Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Of double-standards, heresy, and the Future ex-Catholic Apostates of America

In recent days, San Francisco’s Archbishop Cordileone has come under fire from the secular news media (as well as from many of San Francisco’s alleged Catholics) for a plan that would ensure that teachers in archdiocesan schools did not engage in morally reprehensible conduct themselves or overtly promote such conduct (contrary to Church teaching) to others in public statements.

One of the issues at hand is the problem of people identifying themselves as Catholic schoolteachers going out on social media to bash the Church for refusing to bless homosexual sex acts or the sinful unions centered around them, or giving vocal support to other grave sins that can (under the usual conditions) help a person choose eternal damnation and the fires of Hell.  Revealing a bit too much about their own lack of actual Catholic education, San Francisco’s Catholic school parents are apparently outraged that the archbishop actually thinks that sodomy, fornication, adultery, masturbation, contraception, abortion, or porn use are morally problematic for Catholics; some San Francisco Catholics seem to think that such activities are not only benign but exactly what everyone needs to have a good weekend, or something.

Part of the outrage seems to be on free speech grounds.  Why, just because someone works for a Catholic school doesn’t mean he or she couldn’t moonlight as a porn star, advocate for gay “marriage,” or belong to NAMBLA, right?  It’s not like we expect teachers to be people kids can look up to or that we’re so judgmental that we don’t think porn stars are admirable models for the youth of American anyway...

One thing that I find interesting, though, is that even in the secular world the idea that your employer should just overlook anything impolitic or against your employer’s values really doesn’t exist:
NEW YORK (AP) — When one of Ileaa Swift's employees posted homophobic comments on Facebook, the reaction was quick.
"It posted around 1 in the morning. The next morning, when I got up, I had all these calls and emails and hate mail," says Swift, owner of Swift Travel Deals in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Whether it's comments about news events, long-held beliefs or a bad joke, an employee's offensive posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites can damage a company's image and profits. If the comments are racist, homophobic, sexist or against a religious group, tolerating discriminatory comments puts an employer at risk for lawsuits and losing customers. [...]
The staffer persisted, moving her comments to her own page. The employee's online arguments with people enraged by her posts cost the company business, including bookings from gay and lesbian clients.
Swift fired her.
"It's one of the hardest things I've had to do because she was a superstar agent, but we have to respect (our customers)," Swift says.
In the secular employment world, just writing on social media that, say, as a Catholic you support your Church’s teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman can theoretically get you fired.  Yet somehow the Church is supposed to hire people who are clearly undermining the Church’s mission of Catholic education (as evidenced by the complete and palpable lack of any such thing in any of the students--or their parents--as quoted here)?  And not only to hire them, but to ignore and overlook it if they’re shacking up with same-sex or opposite-sex partners, working as Planned Parenthood deathscorts, or posting all over social media sites their absolute hatred and vicious contempt of the Catholic Church and all her teachings--as they collect their paychecks from her?

I admire Archbishop Cordileone’s attempt to reign in the galloping heresy and sickening acceptance of immorality on parade in the halls of the Catholic schools of his diocese.  I can’t help but wonder, though, if it isn’t too late, and if the only thing that might save the Catholic schools of San Francisco would be to shut the schools condemn the buildings, bulldoze them, burn the rubble and then salt the earth with prayers of exorcism before starting over--preferably with a model of Catholic education that is actually Catholic, rather than pricey “private schools in the Catholic tradition,” which is code for “Gathering Space for the Future ex-Catholic Apostates of America."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Washington State Hates Your (Religious) Freedom

In case you haven’t been following the sad case of Washington State Florist Barronelle Stutzman, the facts are pretty simple: when long time customers to whom she had sold flowers for other occasions asked her to provide the floral decorations for their gay “wedding,” she explained that her deeply held Baptist religious views would not let her do so--because marriage is between a man and a woman.

The gay couple, her long-time customers, decided to sue her like most nice, kind, long-time customers would the minute they didn’t get their own way about something (not).  And Washington State has ruled against her in a breathtakingly bad decision:
RICHLAND — A florist who refused to provide flowers to a gay couple for their wedding violated state consumer-protection and anti-discrimination law, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom rejected arguments from the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland that her actions were protected by her freedoms of speech and religion. While religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment, actions based on those beliefs aren’t necessarily protected, he said. [...]
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, which represented the couple, welcomed the ruling.
“The law is clear: If you choose to provide a service to couples of the opposite sex, you must provide the same service to same-sex couples,” Ferguson said.
The law allows for penalties of up to $2,000 per violation, as well as legal fees.
The state will likely seek those against Stutzman individually, as well as her business, said Peter Lavallee, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office
To sum up: a Christian may not practice her Christianity when it interferes with a gay couple’s right to demand floral arrangements for what many Christians see as an evil mockery of marriage.  And the State will punish a Christian for practicing her faith in her place of business--which she OWNS--by confiscating “penalties” not only from that business but from her personally as well.

Christians, you see, don’t have the right to own flower shops unless they will kneel at the altar of Ba’al to pour out floral libations in celebration of the wickedness of gay “marriage.”  The state has the right to force them to do so.

The National Organization for Marriage’s blog has more details about this outrageous case.  The Alliance Defending Freedom website contains links to the whole outrageous decision, in which the court ruled that freedom of religion means that believers are free to have beliefs, but not necessarily free to express them in public or act on them.  Chillingly, the court cited the New Mexico decision in Elane Photography LLC vs. Willock in their decision--if a photographer can be forced to photograph a gay “wedding” despite her Christian beliefs that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman, the Washington Court said, then this creates the precedent that forces all religious believers to participate in gay “weddings” whenever they are asked to do so.

Or, as Mark Shea has been putting it for years: Tolerance is not enough.  You MUST approve.

If you are a Catholic, a Christian, an observant orthodox Jewish person, a Muslim, or anyone else whose religion teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, and you happen to own or work at a place which provides goods and services for weddings, there is only one thing you can do: Get. Out. NOW.

I hate to shout, but the bars are closing in, and if you don’t restructure your business today in such a way that you no longer provide any goods or services for weddings, you will be forced in the very near future to cater or photograph or provide flowers or bridal gowns/tuxes or other wedding-related items to gay couples.  Trust me--they will seek out your business on purpose to destroy it if they have any suspicion that you might be a religious believer who doesn’t believe in gay “marriage.” 

The courts keep ruling against religious freedom.  In the name of tolerance and inclusion they are helping move our culture to a place that is completely intolerant of religious faith and completely ready to exclude all of us from the market place, unless we’re prepared to sell out our religious freedom and kowtow to the illusion that two men or two women are, in any way that we understand it in the light of our religious faiths, “married."  The court in Washington is prepared to punish Mrs. Stutzman if she doesn’t accept their “settlement offer,” a fine of just over $2000 and a promise that from now on she will serve all the gay “weddings” she’s asked to serve as a florist.  Mrs. Stutzman, may God bless her, is standing firm, prepared to lose her business and all her personal assets as well rather than participate in something she truly believes is wrong in the eyes of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  She does not stand alone, but maybe it will take a million florists and a million bakers and a million photographers saying to all of their customers, “I’m sorry, but the one kind of event I won’t provide my services to are weddings of any kind, because America no longer allows me the freedom to practice my faith in regards to weddings or marriages--in fact, according to this great nation I am an evil bigot who must be silenced and punished for my deeply held belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman.” 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Third Quarter Blues Ideas

Today was a snow day--well, technically an ice day.  My college girls got to stay home, as did my husband.  So that long and serious blog post will have to wait.

Several times recently I’ve had some homeschooling friends mention the problem of the Third Quarter Blues.  I wrote about it years ago here--essentially it’s the phenomenon where somehow winter and home life and homeschooling all seem to become overwhelming all at once.

That post talks about the phenomenon in more detail, but here I want to share some ideas for breaking up the monotony of the third quarter.  While I’m only homeschooling one now, and she’s in high school, I remember those long winter days all too well, and the doubts that come crowding in: should I actually be homeschooling?  Are my kids learning everything they need, or anything at all?  Will we ever see our living room floor again? and so on.

If this describes where you are right now, especially if you are homeschooling elementary schoolers, perhaps a few of these ideas might help:

1. Have a Theme Day.  I told a Facebook friend that a Tropical Day can be fun (blanket picnics, travel or educational videos about tropical islands, island-themed lesson plans, “sunbathing” on towels with umbrellas and a reading assignment, etc.).  We did a Space Day and a Dinosaur Day, but really the possibilities are endless--especially in these days of streaming video and free coloring pages!

2. Have a D.E.A.R. day.  When I was in “real school” my school did this once, and I LOVED it--because D.E.A.R. stands for “Drop Everything and Read.”  While this may work best if you have some avid readers in the home, I think it could be tailored for just about anybody--and what better time t do this than on some bleak February day when cuddling on the couch with some hot chocolate or tea already sounds like a great idea?

3. Have a Game Day.  Who says “pin the tail on the donkey” is just for birthday parties?  Party games, board games, card games--take your pick, depending on the children’s ages, and let the fun begin!  There are some card games out there that involve a bit of math.  And if, like me, you get lots of “religious junk mail” with plastic rosaries or angel coins or prayer cards, you can use these to fill a prize basket and sneak a bit of religious education in too! :)

4. Have a Dress Up Day.  Here in Texas, dressing up for fun over the summer holidays was never fun--it was Too Darned Hot.  But dressing up in the middle of winter on a school day for no particular reason was always fun!  Historical figures, literary characters, saints, or even cartoon characters are welcome on a costume day.  Some funny word problems during math class can add to the fun (e.g., “If Batman fills the Batmobile’s 20 gallon gas tank, and the Batmobile gets an average of 35 MPG, approximately how far can Batman drive before he’ll need to find a filling station?” etc.)

5. Have a “Home Economics and Management” Day.  I saw someone else suggest this, but when I was asking my girls for ideas for this post my oldest daughter also suggested it.  The idea is simple: in lieu of regular lessons, you all focus on some basic home economics tasks together--but you have to do them together (not just mom cooking and cleaning while the kids play because that’s called Saturday).  All of my girls learned to do their own laundry at age 10, and we did cooking lessons and cleaning lessons as well.  Not only is this a great way to kick the winter blues, but it’s a good way for active children to trade a day’s worth of seatwork for practical lessons involving skills they will really need.  And the payoffs for Mom are also great--just this weekend, while Thad and I were running errands, the girls decided to clean and declutter the house.  There’s nothing like arriving home with a week’s worth of groceries and walking into a sparkling clean living room!

None of these things are designed to replace regular schoolwork and activities, but if the Third Quarter Blues have got you down, you might consider planning a day like one of these (or based on an idea of your own).  A change of pace on what is usually a normal school day can do a lot for everybody’s moods and attention spans, and one of the benefits of homeschooling is the flexibility to be creative!

Friday, February 20, 2015


There’s an issue I really wanted to blog about today.  It centers around a story many of you have already heard, and it pertains to the decline in religious liberty in the face of the hostile imposition of a gay-rights agenda by the judiciary.

I will try to blog about it on Monday, because with a migraine that has lasted all day and that is making my vision a bit blurry as I type this, I don’t think I can do such a complex post justice right now.

I’m not sure I can do any post justice right now.  But I’ll try, by listing, in no particular order, ten things I am grateful for today:

1. I am grateful for my family.  They are always loving and helpful, and especially so when I’m battling one of these migraine monsters.  The banana bars Bookgirl and Hatchick put together to go with dinner were delicious!

2. I am grateful for my friends, both in-real-life and online (and you special ones who are both!).  I am grateful for people who post fun memes on Facebook that make me laugh out loud.

3. I am grateful for my faith, for its seasons, even for Lent (even if I grumble).

4. I am grateful for my parish community and all the good it brings into my life.

5. I am grateful for the path around the nearby lake, which is getting me out walking more often.  I am grateful that my two younger girls (who were home today) went for a walk with me--it helps, sometimes, to get some fresh air, even when your head is pounding.  I’m grateful for the chance to watch a baby turtle paddle its way to a pile of floating sticks, attempt to climb them, fail, and swim right back until it got on top of them triumphantly for some rest and sunshine; I’m grateful for the Great Egret we saw in flight.

6. I am grateful for a quiet evening at home.

7. I am grateful for many material blessings, including a freezer with plenty of ice cube trays and a slow-cooker that made dinner for tonight.

8. I am grateful that tomorrow is Saturday and I don’t have to be anywhere too early.

9. I am grateful that one of our cats (Smidge) likes to sleep on my feet when it’s cold outside.

10. I am grateful that migraines, like all things, do eventually come to an end.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Liturgy wars: The Church of Schlock Strikes Back

Imagine, just for a moment, if you will, that you and your family decided to visit a lovely part of the country for Christmas.

It was a wonderful vacation, you said.  Everyone had a good time, you said.  But then you had to go to Mass, and the only Mass nearby was an approved Extraordinary Form Mass.  Okay, you thought, not really our family’s comfort zone, but we’re grateful that Mass is available here in this vacation spot.

And then--Mass isn’t really a good experience at all, and you write a blog post about it.  About how everybody glared at you for coming in without a veil or other head covering.  About how you got funny looks because your toddler was in little-boy jeans instead of a three-piece toddler suit or khakis and a sweater like everybody else’s toddler.  About how this same toddler covered his ears when the organ played a Bach prelude, declaring loudly, “I don’t like this scary music!” which made everybody within earshot frown angrily at him and at you.  About how people turned around to “shush” your daughter when she tried to sing along with the Gloria (though she doesn’t know Latin)--one lady hissed icily to you “This isn’t the Dialog Mass!” as if you’d know what she meant. About how Father’s homily was about the evils of Modernism and Freemasonry and Feminism which were destroying the world by encouraging young women to go to college.  About how you had no idea what was going on, but tried to pray silently anyway, and all was well until you went to receive Communion and you knelt at the Communion rail and your older son who has to receive Communion in the hand temporarily because his orthodontic appliance won’t let him open his mouth wide enough to receive on the tongue was refused Communion by the priest, causing your son to hang his head in total pre-teen embarrassment as he returned to the pew with you all.  And after Mass as you slipped silently out the doors most people just glared at you, except for one would-be helpful person told you that you really ought to have a Missal next time (though how exactly you are supposed to follow along in a Missal while holding an antsy toddler isn’t clear to you).

But in your blog post, you don’t just talk about this one bad experience.  Instead you rant and rail about how ALL E.F. Masses are like this, and how all of this just proves how wise the Council was to reform the liturgy, because if you had to spend every Sunday in such a dreary, cold, angry, glaring place you’d be tempted to become an Evangelical.

Would that be fair?

Well, here’s what really happened to a family that had to endure a “shlocky” Ordinary Form Mass while on their Christmas vacation:
This past Yuletide, my husband and I decided to escape the Minnesota winter by taking our family to South Texas. We had a joyfully green Christmas, with our children running wild on the beach while the Gulf of Mexico lapped at our toes. We didn’t miss the snow. Of course, there are always drawbacks to such ventures, and this was no exception. While Christmas at our home parish is something to savor, our Christmas liturgies this year featured campy banners, schlocky music, and homilies with little discernable connection to the Catholic faith.
The children found this confusing. They’ve spent their lives as parishioners at St. Agnes, a wonderful parish in St. Paul where sacred liturgy is always celebrated beautifully and with great reverence. Consequently, they are totally unfazed by the liturgical use of Latin, but I’m not sure the younger two even recognized the schlocky liturgies we attended as “Mass.” (Coming out of one, our two-year-old said something about “the party” we had just attended. And our eventual return to St. Agnes inspired him to chirp out, cheerily and with something like relief, “Oh! It’s the Jesus place!” In his eyes it had obviously been awhile since we’d been to a “Jesus place.”) [...]
Once in awhile I’m forced to venture into the wilds of and be reminded that in fact, the parish around the corner probably looks nothing like St. Agnes. It’s likely a mess of altar girls, guitar bands, and people who wouldn’t even consider that they should walk 10 feet to the vestibule after Mass before carrying on a normal-voiced conversation. (Because it’s not like the sanctuary is a place of prayer, or anything. I mean, Mass has been over for two minutes! How much prayer time do you need?) It clearly doesn’t even occur to them that Christ is present in the tabernacle, mere steps away from where they stand.
Numerically speaking, St. Agnes is the aberration, and the schlocky parishes are closer to the rule. But I want my children to see it the opposite way. I want them to view mystery and unashamed reverence as “normal Catholic life.” I want them to see the campy banners and “Here I Am, Lord” as the wonky aberration. At some point, inevitably, they will notice that wonky aberrations are almost ubiquitous in the Catholic world, while good liturgy is often hard to find. My hope is that, by that time, they’ll already be accustomed to reverencing Christ’s Body, such that it doesn’t cause them embarrassment or shame. Hopefully they’ll have an appetite for beauty and mystery that no other meal can satisfy. Hopefully they’ll always be able to see Christ’s Sacrifice with the wonder and credulity of little children.

What do you do with such a blog post?
I think everyone who has read my blog over the years knows that I’m all in favor of reverence at Mass. I think that there is still work to be done in the “reform of the reform.”  I think that there are things we can all do to help in this important work.
But I’m getting a bit tired of the idea that the “real Church” only exists in these tiny pockets of perfect reverence and liturgical propriety.  And I’m getting really tired of those who sit in judgment of perfectly valid Masses as “wonky aberrations” because their personal liturgical sensibilities are offended.  The “mess of altar girls,” the extraordinary minister in the purple dress, the “guitar bands,” all of these--all of them!--are real people, doing something the Church permits and even sometimes encourages them to do.  Most of them don’t show up to try to impose their liturgical sensibilities on the Mass.  Most of them--most of us--are ready to do what Father wants, out of a sense of obedience and gratitude.  And if Father ever really wants (or you’re worried he might want) something that isn’t permitted, then we tend to fret about it and pray about it and blog about it and, if necessary, contact the bishop about it--but it has to be something actually wrong, something not permitted at all, not just something we’d rather not do (such as sing “Here I Am, Lord,” which is boring musically even with the third-verse descant).
Lu is actually risking more than she may realize.  When you raise children to believe that most if not all of their fellow Catholics are liturgical slackers who attend “schlocky liturgies” and have never been taught the proper degree of liturgical reverence, you might succeed in making sure they will always believe this.  But you might do so at the cost of making them judgmental elitists who won’t bother to go to Mass at all if they end up living somewhere where “schlock” is the only option, or, worse, you might cause them to raise excellent questions like, “If the Church allows all this awful ugly schlock, and even seems to prefer it, then how do we know it’s still the real Church?  Maybe those SSPX-ers or sedevacantists are right after all...”  Which is far too high a price to pay for liturgical purity, in my book.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fasting is a test of obedience, not endurance

Happy Ash Wednesday!  Wait--can I say that?  :)

I know that lots of Catholic writers are calling it quits on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media for Lent.  I’m doing the opposite: I intend to resume regular blogging on the weekdays of Lent, in the hopes that regular blogging will translate into greater discipline as a writer.  I owe some people a book or two, and giving up blogging so as to have more time to edit might have sounded good in theory; in practice, it became less time spent writing overall.

And I didn’t really plan to revisit the fasting topic, but after participating in a Facebook conversation I have to admit that it seems to me like a whole lot of Catholics out there make one specific and critical mistake about fasting.  Granted, this is my opinion as a totally unqualified laywoman, but I think that too many people think that the point of fasting is for the Church to set up some Really Really Hard Rules, so that those who were capable of enduring those Really Really Hard Rules could then be reassured that whatever anybody else might be, they are real followers of Jesus.

In the viewpoint of some Catholics who seem to have that idea, the Church has cheated them by wimping out and making the current fasting rules.  What--two days only?  And on those days you’re allowed a meal?  And not just a meal, but two smaller meals or snacks?  That’s not fasting--that’s ordinary sensible eating for anybody who isn’t either a glutton or a “pansy!” (And that actual word was used in the conversation I saw--the context was that the early Christians weren’t “pansies” about things like fasting.)

To be fair, some of the people who hold this view also agree with the Church that people who have serious medical issues or other situations where fasting might be dangerous shouldn’t fast.  This would include pregnant or nursing women, diabetics, people with other blood-sugar issues short of diabetes, people who would be a danger to themselves or others if they had to work a full day on little or no food (e.g. long-haul truck drivers, surgeons, firefighters and police officers, and so on) and probably more categories I haven’t even thought of.  Some of these people are already exempt from the current, and lighter, fasting rules, so it seems to me that having the Church “crack down on discipline” by instituting a much more rigorous fast is only going to have the effect of having more and more exemptions spelled out in the law, granted by bishops or pastors, or otherwise extended to the not-small number of people who cannot safely go twenty-four hours without eating at all, or with a single “snack-sized” meal.

So returning to stricter rules, especially in an age of machines and technology where people are often awake and active for sixteen to eighteen hours a day (not possible for most people back when candles were the only source of illumination), would have the unintended consequence of returning to much more sweeping exemptions to those rules.  And what would the people who can already (and voluntarily) keep a much stricter fast gain from it all?  Bragging rights?  A sense that their endurance ability makes them front-runners in the race toward Christ?  The right to pen scathing indictments of the Church’s new “softness” in exempting so many people from fasting, when everybody knows that fasting automatically produces great spiritual growth in those who participate in it?  Wait...

The truth is that while fasting is a time-honored custom in the Church, no custom, no devotional practice, no form of prayer or act of penitence, will produce automatic or magical spiritual growth. There have been saints who were forbidden by their lawful superiors from fasting, and their holiness is every bit as apparent in their acquiescence  to such lawful orders as in their prior heroic fasting accomplishments.  That is because fasting, like any other rule or law of the Church, is more a test of our obedience to Christ as present in His Church than anything else.  When the saints obeyed the fasting rules, they grew closer to God; and when some of them were forbidden to fast and obeyed those orders, they grew just as close to Him (or, perhaps, if they really wished to fast but could not, even closer).

The Church has the authority to give us, in every age, what we really need.  If what we really needed was an obligatory fast so physically difficult that few could actually do it, she would give us those rules.  Perhaps instead she is calling those who are physically strong and capable of great feats of fasting to obey her present laws and as a joyful, voluntary, and invisible gift to go beyond them, without telling anybody about it.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Fasting, and other liturgical/logistical nightmares for modern Catholic mothers

The other day, someone shared on Facebook someone else’s lovely reflection about the Church and fasting and why it’s important to keep the two days of the strict fast (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) and to think about including some of its prescriptions during the rest of Lent.

Like I said--a lovely reflection.  I’m not in any way criticizing the gentleman who wrote it, particularly when I point out that he was, in fact, a gentleman.  Not a lady, and not a married lady with children.

Why does that make a difference?

Let me put it this way: ironically and sadly enough, I spend more time thinking about food and planning food and worrying about food and considering What To Do About the Food on those two days--Ash Wednesday and Good Friday--than I do the rest of the year.  Not even Thanksgiving or Christmas can create the level of panic-stricken planning than the two obligatory fasting days do.

It was bad enough when Thad and I were the only Mannings obligated to fast.  Last year our oldest girl joined us, and this year her next youngest sister has to fast too--only our youngest girl is exempt.  And the older girls will be on their college campus on Ash Wednesday from about 9 a.m. until just after 7 p.m., so in addition to figuring out fasting generally I had to conclude (regretfully) that the Ash Wednesday Mass is impossible for us this year and also try to figure out some small portable meatless “snacks” that will allow for the “two snacks” portion of the girls’ food for Ash Wednesday without being too much food on the one hand or not enough to keep them going all day until 7 on the other, plus try to decide what to serve for the “main meal” when they arrive home given that I’ll probably be scraping them up from the floor by that time and also given that with my fish and shellfish allergy (did you know those can just show up in middle age?) fish is off the menu.  The various Catholic mommy-bloggers who post stern warnings that we really ought to be eating something bland and tasteless for the main meal on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday in order to keep fully in the sacrificial spirit of Making Sure we Hate Everything are, in my politely expressed opinion, in error; fasting is complicated enough for a family with both fasters and non-fasters in it before some mommy blogger or other pronounces personal anathemas against cheese pizza or anything else that actually tastes good.

And our family has only one non-faster this year, who is herself a teen; I know other families who have to balance the fasting of the older members of the family against the non-fasting of the ravenous youngsters plus the perpetual grazing of the toddlers.  Add in, perhaps, somebody who is on medication for something or other and can’t fast (which is not exactly unheard of in the middle of flu season) or a pregnant or nursing mom or somebody else who is momentarily exempt and you have the makings of total nuclear kitchen chaos.

Now, I’ve had conversations with people about this sort of thing before, and some Catholic gentlemen have expressed puzzlement that any of this is complicated at all.  In fact, I had a conversation with somebody about the idea to change the Eucharistic fast back to three hours, which the gentleman thought would be a terrific way to increase reverence for the Blessed Sacrament.  I’m all in favor of increasing reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, but I started to discuss with the gentleman how what he was suggesting would make some mothers’ Sunday morning jobs so incredibly complex and frustrating that instead of increasing the reverence for the Sacrament, an extended fast would likely lead some mothers to decide that the family could receive Holy Communion once a month (if that), so that on the other Sundays she didn’t have feed all or some of the communicants in her family at six a.m. or so, so that they could receive Holy Communion at the 9 a.m. Mass.  And before anybody points out that the communicants could easily go without food until 10 a.m. or later because back in the Old Days everybody went without food or even a sip of water from midnight until after Mass, let me just remind you that back in the Old Days people had to be exhorted to receive Communion at least once a year (the Easter Duty), that frequent Communion was not all that common, and that children as young as seven were not yet admitted to the Sacrament--and that’s before we point out things like 6 a.m. Low Masses within walking distance of people’s homes, etc.

And when we consider the Old Strict Rules of Fasting we also have to consider two things: one, that lots and lots of people were exempt from the strict rules, and two, that the old fasting rules were based on the way people lived and ate at the time--and we have changed a lot since then.

That “one full meal and some food at two other times” rule?  Nearly everybody ate three good-sized meals a day most of the year.  For most people, these meals were breakfast, dinner (the main meal, served sometime between noon and 2 p.m.) and supper or “tea.”  This historical website lists some interesting sample menus for those meals, a couple of which I’ll share here:
Breakfast - Corn bread, cold bread, stew, boiled eggs.
Dinner - Soup, cold joint, calves' head, vegetables.
Dessert - Puddings, &c.
Tea. Cold bread, milk toast, stewed fruit.
Breakfast - Hot cakes, cold bread, sausages, fried potatoes.
Dinner - Soup, roast turkey, cranberry sauce, boiled ham, vegetables.
Dessert - Pie &c.
Tea. Corn bread, cold bread, stewed oysters.
Breakfast - Hot bread, cold bread, chops, omelet.
Dinner - Boiled mutton, stewed liver, vegetables.
Dessert - Pudding, &c.
Tea. Hot light bread, cold bread, fish, stewed fruit.

You can see the rest here; these were taken from a cookbook aimed at the American middle class and published in 1853.

My point is that our present fasting rules, covering only two days out of the year (and thus not being extremely difficult in most cases) are still based on a meal structure most of us have never experienced.  We (some of us) may twist ourselves in knots with anxious questions like, “If I normally drink a 12 oz. fruit and yogurt smoothie for breakfast, do I need to cut it to 6 ounces on Ash Wednesday so it doesn’t count for my full meal??  And if I eat half of my normal lunch does that, added to the six ounce smoothie, equal my full meal so that I really have to skip food the rest of the day???" without realizing that when the fasting rules were written many people breakfasted on, as the Tuesday menu above lists, pancakes, bread, sausages and fried potatoes, or as the Wednesday one lists, both hot and cold bread (which I’m curious about), chops, and an omelet!  And that’s before we look at the dinner menu which seems to contain as much food as many of us fix for a holiday meal, not an ordinary weeknight.

Honestly, we don’t eat like that anymore, but the fasting rules sort of seem to assume that we do. That’s why I appreciate so much Jimmy Akin’s various posts about fasting, particularly this one which points out that nowhere in the applicable laws does the Church say anything about what our two smaller meals (or two snacks) have to add up to before they’ve exceeded the full meal (which itself is not defined in terms of quantity or calories or anything of the kind).  

So if you (or your teenaged daughter who is over 18 and thus bound to fast) worry about the size of that breakfast smoothie, perhaps the way to look at it is that the people who wrote the laws on fasting would already consider a breakfast smoothie to be a snack and not a full meal at all (though I’ll leave it to learned moral theologians as to whether the smoothie is a food or a beverage, because that sort of quibbling makes my head hurt).  And if you (or the homeschool bulletin board you belong to) are fretting about How Much Is Too Much and Too Good for dinner, bear in mind that nowhere in the law is the full meal defined in detail and nobody says it has to taste bad (though it’s probably within reason to say that the full meal should be comparable to a normal dinner if those still exist at your house, rather than comparable to Thanksgiving, or at least Thanksgiving at a vegan relative’s house).  And if you are a mom for whom these considerations involve so much planning and logistics that you’re tempted to think the Eastern Orthodox have it easier--well, I hear you.