How To Be An Internet Catholic and Charitable Too

We’ve got a new round of Catholic internet drama going, and it hardly matters what the excitement is this time.  I’m keeping my nose out of it, because otherwise my post will lose its perennial freshness.  Ever ancient, ever new — that’s Catholic craziness for you.*

Meanwhile, for those who haven’t sworn off  iGossip and taken up gardening or macrame, here’s my three top tips for keeping your head on straight and your friendships in order, even when someone’s wrong on the internet.

1. Remember Who’s Talking

The Catholic internet is composed of two groups of people:

A. Calm people.  To wit: Jimmy Akin, and then this one really sweet mom lady who posts pictures of her kids eating solemnity-themed cupcakes.  There might be a third.

B.  Hotheads.  That’s the rest of us.

Oh, I know, even now you’re rushing to either dissect a Church Father or quick find an obscure Catholic holiday your children can celebrate with costumes made out of paper plates, so that you can squeeze into Category A. But admit it: If you take a strong interest in controversial topics like politics, liturgy, or catechesis, you probably have just a touch of opinionated fireball inside that cool, calm exterior.  Maybe more than a touch.

And here’s the clincher: Those other hotheads you’re reading right now?  They are living in a completely differently world than you.

You’ve been given a view down the shirt of every staff member of your parish; she’s been informed one time too many that her ankles are a near occasion of sin.  He attends St. Simon & Garfunkel’s, and has been twitching every since they went to an all-harmonica Mass three years ago; your parish bulletin is now published almost entirely in Latin.  Because people complained Greek was too hard.  Your religious ed program consists of, “Pick a color you really love.  Share with your friends how it makes your feel.”  Their religious ed program consists of, “You may get up off your knees as soon as you have the Vulgate memorized.  Then you may work on your diorama of the fires of Hell.”

I’m joking, kids, I’m joking.  But seriously: Very many times, the source of the argument among faithful Catholics is not a radically different understanding of the faith; it’s a dramatically different experience of how the faith is lived in their corner of the universe.

Even if you and the other keyboard-jockey both attend the same parish and the same Mass, the two of you have different backgrounds.  Different playground traumas.  Different incidents that color your view of the Church.  Consider the possibility that your worthy opponent has good reasons for being so wrong-headed.

2. Try to Talk Your Friend Off that Ledge

One of the highlights of my internet life is seeing how many people who think I’m absolutely, horribly, wrong about something are perfectly ready to engage in productive dialog, if I take a genuine interest in what they have to say and why they say it.

(I know, some of you shuddered when you heard the word “dialog”.  Listen: It can be good.  It’s not always a code word for “namby pamby faithy-ism.”  Respectful conversation can be a fruitful means of getting closer to the truth – iron sharpens iron and all that.)

The mark of a crazy person isn’t the odd temper tantrum or hot-button topic.  Everyone has their bad day, bad week, bad decade.  It happens.  Have you tried gently asking a few questions, or did you go on the counter-attack?  I know the counter-attack urge, I understand it, trust me.  (See: Hothead.)  But don’t be shocked that someone gets defensive when you go on the offense.  It is the mark of Christian maturity to resist when the hotheads try to work you into a lather.

And if you did go on the offensive (see: Hothead, Takes One to Know One), from that moment on you’ve got to consider every harsh word in your little brawl to be just a bad night at the pub.  You engaged.  You were part of the problem.  Brush yourself off, go home, sleep off the hangover, and try to be friendly next time.  Give your sparring partner the same charitable benefit of the doubt you’d like extended towards yourself.

3. Let Go of the Envy

Blogging, Facebook, Twitter . . . these media all require us to put ourselves out there.  There’s nothing inherently sinful about being a person who has a knack for marketing.  Don’t begrudge someone their one big talent.  Don’t assume that, “I have to make my writing pay because I’d fail out of engineering school in half an hour,” is  the same thing as, “I possess an enormous ego.”

Do people who depend on writing to earn a living have to be utterly focused on bringing the paycheck in?  Yes they do.  Just like people who depend on plumbing or electrical work or writing software have to be focused on keeping their profession profitable.  Everyone has to eat.  But just because the construction company has to watch its bottom line doesn’t mean that every foreman is a self-centered money-grubber who’d happily see your children crushed to death during breakfast, just so long as your account is paid in full and your check has been cashed.

A concern about page views or advertising revenue or book sales can be a professional hazard.  But a professional hazard does not make every professional hazardous.

Take pleasure in the work that you do, and take pleasure in the success of others who do similar work.  There is a massive need for evangelization.  Our mission at St. Blogs is to colonize cybersapce.  Scratch the internet, find a faithful Catholic.  That’s the goal.  Get out there, be that Catholic.

Have a great weekend.

File:V&A - Raphael, St Paul Preaching in Athens (1515).jpg
St. Paul wants YOU to preach the Good News.  But possibly in some other corner of the known world, if the two of you can’t quite get along.  Artwork by Raphael [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 

*Let’s just see how perennial this problem is . . . I originally published this post, verbatim, on May 31, 2014.  Entitled, “How to Stay Sane in St. Blog’s,” you can read the original at  I updated the title because last time someone wondered what “St. Blogs” referred to, and I had to update that post with a link to an explanation.

Lent Day 23: Bored and Annoyed Just Right

I knew I hit my penance just right this year when I found myself thinking, “I’m not really liking this. But other than that, it’s not a problem.”

What I’m noticing this year is how important it is not to be afraid of the penance you’ve chosen.  If you fear you are harming yourself, you are going to give up.  If you are confident that what you are doing is not harmful, you have a better chance of talking yourself off the ledge.  It can be helpful, in that regard, to try the thing outside of Lent before you commit to a whole season of it.

For some more thoughts on hitting the sweet spot: What Makes a Good Penance? Three Tips for Mid-Lent Adjustments.


Meanwhile, a glimpse at my spiritual life, Lent Edition:

8:00 pm: I am so bored at the prospect of carrying out any of the choice of chores in front of me that what I long to do is go off to a quiet place for some contemplative prayer.

8:10: Well, that was a great two minutes of prayer, but now it appears I’m just thinking about random stuff. Not actually praying.  Try to get mind back to praying.  Praying is great!  Love God!  Talk to God! Listen to God! Be with God!

8:15: Okay, actually I’m falling asleep.  

At which point I turned on a bright light and pulled out the review copy of the extremely wonderfully very good book you can hear about soon.  It’s by Julie Davis and as good as her last book, but in a completely different direction.

File:Jeremias-de-Decker-Jacob-Aertsz-Colom-J-de-Deckers-Gedichten MGG 0570.tif

Artwork: Christ in the Garden, Jeremias de Decker, 1656.  Via Wikimedia [Public Domain].

The disciples’ inability to stay awake is the evidence that they had no  idea what was about to  happen.  When you are expecting trouble, you stay awake.  You sleep when you think everything is fine for now.

Lent Day 9: Eternal Rest Grant Unto Him . .

UPDATE: Simcha Fisher has the details on how you can help Anthony’s family — and him as well.

+ Please pray for the repose of the soul of Francisco Antonio Gallegos, and the consolation of his heartbroken family. +

Soldiers at dinner in Base Hospital No. 9, A.E.F. -from a history of the work of the New York hospital unit during two years of active service in France.

Photo by Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons. From the accompanying text: “. . .the petty trials and difficulties are now fading from the memory, and in their place stand out the big things that really counted and made our adventure . . . worth while.”

Thanks for asking, I don’t know either.

I’ve been meaning to write a health update since last September.  I sat down then to write that everything was still great (yay!) except that gosh, I was really very tired.  Just a cold, though, no worries.

Seven or so colds later (I lost count at six, but there was at least one more), I started to turn a corner around the new year.   I’m definitely better than I was in the fall, but every time I start to be happy with the new normal, the new normal decides maybe I’m getting a bit uppity about this “having energy” thing.

But things are better.  Late February I was at a parish event, enjoying myself and enjoying seeing all the good things happening at church, and I was thinking to myself, “Why haven’t I gotten more involved with this group sooner?”  And then I remember: Oh yeah, it’s only been a month that I could reliably have a conversation without getting a headache.  I really enjoy that change, by the way.

So I’m writing on a day when I’m flopping around miserably, utterly useless, mostly flat on my back.  But I’m hopeful that’s a one-off, and with a little rest I’ll be back to the new preferred-normal.  But we’ll see.  I really have no idea.

And Then I Woke Up

Thursday July 2nd at 6pm the fatigue-haze that’s owned me to varying degrees since the end of January suddenly evaporated.

It is intensely pleasant to be out of it.  If you’ve ever done that thing where you get someplace and forget to take your sunglasses off, and you’re walking around inside and everything’s really dim, and then suddenly you remember and you take off the shades and suddenly everything’s brighter and you don’t need so many lights on, it’s like that.

No explanation whatsoever, anymore than I could figure out what brought it on.  But suddenly it’s like I’m not trying to function underwater anymore.

So I like this.

Something curious: No change physically.  I can still be intensely physically tired — tired like holding my head up is too much energy — or short of breath or enjoying one or a couple of the three different variations on light-headedness, but now I’m doing it without the static.  Ditto on emotions – I can be frustrated by something or daunted or lazy or lacking in virtue, but now, suddenly, my utter irresponsibility is like an unfettered act of free will, rather than me fighting against this physical inertia.

I can remember telling a friend earlier this year, “I just want to wake up.”  That’s what it’s like.  Like I’ve been groggy for six months, and then suddenly the coffee kicked in and I snapped to it.

An analogy that is of no help to anyone but me: It’s like the difference between my left side limbs and my right, for those who recall the nerve injury that coincided with the back/pelvic injury eight years ago.  I don’t *lack* sensation on the right side, it’s just less — it all feels like there’s no sensory loss, but then apply the exact same touch to the same place on the left side, and left side has more flavor. Or: I don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with my right hand, but if I compare wiggling fingers on right hand versus left, the right side fingers feel thicker, and it feels like there’s more resistance to movement — like a stiffness, but it’s not a physical stiffness, nothing wrong with the joints, no lack of dexterity or flexibility or anything at all.  (–> None of that is as profound as it was initially, it’s very background now.  I forget it’s a thing.  No practical application, other than to remind myself that if I’m only noticing mild *left* leg calf cramps, it’s possible both legs are experiencing the same thing, but only one side is reporting in.)

Dr’s appointment on Monday, and we need to decide with who / when / how to pursue the on-going thing, in light of the fact that I was pretty much laid out for several months this year, which is not good.  You who pray should pray for that.

Meanwhile, you who prayed and got me to snap out of the thing, thanks.  I’m enjoying this.

Interesting Times

The afternoon of May 23rd I had to reluctantly admit that what I was determined to call “allergies” was really a cold.  If noses run in your family like they do in mine, you can appreciate the difficulty of telling the difference.

It was this mild cold that half the kids had already had, no big deal.  I sneezed a lot, and then it was supposed to be over.

Interesting thing one: Nothing bad happened, and it still managed to own a month of my life and counting. Normally what happens with a cold is that if there aren’t any complications, it annoys you and then you get better.

Instead what I had was no complications, and tangible but glacially-paced recovery.  So I go weeks constantly asking myself, “Surely something terrible has happened because no one is this tired, with this obnoxious of a cough, for this long,” except that no, nothing terrible was happening.  Not a single sign of a secondary infection or anything else. Every day was in fact just a tiny bit healthier than the day before.  A perfectly normal recovery, only carried out in ultra-slow motion.

So that aggravated me, because I was impatient to be back to the fully-functional-esque person I was in earlier April – May.  I’m thinking, looking back, that ultra-slow recovery is the same reason February and March were the disaster that they were; or maybe it was something else.

Interesting thing two: Just as I’m turning the corner I start getting a resurgence of the infamous “I feel like I’m buzzed” thing that was the fascinating side note to my initial (untreated) illness.  Which leads to a fair bit of lying when I see people, because after hiding in the cave with the cold long enough, when you see someone you’re so happy to see fresh humans that when they ask you how you’re doing you say, “Good!” even though what you mean is not, “I’m doing well,” but rather, “It is good to see you.”

And here’s where the interesting cropped up: My allergies really truly went away.  If noses run in your family like they do in mine, not sneezing is an aberration.

Curiously, when I first got dramatically ill in 2014, something that happened is that the allergies completely cleared up and stayed cleared up.

So today I googled “allergies autonomic nervous system” and it turns out this is a thing.  Essentially hayfever (cats, dust, pollen) and my presumed type of IST are opposites.  Not quite as neatly as all that, but something like it, which will presumably be helpful to figure out.

For the moment all that tells me is that should this renewed spell of sickliness pass, I should plan to start sneezing again.  Meanwhile, we’ve got a topic for the visit to re-up the meds this summer, which might entertain or even intrigue.  We’ll see.


In the meantime, given that 50% of the last six months have been “temporary” disasters, I need to quick get just organized enough to hand off the remainder of my responsible-person obligations.  Prayers in that direction appreciated, both that the intended handing-off will happen efficiently and well, and that I’ll make good decisions about precisely how much I can commit to in the year ahead.

So How’s it Going, Jen?

Quick update for those who’ve followed the saga all spring: I’m doing great.  By which I mean:

  • Medicated, normal life works fine.  Housework, errands, school, etc., all that is no problem.
  • Planned workout (you know how plans go) of a 2-mile walk daily seems about right.  
  • With that kind of schedule, I’m good Mon – Sat, and really need Sundays off.  “Off” as in go to Mass, do the social thing for a bit, then come home and read a book or write a novel or something.  Lie around and physically catch up on the week.
  • If I up the intensity earlier in the week, I don’t make it to Sunday.  Hopefully over time I can add more exercise, but for the moment, what I’m doing is the max sustainable. 

Which doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes jiggle the schedule, and borrow from one day to put more into another.  That works, as long as I pay up in a timely fashion.

So all you who have prayed, thank you very much.  Couldn’t be happier with the results thus far.

Just showed up here and you’re looking for my writing?  Check the blorg.


On Suffering: What Would Jesus Do?

What is the Christian response to suffering? We can take the question from any number of angles, and in time I’m hoping to hit most of them.  It’s a thorny — meaning, “Ouch!” — topic, and as Joe Paprocki observed, it always comes up. Sooner or later everyone passes by way of the Cross.

Today’s topic: What do you do when it’s your turn to hang?

I’m going with the straight-up What Did Jesus Actually Do? answer on this one:

1. Sweat blood.

Jesus lived a sinless, perfect life.  It turns out the sinless, perfect response to the prospect of unspeakable suffering isn’t some kind of happy-clappy, “It’ll be fine!  I love this!” song and dance. By the grace of God, maybe it will be fine.  Maybe you will love it.  But maybe you won’t.  Maybe you’ll sweat blood.  Par for the course.  Not a sign that you’re lacking in faith.

2. Try to get out of it.

Father, if it be your will, let this cup pass from me.  Complete abandonment to the will of God does not prelude prayer for deliverance.  So long as not my will but yours be done is tacked on the end, we’re good. And see “sweating blood” above: We can give ourselves over to complete trust in God, and still not think of it all as one big party.  If it’s one big party, it’s not suffering.

3. Fall down.  Repeatedly.

Will God give you more than you can handle?  Sure.  He just won’t give you more than He can handle.  Sometimes you’ll be laid out so flat the only way you’ll get up is if some Roman comes along and commandeers helpers for you.

4. Die.

The Author of Life is not stuck in the here-and-now. Life on earth as we know it is not our ultimate end.

Is death good? No.  Does it happen to every one of us? Yes.  Being Christian, having faith, doing everything right . . . none of that is a free pass out of mortality.

God can and does frequently intervene to heal, revive, and restore us in our earthly lives.  The life of our Lord was one long series of deliverances after another . . . until, one day, it wasn’t anymore.  At the end of all things, we pass into eternal life by way of death.

You don’t die because you lack faith.  You rise to eternal life because you’ve got it.

No Kittens!

So she was either very very wormy, or . . . I dunno.  No kittens.  I’m telling you, there were kitten-like creatures inside that cat last month.  I guess my future as a cat-midwife is totally written off now.  It’s either writing or accounting for me.  

Meanwhile, SuperHusband dropped the farm cat off at the vet in the morning, and picked her up again after work, transformed into the Cat Who Will Never Be Suspected of Pregnancy Again.  My closet is safe.

No more free cats.  No more free cats.  No more free cats.