3.5 Time Outs: Surprisingly Good

Thanks once again to our host, Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, always good, sometimes surprising.

Click and be amazed.


My niece is here this week, so the topic ought to be Teenage Girls, but there’s not much to say.  Other than: They’re fun and interesting and get along great with younger cousins, and also they sleep late.  Which I don’t mind.


But look, two good magazines:

One is the magazine of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, and this was a pleasant surprise – sort of a Catholic National Geographic with a bit of the best of The Economist mixed in.  The articles are substantial, and cover the history and contemporary issues in the regions CENWA serves.  Not a light read — one of the articles this month is a history of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, starting in the middle ages and detailing, regime by regime, the power plays and organizational shifts ever since.

PG warning: Though there are no graphic descriptions of the horrendous things that go on in these lands far away, difficult topics are named by name, no glossing over or glamorizing.

Highly recommended.*

Liguorian is the other end, intellectually, of Center-Catholic reading spectrum.  Like Reader’s Digest for Catholics, only without the edge.  Good all-purpose, inoffensive but unapologetically Catholic magazine, targeted towards your average man in the pew.  Encouraging and inspiring without being too in-your-face.   Gentle.  For your parishioners who aren’t quite ready for The Register or Catholic Answers.


We brought home from the library the season one DVD’s of the HBO-BBC series The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.  I haven’t read the books.  But hey, what a cool show!  Yes it runs sappy, and yes, I think you ought to watch along with your kids and provide a little parental guidance on the moral issues.   But here’s what I love: Africa seen through the lense of the African middle class.  How refreshing to see AIDS, or the ivory trade, or child sacrifice and witchcraft, or polygamy, or marital infidelity — through the eyes of someone other than PBS, NPR, Bill Gates or George Bush.  And religion! Ha!  People who can be overtly Christian on TV!  Love it.

Moral note: The No. 1 Detective does not always resort to the police and the law for resolution to crimes uncovered.  The Anglo-Saxon concept of Weregild comes in handy.


Glow in the dark rocks. I’m not sure whether I’m succeeding as hostess to the 17-year-old.  I tried to explain that we don’t really do anything fun here, so it’s hard to think up activities.  But listen, no visit to the inferno is complete without a trip to the third floor of the


Well that’s all for today.  Tuesday is Link Day for all topics, help yourself if you are so inclined.  Limit yourself to one link per comment in order to avoid the spam dragon.  Have a great week!

*FYI – CENWA itself is a bit of a disaster to deal with for the small-time donor.  Nothing egregious, just your normal incompetence in the administrative offices in New York; the flurry of solicitations, set aside and kept dry for use in the paper-stove, could keep a small house warm all winter.  But the magazine is great.

About that picnic . . .

From the blog that’s Memorial Day all century long:

Early last week I got an e-mail from one of the Veterans Collaborative coordinators asking if I would be willing to speak to the staff of  her agency about Memorial Day.  One of their missions is to support military families and she had been surprised and a little horrified to find that many of her colleagues did not know the meaning of Memorial Day.

Read the whole post here.  And subscribe.  There’s always something excellent chez Lee Ann.

By Andrew Bossi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Book Review: Doctors of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI

The Doctors of the Church is my latest review book for The Catholic Company, and I’ll tell you up front why it’s taken me so long to get through it: Because it requires peace and quiet.

I don’t mean like holed-up-in-a-monastery-for-three-weeks peace ‘n quiet.  More like, “two to three paragraphs without interruption, and ideally as much as a page or more, all at once, before someone asks you how to spell a word, or where is the milk, or . . .” you know what I mean*.  I say this not to discourage the other housewives out there, but rather to encourage you to not give up just because it’s taking you a little longer than a Hardy Boys mystery, or whatever it is you other people read.

What it is: Pope Benedict did a series of talks at his weekly general audiences on each of the Doctors of the Church, and the text of those talks was put into book form.  (St. Peter Chrytologus is missing — there was no talk as yet at the time the book went to print.  But you get all the others.)  Each person gets his or her own chapter, and certain heavy-hitters have double- or triple-sized chapters if it took two or three sessions to cover the topic.

The focus of the talks is on the development of doctrine.  Sorry, no fun stories about St. Thomas Aquinas’s family’s colorful attempts to dissuade him from his vocation, or St. Therese’s heroic willingness to eat the peas and fake it that she liked them.  You get to be a Doctor of the Church due to your contribution to our understanding of the faith.  So that’s where the book focuses: What did this person contribute to our understanding of Christ and of salvation?  How did this person respond to the needs of his or her time, and re-present the faith in a way that was needed then, and that continues to be valuable today?

–> A brief biography opens each chapter, and there is enough information to give you a clear picture of the life and times of the individual.  There is relatively more biography for lesser-known saints.  If you don’t know the general St. Thomas Aquinas story, you aren’t ready for this book yet; but if you never can keep straight all your St. Cyrils and Gregories, the Holy Father has you covered, no worries.

What are the prerequisites?

Before reading this book, you need to:

  • Know the broad outline of Church history, and of course that means having a decent grasp of world history as well.
  • Be familiar with the who’s who of major saints.
  • Have a clear understanding of Church teaching.
  • Be comfortable with technical language at about the level of The Catechism of the Catholic Church.  This one:

If that’s not you, be patient.  Come back to The Doctors later. Because the focus of the book is specifically on doctrine, and on the development of doctrine, this is a little harder of a book than some of the other collections by the Holy Father.


Who is this book for, and what good is it, anyway?  I recommend this book if you . . .

. . . Want an introduction to the topic of Development of Doctrine.  When read cover to cover, in sequence, this is an excellent first look at how the faith has blossomed over the centuries.


. . . Need a reference book on hand for all your Doctors of the Church needs. Great resource for catechists and others who need to quick know something intelligent about obscure-but-essential saints.  Each chapter stands on its own, and I found this to be very useful in preparing for class.


. . . You want a devotional that is built around reflections on theology and the lives of saints.  (Don’t laugh you Prayer of Jabez people, some of us like this stuff.)  You could either work through it a chapter at a time, or just have it on hand to browse at random when you need a little retreat into that happy place where you get to think about this stuff.

Verdict:  Well of course, it’s excellent.  If you are the target audience, there’s nothing else like it.  Worth the effort to work through it, not because then you’ll get to sit with the cool kids (though you will), but because even if the distractions of your vocation mean you can’t read through it quickly, it’s very meaty and satisfying.  A sure preventative against brain rot, and not so bad for your soul, either.  Great book.


Thanks again to the kind people at the Catholic Company, who would like me to tell you that not only do they do a work of mercy providing good books for bloggers in exchange for nothing other than an honest review,  they are also a great source for a baptism gifts or first communion gifts.

*No family members were injured in the writing of this post.

3.5 Time Outs: Mardi Gras

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, who makes Tuesday everything it should be and then some.

Indulge yourself! Click the photo to see a veritable feast of internet treasures. Or a picture of foreign donuts.


Catholic Blog Day.  What I had planned to do today (actually, yesterday, but let’s not quibble) was empty out my inbox of the 10,000 fabulous links kind people have sent my way lately.  You will have to wait.  Only the very most last-minute one makes it today:  The first Catholic Blog Day is tomorrow, Ash Wednesday.  The topic is penance.  Remember that you can use your scheduling super powers to post ahead of time, if you are planning to fast from blogging for some portion of the next 40ish days.

Hey, listen, how about we just make Tuesday a post-your-link-in-Jen’s-combox day?  Would that be so bad?  No.  You would love it.  One link per comment so you don’t fall through the automated trap door into the Spam Dungeon, where I never ever look anymore, because, ick, lots of spiders.


The Festival of Cleaning  is not my favorite thing.  Let’s just say that Lent is going to hit very, very hard around the castle.  Should I do like I did a different year and also give up yelling at the kids?  I think yes.  I mean, every time I go to confession I resolve to give it up, so I guess Lent would be that time, right?

[Re-cap for the un-initiated: This year our family is going to Clean Up After Ourselves for Lent.  Reminder for the familiar-with-fitzes: Try not to laugh so loud.  You’re shaking the internet.]


This book looks really cool.  Now I want to read it.

Also: Registration deadline for the [free!] Online Catholic Writers Conference is Feb. 29th.  That’s both for registering as a participant and/or as a presenter.  If you are newly-registering, it takes a couple days for the final approval to go through, so don’t panic at the wait.  You should sign up now, because you probably will not hate the whole entire thing, but the only way to be sure is to register and then go look when the time comes and see.  FYI it is for everyone of all skill and experience levels.

Oh and hey, in fixing 50% of the typos in take #3.5, I was reminded that Tollefsen fans should note the new article up at Public Discourse, “Mandates and Bad Law“.


It is not this shiny anymore.

The spiders reminds me of a true story, which if I’ve told you before you are going to hush and not spoil it for the people who want to read the second half next week:

When we first built the green castle, that summer Ev would not play in her little kitchen in the basement.  She kept telling us, “I’m afraid of the bad spiders,” and she wouldn’t go into it.  Eventually we got around to investigating. And then we were glad she’d held her ground on refusing to associate with the bad spiders, because it turned out they were . . .

3.5 Time Outs: Feminine Genius

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, without whom Tuesdays would be so . . . different.

Not everyone's a girl-blogger. Click the photo to find out what the guys are saying.


I don’t see an official announcement yet, so I won’t spill the beans on the details, but I’ve been instructed to spend the next month or two pondering the word women.  I can’t decide if I was the intentional choice for that one, or just lucky.  There are so many seriously-girlesque-with-hearts-on-top ladies out there in the Catholic blogosphere, and here I am, feeling pretty fashionable when I’ve got on a new black t-shirt and jeans instead of an old black t-shirt and jeans.  Then again, I am not the only Catholic homeschooling mom at my parish who played rugby in college.

But anyway, it’s got me thinking about that word.  Okay I’m familiar with the biological details, but what, exactly, is it that makes girls different enough to get their own apostolic letter?


Ladies, will somebody please tell Larry the secret code for getting all those cute little post-it-notes above his frog?  DorianHallie? Fulwilinator? Anyone?  Anyone?  Please?  He’ll never even own half of Tuesday, if that frog keeps hiding away his linkfest inside the frog cave.  Maybe someone should check with Mrs. D. to confirm he’s in good standing and can be admitted to auxiliary membership.

UPDATE: Larry says you get what you pay for.  Not his fault he’d rather spend his cash on the worthy Mrs. D.  Masculine genius, right there.  I’m with it.


Internet Valentines:

At CWG, Karina Fabian applies the bacon analogy to the new non-compromise.  If you like her post, she asks you to please share it around.

Also hidden in the CWG Monday line-up (yes, I am personally responsible for the post pile-on, go ahead, flog me), Ellen Gable Hrkach tells you the cold hard truth about the work required to succeed at self-publishing.  Now you know what it is traditional publishers have been doing all these years.

And super-bonus: Today we have an actual Valentine-themed post. Ordinarily Kathryn writes on third Tuesdays, but I bumped her up a week when I saw what she had planned.

I think the similarity of color-schemes between the CWG blog and the Vatican website is coincidental.  Only Ann Lewis knows for sure.  Has anyone noticed whether she’s got the Vatican-spy secret decoder ring?

If you know someone who takes that last question seriously, you need a dose of masculine genius:

Perfect valentine for your budding junior apologist.  Nothing like a good argument with a lunatic to really make an adolescent boy enjoy religion.

Free girl-book, today only: My friend’s mom Christine Bush has her kindle romance Cowboy Boots on sale today for Valentine’s Day.  Free download.  I haven’t read it yet, but thought it was worth a look at that price.

From my inbox: The Catholic Company is offering 14% off all orders today only, use coupon code LOVE14 during checkout.  Timely if you owe your godchildren across-country some good Lenten reading.  I imagine there are other discounts to be had today, feel free to share your info in the combox.


Sursum Corda?  I saw it on a Confederate battle flag.   SC’s 7th Batallion.  The full motto is Sursum Corda – Quid Non Pro Patria? on a field of blue with a cross made of stars in the center.  It was made by the Ursuline nuns in Columbia. Very cool detail: metal sequins on the stars.

If you go [no visit to the Inferno is complete without a quick stroll right past the inner door to the State Museum and on to the end of the hall where the good exhibits hide], call ahead and arrange a tour with the curator for education, Joe Long. He isn’t Catholic, but ask him to tell you his St. Anthony story.  It’s a classic.

The only kind of water that ever, ever, touches the single malt my Valentine sent me.

7 Quick Takes: People, Places, Things

Click to see more takes at Betty's place.


Until yesterday, I had no idea — zero — about the history of shipping orphaned British children to the colonies to work as indentured servants.  I did know about the American orphan trains, thanks to the picture book on the subject.

You can read about the British Home Children at Rose McCormick-Brandon’s site, The Promise of Home.


This week we met the governor’s dog, Simba.  I can’t find an image for you, but if you book a (free) tour of the SC Governor’s Mansion, the odds are in your favor.  (We also caught sight of the first gentleman, but he saw the tour group through the window and slipped around to a back entrance.) 

This is my new favorite historic building tour for kids, because it is a real live occupied home.  Which means nothing is roped off, and you are allowed to touch things.  Mostly the kids did not touch things, because they have sense and know better than to put their fingers on somebody’s dishes or plop down on the living room couch.  The downstairs area that you tour looks exactly like your grandmother’s formal living room that even your mom isn’t allowed to go into without permission.  So you put on living room manners. 

But the tour guide did have us all pull out dining room chairs to inspect the deer-hoof carving on the feet of the chairs.  If you poured out a bottle of SC Concentrate, that building is what you’d get.


After a jumbled first-round of Sacrament of Confession last week, I re-booted and had a much better second half.  Helped that we had laid the groundwork the week before; also that I revised the study guide so that the students didn’t have to copy so much off the board.

My trusty teenage assistant was out sick last week.  Lucky for him, we didn’t do 10,000 Gun Questions  until this week.  He agreed, it is a very fun class.


I’m still only halfway through writing report cards for Q2.  Quarter break is almost over.  Need to crank the rest out and mail off a couple quarters worth of grades and work samples to Kolbe.  Not something that Kolbe requires (unless you want a transcript from them), nor that is a legal requirement for us.  But I am finding that it helps me teach better, if I have that extra grown-up looking over my shoulder.


My daughter (the Bun – #3 child) loves beanie-snaps.  She’s having some for breakfast-dessert.  These:

#4 would eat sour cream exclusively if we let her.


Pray for Allie Hathaway.  Also for the repose of the soul of Fr. Robert Fix.


3.5 Time Outs: Sursum Corda

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, who, I am sorry to learn, does not like leftovers for breakfast.   Read the whole tragic childhood tale by clicking the photo:

The Fulwilinator is on leave . . . will Larry finally seize power, or will SuperGirl Hallie Lord keep him at bay?


You’ll never guess where I saw the words Sursum Corda last Friday, when I was busy not getting my seven takes up on time for that other person.


Also I learned later in the day:  Though “Sursum Corda” sure sounds like the name of a papal encyclical, it isn’t.

Which means: I gave somebody a little bit of wrong information.  Nuts.  But I also gave a lot of correct information.  For example, you would have found it in this book – p. xxvii.  And others like it.


But you know, if you google the words Sursum Corda + Pope Benedict, you get a lot of hits.  Is it my fault I spend too much time on the Internet reading this stuff until it becomes one giant jumble of confused trivia? Wait, don’t answer that.


You may have noticed that adolescent boys don’t necessarily google these same topics.  Which is why I have begun a massive print propaganda campaign, in which I subscribe to the publications I think my child should read, then leave them on the bathroom counter for him to discover when he’s hiding from his math homework.

Might I add that Catholic Answers, Envoy, OSV and The Register run some seriously good articles?  It is as if all the stuff you read for free online is not the very best of contemporary Catholic writing, and that there is value to be had in paying writers for their work.  I never guessed.


So your hints for the solution to #1 are:

A.) The Inferno.

B.)  In which city you can still see this guy’s house:

C. )  And this hat. Which causes me to pun horribly every time I see it:

Mighty Mitres, Batman!

Freedom of Religion: The Right to be Wrong.

Several years ago a friend shared a frustration about her job as a public school teacher: She felt that in the faculty lounge she had to pretend to be pro-life, lest she lose her job.  She worked in a conservative school district, and the other staff leaned to evangelical Christian (she did not).  She felt persecuted, and she didn’t think it was right.  I agreed.

Not because I was myself on the fence concerning abortion — I had always opposed it.  But because it seemed to me that if you are a government employee, you shouldn’t lose your job for agreeing with the laws of the government you serve.

[I should clarify here: She was not complaining that she couldn’t share her views with students — she had no desire or intention of doing that; given her subject and the ages of her students, abortion was not ever going to be discussed in the classroom in any way.  What she feared was that merely holding the beliefs that she did would cost her job.]

In studying history there comes an ugly moment when you suddenly understand how hopelessly immersed you are in your own culture.  Future people will wonder why you did not have more courage to stand for what you knew was right.  They will also wonder why you did not see how terribly wrong you were about principles that, to a later generation, seem entirely clear.  But the pull of your own time and place is too powerful.

That is how I feel about the law.

Product of late 20th-century USA, having grown up on patriotic songs and the Pledge of Allegiance and trips to Williamsburg and copies of the Constitution handed out at the bank in 1987 to commemorate the bicentennial . . . I’ve got this obsession with the Bill of Rights.  I am too late-century to believe it has been flawlessly administered, but I can’t shake the idea that it ought to be.

And enshrined in the 1st Amendment is the right to be wrong.  We call it freedom of religion.

Even though Congress is not supposed to make laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion, of course it does.  If your faith prescribes polygamy or ritual human sacrifice, no-can-do for you.  Morality informs the law, and no amount of arguing that your religion required you to embezzle that money will get you out of jail.  The majority will legislate the boundaries within which you may practice your beliefs.  The majority of course, being composed of people who are sometimes wrong.

(Example: Slavery.  Big mistake that one.  No slaves were emancipated by arguing in Confederate court, “My religion tells me I shouldn’t have to be a slave.”  But religious arguments — initially regarded as crazy fringe nutcase arguments — did eventually persuade the Union government to emancipate.  No comment on the timing.)

And then there’s the taxes.  We don’t get a discount for deciding we object to the nuclear weapons program or the latest foreign war.  I suppose you shut your eyes and pretend your particular contribution is all going to food stamps, and someone else’s cash covers the objectionable stuff.  Either that or you buy in to the whole “Whose face is on that coin?” thing.

[More limits on free exercise:  We can’t even get out of the draft selectively — either you’re 100% pacifist, or you sign on for all wars at all times — no concept of just warfare as a religious principle to be actively lived by able-bodied men of military age.]

So what’s the big deal with the reproductive-services-funding mandate?  Critics of the Church observe that the law is only asking for employers to pay for services that Americans overwhelmingly want, and that the medical industry considers perfectly good healthcare.  You’ve got to be some kind of crazy fringe nutcase to object to wholesome American goodness like Sterilization and Apple Pie.  (Correction: There might be a case for raising insurance rates on the people who eat the pie.)

And the answer is this: We grew up in late-20th America.  We know freedom of religion isn’t perfectly administered, but we still believe in it.  We practice it with compromises, but we do try to practice.  Jews who actually keep kosher are not therefore excused from paying all their taxes, just because Federal cafeterias serve those scary puffed-up Not Hebrew National hot dogs.  But we don’t therefore say the government has the power to require all employers everywhere pay for pork barbecue.

–> It would be understandable if some Jewish people found it objectionable to purchase a dozen bacon cheeseburgers for the guys at the sales meeting , even if there were other Jewish people who had no such reservations.  We’d get it.  We’d think that mandatory pork-purchasing — and being fined for failing to offer pork as a choice at the company cafeteria — was a stupid law.

We don’t think Chick-Fil-A should be required by law to be open on Sundays, even though other Christian businesses operate on those days.  Likewise B&H Photo has a constitutional right not to process sales from Friday sundown till Saturday sundown.  Even if there are employees who want to work during those times (and who need the hours!), or customers who wish to patronize the company during that time.  We have a right to eat on Sundays, but the government doesn’t mandate that all grocery stores and restaurants be open on those dates.

The trouble with the contraception-sterilization mandate is that our government has decided these items are more like clean water or public safety, and further, our government has decided that every private employer in the United States is now the public agency tasked with delivering these goods.

The majority of Americans do not believe contraception and sterilization are immoral.  They find the Catholic church is wrong wrong wrong on this matter.  That is fine.  But proper response is then, “Well, this is America.  You have a right to be wrong.

From the view of the majority, the  next question is: “What will happen if we let these crazy fringe minority of people be excused from directly purchasing items they find objectionable?

Our government says the answer is this:

Not directly purchasing your employees contraceptives would be like just giving them cash and saying, “Go buy your own bacon if it’s that important to you.”

And that would be wrong.  Because there are limits on the freedom of religion.  Your religion is known for not approving of certain products, but everyone else in America loves that product.  Look, a lot of the people at your own house of worship are discretely eating the bacon, and usually the Rabbi doesn’t say much about it . . . you’re a threat to order and morality.

You must not just give your employees the cash.  You must set up an account for unlimited purchases at Bacon Is Us.  Or be fined.  If you don’t like the stuff, don’t eat it.

Note that this is not about money.  It would be entirely reasonable for the HHS to require that conscientious objectors simply pay their employees the necessary amount of cash to cover the cost of these services.  That’s Living Wage 101, which the Catholic Church has been trying to explain since before ever the HHS saw light of day.

Employees could then purchase however much bacon contraception and sterilization coverage they wanted.   Exact same amount of employer outlay.  Exact same amount of contraception dispensed and reproductive powers eliminated.  Only, it would respect the right of American citizens to practice their own religion.