Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Another Example of Why Catholic VBS's Suck

This week, Alan is attending a Vacation Bible School (VBS) at a Greek Orthodox church in Milwaukee.

It's not that we were looking for a Greek Orthodox experience or anything. Instead, it's because the VBS is being held at the church where his former school rented space, and because of lingering contacts with the church, we found out about it.

Truth be told, I'm not gonna ignore a VBS that's 5 hours long everyday, including lunch.  Hello! Peace and quiet for 20 hours this week! Hurray!

Anyway, when Alan got home yesterday, he excitedly told us that "...the priest took us in the church and showed us how he cuts the bread for communion and the symbols for the trinity and the icons." My lowered voice response to this - spoken to my husband, not Alan - was "hell would need to freeze over for something like this to occur at a Catholic VBS."

Anyone reading this disagree?

I've blogged about VBS's before and I suppose this post is basically reiterating what I've previously said and observed, but why couldn't this happen at a Catholic VBS? Say, for a measly 15 minutes, a Catholic priest takes all the kids into the church and points out where the tabernacle is, talks about how Jesus lives there, explains a few basic mechanics in terms of how he reveres and operates the tabernacle....maybe show off the tabernacle light, etc.

What gets me is that every Catholic VBS Alan has ever attended (with the exception of Totus Tuus, which I'll explain more about below) is filled with skads of nominal Catholic children, most of whom attend (snort) Catholic parish schools, and most of whom will graduate from 8th grade not believing that the Eucharist is the real deal. And yet we wonder why people no longer know and believe in their faith?

What if every Catholic VBS took the time to spend just one half hour to review a few basic facts of our faith? What if - gasp! - an actual Catholic authority (like a priest) - rather than a 60-something DRE - spent time with and spoke to Catholic children?

I recall when I blogged about this before, I was impressed with a Protestant VBS Alan attended where the pastor showed up every day to pray with the kids and offer a five minute message. Some people responded in my commbox that priests today are too busy and overloaded with other responsibilities to take such time. I continue to maintain that's hogwash. If we don't trot priests out in front of kids as authority figures to listen to, esteem, and even love - well then, don't bitch about lack of Catholic formation, culture, and respect for the Catholic faith.

About Totus Tuus: It's an authentic Catholic "VBS" that travels around the U.S. (The link I've provided is to the Chicago program, but it gives a really great description. You can Google if the program comes to your neck of the woods. And if it doesn't - contact them to get them to come!) This program is also about 5 hours a day (applause!), but it includes daily mass, confession, and teaching from college age volunteers of the Christendom and Steubenville variety. Alan attended last year in the town we used to live in and we were happy with the results.

Unfortunately, some parents bitched (the parents who didn't understand what they were getting into) because it was too Catholic and GOD FORBID my kid had to go to mass everyday. So Totus Tuus is not coming to that town this year - the parish that hosted apparently felt parents' bitching was more important than the truth. But it's coming to two different parishes in Milwaukee this summer and Alan's all signed up for the end of this month.

I know many "authentic" Catholics believe VBS of any stripe is stupid and time wasted, but I will continue to disagree. Even the most basic "Jesus Loves Me" message has value, in my opinion, especially at the very young ages. The thing is, the people who complain about how un-Catholic and uninspired most VBS's are tend to be the homeschooling parents who would do the most good in volunteering to run a truly Catholic VBS. Well, unless the DRE has anything to say about it. And that is probably the underlying issue. Don't know how to get around that one.

So, kudos to the Greek Orthodox for being Greek Orthodox without shame. Catholic should take note.

Friday, May 16, 2014

City Slicker Catholicism

An unfortunate side effect of all the years I've been blogging as a Catholic - which is now almost six years - is that I run pretty much every Catholic experience and scenario I encounter through the lens of either the Catholic homeschoolers and/or the Traditional Catholics. I consider this state of affairs the equivalent to an unwanted illness, but at minimum this compulsion probably makes for good blogging.

For example, take this past weekend.

We were in northern Wisconsin on a little getaway, because the one-year anniversary of my Mom dying was basically Mother's Day weekend, and I just wanted to be somewhere else. Our location wasn't too far north, being about two and a half hours northwest of Milwaukee, but still in an area that people in Wisconsin would consider "up nort."

Naturally, being there for Mother's Day, we were faced with finding a mass to go to on Sunday. We've been in this location many times before, and quite frankly, the one Catholic church that represents the population of 6000 or so isn't our cup of tea. (I once blogged about the creepy decor at this church on the old blog.)  Plus their one Sunday mass time wasn't working out with being served breakfast at a B&B.

So this time, we tried something new and ventured about 20 miles further to a Catholic church in a town with a population of about 1900 people. Note that this church, too, had only one Sunday mass time. What we ended up with was an Indian priest (that we could understand fairly well) saying mass in a mid-1960's architectural church. Some elements of decor inside were traditional, but many more were modernist post-Vatican II. Before the mass readings, the kids were excused to go to kids' church, and we let Alan go because we were just visiting and he was driving us nuts anyway.

All good so far, right? I mean, at least in the sense of being an American Catholic parish.

But during the Eucharistic rite it happened. When the priest raised the consecrated host - and again when he raised the cup - he paused in silent reverence.....then started singing (with the whole congregation) a short sing-songy song about loving and adoring Jesus. Not once, but twice. Totally against any Church rubrics that exist, even while the words of the little song were beautiful and were completely intended to foster in people the idea that the Eucharistic Lord is present and to be adored. The little song went something like "Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I adore you. Lay my life before you. How I love you."

It's at these moments that my husband and I will shoot each other a knowing look born more of surprise than of judgement. These looks betray our uncomfortableness at not having expected what happened and being weirded out at not knowing what to do when faced with innovations.

But this time, yeah, even though I was supposed to be engrossed in the sacrifice of the mass, here's the judgemental thoughts that were rolling around in my head this past Sunday when I was exposed to the "singing consecration": Whatcha gonna do about this liturgical weirdness, Traditional and conservative Catholics? Where ya gonna go? Where ya gonna hide? How far are you gonna drive to find a reverent mass (or Latin Mass) now, given that you're three to four hours from any major city that might have such a mass to go to?

Which led me to think that the ability to find and attend a "mass of your choice" is a city problem. Uber-reverent and Latin masses are for city slickers, because overall, it's only in large metropolitan areas where they can be found. Which also makes it......elitist.

Wait. Where have I heard that before? This is not the first time I've had similar thoughts.

You know, for every Catholic who lives in the cities and suburbs, there's another who lives out in bumblef*ck. And those folks pretty much have no choice or slim pickings about where they're gonna go to mass. It's usually "this place" or the "place a half hour or 45 minutes away." That's it!

What if your permanent Sunday mass choice was wreckovation with liturgical abuse -or- horrendous architecture with liturgical innovation? Or the priest so uninspired that his sermons make you nod off? Think about that. Because that's what many, many Catholics face as their day-to-day reality. And yet they survive, persist, and even thrive. Why is that?

Because they have learned to work through and accept the reality that the Catholic Church is the Catholic Church is the Catholic Church no matter what the surroundings. And that, my friends, is something I totally admire. Faith in the Catholic Church because, well, that's what you do. Because if they didn't, then they'd be shit out of luck. (Not to mention being in a state of mortal sin.)

Where we used to live, at one point, we had eight parishes to choose from. If we expanded our radius another 15 minutes, then we probably had another half dozen to add to the mix. And yet we were often unsatisfied and considered driving into Milwaukee County for 45+ minutes (and many times did) to go to a mass that was more to our liking. Boy do I feel like an asshole now that I think about it.

We finally live in Milwaukee County now and probably have 75+ parishes from which to choose, which means in essence, hundreds of masses we can pick over to personally fit our schedule. And yet, the homeschoolers in our area, well, over 60% of them all attend ONE parish because they refuse to attend anywhere else....nothing is good enough or holy enough or proper enough for them. Some of them drive an hour or more to go to this place, even while they have dozens of parishes around them to consider.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a "conservative" Catholic (whatever that means) and I'm not for liturgical abuse or innovation. I have a higher tolerance for it than other conservative Catholics, true. But overall, I'm not staying long at a parish that's all funked-out. Which is why we've yet to find and join a church in Milwaukee County. Believe me, there's been LOTS of interesting stuff we've experienced in our search -which I may or may not blog about in the future - but even then, it hasn't occurred to us to drive 45 minutes or an hour away to pick a parish. We just wouldn't do that. Not only is it a massive inconvenience, but the concept of driving that far or long for mass/parish participation pretty much smashes the concept of local community.

After the "interesting" mass we attended in this small northern Wisconsin town, I asked my husband: "If we lived here, which of the two churches would we pick to attend?" He was hard-pressed to give an answer and so was I. Ultimately, it would probably come down to the professed beliefs of the priest and the kinds of people who attended the church. Yet the more I thought about it, I recognized that the hard-pressed feeling had more to do with facing the reality of having TWO CHOICES for parish life instead of dozens upon dozens. I can't even imagine what it would be like to have to deal with such a situation.

Which brings me around to something that irritates the crap out of me. All these Latin Mass types on the internet whining and crying (or alternately bragging - all depends on the personality and the point they're trying to get across) about how they drive one, two, three hours just to go to a Latin mass. The expected response is to be awed at how utterly devoted they are to their Catholic faith because of the sacrifice they're making.

What about the sacrifice being made down the street at their local parish? You know, the one up on the altar?

I feel the same way about the local homeschooling community's "unofficial" endorsement of ONE parish and one parish only as the only legitimate novus ordo parish to consider in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. Which I find hilarious since 90% of them live out in the suburbs, but this church is located in the Mexican ghetto of Milwaukee. (Disclosure: I volunteer at the food pantry at this parish because I'm currently interested in serving and seeing the faces of people who are legitimately need to see the face of Christ in servivce, but I am soooo not a member.) So, yeah, spend an hour driving in with your long skirts and chapel veils and then take off for the rest of the week. Nice! (If anyone reading this is actually part of the local homeschooling community and attends this parish, sorry, but this is how I really feel. Sue me. Ostracize me. Whatever.)

I'm up on my soapbox here and I know it. So, while I'm up here I'd like to remind everyone to consider what a BLESSING it is to have mass at all. I recently read the story of Father Joseph Kentenich's (Schoenstatt Movement) time in the Dauchau concentration camp during World War II. At various times, getting caught saying mass was punishable by death. Sometimes mass was said with smuggled wine in only a whisper with barbed wire, rats, and brick walls as the surrounding environment, and yet - that was good enough!

I am a City Slicker Catholic because I have too many choices, which makes me opinionated and entitled, which makes me an elitist. I sincerely believe this to be true. Did you hear me? I AM AN ELITIST. But maybe that's a bad thing? I'm considering that it might be!

What about you? Are you practicing City Slicker Catholicism? Do you feel you're entitled to the myriad of choices you have? Or are you stuck out somewhere where you're feeling lucky to have a parish nearby at all?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Lengths to Which Some Skirts Will Go.....And While We're At It....

Before I start my rant, let me explain a few things:

-I collect vintage clothing - specifically from the 1940's to 1960's period. I especially like dresses from this period, which is a good thing, given that dresses were the main staple of women during this range of years, making them the most available item to find.

-I sell vintage clothing on Ebay and have for years. Again, specifically from the 1940's to 1960's period. In order to successfully sell these items, I have to know something about what I'm selling. Proper identification of the decade the clothing originates from and all that.

-I own and have read numerous books about vintage clothing, style, and design.

-I make it a point to see movies that are "period" pieces. You know, those movies where entire research teams painstakingly develop costumes and sets that are exact to the years portrayed in the movie. Ditto for period TV shows, say for example, Mad Men.

-I religiously read Reminisce Magazine for numerous years now. That's the magazine that publishes people's original photographs and stories from the 1900's through the 1970's. Most of the stories are from the 1940's and 1950's.

-I am our family's unofficial genealogist and historian. Which means that all antique and vintage photographs end up in my care. Like hundreds of them, spanning from the middle 1800's to the 1980's. I look at and study them all.

Why am I explaining all this? Here's why:

To postulate the very obvious fact that American and western European women in the 1930's through to the present day (and in some instances, including the late 1920's) never, ever wore skirts or dresses that went to their ankles! (Noted exceptions made for 1950's ball/ballerina skirts and 1970's prom/formal dresses, which were not considered every-day wear anyway. Also hippie clothing, which I assume we'll just ignore.)

What precipitated this bold statement? The local Catholic homeschool conference I stopped in to last week. Yes, here we go. Ready?

So, OK, I was only there for an hour. Not exactly a scientific sample, I admit. My short visit was due to the rather lacking quality of the conference. (Note to the IHM Catholic Homeschool Conference people - it was TERRIBLE! Ten booths of vendors in a dark dingy auditorium does not a conference make. Especially when three or so of the vendors are poor, pitiful souls trying to sell their own homemade curriculum. But I digress.)

Anyway, of the women and teenagers I saw there, about 1/2 were wearing skirts. Impressive to see the other half wearing pants! I was encouraged! But those wearing skirts?

Every. single. one. ankle. length. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Even my husband noticed, which is unusual for him, because he hardly notices what women are wearing at all.

Let's face it: If you questioned these women as to why they're wearing what they are, one of the oft-cited reasons would be that they are dressing more in line with an older time when woman were dressed more modestly than today. OK, fine, I'll accept that reasoning. Except in those older times, women weren't wearing drippy, droopy, long skirts down to their ankles. (Oops, sorry, yes they were - about 100 years and more ago.)

My point is this: Do these women actually KNOW how women dressed 40, 50 or 60 years ago? If they answer, "Yes! Modestly!," they would be correct. But that's only half the answer. The other half of the answer they are making up and imagining.

I've said it before and I'll say it again (and will probably say it again and again and again): The women who insist on LONG, modest skirts as the Catholic Uniform of Holy Correctness have taken their cues from Protestants, specifically puritanical, Calvinistic Protestants. Which is understandable, given that for so many decades conservative Catholics had no decent leadership or guidance to show the way to live a holy life. So they looked around and saw conservative Protestants engaging in this long skirt practice, amongst other practices also copied, and decided it was better. Except no where in Catholic teaching does it dictate to dress like this.

Wake up, ladies! The only women back in the good old days of the 1940's to the 1960's who were wearing long skirts were ancient grandmothers whose birth date started with the number 18! Why is this important to point out? Because God didn't put you on this earth to live in the past! If you're trying to emulate the 1800's prairie lifestyle or the 1910 fashion ethic, something is very, very wrong.

I have no beef if you want to wear a skirt all the time, whether it's for modesty or because it makes you feel feminine or because you think guys aren't looking at your butt because you're in a skirt. (Actually, they ARE looking at your butt, long or short skirt, but that's a different blog post). If long skirts peel your banana, fine with me. But I do have an issue when ALL OF YOU are wearing what amounts to a UNIFORM. Isn't there a wild-and-crazy personality out there that says, "I'm gonna be daring and wear a skirt that goes to my knees!"?

And another thing. If you're gonna stick with the long skirt schtick, why do you insist on just throwing a plain old t-shirt with it, along with hippie sandals, flip-flops, or athletic shoes? I cannot think of a more UNfeminine look at all, and yet you all claim you're dressing feminine and teaching your daughters the same. I know I'm gonna ruffle some feathers here when I say this, but I'm gonna be me and just throw it out there: You don't look feminine or attractive at all. Rather, you look like someone who just rolled out of bed and couldn't find the right top or shoes to go with your skirt, so you just put on whatever you could find lying around. (Note for those who like and understand the hippie/peasant look: You seem to get it right with the long skirts.)

This is not t o say I advocate women dressing like ho's, sex goddesses, or in an immodest manner. Hardly. If those new to my blog think that's what I stand for - wrong-o! What I stand for is dressing like it's 2014, in a relevant way that really shines to others. I say that a Catholic testimony is only relevant if the people giving the testimony appear to be, well, relevant. Why would I listen to a homeschool mother wearing a frumpy jean skirt down to her ankles tell me about why contraception is wrong? Nope, not gonna be moved. 

And while we're at it.....

I subscribe to a few Facebook homeschooling groups. Some are local, some are national with even international members. I'd like to note that I subscribe to learn about homeschooling, not to engage in moralistic discussions, but I've figured out that's too much to ask and those discussions are the price to pay in order to also get commentary on the pros/cons of certain books and curriculum.

As ALWAYS, there has to be ongoing modesty discussions ala, "Help! I don't know what kind of swimming suit to buy for my five-year-old daughter! What did you buy?" 


Here's an idea, lady: Use your God-given brain to think it through and figure it out yourself, like generations of women before you have. After that, try to have some modicum of self-esteem and purpose and stick with your decision. Stop worrying about whether or not other conservative Catholics will judge you for putting a modest two-piece tankini on your kid or letting your son swim without a swim shirt. Live your life in the freedom God gave you. Don't turn your kids into body-hating head cases at the age of innocence believing that you're instilling in them all-important concepts of modesty. BACKFIRE ALERT!!!! 

Additionally, believe in yourself enough that when the time is right - and you'll know when that time comes - that you'll have the ability and resources to have discussions with your kids about reasonable, rather than oppressive ideas about modesty and clothing selections. Alongside discussions about peer pressure and resisting the urge to do what everyone else is doing just to fit in. (Which is sort of ironic, given that so many conservative Catholics just do what all the other conservative Catholics do. I often secretly laugh to myself about this sort of thinking/behavior. Thinking they're all counter-culture, and yet they're just sheep in a different pasture.) 

It's not that difficult, people! I swear that the internet has made people into insecure idiots. Way too many discussions out there about morals and conservative living, which confuses people or puts ideas in their heads with no authoritative basis of need-to-do.

There are people who will walk away from this blog post thinking I'm a judgemental bitch. So be it. There are some who will point out that I've only written this to justify my own discomfort at not fitting in with the local conservative Catholics, and that too would be partially true. But still, I think my observations need to be aired and discussed in terms of my ultimate, larger point, which is: Are you making certain decisions about how you dress as a Catholic woman on your own, free from undue influence by those around you or not?

Like so many other things I see Catholics around me doing, I don't "get it" and swear I didn't get the memo.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pope Francis.....Heavy Sigh

UPDATE: I'm sort of regretting writing this because I don't want to get lumped in with the wackos and crazies. But still, I want to emphasize that I don't have a feeling of peace about Pope Francis, as much as I like him and as much as I like him more than any other Pope since I've been born. The bottom line, as I mentioned in one of the comments on this thread, is that it's fatiguing to have to deal with the reality that no matter what Pope Francis says, it ends up being that damage control on the side of liberals has to occur and/or damage control on the side of uber-conservatives has to occur. It just seems that everything he says is couched in controversy and why should it be that way? Where is the peace in confident leadership?

Also, I need to emphasize that if you haven't read Steve Skojec's piece that I link to, you may be confused by parts of my below insecure rant, especially concerning annulment and divorce. 

Finally, for the record, as predicted, prominent Catholic bloggers such as Mark Shea and Simcha Fisher are saying to ignore the news story which prompted my rant. Deep down I know that's sage advice. However, I continue to stand by my line of questioning, which is: When will we NOT be discussing what Pope Francis really said and meant so that we can actually learn from and appreciate what he is trying to teach us? I LIKE Pope Francis! I want to respect him too!

I'm conflicted.

Really conflicted.

On the one hand, I love the spirit and mercy of Pope Francis. He is saying things and doing things that need to be said. He really is a breath of fresh air; he is acting like Christ and not a pharisee.

But - and I hate to say it - I agree with the assessments that claim he is either a complete dumb ass when it comes to media, or he is purposely letting the media run wild with his comments because, well, he really does want to change the Church in ways that are revolutionary (or heretical, depending on your point of view.)

It seems that for every good thing I hear him say - things I LOVE and agree with - there is another that just makes me shake my head and wonder what the heck is going on in the Pope Department.

I am especially grieved by my confusion and confliction because I will be travelling to Rome in the fall and I have a guaranteed audience with Pope Francis. I'd like to feel more wholeheartedly excited about it.

I've been trying for awhile not to have a knee-jerk reaction to Pope Francis. In fact, when he was first elected, I was mad as hell at the naysayers who immediately crowned him Heretic #1. Additionally, I have occasionally peeked at Father Z's blog and laughed my ass off at his efforts to back peddle while he tries to cover for Francis.....reading Benedict through Francis? Or is it reading Francis through Benedict? Either way - HILARIOUS! (Seriously, whatever it is that Father Z is doing with his life and ministry, which is still nebulously unclear to me, it must be that he "needs" to be seen by the higher-ups as someone consistently in support of the sitting Pontiff, because come on, given his Traditional Catholic schtick, I've gotta believe that deep down he's more than a little concerned.)

Now, I'm gonna come clean about something. As some of you know, I like love Mark Shea's writings. I pretty much agree with everything he postulates about politics, culture, and religion, with the exception of his pro-vaccination stance. I have watched him try to take down the anti-Francis crowd more than once and have agreed with his tactics and arguments. For example, yesterday his Facebook page proudly proclaimed that if you think the canonization of JPII and John 23 constitutes a crisis in the Church, well then, you're a lunatic.


But recently, Shea posted a link to a very long rant/ramble/argument by a Catholic blogger whose name I hadn't seen in years. According to Shea, the rant was further proof of Francis Hate and he wanted to highlight just how cynical and delusioned the hate was. Because I was more than a little surprised to see the name of this blogger - who used to be on my blog roll when I blogged as Cheeky Pink Girl (back when *I* was personally delusioned by the belief that to be a *good* Catholic, one had to be a judgemental, pharisaical jackass) - I clicked on the link out of sheer curiosity to find out what had happened to this guy.

Well, I took the time to read what Steve Skojec wrote. And I have to say, for the most part I didn't disagree with him. (For the record, it is a really long read, but I'd appreciate it if someone - anyone - would click over there, read it, and comment.) Now, let me be clear: The answer to every crisis in our modern Catholic Church IS NOT the Latin Mass. I need to say this up-front, because of course, rants like Skojec's automatically point to the Latin Mass and I don't want anyone to think THAT'S the part I agreed with. NOT! And also, there were a few spots where Skojec's math just wasn't adding up, jumping from point A to point K in a single leap.

The part I agreed with is the part about the Eucharist being potentially demeaned and devalued due to actions that appear to be merciful, but that are really just putting a stamp of approval on mortal sin. And the takeaway being that Pope Francis is more than likely a big fan of pastoral guidance/solutions, and that actions/statements by Francis more than lend themselves to the belief that he might be, shall we say, a rather enthusiastic supporter of allowing divorced and remarried (sans annulment) Catholics back into the communion line.

Note that many of Skojec's allegations amount to nothing more than conjecture and attempts at mind-reading. Interesting to ponder? Yes. Something to think about more when I had the time and certainly nothing to blog about. I was gonna shut up about all of this, thinking and believing what all of us good neo-Caths are supposed to believe, which is that the media has it all wrong - they've misinterpreted Francis - because he has never officially said anything that goes against Canon law or the Magisterium, etc. It's just those stupid liberal newspapers and TV stations that have purposely twisted what Francis has said to fit their own agendas, right? Case in point: Francis' comments about homosexuality, in which he never once said that the Catholic Church believes homosexual behavior is OK.

But then today, this: Pope Stirs Communion Debate With Call to Woman 

Now, OK, I know it's mostly a fact that the media gets it wrong about the Catholic Church about 100% of the time, and why should this time be any different? I'll concede that observation as pretty much true. And yet, and yet.....I don't know how many more times I can see "untrue" stories like this in the media and not have it affect me and wonder to myself and have to repeatedly think about my defense of Catholic teaching the next time I get confronted about it.

See, I care about the Eucharist. I mean, why be Catholic if you don't believe it's the real deal? And if you believe it's for real, why wouldn't you be upset about even the HINT of a relaxing of requirements in order to receive our Lord in a state of grace?

I think the state of marriage and divorce in this country is a total crisis. Most everyone who got married in the Church from the 1960's onward was ill-prepared and was subjected to crappy catechesis to boot. So, yeah, I understand that there are legions of divorced and remarried Catholics who want another go of it with their Catholic faith and I think they deserve that chance. My answer is the Church's answer but with a BUT: Annulment, but streamlined annulments that don't take three or five years or cost $1000.

I stand opposed to those trads who think annulments are given out like candy because I think they should be given out like candy, given what's all went down in the Church in the last 50 years. A two-pronged approach on this is best: Married before the year 2015? Hand out annulments like candy! Married after 2015? Go back to the old way of dealing with annulments (and I mean the old way) because we should've figured out by now that if you want people to understand marriage is a sacrament, you need to properly teach them that, and let's start doing that NOW. No excuses anymore. Make them sign in blood that they understand what they're getting into, I don't care what you have to do, but just make sure to do it because somehow, someway, restoration of an understanding of what marriage is and isn't has got to happen or marriage just becomes a joke. No one will bother to get married anymore. Hello Europe!

If the Church allows divorced and re-married Catholics back to communion, guess who's next in the communion line, people? No, it won't be murderers or child molesters. Rather, it'll be practicing homosexuals. And homosexuals who claim to be married. And homosexuals who have manufactured children for their own vanity and will whine that we're excluding a family from the sacraments.That's who.

Don't accuse me of picking on homosexuals or singling them out. Instead, I am pointing out the obvious in that if you relax the standards of mortal sin for one kind of couple (the divorced and re-married with no annulment type), you will automatically open the door for another kind of "couple," which is the homosexual type, which is almost always the type engaging in mortal sin. And that's because (can you hear the bad catechesis sirens of the 1960's-1980's going off?) we are living in a time when NO ONE actually knows what marriage is or what it's for anymore. No one seems to care, either, given that most average Catholics have long accepted that gay marriage is no different than their own marriages. End result: One kind of married couple in mortal sin will be seen as the same and equal to another kind of "married" couple in mortal sin. Gather us in, indeed!

What does any of this have to do with Pope Francis? Maybe nothing. Maybe *I'm* the one jumping the gun here and there is no connection. Yet, I think it's pretty darn interesting that Steve Skojec, a professed traditionalist, predicts that the Church will split over admitting divorced and remarried Catholics back to communion and then not two weeks later I read a news story, which must have a liberal slant, saying Pope Francis told someone to do exactly that. 

Again, I TOTALLY LIKE POPE FRANCIS! I haven't really been "into" any Pope until him, which is why - again - it really upsets me that the one Pope I like and really want to love is the one that's starting to piss me off.

Unlike Shea, I do believe that all these media stories ARE adding up to something going on.

I sense that sooner or later, something - and I don't know what, maybe it won't be the divorced Catholics thing, maybe it will be something else - something is going to change at Francis' hand and it's gonna be big and it's gonna rock our faith. Would I go so far as to call it something "wicked" the way Steve Skojec did? Probably not. But I think it will be something that's gonna turn us on our heads.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope I'm a paranoid lunatic like Mark Shea is probably thinking I am after he's done reading this.

Or maybe it will be something so good and merciful and loving that it will rock all our worlds. That would be something, wouldn't it?

My husband, good and wise one that he is, says he will quietly wait and make no rash judgements and he will pray and hope and have nothing but goodwill for our current Pope. I mostly agree with him on this approach.

But I'm still keeping one eye open.

Heavy sigh. Insecure rant over for now.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Did You Break Up With Catholicism? Good! Now Get Over It!

Wanna know something that irritates me?

A friend in my Facebook feed.

He likes to post anti-Catholic stuff. Anything goes, but his pet issue is all the billions (laugh, snort) in gold, gemstones, and art masters held by the Vatican that could be sold to feed the poor and give shelter to the homeless. Other popular topics "shared" in a spirit of Facebook friendship include how wrong confession is, how contradictory the Pope is, how Mary is the height of idolatry, and of course, the never-ending stream of pedophile priests. Pretty much he'll post anything that demonstrates how thoroughly CHRISTIAN he is, with CHRISTIAN being defined as NOT Catholic.

I've been annoyed by this public line of thought from him for a long time. I tolerate it. I shut my mouth. Not once have I ever commented on any of this. (I know! Can you believe it?)

But then he posted something that made my mouth drop to the floor: He gave a public testimony about how he left Catholicism some 25 years ago.

Well, duh. I should have been on top of that one from the beginning. I feel like a fool for not catching it. The biggest Catholic bashers are almost always ex-Catholics. Especially ones who had no general understanding of what Catholicism is to begin with.

So here's what I'd like to say to him: If you broke up with your girlfriend 25 some years ago, how come you keep talking about her all the time? And do you think about your ex every time you have sex with your wife?

I feel the same about ex-Jehovah's Witnesses, ex-Mormons, ex-Christians, ex-Wiccan, and pretty much ex-anything. Left your birth religion? Left the spirituality of your youthfully ignorant choice? Great. But then shut the hell up, because if you keep talking about it, keep ripping on it, keep harping on it - well it sort of looks like you have unresolved issues and guilt and maybe - just maybe - might be trying reeeeeeaallly hard to justify your actions.

Am I wrong about this? I mean, come on, when you talk just as much about how wrong Catholicism is as you do about how right your particular brand of Protestantism or atheism is, I'm not exactly convinced of your convictions.

I don't begrudge anyone getting their 15 minutes of fame concerning their religious break-up. If you're really articulate about it, I'm cool with a blog post. Maybe even a book (but it'd better be damn good, because leaving one religion for another one doesn't make you unique or anything, especially if you were a contracepting, selfish, wine-soaked atheist, since those are a dime a dozen.) I'll even give you a pass for a quarterly "ANTI" Facebook post on the religion of your choice/scorn.

But really, if you've moved on, then please, do it. Move on. Get over it.

Either that or admit that some, probably most religious switcheroo decisions are emotional and knee-jerk and you end up back-pedaling for years as you try to figure it all out. That, my friends, is the real Facebook story that should get shared: Feel good now, rationalize later.

In the meantime, let me know when you find all those billions. Just remember that the Catholic Church is the largest and most generous charity in the world.

But, hey, why mess with facts when you're too busy trying to soothe your own conscience?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Random Thoughts on Homeschooling (aka Why We're Homeschooling)

I know there are long-time readers of my blogs that are probably wondering if I am on drugs because of the shocking and surprising news that we chose to homeschool our only child this year.

I also know there are other long-time readers of my blogs who are smugly smiling to themselves, thinking, "I knew it would end up like this. She was headed for homeschooling from the very first instance when she started ripping on homeschoolers."

And both sentiments would be correct.

So, yeah, we're eight months into homeschooling first grade. Are we straight-up on-track? Of course not. See previous post and consider if you would be right where you needed to be if you had the kind of past year we have lived through. Nonetheless, we persist and press onward. Besides, I don't know a single homeschooler who is totally on-track. Wait, yes I do. Those two people totally annoy me.

In a nutshell: It's a mega-trial that I don't mind and sometimes actually enjoy. I'm assuming this is normal.

I have times when I feel super-excited about homeschooling, but just because I said that, don't look for me to get all happy-clappy about it like some blogs out there; for example, the ones that cleverly don't ever show you the ugly side of life, but then offer commentary getting all upset that people might actually gasp! horror! find something critical to say about your very public outlay. (OK, she has really great ideas and I've used her book lists more than once. But for God's sake, please stop making it look so easy and perfect; it's really off-putting to the rest of us. Oh, and stop making apologies for the 0.0000001% of photos in which your daughters are wearing pants because the modesty squad doesn't care and neither does God.)

Am I being mean? Perhaps. But my thoughts about that homeschooling blog somewhat echo the thoughts I have whenever I am at a homeschool event, which is, thankfully, not that often. I made a personal executive decision when we switched to homeschooling that I would not purposely torture myself with the sorts of homeschooling activities and get-togethers that I know will automatically drive me nuts.

That being said, every other Monday I bring Alan to homeschool gym class and every other Monday I look around and wonder lots of things, like:

-Do I belong here, really?
-Seriously? You're wearing that? Have you looked at a calendar? It's 2014, not 1992.
-Note to self: Alan will never come here in mis-matched, dirty clothes. (Although I admit I don't know what it's like to get seven kids out the door, so don't accuse me of being heartless; I acknowledge there are things I can't possibly understand.)
-Wow, Char, are you like the biggest bitch ever for thinking these thoughts?
-Would anyone here talk to me if they knew we were family singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Edge of Glory" on the drive over?

So, OK, the good news about homeschool gym is that other parents - who also happen to be friends - who were also at Alan's school (the one that closed) - are also in attendance. Which means I have people to talk to who I think are "normal," and thus, I don't feel alone and deserted in a sea of modest piousness. I've decided that these folks, including myself, represent "hope" in homeschooling - a second or third generation of homeschooling parents who have moved beyond the Catholic Ghetto mindset. At least that's what I'm betting on.

So, anyway, why did we do it?

A big part of it was Common Core. The Milwaukee Archdiocese has all but officially adopted Common Core and it's bullshit and I don't mind saying so in such harsh language. The more I read about it the more outraged I become at the idiocracy that is our government and educators - and sadly - many, many bishops and archbishops. When Alan's school closed we were left with, basically, two (2) parish schools in the entire archdiocese that we found acceptable and those two schools, while not having completely jumped on-board with Common Core from the onset, made it clear that they couldn't fight it off forever. Our attitude about this was: Wow! We can pay X amount of tuition to get Common Core at the Catholic school alongside watered down Catholicism or we can pay nothing and get Common Core at the public school. Gee, what a difficult decision! Not.

The next deciding factor was that the remaining independent, authentic Catholic schools in the Milwaukee area represented a number of issues for us. The one that we were seriously considering suddenly experienced a problematic situation that made us uncomfortable, alongside never really fully cutting ties with its Legionaries of Christ/Regnum Christi beginnings. The other school - also problematic in its administration and also way too far to drive out to.

Oh wait. There is a third school. Everyone who attends there goes to the Latin mass or is SSPX. Yeah, I don't think so.

There was also the reality that when Alan would walk into any first grade classroom, public or parochial, he would automatically be ahead of the curve. Sounds like a good thing, right?  My husband and I didn't think so because our own personal experience was that teachers typically teach to the middle. So if you're high-functioning, you tend to get ignored. And we believe that most kids, not knowing any better in a group setting with other kids, will want to go with the herd - performing at a basic, in-the-middle level. We didn't want Alan to lose the great head start he had when he left kindergarten; a kindergarten that had completed Saxon Math Grade 1 and that had him reading at Grade 2 level.

The nail in the coffin was what I experienced and learned last year when Alan attended kindergarten at his now former school. For six months I volunteered to work on re-documenting the school's entire K-8 curriculum, down to each individual textbook, publisher, novel, and workbook. That process opened my eyes to the true nature of a classical, traditional curriculum, especially and including the Catholic part. Once I saw it and started thinking about it, there was no turning back. Alan had been fed caviar, if you will, and there was no way I was going to feed him junk and crap after that.

In many ways, I feel our decision to homeschool smacks of elitism and I occasionally worry about that. Thing is - like all of us, like all of you reading this - we only have one chance with our kids. I'm just not willing to sacrifice Alan as a Common Core guinea pig, even while I feel bad that others have no choice in the matter. Believe me, I have wonderful parent friends who post on Facebook about the horrors of Common Core math assignments that are coming home, but they just don't have the resources or options to do anything about it. I feel for them, but in the end analysis, it doesn't do me any personal good to worry if I'm coming off as elitist to them simply because we decided to get out of the fray.

There are many days where I deeply, deeply regret the decision to homeschool and it has everything to do with the fact that Alan is an only child and nothing to do with academics. Anyone who understands homeschooling and has been around homeschooled children knows that 90% of the time, the anti-homeschool arguments about the kids not being properly socialized are just bunk. However, in our case, it is my number one worry, given that Alan is alone with us almost 100% of the time and he's very aware of it and very lonely. Some days his behavior screams "I need to be with other kids!" and I can't disagree with him. But when I think it through to its logical conclusion, sending him to a school (of any kind) so that he can have approximately 45 to 60 minutes of playtime with other kids in the form of recess seems to miss the mark entirely. More seasoned homeschool mothers have told me it will get easier when Alan is old enough to participate in more activities. Sometimes I think that day can't come soon enough, and then other times I think such advice translates into my endlessly carting him around everywhere and that's something I can wait on.

Right now Alan goes to Tae-Kwon-Do twice a week, and Cub Scouts is on the agenda for next fall. Will hopefully get piano lessons in there sometime soon. We fit in a few "playdates" (gag, I hate that term) with kids from his old school when it works out for everyone involved. Other than that, it's us and Sponge Bob.

When our life is more settled - OK, get ready for this - I want to get to the point where we could go to a morning mass maybe once a week. This possibility has had to cook and evolve for a long time, given that I still cringe at internet goody-goody homeschoolers who gush all over about how they get to mass EVERY DAY! and if you're not doing the same, well then, you're doing something wrong. Turning off what other homeschoolers do, say, and opine is a big struggle for me.

Like when we recently tried - yet again - going to mass at the parish where more than 50% of Milwaukee area Catholic homeschoolers all congregate. Trust me, I'm gonna blog about that someday. Let's just say I walked out - yet again - wondering if I had landed on a foreign planet? Which makes me feel deeply insecure that not only do I decidedly not "fit in" with the rest of these people, but also makes me wonder why I'm so different from them, yet we've all made the same decision to homeschool and we all care deeply about our shared Catholic faith? AGAIN I had to wonder if I had missed the frumpy modesty memo. AGAIN I had to wonder if I had missed the missive on the absolute necessity of Latin chant and reciting the St. Michael prayer immediately at the close of mass. (Hey, I'm not saying these things are bad. Hardly. What I'm questioning is why all these folks seem to "get it" and I don't.)

So like most everything else in my life, homeschooling thus far is turning out to be another situation where I'm a loner. Will it stay that way?  Probably, since when people ask me what I really think, I respond with what I really think, and then they don't usually have much interest in me. I recently found this to be true when I was asked by more than one person why I don't go to that parish where all the other homeschoolers go? I gather answers that include descriptions like "uber-pious" don't sit well with others. Ha! Ha? It doesn't matter, really - I've never let other people tell me what to do. Yet every so often my inner humanity cries out to be accepted and understood.

I find planning out curriculum easy, interesting, and something I care deeply about. I have loosely stuck with what the first grade curriculum would have been at Alan's former school. But various Facebook Catholic homeschool discussion groups I belong to have intrigued me in terms of exploring more curriculum options. I'm !gag! excited about an upcoming Catholic homeschool conference, though I admit I could care less about the speakers and just want to go so as to examine curriculum and shop. I was recently in a used book store and got all ecstatic about a large selection of kids' dictionaries and it was at that moment that I knew homeschooling may be for me.

But whether it's really for Alan, I don't know.

He is academically way, way beyond where he needs to be. Example - right now he's a first grader reading at a third grade level. We recently caught him in bed reading FOR HIMSELF the first book in the Narnia series! We were bowled over. But......the socialization thing. He is still so much a young, immature six-year-old boy. One minute he's asking us deep, beyond-his-age questions and the next he's talking baby talk and asking me to play mama/baby cat with him.

And also - I hope someone can talk me through this - I'm really excited to be teaching him about his authentic Catholic faith, but feel I am a lousy example, and thus failing at it. You know, the whole do what I say and not what I do thing. I mean, Lent around here is a joke, as usual. My husband routinely tells me to chill out and just give God what little crumbs I can and be satisfied with that until I am able to do better, but then I do things like go hunting for Lent ideas at blogs like the one I highlighted above, and well, you leave those blogs feeling like a lump of crap. Which begs the question, can a family homeschool in a vacuum?

Again, I assume the fears and joys I'm expressing here are normal for a first-year homeschooler. Especially since I have pretty much went at this alone. I didn't join some moms' discussion/prayer group and blubber out all my little insecurities or post a million insecure questions on some forum. I bought the curriculum and just went at it. Well, I did read a little of the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy - which I think(?) I'm totally buying into - but given what's going on in our lives right now, I don't have time to read and learn more. So much for nature walks and narration - the two things I cared the most about are the two things we've done the least.

For now, I look at homeschooling as an experiment. Because that's all it could be at this time. But it's an experiment under OUR control, not under the control of the state, the Federal government, or the Milwaukee Archdiocese.

I plan on continuing next year. (Might as well, since we'll be homeschooling into the summer months and I KNOW I'm not alone on that one,)

I have no plan B if homeschooling doesn't end up being the best choice for our son. Then again, since there's no perfect school and no perfect homeschool, maybe I don't need a plan B. I don't see people with their kids in public school formulating any plan B, so why should I?

Homeschooling is hyper-magnifying our weaknesses as parents and as Catholics. There are times when I feel those are reasons alone to quit. Other times I see these weaknesses as an invitation to change, and can see that homeschooling is so, so much more than academics. Needless to say, the stress of the last year is something that needs to be overcome before I can work on "me." So Alan is being schooled by sinners who, at minimum, are aware of their status as mega-sinners. Tune in next year for a status update.

We do not feel we are superior to anyone who has made any other educational choice for their kids. I mean that sincerely. Although once in awhile I would appreciate an honest assessment by secular types of the obvious problems with educational reforms innovations that are untried, untested, and closely resemble communist ideals. Not to mention some acknowledgment of the dismal social atmosphere that permeates so many schools, with secular and immoral ideologies promoted and accepted all around - sometimes more through the students than the teachers or curriculum.

Family members, as of yet, haven't given us any flack so far, and we don't expect any. Neither, for the most part, have our friends, even while I know some of them have likely talked about our decision behind our backs. The worst we've had to deal with is our new neighbors who are effusive in their support for our town's public schools and who keep reminding us that the grade school Alan would be attending is only three blocks away and it is soo sooo great! We find it amusing that proximity is being used as an argument for attending a school. People know so little about what an education really is. I get in arguments on Facebook about Common Core and many times people just want to defend it because they really, really like the school their kid goes to or the teacher their kid has, and well, then, Common Core must be great! GROAN.

This blog post has been quite self-indulgent, and for this I apologize. My only defense is that I've been offline for so long, it takes awhile to catch up.

I expect some flack for what I've written here and that's OK. I am open to questions, of course.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

That Deacon Sandy Church? That's Where I Grew Up!

My life is such right now - because of homeschooling and the house being insane with contractor work and my not having blogged for, essentially, a year - that I'm out of the habit of reading the many, many Catholic blogs that I used to. It's still probably for the best, given that I haven't backed down from being mostly drawn to conservative Catholic topics like a fly to sh*t.

Nonetheless, in the last two weeks, as I've been perusing a few sites and blogs, the name "Deacon Sandy" has popped up a few times. At first I ignored these stories, but then when I kept seeing the consistency of coverage, I finally clicked in to see what all the fuss was about. I couldn't believe it when I figured out that all the hoopla is about a deacon at the Catholic parish in which I was (mostly) raised!

However, I'm gonna say this: Not surprised. Thus, what follows is my own personal story and memories, which might add a little sliver of understanding to what's happening at this Wisconsin parish that is currently in the limelight.

Good Shepherd in Menomonee Falls! I lived in Menomonee Falls from 1978 (third grade) until I moved away in the middle of college in 1989. My parents remained there until 1998. During the years in which my parents actually went to mass (which wasn't for very long), and during the longer range in which they had my brother and I participating in CCD, the majority of church time put in was at Good Shepherd. Not all, but most.

When we moved back to Wisconsin in 1978 - after a two-year hiatus in the Bible belt - my parents were both still semi-high off the Cursillo Movement and the backyard folk masses that they were involved with when we lived in northern Wisconsin. It was there that my father converted to Catholicism from non-practicing Lutheran when I was about three or four years old, and his conversion was clearly predicated on the touchy-feely version of Catholicism that was so prevalent in the early 1970's. I have vague memories of these backyard masses and they are happy, fun memories of playing on swingsets with the sound of guitars in the background. My Dad was probably playing one of the guitars! Don't ask me how I know this, but I know for a fact that they were the kind of masses where a big loaf of bread was used for communion and the drinks were rolled out immediately following mass. That's just how it was back then.

Coming back to Wisconsin, living in the Milwaukee area was something my Mother never wanted. Long story there, but suffice it to say, I think she actively looked around for a parish that would maybe, hopefully, bring back that good Catholic feeling to help her deal with a situation that she was unhappy about. I suppose it may have been providential for her that we ended up in Menomonee Falls, given that in all of the Milwaukee archdiocese, the most hippy trippy happy clappy parish was to be found right there under her nose. I don't know how she stumbled upon Good Shepherd, but it might have something to do with the fact that she was pissed off at the first church we attended in Menomonee Falls (St. Mary's). That parish made my brother and I re-do our "first" confessions because our actual first confessions weren't face-to-face style. Not just that, but she was furious that I found out about sexual intercourse in a 4th grade CCD class. (Please note that Archbishop Rembert Weakland was our bishop at the time.)

I know we were attending Good Shepherd parish on a regular basis by the time I was at least finishing 5th grade. The church space was odd, and I know for a fact that my parents liked it that way. Truth be told, I initially found it to be a novelty, but later came to recognize it as mind-numbingly drab and depressing. It was nothing but a very large church hall. The kind that is found in the basement of every Catholic parish, except at this church, there was no church! It was designed from the start to be a box with pews. Furnishings were typical blonde wood of the 50's/60s era and there were lots of banners. I can't recall if there were windows - stained glass or otherwise? This state of affairs might have something to do with the fact that Good Shepherd parish was not an old church that had early on wreckovated everything. Rather, it was a brand new parish that came out of nowhere in the late 1950's.

Here's what I do remember: Father Fran and guitars. Lots of guitars. Oh, and big chunks of wheat bread ripped from loaves for communion.

Father Fran Eschweiler was a Menomonee Falls legend, although I don't really know why. No one ever told me. Pop's Custard (still there and still really, really good) even had a custard flavor named after him, and when that flavor appeared on their sign, people flocked in to buy it. I suspect Father Fran was a big social justice guy because back then, and to this day, Good Shepherd was/is all about the social justice. (Oh wait. I just researched on the internet. This explains EVERYTHING.) Anyway, for whatever reason it was, when I was a kid, Good Shepherd was packed on Sundays because of Father Fran. I'm sure there were people coming to mass from outside of our cozy little suburb just to see him from all over the Milwaukee area.

My memories of Father Fran are few but solid. He was a short guy, already graying and old. He liked giving hugs. He always had a smile on his face. What kid didn't like that? I really liked him and I know that even while my brother and I moaned about having to go to mass each week, it was made better by the fact of Father Fran's presence.

Mass at Good Shepherd was a guitar experience. All the way, baby! Folk music central. Now mind you, I grew up with a father who was into the Kingston Trio and sang me to sleep while playing Peter, Paul, and Mary on his guitar. Thus, I have a soft spot for folk and always will. And remember that my earliest memories of mass involve backyards and more guitars. So this state of musical affairs didn't really impress me as odd. I knew enough that Good Shepherd was different from the other church in town, but it wasn't a big deal to me or, seemingly, to my parents.

But looking back, the guitars were over-the-top, and here is why: The Kids Mass. Good Shepherd had a Kids Mass we could go to, complete and separate from the regular mass, and my parents were absolutely enchanted with this idea. Now don't misread me - this wasn't the situation where the children leave mass during the homily and return back with (as Erin Manning likes to quip) their "Jesus Loves Me" coloring page. Nope. This was an entire mass for kids, led by a separate priest (deacon? worship team?), in a large room behind the main church (the gym?) that was rocking it's own guitar vibe concurrent with the Adult Mass. At least that's how I remember it.

The Kids Mass is where I learned to resent pandering to kids. I'm sure the homilies were geared to a kids' level and that we benefited - of this I have no doubt. But it was the music. And the puppets. And, perhaps even, the balloons? But most of all, the forced sing-a-long church songs, all accompanied by guitars, guitars, and more guitars (and tamborines). They tried and tried to get us to sing along and out loud, but we all just sat there self-conscious, not wanting to stick out and then be made fun of back at school. It was a hippy-conceived nightmare of guitar praise and worship.

After going to more than a handful of these masses, I'm pretty sure I wanted to be with my parents in the main church, but I knew in my heart that my parents found this innovative approach to religion so wonderful that I couldn't say anything. They LOVED the Kids Mass because they felt we were being spoken to and ministered to in a way that was just right for us.

Memories of CCD at Good Shepherd are vague. I recall very empty hallways in the school building and being confused as to which classroom I was supposed to go into, because the halls and rooms all looked the same - empty and devoid of decoration. Almost like a time capsule tomb. (I researched on the internet that Good Shepherd's school closed in 1971, which is mighty, mighty early for a Catholic school to fail, if you ask me.) I also remember not wanting to go to CCD there, as well as being allowed to ride my bike to get there a handful of times, and my purposely dawdling and riding around on side streets so that I would be late.

Then, just as quickly as we had suddenly switched over to Good Shepherd parish, we just as suddenly reverted back to St. Mary's about five years later. My mother claimed that my brother and I started whining about wanting to go to CCD where our current batch of friends were going, and I guess for a time that wasn't at Good Shepherd. I was confirmed at St. Mary's by Bishop Cousins. Looking back, I feel happy that it wasn't Rembert Weakland, which it just as easily could have been, given that Cousins confirmed me while infirm and sitting in a wheelchair, and he died not two years later.

Fast-forward to recent times.

My father had died. Later, my mother met someone. They decided to get married. He was divorced and decidedly not interested in an annulment; his divorce had occurred 25 plus years ago. My mother wanted a Christian wedding and didn't know who would perform it. I asked around and found someone - an ex-priest who was now married. And guess where he attended church now? Good Shepherd.

Discussing this ex-priest in certain circles, I was appraised of the current situation at Good Shepherd: Ex-priest? You're welcome at Good Shepherd. Gay and practicing? Good Shepherd. Leaning towards or outright pro-womyn priest? Good Shepherd. Suspended priest? Good Shepherd. Really into social justice? Good Shepherd.

Now, let me be clear. What I'm alleging is hearsay. Take it for what it's worth, given that I'm not attending the church and can't personally vouch for this situation. But I'm pretty sure that the priests who have spoken with me about Good Shepherd, while maybe embellishing a bit for emphasis and comic relief, aren't lying about the general profile of parishioners who attend there.

Which is why whatever's going down at Good Shepherd with Deacon Sandy isn't a surprise because this is the legacy of Good Shepherd. This isn't anything new over there; supposed heresy would be the natural outgrowth, based on its history.

Some might wonder why a parish so steeped in near or outright heresy and supposed liturgical abuse has been allowed to continue on as it has for decades? The easy answer is Archbishop Rembert Weakland. He ran the show in Milwaukee for so many years, and clearly he was, at least, a partial fan of what was going on. In the years since Weakland had to step down? It may be that Archbishop Timothy Dolan and our now bishop, Jerome Listecki, believe that a parish like Good Shepherd must exist in order to minister at the most minimum level to those who still wish to remain Catholic. In my opinion, it may be nothing more than an act of mercy.

Despite what I have described here, a tiny part of my heart has some good-feeling sentimentalism about my time at Good Shepherd. Age can do that to you.

I also question if something happened in my Catholic formation at Good Shepherd - that even though I left the Church for many years - I came back to it, and with such vigor? Did something happen at Good Shepherd that planted a good seed? Who knows?

Anyway, I'm pretty sure the time has finally come for somebody to address the liberal legacy that is Good Shepherd. That is, unless, like I suggested, the Church has many different forms of mercy. The Church is much wiser than all of us.....I have to believe that Christ knows His flock and provides for them.

We await many answers from the Lord about things that mystify us, don't we?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Reason #368 I Wish I Had Never Listened to Trad Commentary About Anything

So, I know some people think it's not too classy to talk about what you gave up for Lent. The whole don't let your right hand know what your left hand is doing and praying in the streets to be noticed thing and all that. But stick with me here.

I'm not big on giving up things for Lent. Never have been, and as long-time followers of my blog know, I have mega issues with the no meat on Fridays restriction. I follow it mostly; although this year I probably won't be overly-strict about it because I gave up sugar and all carbs for Lent and if that isn't suffering, I don't know what is. I admit it was mostly a health decision that I hope becomes more spiritual as Lent progresses. Anyway, when you make such a huge change to how you eat, believe me, it's all about what you can have. Meat and vegetables are what power a low/no carb diet. Sorry Church.

What I normally do for Lent is add on things. Like an extra mass a week, or Stations of the Cross, etc. This year I decided that I will read St. Faustina's Diary by the end of the Lent, given that two people who love me very much have endeavored to give me gift copies AND my Catholic therapist has been after me to read it.

This afternoon I sat down in my beautiful new living room with a cup of coffee and started to read the introduction and immediately became seized with the exact same thoughts as when I tried to read this book once before, many years ago. These thoughts are:

Damn Trads. Damn Trads and SSPXers with all their casting aspersions on any saint canonized after Vatican II. Damn uber-uber-uber Catholics openly ranting on the internet about how suspicious it was that Pope John Paul II, a Polish man, got a Polish nun canonized, and hey, shouldn't we be questioning that a little bit more? Isn't that, shall we say, a very pro-Polish agenda? Besides, it says right there in the diary that Faustina's writings used to be subject to various censures and restrictions. Then add in assorted commentary about all the fast-tracking of canonizations since Vatican II, which of course makes them invalid?

I wish wish wish that I had never heard these arguments, no matter how extreme (or well-intentioned) they might be. Or how much of a minority voice they might represent. Yes, I know it's not all Trads - please don't remind me it's not all of them; I get that.

Here's the thing: Words matter. (The irony of me saying that isn't lost on me.) But still, there are some kinds of words that one can't forget - that, at minimum, are meant to plant doubt. Traditional Catholicism excels at this kind of thing. All it takes is one little grain of doubt to get you questioning your mass, the consecration at your mass, your parish, your priest, your devotions, your Catholic school, etc.

I hate it.

OK, I still firmly intend to read Sister Faustina's Diary this Lent, but with the caveat that part of it has been ruined for me by the things I've seen and read out there.

My husband says: Maybe we should perhaps consider that the Holy Spirit, in its infinite wisdom, has allowed certain saints to be fast-tracked because of the intense need and help we sinners here on earth have of them? And he also reiterated to me that the problem with certain Traditional Catholics is that they want to be the judge and arbitrator, instead of allowing the Church to do her own job.

Well I'm gonna try real hard to remember these points, but it's gonna be difficult.

Trad commentary on many subjects (but not all) is like the car wreck scene I can't get out of my mind's eye. Sometimes I wonder if that's exactly what they want? Like the scene they've made of Fatima.The Trads have totally ruined that for me. I will likely never have a devotion to anything Fatima-related or read anything about it.

So, anyway, welcome Lent. Say a short prayer that I might have some mercy on the Traditional Catholics that get under my skin.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Fire

My mother's almost 4000 square foot home basically burned down last August. It was on all the major TV news broadcasts that day, but for some strange reason, I never turned on the TV that morning, instead finding out many hours later.

Since that time, there are many people who have asked me how the fire started or what happened? I answer the question to the best of my ability, given that the official investigation finding was that no exact cause could be identified. The common sense answer - the one that the fire department initially worked with - was that a very large in-wall heating unit had a "hot wire," even though it was a 90-some degree day and the heater wasn't on. A look at the charred remains of the house indicated pretty clearly that's where the fire started.

After the "How did the fire start?" question, a few people have ventured to ask if anyone was home at the time of the fire? Answer: no. My mother's husband had moved out about a month before. And by the grace of God, a woman who rented the downstairs mother-in-law apartment had just lost her job and moved out. Her apartment was located directly underneath where the fire started.

But after these two questions, all I've heard is crickets.

It hurts.

The fire and the destruction it wrought was like being told my mother - and my father - had died all over again. This, only three and a half months after my mother actually did die. I was hardly in a spot where I was healing and dealing with life, especially considering we were in the midst of a crazy lawsuit and my husband just having retired.

See, I waited until my mother's husband moved out to go through my mother's (and father's) belongings. To remove my own belongings. And before I had the chance to do that - the fire.

Ninety percent of our family's photos and videotapes burned in the fire. All of my childhood memorabilia (and my brother's) burned in the fire. All that was left of my father's life, memory, and childhood burned in the fire. Ditto for my Mom. Ditto for antiques and mementos from even older generations.

The number one item that I cared about, that my heart was tied into, the ONE thing that symbolized my mother - her antique baby grand piano - was destroyed by the over 100,000 gallons of water that was poured into the home. Did you know that in the case of many fires, most of the damage comes from the water the fire department uses to put out the fire?

The rest of the damage is from smoke. And the mold that immediately begins growing after the fire, once they board up what's left of the building. I didn't know any of this about fires, but I found out and quick.

When I finally had to go into the burned out house, which the insurance company required me to do, it was about the most grizzly and horrific scene a person could imagine. Remember those photos of burned-out Beirut? Or bombed-out cities in Europe during WWII? I'm not kidding, that's what it looked like, felt like, and smelled like.

Some rooms were completely destroyed, given that the fire burned for about two hours undetected. A slate pool table had been reduced to rubble and metal appliances were no where to be seen, having been melted to the ground. That's how hot the fire was.

In parts of the home that technically didn't burn, everything was as black as charcoal. Not just on the outside, but on the inside of things: If you opened up a closed cabinet or a closed drawer, everything inside was just as black. You could take a knife and carve your name into anything and everything, it was all so completely coated with jet black soot.

And the mold - oh my - the mold! The water from the fire department combined with the open holes in the roof (which the fire burned through, allowing rain to come into the house) combined with late summer heat meant that black, green, white, and red mold covered everything. The basement was untouched by the fire, but when I went down there, there were literal stalagmites of mold growing down from the ceilings. It was surreal.

My brother hired a fire restoration company to come in and try to save and restore some items. Unfortunately, I wasn't there when they did that, as we packed up and took a trip to Atlanta because I literally thought I was having a nervous breakdown. So not everything I would have liked to have been saved was removed. Let's just say that what the fire restoration company thought was a good idea to restore wasn't my idea. Over a month later, nearly gagging and choking from the mold, I went back in - crawling up condemned and burned apart staircases - to try and get certain items out of the house in the hope that they could be saved. Some stuff could, some stuff, no.

And then there was the unenviable job of creating an inventory of the entire home - down to how many bottles of Mr. Clean and how many toothbrushes - entirely from memory. This was required by the insurance company. But don't forget! I was supposed to know the brand name and purchase date of each and every item. Weirdly enough, my Mom and I were such good friends that we picked out many things together and shopped together, so I knew quite a bit. But let me tell you, it is beyond psychologically painful to have to recall each and every item in a home, including those that you treasured and were priceless, and now it's getting "rubbed in," if you will, that those things no longer exist.

But wait! There's more! Next I had to go to a huge warehouse and go through about 100 boxes of soot and mold-covered items, deciding which pieces would be cleaned and restored and which would not. Let me tell you, it wasn't fun looking at your parents' life through the lens of destruction. It was tedious work, as well: the restoration company removed oodles of items that I could have cared less about - stuff that would have ended up in an estate sale. So there I sat with mostly a lot of stuff I didn't want and the stuff that mattered burned or unable to be saved.

This is not to say some things I wanted weren't recovered. Here's a few that I got back and that my heart leaps for joy over:

This candelabra sat on my mother's piano since the mid-1970's. Now it sits on my "new" exact replica baby grand piano.

These busts also sat on my mother's piano since before I was born. They don't look as good as before the fire, but I'm not complaining.

My mother and I got this in Paris together. The restoration company removed NONE of my mother's lovely artwork. I had to go back into the burned-out house and recover many items, hoping against hope that they were salvageable, and I was right. It took some doing, but this and a few others were cleaned and I had them reframed.

The restoration company refused to go up a condemned and partially burned staircase to recover these dolls and the cradle, as well as a few other items. I supposedly risked my life by going up there anyway. There was NO WAY I was leaving behind my grandmother's dolls that she played with in the early 1900's. A few of them could not be saved, but these two large ones they sent out to an expert, and they came back looking even better than they ever did. Their antique clothes, however, were not able to be saved (smoked fabric cannot be cleaned). Sadly, the antique photos showing my grandmother playing with these exact same dolls were destroyed, which makes me really, really sad. At least I can still see the photos in my mind.

Along the way, since the fire, one or two people have quipped that I was kind of hung up on "things" that were in my parents' house. Like I was being materialistic or something. Here's my response: When someone dies, we use and treasure their belongings in an effort to mourn and remember them. Over time, of course, some of those things will not be as important or important at all. But initially, yes, they are very important. I was denied the ability to naturally and organically obtain those things I would have used to mourn my mother. The fact that I waited to get her things, and then those things were essentially destroyed by the fire, is an extenuating circumstance that naturally plays into my desperation to have anything of her at all. It has taken everything in me to not absolutely freak out about the priceless photos, scrapbooks, movies, and mementos that were burned to nothing.

Interestingly enough, about three weeks before the fire, my husband and I were in my mother's house, surveying what kind of cleaning and staging would be required to sell the home. On that day, I grabbed FIVE items from the house. One of them was her old Latin mass missal. Can't explain why I took it.

When I said in a previous blog entry that my Mom's spirit infuses our new home, it's because each room now has one or two items that belonged to her (my parents) and I recognize what an absolute gift those things are. That they exist at all is a small miracle - especially knowing that many, many people don't have anything to remember their parents or grandparents by. I probably have quite a bit compared to some folks.

Back to the "standard" questions that people have asked: Was your mother's house insured? Yes, of course. And it had just been paid off by her life insurance money. So my brother and I obviously received the benefits of said insurance. That's been kind of nice. For example, I've been able to replace my mother's baby grand piano, among other things. Even so, the fire was so destructive, so devastating, so total, so consuming, that there's really no thinking in terms of trade-offs. People generically tell me how blessed we are, and we agree, but those comments are akin to the cliches one hears at a funeral. Believe me, with all that's happened to us in the last nine or so months, we're full up on cliches.

Then again, we really are blessed. We know it. We get it. God's ways are not ours, and no one could have planned this all out to have happened the way it did.

My mother's home is now gone, demolished and leaving an empty lot that my brother and I have to sell. I haven't yet driven by to see the empty spot that once used to be a family home. Someday I will, but I'm not ready yet.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Sleepover Controversy

I noticed this morning that one of the recent, most-read entries over at the National Catholic Register is this piece by Matthew Archbold:

Saying No to Sleepovers

I read it and was sort of on the fence thinking he was mostly right, but also being a tad too uptight about the whole subject. But then I read all of the comments. And I have to say I'm almost at 100% agreement with him after all.

The profusion of comments regarding sexual exploration, Ouija boards, inappropriate movies, overly-intimate sharing, and also just downright mean nasty behavior (group sleepovers) jogged my memory. Let's see: check, check, check, check, and check. Other than not being molested by someone's older brother or father, every horror story recounted in those comments happened to me in the context of a pre-teen or teenage sleepover.

With many, many unwanted life-long lasting effects. Truly.

This is hard for me to admit because I want to believe that sleepovers are harmless. I want to be like the minority voices in that commbox who felt that these people who don't allow sleepovers are nutjobs trying to live in the bubble. I want to hold onto some fantasy of late-night giggling, bowls of popcorn, and a few Duran Duran videos. (Today I suppose that would be One Direction videos.)

The thing is, it was rarely if ever like that for me. Oh sure, there were a few times when it was all fun and innocent. But looking back, the best case scenario involved me being overly-tired the following day and my parents probably wanting to shoot themselves in the head over my next-day behavior, recognizing that I was functionally useless. In fact, I know of many families who limit the number of sleepovers their kids are allowed just for this one factor alone - the predictable rotten behavior that follows from not getting enough sleep and eating nothing but junk for hours.

I was trying to think if there was a modern cultural vignette of the sleepover to use as something to esteem to? But the only two that came to mind confirm what the commbox stories were saying: There's the sleepover scene in Grease where there's smoking, mean girl behavior, and immoral talk. Ditto for Valley Girl, where a short sleepover scene (if I remember correctly) involves the girls trying on the mother's sexy lingerie while she's out of the house. Note the "out of the house" part.

All of that seems charmingly innocent and true-blue American in some way. But we must remember that's Hollywood.

What's not innocent is how I was exposed to Blue Lagoon, Porkies, and God knows what other inappropriate movies starting at around age 12. The late night Ouija board sessions I held at multiple sleepovers are still near legendary status when certain friends reminisce. I easily recall the hurt feelings when late night sharing amongst girls would get out of control, as someone would finally just say what they really thought and felt about something, and then crying/fighting would ensue, sometimes ending with "I'm going home!" at 1:30 in the morning. I can't imagine what it's like now with smartphones in each hand. (I'm aware that numerous articles have now been written about the damage smartphones have wrought at sleepovers; some parents are banning phones when kids spend the night.)

But worse is the sexual abuse and pornography I was exposed to at sleepovers. I don't feel like saying too much more about it, but I will say this: My parents had no idea. They trusted the parent(s) of the homes I stayed in dozen upon dozens of times. They thought they knew the families. In my case, it wasn't that the family(ies) were rotten, it was actually that my friend(s) were rotten and corrupted. But it just as easily could have worked the other way around, with the friend being fine, but family members doing horrendous things under cover.

Many of the comments over at the Register talked about how sleepovers are permissible if you really, really, really know the family inside and out and know that they share your religious and social values. I agree with such a view, as I believe saying no sleepovers EVER is kind of extreme. In our case, Alan has had a handful of sleepovers with one particular child - staying at that child's house and that child staying at ours. Our two families are totally joined at the hip, including on the Catholic front, and besides, Alan is only six years old, so we don't really think there's an issue there.

Still, so many of the people discussing this subject at the Register made a point that I can't deny: What good is accomplished at night that can't be accomplished by daylight? A kid can stay at someone's house until 11:00 pm, come home and ACTUALLY SLEEP, and if you want to get up early and have breakfast together, great, let's get together at Denny's the next morning. There's no reason to be awake late into the night. There's no reason not to sleep. There's no reason not to sleep in your own bed, where peaceful sleep is actually possible.

And then there's just the question of the unknown - the things that go on within someone's home that you didn't anticipate or expect. If you read through the comments over there, it becomes evident that some of the families didn't expect what came from their own family!

Granted, I am naturally suspicious that the overload of comments which are decidedly anti-sleepover are skewed. I mean, let's face it, if there was an anti-pants entry over there, the anti-pants crowd comes running and fills the commbox and one walks away thinking they're going to hell for wearing jeans. It may be the same phenomenon about the sleepover topic. However, I didn't see unreasonableness in the stories and examples shared. It came off to me that is was mostly normal people who understood, as a few people quipped, that "My grandmother always said nothing good happens after midnight."

I'm relieved that I have a son, which means (I hope) that as he gets older, sleepovers will be way less of an issue than with girls. Unfortunately, my son already thinks that a sleepover is the best thing since sliced bread, but I rack that up to childish enthusiasm and the prospect of uninterrupted play, which is very important to an only child. But man oh man, if I had a daughter, I just don't know what I'd do. I say this as a girl who knows what girls do and how girls act. As far as I'm concerned, it's a landmine out there without sleepovers to complicate things.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Warning - I Gotta Be Me

This little tiny post is meant as a warning.

That I have to be me.

You know - sarcastic, sometimes scathing, sometimes bordering on mean in order to make a point. And to ask legitimate questions.

You've been warned that despite all that's happened, parts of me still operate as before.

That's all.

Just Trying to Live Life Again

I really, really hope this blog post doesn't end up being just an "update," thereby rendering this blog pointless and virtually dead. Believe me, I have many subjects I'd like to write about. But the thing is, our family is just trying to live life again.

What do I mean by that? If you're out of the loop, you could check out the blog post that was written before this one. Looking back, though, that blog post was written in a much too light-and-breezy fashion. It should have read that we've been through hell and have lived to tell about it.

-We have survived the death of two parents, with one death akin to being hit by a Mack truck.
-We have survived my mother's 4000 square foot home burning down after she died. (That is a blog post of its own and was such a life-changing event I sometimes wonder if I'll ever get over it.)
-We have survived my son's school closing and we are now (gag) homeschooling. (As I write, my son is copying out numbers 101, 102, and 103 of the catechism because he acted like a little sh*t at mass this weekend, although he doesn't know that's why he's doing it. He just thinks it's his daily copy work. Ha!)
-We have survived my husband retiring from a 25-year career and looking for another job, which he has found.
-We have survived moving into what is a small version of my dream home. We did that one month before Christmas, which caused much stress, and which continues to stress us out (in a very good way) as we continue to get settled, redecorate, and at the current time, live with our whole kitchen ripped out due to a kitchen remodel that was necessitated by a few mice.
-We have survived a few other things which shall not be discussed, and that I'd llllluuuuuuuuvvvvv to blog about, but won't.

Our life has moved at such a fast pace, crisis-to-crisis, that I often reflect upon the fact that I (and we) haven't had the proper time to mourn any and all of the above. We've just had to keep moving. I am wise enough to see that being in constant motion has its pluses, yet knowing that at some point there will be a pause, and wondering if that's when I get to stop and breathe, and when I do, will I fall apart?

In the meantime, I am occupied with constantly trying new approaches in order to make homeschooling work. Or driving around Milwaukee looking at so many ugly/boring griege-colored floor and tile samples that I want to puke, whilst also repeatedly telling sales people that really - no really - I HATE and DESPISE granite so please stop trying to talk me into it. Or searching for a new, closer parish that doesn't sing "Happy Birthday" during mass (happened this weekend), or the entire congregation clapping after the priest's homily (happened last weekend and we can tell they do it every week), or refusing to pass the basket around, instead opting for everyone just walking up to the altar to put their contributions in that way (happened at what would be our new local neighborhood church that we won't be attending.)

I blame all of this on Mary. Yes, you heard me right. If you go back a few blog posts, you'll recall that I have an amazing, supernatural story to tell. I just don't know how to tell it in a way that has the intended affect. And also knowing there are some unwelcome naysayers who read this blog who will just laugh. But we know the truth. We know that everything that has happened to us, and I mean everything, has been a fantastic blessing - even if we didn't see it at the time it was happening.

As I sit here at this computer, I look out windows where most of what I see is trees and nature and copious birds eating at our birdfeeders. When spring comes, our yard and the immediate environment will be a paradise.

As I sit here at this computer, I look into a beautiful living room where an exact replica of my mother's baby grand piano now sits (hers, of course, was destroyed in the fire). The walls behind it are painted a soothing gray/blue (Sherwin Williams "Comfort Gray") and they are covered in beautiful art work, some of which was recovered from the fire and restored. My mother's spirit is all around me.

As I sit here at this computer, my son is here with me - driving me nuts, which means life is actually normal on some level. My husband is also here, blessed with a flexible schedule, which means we can look out these windows together, sharing our morning cup of tea with one another in front of a fire, looking through bird guides, deciphering who our feathered visitors are.

As I sit here at this computer, I see the many blessings that have come as a result of the flames. We are blessed and grateful. Praise be to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

And never underestimate Mary.