Who Owns “Social Justice”?

One of the news sources I flip through occasionally is Al Jazeera It’s not the only place I’d turn for information (goodness gracious!), but for coverage of Middle Eastern politics it’s a bit more thorough than the average American paper, go figure.  Al Jazeera also has good human rights coverage sometimes, such as this investigation into Britian’s modern-day slave trade.  Catholics are big into human rights.

The most painful fallacy I see among Catholics is the false dichotomy between “social justice” and “life issues.”  It’s moldering baggage from the Church’s political divisions over the last fifty years or so: We know that a branch of dissenting Catholics labeled themselves “social justice” warriors, and so our alarm bells go off whenever we hear someone talking in vague terms about peace and justice and not much clear doctrine.

We have to cut this out.

Catholics who believe the entirety of the Catholic faith are not obliged to hand over a portion of our faith to agnostics-in-Catholic-clothing.  We get to own the whole package: the Trinity, the Church, the Sacraments, Scripture, and the entire Christian moral life.  We don’t have to settle for our slice of the “pelvic issue” pie and doggedly shun any topic we fear might have somehow, somewhere, been enjoyed by a Democrat.  We certainly don’t have to swallow the line that justice with regards to immigrants, the environment, workers, prisoners, or any other category popular on the Left can thereby only be solved by the Left.

The Church proposes a beautiful, sensible, logical, theologically-sound way of looking at social issues, and it’s ours to love and cherish.  Enjoy it.  Own it.  Don’t let anyone deny you your right to the entirety of the Catholic faith.

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia [Public Domain]

Easter Report: Five Good Things

#1 Fr. Gonzo finishes strong. I probably shouldn’t call him that, it might encourage him.  The man who gave me this thing forty-something days ago decided to launch, his words, the “Mother of All Easter Vigils.”  If that man left out even a single speck or jot of an option, as found or legitimately inferred in ye olde Roman Missal, please, not a word.  Also next year, I’m having a nap and a cup of coffee before the vigil.  Or else just doing like last year and going to the Sunday evening Easter Mass, which was quite nice and ought to be offered more widely.

#2 There was a bacon accident.  Sometimes people are like, “Oh you’re a homeschooler? Could you make me a craft and a casserole?” These are the very same people who would squirm if I said, “Oh you work in an office?  Could you make me a 1040x and a manuscript proposal?”  So anyway, I tried making bacon in the oven Sunday morning, and I did it by following the directions on the package.  More or less.

The difficulty is that it came out perfect.

Perfect bacon is cooked to the point of extreme crispiness, just short — but nearly to the point — of crumbing at an untoward glance.

Sadly, the man I married and many of our offspring are under the impression that bacon is meant to be sort of chewy and moist.  I’m okay with that.  All bacon is good to me.  I will totally put on my inner St. Therese and eat wet bacon.  No problem.  Canonize me now.

But I accidentally cooked the bacon too long, and it was extremely, very, astonishingly good.  The difficulty is that there wasn’t any spare bacon to undercook for the other people, and that was kind of sad.  I’m open to continuing practice on this art until I nail it.  Eight weeks of Easter calling my name.

#3 First child trained in the ways of the IRS! It’s pleasant having Easter after the taxes go in.  I literally dropped off four envelopes at the post office on the way over to the Vigil.  Mr. Boy got A Real Job last summer, which means he had a real tax return (two – one federal, one state) this spring.  I had him do the process step by step on his own, and then I’d check it and show him what he did wrong (if anything — a 1040EZ isn’t that hard, even if it’s more complicated than it used to be), and he’d fix it, and we’d move on to the next thing.

It is well worthwhile to start doing your taxes on your own right from the beginning, and to keep with it year after year as things slowly get more complicated.  Pays off in the long run.

#4 Fedex is a wondrous thing.  It’ll be three kids and I on the big trip this summer, and I ordered those three some useful books to prep for the trip and work on their French.

FYI of all the suppliers I found, Decitre.Fr had the best deal on international shipping if you’re looking at many low-budget books rather than one expensive book.  Each kid received a book on the Mass. The boy received two history books and an atlas.  The girls each received a coloring book on Alsace (primary destination), a second coloring book on a relevant topic (history for one, all-things-Christian-faith for the other — between the two, they’ll have encountered most museum, historical site, and art-related vocab), and a book of personal interest for motivating the reading practice (cats or rabbits).

I went with cheap books because I wanted them physically light and compact, and intellectually not too intimidating.  That also allowed for a slight overflow on the order, so duds could be culled and everyone still get good books.  –> Not true duds, but a couple of the books that looked nice on the internet turned out to be either too little-kid or else too difficult for a beginning student of the language; I set those aside for me.

Anyhow, on international orders there’s not an option (with Decitre) to have books sent in sub-packages, and I knew a few of the books would take a couple weeks to be ready to ship.  So when I got the shipping notice Spy Wednesday, I figured it would be a late Easter?  Nope.  Packaged Wednesday morning, queued at CDG by Wednesday evening, onto a plane and into my local Fedex office Thursday morning.  I went out for a walk Thursday morning, and as I was coming back to my yard at 9AM the Fedex mini-van showed up with a package for me to sign.

You didn’t used to be able to get foreign books this easily.  I like the modern world.

#5 Journaling Bibles.  So that left one child with no books in her basket, because: Poor planning.  The Easter Bunny was pretty pleased she’d gotten to Aldi to pick up Not-Slave-Labor chocolate, thanks.  So then the bunny remembered this argument from a month earlier.  The girl is in the FCA at school, and apparently all her friends have “journaling” or “notetaking” Bibles.  These are Bibles with wide margins or other white space where you can essentially illuminate your own manuscript.

Could she have one for Confirmation please?  And how about right now, so the Holy Spirit can get to work ASAP?

The difficulty is this: Apparently Catholics have given up on illuminating, or else we just don’t publish trend-Bibles — I’m sure our publishers are full of good excuses for the lapse.  The situation is bad enough that Catholic Icing has a great tutorial about how to convert your Catholic Bible into a journaling Bible by covering up the footnotes with bits of paper.

A girl I know does not want to cover up footnotes with bits of paper

Thus in the spirit of Easter is For Heretics, Too, I caved.  On the way home from Costco with all the Easter food, I did check my local Catholic bookstore to see if there was something, anything, that I could pass off as a journaling Bible, but no dice.  (There are lots of great Catholic Bibles out there, by the way.  Just not ones for coloring in.)  But after that, into the breach: Walmart for Bible-shopping it would be.

[Sheesh, guys, I’m buying some unapproved-translation, books-missing Bible for coloring in, I’m not shelling out a lot of money on this, really??]

Walmart is smarter than a Catholic publisher.  They carry a mass-market, paperback version the HCSB Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible, and it’s easy to find if you go to the book section — shelved both with Bibles and with adult coloring books, since it’s both a Bible and a coloring book.  The inside looks like this:

My child wasn’t looking for one that was pre-illustrated, but we both secretly like it.  Some of the illustrations are very apropos, such as the image of Christ Crucified in the margins next to Isaiah’s Suffering Servant prophecy.  I could do without Mary With Rosy Cheeks, but Catholics have done far worse to the Blessed Mother and somehow the Church still stands.

My teenager spent her afternoon working on her Bible.  Her younger sister said, “We should have brought these to that retreat last month!”  I think I can work with this trend.

Easter Egg Wreath by #3.  Leaving a child alone with a hot glue gun has its advantages.  For more on the cost of becoming a Pinterest Parent, see here. Okay, I see the photos aren’t loading anymore.  I’ll fix that and update. [Update: Okay – all fixed now, I hope!]  The text explains the less-pretty parts of the crafting life. 

 

What Happens When You Go Out to Eat on Sundays

Before we begin, let’s clear something up: Sometimes I go out to eat on Sundays.  Credible witnesses can attest to this fact.

***

A friend recently shared St. John Paul II’s apostolic letter Dies Domini (On Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy).   It’s a long, rich exploration of the what’s and why’s of Sundays, so naturally I just skimmed it and made a note to come back later and read it more carefully.  But I link to it now because I’ve been meaning to write about the restaurant problem since last summer.  Here are some pertinent quotes:

65. By contrast, the link between the Lord’s Day and the day of rest in civil society has a meaning and importance which go beyond the distinctly Christian point of view. The alternation between work and rest, built into human nature, is willed by God himself, as appears in the creation story in the Book of Genesis (cf. 2:2-3; Ex 20:8-11): rest is something “sacred”, because it is man’s way of withdrawing from the sometimes excessively demanding cycle of earthly tasks in order to renew his awareness that everything is the work of God. . . .

66. Finally, it should not be forgotten that even in our own day work is very oppressive for many people, either because of miserable working conditions and long hours — especially in the poorer regions of the world — or because of the persistence in economically more developed societies of too many cases of injustice and exploitation of man by man. When, through the centuries, she has made laws concerning Sunday rest, (109) the Church has had in mind above all the work of servants and workers, certainly not because this work was any less worthy when compared to the spiritual requirements of Sunday observance, but rather because it needed greater regulation to lighten its burden and thus enable everyone to keep the Lord’s Day holy. In this matter, my predecessor Pope Leo XIII in his Encyclical Rerum Novarum spoke of Sunday rest as a worker’s right which the State must guarantee. (110)

FYI, Rerum Novarum is no commie pinko manifesto.  Actually it’s an anti-communist manifesto.  [And some other things, too.] Go read it sometime, it’s really fun.  If you’re local, you can bait me into a conversation (bring the text, please) basically any time you want.

Anyway, the point for today is that Sunday rest, worship, and Christian fellowship are so important it just keeps coming up and coming up century, after century, after century.  It’s like the Church just. won’t. shut-up. about it.

So let me tell you about my kid.

Woohoo! Gainful Employment!

I have this boy who can cook really well.  Just last night I came home with a tray of chicken, pointed him to the grill, and he caused there to be dinner an hour later.  So last summer we sent him out to find a job, and yes we all considered it providential when he got hired by the local sandwich shop.  A few weeks of doing dishes and then on to cooking and he’s never left the kitchen.  He’s still working there and everyone’s happy.

When he interviewed, he said up front that he had to have Sunday mornings off.  Non-negotiable.  Since this place gets most of its traffic on weekdays, the boss was good with that.  But the restaurant is open Sundays, and so he does get assigned his share of Sunday afternoon-evening shifts.

As a result, he misses out on a lot of the Sunday-afternoon Christian fellowship activities that happen in our area.  He can’t do Sunday afternoon youth group events, and he ends up leaving early to get to work if a friend hosts, say, a relaxing family get-together.  We have some Christian friends with a pile of kids who are getting trained now to cut the birthday cake by 3pm so Mr. Boy can sing, eat, and run.  Everyone else can stick around for hours of heavenly conversation and camaraderie, exactly like St. John Paul II writes about, but the boy gets to go to work.

How Do You Use Your Servants?

The reason he gets to go work is because other people want to eat.

People need to eat.  Every single day, even multiple times a day.  There are situations in which people have good reasons to need to hire someone to prepare food for them on a Sunday, and many more situations in which people have good reasons to want someone to prepare that food.

There are other services we likewise avail ourselves of on a Sunday, for various good reasons.  I do this.  You’re not the only one.

When we do this, it causes the people we hire to work for us to lose a bit of their Sunday.

This is an Evangelization Problem

There are people like my boy who aren’t under a ton of pressure.  Sunday is not a high-traffic day for his restaurant.  He is only working part-time, and if he were fired for not being available when the boss wanted him, he’d still have his parents at home gainfully employed.  He’s not supporting himself, let alone a family, on this job.

Other people aren’t so lucky.  If they are Catholic, they end up scrambling just to find an hour to run into Mass sometime during the weekend.  If they aren’t Catholic and you tried to invite them to join you for Mass, or RCIA, or that fun thing you do on Sundays, they’d chuckle-cough and say, “Yeah. Sure.  I’ll let you know when I get an opening.”

It is extremely difficult to evangelize someone who literally cannot go to church.

You Only Control a Slice of the Problem

There are parts of this problem that you can’t control.  Some services (medical, police) are non-negotiables.  Unless you’re in charge of the hospital or what have you, you don’t decide what the shifts will look like; unless you’re in charge of the parish, you don’t decide whether Mass times will line up with the local police and hospital and pharmacy shifts.

If that’s not your responsibility, it just isn’t.

Likewise, you probably don’t set restaurant hours.  You’re not the one who decided to keep the amusement park open until midnight and then re-open at 8AM.  To a certain extent, you can’t control whether the worker-bees get an opening for Mass or not.

But you do control a small slice.

When you make the decision to go out to lunch after Mass, you are making the decision that two or three people will report to work a couple hours before you arrive, and they’ll stay on a couple hours after you leave.  What does that do to their day?

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Photo: © Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar, via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

7 Takes: Too Much Money & First Communion Dresses

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about haunted houses, affordable weekend wines, and #TWEETSONAPLANE

My 7 Takes this week are because I woke up remembering I wanted to mention these gorgeous First Communion dresses from Embroidered Heirlooms: I had the chance to see them and touch them a couple years ago, and they really are that well made.  Now’s the time to order if you want to have one for the spring.

1.  Let’s clarify: My girls wear the polyester department store special.  And that’s only because someone up and gave us a hand-me-down dress, otherwise it would not have happened.  It was a little big on #2 daughter, but there’s a lot you can do with safety pins these days.

–> So before you spend a lot of money on a handmade dress to last the generations, ask yourself: If this item were to meet a box of Sharpie markers on the way home from church, how would that affect me?

I don’t for a moment endorse your purchasing things you can’t afford, whether financially or emotionally.

2. So, today’s topic: How Much Money are You Allowed to Have and to Spend, Before People Start (Rightly) Pelting you with Catechisms?

To answer the question, we don’t need to know which dress you’re supposed to buy — that’s the thing that confuses everyone.  What we need to know is: Is it moral to purchase a First Communion Dress?

3. You’re already scratching your head, because you got this great deal at the consignment shop last June, and you’re absolutely sure that $15 is not too much to spend, so how could someone even suggest there’s something wrong owning an FCD?

Well, obviously I don’t think there’s anything wrong with owning such a thing, or I’d be a tad quieter about the one hanging in my closet. But the trick to understanding the morality behind income issues is this: If it’s okay to own the dress, it’s okay to buy the dress.

4.  You could argue that one should not buy special-occasion formal wear.  You could argue that it’s okay to buy the white dress only if you do like the Haitian ladies and wear it all year.  You could argue that it’s okay to buy the FCD, but you’re only allowed to own two other dresses, the nice one you wear every Sunday till you give it to the poor next Easter, and your weekday one that you protect with a burlap apron over, and a hair shirt under.

Marie Claude Colixte stands in front of her new temporary shelter
Haitian ladies in white dresses say: Visit CRS.org for more thoughts on how to spend your money.

But once you go off and say, “It’s okay to own an FCD, no permit or registration required,” the only question left is: How much can I spend and where should I acquire the thing?

5.  Let’s pause here and list the things we aren’t discussing:

  • “I’m jealous because so-and-so is dripping with money, and I’m eating used oatmeal for dinner.”
  • “She’s just showing off.”
  • “Do you really need thirty pair of stirrup pants?”
  • “She’s not really Catholic anyway, she just wants a big party.”
  • “If you used forty acres of silk, 3 knuckle-sized diamonds, and trained litter-bearers to escort your daughter to her FHC, that would be excessive.”

Those are all bad arguments.  Distractions.  Off-topic.

6.  So. Here’s what confuses us: In our culture, when we think “Holy Poverty”, the first thing that jumps to mind is, “Look at this deal I got at the thrift store!”

This book will not tell you how to find costume jewelry that looks like the real thing.

We confuse “not spending a lot of money” with “not living luxuriously”.  Whole books are written by good Christian ladies explaining to you how you can live like a king on $2 a day.  In their proper place, there’s nothing wrong with those books: If you don’t have any money, and you still want to be both fed and not naked, and perhaps even sleep indoors at night, it’s helpful to know how to pull that off.

And there is holiness, much holiness, in learning to cheerfully make do with what God gives you.  Absolutely.

But that legitimate spiritual exercise should not disintegrate into a game of, “How many toys can I amass for my dollar?”  Far worse is if it becomes, “Thank you Lord that I’m not like that surgeon over there who pays full retail.”

7.  Somewhere along the line, someone has to be the one who bought that dress / couch / textbook you snatched up at the garage sale.  Someone has to fund the wages of the worker who neatens the clearance racks at the end of the day.  Someone has to pay the whole bill for Catholic school tuition so that your kid can get the scholarship.

–> If that person doesn’t bring in enough income to pay retail, you don’t get to live like a king.

What’s a living wage?  It’s enough income that one can live in “decent and frugal comfort” without:

  • Someone else picking up the tab for part of our legitimate expenses.
  • Paying slave wages to the people who provide us with our stuff.

Try it.  Make a list of what someone raising a family really needs for a year.  Include the FCD or not, as you like.

Don’t forget to include a portion for things like taxes.  For example, if your local public schools are spending $12K a year per student* (and let’s say you determine that’s a legitimate cost — perhaps benchmark them against Catholic school tuition at a school that provides all the special-needs services, buses, and everything else, on an all-salary, no-monk teaching staff), then the living wage tax bill needs to include that amount for tuition. Remember to multiply that by the number of children the family should reasonably hope to have. Don’t forget to add in what you think is an acceptable per-capita spending on sidewalks, roads, police, military, and sanitation workers.

Then add up the cost of acquiring those items without resorting to sweatshops.

You included a bit for the savings account, right?  Emergencies, illness, and old age do happen to nearly everybody.  Throw in a modest sum for the poor box and the maintenance of the Church as well.

Back to the dress, now that you’ve got your annual living-wage salary figured out: Estimate how much time it takes to sew up an FCD, and you can figure out what the wage of your seamstress needs to be in order to make that decent frugal living.  Gives you a new perspective on what a fair price is for that white dress.

__________________________________

*Homeschoolers don’t be smug. Those amazing per-student costs people report rarely (if ever) include an amount for your salary, nor for the cost of the buildings in which you educate your child.

 

First Holy Communion dress photo courtesy of http://www.embroideredheirlooms.com/index.html.

 

How much pay should the evangelist accept?

Serious answer this time.  As it happens, pay for evangelists works the same way as for anyone else.

If you have any choice about it, don’t accept less than what is needed to provide for the essentials of life for yourself and your dependents.  Sure, living martyrdom is glamorous and all, but it’s an exceptional calling.  For most people, choosing to live in squalor just makes you a pain someone’s rear in the long run.  If you have the option, go for decent work that pays the bills every time.

If your employer offers you more than you strictly need, graciously accept.  Use what you need, then direct the remainder towards some worthy cause.  If your employer is foolishly overpaying you, save your excess diligently, because you’ll soon be looking for other employment.

If you’re the boss, pay people in this order:

  1. Provide for the absolute essentials of life for yourself and your dependents.
  2. Pay your employees what they need in order to make a living, including reasonable savings for the future.
  3. Pay your employees what your organization needs in order to keep it a going concern.
  4. Pay yourself a decent salary.
  5. Direct your excess towards some worthy cause.

Of course you’re going to do this badly.  It’s the rare person who strikes that perfect balance between generosity and prudence.  Keep working on it.  If you tend to be miserly, commit acts of wanton generosity.  If you tend to be wasteful, discipline yourself with acts of self-denial.  If you tend to be scrupulous, find a sensible person to talk you off your ledge.  If you tend to worry too little about your almsgiving and stewardship, feed yourself a steady diet of questions and better examples to kick yourself back on the right path.

It’s not complicated.  Difficult, because you have to battle the just-a-bit-more demon at every turn.  But not complicated.

April 8th HHS Contraceptive Mandate Comment Period Closes

Go here to leave a comment. Go ahead and do it right now, then you can come back to read my ranty-rant if you like.

Either you believe in women’s liberation or you don’t.  Do you believe that mentally competent, grown women are capable of making their own purchases?

Then require employers to pay us a living wage, and let us make our own purchases.

Women don’t need men at the office, men in Congress, or men at the HHS to force us to spend our wages on this pill or that surgery.  And we don’t need Mama making us buy stuff either.

We’re grown-ups.  Pay us fairly, and we’ll pick our own health insurance, thank you very much.

3.5 Time Outs: New Things

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, who’s also doing a time-travel edition today.

Click and be amazed.

1.

Blogging Popes.  That’s my topic for today.  Not the kind you’re thinking of, though.

2.

See, here’s what happened:  Saturday night I was bored, tired, and itching for something to read.  Something fun and relaxing and novel.  Meaning, new-to-me.  I usually grab one of my daughter’s library books for this purpose — just enough entertainment to get me through a non-digital Sunday, but not so much that I’ll be out of service, glued to a book, for 10,000 hours waiting for Br. Cadfael to tell me who did it.  But I needed novelty.

So I went to Papal Encyclicals Online.  I’m sure that’s what you do, too.  But before you get too impressed, keep in mind that the three reasons this was a possible source of reading material were:

  • I’d never read most of them before.  Strike one against my Catholic-nerd credentials.
  • They’re usually very short.  This is why I’ve read the minor prophets, but *still* never gotten through all of Isaiah.
  • There was no chance I’d let the cat starve, or grouse at my children for interrupting me during an especially gripping scene.

And the thing is, they tend to cover that same juicy ground as your average Catholic blogger, only you get bonus credit for not being stuck to the computer all day while you work up your angry frenzy at the injustice in the world.  Of course, no Star Trek screen shots for illustrations, but look, I was desperate for entertainment.

3.

And the one I picked was Rerum Novarum.  Which is basically a series of blog posts on economics.  Perfect.

(Let me just say right now, JPII’s follow-up work is not blog-genre.  Waaay more wordy.  Waaay more.  I haven’t finished it yet.  But I’m half thinking, “What more is there to say?  Leo.Encyclicalpress.com already covered the whole territory.  But you know how it is, people need to explain the obvious.  Or maybe people needed the obvious re-explained.)

Here’s a sample snippet of the Leonine goodness:

Hence, by degrees it has come to pass that working men have been surrendered, isolated and helpless, to the hardheartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition.

And this:

The mischief has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless, under a different guise, but with like injustice, still practiced by covetous and grasping men.

Followed by this:

To this must be added that the hiring of labor and the conduct of trade are concentrated in the hands of comparatively few; so that a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the laboring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself.

 

See? I spent my weekend reading 64 Cath-Econ-blog posts, 19th century edition.

3.5

And although I could pretty much shut my eyes and point my finger anywhere in the document to find a good quotable quote, one of my underlined favorites is

***

Well that’s all for today.  Still accepting suggestions for additions to the sidebar, so tell me who to add.  But do just one link per comment, because otherwise the robotic spam-dragon will consume the whole lot of them.  Thanks!

Labor Day, Slavery, and the Mercy Project

There’s a pile of us blogging today about The Mercy Project, a non-sectarian effort to free children from slavery in Ghana.  I have no affiliation with the project myself, so if you decide to support it financially, do your own due diligence.  But I think the project deserves attention as a model for serious anti-slavery efforts.

Why does slavery persist?  It is difficult to maintain the unbridled hatred that inspires forced labor camps, Nazi-style.  Over the longer run, the humanity of the slave is undeniable; to calmly take lifetime ownership of another person requires the unshakeable certainty that somehow, for some reason, we simply must have slaves.  To be convinced it’s an unavoidable fact of life, one of those regrettable difficulties we must chin-up and endure, hand in hand with long work days, mosquitoes, blisters — all that we suffer in this fallen world.

In Ghana, parents relinquish their children in desperation — the alternative is death. [My own former-slave-state’s motto seems to particularly apt.  Probably not what the founders had in mind.]  The fishermen on Lake Volta who use the children as slaves are in a similar situation: I need this free labor, or I can’t stay in business. The Mercy Project’s method is to think up a village-scaled sustainable new business project that eliminates the financial need for slaves, and then to partner with a particular village to coordinate an emancipation day in conjunction with the implementation of that new opportunity.

[There’s then a process for helping the newly-liberated former slaves to recover from their experience and to rebuild their lives back home with their family of origin, with family assistance to prevent re-trafficking.]

The reported success of the Mercy Project’s first initiative suggests that given any viable alternative, the local slave-owners really are willing to move on to some better business model.  You can read about their second project-in-progress here — same model, slightly different details.

So that’s the Mercy Project.  Take a look.

Thanks to Heather Hendricks for coordinating the giant blog-a-thon.

My vote for Most Important Book of 2012

I just spent 3 days in the largest Catholic bookstore in the world.  I bought one book.  This is it:

Then I was stuck in an airport for five hours.  Perfect timing.

What it is:  Tiến Dương is a real guy about your age (born 1963) who is now a priest in the diocese of Charlotte, NC.  Deanna Klingel persuaded him to let her tell his story, and she worked with him over I-don’t-know-how-long to get it right.  Fr. Tien is a bit embarrassed to be singled out this way, because his story is no different from that of thousands upon thousands of his countryman.  But as Deanna pointed out, if you write, “X,000 people endured blah blah blah . . .” it’s boring.  Tell one story well, and you see by extension the story of 10,000 others.

The book is told like historical fiction, except that it’s non-fiction verified by the subject — unlike posthumous saints’ biographies, there’s no conjecture here.  It’s what happened.  The reading level is middle-grades and up, though some of the topics may be too mature for your middle-schooler.  (Among others, there is a passing reference to a rape/suicide.)  The drama is riveting, but the violence is told with just enough distance that you won’t have nightmares, but you will understand what happened — Deanna has a real talent for telling a bigger story by honing in on powerful but less-disturbing details.  Like, say, nearly drowning, twice; or crawling out of a refugee camp, and up the hill to the medical clinic.

–>  I’m going to talk about the writing style once, right now: There are about seven to ten paragraphs interspersed through the book that I think are not the strongest style the author could have chosen.  If I were the editor, I would have used a different expository method for those few.  Otherwise, the writing gets my 100% stamp of approval — clear, solid prose, page-turning action sequences, deft handling of a zillion difficult or personal topics.

Why “Most Important Book?”

This is a story that needs to be known.  It is the story of people in your town and in your parish, living with you, today.  And of course I’m an easy sell, because the books touches on some of my favorite topics, including but not limited to:

  • Economics
  • Politics
  • Diplomacy
  • Poverty
  • Immigration
  • Freedom of Religion
  • Freedom, Period
  • Refugee Camps
  • Cultural Clashes
  • Corruption
  • Goodness and Virtue
  • Faith
  • Priestly Vocations
  • Religious Vocations
  • Marriage and Family Life as a Vocation
  • Lying
  • Rape
  • Suicide
  • Generosity
  • Orphans
  • Welfare
  • Stinky Mud
  • Used Cars
  • Huggy vs. Not-Huggy

You get the idea.  There’s more.  Without a single moment of preaching.  Just an action-packed, readable story, well told.

Buy Bread Upon the Water by Deanna K. Klingel, published by St. Rafka press.

Don’t Compromise on Freedom

Visit Ave Maria Radio’s site http://www.stophhs.com/ devoted to stopping the HHS’s unconstitutional regulations.  There’s a petition you can sign (easy – no complicated registration – but not anonymous), useful links, and suggestions on ways to help.