About that sweet ‘lil prostitute next door . . .

She doesn’t want to be there.  One of the most offensive and pernicious lies in the film industry are those “cheerful prostitute” characters.  It’s all well and good to write nuanced characters.  But the whole happy-whorehouse thing isn’t just cheap tricks for lazy writers who can’t think up real stories.  It’s the glamorization of something that, if it happened to you, would destroy your whole world.

***

I will spare you the thought exercises, since I try to keep this blog shiny clean.  But don’t tempt me.  I’m a writer, and that means I can make you see things you didn’t want to see.  Just go ahead right now and throw into the trash every DVD you own that perpetuates that lie.  And change the channel, forever, if you see it on TV. Thanks.

 

Verse and Censure for the Feast Day + Chris Tollefsen at Public Discourse

Since we’ve been speaking of wealth ’round here lately . . . a limerick for today’s feast:

When faced with a room full of clutter,

I’ve been known to piously utter,

“Help me to know,

what should stay, what should go?

Oh blessed Teresa of Calcutta!”

MotherTeresa 094.jpg

Your house is 25% cleaner, Jennifer. Don’t stop now.

In other news: Chris Tollefsen writes brilliantly at Public Discourse today.  I’m a shameless Chris T. fan, so no surprise that I like the message.  But I don’t get to say it as often as I’d like: This is far and away his best piece ever.  That I’ve seen, anyhow.  Go take a look.

In places NOT to look: Front Porch Republic, which I subscribe to but very rarely read, because publishing just a snippet for the feed reader is a very effective way to discourage me from reading your work, recently ran a piece about liturgy and limericks.  The idea was spot on, unfortunately the chosen limericks were dreadfully lewd.  Really? Was that necessary?  No it was not.

To which end, perhaps not the most incisive wit, but making the same point as the FPR piece:

The rabbit who traveled by plane

said, “Security can be such a pain.

They opened my baggage,

and out fell my cabbage,

and I had to re-pack it again.”

The point FPR was making?  A good genre, delightful in its context, is not necessarily the right genre for the holy liturgy.   And another example, same rabbit theme, we have quite the collection growing*:

To my door came a poor little bunny,

who needed to earn some money,

“I’ll cut your grass for a dime,

one bite at a time–“

But in the end, the lawn looked quite funny.

See?  Perfectly moral, g-rated limericks.  It can be done. And the argument FPR wants to make is stronger when you acknowledge the genre isn’t used soley for smut. Show tunes are wrong at Mass not because Hollywood’s a den of sin, or because the cabaret / jazz / pop sound is always and everywhere associated with immorality.  It’s because these types of music are about something else — something that can be beautiful and true and good and inspiring — but it’s something other than the worship of God.

And thus a final contribution for today:

On the feast of Teresa of Calcutta,

this pundit is likely to mutter,

“You’re housed and you’re fed,

but your brain is half dead,

’till you rescue your wit from the gutter.”

Happy Feast Day.  Straighten up and fly right, FPR.

*The limerick fest began because, to my genuine shock and surprise, no irony there, my teenage boy does not love his poetry course for literature.  I was stunned.  A teenager? Not like poetry?  Really?  It’s all about love, death and self-centered dramatizing . . . that should be just the thing!  Certainly was for me at that age.  SuperHusband wisely suggested we begin with something a little lighter.  And thus I succeeded, not in converting my skeptical teen, but in launching a festival of animal-themed verse among the the two youngest.

I’ll take my victories where I can.

Meanwhile, any poetry recommendations for less-romantic, very modern boys, who mostly read Dr. Boli?

NFP Misery Awareness Week

Check it out . . . even the Pope has doubts about those glowing reports of NFP Joy:

“Surely in no way do we wish here to be silent about the difficulties, sometimes serious, which the life of Christian husbands and wives encounters. For the, as for each of us, ‘the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life.’…..Therefore let married couples freely take upon themselves the hardships destined for them, strengthened with faith and that hope which ‘does not disappoint: because the love of God has been poured forth in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.’ With persistent prayer let them beg for Divine help. And especially let them draw grace and charity from the unfailing font of the Eucharist. If, however, they are still held back by sins, let them not be discouraged, but as humble and resolute people take refuge in the mercy of God, which the sacrament of Penance dispenses abundantly.

Pope Paul VI,On Human Life (Humanae Vitae)

Stolen from my Family Honor course work, where I’m getting piles of good pope-quotes.  Of course now my instructors, if they are goofing off here, know exactly how far behind I am on my homework.  But I’m catching up! I am!

For those who want awareness of my thoughts on NFP, here’s “Should NFP be Easy” over at my friend Sarah Reinhard’s place, and here’s another post on NFP vs. Contraception, which look, Bearing says you should read (and she adds helpful comments that cause it to make more sense).

Now back to homework catch-up time.

Should NFP Be Easy?

Guest post at my friend Sarah R.’s house: In which I explain that if you and your spouse find abstinence easy and fun, perhaps something is not quite right.

How I Fell Off The Internet

Mid-May update:

Latin Happiness.  At CatholicMom.com: In which I explain how I went over to the dark side and paid for flashcards, AND monkey-themed Latin-Lite videos. Also found some other digital person to teach grown-up Latin to the boy and I, and no surprise, all are happier for it.

Shiny happy feeling inside this author: The reprint is at Catholic Lane.  (Yay!)

A well-licked baby rat is a happy baby rat.  SuperHusband & I have been taking Family Honor’s summer course on Catholic Sex-Ed.  (It’s not called that.  “Cultural Implications” or something like that.)  Astute observers would have predicted: I’m really enjoying the class, whenever I set aside my natural dread of deadlines and obligations, and sit down to do the work.

Double-enjoying it once I realized I didn’t have to sit still and listen to the lectures, because hey, long stretchy headphone cords . . . I can workout while I listen.  Score one for online courses.

Right now I’m reading this, of which you can download the executive summary at no charge:

Hardwired to Connect

Encouragement for those of us who sometimes doubt whether all this parenting effort is going to have any effect in the long run.

Forming Intentional Questions. The other reason I’m hiding from the internet is to churn out a set of discussion questions for Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples.  Because I’m going to be part of a book club.  And so are you. Bwahahaha . . . more news soon.   Questions are written, and now need to be purged of typos.

Have a great week.

Book Review: Getting the Marriage Conversation Right

(There’s a book review coming at the bottom of this, but I need to lay out some preliminary matter first.  And this is a post concerning sex.  Not for children.)

To be Catholic is to be aware of a long list of my own faults.  Let’s review a few of them:  I goof off too much (not just on the internet, everywhere).  I lack patience for the most trivial of inconveniences.  When I’m irritated, I use my verbal powers for evil and not good.  I spend way too much money on myself, and far too little on the poor.  I procrastinate.  On any given day, there’s a decent chance I spent the time I meant to spend praying (not an exorbitant quantity) doing some other more entertaining and entirely optional thing.  For those who are familiar with the Little Flower, we could safely describe me as the Little Weed.  The anti-Therese.

And that’s just my public sins.  For every one you see on the kitchen floor, there’s a hundred more in the walls. If Therese is one of our few Doctors of Church, I’m guaranteed a spot among the vast number of Patients of the Church.

So be it.  Some people talk about so-called “Catholic Guilt”, and those people are invariably the ones who missed out — in whole or in part — on the real deal: Catholic Mercy.  If I don’t crumble in despair at the state of my soul  (and yes, actually despair is one of my sins as well), it’s because there’s hope for me.  Not hope that I’m going to wake up one morning suddenly meriting Heaven.  But because Someone Else has gone ahead and opened Heaven for me.  He loves me with His whole being, and will do anything — anything — to give me an shot at eternal happiness, mine only for the asking.  And not just me — He loves everybody that way.

My experience with evangelization is that few of us are converted because we suddenly discover how wretched we are, and thus desire to jump into the cosmic shower.  Quite the opposite: We long to know God, and having been drawn to Him, we begin to see, bit by bit, what life in Heaven looks like.  And what kind of baggage we’ll be leaving at the door when we get there.  Some things we drop like an old stinky garbage bag, in a flash of horrified understanding. Other things we keep stuffed in our pockets, sure they are part of us, or sure that these are little treasures we can sneak through eternal security . . . and it is only late in this life, or at the beginning of the next, that we catch on to the fact that, oops, we’ve been running around with the spiritual equivalent of a moldy rotten banana shoved in that coat pocket.

I’ve got rotten bananas in my pocket. (Usually only spiritually, though there was that one time I waited a month to clean out my tote bag . . . ick.)  But if your argument consists of, “Jen, you stink!” my response is, “Um, why yes, I do.”

I hate the topic of Gay Marriage.

Hate it.  Let me count the ways:

1) Because I know that the people who favor gay marriage do so for entirely understandable reasons.

2) Because I’m not an idiot.  I’ve known plenty of folks who favor same-sex unions, and who are, put simply, better people than me.  And they’re far and away better people than some of our rotten-to-the-core unrepentant clergy who’ve spent decades hiding despicable offenses.

3) The division concerning gay marriage doesn’t have its roots in questions about homosexuality.  For the last fifty years, the going cultural norm has been that whatever I desire, sexually, should be acted upon.  That marriage vows are no vow at all.  That children and marriage have nothing to do with one another.  That children have no particular need to be raised in a home with their mother and father.  That any parent-type figure will do just fine.

An aside: People have a hard time accepting that adopted children feel a genuine grief concerning their biological parents.  That very illusion — that your parents were unable to care for you, but hey, you have nothing to cry about — feeds into the destruction of marriage.  Something my dad said to me very plainly when he remarried after my mother’s death — I knew it, but he was absolutely right to lay it on the table  — was, “Your stepmother is not a replacement for your mother.”

It is a beautiful and wonderful thing when some loving person can step in and fill some portion of the blank left by the loss of loved one.  But it doesn’t erase the loss.  Acknowledging the loss makes it possible to delight in the sheer gift of this new and full and lively relationship, because we can accept it on its own terms, not pretend it is the other gift now gone.

4) A significant portion of the so-called Christian world doesn’t even acknowledge the horror of abortion.  An even larger chunk, including many people whose genuine faith in Christ I don’t doubt for a moment, think sterilization and contraception are AOK — desirable even.  And I don’t want to contemplate the numbers in the Church who approve or encourage the sin against purity we used to discreetly but emphatically call “self-abuse”.  Before you start citing the ancient Jewish law concerning homosexual acts, review the details concerning Onan, eh?  Struck dead on the spot?  Actions speak louder than words.  Disapproved.

5) I know that condemnation is the way of the world.  To ask for so-called “mercy” in the wider world is to heap condemnation upon yourself.  So I know that for many people dear to me, if I ever say, “Well, actually this one thing you’re doing is wrong,” those people I love will hear my words as code for, “Actually I hate you and I was just faking nice.”  Which isn’t true.  See my sins above — faking nice is not one of my virtues.

So to discuss gay marriage, at all, is to be accused of hatred.  I can discuss contraception, and people just think I’m a little daft.  I don’t mind that.  But I dislike the fact that to open this topic is to have a number of people I respect, admire, and count as friends, be tempted to assume the worst about me.  Well, the worst about me lies elsewhere.

[For the record: People hate you just as much if you talk about modesty in any specific terms.  Which I will be doing at NewEvangelizers.com in a couple weeks.  I’m racking up the voodoo rays this month.]

On to the Book Review

Getting the Marriage Conversation Right: A Guide for Effective Dialogue by William B. May is a short, readable booklet, written for a Catholic audience who wants to defend the sacrament of marriage, but suffer from poor rhetoric.  The assumption is that you the reader agree with the Catholic teaching, but perhaps you articulate it poorly.  You may even be currently basing your arguments on any number of details that simply aren’t Catholic.

Or you may be a Catholic who wants to follow Church teaching, but doesn’t understand why the bishops are so adamant about not allowing civil unions as a peaceful live-and-let-live alternative.

There is a single refrain that explains the disconnect between reality and popular culture.  The going definition of marriage in our society is this:

“Marriage is the public recognition of a committed relationship between two adults for their fulfillment”.

And let me observe right now: If this is your definition, it is logical to accept gay marriage.  Trouble being, that’s not what marriage is.  It is what civil marriage has become.  But it’s not what it is supposed to be.  Here’s the Real Ale definition of marriage, the one the Church is trying to defend, too little too late:

“Marriage unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union.”

This is the radical reality that animates the entirety of Christian thought on marriage and sexuality.  Each child has a need to be raised by his mother and father.

Sometimes bad things happen — death, or serious sins such as an abusive parent, or a rapist father — that make this need impossible to fulfill.  When that happens, we have no choice but to go with the next best thing, whether it be single parenting, or remarriage, or adoption.  The next best thing, in the context of a response to tragedy, becomes the very picture of self-giving love.  Anyone who steps into fill the void for a child who is unable to be reared by both his mother and his father?  A true hero.

We live in a fallen world, and marriage faces countless obstacles.  Getting the Marriage Conversation Right addresses each of these difficulties in turn, and explains how we are to understand a proper response to _______ problem.  The book repeatedly admonishes us to avoid the temptation to condemnation, and maintains a thoroughly Catholic — that is, merciful — response to the many problems that individuals may face.

No hate-spewing.  No tsk-tsking.  No “they deserve what they get”.  None of that.

Who Should Read This Book?

The audience is those who accept, or wish to more fully accept, Catholic teaching on the sanctity of marriage.  If you aren’t interested in being convinced, you won’t find this book convincing. It’s a book of explanations for why the Church teaches as she does, and how to effectively communicate that teaching to others.

The reading level is all-adults.  The tone is conversational and the word count is short and to-the-point.  This is an excellent resource for a parish study group.

Helpful for Outsiders?

If you are in favor of same-sex unions, will this book help you understand the other side?  A lot depends on your mentality.  This is an unabashed defense of the Catholic teaching, written by and for those who want to agree with it.  There is no effort to create, within the book, an apologetic geared towards the worthy opponent. Yes, if you read the booklet with a desire to understand, in the spirit of true dialogue, why people oppose same-sex unions, you will in fact learn why people oppose same-sex unions.

But if it’s going to make your blood boil to see anyone lay out a defense of a position you abhor, then yeah, it’s going to make your blood boil.  No way around it.

Summary: Good book.  Short, readable, gets straight to the heart of the matter.  This is the first title I’ve read on this topic, and it does a good job at what it does.  For those who oppose same-sex unions, but don’t really know why, or how to explain their position, this book makes a good start.

Boilerplate:This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Getting the Marriage Conversation Right. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your seasonal needs such as First Communion gifts as well as ideas and gifts for the special papal Year of Faith.

3.5 Takes: Halloween Wedding

Thanks once again to our host, Larry D., who is no doubt terrified by this post.

When my friend real-life friend Sandra told me she was planning a Halloween-themed wedding, let me assure you: I was skeptical.  But it turned out absolutely lovely!  Which you would expect, if you know Sandra and her beloved Larry L..  Here’s the tour, in 3.5 parts.

1.  The Dress.

The event was held at the Robert Mills House (civil ceremony), so you’ll recall Sandra was thinking of a regency-era theme.  She raided the silk remnants at the upholstery shop, and put together this:

Awesome period touch: detachable sleeves.

2. Ceremonial Innovation Done Right.

Recall also that I am a curmudgeon’s curmudgeon, and if you tell me that as part of your ceremony you’re going to do some groovy sand-art activity with your children, I’m going to be very, very skeptical.  But Larry L. came up with an idea for including the boys in the ceremony, and it went over beautifully.  I was impressed.  Not many people can pull that off.  Well done.

 

3. Reception = Costume Time.

I think the key to making a Halloween wedding work is to not have a Halloween wedding.  Normal wedding, costume-optional reception.  Tons of fun.

The decorators-in-law used a deft touch in decorating the reception hall.  There were spider webs and all that stuff, but it didn’t pop out like I’m Back In Elementary School For Orange Cupcakes And Candy Corns.  The wedding cake was probably the most Halloween-y moment.  Which is about right.  Wedding cakes are supposed allowed to be fun.  Is a giant hairy spider really that much goofier than a chintzy plastic bride-n-groom?

I wish I had a picture of the buffet table, but I’ll just tell you that the secret to a tasteful theme-wedding is to put out a fantabulous spread of good food.  Then all the stuffy friends and relatives who might otherwise complain about the decor are too busy noticing the hummus and the curry and the peanut sauce, and the rest is just background.  But if you want to put on a Sponge Bob costume, you can.

Or, if you’re a young groomsman, add sunglasses, earbuds, and a suitable weapon, presto-chango, Secret Agent Boy:

(Shown here posing the following day, before we rushed the tux back to the rental place.)

3.5  SuperHusband went medieval for the reception, which is the most comfortable thing you wish you could be wearing anyway.  Girls and I stuck to our ordinary wedding attire, but added

 

***

Well, that should give you something to talk about for this week.  No, I haven’t finished started my sidebar renovation, so I’m still taking link suggestions.

Hey and while we’re on the topic of good things worth doing right: This week my editor at Liguori is doing her edits on my Classroom Management for Catechists manuscript.  So you could say a little prayer that she gets it all cleaned up so that it’s as helpful to readers as possible.  Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy – Book Tour & Giveaways

Welcome to Sarah R.’s stop at my place on her book tour!

Click to Enter the Nook Giveaway

We’ll start with some info from the publisher and from Sarah:

To celebrate the launch of her new book, A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism, Sarah Reinhard invites all of us to spend her blog book tour praying the rosary together. Today, she shares this reflection on the Nativity:

The cave in Bethlehem probably isn’t what Mary had in mind for her Son’s birth. Straw as bedding and oxen as companions, with shepherds and townsfolk dropping in to wish her well?

Maybe it wasn’t so shocking to her, after being told she would be the Mother of God, that it didn’t go at all how anyone would picture it. Even so, I’m sure it wasn’t that comfortable even by standards of the day. She gave birth with animals all around, in the chill of winter, in a town far away from home.

So often, things don’t go the way I plan. I struggle with my knee-jerk reaction to the wrenches in life, to the natural temper tantrum I want to give in and throw. It’s hard to see God at work in the up-close of a situation turned differently than I think it should be.

But he is at work. Jesus being born in the most humble of circumstances made him accessible to all of us. It also makes Mary someone we can all turn to for comfort: if anyone knows what it’s like to go with the flow, it’s Mary.

As we pray this decade of the rosary, let’s hold all those brave women who have said yes to difficult and challenging motherhood in our intentions in a special way. Don’t forget, too, that we are praying for an increase in all respect life intentions as part of our rosary together this month. (If you’re not familiar with how to pray the rosary, you can find great resources at Rosary Army.)

Our Father . . . 

10 – Hail Mary . . .

Glory Be . . . 

O My Jesus . . . 

You can find a complete listing of the tour stops over at Snoring Scholar. Be sure to enter to win a Nook (and any number of other goodies) each day of the tour over at Ave Maria Press.

***

And a few quick comments from me:

  • This is an excellent book.   (Yes, I wrote five paragraphs of it.  But all the paragraphs are good, not just mine.)
  • When you’re pregnant, you naturally turn towards spiritual things.  This is the book that meets that need for Catholic moms.
  • It’s absolutely devoid of the drivel-n-feel-good nonsense of other pregnancy books.  Tackles the hard topics with maturity and clear thinking.
  • From here on out, it’s my go-to book any time I know a mom who could use it.

And for those of you local to the Diocese of Charleston, SC, we’re up to four copies for the giveaway from the Office of Family Life this coming Sunday, October 14th, at the Blessing of the Unborn Mass in Columbia, SC. See you there!

(For internet friends, check out the other stops on the book tour, there will be giveaways all over the place.)

 

7 Takes: Questions about Higher Education – From a College Student

My awesome niece & goddaughter just started college, and the other day she phoned me.  “Do you have an hour or two? I need to get your opinions on higher education for this paper I’m writing.”

I’m pleased to tell you I kept my comments to 59 minutes, a record for me.  She e-mailed me some follow-up and some get-the-quote-right questions, and that’s on my to-do list for today.

If you’d like to answer some or all of them at your place, I know she’d be interested in your answers.  Leave the link in my combox and I’ll direct her to take a look.  Or just answer in the combox here, if you aren’t a blogger yourself.

***

1.      What is your opinion of the value of college in today’s society?

 

2.      Do you believe in the theory that everyone should have a college education?

 

3.      According to Louis Menand, author of “Live and Learn”, there are three theories of why people attend college. The first theory is that college is an intelligent test meaning people go to college to prove they are smart. The second theory people go to college is for the social benefits since college should theoretically be getting people ready to enter society. The third theory is that college is job training. How does this align with you own theory of the purpose of college? Do you believe in these some values?

 

4.      Growing up was your value of a college education influenced in any way? If so was it family? Teachers? Or some other form?

 

5.      In recent years the availability of a college education has changed and become more accessible to more people. For example there are online Universities, certain states offer scholarships to many high school graduates, and there is government funding to minorities. Do you agree or disagree with this?

 

6.      What will you teach your own kids about the value of a college education? What influences this?

 

***

Since she had 6 questions and our theme is 7 takes, how about you add a 7th: What else would you like to say?  FYI for those who haven’t heard, Erin at Bearing Blog has a whole series on this topic.

Thanks to our hostess, the always-inquisitive Jen Fulwiler.  Pray for Allie Hathaway, then visit Jen’s site, Scorpions Are Us ConversionDiary.com to see more quick takes.

 

Book Giveaway – Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy

 

Look what just came in the mail for me:

Two copies.  Free from Ave Maria, as a tie-in to Sarah’s virtual book tour, which will be stopping at this blog on Monday October 8th.  So how do you win a free copy?

Well, it doesn’t involve me mailing you things, that’s for sure.  I got a call last week from the Office of Family Life at the Diocese of Charleston, saying, “Would you please help serve cookies after the Mass for Expectant Parents on October 14th in Columbia, SC?”

And I said, “Yes, I’ll be happy to do that, but only if you agree to give these books away, because it is much easier for me to turn up for mass someplace than for me to go to the post office.”

We think there might be pregnant people coming to that mass.  Because the bishop will be giving the exceedingly cool Blessing for the Child in the Womb.  But you can come put your name in the hat for the drawing, even if your plan is to win it for some other person who is pregnant, or who hopes to be, or who just likes to read fantabulous devotionals for Catholic pregnant ladies.

Also there’ll be an NFP table.  And cookies.  Did I mention cookies?