Start buying Catholic fiction.

If you have a local Catholic bookstore, ask them to stock it. Print out the book info for the title that interests you, and ask them to order it.  If you have a parish library, donate good Catholic fiction to their collection.

3. When you read a good Catholic book, leave a review . . .

. . . at Goodreads, Amazon, and the publisher’s website. Then mention it to your friends – online and in real life.

People want to be able to practice their faith.  Reading good Catholic fiction is a way that many people can be encouraged,  inspired, and yes, even catechized at times, in a way that comes so naturally to story-loving humans.

***

Read any good books lately?

What titles would you recommend for the Catholic reader looking for a good story to curl up with on a lazy Sunday afternoon?

(Psst!  FYI for new readers – the blog discussion forum is here.)

 

Catholic Writers Conference Live! Logo.

 

Lent Day 3: Put a Raincoat on It

Something we are doing this Lent is cutting out extraneous sugar from the family diet.  (Why?  Not to lose weight.  I’m the only chubby member of the family, and I don’t eat all that much junk food.  But we’ve noticed that some of the castle residents tend to be more emotionally volatile when they are living from snack to snack, and thought that peace in the home was worth attempting.)

There’s not a hard-and-fast rule to that resolution, but there are some obvious changes.  Don’t stop for donuts as a way of rewarding the kids for meritorious behavior, for example.  One of the chief challenges is that the children are all enthusiastic chefs, and several of them specialize in variations on pastry chef.

Therefore I had to confiscate the sugar.

If I didn’t, they’d go on quietly creating delectable baked goods whenever the parents weren’t looking.  They  might not even do it out of defiance — it’s just a habit.  So I took the sugar canisters from the open shelves in the kitchen and stowed them in a laundry basket in the parents’ bedroom (double Lent: that room is already cluttered enough without adding “pantry” to its list of responsibilities).

Next I had to take the chocolate chips.  Mid-morning Ash Wednesday I find a child happily creating chocolate candies.  “They aren’t for today!” she chided me solemnly.  How dare I question her penitence, sheesh?  So I added the canister of open chocolate chips to the laundry basket, and later found the resupply of chocolate chips* in the laundry room cabinets and put those in the basket too, because otherwise children would take the initiative to fix the Lenten inventory problem in the kitchen.

So now in my bedroom I’ve got a basket full of sugar and chocolate chips — really good chocolate chips, not those sorry ones that are mostly corn syrup.   Really, really, good chocolate chips.  In my bedroom.  Staring at me as I walk in after dropping a child off for an internship, on a Friday morning when I’m pretty hungry and trying to be virtuous but have not had breakfast, and did I mention they are really, really, good chocolate chips?

So thank goodness not-my-truck needed an oil change and so I had to switch vehicles with the spouse so I could take care of that this afternoon, and therefore I had to empty my junk out of the truck before he went to work, and that meant, as I was being reined in by the siren song of especially, wondrously, notoriously good chocolate chips, that I had a raincoat slung over my arm.  I was going to hang up the raincoat in the closet, since it’s a sunny day and I thought I wouldn’t be needing it.

But you know what needs a raincoat on it?  A basket full of chocolate chips.  And then I don’t have to look at temptation, glowing in the rays of springtime — Lenten — sunshine every time I go to my room.

Thank you, raincoat.  Thank you, oil change.  No thank you, chocolate chips.

 

Four umbrellas against a wood backdrop.

Photo via Wikimedia [Public Domain].

*The reason I have an inventory of chocolate chips is because we prefer, when possible, to acquire them from Equal Exchange or some similarly reputable source.  Since we live in the South, we can only mail-order chocolate during the cold months.  It’s practically pioneer living, you know.

Useful Things: EF Missal Sale

From my friend Jim A., via e-mail:

Hello to all,

It looks as if FSSP is offering a pretty good price on this Missal. This Missal is indispensable in helping us follow the priest and truly assist at the Traditional Latin Mass. It has the English on one side of the page, and the Latin on the other so you can follow along in English if you don’t know Latin yet.

It’s very practical as an aide during the TLM itself. On every page there are simple side illustrations with explanations and margin notes on what the priest is doing. I never assist at a TLM without this Missal; I follow along with the prayers of the priest as he offers them to God, and this is how I join myself to the Sacrifice with the priest.

Even more, this is the true meaning of full & active participation; it is an interior disposition which is facilitated by the prayers of the Mass, which of course are meant to draw you more fully into the Great Mystery which Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called: “the source and summit of the entire Christian life” –Redemptionis Sacramentum

The Missal is usually between $6 to 8$ plus shipping. On Amazon it’s almost $10; so these prices @ FSSP are pretty good:

​—​Sale price: $4.95, 5/$19.75, 10/$37.50

http://www.fraternitypublications.com/labomi.html

I hope everyone had a blessed Sexigesima Sunday, as we prepare ourselves for Lent.

I took a look at the site, and shipping is about $5 for the first book, with a steep curve in your favor if you order in quantity.  So if you’re planning an order, get together with your friends and order as a group.
If you have a difficult time keeping your traditionalist associations straight, here’s EWTN’s article on the difference between SSPX and FSSP.  At this writing, FSSP is the one you want, though hopefully SSPX will be back in the fold soon.

Related:

FYI, I’m not much of a traditionalist. The liturgy passes my test if (a) it’s both valid and licit, (b) it isn’t hideous, and (c) it’s unequivocally oriented towards the worship of God.  This is me:

I like traditional Catholic stuff so much that when I hear “Tridentine Rite,” my first thought is, “But it’s so new! Barely tested!” Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth the effort to learn Latin, because it’s such an innovation in the life of the Church. As much as 13th century Paris is, aesthetically, about my speed, I can’t help but think St. Thomas Aquinas is a bit of an upstart compared to the Church Fathers. And Gothic manuscript . . . shudder . . . Carolingian for me, thank you.

To be deep in history is to be very, very strange. I’m good with that.

Latin happens to be one of the languages I enjoy.  If we had Greek or Aramaic Masses around town, I’d probably take an interest, but I’m not sniffing them out.  I get to an EF Mass about once a decade or so, and otherwise I live in a pretty happy corner of NovusOrdoville.

Book Of Durrow Begin Mark Gospel.jpg Insular Majuscule
I’m broadminded, so I share with you this lovely sample of Insular Majuscule. A person could do worse.

 

Image originally uploaded by Dsmdgold at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Add to Your Rolodex: Sean O’Halloran for Film, Editing, Photography, Sound . . .

I rarely blog about it, but a few readers know that I sometimes take on private writing or editing projects.  Most recently I got to work with Sean O’Halloran from SO’ Creative on a film project for a small parish group.  We were both working pro-bono — he did the filming, I was the primary author on the script.

Lesson learned: This is a guy you want on your short list.

He doesn’t monkey around.  Even though he was working purely as a volunteer on this one, he was 100% professional.  I’m not sure Sean even knows how to do something halfway.

He’s good at bringing your idea to life.  Sean took everything the group brought to the project, and then he worked with the team to help them achieve their goals.

Some examples of how perfectly he did this:

  • I had a basic script, but no clue how to turn that into a screenplay — so Sean took my draft and converted it into a set of working documents that could be used on the set.
  •  The parish group had a good director on the project, Carol Pelster from Catholic Playscripts; Sean had no trouble working with her on the set, understanding the vision she had for the film and what sorts of extra shots to propose to capture that vision.
  • As the group was filming, when the actors would improvise bits of characterization, Sean knew how to direct the all-amateur cast so that their ideas read well on film.

It never ever felt like The Professionals Have Arrived, Get Out Of The Way.  The entire process was more like, “We know what we want, but how do we get there?” and Sean helped the group get there.

You won’t meet more gracious people.  I run in some of the same circles as the O’Hallorans, and I’m continually impressed by how down-to-the-bones courteous this family is.  When I go to an O’Halloran event, I’m in awe at how seriously Sean and his wife Tracy take their work of hospitality.  On the film set, Sean was disciplined and professional, but always completely calm, patient, and polite.

Sean donated an enormous amount of time to this parish project, and when I spoke to his wife about how the group could thank him, she said, “As many referrals you can send his way as possible!”

To see if the kind of work you need is the kind that he does, scroll down on the SO’ Creative website and click through on each project-type to view the corresponding portfolio.  Edited to add: You can also view some of Sean’s graphic design work at the SO’ Creative Facebook page.  Tracy gave me her quick list of the kinds of projects he does most:

  • Graphic Design
  • Photography
  • Editing
  • Retouching
  • Sound Design
  • Videography/Cinematography/Director/Producer

Sean takes on projects of all kinds.  In addition, Catholic readers should know that the O’Hallorans are faithful, committed Catholics — so if you are working on a project that involves the faith, Sean is in a position to make sure your message comes across clearly and accurately.  Give him a look, and please recommend him to your friends.  Thanks!

 

File:Secretary at typewriter 1912 (3192197470).jpg
A rolodex is a thing that was invented to make this lady’s life easier. It did what your “contacts” list does, except that it still works even when your phone isn’t charged.

Photo by Snyder, Frank R.Flickr: Miami U. Libraries – Digital Collections [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Old Links for the New Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

erinmeyer_cover_splash-220x300

Cover image for The Culture Map courtesy of ErinMeyer.com.

 

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

Book Notes: Pope in a Box & Marrying Well

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

The Complete Encyclicals, Bulls, and Apostolic Exhortations

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

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

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

Pros & Cons, in no particular order:

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

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

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

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

***

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

101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person

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

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

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

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

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

***

Related #1: YOU from Ascension Press

you_starter_pack_image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book covers courtesy of Ave Maria Publishing and Ascension Press.

The Physiology of Fasting and other Penitential Links

Link #1 The Physiology of Fasting

Late last Lent an Orthodox friend and I were whining about how much we hate fasting.  There are people in this world who don’t have much appetite, and he and I are not those people.  Furthermore, at his parish he knows these guys who fast for days and days during Holy Week, and hold up just fine.  We’re not talking St. Starvicus of the Empty, Empty Desert who lived on a weekly mouthful of bitter herbs in the second century. We’re talking about flesh-and-blood normal guys with day jobs in modern America.

How do they do it?  We had a number of theories, and mine were all wrong.

Not too long into Easter (happy happy feast feast) I stumbled on a website run by a physician whose practice includes overseeing a lot of clients who fast extensively for health reasons (primarily in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, as it happens).  Dr. Jason Fung is a normal (secular, slightly potty-mouthed) Canadian-guy MD with normal-people clients and a lot to say on how fasting affects your body, and why our non-eating Orthodox friends are experiencing something radically different when they fast than that misery you feel on Ash Wednesday when you eat one regular meal and two small snacks.

–> I have no opinion on whether or how you should fast, other than that you should mind the Precepts of the Church and also common sense regarding your own health and state of life.  But if you are bored, here’s a site with the answer to the question of What’s with those people who don’t eat for days on end?

Here’s the archives of the entire “Fasting” category on his website.

Here’s page 1, if you want to start at the beginning.

I mention it now during Advent because if you want to run pre-Lent experiments on yourself, now’s the time.

Link #2 Vader Did You Know?

A profound thank you to Jane Lebak for sharing this link.  Sometimes a song is so bad that the only good use for it is turning it into a Star Wars plot summary.

#3: Not a link, just a PSA

Dear Adults Who Edit Hymnals,

Did you know that young people are linguistically competent?  You might have noticed the way they are constantly making up words and phrases that confound you to pieces.  This is because they are able to learn languages, even English.

Therefore, it is not necessary to wipe every use of the word “Thou” from your hymnal.  People under the age of 150 are able to learn new words, just like people in previous eras were able to learn new words like “telegraph” and “wireless” and eventually even “social security check.”

Also, you look very stupid when you “fix” a hymn for us by making it grammatically incoherent in the effort to remove verbs ending in “est.”  So perhaps you are not able to master the English language. But the rest of us can pick it up pretty well, thanks.

Sincerely,

Jennifer  <– So done with offering it up.  Just done.  Get me to confession, please.

Link #4: My Classic Collection of Advent Links

When I moved the blog to the new location, I didn’t pull over the entire old sidebar.  FYI the new sidebar has lots of good stuff, including a freshly-harvested crop of internet reading now that I’m back to goofing off on the internet.  But if you’re looking for the annual collection of Old Reliable Advent Links, here they are:

This is not the year I grow the list, but look, when I searched Wikimedia for “Advent” this slightly-wrinkled manuscript page from the “O Antiophons” category popped right up:

File:Sapientia.jpg

Artwork courtesy of Benedictine monastery of Podlažice [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons