Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Donut Song; or, what small children call the Recessional Hymn

Not long ago at Mass, a little boy, seated with his family near the section where our choir sits, got a little antsy during some lengthy announcements after Communion.  Finally he leaned over and murmured to his mom, “Is it time for the Donut Song yet?”

(Yes, I usually spell that word “Doughnut,” but I can’t help but spell it the way it would make sense to a little boy for this post.)  :)

I shared this with one of my sisters whose children are still young, and she laughed, and agreed that “The Donut Song” was probably what most small children call the Recessional Hymn.  Then she told me I needed to write The Donut Song.  I promptly forgot all about it until today, when some lyrics occurred to me just before I had to head out the door for a dentist appointment, proving once again that as a procrastinator I always get things done at the last minute and under pressure.  Or something.

Anyway, here, for all the moms of antsy toddlers and wiggly young ones, is:

The Donut Song (sung, more or less, to the tune of All Are Welcome)

Yes, it's time to sing the Donut Song
It's almost time to go,
We will hurry to the exit doors
And we won't go row by row.
There is coffee for the grown-ups
And we'd better get there fast;
Cause there might still be a chocolate one for me:
Time for donuts!
Time for donuts!
Time for donuts after Mass.

See, I made it through the opening prayers
Through the readings and the psalm--
Though that smack I gave my brother then
Might have given mom some qualms
Still, I colored through the sermon
And so, I know, at last,
I will get to have my sweet reward now:
Time for donuts!
Time for donuts!
Time for donuts after Mass.

You know Sunday's not my favorite day;
Being good is such a chore,
I admit that once a month ago
I sank weightless on the floor.
But when Dad hauled me back off it,
I pleaded for a pass,
‘Cause you know that I’ll behave if there is
Time for donuts,
Time for donuts!
Time for donuts after Mass.

And someday I'll have kids like me
Who will play and act the fool
And I'll take them on the Walk of Shame
Out to the vestibule.
But I'll share with them my childhood
And this wisdom from my past
That if they are good they’ll soon be singing:
Time for donuts!
Time for donuts!
Time for donuts after Mass.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Smijj of Danger...Now Available!

Just wanted to let everybody know that Book Three in the Tales of Telmaja series, A Smijj of Danger, is now (at long last) available!  Editing is underway on Book Four and I hope to have good news on that one soon too.

In the meantime--here it is!

A Smijj of Danger

UPDATE: Kindle Edition of A Smijj of Danger is also available here!

The kind of love that wins

Last week was full of ugly news about unborn babies being treated like so much meat to be priced and sold.  Pro-life Americans rightly reacted with outrage--and, encouragingly enough, so did many people who usually think of themselves as “pro-choice,” but who were aghast at the kind of choice that could lead to a discussion, over salad and wine, of the best ways to kill a late-term baby so as not to damage her valuable organs.

But I’ve been following a different story these past few days: a quiet little story of pro-life courage, a story of a mom facing a potentially deadly delivery and a child with many health challenges to come, a story of faith, and of hope, and of love.

Those of you who read Rod Dreher’s blog have read this story.  It is the story of his Orthodox parish priest, and the priest’s wife, and their three young children, and this fourth new little one who was just born a month early, minus an eye and with other issues, but plus a family and a community of love.  She has a mother who was willing to lay down her life for her (as so many mothers quietly choose to do in similar circumstances); she has a father and siblings who have loved her dearly from the minute they knew about her--long before they knew that her arrival would be so difficult and scary.  And they didn’t stop loving her when they did learn these things. Abortion was never even up for debate.  Little Irene would be welcomed and loved no matter the cost, and she has been welcomed and loved, even by total strangers who may never get to meet her in person.

(Perhaps you would like to be one of them; the need is still great, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.)

Our world is full of people who equate love with romance, and not only with Romance as a sort of grand and noble idea, but with mere romantic feelings.  It doesn’t readily comprehend the kind of love that calmly contemplates the possibility of death when a child is coming into the world--the death of the child, the death of her mother, the death, perhaps, of them both.  It cannot understand that the price of real love is always sacrifice, and that even when the physical death of the body is not required, the death of the Self is the daily coin which the Lover offers to the Beloved.  Few mothers, praise God, will ever have to die for their children, but they must all do what is sometimes harder: they must live for them, and not just for them but with them, and not just with them but with that kind of watchful, loving, sacrificial presence which sets aside (gladly one day, grumpily the next--mothers are still human, after all) her own desires, her own wished-for actions, her own work or pleasures, for as long as this season of the child’s life lasts, for as long as she has children who still need this willing and active love from her.

But if this wife and mother is blessed to have as her husband and father a man who truly understands the sacrificial nature of real love, he will be beside her in this great work: he will daily lay down his own life for his wife and their children, as she lays hers down for him and for them--and instead of a battle of the sexes there is the competition of the beloved ones, as each tries to out-do the others in acts of sweet and holy service.  It is sweet, because it is freely and willingly chosen; it is holy, because it imitates the generous love of the Father for all of His children here on earth.

When a family has this love at its very core of being, when it flourishes between a husband and his wife, and then flows from them to their children, that family has the kind of strength that can weather the worst storms that life breaks over them.  The prospect of a greater and graver sacrifice than what they have so far faced together may not be a happy one, but it is not one that the family whose love models that of Christ for His Church will run from.  Trusting in the infinite goodness, mercy, and wisdom of God, they bow their heads in fervent prayer, and lift them again to take whatever cup He gives them.

And that is the kind of love that truly wins.

The world doesn’t believe in that kind of love.  The world believes in a kind of love that is, at its heart, too selfish for sacrifices.  The world believes in a kind of love that doesn’t endure, a kind of love that leads a mother to reject her unborn child (and to strangers calmly discussing the sale of the child’s body).  The world believes in the lust of Herod for Salome, but cynically dismisses the idea that married love can ever really be faithful, or permanent, or exclusive.  The world teaches children to find their parents stupid and dull, and it teaches parents to see in their children objects who can please or disappoint based on the worldly successes they achieve, or fail to achieve. The world sees a single ray of sunlight illuminating the Cross with the suffering Christ upon it, and finds nothing but shadows: “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.”  (John 1:5)

In a small town in Louisiana, a tiny baby and her family are radiant in that Light; a sign of hope, and a reminder of the goodness of God, who will not, in His victorious Love, let the darkness overcome us.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

You can’t have it both ways (with apologies to Jonathan Swift)

As every pro-lifer who has been active for more than a decade knows, Planned Parenthood does not give the remains of the children they are paid to kill a decent, dignified burial.  They either throw them away, or sell them for medical research.  Even more unsavory uses have been alleged.

So this story isn’t surprising to anyone on the pro-life side.  It seems to have surprised a few on the pro-choice side, especially since they like to think of the “choice” they support in vague, fuzzy terms like, “Oh, a woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant shouldn’t have to be!” not in real, concrete terms like, “Once you’re done dealing with your ‘choice,’ can we buy her liver or calvarium?”

Rod Dreher has written a couple of great posts on this.  In that second post, Rod asks:
What if people were buying aborted fetal body parts for use in gourmet cooking? Would that be okay with progressives? If there’s no moral problem with using these parts for medical research, what would be the problem using them for soup?
In the spirit (though not the talent) of Jonathan Swift, I answered this way in the comments over there, and am posting it here too:

A Swift poem

At the chic progressive diner where
The glitterati go
They have a secret menu
In a hidden room below
And the dishes on this menu please
The palates dull and jaded:
They may partake of all of it
And never be surfeited.

Let’s start with appetizers; here’s
A crisp Caucasian boy,
His limbs fried to perfection
(Served with bacon and Bok Choy)
Why, of course, my dear, it’s legal,
He’s not exactly real,
He was killed at eighteen weeks or so,
Less valuable than veal.

We’ll go from there to soup, and the
Selection’s always nice!
French onion made from fetal bones–
That would be my advice.
There’s a hot chili con carne
With some tender Latin meat,
Or the daily harvest special is
A soup du jour to beat.

Oh, don’t be silly, darling–these
Were never people. No,
Their mothers paid to have them killed,
And we enjoy them so!
They say you are just what you eat:
To satisfy our hunger,
We eat this young sweet human flesh,
And it will make us younger.

Such an array of choices on
The main course side of things!
Whole-roasted, boiled, sauteed, and more–
We truly eat like kings.
To quibble over such delights
We’d have to be absurd,
Though some may call them “children,”
The line is really blurred.

So eat, drink, and be merry! And
Eat Carrie’s child, or Ruth’s!
Let dour faces judge and scold–
We live by our own truths.
You’re not a person till you’re born,
(If then–we’re mostly phony!)
And fetal meat is far too sweet
To shun from sanctimony.

*****

Now, lots of people have complained that comparing medical research to cannibalism is too much. But that’s not the point.  If the principal is that it is okay to pay someone to kill your own developing human embryo or fetus because the embryo or fetus is not a person--certainly not your child or your baby--and then it’s further okay to sell that human embryo or fetus' body parts for medical research, why on earth shouldn’t it be perfectly legal to sell your human embryo or fetus for food, for art, for cosmetic manufacturing, or for any other purpose at all?  Some have quibbled that we don’t allow people to sell their own organs (e.g., you can donate a kidney but you can’t sell it), but most organ donations don’t require you to kill the donor first.  And some have objected that we don’t sell other corpses for food or commercial use even if the deceased wished to donate his body to science, but that implies that the deceased embryo or fetus is a human corpse, worthy of some sort of respect--and how can that be, when her humanity wasn’t worthy of being respected enough to let her live, to make it, in fact, illegal directly and intentionally to kill her?

Either the human embryo or fetus is really nothing at all, in which case it’s perfectly okay to make art, jewelry, lampshades or food out of her, or she is a person, in which case it is vastly morally wrong to kill her in the first place.  You can’t have it both ways.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Camelot; or, what to wear to Mass

I honestly didn’t think I’d be blogging about that perennial favorite topic, “What’s wrong with how Catholics these days dress for Mass?  Is everybody a clueless slob?” again.

After all, I’ve written about it a lot.  Such as:

here,

and here,

and here,

and here,

and here.

And that’s probably not all of them.  But I got tired of looking.

So why write about it again, when I’ve probably said pretty much everything I have to say on the subject?

Well, I wasn’t going to.  But first there was this rather unfortunate video which began to circulate on Facebook.  And then there was Msgr. Pope’s recent post which used the video as the jumping-off place, and which ended up being remarkably similar to this post of his from 2010.

So I found myself talking about this a bit on Facebook, and then I decided that it would be better to just get it over with and write a post.  In the process I’ve spent some time thinking about what it is, exactly, that bothers me about this sort of thing (apart from the fact that we seem to waste so much time and energy on minutiae like this and so much less on more weighty matters--and, no, that is not the same as saying, “Clothes don’t matter!  Ever!  For any reason!”).  Because, as I’ve written before, I actually do think there used to be an idea of “Sunday Best” for Sunday Mass, and I do encourage people, if they feel so called, to consider whether they can spruce up a bit (with what they already own, that is) when they’re going to Sunday Mass; but I also think there are way more important things to think about and if getting to church is, for you, (as a Facebook friend who is not a Catholic put it recently) like “...dragging a bag of mad cats...” then the last thing you need to worry about is whether or not your earrings are spiffy enough.

In the end, I’ve come up with a reason why the “What to Wear vs. What Not to Wear to Mass” themes and posts and videos bother me.  There may be other reasons, but this is what stands out:

There seems to be an assumption in many of these pieces that Our Lord is best pleased when men show up in suits or at least jackets/dress slacks and women come to Mass in nice, sleeved, tailored dresses that hit at least halfway between the knee and ankle. Oh, sure, it’s okay, in an “...if that’s the best you can do...” sort of way, if the man is wearing khakis and a dress shirt and the woman a nice, tailored blouse with a pretty skirt (and if she must wear pants, well, we’ll forgive her because we’re all about charity), but if they’re not making at least that much effort then it’s okay to make them feel sort of vaguely and generally guilty about what they’re wearing until or unless they take steps to improve the situation.

I’ve written multiple times about how the reality for many men in the Year of Our Lord two thousand fifteen is this: they don’t wear suits to work.  They don’t own “suits,” especially if by “suits” you mean the plural of “suit.”  They may have a suit which they can wear on certain occasions such as weddings or funerals, but even if they do, chances are it may need a bit of alteration when they take it out of the suit bag for such an event.  If they wear that suit 52 to 58 times a year (depending on whether they a] live in a diocese which still has the Ascension Feast on Thursday and b] ought to wear the suit on all Holy Days of Obligation as well as Sundays), it’s going to get worn out and need to be replaced.  Apart from the cheapest men’s suits (which may not last the whole 52 Sundays), an inexpensive suit will likely cost at least $250, with many retailers considering suits under $500 to be low-end.

And the reality for many women in the Year of Our Lord two thousand fifteen is this: we don’t own “nice, sleeved, tailored dresses.”  I myself have rather a lot of church dresses right now: I have five.  Four of them do not have sleeves.  Two of them--the one with (three-quarter) sleeves and one sleeveless heavy knit jumper-style dress, are only suitable in the winter (especially here in Texas; we were supposed to have our first 100-degree day where I live today, rather late in the year for us).  Two of the sleeveless ones I wear frequently to Mass, but I put some sort of “topper” over them, including some cute printed campshirt things I found on clearance last summer.  The final sleeveless one is my “good” dress, bought on purpose to wear to a work event at the company my husband works for (I bought a drapey jacket-sort of thing to go with it).  I have worn this dress on Christmas to Mass once as well, but it cost far more than I usually can spend on a single outfit (dress and topper together were about $80) and I can’t possibly justify wearing it weekly, as it would wear out and I wouldn’t have it the next time a big event comes up.

I am far from alone in this.  Most women I know would love to have a closet full of cute, fun, attractive dresses that fit well and do not make us look like some sort of a cross between a courtesan and a mushroom.  We do not have these.  Some women may have the money to buy several dresses like these  (though even they may still be too short for Mass; it can be hard to tell without trying one on) and also have  the financial ability to have them dry cleaned any time Baby misses the burp cloth, but unless your parish is quite wealthy it’s doubtful that the majority of women you’re at Mass with can buy such things in any practical quantity.

Why spend so much time on this?  Because the impression I get, over and over again, from people who discuss this topic, is that they really think either that most Catholic men and women actually do own closets full of suits and dresses but choose instead to wear “inferior” clothing to Mass, or that most Catholic men and women could easily acquire a suitable wardrobe for Sunday Mass by ransacking thrift stores and bargain counters, and that the failure to do this in order to make an effort to wear those garments which best please our Lord is a kind of moral fault.

But where do we get this idea that suits on men and tailored dresses on women are what best please our Lord, anyway?  If a man in a business suit and a woman in one of those dresses I linked to used a time machine and showed up suddenly in the midst of Jesus and His Apostles, Jesus would be the only one not horrified, and that’s just because He’s God.  Cultural standards can and do and have and will change and keep changing.  There’s a reason no one is out there scolding the suited men and the well-dressed women for not wearing medieval clothing (to say nothing of bringing up the Sumptuary Laws).  No, this does not mean that every clothing trend is benign, but it does mean that when you live in a casual culture the clothing you have to choose from will mostly be casual (and you are not morally bound to avoid the casual, only the clearly immodest).

I think--and this is only my theory, mind--that some of this comes from the tendency to idolize everything from the immediate pre-Conciliar era, and especially the American immediate pre-Conciliar era, as this perfect snapshot in time when the Mass was the Mass, and people knew how to dress properly for it, and nobody ever came to Mass in anything less than a full suit (if male) or a tailored dress and possibly gloves and a lace veil (if female), and all was well and good with our nation and our people and our culture and our Church.  In a word, it was Camelot.  And then--and then the Council happened, and the guitars and felt banners emerged, and the Mass (in English, anyway) was a badly-translated mishmash, and a priest in ugly vestments faced the people in ugly clothing across a polyester-draped altar on which stood a chintzy glass Chalice and an earthenware Ciborium...

...and if only men and women--mostly women--would dress properly for Mass, all of that would magically change for some completely unexplored reason.  And, besides, there’s nothing wrong with insisting that the really best way to dress for Mass involves adopting a 55-year-old cultural standard which emphasizes clothing many Catholics do not even own anymore and could only get at great expense--at which point the clothing would probably be manufactured in Bangladeshi deathtraps, but let’s not think too closely about that sort of thing when we’re choosing our suits and ties and dresses and heels for Sunday, shall we?

For me, it comes down to this: it is one thing to decide not to look like a slob on Sunday and, among those garments you actually own, to pull out something that is neat and tidy and suitable and appropriate--provided that you aren’t impeded by your state in life, the age of your children, the economic condition of your family, and a myriad of other non-trivial concerns from doing any such thing.  It is quite another to place upon one’s Catholic brothers and sisters the notion that unless you dress according to an iconic standard of formality that (however much one may personally lament its passing) has indeed passed, and which they can’t (unless they are quite wealthy) afford to imitate, they are really not quite pleasing the Lord.

And that’s before we even get into tangential issues about materialism, the kind of immodesty of dress that involves not sexual morality but ostentatiousness (which St. Paul discusses), vanity in general, envy and covetousness of the clothing others may have, and the degree to which we may project an unwelcoming and even hostile attitude toward the poor and/or badly dressed, who are still our brothers and sisters--but this is long enough, so we’ll save those matters for another time.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Friends, Roman Catholics, Countrymen...a guest post

The following is a guest post.  The author is my seventeen-year-old daughter who goes by the blog nickname “Hatchick” on this blog:


************

Friends, Roman Catholics, Countrymen, lend me your ears.
I come to bury Traditional Marriage, not to praise it.
The evil that such ideals do lives after them;
the good is oft interred with their bones.
So let it be with Traditional Marriage.
The noble Supreme Court hath told you that Traditional Marriage was binding our freedom.
It it were so, it was a grievous fault, and grievously hath Traditional Marriage answered for it.
Here, under leave of the Supreme Court and the rest--for the Supreme Court is an honorable institution; so are they all, all honorable men and women--Come I to speak in the funeral of Traditional Marriage.
It was the friend of some, faithful and just to me.
But the Supreme Court says it was binding our freedom,
and the Supreme Court is an honorable institution.
It hath brought many men and women together,
whose children did the public schools fill.
Did this in Traditional Marriage seem to bind our freedom?
When that the poor have cried, Traditional Marriage hath wept.
Such that enslaves us should be made of sterner stuff.
Yet the Supreme Court says it was binding our freedom,
and the Supreme Court is an honorable institution.
I speak not to disprove what the Supreme Court spoke,
but here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love Traditional Marriage once, not without cause.
What cause withholds you then to mourn for it?
O judgement! Thou art fled to brutish beasts,
and men and women have lost their reason.
Bear with me. My heart is in the coffin there with Traditional Marriage,
And I must pause till it come back to me.