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.

 

How To Have Competent Young Adults

So Saturday the internet went out, and here’s what happened next:  Mr. Boy, now officially all graduated and legal and I guess technically Mr. Young Man, says to my husband, “Would you like me to clean the house, or would you like me to get on the phone with AT&T and get our service fixed?”

Now he does not have superhuman powers, so it still took until Tuesday for AT&T to actually show up.  But they did, and the friendly service guy, who is not at fault for AT&T’s corporate lapses, worked with Mr. Young Man to figure out what had happened and get it fixed.  (It was them not us . . . my IT Boy Man would have fixed it if it were us.)

Here is another thing that happened on Saturday: My 16-year-old and I got into a huge fight about the state of our front yard, eventually came to a truce-type-moment, and she proceeded to carry out a massive landscaping renovation.  First thing Monday she phone around to mulch dealers, got the best price on pinestraw, calculated how much she’d need, drove the truck (and I drove the other truck) out to pick it up, loaded the truck with a bazillion bales of pinestraw, and came home and made our yard look 10,000 times better . . . and then pressured-washed the driveway.

File:FEMA - 7305 - Photograph by Liz Roll taken on 11-16-2002 in Tennessee.jpgFile:Blithewold Mansion - Water Garden.jpg

Our yard Before & After, as visualized by Wikimedia.  [Public Domain and CC 3.0  Daderot at en.wikipedia respectively.]

 

So how do you get yourself some teenagers who are able to take the initiative and do responsible things?

By letting them take the initiative and learn to do responsible things.

For the boy, I’d say the turning point was letting him unschool 7th grade science.  Every day he was required to read or do some kind of science thing, and make a note of what that was.   I knew I could count on him to educate himself in that area, and indeed he did. Mostly he read technology websites that year.  In later years we bought him computer pieces for his birthday or Christmas when he wanted to build or re-build a computer.  By spring of 12th grade he’d landed his first regular IT job.  He’s 18 and pretty much already has a profession, because we let him do the thing he was interested in.  We didn’t send him to lessons or anything complicated.  We let him experiment and take risks and just do the thing.  There was a lot of trial-and-error involved, but it was his trial, not ours, and now he knows how to avoid the errors.

I’ve already documented some of E.’s artful adventures.  Note that nearly all the things from this beautiful backyard patio area have now been moved around for other decorating needs.   Having a child who can paint means never knowing where your paintbrushes are (except when they are left sitting by the kitchen sink).  The reason the girl is confident she can take on a front-yard renovation is because she’s been let loose with the weed-whacker and the leaf-blower and the pressure-washer many times before, even though she doesn’t always do it the way I wish she would.  (See: Bitter Argument Saturday Morning, Why Did You Chop Down That Oak Sapling?)

Now notice here that my IT guy did not help with the lawn.  Note that my lawn girl did not lift a finger to fix the internet (shout-out to the grandparents who pay for her data plan . . . she had internet while I didn’t, ha.)  There will come a time when they are older and they’ll have to take on a certain number of big projects that they don’t particularly care to do.  At 16 & 18, a realistic expectation is that your kids will go big and deep on the things that are most important to them.

But that’s a good start.  If they learn in their teens that they can take an interest in something, master all the skills, and be turning out professional-grade work as a result?  I think that’s about where they need to be.

So parents,  if you are terrified of the mess your kids are going to make, or you are tempted to over-program and over-schedule their lives, or you worry that your kids aren’t “well-rounded” because they tend to focus mostly on one or two types of interests and not ALL THE THINGS, relax.

Set a few boundaries, sure.  But mostly: Just let your kids do things.

 

Top 10 Papist Travesties Your Congregation Should Trash This Instant

Now many of my non-Catholic readers aren’t so much protesters as “Mere Christians” and can happily get along with some Jesus-art, whether plain plaster or glow-in-the-dark like the Good Lord intended. But there are always a few who are true Protestant’s Protestants, and need to clean house of any popery that might have sneaked into the pews* by accident.

As a history buff and confirmed papist, I’m here to help you root out all traces of Romishness quicker than you can say “whore of Babylon.”  Here are the ten biggest offenders:

The Trinity.  Does the Bible even use the word Trinity?  No it does not.  Obviously invented by bishops.

Illustrated Bibles. Your KJV comic book Bible is really just the Book of Kells in sheep’s clothing.  Seriously you weren’t thinking of buying that I hope?  Honestly the whole thing has to go.

Hospitals.  Monks and nuns and bishops and all that stuff. If you opened a hospital, people would basically think you were Catholic.

Universities.  Talk about pure popery from the get-go.  Avoid.

Latin.  There’s nothing more Romish than the language of Rome.  Sure, the language was invented by pagans, but then what is Catholicism but paganism warmed over?  When looking up plant species or medical terms, it’s safest to translate the Latin into German first.

Guitars.  No one really knows where they come from, except of course it was Spain. Now you can find them in virtually every Catholic church in the world.  Bonfire. Tonight.

Martin Luther.  Father of the Reformation Schmather of the Schmeformation.  Not only is there an eerie parallel between the Martin Luther Insult Generator and the Pope Francis Insult Generator, but the man was a closet papist the whole time.  It was the proto-typical Jesuit Plot, long before anyone even admitted there were Jesuits.  No good Protestant will get within 10 miles of a building with the word “Luther” in the title.

Methodists.  The better English-language Catholic hymnals basically consist of the Wesley brothers, Fr. Faber, and a couple bits of  Thomas Aquinas, translated.  We suspect the Illuminati are behind the rumors that John and Charles Wesley didn’t like Catholics.

Mendelian Genetics.  You thought nothing of sitting around the dinner table trying to figure out where little Josiah got his blue eyes from. Let’s just say that “Augustinian Friar” is not the chicken at your late-summer potluck.

The Big Bang.  As a Christian who believes God created the universe ex nihilo (Google Protestranslate suggests: aus dem nichts), you no doubt are in the habit of recognizing God’s hand in the science of creation.  Aren’t we all.  But the whole idea that God spoke and bang! the world was made?  Forget it.   Well known, openly acknowledged Jesuit plot.

 

 

*Pews themselves have a suitably Protestant pedigree.  They can safely stay.

Visiting the Childhood Haunts of St. Joan of Arc

St. Joan of Arc’s feast day (Jeanne d’Arc if you’re looking for French-language info) is May 30th.  When I told people I was going to France, I got asked a lot if we’d be going to Lourdes. The answer is no.  I have no objections, it’s just that I was going to be on the wrong side of the country, and as much as I love a good road trip, there are limits.  But we were on the proper side of the country for a side trip to Domremy, where Jeanne d’Arc was born and where she lived most of her life.

Up above the town, they’ve built a modern (“modern”), massive church for receiving pilgrims.

When we visited, there was a youth group tour going on:

The artwork is vivid, and of the sort to make you wish you had a better camera.


The place was just chock full of interesting stuff, heavy on the fleur-de-lis.

From the hillside shrine you can look over the rolling hills of Lorraine.

I don’t think very many people go to Lorraine — and yes, it’s where the quiche comes from (which can be had in Alsace, so you don’t have to go to Lorraine to get it). It’s very pretty countryside, but doesn’t have the wow factor of other regions.  I was glad we had a couple excuses to drive through during our trip.

So then you drive down to the little town of Domremy itself, where the house Jeanne d’Arc grew up in is still standing:

It’s been remodeled since her day, but it’s still rustic enough to give you the general idea:

          

Outside is a marker at approximately the place where Jeanne heard the first locutions.  She described it as being in her father’s garden, by the right side of the church.  That would be here:

You can see the church beyond that tree. The church has been renovated since Joan’s day, as yours probably has been, too.  Here’s a snapshot of the new interior:


It’s still kinda old.  I mean that in a good way.  It’s a very tranquil place to pray.

They held onto a few things from the old chapel, though, including this holy water font from back when Jeanne was a kid:

And here’s the baptismal font in which she was baptized:

Epic pilgrimage accomplished.

SuperReaders, Your Mission if You Choose to Accept It . . .

UPDATE:

  1. The SuperHusband thanks you. Mission accomplished.
  2. Since I found it difficult to read the results in graphic format, here’s a link to the spreadsheet where you can see them all.
  3. People are like, “Oh really, how fabulous are your readers, Jen?” And now I have documented evidence to back up my claims.  Y’all are hilarious.

 

. . . is to fill out this survey on how you acquired your superness:

Jen’s Survey of Fabulous Readers

The reason you are doing this is because the SuperHusband is tasked with putting together a survey for a project, and he was under the impression he needed to use an expensive and limited survey service, when actually, thanks to the powers of Big Brother  Big Shifty Uncle Google Who’s Probably No Worse Than The Other Snake Oil Salesmen, it is not necessary to pay for someone to collect up all your secrets to sell to the Russians, you can do it for free.

So no, I’m not asking for any secret information.  Okay, yes I am.  I want to find out what makes you so super.  Oh just go look.

(Things I’m not asking for: Your name, your e-mail address, your birth-century, your mother’s maiden name, your childhood pet, one picture of you and only you . . . none of that.  You’ll see.  It’s just a sample survey so the SuperHusband can watch data be collected and see how it works.  In this case, he’ll be learning all about the causes of your superness, so make it good.)

File:Maifisch.JPG

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia, CC 4.0 . . . this is what turned up when I did a search on “poll.” Go figure.  At no point in the survey do I directly ask you for the size of your fish.  There is a short-answer space where you could mention that if applicable, though.  Just sayin’.

Capitalizing on Your Children’s Laziness

I’m deskavating again, and just came across a wooden box with some random items.  Two pens, two markers, an empty lead-refill box, and a flashlight.  The box had apparently been sitting in the kitchen or living room, and the people I live with got the idea to drop things they didn’t feel like putting away into the box.  Then someone stuck the box on my desk, because that’s where we pile things we don’t feel like putting away.

So now I have this cool flashlight, which is great, because I’ve been wanting one to keep in my overnight bag for traveling.  Wow that saved me $5 and a trip to the store.

I’m putting the box out in the living room to see what else I can collect.

Pro-Parenting Tips: Doubly-Virtuous Children

Something I like about our parish school is that every week the students bring home a folder of all their graded work, so we parents can see how they are doing.  We sign off on the papers and send them back to school, so the teachers know we’re in the loop.  Here’s my 6th grader’s latest religion test, on the theological and cardinal virtues:

You’ll notice the teacher marked #8 incorrect.  The instructions are to match the cardinal virtue to the statement, and #8 is “The virtue that enables people to give respect and obedience to their parents.”  The cardinal virtues are prudence (wisdom), justice, temperance (self-control), and fortitude.

Obeying your parents is exactly the kind of thing thrown out as a classic example of the virtue of justice.  I use it myself all the time.  If I were taking the test, that’s the virtue I would have picked from the list.  So the teacher isn’t exactly wrong here in saying “justice” is the correct answer.

The difficulty is that this is my child’s test.  And I assure you, my kid is absolutely right.  If I had to put up with me, I’d need fortitude for sure.

Raising Catholic Teens, Rough Cut Version

So I have this artist who lives at my house and makes Bible verse paintings.

 

The one she hung in the bathroom is . . . topical:

So that’s all good.  We’re keeping Hobby Lobby in business with our canvas-buying habits, even more so since I just gave her a new commission: I need John 20:22-23 on the wall, stat.

What happened is my 13-year-old came home yesterday and told me about an apologetics argument she’d gotten into with a grown-up who wasn’t too keen on the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  She gave it her best, but she’s not a hardened veteran like her older brother is, and plus she was one-on-one.  We talked about some different ways to charitably approach the topic, and then I went to the living room and moved the dog bed and the cedar chest and pushed back the couch until I could fish out our New Catholic Answer Biblewhich we don’t ordinarily store under the couch, but I had seen it there when I was laying on the living room rug and I’d forgotten to rescue it then, so it was ready and waiting.  I left the sock and the plastic Easter egg for another time.

I couldn’t give her the actual citation, I just knew the verse was at the end of one of the Gospels since the moment occurred post-resurrection, so I sent her to check all the ends of the Gospels, but then I needed to go do carpool so I quick looked up the verse on Bible Gateway via keyword so that I didn’t leave her hanging.  I also handed her over my Precise Parallel New Testament, and explained that it was important to look up the verse in several translations so you don’t get blindsided if the person you are arguing with has another translation that phrases things differently.

“When in doubt,” I told her, “most Protestants will accept the KJV, so always check that.”

She did check the KJV, and noticed the use of the word ye.  I explained that meant Jesus was speaking to the group of apostles, not just one person, because ye is plural.  “The KJV is great for apologetics, actually, because you can point out the thou whenever Jesus is only speaking to one apostle.”

“Like ‘upon this rock I will build my Church,'” she said.  Yep, that’s my kid.  And that verse will be commission #2.

So this morning in the car on the way to school I quizzed her on what Bible passage shows Jesus giving the apostles the power to forgive sins, and she nailed it.  Probably I’m the only one who needs the art on the walls.  Also, she observed it must have been pretty weird for Peter getting a new name like Rock.  “Think about going around and everyone’s calling you ‘Rock’,” she said.

Yep.

So I’m proud of that kid, but here’s the thing: Just because you are growing up in a house with Bible verses on the walls doesn’t mean everything is swell in your little Catholic bubble.  And that’s why, when my eldest daughter came home the other night and was talking about her frustration with the Church, I decided I needed to write about it.

The things she had to say are things I hear from a lot of adults, too.  What she has to say are things that some people like to dismiss, but I showed my daughter the number shares we’ve already gotten, and that tells me and her that she’s not alone.   There are a lot of people out there like my daughter, people who want to be Catholic, but it’s not going so well. You can read about it at the Register: “What Good Catholic Teens Want from the Church”

Why We Homeschooled So Long

At The Washington Post: The decline of play in preschoolers — and the rise in sensory issues.  Reading this article was a moment of revelation for me.  Way back when #2 was about seven or so, I can remember walking down to the corner elementary school to play on the playground after hours, and we looked into one of the classrooms.  It looked ideal.  It practically called her name.  There was a wooden play kitchen, and child-sized tables, and loads of art supplies, and of course the wonderful playground just outside the big windows that filled the classroom with natural light.  For my little extrovert, this classroom was her people.

And I thought to myself: Maybe I should not be homeschooling this child.  Maybe I should send her to school.

Then I came to my senses: This was was the kindergarten classroom.  By the time you are seven, it’s rows of desks and standardized tests for you.  Not to mention we’d had dealings with one of the neighbor-kindergartners, and so we were acquainted with the long list of “reading words” that five-year-olds at the corner school were somehow expected to memorize and supposedly “read,” at an age when, developmentally, not all children are even capable of learning to read.  All four of my kids went on to become fluent, competent readers who read for both pleasure and information, but none of them would have been able to read that list of words at age five.  They were physically unable.  Since they were at home, instead of being embarrassed by their supposed stupidity, they received the kinds of pre-reading instruction that educational research shows actually helps.

Some of things that help are language-based — read-alouds and rhyming games and stuff like that.  Something else that helps kids learn to read is learning about the world.  This is important because you can’t make sense of words on a page if you have no idea what those words are referring to.  You won’t understand a scene taking place in a grocery store if you’ve never been to a grocery store.  You won’t understand a nature scene if you’ve never been out in nature.  Playing teaches some important reading skills. It teaches you about the physical world, because you are physically doing stuff. It teaches you about human interactions, because you are creating scenarios and living them out.  Playing teaches you to think, because all play requires imagination and initiative and problem-solving.

***

(If you want to understand the great Maria Montessori vs. Charlotte Mason wrestling match, the missing piece is this: Charlotte Mason’s audience had access to the real world; Maria Montessori’s students were kids who would otherwise have spent their day alone in a tiny working-class flat while their parents put in 14-hour shifts at the local factory.  Much of Montessori is about providing Mason when Mason can’t be had.  At The Register I’ve got up a piece that is an example of that kind of adaptation, in this case for teens.)

***

I’m still a big believer in homeschooling.  I agree with Ella Frech’s philosophy of education.  For various reasons, though, my kids at the moment like school.  As a homeschooler I always involved my kids in decisions about their education. I’d propose some possibilities for the year ahead, and the kids would give me feedback on what they wanted to learn or which approach they preferred of the choices I put on the table.  I was open to suggestions if they had ideas different than what I was planning.  When I held firm on a curriculum choice, I had solid reasons that I could explain to everyone, kids and spouse alike, and they could see why that particular choice was the one we needed to pursue.

So each of the kids, at various points and for various reasons, deciding to go to school has been a natural extension of that philosophy: If I was open to you choosing a different science book, why would I not also be open to you choosing a different science teacher?

The WaPo article, though, underscores for me why the youngest any child of mine has gone to school was fifth grade — and at that point, she happened to choose our local parish school where the early-grades teachers seem to have a pretty strong grasp of what early-grades learners need.  When you are little, you needs hands-on and interactive experiences.  Homeschooling let us do that.  Inasmuch as I’m happy with the school decisions we have in place right now, it is because the schools are, in their various ways, providing the bigger-kid versions of that for our children.

Anyhow, all this to say: Let your kids play.

 

Related: On the Forming of Young Christians

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Not my children, but mine play this game too.  Photo by Abi Blu, courtesy of Wikimedia, CC 4.0.

Chamonix – How to Become a Zipline Snob

For those just joining the fun, this is another installment from the Epic Vacation files. (For a different set of notes on Chamonix plus bits of England and Italy, with more kids of more ages, check out Bearing Blog September 2017.  Do you want to know what is cool? Being in Chamonix and getting tips from Erin Arlinghaus on fun things to do there.  We totally took some of her advice.  Read her blog before you travel.)  Today’s topic is spurred by a combination of waking up to snow this morning in Kentucky and seeing a friend’s zipline photos.

July in Chamonix is where people from not-snow-places can experience snow.  Down in the valley it was sunny and warm and the grass was green.  So we used our lift passes to go up to the reputed “snow garden” at the top of Grands Montets.

We weren’t really sure what we would get, since the tourist literature was a little thin on that point.

The lift lets you off above the snowline, and you can walk down many stairs to a saddle-area that is fenced off so you don’t accidentally fall off the mountain.  You can intentionally fall off the mountain if you want, or start on a bit of mountaineering if you prefer.  Or you can stay inside the fence and walk around in amazement and then get down to business building snow creatures.

People who are from snow wouldn’t be as excited about this.  We are not from snow.  This was exciting for us.

It is also a good place for photos, which would be exciting for most people.  As you are standing with your back to the lift and facing the mountain, this is the view to your right:

Straight ahead:

And to your left:

What the pictures don’t fully explain is just how steep the land slopes away, and how far.  You are looking hundreds of feet down to either side.

While we were puttering around inside the fence, busy snow workers extended a line of plastic fence up the slope of the mountain, paralell to a spine of rock.  Thus bounded on both sides so you don’t fall to your death, you can march up the hill and then slide down on your rear end (or whatever else you’ve got, but that’s what we brought).  This is yet another level of excitement for people who are not from snow:


As far as we were concerned, the day could not get any better.

Now if you look in the butt-sledding picture, you see a dark blob at the top of the fence line. While we were hanging out in the sunshine doing experiments with gravity, busy workers were extending a cable from the ski lift building down to that blob.  Because we saw mountaineers assembling and starting their trek from that point, we thought to ourselves, “They have made a convenient way for mountaineers to get all their gear to the start of their climb.  How nice.”

But then, as we were marching up the hill and sliding back down again, an exceptionally chipper fellow in his is 70’s or so, not a mountaineer by any stretch (and I have known mountaineers that age — he was not one), came tottering down the fenced hill looking all exhilarated.  “That was amazing!” he said.

Since we are not from snow, and also we hadn’t been paying close attention, we didn’t realize what was happening.

The busy snow workers had put up a zipline for humans.  Not just mountaineering-humans, but ordinary tourist-humans.

Furthermore, it was free.  (If you’d already somehow gotten yourself up this high, which is not free.)


You hike up the stairs back to the lift station, report to the top of the zipline, and they give you a harness and you climb onto a jerry-rigged platform and off you go.  No waiver.  No safety talk.  No discouragement of any kind.

The mother was sort of hoping that her children were too young, but the friendly worker assured me they were not.  So I settled for obsessively checking their harnesses and giving lots of instructions on how not to fall to your death on a zipline, assuming your equipment doesn’t fail.

Here is someone who is not my child on the zipline:


I couldn’t take photos of my own children, because I had to watch every moment with my bare eyes.  As you can see, it’s pretty much going through an expanse of nothing so vast that it is difficult for a person not-from-the-mountains to even appreciate how terrifying it is for a mother to trust that the busy workers have done their job properly.

But they did.

Also, I was very glad the fog had rolled in, because then you couldn’t see just how much air was between you and the ground.  In think in this situation, a partial view has its advantages.

We survived, but not unchanged.  Now, whenever people tell us their exciting zipline stories, we are very happy for our friends, but also in the awkward of position of wondering, “Would it be too obnoxious to share my zipline story?”