Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Catholic Identity and Professional Catholics

Catholic schools all over the country are talking about Catholic Identity.  What this refers to is how they align themselves with or against Catholic culture.  It does not necessarily involve a discussion of whether or not the school teaches the Catholic faith as presented in the catechism, writings of the church Fathers, or biblical tradition.  It may not have anything to do with regular reception of the sacraments.  It may take no notice of church calendars and liturgical seasons. 

In a discussion of Catholic Identity the participants may talk about how they can present themselves as Christians in order to reach a larger market.   The schools are struggling to maintain student populations, particularly in urban areas.  Those who could afford tuition to Catholic schools have moved away from the older parishes.  They need larger donations to support scholarship programs for low-income families, many of whom are not Catholic, but want a Catholic education for their children because of its reputation for excellence.  Yet when these families come to the Catholic school, they may find that the only markers of the Catholicism of the school are uniforms and fish-fries.

We all know that the religious communities and clergy who used to be the primary teachers in Catholic schools don't exist.  They have been replaced by professional Catholics.  These are people who work for the church as lay ministers of music, education, finance, development...  Every lay person who works for the church seems to be called a minister of some sort.  What they are is the equivalent to an employee of any other company or organization.  They are professional Catholics.

I've worked as a paid employee for the Catholic Church twice in my life.  Both times I was overwhelmed by the importance of the work.  If faith comes first, there is no more important work to be done.  My family suffered from my focus on the job.  That's why I think such work should be done only by those who can devote themselves completely to the task, like religious, clergy, and those who do not have children in their care at home.  Francis Bacon's essay "On Marriage and the Single Life" discusses the differences in temperment necessary for certain kinds of work.  It is short and worth reading.  "The Essays" of Francis Bacon

Too many professional Catholics seem to fall into the 'good enough'  category.  Their faith formation has been good enough.  Their participation in the sacraments has been good enough.  Their attention to church teachings is good enough.

When things are good enough in the church, we hear about how it is a big tent, open to all, regardless of whether they agree with the church on premarital sex, homosexuality, contraception, abortion, divorce, capital punishment, just war theory...

In this big tent, our schools are filled with teachers from pre-school to post-graduate studies who do not practice the faith, but claim to teach it.  They produce strange devotions like grade school musicals for grandparents that open on Ash Wednesday, or yoga-stations-of-the-cross.  They use contraceptives to limit their family size to 2, then wonder why there are so few children in Catholic schools.  They promote the Girl Scouts in the parish, and then wonder why girls are influenced by the association with Planned Parenthood.  (Planned Parenthood distributes a brochure called "Happy, Healthy, and Hot" through the Girl Scouts.)

Catholic identity should not be good enough.  Constant striving for true faith is what Catholics should demand from all Catholic schools.  Catholics are Christians.  We are Catholics.  The requirements are hard to meet.  But no one can truly be Catholic and not be striving to meet something more than the basics.  That is most important for those who teach it to the next generation.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Apocalyptic Readiness

Reader warning:  This is going to be a rambling personal post, so if that sort of thing isn't your cup o' tea, stop now.  Before it's too late...  Last warning...

My sister-in-law stays with my son  one day a week.  She stays with him because I home school, but her kids go to school down the street.  My autistic brother who lives with us works at that school.  While she is with him, I teach at the university down the street the other way.  In return for this service, I provide dinner for them and their 5 children that day.

Every time she comes, she comments on the amount of food I have in stock.  She always says I'm ready for the apocalypse.  I'm proud of my well stocked pantry, but I don't think we would survive more than a month on the food we have.  And when you start thinking about other necessities, it's even less time before we are whiny.  And when the whining starts, we'll be out of the wine necessary to handle it.

Let's look at some of the essentials:

Prescriptions:  We will all be off our meds in short order, and that will make for one seriously depressed home.

Toilet paper:  Cheryl Crow may be able to use one sheet at a time, but not us.  We like big protective wads.  I don't want to know or be friends with anyone who doesn't.

Paper towels:  I love them. Sure you could use cloth towels, but the wash would increase exponentially.  And chances are the water won't be running during the second coming or the great chastisement.  As a matter of fact, if I were God, I'd cut off the water first as a way to say, "Get ready.  It only goes down from here." 

Gas grill:  this is my line of last resort.  I currently have one empty and one full tank.  I know I should refill the empty tank in case the apocalypse/second coming/chastisement comes, but I keep forgetting.  We'll have steaks tonight anyway...

Vegetable Garden:  I grow one every year.  I'm a survival-of-the-fittest-gardener.  That means I'm lazy.  I plant the seeds, water as I think of it, and hope that they will survive being too closely planted and too little attended to.

The only thing I'm really well stocked with is reading material.  I take great hope in the thought that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the Mouth of God.

Now do Tom Clancy and Brian Jacques count as the mouth of God?  Yes I have a Bible.  Yes we have the Liturgy of the Hours.  Yes, we have many more spiritual works in our library.  But I know what I'll be reading.

I'll read about warriors who overcome the bad guys and save the world.  Isn't that the work of God?

(Sorry for the deep ending, but that is what this post is...  meandering thoughts.)

Okay, I'm not really done.

There is a family of turkeys that have decided to live in our neighborhood.  My son keeps trying to shoot them with his Bebe gun.  So far, no turkey.   I wonder if we could live on squirrels?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Father Corapi, An Open Letter

Dear Father Corapi,

I've never thanked you for your inspiration to me and to my family.  When you were in Omaha this past summer, I attended your conference with my Mother, her friend and my husband.  You have been a great source of strength to us all.

I remember thinking as you spoke that there was something you weren't saying/couldn't say to the crowds.  At the time I thought that perhaps you had been asked to avoid certain topics by our Archbishop, or by someone else in attendance.

I also wondered if you were avoiding certain topics because of the depth and vehemence of the attacks you were experiencing.  I now think this latter musing is the truth. 

Whether the accusations are true, which I doubt, or false, you are under attack by the Great Accuser.  It strikes me as greater proof of how much we need you and your message.  I feel the same about Father Eutenaur, who admitted his wrongdoing.  The temptations and tests and trials of all good priests are something that I can only imagine.  And in imagining, I shrink in fear.

I know it is not politically correct to defend the accused priests, or those who have strayed and admitted to wrong doing.  Our priests deserve every bit of our prayers and support, especially when they are under attack.  And the attacks are constant. really are in our prayers.  May God bless and keep you close to His Sacred Heart.  May the blessed Mother wrap you in her mantle.
Be strong.  We will try to be strong for you.

Suzanne Carl

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Thinning the Herd

Tim Pawlenty,  Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum,  Buddy Roemer, Herman Cain, Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels...  I'm sure there are others, but these seem to be the Republican contenders for president.  Because I live in a state that has the double whammy of insignificance for primary votes, low population and a late primary, I often find the choice of candidates to have dwindled to nothing but a front runner by the time our primary rolls around.

I will therefore tell you who I would vote for and why, or why not.  Maybe some of you in the states that have primaries that matter can carry the torch for those of us who can't.

My criteria for people for whom I would vote are in order:

1.  Pro-life:  I'm personally stronger on the pre-born life issues than capital punishment.  We were all zygotes once, but most of us weren't serial killers.

2.  Getting us out of debt.  For this I want real business experience.  I want someone who has made hard choices and come out on top in the business world.

3.  Reducing the government to those jobs it was intended to do.  Protect us from foreign and domestic enemies, encourage business to stay here, and enforce the laws on the books.

4.  End entitlement programs for those who are or should be able to care for themselves.  I don't expect the government to pay for my son's education, my retirement, our health care...  Let us choose what charities we want to support.  Then get out of the way.

5.  Allow for true freedom of conscience among health care workers, teachers, etc. 

I'm going to stop with 5.  Now let's talk about who should be the Republican nominee.

Some of the names above fall off the list because of the criteria I just listed.  Being pro-life is non-negotiable, and so is having real business experience.  The candidates who do not meet both of those requirements are: Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin.  Maybe I'm being hard on some of these candidates, but my gut tells me these are not the candidates we are looking for.  They have too much baggage.  They may be pretty, they seem prone to mistakes.  I'd pick anyone on this list to head the Republican party as a fundraiser, but not as a policy maker.

Then there are the ones that may be okay, but at this time they are fighting for name recognition, and this American voter doesn't have time to crawl up that learning curve.  If these candidates want to succeed, they better get some serious press.  Soon.  They are:  Tim Pawlenty, Buddy Roemer, Paul Ryan, Rick Santorum, Mitch Daniels, and Herman Cain.  I'm a news junkie, so I know something about some of these people.  I'd vote for any of them that can rise to the top.  I'd support them.  But they all have work to do to become a meaningful threat to Obama.

That leaves me with Michele Bachmann and Chris Christie.  Bachmann has chops, but her eye contact is going to dog her after her SOTU response.  I like her.  I have contributed to her campaigns.  She would be a good vice presidential pick.  I would not worry about her being a heartbeat away from the presidency.  ( I admit I pray for Obama's health because I'm afraid of a President Biden.)

But the best choice out there is a man who says he won't run.  Chris Christie says he came to his pro-life views when he heard his child's heartbeat.  Many pro-life people came to their beliefs in the same way.  As we fight to require an ultrasound before abortions, his testimony would be persuasive.

He's doing all the right things with debt and taxes in New Jersey.  He's fun to listen to.  When he speaks, people cheer and jeer.  It's like the way one feels when watching a football game.  When you see them fighting for yards, you get excited.  You start saying, "Come on, come on, get 'em..."

Who besides Chris Christie can bring that to the race?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Perfect Storm

I follow The Creative Minority Report on a daily basis.  The difference between their perspective and mine is primarily based on the fact that they are two men (brothers), and I am one woman.  Also, they have many children and I have one.  Matt spent time today talking about his daughter's first reconciliation.  The story revolved around his son's illness.  In the true spirit of one-up-man-ship, I offer the perfect storm.

My son and his friend, Rosario, had a day off from school on a day when I was supposed to teach a class on public speaking for elementary teachers at a local Catholic women's college.  I decided to take the guys with me to my class.  I reasoned that they would be good students for my students to practice on.

I bribed my son James, and Rosario, with a lunch at a local fast-food joint.  They seemed pleased with the bribe.  I promised goodies afterward for good behavior during the classroom time.

My students did a completely adequate job of presenting their lessons to the boys. They were sometimes boring, sometimes interesting, and only occasionally concerned about their audience.   I would make a comment here about how little new teachers care about whether their students are learning or not, but that would take me away from the perfect storm.

That happened when we left.

The boys were well behaved, so I allowed them to choose treats from the snack bar at the college.  That was my fatal mistake.

Rosario ate with abandon, and a swiftness usually reserved for competitive eaters.  We left 72nd and Center St. in Omaha as he devoured his treat.  We traveled north on Happy Hollow Boulevard.  At 52nd and Seward Street, Rosario vomited. 

At 52nd and Grant, James vomited in sympathy.  I should mention at this point that we were riding in a 2002 Dodge Caravan.  The windows in the back of a Caravan do not open.  This is a design flaw in a family car.  After all, kids throw up once in a while.  When they do throw up in a car, the thing most parents want is for them to throw up out the window.  When surrounded by the smell of vomit, many people will vomit in sympathy.  I'm just saying...

(By the way, the worst smelly attack I'd ever experienced prior to this was when, in 4th grade, I grew bacteria for my science project.  I wanted to find out which brand of bathroom cleaner was most effective.  My jars of growing and dying bacteria spilled in the back of our Grand Safari station wagon.  On the way to school.  Also on my uniform.  We sold the Grand Safari.  It took me years to overcome the moniker of the very stinky girl.)

At 50th and Grant, I vomited in sympathy out the driver's side window.  This was now the perfect storm.  3 people.  3 sets of vomit.  One minivan.  God help us all.

I feel I should offer advice on how to respond to such a perfect storm.

One:  Expect that cleaning the car is going to take multiple applications of everything you've got.

Two:  Oxyclean, when applied with copious amounts of water will help to neutralize the smell.

Three:  Those little pine trees that hang from the rear view mirror are not just for repo men.

Four:  All minivans should come with windows that can be opened where ever there is the possibility of a child sitting.  If that is not possible,  put an emergency hatch in the floor.

Five:  All vomit-prone children are given a bag or bucket before entering the car.  My sister was the one everyone avoided on long trips.  She always got the window.  We always struggled to stay away from her.

Six:  If there are no windows, or escape hatches, or buckets, don't buy the car.

Seven:  If number six is not an option,  buy buckets.

Eight:  Never let your spouse use a vomit bucket for another purpose.

Nine: Try not to gag if your spouse uses a vomit bucket for another purpose.

Ten:  Let women do the fine-tuned cleaning of the vomit event in the car.  Let the men get the big chuncks.

For those of you who have never had a perfect storm in your minivan,  God bless and keep you safe.  For the rest:  Oxyclean, large shop vac, several applications.

God Bless!!!