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I really needed to write something today so this is what you’re stuck with. It’s pretty much just what I was thinking about five minutes before I decided to dust off the old Word Press and get to work.  As always, there is more over at Conversion Diary.

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Oh, the joys of reading the ruffled feather comboxes on blog posts that really, really shouldn’t cause a single feather to ruffle. I refer to the excellent article by Pia de Solenni, moral theologian and general Catholic bad mother. In the Samuel L. sense. She simply commented on Pope Francis’ remark regarding a need for a deepening of the Church’s theology of women. For those not of a Catholic persuasion, we tend to take a long, long time thinking about the nature of man from a theological, philosophical and social standpoint. Women, who tend to be shoddily treated worldwide, would benefit, even in a small way, from a better understanding of their nature in the light of Christ. Apparently, a lot of dudes don’t agree. My favorite comment was the guy who, while stating he isn’t a mysoginist but most women adhere to radical feminism which is a disgusting belief system, so he has a problem with those women. I think he’s single. 

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Simcha Fisher pointed out that, in the light of the combox fun-with-mysoginy, obviously we do need a better understanding of women in the Church. She goes out of her way to say that this in no way implies women should be priests or deacons, etc.  I think it’s sad that a Catholic mother of nine who writes for the National Catholic Register should have to wave her orthodoxy credentials around so the gripers understand she’s not Nancy Pelosi. Sigh.

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All this chat of feminism puts me in mind of Dorothy Sayers’ excellent essay Are Women Human? Short answer: yes.

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Of course, a lot of the gents kvetching won’t like Sayers, because she got above herself and got a degree from Oxford and wrote detective stories and was an Anglican. 

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Speaking of Anglicans, my husband was recently given the green light into the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. He was an Episcopalian choir boy before he converted, and, to his great joy, he’s now officially part of Benedict XVI’s foray into ecumenical awesomeness. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do yet. Do I stay put or join him? A friend lit a candle for my discernment in front of the relics of Edward the Confessor at this church. Please pray for me!

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In other news, I have abeen a bit down in the mouth about my faith lately. It comes and goes. I’ve been wanting to write a book about Proverbs 31 for the not so Proverbs 31 woman, since I’ve generally disliked most interpretations that make it to the bookshelves. I don’t know, though. It’s hard to get into the groove of writing about faith when you can’t even remember to pray during the day. I feel like I’d come off as a fake. I really want to write fiction, but I get stuck. Very, very stuck in the fear that no one will like it and it will never be published. So stuck that all my plots come to a screeching halt about a chapter in, if that far. I used to love making up stories and I never worried because I just liked writing. Now I want to be a writer but feel the need to make money (which I know most writer’s never do) and that has a dampening effect on my ability to focus. So, of your kindness, please pray for that, as well.

Bonus!

Philomena started kindergarten. I’m all ferklempt and I’ll write a little something about that, too. 

St. Benedict Joseph Labre, beggar, weird homeless guy.

Kat recently posted a very terrific article about  giving to the sketchy looking people who frequent the parking lots of churches. This spawned an interesting discussion on a listserve to which I belong. A lot of people said they are more comfortable offering food. That is wonderful, and we should all do it whenever we can.  Another person suggested mentioning Catholic Charities to the person who approaches you. The idea is that a charity has better resources and will better know what to do. I get that impulse, and certainly think trying to get the person help through a charity is a wonderful thing, but surely it’s not enough to just point?Someone else said a lot of homeless people choose to be homeless. That’s debatable, but if it’s true, think how bad things must be to make homelessness an attractive option. If someone “wants to be there” they aren’t stable enough to live a normal life. If that’s the case, chances are they’re not going to take you up on your one time suggestion of getting to a reputable charity. I suppose it would be different if you saw the same beggar every day, and developed a relationship with him and then began to encourage him to go to Catholic Charities. Or, if you’ve engaged that person in a conversation about his needs. But if it’s just the guy you run into at the bus stop, I really don’t think it’s enough.

What’s the worst that can happen when you give money to a homeless person? You’re out a few bucks. So that person might spend it on something unsavory. So what? People get paid money for proper jobs and spend the money on all sorts of unsavory things. We don’t blame their bosses.  It’s not really our business to know exactly how they intend to spend your gift of a dollar. Our business is to help, insofar as we can. Sometimes you need to just dig into your purse, hand them something and, here’s the kicker, not worry about what they are going to do with it. It’s not enabling. You don’t know this person. You can’t presume sin. You can only know their humanity, their diginity before the Lord. It’s not up to us to make a judgement call as to whether they are the “deserving” poor or the “underserving”. We’re all the undeserving poor. We just cover it up better with our homes, showers, lack of mental illness, supportive families and friends and church communities. We shouldn’t be like the  Peanuts cartoon when Linus and Charlie Brown see Snoopy in the cold snow, and all they do is say “be of good cheer.” Giving, especially when we’re uncomfortable, is a way God has of stretching us and forcing us to see the presence of Christ where we’d rather not look.

So much for the spiritual stuff. Practically, what does this mean? Particularly for women, who are a bit more vulnerable and need to be careful. For what it’s worth, my take is to ask myself if it’s more dangerous to give, or not to give, when I’m approached by a beggar. Do I feel physically threatened? If so, pass on by. If you’re a mother with her children, are you picking up any weird vibes towards the children? If so, keep moving. If you’re not feeling threatened, though, ask yourself if you’re in danger of closing off your heart? Do I say “he’ll only do such and such with this gift”? We need to remember that every single thing we do for the poor is a gift. We’re to expect nothing back. They’re  free to do with it what they will. That’s why JUST giving materially is never, ever enough. We have to give our prayer and our love with our material gift, in the hope that the recipient will have an encounter with transformative Love. The danger to us is that we become spiritual cheapskates. We let our idea of what is appropriate get in the way of the opportunity to give not just of our wealth but of ourselves.

When a beggar approaches you he is, in that moment,  Jesus for you. What an opportunity for the giver. As Kat says, it may be the only time that week you get to have your charity really tested. That, my friends, is a reward. Don’t turn it down.

I was recently informed that since I am a stay at home mother who, gasp, needs help from her hardworking husband from time to time with things like the lawn and laundry, I am lazy. According to the feminist narrative, since I do not work outside the home for money, my husband should really put his foot down with me. The assumption is that beyond feeding and dressing babies and cooking, I do nothing besides sit back and watch my cash cow of a husband provide for my every whim. And while my husband is very generous with his help and has been known to do late night cheeseburger runs, I know this is untrue. I know that I am making people, molding souls and ensuring that my girls have a happy place to call home. I know. Then why does it feel like such a slap in the face?

I suppose it’s because my interior monologue is riddled with self doubt about how well I’m doing as a Woman (TM). I don’t bring in any money, which we need. I can’t drive, though I am working on that. My house is not a showplace, but since I only have one small baby at home all day while big sister is at school, according to some it ought to be. The fact that it isn’t, and that I do feel badly that I hardly ever make myself write, despite the fact that I want to write, shakes me up when I’m confronted with worn out feminist claptrap.

Here’s the thing. I can talk  the talk about how wonderful at home motherhood is. And it is wonderful. When I really think about it, there is absolutely nothing I would rather do. It’s hard work, particularly emotionally, but most things worth doing are hard work. My angst (and it’s definitely angst, not to mention agita) comes from the omnipresent prevailing narrative that choosing to stay home with your kids is less than good. It’s a waste, a second best choice, a symptom of patriarchy, the only option for loser women who can’t cut it in the real world, or who are just plain lazy and selfish. I admit, I am often lazy and frequently selfish. But not with my children. I could get the house spotless, day in, day out, if I restricted their movements and ignored their pleas for attention. I could have the worlds most immaculately kept yard if I could only keep them in their room for at least three hours a day. In the long run, though, while I love having a clean house and pretty garden, I think I’d be more upset at having children who wondered why Mama was so mad at them so often, or who didn’t pick them up when they cried. I don’t like to sound like something off of Sanctimommy, but I do like to think that their emotional well being trumps some disgruntled feminist’s ideas about what is appropriate behavior for women.

What do you do when someone in your life gives you a hard time about what you do? Chime in!

Five Favorites

Thanks to Hallie for what is basically a writing prompt for me.It’s an unfocused kind of morning, as I’m nursing the baby and typing, which leads to an unfocused non-theme. Here is some stuff I really like. Enjoy.

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Tea. The fact that this is really the only thing I can think of to start off and it’s nine-thirty in the morning gives you an iea of how important this is to me. My favorite, specifically, is PG Tips, purchased at World Market for less than my local store charges. I am addicted to caffeine, but I find that tan-your-hide strength black tea works better and .doesn’t make me feel as edgy as coffee does. Nectar of the gods.

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The Chronicles of Narnia. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was the first big kid book I ever read. I was five. Philomena turned five in March, so we got her a copy. We finished it two nights ago and it was wonderful. Her reaction was a heavy, contented sigh and “Mommy, I miss Narnia.” Next up, Prince Caspian. Yes, I am one of those people who strongly believe the books should be read in the order of publication. If you want to argue, you may take it up with me in the combox. I will win.

~3~

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My new shampoo and conditioner. Nature’s Gate makes a beautiful henna shampoo. It lathers up beautifully without anything harsh and really does improve the shine in my hair. It’s also pretty cheap, even at my local organic hippy store. You know, the one where I buy my organic hippies.

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Rowan Pure Wool DK. Expensive and hard to find in the US. I took up crochet last year, got distracted, and took it up again this year. Right now I am making a pile of three inch multicolored stars that I’m going to string together into a bunting for the girl’s room. I have four blankets to make in the next year or so, and I have  to use up the yarn I have before I buy more. This is the wool I want.

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Ralph Vaughn William’s unearthly setting of Psalm 90.

 

Be sure to check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

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My sister got married! She is a beautiful, wonderful woman and she married a pretty great guy. They are adorable together and that makes me very happy. Her wedding was beautiful.  We danced a lot. People held my baby so I could party. Philomena was an unstoppable force, getting down with particular zest during Gangam Style.  I love weddings.

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I’ve lived in the deep South for a while now, and it has thinned my blood. The aforementioned wedding was during the weekend following the March for Life. Cold. Cold. Cold.  It snowed a lot.  I don’t own nearly enough sweaters. Also, standing outside in nineteen degree weather in a strapless dress is not fun.

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Don’t get the norovirus, or, as it is known by the fraternity of those who have had it, the East Coast Martian Stomach Plague. Especially when you are traveling with small children. It makes you violently ill, forcing you to stay the night at a North Carolinian motel and makes an eleven hour road trip last thirty six hours.

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If you foolishly succumb to the East Coast Martian Stomach Plague, you will lose the equivalent of a pug dog in weight. There are better ways to do this. You will also not be able to eat anything harder to digest than chicken broth for days, have a bizarre craving for cornbread and no matter how much Gatorade or water you drink, you will always be thirsty.

~5~

Also, if you succumb, make sure your spouse does not get the East Coast Martian Stomach Plague at the same time. This will result in untold misery your whole family can enjoy.

~6~

The high fevers induced by the plague will make you have bizarre dreams and your least favorite song stuck on a loop in your brain. I had something by Kings of Leon on repeat for twenty four hours. Think about that. Twenty four hours. Kings of Leon. Also, I had been reading my dear friend Colleen Swaim’s new book, Radiate: More Stories of Daring Teen Saints shortly before I became ill and was certain that St. Gabriel Possenti was in the motel room with me. Maybe he was. I definitely needed the prayers.

~7~

Colleen got the plague, too.  She was a great comfort to us when she called to let us know that she had lived, and we, in all probability, would to likewise. Many thanks to her and her family for their hospitality in Maryland.

La Vita Nuova

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After writing about the Pope after a long break from blogging, I realized I had not yet said anything about our baby! This little bundle of joy is Bernadette Rose. She was born at 1:50 in the morning on November 14 after a fairly easy labor. Of course, by fairly easy I mean it was still labor and therefore painful and hard. Compared to Philomena’s birth, however, it was a piece of cake. She was and is completely adorable, mellow and happy unless it’s the two hours before dinner and you want to put her down. She doesn’t like that at all.

We waited a long time for Bernadette, who is a miracle baby. She came when I had resigned myself to secondary infertility. After she was born Will and I discovered she really is a miracle.

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This is a picture of Bernadette’s umbilical cord. That is a true knot. It occurs in 1% of pregnancies and significantly increases the chance of what the nice scientists call “fetal demise”.  The attending midwife and the nurse had never seen one before and let me know how lucky we were. A week or so later we received a phone call from one of the nurses, who told us that h er heel prick blood test had come back abnormal and we’d need to take her in to get retested. Scary, no? My husband asked “abnormal how?” and she told him “cystic fibrosis”.

What?

In that instant I was deeply frightened.  Deeply.  I got a a glimpse into what an adverse diagnosis feels like. My family is absurdly healthy.  Being an imaginative sort, I’ve always wondered what getting that kind of news would feel like, particularly if it happened to a child of mine.  It turns out the feelings are hard to sum up. Fear, grief, a weird sort of battle-mentality, anger all surged around my mind at the same time. There is probably a word for it in German.  Life seemed very, very different, very suddenly.

We took her in and got the actual lab results. The test had been invalid, which of course makes me want to know why they said abnormal when they could have said invalid. The new nurse did the new test quickly and well and then showed us the actual lab report. No cystic fibrosis. Mom and Dad are not carriers, you see. Apparently these false positives happen all the time. All the time.

Needless to say, we wanted Bernadette baptized as soon as possible. With the close call from the true knot in utero and the cute little false positive, Will and I were in a bit of a hurry to get the original sin cleaned up.  Fortunately, Will had set up the baptism time when I was four months along.  She was baptized in the basement chapel of the Cathedral, and, though we are not traddies, we asked for the old rite. It’s beautiful, and very, very thorough. The only time she cried was during the main exorcism. They always cry during the main exorcism.

Pagan baby

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Almost there!

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As soon as the water stopped pouring Will and I both exhaled. What a profound relief it was, knowing we’d done what we needed to do. We had a little saint.

Christian baby

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Afterwards, instead of having a party, which would have required planning and consciousness, we repaired down the road to Clary’s, where we feasted on fine diner fare. It was good day. and the answer to many prayers.

The Pope and I

I think it’s best to resume blogging without any apologetic fanfare for my lengthy absence. It has been a wild several months. The muse fled early on and pregnancy, weddings, illnesses and school life has been rather too busy to spend time tip tapping away at my laptop.

So, the Pope is abdicating.

I heard this news very early in the morning the day it broke. Will was dutifully checking Facebook while I made Philomena’s breakfast. It went something like this:

Will: WHAT?!?!

Me: Uh oh, what happened?

Will: (choking up) The Pope resigned!

Me: “What? No he didn’t. It’s bad reporting.”

Turns out, it wasn’t  bad reporting.

Oh, I cried. I deeply love this Pope. I’m a card carrying member of the JPII generation, and I loved him, too. He was the Pope when Iwas baptized and when I came back into the Church. He introduced me to the wonderful world of phenomenology, and to the truth of what the Church actually is.  Thinking about it, he was the Pope of my baby Catholic period-full of enthusiasm but not a lot of sense. i could cheerfully get behind his thought explained to me by others and it was grand and beautiful and made me want to  be Catholic. Benedict XVI is different. He’s the Pope of my agonizingly slow maturation in faith and I feel closer to him.

His writing is so clear! It’s not written in philosopher jargon or theologianese. Spes Salvi completely altered my way of believing because he emphasized the present tense of living in hope. Salvation wasn’t something “out there”. Faith wasn’t another thing you tick off your to do list. It was, instead, a mode of being.  Growing up with a muddled view of these things because of the odd churches we attended, I had a very non-Catholic notion of faith and hope and charity. Papa Benedict fixed all of that.

I  got to see him at my alma mater, The Catholic University of America. It was a beautiful day, six weeks after Philomena’s birth. We were right up by the fencing next to the east entrance of the Shrine. A perfect spot. We saw him go in and we waited around for him to come out again. The excitement you could have cut with a knife. When he came out an got into the big car that wasn’t the Pope mobile, he saw Philomena as I stuck her up in the air, and he smiled and blessed her from the car. Two days later, thanks to the awesomeness of the two gents who designed the altar furnishings, I got to go to his mass at the baseball stadium. I was about six rows back, four rows in back of Placido Domingo.  Again, the joy was simply unbelievable. And the funny thing was, I expected to be a bit star struck during mass and I wasn’t at all. I figured I’d forget all about Jesus in the Eucharist and when the time came for the consecration I was kneeling on the ground and I actually forgot who was celebrating mass.

That is how Pope Benedict does things. He turns your focus back to the Lord.

I’m sad to see him go, but I’m so glad he’s been our Pope. The humility is a different kind of humility from Blessed John Paul, but it’s still humility.  John Paul stayed on, an actor with a beautiful voice, living with that great gift slipping away every day, his movements slowly turning to stone. That takes courage, and humility. And if you know an actor, you know how had that must have been. Benedict, amidst all sorts of misunderstanding about motives and accusations from the faithful about how awful it is to quit the papacy, and from the world about how there must be something wicked going on, steps own from an immensely powerful position because he, one of the most brilliant intellects in the world and certainly one of the holiest souls, thinks the Church will be better served by someone stronger. And if you know a brilliant intellectual, you know how much courage and humility it takes to admit weakness.

We love you, Papa! Viva!

PapaB

 

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