Tag Archives: Articles

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

I have fallen miserably behind in keeping up with the blogs I follow, Sunday Snippets, and my email newsletters. I can either blog substantially or catch up on my reading; there’s just no time for both. I will therefore attempt to rectify my lack of good posting by sharing some of my favorite reading.

From the Catholic Education Resource Center: “Diversity, Dignity, and My Daughter” is one mom’s way of showing how interfaith relationships can help us stand up for what we believe in, even when we believe different things or the same thing for different reasons. She reflects in particular on modesty, Catholicism, and Islam in her relationship with her school-aged daughter, and her conclusion is profound.

From the WashPo: The aforementioned mom’s conclusion is echoed in this article by the founders of Altmuslimah and Altcatholicah, both online magazines for their respective traditions. They note that, at CUA, which is already in the spotlight for returning to single-sex dorms, students who seek a counterculturally conservative lifestyle are finding a welcoming home. Good for CUA!

From The Australian: A news article about the upcoming changes in the Mass translation that isn’t a dire warning of impending doom! Wonder of wonders! This is the best article I’ve seen so far, because it balances the bias of the JPII generation (which I admit to having) with the opinions of the older generation. I wonder why no one else thought to ask someone who experienced the last set of language changes, so to speak. I, for one, am ready to just get the switch over with already. I’m tired of talking; let’s just do it!

From Our Sunday Visitor: Two great lists of words every catechist and every Catholic should know. I would conflate the lists and say they’re all things every Catholic should know, especially the sections on sex, Sunday Mass, angels, and doctrine versus discipline. They’d also be useful for journalists who write about Catholicism. Between writing about the Catholic Church and writing about Harry Potter, it seems like no one has decent fact-checking.

From the Diocese of San Jose: Continuing in the vein of new Mass translation talk, I have heard people complain about “and with your spirit” and “consubstantial” so much that I’m sick of it. What everyone except this author seems to have missed is that the memorial acclamation “Christ has died” is disappearing. It was an American innovation that we were allowed to keep, and it has no Latin equivalent, so it’s gone. A priest friend of mine pointed out that it’s the only memorial acclamation that isn’t addressed to Christ. The article does seem to carry the point of others that the term for this response is being changed to “the mystery of faith.” I disagree, finding no term for that section in the USCCB’s documentation. I could be wrong, but I think I’m right.

Hmm. I swear I haven’t been living entirely in my Catholic bubble for the last month, but it did flex its way into a lot of my reading, didn’t it?

Life Issues in the News

As you might imagine, I try to keep abreast of pro-life issues that wander into the news. Two articles of note popped up this week. The first I found through the Facebook profile of an acquaintance of mine whose baby is due today, actually. The second I found through another friend who has two children, a boy and a girl. Both made me think a little more about the perspective of most of the United States on family, life, and pregnancy.

I first heard the term “selective reduction” when I read about it in a WashPo Magazine article in 2007, “Too Much to Carry.” It described a doctor treating a young Hispanic woman who was pregnant with triplets through IVF. They were observing an ultrasound of all three babies, labeled by letter, and trying to determine which of them would receive the saline injection. I remember my heart breaking when the mother asked, “It can’t be three?” Her own mother refused to let her keep all the babies, calling it one of the “unpleasant things” one “must” do to have a family. The one easiest for the doctor to access was aborted. No magazine article has ever made me cry before. That one did.

photo by Erin Ryan

This past week, a feature article in the NYT Magazine, “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy” detailed a newer trend in selective reduction: reducing twins to single births. I’m even more heartbroken and horrified. In all of the cases detailed in the article, women simply refused to have twins (most conceived artificially). Their reasons included being over 40, already having a child of the gender of one of the twins, and in the case of a lesbian couple, both partners trying to conceive artificially and miscarrying or reducing in various combinations. A doctor quoted in the article is noted for initially resisting reductions below twins, but then doing a complete reversal on his own statements as his patients aged. Nothing else had changed. Honestly, since abortion laws permit you to terminate a pregnancy at any point, this new development makes perfect sense. But, as Jennifer Fulwiler points out in the National Catholic Register, why is it that no one thinks mourning a miscarriage is silly, but regretting an abortion somehow is?

Finally, I read a WashPo Magazine article and the follow-up Web chat of a family in Rockville, Maryland, with eleven children ages 1 to 12. It was one of the most balanced big-family articles I’ve ever read. The mom noted that they family does not ask for help from anyone beyond carpools to sports practices, but people give it anyway: meals during illnesses, clothes at various times. That’s not “taking charity,” as one chat participant claimed, but accepting a gift. She also realistically admitted that, in the future, Catholic school may simply not be financially feasible, but they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it. She and her husband have a system that works. The chat participants brought up the usual arguments of the parents’ selfishness and large carbon footprint, but she replied graciously. In general, the article and chat reinforced the common implication I’ve found that the only acceptable way to have a family is to do whatever you can to get one of each gender, and maybe another, and then you must stop.

In the end, laws and science and changes in the medical field will never change real people’s choices and desires. Only hearts will. Change hearts, change the world.

The Death of Handwriting?

Not being at school/work gives me so much more time to read. As an English teacher, I read more than anyone should (though it’s almost never for pleasure). I got to be really fast at reading paragraphs, which was helpful, but also sad because my students should have been able to write more than one decent paragraph by the end of tenth grade. But I digress.

As a result of a year of teaching and my own school experience, I am excellent with bad handwriting. To date, I have found only one paper that I had to struggle to read. It was while I was grading the diocesan writing assessment, though, so I had the prospect of being free for the day three hours before school let out ahead of me. That was motivation enough. We talked a lot in ACE classes this summer about teaching students with learning disabilities and such. Reading that paper felt vaguely like someone with a language processing disorder, because I had to expend so much mental energy to decipher the words that by the time I reached the end of a sentence, I had no idea what any of it meant.

Which brings me to an article I read last night in TIME about the alleged death of handwriting. While I agree that today’s students are more apt to be great typists than have beautiful handwriting (though even typing isn’t a guarantee), I still think handwriting is important. When I write in my spiritual journal, I use cursive exclusively. The same goes for notes to parents. Not everyone has pretty cursive, sure, but there’s still a need at least for neat printing. Not everything can be typed. Pixels can only say so much.

Adult Faith

Maybe the best part of breaks is that I get to catch up on my reading. As I was finishing up my latest tour through ZENIT, I stopped to read the pope’s homily at the close of the Year of St. Paul, a year which I basically ignored because work/school was eating my life.

Paul wants Christians to have a “responsible” and “adult faith”. The words “adult faith” in recent decades have formed a widespread slogan. It is often meant in the sense of the attitude of those who no longer listen to the Church and her Pastors but autonomously choose what they want to believe and not to believe hence a do-it-yourself faith. And it is presented as a “courageous” form of self-expression against the Magisterium of the Church.

In fact, however, no courage is needed for this because one may always be certain of public applause. Rather, courage is needed to adhere to the Church’s faith, even if this contradicts the “logic” of the contemporary world. This is the non-conformism of faith which Paul calls an “adult faith”. It is the faith that he desires.

I studied education in undergrad, so I’ve been reading and thinking about human development for several years. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people think of religious faith as something childish. You can’t possibly continue being religious unless you’ve been brainwashed into it for your whole life, and you’re not really an adult until you break away from that, i.e. stop going to church. That view is, of course, ridiculous. Being independent is not about getting rid of any influence anyone has ever had on you. It’s about claiming opinions for yourself. True, you might grow up in a house full of Democrats and realize that you’re actually a Republican, but it is just as valid, independent, and adult to realize that you really have been a Democrat all along. The same is true for religion.

Religion is not a crutch. Choosing the follow the religion your parents practiced and raised you in is not a sign of childishness. If it means being countercultural, like faithful Catholicism these days, it might be the most free-thinking, grown-up choice of them all.

submitted to Sunday Snippets, a Catholic Carnival

Girls Gone Mild

Over winter break, I read Wendy Shalit’s Girls Gone Mild. I meet with the lovely ladies of the CSC once a month to talk about the issues Shalit discusses in her book. It’s a very well-written book, and our meetings have been great. Part of our goal is not just to sit around in our Catholic bubble, talking about things, but to do something. Kaitlyn and I collaborated on our something: a guest column for the campus newspaper, The Diamondback. If it gets published, it will be one of the boldest, most terrifying, most exhilarating things I’ve ever done, but I am confident that I’m doing it for all the right reasons.

Update (4/22/08): It was published today! The responses have been about half positive, half negative. I’ve been called some interesting and profane names, but I don’t regret submitting it at all.

To all girls: You are beautiful. You are not gorgeous because of your hot body or sexy clothes. You are so lovely because you are the crown of creation. To all guys: Help us realize our dignity as women by being real men. We know we’re not blameless, but you can show strength by living up to the challenge of showing all women that they are loved—and by ignoring the alleged Skirt Day. We are all human beings, not just human bodies. When we’re inching toward middle age, and the minis start to look ridiculous, shouldn’t we be assured that love will remain?

Those are sweet sentiments, I know, but words are worthless compared to action. It’s spring. The sun has returned, the cherry blossoms are at their prime, and the girls’ clothes are getting smaller. With warm weather comes the return of super-skimpy clothing. Here at Maryland, where we’re all trying to learn something, eventually get degrees, and have some fun along the way, we’d like to think we’re building a respectful culture. Maybe the women are even finding empowerment, The Vagina Monologues notwithstanding. But when a girl can’t take more than two steps without pausing to pull down her skirt and cover a little more leg, that doesn’t signal power. It signals defeat.

We live in the aftermath of the sexual revolution. Our mothers fought long and hard for the right to wear the micro-minis their moms wouldn’t let them leave the house in. They felt free, but that freedom has been twisted back on our generation. The new oppression makes young women, especially on college campuses, feel compelled to wear immodest clothing. The new feminism emphasizes the innate, dignified, and unique roles of men and women. It is more interested in a cute skirt from Old Navy than a feathered thong from Victoria’s Secret, bought to peek over low-rise jeans accidentally-on-purpose. The detractors against modesty remain, and they don’t even realize they’re complicit. “It’s what in the stores,” says my own mother about my 16-year-old sister’s tight tank tops. “That doesn’t mean you have to buy it,” I think, “and if you keep buying it, they’ll keep making it.”

Don’t think guys play no part in the new oppression. If a guy turns his head after you because you’re not wearing enough clothes, then it’s his fault, too. But if he told you that your modest clothes made you look pretty, wouldn’t that be infinitely better? Guys, who would you rather date: the girl who respects herself—and you—enough to cover up, or the girl that doesn’t care, and won’t care even when your friends start to check her out? Don’t encourage the wild girls. Show the mild girls that you respect them, you want to protect them, and you still desire them.

I have to admit that my own modesty kick is a recent development. I remember the way my ex-boyfriend and male classmates looked at me in miniskirts and low-cut tops. The only reason I felt good was because I knew they were looking at me instead of the other girls, so they had to pay attention to my thoughts and words…when they looked up. Men are inherently visual. Women know this; that’s why the girl is bothering to pull down her skirt instead of moving right along and blaming the men for their lack of self-control. She knows that the spring breeze shouldn’t be hitting that part of her thigh. She doesn’t want to dress that way, but what else can she do?

Rebel! It’s as simple as putting on a t-shirt under that tank or buying a longer shirt for those jeans. You don’t have to ignore your heart when it reminds you that you’re more than a bunch of body parts. You have more to offer than skin. If you don’t want to be treated like an object, don’t give the world a clear view of the objects you want it to look beyond. Grab some leggings for that mini; the 80s are in right now. No one’s saying you have to grow your hair into long pigtails and find dress patterns from Little House on the Prairie. Try some modesty on for size. You might be surprised at how beautiful you become.

A Nation of Nonreaders

The AP reports that very few people read books these days. Being almost an English teacher, I was upset at first. Then I realized that, if not for Harry Potter and my school reading, I’d fall into that group, too. School, oddly enough, is what keeps me too busy to read for pleasure. When I added the iRead book tracking facebook application, I was dismayed to find that I had almost nothing for my Currently Reading section. (The Bible only sort of counts. Sorry, Lord.) I love to read, and I want to do it more, but my plan to stretch the day into more than 24 hours has yet to go through.

This reminds me that I never posted a review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I’ll get on that. In the meantime, read Stephen’s King’s amazing review in Entertainment Weekly.

God in Your Living Room

Melinda Selmys writes in the National Catholic Register this week about the folly of expecting God to prove his existence. Even if he appeared to skeptics and answered every question they raised, they would still find a way to rationalize him away.

I agree that that’s a silly expectation. As I’ve come to learn more about Catholicism and Scripture, I’ve discovered something wonderful. There is so much logic and exegesis that can be applied to everything the Church teaches before you have to “take it on faith.” Why do I believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist? Not just because the Church says so. He said so, in the Bread of Life Discourse (John 6), and he wasn’t joking. If he was joking, he wouldn’t have let so many of his disciples leave him that day.

I believe that faith is something that you must claim for yourself. In Protestant rhetoric, you have to “have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” It has to be your decision; not your mom’s, not your wife’s, not even just the desire of Jesus himself. I’m not saying that you need to be blinded and knocked off your horse (Acts 22:6-16) before you can reasonably be expected to believe the truth. And I’m not saying that God will accept your bargain (“do this miraculous thing and I’ll believe”) or give you the right “feeling.” I’m saying that God wants us all for himself, and he will give us every opportunity and every grace we need to embrace him. Choose God. The rewards are literally endless.

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