Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Catholic mother and a beloved son who is gay

Not long ago, I posted something which touched on the issue of homosexuality. One commenter said: I'd love to know how you'd treat one of your own children if they 'came out' to you." I replied as I always do: I would love my child just as much as I do now, but I could never condone his or her sin.
After that post, I was contacted by an acquaintance of mine, a devout Catholic who could be any of us. As it turns out, her adult son is gay. She spoke with a heart full of love and pain, and I knew immediately that her thoughts deserved a wide hearing. 
Here's what she told me:
I love the Catholic Church, and I am an obedient Catholic who is very thankful for the authority of the Church. That being said, your post tonight has pulled at my heartstrings. Something that is clearly black and white does take on shades of gray when it happens in your life.
We are a homeschooling family. We attend daily Mass, celebrate feast days and thoroughly enjoy our children. We are not perfect, but we have tried very hard to parent in a loving and firm manner without being harsh. And, we have a gay son. I told my mother when he was a small boy that I was afraid he might be gay. We tried gently during his childhood to redirect his play, to encourage male friendships, but it was always in the back of my mind. But, how could God allow that, of all things, in a solid Christian home... a loving home?
Our son told us right before his 18th birthday. He is now 21. He has not had a "real" relationship with anyone at this point, but I know he has been sexually active. He is respectful, though, that his father and I want to tell his siblings when we feel that they are at an appropriate age. He also knows that this is parental territory only, and he has respected that so far. He is a good big brother... very nurturing, very loving. 
I love him. I adore him. So does his father. We do not condone being sexually active in a homosexual relationship (or in any relationship outside of marriage). However, when you watch your son struggle with an eating disorder, depression, and run away... it does not feel quite so black and white. 

We also did not get the help we needed from priests. One asked my son what his conscience told him, and when my son told him he thought it must be okay because he felt he was born this way, the priest told him that was his answer. Another that we met with offered very little support or counsel. I actually left feeling that he did not think it was that big of a deal... although, in all fairness to him, he did not say anything contrary to Church teaching. But, that was the "vibe" I was getting. (When he ran away, he went to a center for LGBT youth, who actually tried very hard to help our family in a loving, caring way... respectful of my husband’s and my beliefs; but, obviously, this was not the counsel we wanted for our son.)
I am just taking it one day at a time. I fear the day that he tells us he has met someone. He is so fragile. It is not so easy to say that we would never meet that person. I just pray, pray, pray. I have to believe that God hears this mother's cry for her son and that He loves my son even more than I do. If I shun my son, how do I show him the love of Christ? I am scared to close too many doors. And, right now, my son wants very much to meet someone... to have a life partner. 
We have talked to him about remaining chaste just as any Catholic single is called to do. Right now, he does not feel that is an option.

I guess I just wanted to say that it is a little deeper emotionally that just saying that you would love your child but not condone the lifestyle. That is true, but lots of heartache and struggling is involved.
What I find most frustrating is how matter-of-fact people become when asked how they would react to such news from a child (regardless of what they think their reaction would be): “I would take my child to a psychiatrist immediately”; “I would love my child without condoning it”; “I would kick my child out”; “I would plan some sort of intervention for my child.”
Obviously, I do not condone this lifestyle either, but I also felt like I was punched in the gut and had my heart ripped out all in a split second. There was nothing matter-of-fact about it. And even though I have only told two friends, my mother, and my sister, I still "feel" judgement... cruel judgement from people who really, based on their Christian faith, should not say the things they do, or make the jokes that they do, or use names that should not come out of a Christian adult's mouth. I also know that there are people in my life who would never do any of the above, but who would feel like they could no longer let their children come into our home or spend the night if they knew. 
My fear is that because I am not following my son around all the time trying to convert his heart, that I am being lukewarm... that I am teaching his siblings to be lukewarm... because we are living peacefully and not constantly being confrontational. I am afraid this looks to be acceptance.  

People seem so repulsed by a gay person. I truly, truly, truly do not want to sound judgemental, especially given my life, but just looking at the number of families in our large parish who only have 1 or 2 children beyond toddlerhood, I would imagine that there is a little more than NFP being practiced. And, what about all the adult singles who are not chaste? I helped with RCIA at one time, and we had an engaged couple going through who shared the same home address... no one said anything. Isn't mortal sin... mortal sin?

The thought of my son with another man does make me feel sick, but shouldn't all mortal sin make us feel that way?

I do not mean to sound so angry. I am not a confrontational person, so this has been festering in my heart with no real outlet. 
My son no longer attends Mass. He did for a while, but I don't think he feels comfortable anymore. He is searching, though... just not in ways that are good... New Age, Buddhism...
I wish my son could embrace this as a cross... to live a chaste life. Compared to an eternity, this life is just a teeny-tiny droplet. But, to a 21-year-old, his earthly life feels like an eternity. And being raised in a large, happy family, it's what he wants for himself.   
This has been nearly unbearable for my heart. And, that's all I can think to say at this point.

My heart breaks for this woman, her son and her whole family.

It is so important that we look, always, with the eyes of charity and compassion, and that we not cause extra pain to others due to careless words, gossip, jokes, suppositions and judgements. We are all sinners, after all, in need of God’s great mercy. 

We Catholics have truth, which is an incredible gift that needs to be known, lived, and defended. But this post is a reminder that "[even if I] understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.(1 Corinthians 13:2)

#2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.        

We must hate the sin precisely because we love the sinner. If we Christians can’t do it, then we’d better not expect God to hate the sin but love the sinner when our own judgement comes.

**UPDATE: I received a comment, below, from Steve Gershom, a gay man and faithful Catholic, 27 years old. He graciously provided this link to an interview he did with Simcha Fisher. I think all readers -- including those on the secular left who are critical of Church teaching -- need to read his interview. Thank you, Steve!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Just Curious: Virtues and Saints

As we approach the Solemnity of All Saints (the day we celebrate all the saints in Heaven, known and unknown), I thought it would be interesting to ask you about virtues and saints.

So, my questions are:

1) What is the virtue you believe is most needed in the world today, and what is the virtue you most desire for yourself?

2) Who is your favorite saint/blessed?

Here are my answers:

1) I think that courage is the virtue most needed in the world today, because I believe it is the most lacking. I personally most desire the virtues of humility and service (because they are most lacking in me!!).

2) That's a tough one. My favorite saint has to be the Blessed Virgin Mary, because I believe she has looked out for me (and tried to call me home) since I was a little girl. My other favorites are Blessed Zelie Martin (the mother of St. Therese) and St. Padre Pio. Wait... and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). Oh, and how could I forget St. Maximilian Kolbe? Or John Paul the Great? Or St. John the Evangelist? Or St. Teresa of Avila? Ack, I need to stop!! Your turn....

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Books in the Bubble: Kristin Lavransdatter, my favorite novels!

About a decade ago, I was reading tons of doctrinal and theological works, and I had no interest in novels.

Then one day, I was watching an EWTN program called Bookmark. They were discussing a novel (actually a trilogy) about a 14th century Norwegian girl named Kristin Lavransdatter. I was especially interested to hear that the author, Sigrid Undset, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928 for this body of work. (Although Undset was not a Catholic when she wrote Kristin's story, she did later convert to Catholicism.)

Now, normally I would not be interested in a decades-old historical novel set in a country to which I have no connection and in an era with which I am not acquainted. However, there was something compelling about the thought of following a young Catholic girl as she transforms -- physically, emotionally and spiritually -- through all the stages of her life.

From what was being discussed on the TV show, I knew I would relate to this fictional character both as a woman and at the level and themes of our shared Catholic faith.

Plus, it seemed super cool and important to read a work that had won a Nobel Prize!!!!!  :)

Soooo, I bought the first book. And it sat on my shelf for about two years.

Finally, when I grew weary of doctrinal books, I picked it up. Not only did it live up to the expectations that I'd set for it, it exceeded them. The seven hundred years that separated Kristin's world from mine melted away. I quickly read the next two books in the series, and I can tell you that I've never been sadder to say good-bye to a literary character. In fact, I think I refused to say good-bye, as Kristin (and old Norway) has stayed with me through the past eight years. The minute I finished the books, I knew I would re-read them.

Kristin's story is divided into the three main epochs of her life:

Kristin Lavransdatter I: The Wreath. The story of Kristin from childhood up through her engagement.
Kristin Lavransdatter I: The Wreath (Penguin Classics)

Kristin Lavransdatter II: The Wife. Kristin as a wife and mother.
Kristin Lavransdatter II: The Wife (Penguin Classics)

Kristin Lavransdatter III: The Cross. The conclusion and redemption of Kristin's life.
Kristin Lavransdatter III: The Cross (Penguin Classics)

**If you decided to read the trilogy, make sure you get the Tiina Nunnally translation (from the original Norwegian).

Let's just say that Kristin is not a perfect woman. Like all of us, she is very real, flawed and complex. Although I connected with Kristin profoundly, I know at least two people who couldn't get past her deeper character flaws to embrace her. (But they still loved the books).

After reading Undset's masterpieces, I became enamored again with novels, and specifically Catholic novels.

Good literature enriches the mind and the soul, so if any of you have good novel recommendations, please let me know!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just because I don't like your ideas doesn't mean I think you are evil.

Dear Miss Gwen and Mai (and any other readers on the secular left),

You have concluded that I press you about your philosophy in order to prove that you are ogres, or to prove that you are just waiting to marry your own sibling one day or cheat on your spouse. You assume that I think you are evil because you are liberal.

However, you misunderstand me, and I am dedicating this post to straightening it out. Because if you truly believe that I (and other orthodox Catholics) find you evil, then shame on me for not being more clear. I have not done a good job, so let me try again.

I push you to follow your beliefs to their logical conclusions not because I'm trying to condemn you, but because ideas have consequences and those consequences can be huge.

There may be people reading this blog while in the midst of trying to figure out what is true or what they should believe. There may be young people out there struggling to find a guiding theory or value system which will inform their future educational choices, civic activities and votes, choice of lifestyle and spouse, parenting decisions, etc. I want this blog to be an arena in which to compare, contrast, dissect and discuss ideas -- respectfully.

Miss Gwen, you admit that your philosophies don't rule out things like sibling marriage and infanticide, and Mai, you concede that nothing is objectively true, and that you determine morality for yourself. These are your own thoughts and conclusions; if I repeat them for clarity's sake, why presume I dislike you? I certainly dislike your secular belief system and where it ultimately leads, but disapproval of an idea doesn't not translate to disapproval of a person. {See this post for more on that point.}

If you would like to press me on my Catholic beliefs and where they lead, please do.... I would be giddy to imagine with you a world in which all of us live out the virtues! It's okay if you want to respectfully challenge me and other Catholics about our ideas and philosophies. Not to reach "consensus" (which would be impossible), but to understand more clearly what Catholics believe.

Ultimately, I do not think of you as the enemy, nor do I think you are evil. I cannot judge any other person's heart or soul. But it would be a shame to stop the informative and interesting dialogues we've been having simply because of a misunderstanding of my intent.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Scrupulosity: A little bit of hell.

Do you never feel forgiven no matter how many times you confess your sins?

Do you obsess over blasphemous thoughts that invade your mind against your will?

Do you agonize about whether or not something you've done is sinful, even when other faithful Catholics and even your priest assure you that it's not?

Is your conscience so hyper-sensitive that you cannot find peace with God?

If so, you might want to start reading up on a condition called scrupulosity. It is one of the most painful psychological states there is -- it can feel like hell to the sufferer.

I was surprised to learn that Fr. Paul Marx, the late, great pro-life hero, suffered from scrupulosity as a young seminarian. He recounted in his autobiography that the agony of that condition was worse than any other pain he had suffered in his life (and he suffered an incredible amount of physical and psychological pain in his worldwide, decades-long mission to end abortion).

I know from personal experience how devastating scrupulosity can be. A close family member of mine is scrupulous, and when things became torturous for her, intervention was needed. There is an understanding now that scrupulosity is one type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD); recognition of that fact is how my relative was able to get her scrupulosity/obsessive thoughts under control. The relief is beyond description.

Scrupulosity is incredibly harmful and can lead souls right out of the Church. Martin Luther suffered terribly with feelings of total depravity -- he could not feel "clean" no matter how many times he received absolution. His scrupulosity led to the formation of his doctrine of sola fide (salvation by faith alone) and the idea of "eternal security," i.e., that even grave sin does not jeopardize a Christian's salvation. So it's not a stretch to say that scrupulosity was a catalyst for the Reformation (which Catholics see as a tragic break in the Body of Christ).

I have a friend who grew up Catholic in the 1950s. She suffered from torturous scrupulosity as a girl, causing her ultimately to leave the Catholic Church. I asked her about her experiences, and she told me the following:

I'm not sure how or exactly when it started. I know I was still in grade school. I went to a Catholic school for 9 years. Sometimes we would go to Mass before school and I would take Communion like most of the other kids. In school we learned about sin -- venial, mortal, and the worst of all, mortal sin of sacrilege. I remember trying to grasp the concept of eternity in hell. Fire, forever, without end. This is what would happen to a person who died with mortal sin on their soul. I found the idea too frightening. 
We went through the Ten Commandments and the sins against them -- some of which I was too young and innocent to comprehend. Then one day on my way up to Communion, it occurred to me that maybe I had a mortal sin on my soul, but I continued to receive Communion. That's when it all started. I felt ill and had my mom pick me up from school. I spent the rest of the day with a knot in my stomach, worried that I had committed the dreaded mortal sin of sacrilege. Eventually I was able to dismiss the fact that I had done such a thing. But I decided that I wasn't going to repeat that episode. I know now that what I thought was sin at that time wasn't. But I was ignorant and unsure so just to be on the safe side I avoided Communion.  
We were expected to receive Communion every first Friday of the month so during the week we had Confession during school hours. I found myself confessing to numerous sins (just in case) because a bad confession was considered a sin of sacrilege. After Confession my mind would be bombarded with all kinds of things which I tried to fight but eventually I would decide that at some point I had a sinful thought, could not go to Communion, at which point the torture would stop. Then all I would have to do was be sick that Friday. Eventually it got to the point where I was "sick" all that week. 
I was embarrassed and ashamed because all my friends were receiving Communion on a regular basis. The struggle within me was pure torture and in that I felt totally alone. 
I told no one. I was too ashamed because it all seemed so crazy. I had no hope that anyone could possibly understand. Looking back, I wonder how in the world the priests who heard my confession didn't have a clue about my scrupulosity. 
It wasn't until high school that I heard anything about a scrupulous conscience. I went to public high school (freedom) but attended religious class once a week. The nun who conducted the class once referred to a boy who had to continue to go to confession because he suffered with a scrupulous conscience. It was then that I realized my problem.
My friend never did come back to the Catholic Church, and is today an evangelical Christian.

Scrupulosity is not a condition unique to Catholicism by any means, however, as Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and those of other faiths are affected as well.

If you think you are scrupulous, there is help! First, understand that you have a form of OCD and it can be treated. Second, please read the monthly Scrupulous Anonymous newsletters and the "Ten Commandments for the Scrupulous" (along with the "revised" Commandments). Third, read the book, Understanding Scrupulosity: Questions, Helps, and Encouragements, by Thomas M. Santa. And fourth, find a spiritual director or confessor who has experience dealing with scrupulosity.

It might be hard to believe, but with the help of others and God's grace, you can and will find peace.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bubble in Spanish!! So funny!

Look at this!

Someone from Peru had google translate the Bubble into Spanish!

That is too cool!! HA! Check some of the comments and you will see your name and thoughts in Spanish!

I wonder how the word "sketchy" translates to Spanish?   :)


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thanks, Sew!!

I was so surprised to receive a little package in the mail the other day, and I laughed out loud when I saw what was inside!

It doesn't get much better than this!!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"We don't make determinations about who we love."

Not to be controversial or anything... ha ha ha....

This may seem like a post about homosexuality. It is not. One day I hope to address that topic directly, but this is not that day. This is a post about the human will. And it's quite possible that I am just thinking out loud. Bear with me.

At the October 14 MTV townhall event, President Obama was asked whether or not he thought being gay or transgendered was a choice. He responded:
I don’t think it’s a choice. I think that people are born with a certain makeup, and that we’re all children of God. We don’t make determinations about who we love.    (Emphasis mine.)
Again, setting aside the question of homosexual marriage, homosexual rights, whether homosexual orientation is a choice or not (as if it matters), etc., I want to hone in on that statement: "We don't make determinations about who we love." 

What does he mean by that?

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Obama was talking about actual "love" and not "sexual attraction." Think of it: "We don't make determinations about who we love"? Baloney! Love -- true love -- is a choice, not a feeling. We choose to love people by an act of our will (remember, I am not talking about attraction or lust). Love is an action and a disposition of the heart; as Christians, we are commanded to love, well, everyone. So in that sense, we very definitely make determinations about whom we love.

However, I don't believe that's the way in which Obama meant the statement. I am pretty sure he meant: "We don't make determinations about who we are sexually attracted to."

Okay, well, let's say he's technically right on that. Physical attraction is involuntary. But what about after that? That's where human will comes in, right?

Here's an example: A married man may find his best friend's wife attractive. He may be irresistibly drawn to her. He may even believe he is in love with her. He may even be in love with her. Does that give him the right to have sex with her? In the liberal mind, maybe the answer is yes, but I can't be sure. Any liberal want to take that?

But in the world of traditional morality (i.e., the world of objective truth), a man's will must override his urges and emotions. He must not proceed with the best friend's wife, even if he believes that she is his soulmate. The will must prevail over attractions and feelings.

In a real life example, I remember what Woody Allen said when he had a salacious, psychologically (if not technically) incestuous affair with Mia Farrow's daughter (whom he had known since her childhood), which caused devastation to many: "The heart wants what it wants." It was just that simple for him: I will do what I feel, and damn the consequences. If it feels good, do it. (This is basically a philosophy of the godless, because it assumes that man is mere animal and there are no eternal consequences anyway.)

So, maybe "we don't make determinations" about who we are attracted to, but we do make determinations about how we act. That's called our will. And we teach our children from a very young age not to act out on their urges or emotions (in all areas of life), but to control their will -- for their own good and the good of others. Our will governs our emotions, passions and urges.

Isn't this common sense? Tell me what I'm missing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Answer to Bible in the Bubble! Plus, Bubble Awards!

Welcome to the answer and awards portion of Bible in the Bubble!

The question from Monday was:

The scene of the Visitation in the New Testament (Luke 1:39-56) contains striking parallels to what scene in the Old Testament? Elaborate.


There is a thrilling discovery when a passage from the New Testament so beautifully parallels, prefigures and fulfills a passage from the Old Testament. In this case, the Visitation scene in the New Testament (Mary on a journey, visiting her cousin Elizabeth) is strikingly similar to 2 Samuel 6:4-16, the scene of David on a journey with the Ark of the Covenant.

St. Luke's passage draws a beautiful parallel between Our Lady and the Ark. As Catholics, we identify Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant for many reasons, including the obvious: the old Ark was the pure vessel in which dwelt the Word of God (the Ten Commandments), and the New Ark (Mary) was the pure vessel in which dwelt the Word of God (made flesh!).

But there is so much more than that!

In those two short Bible scenes in Luke and Samuel, we see the following parallels (excerpted here from Steve Ray):

  • Mary arose and went to the hill country of Judea.... Mary and the ark were both on a journey to the same hill country of Judea.
  • When David saw the ark he rejoiced and said, "How can the ark of the Lord come to me?" Elizabeth uses almost the same words: "Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Luke is telling us something—drawing our minds back to the Old Testament, showing us a parallel.
  • When David approached the ark he shouted out and danced and leapt in front of the ark. He was wearing an ephod, the clothing of a priest. When Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, approached Elizabeth, John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb—and John was from the priestly line of Aaron. Both leapt and danced in the presence of the ark. The Ark of the Old Covenant remained in the house of Obed-edom for three months, and Mary remained in the house of Elizabeth for three months. The place that housed the ark for three months was blessed, and in the short paragraph in Luke, Elizabeth uses the word blessed three times. Her home was certainly blessed by the presence of the ark and the Lord within.
  • When the Old Testament ark arrived—as when Mary arrived—they were both greeted with shouts of joy. The word for the cry of Elizabeth’s greeting is a rare Greek word used in connection with Old Testament liturgical ceremonies that were centered around the ark and worship (cf.Word Biblical Commentary, 67). This word would flip on the light switch for any knowledgeable Jew.
  • The ark returns to its home and ends up in Jerusalem, where God’s presence and glory is revealed in the temple (2 Sam. 6:12; 1 Kgs. 8:9–11). Mary returns home and eventually ends up in Jerusalem, where she presents God incarnate in the temple (Luke 1:56; 2:21–22).
It seems clear that Luke has used typology to reveal something about the place of Mary in salvation history. In the Ark of the Old Covenant, God came to his people with a spiritual presence, but in Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, God comes to dwell with his people not only spiritually but physically, in the womb of a specially prepared Jewish girl.

The section above, in blue, can be found here, along with several other Biblical parallels between Mary and the Ark. I strongly urge you to read the entire article.... It will take your breath away!

Now for the part you have all been waiting for.....

The Bubble Awards!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, this rarely happens, but there are three recipients of the Riding an Emotional Roller Coaster Award -- Brit, Megan and Lauren, for cycling from excitement to despair in a matter of seconds! Interestingly, this is also called the You Need to Read the Question More Carefully Next Time Award! Congratulations on the triple-double award, ladies!

But wait! Brit and Lauren have achieved the double-triple, because they have also won the Best Presentation and Explication of a Wrong Answer Award! Your wrong answers were excellent!!

The Best Display of Self-Deprecating Catholic Humor Award goes to... Jennifer (for reminding us all that we need to know our Bibles better... after all, it's a Catholic Book)!!

The Yes, It Counts for Something, But Your Reward Will Be in Heaven Not on this Quiz Show Award goes to.... JellyBelly!!

And finally, the GRAND PRIZE (as prophesied by some of the commenters already) goes to.... 
Mrs. Blondies!!! 

{Applause, applause, applause!!}

Unfortunately, Mrs. Blondies gets no holey soap and nothing else either, except the satisfaction of winning a GRAND PRIZE Bubble Award, which includes bragging rights!

(Some people would give their right arm for that award, right Lauren? Although Lauren did get three awards today.... )

Join us next time and thanks for playing along!!

*PS: Please note that I normally don't cut and paste an answer like that, nor do I wait this long to answer, but I have been swamped lately. Forgive?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bible in the Bubble! Name that scene!

Certain people *cough*(Lauren)*cough* have requested that I present another Quiz Show. But not just any Quiz Show, a Bible in the Bubble Quiz Show!

I aim to please!

First, it is very, very important that no one googles before answering! Or refers to Bible footnotes! That is a major no-no and will get you expelled from the Bubble. Or suspended. Well, maybe detention. Anyway, we have an honor code in here, and the scrupulous among you cannot be the only ones to follow it! (Speaking of scrupulosity, I haven't forgotten. I still intend to write that post.)

Here we go:

The scene of the Visitation in the New Testament (Luke 1:39-56) contains striking parallels to what scene in the Old Testament? Elaborate.

Okay, have at it! And maybe this time it'll be your turn to win a coveted Bubble Award!!!

A new blog to introduce!

My dear friend, Elisabeth, has "revived" her blog. I have never read it before today, but I want her to continue. 

Elisabeth is one of my two IF Catholic friends who were the catalyst for me to go looking for Catholic IF info, which led me to the Catholic IF bloggers who inspired my own blog. (Got that?!) The other friend you already know: Danya of HE Adopted Me First.

Please go visit Elisabeth's blog, A Catholic Nest in a Secular Tree. She is a recent convert (I hope she will write on her conversion.... it is one of the most powerful I've ever heard, from Planned Parenthood to Theology of the Body), and is an amazing teacher of the faith. She is also a blushing bride of almost two years. (I was a bridesmaid when she married one of her RCIA students, YAY!)

And because she will find sisters here who know the depth of her pain, I especially recommend her post called Mourning Motherhood.

Welcome Elisabeth!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Is having eight kids "sketchy"?

For many reasons, I don't normally talk about my family on this blog. I'm making an exception today. 

During the Big Blog Blow-up of 2010, there were many comments left on many different blogs, some of which were about me. I thought I would address one that caught my attention.

It went like this:
Personally, I think having 8 kids is sketchy - how do you really mother/father each one? How do you give each one the love and attention they deserve to become well-adjusted adults? Or is it just some sick tally to show the world how full of a family you can have/juggle? However, MY belief is just that - MINE. And I still love the Duggars, as completely different as they are from me! (Ha ha!) God loves our children, ALL of them. 

As I know there are many Americans who echo her feelings, I want to address her points, one at a time.

Here we go:

"Personally, I think having 8 kids is sketchy"

Sketchy. Just to be sure, I looked up the word in the Urban Dictionary and came up with some definitions that might possibly apply here:

-- Someone or something that just isn't right
-- Something unsafe 
-- Someone or something that gives off a bad feeling
-- Questionable
-- Creepy
-- Not kosher
-- Just generally something or someone that you don't want to be associated with

So, a happily married couple with a bunch of kids is... [fill in the blank with one of the above]. Ouch! Really?

Big families used to be seen as a blessing, a good, attractive, fun, warm fuzzy thing, a picture of hearth and home. Now, thanks to our Planned Parenthood societal ethic, a traditional, large, intact American family is seen as...sketchy. We've fallen a long way in a short amount of time. I actually find that so sad.

"[H]ow do you really mother/father each one?" 

This question is kind of vague. If you are talking about the practical matters, think of it this way: How does someone take care of a bigger house as opposed to a smaller one? Or, how does someone take care of a bigger garden as opposed to a smaller one? Et cetera. It's really just a matter of shaking off the things that are not as important and doing what needs to be done. The essentials of a happy life are pretty simple, actually.

"How do you give each one the love and attention they deserve to become well-adjusted adults?"

Your question implies that children in big families are at higher risk of being maladjusted adults. It begs the question: Is there a real correlation between family size and a happy, productive adulthood? Are the generally smaller families of today doing a better job raising children than the larger families of past generations? Personally, I don't find that today's young adults are any more functional, mature, honorable or virtuous than those of the past. I'm not blaming that on smaller families, because I don't believe that the number of children per family is the issue at all -- family size is no indication of one's virtue, functionality or success.

As far as love and attention, I'll answer with one of my favorite quotes: "Anyone who says you can't love your eighth child as much as your first has never had eight children." If my children are starved for love and attention, it's hard to understand why every one of them (except the baby, who cannot yet talk) desires and repeatedly requests another sibling.

As an experiment, I emailed the quote to my oldest child, who is away at college. I didn't prompt her or tell her where the quote came from. I only wrote, "Tell me what you think." She had no idea this was for the blog when she wrote her response, which came within minutes. Please remember, this is an unfiltered, honest response to what could be seen as an attack on the family she loves:
Excuse me???? Who said this???? This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard in my life. I tend to think I get too much attention sometimes, seeing how I get attention from 9 other people rather than just 2 parents. This is just ridiculous...and how does one become a "well-adjusted" adult with mommy and daddy giving them every single bit of their attention to them??? What the heck???
Intrigued, I decided continued the experiment with the next four children as they returned from school and activities. None of them knew that the others had seen the quote, nor did they know where it came from. I asked each privately, "What do you think?" 

First, my twelve-year-old son:
That's stupid! It's really not that hard to raise eight kids. It's not as hard as it seems! {Okay, I laughed internally at that part!} It would be more fun to have even more kids. More kids makes it more fun.
Next, my sixteen-year-old daughter:
I think it's ridiculous. I think it's the most stupid thing I have ever read in my life, because it's so not true!   
Then, my seventeen-year-old son: 
Wow, that is totally uninformed. I mean, how many siblings did this person have? Was he or she an only child? It's not as hard as it sounds, really. {I was surprised that two of my boys said this!} I mean, if you have parents that were raised well.
Finally, my ten-year-old son:
{His jaw dropped open as he read.} Ohhh....Is this a joke? {I tell him no, then ask again what he thinks of it.} I hate it! I just don't like it! It's obnoxious! Who is this lady? She's wrong! {He also volunteers to physically defend his family, but I will leave that part out, ha!}

(I would ask the three youngest children, but thankfully they wouldn't even understand such a statement. And, they are too busy playing with each other.) 

"Or is it just some sick tally to show the world how full of a family you can have/juggle?" 

If were trying to impress the world with a "tally" of something, it wouldn't be children. It would be cars, or houses, or career promotions, or vacations...anything but children. Having many children is worthy of scorn these days, as I daresay your comment illustrates. 

"However, MY belief is just that - MINE."

Quite true, but it's a mindset that is held by many others, so I appreciate the chance to address it. (And since it sounds so similar to the "your truth/my truth" issue, I will take the opportunity to direct readers here.)

"And I still love the Duggars, as completely different as they are from me! (Ha ha!)"

I love them too! But I'm interested to know how they escape your judgement, since their "sick tally" of juggled kids is more than twice the number of mine?

"God loves our children, ALL of them."

Amen! There's something we can totally agree on! 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Note to self: Friday mortification required! *UPDATE* -- Urged not Required!!

**Important update (thank you, Cathy):
The U.S. bishops "did not completely eliminate the legal obligation to do penance on Fridays. They restricted the legal obligation to certain Fridays of the year [Lent] and replaced it with an exhortation to penance on the remaining Fridays."

(Go here for more.)

That is a wonderfully needed clarification! So, there is no "binding" on this issue (thus no sin), outside of the Lenten season. (But I'm still sticking to my plan.)

So, a few posts ago, we talked about discipline vs. doctrine.
(Note to new readers: That is a very important post, especially for Catholics; please go there immediately!)

In the comments, Cathy was good enough to remind us that, even though we are no longer bound to abstain from meat on Fridays (outside of the Lenten season), we are still [exhorted] to perform some type of Friday mortification in remembrance of Christ's Passion and death.

I will admit that for many years, I have struggled with implementing this [exhortation]. Often, I don't remember it at all.

But, starting tomorrow, those days are gone! I am now committed to a weekly act of self-denial and sacrifice that will impress the heck out of you me!

Are you ready??

I am going to abstain from blogging and computers on Fridays! All blogs, all blogging, all email, all web surfing, all of it! Every Friday. Every single Friday from this day forth!

Do you know what that is going to do to me?!


I will be made so holy by this offering that I will levitate out of my bedroom window and into the sky with a luminous glow such that it will prompt the bishop to open the cause for my canonization even before I am dead.


I will be like a junkie denied a fix, pacing the floors, walking in circles, confused, with a dazed look in my eyes, pulling myself towards and then away from my drug of choice, perhaps needing to be locked up for my own protection.

But, one way or another, I will do it!

The blogs will still be there when I get back, right? And, email can wait, can't it? If there is an emergency, folks can call me on the phone, yes? Nothing truly catastrophic will happen, will it?

Do you know what will motivate me when I am tempted to break my promise and take back my offering to God? I will look to my crucifix and recall a Man who once was tortured, nailed, bled and died for love of pitiful me. And so if I can't give up one day of a creature comfort for Him, well then, I don't deserve the name Christian.

Pray for me! :)