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.
*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.
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:
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.
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.
Image originally uploaded by Dsmdgold at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
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:
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!
Continuing with Book Week. Box #2 raises a question that doesn’t get asked often enough: What part do chastity-education programs play in teaching teens (and grown-ups) about the right use of their bodies?
My thoughts follow, but first you should show know what was in the box:
YOU from Ascension Press. I reviewed AP’s Theology of the Body for Teens: Middle School Edition some years ago, and liked it immensely. A first glance at YOU is similarly positive. It’s a much bigger and deeper program, and from everything I’m seeing among teens in the circles I run in (church-school-sports), YOU looks like a solid answer to a very serious need.
As I flipped through the books the other night, several things caught my eye:
The advice for how to teach teens is dead-on.
The parent booklet gets right to first things first. It’s like they know they only have a paragraph to win us parents over.
The curriculum, as will the best Theology of the Body presentations, starts with the bigger picture, lays the essential groundwork on the dignity of the human person, and leads from there into a positive message about the goodness and appeal of chastity.
YOU is working off ideas that have been tested with teens over and again and found to work. (Not surprising, given who the authors are.)
It’ll be a while before I get a chance to read the leader’s guide and parent guide (leader’s guide contains the full text of the student book) cover to cover, as well as watch the whole DVD series. Thus I wanted to flag this series now, because I’ve got a very positive impression at first glance, and if you’re planning programs for your parish you might want to request your own review set rather than waiting on someone else’s opinion.
Where do ready-made chastity programs fit into the big picture?
If you phoned me this afternoon (please don’t) and asked me what I recommended for taking your generic typical-American-parish from zero to full-steam-ahead on teaching teens chastity, here’s what I’d recommend:
1. Start with a good parent-centered introduction to chastity, such as Family Honor’sLeading and Loving program. There are lots of options for meeting formats, but (using L&L as an example) I strongly recommend investing the time and energy into spreading the program out over six weekly sessions rather than doing a single big-weekend event. This gives you time for parents to get to know each other, to have time to talk with the leaders in detail, and to begin to form a small group atmosphere. It lets parish leadership begin to identify the parents who are in the best position to help other parents. It also gives lots of time for listening, and thus for learning where parents in your parish are coming from and what questions or difficulties they are having.
–> Make sure you’ve got the depth of back-up resources to assist parents with their concerns. At a minimum: NFP instruction, good pastoral help with thorny marital irregularities, some resources for dealing with pornography, and access to support for parishioners grappling with same-sex attraction (personally or via a friend or family member’s situation) such as Courage. It’s no fair telling people they need to radically change their lives, then wishing them good luck and washing your hands.
2. When parents are ready to start sharing the message of chastity with their teens, do a parent-teen joint program. There are any number of options, and many of them (Family Honor is an exception) assume parents won’t be present. Don’t go there. You need the parents totally involved and on board. Your six hours in front of an eighth grader are nothing compared to the influence of the parents. Even if the program you select doesn’t call for parental presence, adapt it to make it a parent-teen program.
3. Keep working discipleship on all the parts of the Catholic faith. Salvation isn’t about sex-ed alone.
4. Programs like YOU will have the most impact if you roll them out after you have a critical mass of parents who are actively seeking to foster chastity in the home, and a critical mass of parishioners and parish leaders who are disciples.
I’m not saying there is no fruit that comes from grabbing a random teenager who’s fully immersed in the wider culture and subjecting the child to a few weeks of Catholic teaching. Good things can happen. But the reality is that an hour of your life in alien country rarely makes you want to join the aliens, if you were heretofore perfectly happy back home in Depravityville. More likely, you’ll go home thinking you met a bunch of crazy people and thank goodness you’ve escaped.
Making disciples is work. YOU looks like it’s got loads of potential as a help in that work, which is why I mention it now. But making disciples is long, slow, constant work. There are no short cuts.
What’s with the radio silence? Let me just tell you.
But first, the reason I’m breaking it: My friend Sarah Reinhard asked me to blog on Theology of the Body stuff in the lead-up to this fall’sTheology of the Body Congress, which you should attend if you have the opportunity. The line-up of speakers is stellar, and yes I would go myself if I possibly could. So put that on your calendar.
The expression Theology of the Body among Catholics is a bit of a code word for, “Let’s talk about sex now.” I usually stick to code on these things. But there’s more to your body than just the parts and processes that make you a boy or a girl, as Susan Windley-Daoust will remind you periodically. I’m going to write not-about-sex today, and come back to racier topics here and over at Patheos in the next few weeks.
Now back on topic. A little Applied Theology and the answer to the question, “Why on earth has Jen Fitz completely dropped off the internet?”
Short answer is: I’m not doing as well, physically, as I would need to be doing in order to both take care of my primary vocation (marriage, parenthood) and this secondary vocation as a writer. So first things get to be first, and the rest has to wait.
The very, very, long answer:
But here is something completely cool, because God is like this: Just in time for me to have something someone really wants me to write about (instead of just me running my mouth off, which is my usual niche), I can totally sit at the computer and not be light-headed! Isn’t that cool?! I keep forgetting this new fact, and thus my e-mail is way behind. June was a pretty long month, computing-wise.
I theorize in part it was positional, which means I probably need to rearrange the workstation. Here’s an interesting link about cartoid sinus hypersensitivity, which might cause you to suspect I’m really an old man just posing as a pleasantly-plump middle-aged housewife, but you’ve seen the photos, so whom do you believe? Sports Illustrated or my cartoid sinus barocepter? Anyway, my parlor-trick for June was that I could drop my pulse twenty points just by, um, taking my pulse. No true cartoid sinus massage needed, just touch the thing.
It quit doing that, though, as far as I can tell.
Some other interesting body-things for this summer:
Dang it I can’t talk anymore again. The speaking-part works fine, don’t panic, it’s the getting light-headed while I do it that is at about 80% of the time. This is pretty common in tachycardia-themed autonomic dysfunction. (POTS people talk about this all the time in conversation, even though it never seems to make any list of medical descriptions, not sure why there’s that disconnect in the medical literature.) 80% isn’t 100%. On a good day I’m completely normal, on a lousy day I’ve given up even lip-syncing at Mass.
–> Autonomic dysfunction creates these weird eddies of backward expectations. Mass is pretty much my least pleasant activity, because it involves sitting still then standing still, with positional head changes (bad — I keep being reminded not to bow the head, just don’t do it), combined with talking. So on a miserable Sunday I can feel extremely overwhelmingly bad by the end of the hour. But because the problem is not at all with my heart’s ability to pump blood or my blood’s ability to hold oxygen, I’m the person who’s desperate to lay down while standing still, but will then escape without difficulty at full speed to the car and feel better as a result of the vigorous activity.
Basically I have this cardiovascular problem that makes being still feel worse and being active feel better.
Patients might be able to muster adequate energy for periods of time but it is usually short-lived and they tire quickly, not unlike a battery that discharges too rapidly. . . . A period of rest or sleep is generally required before energy levels are restored. Following rest a patient may demonstrate apparently normal stamina and a clinician will not detect weakness on examination . . . .
This is me completely: Do something, then flop on the floor utterly exhausted, and then in a bit I’m fine again. Happens hour-by-hour, and then also from day-to-day. More on that below.
I don’t know whether or not I have a mitochondrial disorder (very difficult to diagnose) but I get this, too:
Impaired oxidative phosphorylation [don’t know my cause] not only causes muscle fatigue but also muscle cramping with or without tenderness, or a feeling of extreme heaviness in the muscles. These symptoms are especially severe in those muscle groups being used, and patients often complain of discomfort in the legs or even muscle spasms.The discomfort may be felt immediately following the activity or later on, waking up the patient from sleep.
Funny story: I mentioned to a relatively new acquaintance that I’m prone to decrepitude, and the question she asked was, “So are you basically in pain all the time?”
The answer is that at this writing, no I am not. But I have picked up what is turning out to be mild-but-intractable intermittent pain (in my legs, if you’re curious), and yes it keeps me from sleeping well, and yes, I’ve tried all the things, and the things help quite a lot. (Other than deep breathing to relax, like the kind that works so well for childbirth — used to be my go-to, but now it just gives me a headache. Which stinks, because it’s a good method if your autonomic nervous system functions properly.) But I think it’s very funny because the words “every day” and “intractable” do apply even if the pain itself is not very bad. So if you use those adjectives, it sounds way worse than it is. I think most other people can also use those adjectives.
[By “intractable” I mean “intractable using means that don’t require a prescription.” I haven’t gotten around to being bothered enough to plead for the good drugs. So no, nothing to worry about at this time.]
And this cracked me up, because every receptionist I’ve ever met knows this about me now:
Exercise intolerance is not restricted to the large muscle groups in the body but can also involve the small muscles. Writing can be a challenge; too much writing leads to fatigue and/or cramping or spasms. The quality of penmanship can be observed to deteriorate over the course of a writing assignment with letter formation becoming more erratic and messy.
This is why you don’t want to receive handwritten correspondence from me. Nothing new, story of my life. Interestingly, I always take handwritten notes in classes, and if I don’t have a computer I’ll do my other writing longhand — but the writing degenerates fast into this baseline scrawl that’s just barely legible to me, and only because I already know what’s written there. Once it gets down to worst-level, I can sustain it for a long time.
And one last one which caught my attention, from the same source:
. . . Debilitating fatigue can occur with infectious illnesses, may outlast the other symptoms of the infection, and the recovery time can be very prolonged.
This thing I hate. I never know whether a cold is going to cost me a few days or six weeks. Weirdly, I used to go into nasty bronchitis every few years following a cold, and knock on wood that hasn’t been a problem lately. I just get all the fatigue. (Um, and I always have a cough. So, gosh, I don’t know. Don’t make me laugh and we’re good.)
Exercise does help. The supreme challenge is in figuring out how much to do. Too little, and you sleep poorly and lose conditioning. Too much, unfortunately, is not evident during the exercise. I can work out and feel great and be sure I’ve figured out a great balance between rest and exercise, and then at the end of the week completely collapse and require days and days of recovery before I’m functional again.
–> The convenient thing here is that I can in fact borrow time. If I know I want to be up for something, I can plan ahead, build up reserves, stretch them during the event through the clever use of pharmaceuticals, and plan to pay back afterwards. Difficulty being that the mortgage interest is steep. There’s no getting more out of the body than it has to give.
The inconvenience is that all the things I do are exercise, but some exercises are more valuable than others. So if I want to work on my core muscle strength, which is key to preventing the injuries to which I am prone, then I have to not work on helping you out with that thing you wanted me to do. Your thing is also exercise, but it’s a lower priority exercises, so out it goes.
Yes, I tried that thing you suggested.Not being snarky there. I’ve had a number of good friends recommend possible ways to improve the situation, and some of the ideas have been very helpful. (Even if the idea came after I’d already come across that suggestion and tried it, and thus could immediately report, “Yes! Thanks! That does help! Excellent idea, glad you mentioned it!”) Some things people have suggested and that I tried did not help for the reason proposed (I am not, for example, allergic to wheat) but do help for a different reason (minimizing wheat products makes more room in the diet for intensely potassium-rich foods, which help a ton).
So a thing that’s got me occupied this summer is obsessively managing all the micro-factors that can make the situation as better as possible. I think (but can’t be certain) that I’ve got the diet tuned to a spot where I can happily live off the things I seem to do best with, but also get away with deviating from the Ideal Thing at food-themed social events and no disaster ensues. If all that proves to be true, I’ll chat about it later. It might be just lucky coincidence.
Meanwhile, here’s the surprise of the summer:
It took me a long, long time to figure this out. Here’s the difficulty: The heat doesn’t bother me.
I live in a warm climate. I don’t mind being sweaty. I know how to dress for the heat, how to acclimatize as the hot season arrives, and how to get the most use out of a hot day. Since I cultivated these skills, I’ve never had any difficulty with the heat whatsoever, other than some mild irritation about the truly obnoxious portion of sauna-season, which you just have to deal with and move on. I even know the trick about watching for Seasonal Affective Disorder when the heat starts getting so annoying you hide indoors despite yourself. (Same solution as per winter – bright light & vitamin D).
The problem I had in figuring out this one is that (a) I’m still functional above the temperatures when people from up north start whining profusely, (b) I still don’t mind the heat or being hot, and (c) since I have any number of other things that also make me feel terrible, it’s not like I was able to say to myself, “Gee, I feel wonderful all the time except if I’m someplace hot.”
It’s a perfectly manageable problem, it just came as a bit of a surprise. Amusingly, my cold intolerance is getting worse, too.
The hardest thing: Not being able to concentrate. Since I’m a master-complainer, I don’t know that we’d call this my “chief complaint.” But it’s certainly my loudest. As in: If I told you I NEEDED the house to be QUIET so I could do this thing, that’s what I meant so please go OUTSIDE. This is the #1 reason I haven’t been writing. I’m home all day with four kids. There’s noise. There are interruptions. Note that my entire career as a writer has been carried out under these exact same conditions.
What happens therefore is that I drift through the day doing tasks that are super-easy, and then if I find myself in some unexpected situation like trying to cook while other people are in the room, it’s alarming to everyone just how badly things go (until I communicate my distress so emphatically that everyone goes and hides). And then I go back to easy things, and wonder why things that take my full attention just never get done.
So that’s the answer to the perennial, “How’s it going, Jen?” topic on this blog. I’ll emphasize here that as much I just used my crotchety trans-old lady powers to moan about the ailment for very many words, it’s not as bad as all that. But here’s a story that sort of sums up the situation:
Yesterday I was halfway through this post when I had to leave and get ready to go to a social thing at the lake. Sunday had been horrible, Monday was not that great, and Tuesday wasn’t impressing me. I was only going to this thing because (a) I wanted to go to it, and (b) my kids really, really, really wanted to go to it, and they’d done all the things I told them they had to do if they wanted to go.
So we went. And I was fine. Dreamy fine. No problems. Felt completely normal for the full three hours I was there, conversing, walking around, standing around, watching kids, etc. Some of the time, I’m completely, totally fine.
Moments like that can make you think you’re crazy. Maybe I just need to relax at the lake more often? Two reality checks:
Part of being fine was that I aggressively managed as many factors (fluid intake, electrolytes, staying out of the direct sun) as I could.
If it comes as a surprise to you that you went to an enjoyable, relaxing, time-limited social event and had no experience of illness during all three hours, probably the fact that this was an unexpected occurrence tells you something.
So we can add this to my list of signs something is not normal: If you get to where it’s a surprising occurrence when you feel well, we can infer that there’s a problem.
And dang my legs were like lead when I dropped a kid off at VBS this morning. So yeah, CAWOG. I’m rolling with it.
I figured since this was the All About Me post, if you made it this far you’re the type of person who wants to see my new haircut. (Hi Mom!) The third one is me posing in front of the dog’s blanket, which is still hanging up to dry on the screen porch a week after I told a kid to put it there. I guess it’s dry now. But I needed the contrast because I kept getting photos where the new haircut looked exactly like the SI photo shoot.
A kitten found us, which means we can finally use the internet properly.
I persist, of course, in my incorrigible habit of crowding perfectly good bandwidth with religion, public policy, and other punditry. My hope is that by wielding the cat as a feline shield, the internet police will be stymied in their efforts to purify the web of non-cat bloggers.
Like the Internet Except in 3-D
1. My screen porch. YouTube viewing has plummeted now that we have our hyperactive dancing cat.
2. Midlands Homeschool Convention. Of interest to southeasterners. Huge regional event, piles of top notch speakers, and also me. Catholic writers guild will have a table, and there’ll be a rocking “Look at the Book” display of Catholic textbooks & materials from all the major players, hosted by Catholic homeschoolers in SC. Also free stuff and some drawings for prizes. The teepee in the corner, dear parents, is for your children. You sit on the chairs. July 24-26.
3. Catholic Writers Conference. Following week up in Chicago, smart people will be turning out at the writers’ wonderland that is the combination Catholic Writers Conference & Catholic Marketing Network’s trade show. This is the place where all the publishers and vendors of Catholic trinkets (games, art, music, etc) turn out so the Catholic book & gift shops can stock up for the season. Most interesting bit is seeing what famous internet Catholics look like when rendered in 3-D.
(I will be rendered in 2D for that one. Visit the Liguori booth if you go, and you can see my book. The me-traveling-to-Chicago part is not quite back on the program.)
Seriously. The Equal Exchange folks put out good stuff. You can set up an individual or a wholesale account (different pricing, but a higher threshold for free shipping if you order wholesale), and yes your private buying co-op of just you and your friends / family qualifies for the wholesale rate, if you do in fact eat that much chocolate among yourselves. Feel free to link to other fair-trade suppliers in the combox.
Speaking of chocolate, for those who are following the vexing situation, here’s today’s FB update:
Details from yesterday, per Jon — not a lot to add, but some good spin. TEE was looking (in particular) for evidence of shunt in my atrial septum, which it did not find, nor anything else suspicious. Let us pause right now to observe that Dr. W *came in on a vacation day* to do that. Serious point-accumulation there.
–> Afterwards, he said that he sometimes runs into this — patients with definite symptoms but no obvious explanation for them. Sometimes it clears up on its own. (ER Doc pointed out last weekend that sometimes the tests don’t come back positive for a while after the symptoms show, too.)
And since we’ve ruled out everything imminently life-threatening, he proposes we take 10 days to attempt “rehab”, that is, Jen-directed gradual increase in activity level, and see how things go.
If symptoms persist, the next thing to do is refer me out to someone who investigates really nutso inexplicable stuff.
Day 1 Rehab report: Um, yeah. Anyway. It’s nice to be allowed to do stuff. We’re a long, long ways from walking and talking on the phone at the same time, kids. But I’m allowed to clean my desk, not a moment too soon. You who are waiting on paper-based correspondence from me, there’s a light at the back of that cave.
1. My book as available for sale! That is, you can’t actually *have* the book, but you can pay for it. So I guess it’s not so much a sale, yet, as a series of financial transactions straight out of 2nd 3rd year financial accounting, which is the year when nothing is ever just bought and sold, but always, always, passes through a whole series of special accounts that make perfect sense, I promise, if you can just keep ’em lined up right.
I think sometime this summer it graduates to an Accounting 101 exercise, where you can just pay money and have a book, done.
2. My favorite review-book supplier, MTF, seems to feel I need to get into the Year of Faith thing in a serious way. I broke down when I realized that there was no way I could ever remember on page 962 of Introduction to Catholicism for Adults exactly how I’d felt about Chapter 1, no matter how many little notes I penciled into the back inside cover. So I’m reviewing it a chapter (or so) at a time, over at the Happy Catholic Bookshelf. Chapter 1 is up. Hint: So far, so good.
4. The post you really want to read at AC this week is this one.
5. I’m trying to improve my Spanish, which is more difficult if you don’t have cable TV. So I’ve resorted to mining the Spanish-language section of my local Catholic bookstore. I think you could make a sort of Catechist Spanish Language Evaluation test that grades you by which sections of El Youcat you can read, and which ones leave you absolutely puzzled. To give you an idea of my junior-linguist credentials, the bold print on Youcat #374 is no trouble at all. In contrast, that Blaise Pascal quote on the sidebar of p. 191? No comprendo. (I’m okay with that. I don’t think I much understand Pascal in English, either.)
6. I wish all catechisms came with flip-book animation on the bottom right corner. Sometimes I just watch the guy doing cartwheels in Spanish.
7. What I want to do is phone my Spanish-speaking catechist friend and arrange a play date for tomorrow. What I should do is start on my taxes. I think?
There’s been a recurring conversation in my combox discussions over the past year, and I goes like this:
Jennifer: blah blah blah something about catechesis, evangelization, salvation of human souls, etc.
Smart Person: You need to read Forming Intentional Disciples.
So I stalked the review-book list at The Catholic Company, and quick pounced as soon as the title appeared. Grabbed it!
Part 1: The Church Has a Problem
It’s easy to shrug off the call for evangelization and discipleship by saying, “Oh, we already do that.” We have a men’s club. We have religious ed. Everybody’s happy, all are welcome, Jesus shows up for every Mass – but sure, I’ve heard other parishes are in trouble. Mine’s fine.
Maybe so. But Weddell opens the book with extensive and detailed evidence that no, things are not fine. She defines the scope of the problem both statistically – how many Catholics in the pews don’t even believe in a personal God? – and qualitatively. Here are the few of the seven “It is NORMAL” statements her parish’s Nameless Lay Group, a group of laymen gathered together to help each other grow in the faith, had to write out for themselves by way of reassurance:
. . .
#2. It is NORMAL for lay Catholics to be excited Christian activists.
#3. It is NORMAL for lay Catholics to be knowledgeable about their faith, the Scriptures, the doctrinal and moral teachings of the Church, and the history of the Church.
. . .
#6. It is NORMAL for lay Catholics to have the fellowship of other committed lay Catholics available to them, to encourage, nurture, and discern as they attempt to follow Jesus.
#7. It is NORMAL for the local parish to function consciously as a house of formation for lay Catholics, which enables and empowers lay Catholics to do #1-6 above.
[Emphasis in the original]
Is this true around your parish? It should be. Many Catholics don’t even believe in this as an ideal, and Weddell gives some poignant stories of how that pervasive mentality — of viewing holiness as a sort of sideline hobby for the ultra-pious — results in ridiculous contradictions.
She also works through all the objections to intentional discipleship, and demonstrates that yes, it is essential that we practice, at the parish level, the conscientious spiritual mentoring of all parishioners. This can’t be something we relegate to lay associations and solo study. This can’t be something we assume we don’t need to implement. We can’t tell ourselves that because no one has asked for this, all must be well.
Part 2: There Are Things You Can Do To Solve This Problem.
The second half of the book opens by explaining the five steps towards conversion — recognizing that no one can be a disciple of Jesus without first coming to faith in Him. The five steps Weddell outlines, and these should make sense to anyone who’s been involved in evangelization, are:
Trust. You have to overcome your suspicions about the faith, and at have some kind of trustworthy connection with the Church. You won’t join what you can’t trust.
Curiosity. This is a general interest in the faith — a willingness to learn something about it, the way one might casually go look up facts on Wikipedia about some random topic, without making a decision to do any more than go satisfy an intellectual whim.
Openess. This is the transition from, “Oh I’m willing to learn a thing or two,” to, “It is possible that the Catholic faith is correct. I’m willing to accept this faith if it turns out to be true.”
Seeking. The individual moves from an intellectual acceptance of the possibility, to an inner drive to know God personally. Seeking versus openness is the difference between, “Oh, sure, evolution might be true,” to “I must know whether it is true, and I will look into the matter until I come to a conclusion.”
Conversion. This is when one becomes a disciple — the search is over, and now there’s a life of faith to be lived.
Weddell points out that seeking and conversion can be considered together as one continuous process. How do these stages fit into discipleship? In the detailed exploration of each of these stages, the book explores pitfalls and opportunities for the parish, and how these experiences can and should be lived out in the life of the Church.
In a final section, the book explores the “What next?” What do we do with new disciples? What structures does the parish need to have in place in order to disciple its members? A significant emphasis is placed on helping new believers — who may be longtime Catholics, or not — to discern their spiritual gifts, and then to find a place in the parish to use those gifts.
Here, as throughout the text, Weddell reminds us we aren’t dealing merely with good management practices or effective processes, but with the active participation of the Holy Spirit in the life of each person. It is easy to get distracted by methods, and forget that the supernatural — a personal God choosing to act in our lives — is at the heart of Christian discipleship.
Who should read the book?
Gosh, everyone, I guess. It’s written for parish leadership, and is suitable for anyone who wants to take an active part in Christian life. It would be foolish to think that somehow the nuts and bolts of evangelization and discipleship are only for church staff, or heads of ministries. Certainly I don’t think you can claim to have an adult faith if you neither know nor care about these matters — though if you doubt Catholics need concern themselves with this “evangelical” stuff, the book is particularly for you. For some few who’ve been raised to spiritual maturity in the right time and place, you may already have a mastery of the topic; but for most of us Catholics, we’re weak at this and can use all the help we can get.
The reading level is educated-adult — if you can read this blog, and make sense of the usual topics here, you’re good to go. The tone is conversational, and the writing is enjoyable and full of interesting anecdotes that impart useful information. If I have a single complaint, it’s that I wish the book were bigger and longer, and treated the how-to’s of discipleship with more exhaustive detail.
Summary: Excellent book, long-needed. I recommend it widely, but my copy is staying in my hands.
Disclosure boilerplate: This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. The Catholic Company is the best resource for gifts for every Sacrament celebration, such as First Communion gifts and Baptism gifts, as well as a great selection of limited-time Year of Faith gifts and resources.Not boilerplate: As everyone knows, my reviews are honest. And yes, I do make a point of picking good books for my review selections, because I have no patience for bad ones.
We made it to Naples and back with exactly the same number and kind of children with which we set out. Thank you St. John Bosco, whom I did ask for assistance from time to time. St. Augustine, by the way, is completely awesome.
UPDATED to clarify: Both the saint and the city in Florida are awesome. Where they each rank within the category of People, Places, and Things Called “St. Augustine” I leave to the reader’s discretion.
Bookstore Management Tip: Consider not charging admission to your retail venue.
At Castillo de San Marcos, you have to buy admission before you get into the fort, where the bookstore is located. (This did not stop me from buying books, but not everyone feels the same way about books as I do. Also, we were going to see the fort anyway.)
In contrast, the Pirate Museum has its gift shop built into its entryway. Which is handy for parents who do not want to pay admission to the museum, but feel pretty lucky to get off with just looking at the Pirate Merchandise and buying one small pirate book for the trip home.
On the other hand, if early-modern marauders attempt a raid on the seashell-identification books at San Marcos, there are three lines of defense to keep them at bay.
Digital Devices = Road Trip Fever
What with recorded books, DVD’s, and iPods, twenty hours in the car was really quite peaceful. Causing me to come up with the ridiculous, husband-exasperating plan of going to the national March for Life next week. Friends with ulterior motives are aiding and abetting. So I think we’ll go.
And look at this: Pro-Life Feminist Hot Chocolate. It’s a super-bonus . . . and I get a glimpse of the reportedly lovely and delightful Helen Alvaré, and the kids get hot chocolate? See, if that doesn’t convince you of the worthiness of the pro-life cause, I don’t know what does.
I’m beside myself with excitement, because MTF slipped a shiny new super-gorgeous Daily Roman Missal in with the other review book I was expecting (Introduction to Catholicism). You’ll recall I had to glue the old one’s cover back together. But I’ve been virtuously resisting shelling out for a new edition, even though every time I hear the elegant, poetic lines of the new Mass translation, I’m dying to get my own copy.
The new book is about twenty-time awesomer than I had guessed, because the new edition is beefed up with a pile of handy tables and indexes and bits of mini-catechism. So soon very soon I’ll have a post up at AC reviewing the new Missal, and explaining why exactly my old one needed to be glued back together, because I always, always, shove it into my bag on the way to religious ed, because if you have that one book, you can teach the Catholic faith to anybody at all, ever, no matter what weird scheduling surprises come your way when you arrive at class.
I did not make a single pun on the word Missal in those previous paragraphs. We’ll just mark that down on in the big white space where my virtues are tallied. I am the picture of self-restraint. The St. Therese of resisting bad puns. Or something.
So here’s my experiment: I’m going to write a column for NE (due this week, runs next week), and I think the topic is “Things You Can Do To Evangelize When You Think You Can’t Evangelize”. Will this cause me to suddenly have many opportunities to evangelize?
You Might Be An Accountant If . . .
You’re goofing off browsing the Mid-Atlantic Congress catechetical conference page (which you are not planning to attend), and you notice all these financial management sessions:
Are you not dying to attend? I am. Seriously. Has anyone sat in on any presentations from these speakers (John Eriksen, Peter Denio, or Dennis Corcoran), and have an opinion on how good the workshops will be? For all Darwin doubts the use of an MBA, I begin to think that pastoral associates are the one class of people who might could benefit from such a course of study. Some reputable seminary ought to make a joint MA/MBA program.
Oh That Homeschooling Book
I printed out the whole giant nasty sprawling draft, stuck it in a binder, and it’s waiting for me attack it with my tin of magic markers. So I’m making progress. Slowly.