Sunday, February 24, 2013

Interchangeable?


The sin of pride is one that I myself must be careful around. I may have had times where I struggle with my self-confidence, but when it comes down to it, I like to be right. I am proud of my life and the person that I have become, warts and all. I know that overcoming struggles and short comings is a life-long process, but it is not easy for me to admit when I am wrong or when I have gone a little far down the wrong path. When I read Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement a few weeks ago, I felt nothing but a strong admiration for him. I have since prayed many times for him to have strength and the courage to follow the path that must have been an incredibly difficult path to discern. My first thoughts were “His health must be really serious for him to have decided to step down.” Then I got out of bed and had to read about the world tearing him apart.

I heard all sort of crazy rumors as to why he was abdicating. I saw Catholics take it personally and talk about how abandoned they felt. I saw many that supported our Pope, and many mock him. Social media is a gift and a curse, friends. Then, I saw this:


This Time cover photo is hauntingly beautiful. It is just a shame that it was ruined with that subtitle. There is something laughable when you being to whittle down over 2,000 years of Tradition, history and theology to “politics.”

My Catholic faith is a part of my identity. It is responsible for defining my moral compass, how I parent, my relationships with others, and to a degree, my politics. It encompasses me, and it is not something that can be set aside or taken off like a piece of jewelry. It is a constant. My political views are not a constant in the same way. I have no party affiliation because there is not a political party that captures my political views fully. It seems silly to think that a political affiliation could define my life in the same way that Catholicism defines my life.

I invite you to examine Exhibit A and Exhibit B.

Exhibit A: The definition of politics. In every definition of the word, politics relates to society or government. It is specific to the laws of the land, and to a degree the rights and freedoms of the citizens of the land.

Exhibit B: The definition of religion. It is true that religion differs from person to person, and that there are many forms of various personal and institutional religions, but someone’s faith life expands beyond laws, freedom, or social constructs.

So why does it feel as though the definitions are becoming interchangeable?

Many would scoff if someone told them that their religion was their political affiliation. Is it that far from the truth? As our belief in God dwindles, what takes its place? Moral relativism plays a dangerous role. American politics and the media play with emotionally charged subjects that they really have no business playing in, but that is what receives attention. It is one thing for a government to have laws relative to contracts between citizens, it is quite another for them to tell me who I can be married to. My marriage is sacramental: graces were bestowed on me and my spouse in a ceremony in my Lord’s house: I committed my life to my husband and our family in front of God. It is not something that can be terminated. Then I signed a piece of paper that my state recognized as a legal contract between us that can be undone whenever one party wants to terminate the contract. There are many other examples, but you get the picture. My faith is encompassing, while politics are politics. It seems the more we begin to rely on the government to create fairness, the more of a religion it becomes.

There seems to be a myth in the secular world that the Catholic Church will change Tradition, dogmas or beliefs based on who is pope. There are many myths about the Catholic Church out there, but this is one that seems to be quite pervasive. If the Church changed beliefs with every new leader, she would not have lasted 2,000 years. There will be differences among our leaders. John Paul II was an economic intellect and wrote the Theology of the Body. Benedict XVI writes in great detail about object truth and relativism. Different popes bring different strengths; they do not change the core of the faith.

This is about as organized as I am capable of being on the subject today. Are politics and religion interchangeable?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lent 2013

I do not make New Year's resolutions really. They never stick. A new year just must not be a good enough reason for me to make changes. My minimal guilt over this is soothed by the time the Lenten season comes around. Ninety times out of one hundred, preparing myself for the Resurrection of Christ is the perfect reason to make some changes in my life.

In years past, I would try to give something up that I really liked during Lent in an effort to show God that even my most favorite food or activity was not as important to me as He is. I remember my worst attempt ever: in the fourth grade. My Grandpa had started driving us to school in the mornings, and like all fabulous grandpas he would have cookies for us. I tried giving up cookies that year, but Grandpa always brought my favorites: oatmeal raisin. It never occurred to me to just tell him my Lenten promise. So I caved, and decided that I was giving up donuts... except on Donut Wednesdays when Grandpa would give us money for donuts instead of bringing us cookies. At the end of Lent, I was plenty sugared up in the mornings and had a serious bout of Catholic guilt over my weakness. I felt awful.

Other years proved more successful: no cursing, no candy, no dining out, no pop... all things that were difficult and perhaps age appropriate. Now that I am a wife and mother, my understanding of Lent has matured.

Giving something up does not hold the same importance for me on its own. Last year, I was determined to stop cursing when I realized my oldest had the ability to finish my expletives even if I did not! So, I made things more complex. For every curse word I muttered, I would tack on a day of fasting. I had a few other Lenten promises as well, but this was my big stand. Three days into Lent I had seven days of fasting ahead of me, and two little ones to chase after all day. I managed to do half of the fasting, and then I caved and had to change tactics. It was a little much for a newbie long term faster! The cursing did slow down though, and my other promises helped me to feel rejuvenated and ready for Easter.

This year, I am pregnant for the first time during Lent, and I am a bit nervous! Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, and I am going to do my best to fast accordingly, even though I am technically exempt. I have set up a list of penitential acts in case I fumble a bit on the other Lenten promises I am making. (I would give you the list, but that seems a little out of sorts to me... I tend to do better when I make it about my relationship with God and not as much an outward display!) As I have been making the effort to abstain from meat on Fridays year around (though not always successfully) I have a stock pile of fresh and simple meatless dishes to make it through Lent. I feel prepared to prepare myself!

I am making plans to take the kids with me to Mass on Ash Wednesday as well. It is difficult for me to drag myself and the kids there without Husband, but this year I really want to start things right. Which brings me to a question for you all:

Have you ever taken your children to Stations of the Cross? I have not been in years, and I really want to try to go at least once this Lenten season. Any words of wisdom if you have taken children before?

Enjoy Fat Tuesday!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month





February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Whether or not you have children that are teenagers or teens that are dating, it is important to know that dating violence is prevalent for our teens. I have written about the devastating consequences of this topic before (Amanda Todd and It Happened Again) and I will continue to shed light on the issue today.

Today my children and I are wearing orange in support of teen dating violence awareness. They may not be teenagers or even close to tweens yet, but I believe that learning about healthy relationships starts early, and that they have solid role models in their parents. For now we may just be modeling what a healthy, loving, respectful relationship looks like, but that is half the battle. In time will come age appropriate discussions about respect in ALL sorts of relationships: student/teacher, friendships, peers, family, and (of course) dating.

Here is a link to a site that speaks mostly to healthy relationships. (A quick scan of the material did not find any inappropriate information that was contrary to Church teaching. If I missed something, I apologize, but the other info is still solid and important in erasing the issue!) Here is a link with some tips for parents as well!

Nothing like spitting out a quick PSA while waiting for a plumber!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

It Happened Again.


It happened again. Another child lost her life in the battle of adolescence. This is not the same adolescence you and I remember, even if we are of different generations.  The stakes are higher, and the over-sexualization that is behind her death is out of control.

Chevonea Kendall-Bryan and AmandaTodd are but a few of our young girls that lost their lives in the battle. Their stories are incredibly sad, and there are unfortunately dozens if not hundreds more like them that are not attracting (inter)national attention.

In 2013, the big parenting gimmick being sold is normalizing our children's sexuality. Condoms are available at every turn. Birth control is sold in vending machines, and parents are told that our teens are going to perform sex acts and have sex anyways so we should prepare them early on. Our teens and tweens are bullied not only by peer groups but coerced into physically and sexually violent relationships. Sexting is rampant, as is posting sexualized YouTube videos of yourself. We parents are behind in the game if we are unaware of how prevalent these things are in our children’s lives.

As my heart just breaks for these girls and their parents, I ask myself a few questions. How does contraception, safe sex (oral, anal or otherwise) save our children from peer pressure, bullying and suicide? How does normalizing the hook up culture protect their innocence and save their futures?
Your child does not have to actively participate in hook up culture or over sexualization for it to affect you and your child. You can monitor your child’s internet activity, refuse to buy into the marketing of mature toys and clothes, and talk to your child about sex but there will still come a time where they face the dragon and you are not by their side. There are times at school where the staff just cannot be everywhere at all times, and there are sleep overs, camps and unsupervised time.

I ask in earnest: How do we find a balance? It is a good thing for our children to have time away from us. It enables them to have different experiences and formation apart from us. It gives them some autonomy and helps them learn how to be a person! We are their primary educators in every sense of the word, but they will be influenced by others and have the opportunity to influence others. How do we prepare them for things that we are not prepared for ourselves?

I am a former adolescent and I am not sure that I am fully prepared for all that my children will face as they grow.  I know that I am not just heartbroken by Chevonea’s and Amanda’s stories. I am also all the more determined to see things change. The time I spent as an advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence made me painfully aware of the extensive damage grown women experience at the hands of abuse, let alone tweens and teens.

I feel as though these experiences were preparing me for the most important job of all: raising my children. My husband and I will have honest and age appropriate discussions about faith, sex, education, bullying, and everything in between with our children. We will not let a little fumbling or awkwardness deter us. We will actively monitor electronics as well as all things happening in our children’s lives: not in an attempt to be a ‘ helicopter’ parent, but because it is important for our children to know we are present.

We do not and will not set different standards or rules for our sons and daughters. We have the same expectations of them regardless of gender, and those expectations are focused around the following question: How can we best prepare them for life? It is not about raising them to be the best of the best, the most attractive, the most intelligent, or the most athletic. It is about raising them to be upstanding citizens of this world that treat others with respect and dignity. It is about helping them hone decision-making abilities as well as form a moral compass. It is about building them up and giving them the tools they need to make it out of adolescence alive and intact. It is about showing them unconditional love.
We cannot control the world that we live in by any means, but we can build a home of love and respect. Change must begin at home, on the smallest scale possible, for it to be lasting change.

I do not have all the answers. I know I will stumble. I will keep on going, because the stakes are high. How will you affect change? How will you change the story?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The "S" Word


As I have waited nearly a full two weeks and it does not seem to be dying down, I have some things to say in regards to the issue of women cursing.

For those of you that do not spend your spare time looking for and running into things to be annoyed at as I apparently do, a few weeks ago Patrick Madrid made the following comment on Twitter/Facebook:

“I hate to mention it, but what is with this recent disconcerting trend of Catholic women bloggers who think it’s cool & somehow “smart” to use 4-letter swear words in their blog posts? #ugh #inane”

This discussion lead to comments on his radio show (have a listen) such as:

“I don’t like it when I run across situations where women use profanity…. I have a feeling that quite a few men would share that opinion.”

“I find profanity jarring, and especially when it is coming from a woman, and maybe more especially when it is coming from a Catholic woman.”

It also evoked messages such as the following on social media:

"It is disgusting for all women not just Catholic women to be potty mouthed”

(Mr. Madrid) “I find it obnoxious and repellent when I hear (or read) a women using vulgar language. Men are far more likely to do that, which is why it's more jarring when women swear.”

(Mr. Madrid) “I see it as self-demeaning for both but even more so for women because it is even more contrary to their more civilized nature.”

(Mr. Madrid) “…some of the more popular #Catholic women bloggers have really let themselves go in this area.”
 There was also this observation made by Cari:

“…between "major turnoff" and "letting themselves go" I find your language (about) this to be physically focused.”



Here are some initial thoughts:
  1. Who is this guy? I have never heard of him.
  2. Words are created by humans. (See Calah’s post that speaks to colorful language as a literary tool.)
  3.  I know a plethora of blush-worthy words that are worse than your run of the mill George Carlin list. They also do not typically have four letters. (Is that petty? I apologize for the snark.)
  4.  Why should women alone be called out for potty-mouths?
  5.   If language matters, shouldn't we also be mindful of singling out specific genders for behavior that both genders engage in?


Sure. You can argue that blogging is dominated by women as of late. You can argue Mr. Madrid is the nicest man on the planet and he loves kitties.  I would not disagree with you on any of these points because again, I do not know him and this is the first time I have ever heard his name. However, I will note that he is not defending himself or his words with these qualifications, and I am confident that this line of thinking gives way to…


Q: Merriam-Webster: What is the definition of sexism?

A:



Whoa! The “S” word?! There you go, Feminist: throwing around ‘sexism’ without thinking it through. You don’t know him, so how can you possibly assume he is sexist? Being sexist and saying something sexist are two very different things. It is important to note that the very best of men can say things that are sexist. Mr. Madrid took a conversation that easily could have been about cursing in our culture as a whole or as a generational phenomena, and then repeatedly called women specifically out for cursing, and used words that inferred women should not curse so they will be attractive.

I am not here to argue about whether or not cursing is pleasant or even sinful. The point of this post is what happens when we allow for men (and women) to specifically call women out for saying or writing unpleasant words and write off the fact that men say and write unpleasant words.

What would you say if I told you that a Catholic high school is having their female students sign a “no-cursing” pledge, but not the male students? Does that make the issue more or less relevant now? Is it more or less sexist?

I am not an avid blog reader. I do attempt to keep up as best I can on the Catholic scene, and I have not noticed a trend of women bloggers cursing. My own posts have not always been without cursing. In an effort to be honest as to who I am, when I recall events for the purposes of posting or even when I write down my initial reactions to things, cursing is sometimes involved. I am only human, and I am not going over-edit myself in a place that I created so that my voice may be heard, flaws and all. I can’t pretend that I am anything other than who I am, and I am admittedly the parent responsible for the fact that my three year old knows how to use words that he should not know how to use. The year that I gave up cursing for Lent was the most difficult Lent of my life, and I probably only accomplished said goal because a friend bet me $20 I couldn't do it. That being said, I felt exhausted by Easter and did not feel like I actually improved or prepared myself for Christ, (something I plan to discuss in the upcoming week!)

So, how about we are a bit more honest with ourselves? Women and men alike should be allowed to have personalities and flaws. If we are going to talk about cursing or obscene language, let's talk about .it in a broader context than that women cursing is "#inane." Women and men are different but they are both human and flawed. Things such as cursing and chores do not have gender qualifications attached unless we attach them. Why, oh why, do we do this? I will end by saying the following:

I know many women that would bristle at being told they need to make their man a sandwich whenever he wants it, but how many of those same women would also think nothing of being told it is against their nature to curse? Is one more sexist than the other, and why on earth can’t he make himself a sandwich?! (See what I did there? I resisted the urge to add a four letter word to that sentence when it really could have used it!)