What Doesn’t Protect the Church

I’ve been writing about the allegations of sexual molestation against Cardinal McCarrick over at Patheos:

Soldiers for Christ Hiding Under the Bed is about the connection between covering up for sexual predators and the inability of the Church to be an effective witness to wider society.  Not a surprising connection, but one that needs to be made.

Promiscuous vs. Predatory: How to Tell the Difference is a response to the suggestion that McCarrick was guilty of simple sexual immaturity, not predatory molestation and sexual harassment.  It contains links to my growing collection of essays related to the topic of abuse in the Church.

Rod Dreher has been covering this topic as well, from the point of view of a journalist who investigated McCarrick in the past, but was unable to pull together a story he could break.  In Uncle Ted & The Grand Inquisitor, he shares a disturbing comment he received from a reader:

We MUST protect our brand, our shield, our faith!

I fully support Pope Francis and his softened tone, and even swipes at capitalism because the media love him. And image is everything.   Similarly with Cardinal Dolan, I will fight to the death to defend him, and would go to extreme lengths to protect him because he is so well liked in the leftist NYC media.

In short, we must handle these issues swiftly, legally, but privately!  As a successful advertising executive in NYC I am looked up like an alien because I am a weekly mass attender, and a conservative. I am respected by my liberal media friends because I loathe the Trump-Palin-Brietbart wing of my party, and trumpet my cause in a more Bill Buckley.

Image is everything, and when it comes to the One True Church we MUST protect her!

Dreher’s reader is wrong.

Let’s see what the Bible has to say about fighting the Church’s enemies:

11 Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. 13 Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. 14 So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, 15 and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:11-16

What are our weapons?  Truth, righteousness, the Gospel, faith, salvation, and the word of God.

Covering up for sexual predators does not fit on that list.

If the allegations against Cardinal McCarrick are true, the man should have been removed from pastoral ministry decades ago.  By all means, when you see a priest, or anyone, doing what they ought not be doing, if no laws are being broken, begin by confronting the sinner privately.  We all sin.  Would that we were all given the chance to quietly confront our own failings and rectify them.

But when you have evidence of decades of predatory behavior, with untold hundreds of clerics at every level of the hierarchy complicit in silence and cover-up, and how many lives of young men ruined by the crimes inflicted upon them . . . there is no quietly cleaning this up.  “Discretion” does nothing to help the Church.  There is a time for genuine public penance, and now is that time.

Dreher’s reader is correct: the Church’s image matters. But when we hide behind some limp notion of “handling things privately,” the rot festers.  No one is fooled.  The public rightly views us as hypocrites of the worst sort.

So let us instead make the Bride of Christ holy, without blemish, and irreproachable before Christ.  That image, and that image alone, is the one for which we should strive.

File:Vincent van Gogh - The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise, View from the Chevet - Google Art Project.jpg

Artwork via Wikimedia, Public Domain

My St. Anthony Story for Today

So I have this devotion to St. Anthony that is mostly about finding things.  Typical Catholic.

This spring the relics of St. Anthony toured the Diocese of Charleston, and of course I had to go.  My specific prayer request was about figuring out (“finding”) my new small-v vocation, now that my last homeschooler is in school.  I’ve been feeling the waters in a lot of different directions, but nothing was quite coming together.  A lot of things were definitely NOT coming together.

So yesterday afternoon after four days forced offline, and a period of prayer and fasting as well (though not as much prayer as I’d like to be able to say I accomplished — just small and targeted prayers), in the space of an hour I got an e-mail accepting a book proposal for a book I can write this summer, and one for a teaching job that starts in the fall.  Perfect combination: I can write this summer while being with the family, and then have work in the fall about the time the manuscript is done.

(No announcements yet — details and contracts still need to be hammered out.)

This morning I got up, and you should know that my usual routine is to make a hot beverage and open the Scriptures, either picking up from where I left off in the Bible (Ezekiel at the moment), or from the day’s Mass readings, or Morning Prayer with iBreviary.  One or another, it just depends.  I had to shake off some scrupulosity and give myself the freedom to just go with whatever was going to work that day.

So today while the hot water was supposedly warming up, I was sitting in front of the PC goofing off, Missal in my lap to go sit outside and pray the readings once the drink was ready.  (You can talk to people online first thing in the morning, no problem, but everyone knows that Jesus wants you to have your hot drink in hand before you converse with Him.  Yeah right.  Cue Coffee with Jesus.)  Eventually I figured out the kettle wasn’t plugged in, eventually I remembered I was supposed to be praying instead of reading online, and thus eventually I made it out to the porch.

Hitch: My bookmark in the Missal wasn’t on the right day, and I was too lazy to go back inside and look up what day we’re on.

But hey, there are saints days in the back, so I figured, I’ll go see if anyone’s having a feast today.

Hitch: That requires knowing what day it is.

But I did some hard thinking (rather than go inside and check the date, hmmn) and remembered that yesterday was the 12th, I think, so that made today most likely the 13th.  I flip to June 13th and who should the saint be but . . . St. Anthony of Padua.  My guy.

But interestingly, my edition of the Daily Roman Missal doesn’t talk about St. Anthony finding your parking space for you.  What it talks about is this: Here’s a saint who was a phenomenal evangelist.  He preached from the Scriptures so thoroughly, with such a reliance on the Gospels, that he got called the “Evangelical Doctor.”

Whoa.  St. Anthony I barely knew you.

And yes, I’d read the biography before, but it went in one ear and out the other — great Franciscan saint, middle ages, preaching or miracles or something, blah blah blah.  Mostly you could count on him to find things, and also one year one of the kids in my class did a great St. Anthony costume for religious ed.  That was truly all I remembered.

I mean, come on, find my hotel for me, that’s all I need.

But also, I asked for his intercession on the question of my vocation.  And on the vigil of the feast day (which was already the feast day in Padua), I got invited to:

  • Write a book on evangelization.
  • Teach in a school where evangelization and Scripture study are the top priorities.

Sooo . . . yes.  Ask and you shall receive.  Mind whom you ask for help, though.

Some short biographies for those who want to parse out yet more parallels:

 

St. Anthony at the Cathedral of Strasbourg.

 

When You’re Failing at Lent

Here’s an actual thing I prayed Sunday morning at Mass: “Jesus, please help me stop failing at Lent.”

I wouldn’t say I’m a pro at Lent any year, but this year is hitting new lows in the spectacular failure department.  One of the particularly depressing features is that things I used to be good at in previous years — this prayer routine, that bit of self-denial, those important tasks — I’m not hitting them like the imaginary composite “perfect Jennifer” does in my head.  Pick the best Jennifer features selected over 30 years of Lents, feasts, and ordinary times, mash her together into a collage called “You Should Be Able To Do This No Sweat,” and then stand back and despair.

That’s not the point of Lent.

For those of us on the Lent Failure Track, this is the point: Discover again how much you need God.

Hidden Years in the Spiritual Life

Over the last week I’ve been proofing the paperback version of the new book.  For those who aren’t familiar with it, the book walks you through an examination of your life with respect to the four ways of loving God — heart, soul, mind, and strength. (There’s a review here — thanks Patrice!)  So here it is Lent and I’ve written this great retreat that is ideal for use during Lent, and I’m thinking to myself: If there is one thing Jennifer does not need to be doing right now, it is this retreat.

I have been thinking because my life is already very full, and I don’t need to think up new things.

But I’ve been proofreading the paperback version, and as a result I sort of ended up doing an abridged version of the retreat in my brain.  The abridged version consisted of me noticing select passages that scream JENNIFER LISTEN TO THIS!!!! and then me getting an extremely clear idea, after reading all the words in the book, of exactly what it is I need to be working on in my relationship with God right now.

What I need to be working on is not glamorous.  God asks us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and some corners of those four parts of ourselves are not impressive.  I don’t think, “Wow, I would be SO HOLY if only I worked on _[thing that needs attention]_.”  Foundational issues don’t amaze.  It’s like a building.  The bulk of the technical genius is hidden from sight.

The Things You’ll Miss If You Don’t Have Them

Yesterday was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon around here, perfect for getting out for a bike ride or a walk in the woods or doing something fun with the kids.  Instead, the Superhusband spent his few hours of time off work replacing the toilet in the kids’ bathroom.

He could have gone out and done some Dad-activity that was easy for everyone to appreciate.  If you’re the dad playing soccer at the park or pitching balls, everyone’s like, “Wow! What a great dad!”  Replacing the toilet is like, “Wow!  Look where the toilet used to be!  It’s another toilet!”  You do all that work and there isn’t much to show, because that work is an investment in nothing happening in the future.  You’ll know the new toilet was worth it because: Nothing.  There’ll be a lack of toilet-related drama and that’s it.

Lent-Lite

That’s what it’s like in Remedial Lent.  Lent is falling apart because you need to make some adjustments.  A good penance will bore and annoy you, but it works.  You suffer a little, but mostly you just suck it up and do fine.  When you’re failing at Lent, something needs to change.  Probably something you don’t really feel like working on, because if you felt like working on it, you would have dealt with it from the outset.

So God is good, and He lets you try your thing.  And then you start failing at Lent, and when you finally break down and beg for help, God reminds you of the other thing.  The more important thing.   You can’t believe it’s the more important thing, because surely something as small as that, or as ugly as that, or as intrusive as that, isn’t what Lent is all about, right?  But you were failing at Lent.  It’s because God needs you to work on loving Him in this other area you’d rather not.

When you decide to give your whole self to God, you have to give the not-so-shiny parts too.

 

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 Disconnect After You Realize Abuse is Happening

There are two extra torments after you realize you’ve been party to an abusive relationship:

  • You wonder why it took you so long to realize what was happening.
  • You wonder why other people can’t see what is now so obvious to you.

When you realize that you’d been duped for so long, you can end up blaming yourself.  Surely you should have seen the warning signs. Surely you should have been smarter than to get pulled along with all this.

When you experience the frustration of seeing so clearly what others are still denying, all sorts of other, complicated dynamics ensue.

You might second guess yourself: Are you the crazy one?  Are you blowing this out of proportion?  You’ll no doubt hear from others that yes, you’re just “being dramatic” or “making a mountain out of a molehill.”

You might feel betrayed by friends or family members who should be supporting you, but instead are loyal to the abuser and are denying anything significantly wrong has happened.

Unless your friends on the other side of the divide are truly magnanimous, you will probably lose friendships.  Even if you are still civil to each other, it won’t be the same as before.

It is quite likely that you who have called out the abuse, or who have merely refused to cooperate with it, are suddenly under attack.

***

All these things are the fallout of the nature of abusive relationships.

By definition, the abuser has sought to normalize his or her behavior.  The only way abuse gets perpetrated in the first place is by the abuser somehow convincing people the behavior is acceptable.  One of the reasons we don’t recognize abuse when it happens is that the abuser has done his or her best to make sure we don’t recognize it.

Another reason is that abusive behavior falls on a continuum.  Just how far over the line someone has strayed is not always easy to discern.  It can be hard to judge where on the continuum you’re sitting.  We all sin. We all have our weaknesses.  We have to live with one another, and it’s normal to show mercy and give the benefit of the doubt.

And finally, false accusations do happen.  We who are honest rightly want to avoid jumping to conclusions and criminalizing imperfect but not predatory behavior.  Those who are dishonest will in turn exploit every weak spot to cultivate doubt about the seriousness of the abusive behavior, and to cast the critics in the worst possible light.

Oh and then there’s the fact that those who have recognized the abusive behavior are themselves flawed persons who don’t necessarily know the best way to handle the situation.

***

So all this stuff happens.

It is horrible.

But it’s not something you can blame yourself for.  It’s just part of wrestling with the beast.

File:Drago - Piero di Cosimo - Andromeda Perseo.jpg

Artwork via Wikimedia, Public Domain

March for Life 2018

Between the Metro & the March and a museum visit, we walked 7.5 miles today.

Turnout was enormous.  The column of marchers extended as far as you could see, filling the streets.

One of the things people do is come in groups with matching hats, or scarves, or t-shirts, or sweatshirts — and in one case, yellow ponchos. Many of them are very memorable.  The March is so big that you’ll see thousands upon thousands of people, and then when you are walking to a Metro station afterwards, you’ll see groups gathered waiting for their tour bus that you never saw the entire day until you passed each other post-March.

 

There were a couple marching bands along the route.  (Sound quality is my phone, not the band – they were super.)

The atmosphere varies as you go, but it’s always friendly and peaceful.  We prayed along with part or all of various Rosaries and Chaplets of Divine Mercy being led by participants:

As the roads widen and narrow, and people walk at different paces, you end up here and there, walking alongside all kinds of different people.

We ended up stopped for a bit next to this group in blue sweatshirts:

The baby on the back of the sweatshirt was actually on last year’s March, in-utero, then born prematurely, and now doing great.  The adult hand in the picture is the father’s hand:

The caption at the bottom is: No hand is too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.

 

***

And something amusing . . .

.

.

.

.

All dogs go to Heaven.  All youth groups go to Air & Space.  US History gets its share, too.

Somehow the first time I went to DC for the March I imagined we wouldn’t be allowed into the museums during the March.  I guess I figured we were the rabble that had to be kept away from the innocent visitors.

Actually: As long as you comply with the rules & regulations for the museum of your choice, you are welcome to come inside.

And hence this year I confirmed that if you want tranquility, and a surprising number of Dominicans, go to the National Gallery.   You’ll spend $40,000 on lunch in the cafeteria (but it’s decent food).  But maybe also you will be able to personally identify the person in art who looks most like yourself.

This is me & my kids a few years ago:


It’s not so much the precise physical resemblance as the Oh my gosh, someone has painted a picture of my life.  And yes, we’re as tired as we look.  Here’s a version not from my phone:

The kids are little taller now.

 

 

All photos & video by Jen Fitz except that one you can find on Wikimedia, Public Domain.

Snowpersons for Life

What do you when the interstate becomes impassable on your route to the March for Life?  Pull over and make Phyllis, the snowperson.  Why yes, the pro-life movement is young — and happy to be alive.

FYI if you didn’t see it over at the Register, this is what happened at our state March for Life, when a non-denominational Christian tried to talk my son and his friends out of being Catholic.

When You Need Christmas Carols

This afternoon we’re going caroling with our friends (and you can too)!  The way I buy out of the obligation to bring something good for the potluck is to bring the music instead.

The booklets I put together back in 1998 for our first caroling party are starting to get a bit ragged.  This is our year to refresh, and I suspected CCWatershed could help, since they were my source for Advent music a few weeks ago for the dread homeschool music-minutes.*  For those who were in on the Advent Music brainstorming session on Facebook, the answer is that I went with “Creator of the Stars of Night.”  Some people I live with were skeptical that young children could be counted on to quickly learn such a thing, but my class of monkeys had the hang of it by the third verse.  So I maintain that one is a great choice for kids who can read words — simple tune, easy range, repeat repeat repeat.

But for the neighbors, we need Christmas Carols.  CCWatershed did not disappoint.  I searched around and found their link to ACollectionofChristmasCarols.com.  If you go to that site you can choose the format that works best for you.  If you’re going out caroling on short notice, what you want to do is download the free PDF and print out just the pages you plan to sing from to make your booklets.  If you want the whole shebang, you are way better off to purchase the book version from whichever of the several options best meets your needs.

So You Want to Go Caroling, You Said?

Let me give you a couple tips on how to organize your music.

When you ring on someone’s doorbell, you don’t want to make them stand there forever.  You also want them to have a vague idea of what it is you are singing, so your ragtag bunch needs to choose wisely.  Here’s the formula:

(1) Pick out six or seven carols that everyone and their brother is likely to know, and which are easy to sing. If your neighborhood has many people who do not celebrate Christmas, include some generic winter-season festive music in your line-up.  You do not win hearts to the Gospel by irritating and offending people.

(2) Choose two or three verses to sing for each song or carol.  For slow songs like “Silent Night,” make it two verses. For quick, peppy songs you can do three.  Decide ahead of time and make a note.

DO NOT TRY TO SING MORE THAN ONE VERSE OF “THE FIRST NOEL.”  Why yes, I am shouting at you.  Trust me: Nobody in your group knows how to match the words to the melody in the subsequent verses.  It will be a disaster.  Don’t do this.  “The First Noel” is a great song to not ever ever ever sing with your friendly neighborhood carolers.  Just never.  Leave that one at home.

For “We Three Kings,” sing the first and last verse.  You may sing all five verses at home with your friends.  The police will be right to issue you a citation if you pressure your neighbors into standing there listening to the entire saga king by king.  First and last and no one’s gonna hunt you down and egg your house.

(3) Make yourself sets of three-song combinations.  #3 is always “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”  #1 will be something lively, and #2 is where you can put “Silent Night” or any song that drags out a little.  As you go from house to house, rotate through the combinations.    If someone asks you for more than three songs, you can always throw in another one.

(4) Use common sense when assessing whether to ring the doorbell and what to sing.  If lights are off, don’t ring.  If there are Christmas decorations up, it’s reasonable to assume the residents celebrate Christmas.  FYI,  the full lyrics of “Let it Snow” plus one verse and refrain of “Jingle Bells” is about the right amount for your non-Christmas houses.  And my apologies gentle reader, I live in the Bible Belt, I don’t have a second secular-set to propose, because we don’t usually need even the first set.  I’m sure your kid’s school Winter Concert playlist includes some suggestions.

(5) If you are clever you’ll order your music packets so that the carols are in order and you can just keep cycling through the packet and inserting “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” from memory.   (Stick it on the last page in case the Chinese exchange student shows up and needs the words. You can separate out your “Christmas” rotation from your “Secular” rotation as well.  A post-it note in the packet could help.)

(6) The We-Wish-You finale (or “Jingle Bells” for non-Christmasers) is important not just because it works well for signaling to the neighbors that their time of redemption is at hand, but also it means that your toddlers will always have something they can sing at each house.  Little kids do pretty well just dragging along and humming about Harold Angel, as long as they can belt out We-Wish-You with gusto for each song.   “Away in a Manger” is good for little ones who’ve been made to learn it at Sunday School, and “Angels We Have Heard on High” works well because the pre-literate crowd can join in on the In Excelsis Deo.

(7) Pack flashlights.

 

Enjoy!

 

Artwork Courtesy of acollectionofchristmascarols.com.

 

*Dreaded no longer.  That class is going great ever since we switched formats.  It turns out some of the wild monkeys are shockingly happy studying Tantum Ergo.  And speaking of CCWatershed: I noticed the Cathedral in Charleston is using the Saint Isaac Jogue Pew Lectionary and the Pope Francis Hymn Book.  Both of them look great.  Recommended.

 

Solemnity on a Friday!

December 8th is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. In addition to being a holy day of obligation (translation: Go to Mass!), its status as a solemnity means that on years when the day falls on a Friday, the usual obligation to do penance on Fridays is lifted:

Can.  1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.

Can.  1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

Can.  1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Let the bacon be served.

If you live in the US, your bishops already gave you the bacon-option, but it’s penitential bacon:

Can.  1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.

Way back in 1966, the US bishops determined that if abstaining from meat isn’t penitential enough for you, outside of Lent you are free to substitute some other penance:

28. In summary, let it not be said that by this action, implementing the spirit of renewal coming out of the Council, we have abolished Friday, repudiated the holy traditions of our fathers, or diminished the insistence of the Church on the fact of sin and the need for penance. Rather, let it be proved by the spirit in which we enter upon prayer and penance, not excluding fast and abstinence freely chosen, that these present decisions and recommendations of this conference of bishops will herald a new birth of loving faith and more profound penitential conversion, by both of which we become one with Christ, mature sons of God, and servants of God’s people.

The whole document is worth reading.  But not tomorrow!  On solemnities, we feast.

Other Immaculate Conception Links

In 2015 I wrote What My Dog Knows About the Immaculate Conception.  Get the whole story at the original post, including the bit about why my dog, when she wants to go outside, comes to the one person who is not going to get up and let her outside.  But here’s the thing:

My dog and I, therefore, are no typological figures of Marian intercession, get that idea out of your head right now.  Yes, Jesus would let the dog out if Mary told Him to.  But no, Jesus isn’t too busy showing St. Joseph the Russian Priests with Cats Calendar that he fails to notice the dog needs to pee, that’s not what it’s about.  There are other reasons asking Mary to intercede for you is a good, noble, worthwhile part of a healthy Christian lifestyle, and we’ll leave it at that for now.

The Immaculate Conception, which we commemorate today, is about this:

“We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”

Ineffabilis Deus, Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854

The Immaculate Conceptions is about the order of things.  It is about the re-ordering of broken humanity.  For the new Adam we have a new Eve.  Curiously, the new Eve isn’t the wife of the man about to fall, but the mother of God-made-man who’s going to save you from your fall.

Humans, fallen as we are, tend to overlook the order of things.  We have a picture in our heads of how things stand, and when reality doesn’t match that picture, we tend to elbow aside reality and stick with our imaginary world, the one we made, not the one God made.  The one we prefer, because we’re at the center of it, little gods with our little fake worlds.

The dog, in contrast, lives in no such imaginary world.  She needs to be let out at night, so she has a pressing interest in understanding the real order of things.

I’ve written about the Immaculate Conception at least one other place: The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion.  At this writing, Google Books is including what I have to say in the preview-pages for that book.

When I was searching for “Jennifer Fitz Immaculate Conception” two other links came up that caught my attention:

If you know a catechist who’s about to quit in despair, you might consider investing a few dollars in my purple book of how not to die in agonies teaching religious ed to a room full of hooligans.  The publisher gave it a more formal title, but you can call it that.

File:Crivelli, immacolata concezione.jpg

Our Lady of Visible Forebearance is my preferred image for this week’s feast. Via Wikimedia, Public Domain. Her whole life she never ate bacon, and now she rejoices in heaven with many crowns, and presumably also all the bacon she wants.

Which of Your Friends are Going to Hell?

Someone both lovable and known-to-be-sinful died recently, and a friend posed this question: What does the Church teach about so-and-so?  Is this person now in hell?

This was my answer:

The Church will very occasionally confirm that someone is in heaven, but never makes a judgement on who is in hell.

We can know that certain sins will mortally wound the life of the soul if they are freely chosen by someone who understands their gravity. We cannot know the inner life of another person, and therefore cannot know how culpable they are for a given sin, nor whether they repented (if necessary).

Heck, we barely scratch the surface on our *own* inner lives.

We can, in contrast, appreciate all that is true, good & beautiful in the people around us.

***

On that note . . . I wrote a long rambly post back in August on the complicated lives of us sinners.  There was a relevant section to my friend’s question, so I’ll share that again:

Mercy is the thing that makes us see the part of our friends that must at all costs be saved.

Yes, yes, we know about the immense weaknesses and deplorable lapses and insufferable habits — but we know the other side! We have seen selflessness to make your mouth gape, and virtues so indelibly marked on our friends’ souls that they track in purity and joy on their shoes even when they try their hardest to wipe their goodness off at the door.

Some people get so despicable that it’s hard to see the parts worth saving. God can see those parts though. The question of salvation isn’t how much nastiness needs to be removed to get down to the person you were created to be. The question of salvation is: Are you willing to be saved?

Happy Advent, everyone!

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Detail of a Cross of St. Longinus.  If there’s hope for him, there’s hope for you.  Photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Longinuskreuz_1.JPG CC 3.0

Talk to Your Kids About What Ouija Boards Do

I was in Target looking for a birthday present.  “Does your friend like games?” I asked my daughter.   I wasn’t seeing much in the way of horse things, which the friend definitely likes.

“I think so,” she said.

The trouble with games is that you don’t know which ones the birthday girl already has at home.  I scanned the shelves looking for something new enough that it was unlikely the friend already had one.  What I saw was this:

Ouija Board for sale at Target - "Stranger Things" edition

Well. There’s a game I don’t care to discuss.  “Go find your sisters and tell them we’re heading to the craft store.”

I snapped a photo (so yes, the Ouija board pictured above was on sale at your local Bible Belt Target store on Saturday 11/18/2017), and then we left and went to the craft store and found a book about how to draw horses, done.

The Trouble with Ouija Boards

Here’s the thing your children need to know: If you ask for supernatural assistance, you may well get it.

Supernatural can be good.  You can ask your guardian angel to watch over you in particular way (“Keep me from spending too much time on Facebook, please!”).  You can ask saints to pray for you.  You can of course ask God for everything you need — something you’ve been specifically instructed to do.

But the idea that there are only good supernatural beings is foolish.

Let’s look at this from a not-specifically Christian viewpoint.  Many people who don’t belong to any particular faith still recognize that there exists some kind of spiritual world, some kind of spiritual power.  You might not be someone who can say with confidence “God is like this _____” or “When you die, this _______ is what happens.”  And yet you have been around enough that you’ve come to recognize there is more to this life than what meets the eye.

The other thing you know is that, here in the realm of what-does-meet-the-eye, both good and evil exist.  Yes, people are complicated.  Maybe you don’t have a clear idea of how to draw lines between “good” and “bad” in some of the mixed-up situations you encounter in daily life.  And yet you can definitely recognize that there are things people do that are totally, beautifully, heroically good; you also can name a few things people have done that are unmistakeably evil.

In the spiritual world there are good and evil as well.

When you pray, presumably you are asking for good spiritual assistance.  Even if you aren’t sure exactly who you are praying to, or what kind of help you can hope to receive, you are probably not wishing to have evil visited upon you.  That connection you feel with something bigger than yourself is presumably leading you to look for peace, joy, and goodness in your spiritual life.

(If you go around openly asking for evil — for assistance doing bad things, or for bad things to happen to you or to others, well . . . #1 knock it off and #2 you are proving my point.)

A Ouija board is not a tool for seeking only good.  You may have good intentions, but the reality is that when you play around with the board, what you are doing is laying out an open invitation to whatever supernatural agent wants to come your way.

If you want only good in your life, skip the board.  Ask for what you really want, don’t send out the “Hey, whatever you want to do to me is just fine, you unknown mixed bag of good and evil supernatural persons!”  Would you make that offer to total strangers on the subway?  No you wouldn’t.  Don’t make that offer to the supernatural world either.

Avoid the board.  Be choosy about the kind of spiritual connections you ask for.  Seek out the good that you (rightly) long for.  It’s okay to pray even when you aren’t good at praying or don’t have a church or don’t have all the answers.

It’s okay to pray to God that your departed loved ones be in a good and happy place.  It’s okay to tell God that you are consumed by sorrow and grief, and you are so lonely without the company of the person you loved so much.  It’s okay to beg for help in dealing with the horrible situation that has you so overwhelmed you don’t even know how to get up in the morning — but always, always, always ask explicitly for good help.

You don’t need more evil in your life.

Ditch the board.

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Related Links

For my Christian friends, here are a few quick links that may be helpful:

FYI I’ve asked around among my reliably Catholic friends who watch Stranger Things.  The consensus is that the show does not contain nor promote occult practices.  It may or may not be something you want to be watching, but the connection between the show and the promoting of the Ouija board is spurious.  (Someone compared it to existence of Lord of the Rings Tarot cards. There is absolutely nothing in Tolkien favorable to the occult . . . but people will sell you whatever the heck you’re willing to buy.)