punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Monday, November 28, 2011

The New Translation...And Screaming Children

Here's what the new translation really looks like, at least, from the perspective of one family.

On Sunday the diaper bag was packed, the goldfish cracker supply was stocked, we ascended to the Feast of the Lamb in our truck arriving with our purchased new translation cue cards just in time to hear the pastor remind everyone about the changes.  And then came the "fun".

The priest's announcement must have flown over the heads of about sixty percent of the congregation who all responded from memory of the old translation throughout the mass.  Another twenty percent just seemed confused and stayed silent.  The remaining congregants stood at the ready, a plethora of cue cards in hand.

Is she upset over the new translation?  Nope she's just your typical bebe
at a newly translated mass having a 'lost in translation' moment.

As mass started, my son began driving his toy car over his seat and sailing it into the kid behind us.

So my initial "And with your spirit," went something like, "And with your...no, dada, no!"

Then my daughter wanted fishy crackers. Then water.  Then more fishy crackers.  Then to be picked up.  So I confessed, "through my own fault, through my own fault, through my most grievous fault" in between responding to her requests.

We then attempted to pay attention to the readings as my son 'played' by hitting our faces and then giving us kisses a second later.  By the end of the homily, my husband had to take the little guy outside, leaving his fancy cue card in his seat.  As I glanced in the direction of my husband's empty seat, I realized that, new translation or not, some things never change, one of which is the screaming children.

As I've previously written, I'm quite excited for the new translation, having only been exposed to the old one the whole of my life.  I'm excited that I will be doing some of the things my parents and grandparents did, and that my children will do the same.

In all the happy anticipation of the changes I was slightly surprised to read so much criticism about them online.  Or was I?  Objectors to the new translation seem to have forgotten this: we attend mass because we want to be filled with God, not with ourselves.  It's the ol' letting Him increase and me decrease maneuver, which sometimes means that the Church occasionally revises her language in order to faithfully convey Christ's original message.  Allowing His actual wording, or the wording in our Latinate tradition to shine through, seems all well and good to me. Accuracy, in anything, is kind of important, right?  I suppose I simply don't understand how a more accurate translation of the mass can be a bad thing.

For anyone who holds this line of thinking, listening to the static of those who feel some sort of identity-loss as Catholics, or that Vatican II has somehow been cast aside (which shows a complete ignorance of the documents of the council), in the promulgation of the new, more accurate, translation, is all a bit silly.

Having said that, I've yet to actually hear the changes on the clerical side.  Again, this is because the screaming children at mass have are in need of being "newly translated" so that they convey their messages more accurately, reverently, and at a lower decibel.

Parents, all people who try to humble themselves daily, are used to having to learn new ways of letting God penetrate their lives in between scooping up cranky children and fallen fishy crackers from the floor. New translation of the mass?  Neat, let's see what happens.  Is the world ending, as some would charge?  No.  Will the fishy crackers continue to be packed?  Definitely.  Will kids still be crabby?  Of course.  But I'd rather listen to mine than to certain other screaming children of God, who, well, you know.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

With gratitude for all our blessings (even the laundry), pax to you and yours!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Piety of Little Ones

Teaching children about the Faith can be filled with beautiful moments.

Having said this, it can also be funny.  Holiness, or reverence thereof, distilled through the toddler and child genius is entirely comedic in the purest sense: kids have no idea they're being funny because they're genuinely trying to be holy...with laugh out loud results (and I'm convinced it's just the kind of laugh you need as a parent to remember to be lighthearted in your own Faith).

What I'm calling the 'hilarious piety' of little ones can take many unexpected forms.  Here are a few examples from my home.

“T’ank you Bwessed Muddah, fo’ the pawking spot.”
Alright, guilty as charged: I pray for empty spots when I’m parking.  I suppose, to my own credit, that I must also consistently express my gratitude to “Bwessed Muddah” when they come.

My daughter has picked up on this and now routinely thanks Our Lady whenever we come upon an available space.   “T’ank you bwessed Muddah, fo’ the pawking spot,” her little voice spouts from the back seat.  It's cute, especially since she still can't say her "r's" correctly.

What can I say? The toddler realizes that prayer pays off (ahem, especially when it gets her closer to the mall ice cream) and that's a stronger conviction than many people have.  Of course we'll introduce her to the eternal, non-temporal fruits of prayer soon enough, but I'm not giving up praying for those parking spots anytime soon either.

Whacking the top of head, or, the sign of the cross
Who knew that teaching your kids how to do the sign of the cross could be such an “adventure?”  The three year old, because she mirrors us, makes her sign of the cross like the Orthodox (head, heart, right shoulder, then left shoulder).  When the 20 month old starts his prayers he just whacks the top of his head instead.  To our loving-parent-zombie eyes it’s funny every time.  But it gets really exasperating hilarious when you insert the holy water at church into the equation. 

We can't really get past the threshold of the vestibule before the little guy is already diving off of whoever is holding him to stick his whole hand in the holy water.  And then he smacks the top of his head. He’s probably just doing what he thinks is always done around water.  He’s been taking notes during bath time, at the beach and around the pool.  'Water' equals throw yourself into it and get as much of it on you as possible.  So every time we go to mass he emerges looking newly baptized.  On one hand he's a toddling metaphor for Christian re-birth; on the other, a baby who's always in need of a shirt change depending on how much he's literally 'splashed out' in his use of the sacramental.
Their favorite phrases…set to the tunes of church hymns
This is a new level of piety that I’d never encountered before I had kids.  I know I certainly was never this creative. Basically, the girl cutely imposes her own lyrics upon parts of the mass.  Favorite words, phrases or names become set to the tune of hymns.

For example, heard at Church:
            “Chwist has dieed, Chwist is wisen, Chwist weww come again!”

Okay, now try it with,
 “ I want caaaaake, I want caaaaaake; Ma-ma, I want caaaaaake,”
Heard at home, thank goodness.

Or how about this version of the Alleluia:
You know the one, right?

Now with their cousin's nickname, which is Naynay (short for Naomi), set to it, same intonations and everything:

I guess I should just be grateful that she remembers how to sing the parts of the mass (and I am)!

Don’t get me wrong, we really are trying to raise our kids to be reverent Catholics!    We didn’t aim to achieve any sort of comedic piety, but instead, it just kind of happened and continues to happen on its own.  What about you?  Do you have any examples of the religious fervor of your little that emerge in comedic ways?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Homeschooling: What I Wish I Had Known

During my time both attending and teaching at Catholic schools, I was always a bit skeptical about homeschooling.  For my credential I had jumped through countless hoops and taken a zillion tests for the sake of proving that I was a competent instructor. It was therefore odd to think that a community existed out there, and literally 'out there' from my perspective, who had to audacity to teach their children without any of my same rigorous training.

At least, that’s how I remember thinking about it.  And I wasn’t alone.  My instructors, colleagues and peers all felt the same way; how could any of our coursework (which was expensive) and 'necessary' training ever be dispensed with? Without it, how could anyone even hope to know how to structure a lesson? Didn’t every subject need a daily objective, anticipatory sets and state standards? Shouldn’t instruction always be differentiated and take English language learners into account?  Shouldn’t a chart of Bloom’s taxonomy be hanging somewhere to make students be truly successful?

What made things really weird for me was the realization that those kids, the ones who learned from their parents, actually thrive when learning at home. Thrive, as in, learn stuff, the same stuff I taught my students. In fact, homeschoolers do better than the national average on standardized tests, and attend college at the same rate as their schooled counterparts. My personal interaction with home educated kids can confirm at least the spirit of these statistics; many have an intimidating base of knowledge to rival any mainstream student.  It’s been a bit sobering, actually, to realize that your friend’s nine year old, who is just starting to swim, also reads Tolkein over breakfast.   Or that someone else’s daughters, barely able to write their letters, can read and perfectly sing a piece of music Acapella.  In other words, homeschooled kids not only fair well academically, but, instead of being recluses, are exposed to things that I only wished I could have taught my students in the fifty-minute slots I was given to make their edu-ma-cation happen.

In a way it’s no surprise.  In Teacher Training Land, you’re taught that the best way to make your students learn anything is to teach them one-on-one. The irony is that this type of interaction with students is almost impossible in the actual classroom (which is why the tutoring industry remains permanently robust).  This means that the best way to educate kids is a method that logistically, a teacher can’t offer them in the classroom. To do that you’d have to do something crazy… like homeschool, for instance.

I completely acknowledge that many children do well in school.  I was one such child. Unfortunately, there is still a widespread misconception that homeschooling is too elementary (in the Sherlock Holmes sense) and cripples children socially.  What these well-meaning folks don't realize is that, these days, homeschooling is in its 6.0 version with families that have networked and built a system based on the talents, ideas and contributions of all involved.  When I taught, I can’t tell you how many times we solicited (read: begged) for parent involvement. Everything we did was always geared toward ‘building community.’  With homeschooling, the families are the community, and everything they 'have' they put in or created themselves.  There's a deep sense of ownership amongst these families that I have not witnessed anywhere else, where parents are dedicated to making their kids' and their own experience as meaningful as possible.  They don’t just pay tuition and expect to get their money’s worth (or pay taxes and expect a ‘service’) as is frequently and sadly the case in a school.

When I taught, I witnessed many a very good, involved parent, who truly wanted to make their children's school experience as bright and memorable as possible.  I wish I had known then what I know now about homeschooling, because part of me wonders if those valiant parents would have seen their efforts flourish even more in a different setting. Much classroom pedagogy, at its heart, is common sense.  It’s as easy as, “What shall we learn today?” but also as challenging as “What shall we learn today?”  Of course, there are terrific homeschooling curricula out there too.

Let's not forget faith.  Fostering faith in children, even from the view point of a Catholic School, is still considered the domain of their parents, as it should be.  From my experience, Catholic parents who possess a strong conviction for homeschooling, also tend to hold strong convictions for their Faith.  It is frequently the case that these parents achieve an enviable degree of success in passing on their values to their kids, perhaps because they did so uninhibited by the obstacles that arise in school (such as peer pressure and an agenda-driven curriculum).  Which isn't to say that a child is guaranteed to stay Catholic if home schooled and many schooled children do stay close to their faith.

For me, homeschooling has come as a pleasant surprise by not being as I first expected it to be.  It does require a paradigm shift that many people are not used to or even comfortable with, but I suspect that that is because we all grow up in a country with an education system which promises to do something many parents don't feel capable of themselves.  For the record, no homeschooling parent feels particularly 'capable.'  But the truth is, no matter what, all parents alike are always the primary educators of their kids, whether they send them to school or not.  Homeschooling offers families the chance to experience learning in a primordial way and gives an unrivaled witness to the sacred continuity that can, and always has existed between a family's domestic life, learning, and Faith.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Why I'm Psyched for the New Roman Missal Translation

The excitement for the New Translation of the Roman Missal, due to be implemented this Advent, finally hit me the other night after my initial stage of typical cradle Catholic indifference (“Oh, the Roman Missal is changing.  Neat.  What’s for lunch, again?).

I admit that experiencing any profound enthusiasm in anticipation of the changes has been slow going for me. But then, my curiosity became a bit more peaked when blue pieces of cardstock with chant appeared in the pews at church.  And then my mom surprised me the other night when she handed me a chart thing with the changes that pertain to the assembly* (it was a guide published by Ascension Press).  Anyway, the nerdy Catholic girl that lives inside my tired mom body instantly began scouring the bolded additions in the “new text” column and comparing them meticulously to the soon-to-be-defunct text. 

But it wasn’t until my mom said, almost in passing, “Oh yeah, I grew up doing that,” at the part where we are now supposed strike our breast three times and say, “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault;” that I realized: hey, this is… awesome!  You mean I get to do what my parents and grandparents have always told me they did at mass? Wow…We’re actually going to do it together now? Whoa. And, bonus: my kids will grow up doing the same as their parents (which is not something, that, until now my parents have been able to say).

In other words, we will now have commonality of experience in the liturgy, particularly with the breast striking but also with the new response “And with your spirit” (Identical to the original: Et cum spiritu tuo).  This phrase emphasizes the fact that Holy Spirit (remember Him?) works through the priest, just as He did with Christ.


Oh yes, and there are some other things that have me psyched.  The word “consubstantial”: love it! And it makes a whole lot more sense: Jesus is one and the same substance as the Father, plus it massages my conviction that everyone should know a bit of Latin.  A longer Gloria - sweet.  A shorter Nicene - thank you.  Oooh, and we get to say “holy” Church again.  Whoa, holiness.  How long we have missed you.

*the link will take you to the USCCB's site, to a convenient chart with the changes for the assembly.  There you can also download a PDF (it's only one page) or open it in iBooks if you have an iPhone.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Occupy Your Parish Church!

In this time of economic and moral downturn (read: suicide leap) I choose to occupy my parish church grounds as often as I can. Here’s why.

While our friendly mainstream occupiers are shutting down business districts, threatening law enforcement and turning public streets into a politically charged “Woodstock,” the Church is holding its own concurrent version of social rebellion, where the faithful can revel in holy hippie-ness (is that a word?), or hippie holiness, or whatever can be equated with casting off the world in pursuit of personal sanctity.  We're going 'back to basics,' back to the things that matter the most: faith, family, friendship, and yes, fun!  
Miniature Catholic occupiers (going incognito, dressed as saints) at our Shrine.
One of them is the Auxilary Bishop, though, so we're okay.
For example, our parish homeschooling group just held their annual All Saints Day celebration where the kids dressed up as saints and paraded around for the community.  Families came together to basically run an event that simply offered a couple of hours of God-centered fun. 

So what does this have to do with today’s “Damn the Man!” climate?  Everything! 

Although it's difficult to tell, Wall Street's protestors are really looking for what we all are looking for in a time of crisis: hope.   Everyone needs hope.  But they’re looking in the wrong place (which isn't to say we shouldn't protest injustice, but I'm more than a bit skeptical of their strategy).   Catholics on the savvy, on the other hand, know where they can go to find hope and protest "the Man": their own Church. 

That's right, we’ve got hope; the Catholic Church has it.  Real hope. And looking around at my fellow parishioners during our All Saint's celebration, at a community assembled with their children looking like an amalgamation of saints and hobbits proved that to me.  Pick any deficiency in society, and we Catholics have “got an app(licable) Catholic response” for that.  For instance:

Fatherlessness.  The number of men taking on the responsibility of dad-hood, at large, has severely dwindled.  We’ve got fathers! I saw lots of them during our parish All Saints festivities, holding their babies, snapping photos, helping their wives and building community alongside one other.  Imagine: a network of supportive dads all endeavoring to educate their children, work for their families, and deepen in their faith in the process.  Real men.  Real fathers who are also teaching their sons to do the same.

And we’ve also got Fathers with a capital “F.”  Priests who love us.  I mean, really love us.  They're not only shepherds for our souls, but they also want to be a part of our lives.  You should have seen how they all lit up like cassock donning Christmas trees at the sight of the kids dressed up as nuns and friars!  They love us and we love them and they are Fathers to us all.  And who knows how many of our sons will grow up to be like those good men?

In society, the nuclear family is broken.  We’ve got families!  Lots of families.  Big, intact  (they always seem to go together, don’t they?) families whose kids may not always wear the trendiest clothes but they're too busy enjoying life to notice that they may lack some of those oh-so-important material ‘things’ that are supposed to make us happy but never do.

Marriage. The no-longer greater institution of marriage is in tatters and several groups are poised to ‘redefine' it. Hm. Remember when marriage meant a husband and a wife, a mom and a dad, who were committed to each other for life?  We’ve got that!  I saw that at our carnival too! I know what you're thinking: mom-and-dad-marriage is like soooo ten years ago, and before then, like soooo only the bedrock of every society that ever existed. Er...so, yeah, we've still got that; we’ve got people persevering in their vocations to holy matrimony, granted, the latest statistics on sacramental marriage don't look so good.  

One of the organizers of the All Saints event took
 this lovely photo of me and mine.  That's the girl
dressed up as St. Rita (sewing credit: the grandma
and her godmother ) and the boy, who's busy
fiddling with his tummy button.
Society objectifies women. The Church reverences womanhood. See that huge statue of a woman in the picture at the beginning of this post? That’s Our Lady, Jesus’s mama, our mama too, the woman we honor above all others; our example of faith, trust and courage.  The Church recognizes womanhood's distinct beauty; our bodies are not to be used, our fertility is not to be feared, our gifts as women are not to be hidden.  Looking around at the good women, some of whom I know personally, for me and for them, it’s not: I’m a stay-at-home mom because I’m a woman.  It’s: I’m a gifted, well educated, and truly liberated woman called to give myself creatively, selflessly and utterly as I work for my family at home.  (Not to discount the stay-at-home dads, of course, you guys rock!)

Society: lotsandlotsandlotsa temptation to pull you away from sainthood. The Church: well, hey, look, we’re trying!  And sometimes we dress up our children up as saints to bring the idea of sainthood within reach (if only you had seen them that morning…we parents probably achieved some degree of sanctity just getting them ready for the parade).

In short, I choose to occupy my parish church because that’s where true hope lies.  I have the best occupation strategy in this world: one that looks beyond this world to the next, one that doesn’t bring fruitless mayhem, but manifests the fruits of the Holy Spirit which are love, joy, peace, perseverance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Fruits that endure forever, no matter how unjust society becomes. Hope, in other words, that we can all really believe in.

Here's a link to an absolutely awesome article by Scott P. Richert, with a similar title to mine, written in response to a blog post on America, The Catholic Weekly's site.  His is a slightly different angle, more scholarly, less costumes, but ultimately the same gist: Catholics, occupy your Church! Read it here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Why Are We Surprised at the Obama Administration's Actions?

Here’s my two cents on the current war between the Obama Administration and the United States Council of Catholic Bishops.

When I first read that the Obama's U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Migration and Refugee Services decided not to grant money to the USCCB’s Office of Migration and Human Services, because the Bishops were faithfully adhering to the tenets of their faith and not referring victims of human trafficking for abortion and contraception, I was angry.  Objectively speaking, most of those victims are women and children and contraception and abortion harms and perpetuates crimes against women, not to mention, kills children.  In true justice the bishops cannot refer women to these ‘services’ anymore than they can forgo or deny the reality about their consequences altogether.

Now, before I continue, let me say that I am not a ‘blame the bishops for everything that’s wrong with the world’ kind of Catholic.  I am, however, a ‘blame the cradle Catholics for the state of the world’ sort of cradle Catholic (I am one myself) and many bishops definitely fall under that umbrella.  If you think I’m being unfair, please know that B16, would agree with me.  And so I am about to make a very broad stroke about who’s to be faulted for this current calamity, and I, myself, am included.

As infuriating as the decision to award the grant to another organization, the white elephant in the room at the USCCB headquarters is this: most Catholics voted for Obama and they did so without being deterred by a unified, vocal hierarchy.  I personally know how many, many, many were told from the pulpit and at their universities that he was their only moral option because of how he was going to care for the poor, environment, education etc., in short, that he was the only truly ‘social justice’ minded candidate.

It was therefore easy for many a well meaning Catholic, cradle especially, to ignore the greater concerns of social justice raised by the magisterium: the ones that hold moral and life issues as tantamount to all others. As such, Catholics then voted for the best version of “hope” that society can offer: one that requires the dismissal of the moral tenets of their faith.

And if Catholics are willing to do that, what can they expect others to do in turn?  That’s right, disregard and not hold any reverence for their Faith, no matter the good it does (e.g. aid victims of human trafficking).

What goes around…

At best the current administration is only acting exactly as loyal to our Faith as we ourselves have been. At worst, he is launching an all out assault and discrimination of Catholic conscience.

The USCCB is to be commended for calling out such a blatant miscarriage of justice and we need to support them in every way if they seek legal action against an administration so fueled with animus against all things Catholic

But there is a great lesson here: make decisions or vote based on a blasé attitude for the Church’s moral teachings and reverence only what is socially acceptable, and you will reap what you sow. At some point it all comes around back to you – watered down regard for your beliefs to match your own watered down example.  Call it logic, call it Karma, but don’t call it shocking or unexpected. 

And hopefully as Max Lindenman pointed out, Catholics who voted for Obama, who now may be feeling the alienation the rest of us 'radical' lovers of life, Church and conscience have been experiencing may just reconsider which side of the fence actually has their's and everyone's best interests at heart (read: the one not willing to sacrifice the most vulnerable for the sake of a political agenda).

It’s time for Catholics to start voting aligned with the Church’s teachings and to blaze the way of true justice by practicing it themselves first.