Thursday, October 20, 2016

All Saints' Day Costume Backlash: only neat and tidy saints need apply?

Hey guys. 👋 I'm still not back. The book is coming along, but there's still a ways to go. But. I got this mailbag question via email and answered it via email, and wanted to share it here, just in case any of you are facing the same criticisms. I really hope you're not. I suppose this is one of those issues upon which good Catholics may disagree, but I am very strongly in support of my position. (So surprising, I know.)

Also, I'm not going to do the big All Saints' Day costume contest this year <ducks under desk> but Hallowtide has always been a big part of this blog, so I can't let the whole thing go by without a single post!

The Question:
Hi Kendra,

Hoping you can give me a little guidance as I don't have as much experience with this as you do.

We are attending an All Saints party with our kids this year. I'm planning on dressing my younger son as Saint Maximilian Kolbe. I've got a little striped pajama, little glasses, the red P, etc... I was super excited about this costume but then I started mentioning it to others and got a lot of backlash and it's making me doubt my decision.

People have said its insensitive, inappropriate, in poor taste and makes light of the victims of the Holocaust.

I'm really torn right now because while I don't want to offend others, I really love this saint and I see dressing my son up in his honour as a positive thing.

I saw that your son was dressed as Saint Maximilian Kolbe one year and I'm wondering if you got any criticism and if so how you responded? I'm new at this whole All Saints celebration so I'm just wondering where I need to draw the line between political correctness and dressing my son as an awesome saint.

I look forward to hearing your take on this!


My Answer:

Hey Justine,

Wow, I'm so sorry, and I have to say, really surprised. I expect that some people aren't going to "get" our cephalophore St. Denis or body-less St. John the Baptist costumes, or our skinned St. Bartholomew, or our bullet-riddled Bl. Miguel Pro. They are, admittedly, pretty intense.

We don't intend to be irreverent or insensitive, we just intend to be truthful. ESPECIALLY since these things are still happening in the world. Christians are still being martyred! All the more reason that my kids should know about these great saints. It seems ridiculous to me to limit the saints that my kids can dress up as, and learn about, and admire, to only saints who died a nice, tidy, non-shocking death. That's just not the truth of the martyrs.

It's my understanding that many Catholic schools and homeschool groups specifically ban any bloody depictions of martyrs. Thank the Good Lord ours' does not, because that would disallow at least a quarter of our kids' All Saints' Day costumes over the years. I'm sure all those folks mean well, but we don't choose to shield even our young children from learning the stories of the martyrs or seeing depictions of their martyrdoms. In our travels, doing that would have meant we'd have had to skip just about every single church in Europe.

Look at the statue of St. John the Baptist on the outside of Chartres Cathedral, or the statue of St. Bartholomew holding his skin inside St. Peter's, or The Crucifixion of Saint Peter by Caravaggio, painted for the Cerasi Chapel of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. Are they shocking? Yes. Also beautiful and memorable. Generations of kids have seen them. My kids have seen those statues and that painting in person, and they made an impression. My sons have dressed up as each of those martyrs for All Saints Day. It hasn't made them cavalier about martyrdom, quite the opposite. It has made them aware of martyrdom and respectful of it. Play is one way kids learn.

I do understand how those particular statues, paintings, and our costumes depicting those martyrs would surprise some parents. But I think it's a mistake, and perhaps a result of the fact that mostly moms are in charge of events like this, to purposefully remove stuff that boys think is cool from our celebration of/study of the saints, just because it isn't what speaks to us or our daughters. My girls like Disney princess movies. Great news! There are princess saints. My boys like war movies and superhero movies and cowboys and Indians movies. Pretty much every one of those movies is going to have a bloody death or ten. There are plenty of saints that would fit right in there too. And if we let our boys get to know them, the saints can become an inspiration to them.

St. Issac Jogues (one of my boys' choice of saint for this year) is a martyr, himself moved by the martyrs that came before him:
Jogues was inspired by the missionaries that had returned to France in 1636: Father Brebeuf, Father Charles Lalement and Father Masse to venture to New France. These missionaries told Jogues of their hardships, treacheries and tortures which ordinarily awaited them by the native population, as missionaries in New France. Their accounts however, increased Jogues' desire to “devote himself to labor there for the conversion and welfare of the natives”. (wikipedia)

But in your case you're not even talking about a bloody costume. I just can't wrap my head around anyone in a Catholic organization who would throw an All Saints' Day costume party, then believe that to dress up as a saint who was killed in the holocaust, when he offered to take the place of another man, so that man might return to his family . . . is somehow insensitive to holocaust victims. That's bonkers. It only honors holocaust victims when we teach our children about St. Maximilian Kolbe.

Maybe the confusion comes because some people's take on Halloween is to dress up as a celebrity you don't like to ridicule that person. All Saints Day costumes are the EXACT OPPOSITE of that. I would urge you to use this as a teachable moment. Stay strong, stay Catholic, stay awesome!


Just in case you're wondering what the Tierneys are planning for this year, here's a sneak peek at our plans for Twofer Halloween/All Saints' Day costumes . . .




The boys:

I think Mary Jane will be a little St. Kateri Tekakwitha sidekick to the brothers. And, fair warning if you know me in real life, the North American Martyrs costumes are probably going to involve some of these:
(But most likely this homemade version.) Because that's how it went down:

We just really can't help ourselves.

More costume inspiration can be found in the following posts:

Over 150 All-Saints Day Costumes for Kids

Over 150 MORE All Saints Day Costumes for Kids

Costumes for All Saints Day AND Halloween: One Part Catholic, Two Parts Awesome

Last Minute Twofer Costumes for Halloween AND All Saints Day

Hallowtide . . . It's How We Roll: All Saints Day Costumes for Awesome Kids Only


And here's some other stuff:

Halloween Movies to Spook the Whole Family

Spooky Stories for the Whole Family (and how to get them for free)

Scary Stories: Empowering Kids Since 1812

Praying for the Dead With Children

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.


Monday, October 10, 2016

How We Discuss Imperfect Heroes with Kids

Happy Columbus Day!

This is not a feast of the Catholic Church, of course, but it's a national celebration (at least it WAS a celebration, now it's more like one-more-excuse-to-be-mad-on-Facebook) of a Catholic person with admirable qualities and great failings, both. So how do we handle a figure like Christopher Columbus with our kids? The same way we do everything else: truthfully.

Christopher Columbus is not to be confused with St. Christopher. He has not been proclaimed a saint by the Catholic Church. That means we don't expect that he lived a life of heroic virtue. That means we shouldn't be surprised when we find that he, like most of us, listened to his little shoulder devil more often than he should have.

Does that mean he cannot be an inspiration and a role model for our children? It does not.

Christopher Columbus (like the founding fathers, and various actors, musicians, and athletes who come into my children's awareness) was given a GREAT GIFT BY GOD. He was smarter, and more determined, and more courageous than the people around him. God made him with a purpose, and because he corresponded with the gifts God gave him, Christopher Columbus lived a life of extraordinary adventure and accomplishment. He was a Catholic, and it's clear from his journal entries, that he loved God and wished to glorify God through his discoveries.

However, he was also a very flawed human being. It appears that he allowed himself to care more for glory and riches for himself in this world than he did for knowing, loving, and serving God and preparing himself for eternal life.

He was a visionary, daring to attempt feats no one had attempted before. But he became so obsessed with finding a passage to India and China, that he never himself appreciated having discovered a New World!

He was an inspirational leader, able to rally his men in the face of great hardship. He was also a  ruthless leader, resorting to very cruel punishments.

He was a Catholic who valued his faith and wished to bring it to the people of the world. But he seems never to have really viewed the native people of the Americas as worthy of the respect and dignity due every human person. He tricked and enslaved and mistreated Native Americans in a shameful way. He impersonated a god in order to bend them to his will. That's a real no-no for Catholics.

Despite his great gifts, at the end of his life he was an unhappy, unsatisfied man.

He should have taken his own advice: "No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of Our Savior if it is just and if the intention is purely for His holy service."

So, in our home, we discuss Christopher Columbus as an American Hero (from Italy via Portugal) with very real human failings. We talk about how he could have handled his life differently, how he COULD have lived his life to merit being called St. Christopher, Christ-bearer. We hope and pray that, at the end of his life, he took responsibility for his failings and made a good confession and received the sacraments and that he is in heaven today.

We talk about St. Brendan, a Catholic who visited the Americas eight hundred years before Columbus and didn't trick or enslave ANYONE. Someone who DID live a life of heroic virtue.

And we use this same method to discuss Olympic athletes who have mind-blowing physical gifts, but appear to be less-than-humble, and singers with angelic voices and terrible judgement, and founding fathers with an amazing intellect and admirable vision and self-sacrifice, who allowed and/or perpetrated the bondage of other human beings at the founding of our nation.

The term "devil's advocate" is taken from a role formerly used in the canonization process in our Roman Catholic Church. In 1587, Pope Sixtus V established a process involving canon attorneys in the roles of Promoter of the Faith or Devil's Advocate. The devil's advocate person argued against the canonization (sainthood) of a candidate in order to uncover any character flaws or misrepresentation of the evidence favoring canonization.

Saint Pope John Paul II reduced the power and changed the role of the office in 1983.

St. JPII doesn't want us to be devil's advocates. I'm pretty sure he'd want us to be honest about people's flaws, but not dwell on them, and certainly not deny the obvious gifts that God has given some people, just because they're total knuckleheads in other aspects of their lives.

My kids see my failings every day, on good days they see their own failings. But I don't want them to define me or themselves by only our failures. I want them to search for the good in everyone. I want them to find inspiration everywhere.

 . . . . .

And, I'm back! But not really. Thank you all, my dear readers, for your patience as I disappeared from the blog here. It turns out that I DO have a maxed out point and remodeling a house + keeping said house clean + looking after a husband and eight kids and their food and clothing related needs + homeschooling five grades + driving and volunteering for one in regular school + writing a book is it for me. Something had to give and it was this. But I miss it SO MUCH, and this particular post has been bouncing around in my head for months and months and finally burst out of me this morning.

In addition to all the very real and pressing concerns in our world, would you please say a prayer for me as I try to get this book written by December? So many of you have told me you would appreciate a book on how we live our faith and the liturgical year in our home, and I've wanted to write one ever since I started the blog. But I am having a terrible time trying to focus on getting it done in the midst of the rest of my crazy life and all my personal failings. I have yet to resort to trickery and enslavement, but I have wasted a LOT of time on Facebook and Netflix.

Also, despite me being a TERRIBLE blogger at the moment, at least one of you saw fit to nominate me as one of the best at the Fisher's Net Awards. There's really no accounting for you guys. Probably you should vote for Bonnie or Haley instead of me, but that's your call. Double cheek kisses for everyone.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

So. Many. Decisions. (We went with Purse, Snail, Radio.)

The end is coming into hazy view on the horizon . . . of phase one, anyway. Phase one of at least three (but probably more like thirty-seven) phases of the fixer-upping of Gramblewood. Our contractor says he'll be done with the kitchen and the upstairs in about two weeks. I need to finish all the painting upstairs. And we need some furniture. I'm hoping that once school is done for the year at the end of this week, I can really focus on that stuff. And THEN, we can move upstairs, and unpack all the boxes in the garage that we packed up last June (unless I "accidentally" set them all on fire to avoid that), and we can start cooking IN our HOUSE. Crazy. But true.

I'm thinking we'll be up there in a month. Or by the end of June anyway. We shall see.

I knew going into this that a big issue a lot of people have with remodeling a house is decision-fatigue. How it feels so exciting to be choosing things at the beginning of the process, but that by the end you're just throwing darts at an old Ballard Designs catalog that came in the mail to the previous owner because you have no more cares to give.

Maybe I'll get there, we have a long way to go. But so far, I'm still having fun with it. And in a lot of ways, I feel like I'm only now rounding into mid-season form. I'm getting better at this. I'm actually feeling grateful that I wasn't more organized about my design choices before we moved in, because now that we've had some time to live in the house, I'm definitely making different choices.

Some modernizing is going to be necessary in a house built in 1920 that still had a few push button light switches around, but the longer I'm in the house, the more I appreciate the craftsmanship that went into all this old stuff, despite its current shabbiness. I had to watch Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries and Gran Hotel again on Netflix. For important historical research. And now maybe Poirot? If I'm method designing, I need to stay in character.

I've been able to find light fixtures and doors and doorknobs at local architectural salvage places and on eBay, to go along with the quirkier Etsy/Ikea/Anthropologie stuff I had chosen before we moved in.

All these lights were made before 1920. The flush mounts are really different from the recessed can-lights we've had in every house ever. But I really love how they look. (Don't mind the smoke alarm + shower cap.)

It took over a week for them to repair and sand down all the wood floors upstairs, and I kind of loved it. The whole house was filled with a fresh pine scent, thrumming with white noise, and vibrating like a magic fingers coin-operated bed. Frankie, who almost never naps anymore, was powerless against sleep. It was awesome.

Then we had to choose a finish.

We have two different kinds of wood upstairs: oak on the stairs and in the boys' and girls' rooms, and douglas fir in the master bedroom and office. My Instagram peeps will, I'm sure, be excited to learn that we went with "purse" (upper right) on the douglas fir in the grownup suite.

and "snail" (bottom right) for the kid areas, figuring that it would show less dust, on the off chance that the kids don't dust that often.

The floor in the boys' closet and bathroom currently looks like this:

which I love, but I have much, much grander plans for it. So far, those plans have involved me and a bunch of linoleum and a hooked razor blade and a hairdryer and a couple old WWI Marine Corps recruiting posters and much gnashing of teeth and cursing of said linoleum (but never the Marine Corps) and the eventual offloading of the project into the hands of a professional. So we'll see how it turns out. Hopefully in the next few days.

In the kitchen, the cabinets are all in, and the counter tops are in, and the new old doors are in, and the windows have been replaced. We had about twenty layers of paint stripped off of the amazing solid-wood doors in there. I can't believe anyone ever painted them!

My only contribution to the kitchen so far was turning this:

Into this:

with some awesome period reproduction wallpaper from Michael Uhlenkott.

That's the back of the glass cabinets (that don't yet have the glass in them, or shelves), the wallpaper is also on the inside of the solid cabinet doors, and might end up inside some drawers, too.

The glass in there will be the original wavy glass from the butler's pantry, and we're also going to reuse all the hardware that was in the kitchen when we moved in, as is. It seems to be from a few different eras, but I like the idea of some part of the old kitchen living on in the new one.

The kitchen is almost all white. White cabinets, white counter tops, it's going to have a white subway tile backsplash. But the floor . . . the floor is NOT white.

Many of my five hundred and forty-three and counting remodel-related decisions have been shared (and voted upon) on Instagram. Including what the pattern of the linoleum floor tiles was going to be.

We went with . . .  radio (bottom). For me it has a symmetry that the regular pattern on the right doesn't have. That one ends up feeling slant-y to me. The random pattern on the right was my original vision for the floor, but I ended up preferring a more traditional feel in pattern, with such a very nontraditional color palette.

I love this floor. I understand if you don't. We can still be friends. But it makes me smile. And the kids think it's awesome. I think it's evocative of the traditional 1920s black and white checkerboard kitchen floor, but with an unexpected twist.

Appliances and plumbing and shelves and knobs all happen this week. Yay!

I can't wait to see how it all turns out.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Don't We Have This Modesty Thing Backwards?

I tend to get mailbag questions in bunches. All of a sudden, I'll get a flurry of questions on similar topics. Maybe it's facebook? Maybe it's some sort of hive mind phenomena? But there you have it. It's a thing.

The most recent wave was on kids and modesty. And the questions got me wondering myself . . .

The two angles of most questions seem to be . . .
"How do you handle different-gender siblings with regards to modesty etc.?

My son and daughter are almost four years apart, but they both still feel very young to me. They love taking a bath together, and I never think twice about changing them around each other etc. But, my husband thinks my son might be getting too old for that... I've also wondered about possibly having them share a room some time in the future and whether or not that would be "awkward."

I know your kids don't have that big of a gap between them, but they certainly span that distance.... How do you handle stuff like that? Is it just a non-issue or do you have firm family "rules" or "boundaries"? 

I'd love to hear your take."
 and . . .
"At what age do you start being concerned about the length of dresses/skirts/shorts of your daughters?
This is new territory for me. When I think of dressing modestly my 1st thought as a bigger busted gal is to not show cleavage. I'm short, worrying about revealing leg usually isn't an issue. But then I married a guy that's 6'3" & my daughter has inherited his genes in the height department. My daughter just turned 3. I hadn't really thought about it until today my husband mentioned our daughter's dress seemed short. I know that as you said in a podcast you're just a person on the internet that has opinions on things...but I usually like your opinions & would appreciate your thoughts on the matter. Thanks."
So, of course, I have thoughts and we have family policies related to both issues. But as I started to respond, what kept coming to mind was how crazy and so very sad it is that this is where we've come to as a society. That as good, concerned parents, we have THIS kind of stuff to worry about when our kids are two and three and four.

Concerns like this (and we all have them) are, empirically speaking, complete nonsense. 

Modesty is a concept tied to sexuality. Since little kids are not sexual, they also shouldn't have to be modest. Look at old movies from the forties and fifties, little girls are wearing dresses that barely cover their frilly unders . . . at a nativity play!

The kids and I recently read a book called Caddie Woodlawn, set in 1864, in which eleven year-old Caddie and her two-years-older and -younger brothers have to cross a river, so they all take their clothes off, bundle them up on their heads and wade across. No biggie.

But, because of pornography and the hypersexualization of the society we live in, we grownups worry that everything is sexual. Even little kids. And even if WE know they aren't, we run the risk of scandalizing our friends and neighbors who think that worrying about modesty with four year olds is protecting them, when really it's just burdening them with stuff that totally doesn't apply.

From what I can tell based on my mom's collection of vintage patterns, people used to understand that little girls could run around in little dresses, and young ladies should dress like, well, young ladies.

And it's not just a twentieth century thing! Check out this excellent and informative Victorian age-appropriate skirt-length chart from Harper's Bazaar found by Claire in the comments . . .

So, fashions change, but clearly, skirts have traditionally gone from short to long as girls become women.

These days, however, there are plenty of sweet knee-length and tea-length dresses for little girls, but heaven help you if you're trying to find something that will reach longer than mid thigh for your twelve year old who is already too tall for anything in the girls' section. #askmehowiknow

It's just all backwards!

We should be emphasizing modesty and beauty and decorum with our tweens and teens and thinking about it pretty much not at all with our little kids.

So there's the conundrum.

Philosophically, I hate the very idea of addressing this with my little kids. But, practically, this is the world we live in, for better and worse. So, we do address the concept of modesty with kids earlier than I think we should probably have to.

I've got a blog post on that:

Kids and Modesty or, How I Got My Kids to Quit Getting Naked in the Yard

but here's the short version:

If you're in diapers, there are no rules. Nakey anywhere anytime. Once kids are in undies, we start having rules about changing in private areas of the house, rather than public ones. The same rules apply to both boys and girls. We focus on dressing appropriately for the occasion. The girls wear bloomers and camisoles in case they want to turn somersaults or forget to sit like a lady.

I think having some idea of the concept of modesty, but not a huge focus on it in the early years, creates a framework that we can build on later when modesty really is important.

As for brothers and sisters, I actually think getting to be familiar with the human body in a non sexual, no big deal way is a blessing for kids in a family of boys and girls. My big kids all change the babies' diapers and help little siblings dress, and so they all just naturally know how boys and girls are different. I never realized what a benefit it was until a friend with only daughters mentioned how crazy curious her girls were.  They had heard that boys were different somehow but with no brothers around, they had never been able to see exactly HOW they were different!

Practically, after about age seven or so (the traditional "age of reason" in the Church) we don't have them bathe or change with siblings of the opposite sex who are older than they are. But a four year old boy in our house can bathe with his sisters. And I'm okay with occasional naked river crossings, but only if the bridge is out. ;) We have guidelines for bathing and changing, but not sleeping. My kids do sometimes sleep in the same room, or even in the same bed as a brother or sister . . . that doesn't seem weird to us.

I'm just following in the footsteps of my mothering hero, The Country Bunny.

So, that's how we do it.

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.

p.s. I am WAY behind on my mailbag. Like, a month behind. Maybe two. Between keeping up the blog, writing for Blessed is She (about the devil), the printables and custom work at the Etsy shop, the mugs and t-shirts and pint glasses at the Cafepress shop, the fixing up of the house we bought, and the general care, feeding, and education of my children . . . I am fresh out of time to respond to emails. But if you wrote to me to ask a question, please know that I got it. I read it. I composed an answer to you in my head. But I haven't typed it up yet. It is my sincere intention to do so sometime in the near future.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Beginner's Guide to Dissent: the extended version

Disagreement with Catholic teaching is something that saints and heretics have in common. The great St. Paul himself, we read about in today's first reading, was a dissenter and debater. But the difference between the saints and the heretics has always been in how they've gone about dissenting.

I'm at Blessed is She today, discussing today's readings through the lens of Catholic dissent. But, as per usual, I had a lot to say on the subject. One of the beautiful parts of the Blessed is She devotions is that they're short and sweet. SO, I put the first, more-theoretical half over there, and I'm putting the second, more-practical half over here.

Read this part first, then come right back.

At every step, St. Paul was agitating for change via prayer, study, and intellectual argument, rather than through disobedience, sedition, and personal sin. He didn’t claim that his conscience dictated that he should do as he pleased, and encourage others to do so. He didn’t claim that since not eating shellfish was super hard for him, HE shouldn’t have to do it.

He knew that we are one body, with one set of teaching applicable to all. What he hoped to change was a changeable matter of Church practice, rather than an infallible teaching on a matter of faith or morals. Since he understood that some within the Church were teaching in error, he set out to correct that error, while maintaining his obedience to the pope.

What St. Paul did not do was rabble-rouse. He didn’t incite those around him to sin and rebellion. He wanted to create peace, not division, and correct, rather than exacerbate, the discord within the Church, “some of our number who went out without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind” (Acts 15:24).

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most modern Catholic “dissent” doesn't really live up to the term. Most modern Catholic “dissent” is just willful disobedience or lazy ignorance.

Let’s avoid that. Let’s dissent like St. Paul.

I’m what folks call a “revert.” I was baptized as an infant and raised Catholic, but without much formation. My whole family and I have been on a journey towards faithful Catholic life together. On that journey, I have encountered plenty of Catholic teaching that seemed crazy, or hard, or wrong.

There were definitely times on my journey in which I disagreed with Church teaching without understanding the whys behind that teaching. There are certainly instances throughout Church history when good faithful Catholics have mindfully and respectfully agitated for meaningful change.  But there's been a lot MORE willful ignorance and petulant disobedience. I was in the latter camp for sure. And it was NOT satisfying.

What HAS been both enlightening and satisfying is a different approach.

NOW, if I'm confused by or in disagreement with a with a teaching of the Church, here’s what I do:
Step 1: Pray about it. I ask God to help me understand that teaching.

Step 2: Keep it quiet. I ponder it in my heart, not on a soapbox. There is no sin in not understanding or in questioning. There is sin in creating scandal and leading others away from the Church. Respectful, scholarly debate with knowledgeable, faithful Catholics is one thing. Finding a bunch of people to pat me on the back as I disagree is another.

Step 3: Learn about it. I research the issue. I read the Bible and the Catechism, and the words of the saints. I consult my elders by reading faithful Catholic blogs and talking with faithful Catholic priests and trusted Catholic friends.

Step 4: Think, rather than act. I can disagree with a teaching of the Church without disobeying it. I can think Catholics have it all wrong on something, I can determine that it isn’t an infallible teaching on faith and morals, I can pray about it and read about it, I can write about it and debate it over the proper channels. I can try to get it changed, all the while without disobeying.
But I gotta say, in all my experience, I’ve never made it past Step 3. Some great saints have. Important policies and positions within the Church have been changed. We have St. Paul to thank for a Church that’s approachable for people from all over the world, and for a holy example of both dissent and obedience; a life spent going from place to place, “strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:41).


And, hey, there's a new link up in town. Rosie from A Blog for My Mom is hosting an ALL NEW weekly link up called My Sunday Best, to replace another similar link up that had sort of run its course. If you've got a blog and you wore something to church today, link it up and share it with the world!

Sooooo, here we are. At Mass this morning, Mary Jane decided to try that thing from the movies where you yank the strand of pearls and they snap, sending pearls cascading towards the marble floor in slow motion, noisily skittering about, being chased by brothers. Consequently, Lulu's accessory game is way better than mine.

And here are a couple from yesterday. You'll never guess where we went . . .

And, have you see these cute free downloadable coloring pages from Nancy at Do Small Things With Love? SO cute. Print out these babies and preschool is taken care of!

Happy Feast of St. Joseph the Worker! This print is in the shop, if you're looking for a quick decoration . . .

Happy Sunday all. And happy dissenting . . .


Friday, April 29, 2016

The Problem With Every Movie From My Youth: and ten family movies that won't teach your kids to swear like a sailor

Ahhh . . . movie night. It's one of the most beloved parts of our family routine. Our kids don't watch a whole lot of TV, but we do plan on watching a movie together as a family just about every week. We started off watching mostly Disney animated movies, but as the big kids have gotten older, the husband and I were SUPER excited to share with them OUR favorite movies from when we were their age.

Perhaps you, too, have figured the kids were ready to share in the joy and wonderment of all your hip eighties movie favorites only to dive for the remote while sharing horrified glances with your spouse. Goonies, Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest, E.T., Indiana Jones, Beetlejuice, Back to the Future, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Short Circuit, Harry and the Hendersons, all really awesome movies, obviously. But all with really significant swear words in them. Like . . . the BIGGIES. Perhaps you've resigned yourself to just giving up the genre entirely.

Or maybe you're thinking, what's the big deal? I all watched those movies as a kid and *I* turned out just fine. And that's true. I happen to think you're a perfectly lovely human being. And I can see that argument, really I can. Because bad language, in itself, is not a sin. Bad words are really just bad manners, inasmuch as they are intended to shock or make someone uncomfortable or offended. Perhaps if the use of bad language stems from genuine wrath, it could be sinful, but that's not how bad words are usually used in family movies.

The old Baltimore Catechism has a section on language to avoid, and the big four letter words aren't a part of the discussion.

In fact, the language that's actually most problematic for a good Catholic isn't even recognized as all that bad to begin with. We think of "swearing" and "cursing" as just synonyms for bad words, but really they aren't.

Swearing is a no no. When Billy Madison says, "I swear to God I'm sick! I can't go to school," that's potentially a mortal sin, because he calls on God to witness to his illness, but he's NOT really sick, of course. (He would have to know it was a sin though, and probably he doesn't.) 

Cursing (the calling down of some evil on a person, place, or thing) is quite specifically forbidden by the Catechism and the Bible. So this exchange in Hocus Pocus: "Billy: Go to hell! Winifred: Oh! I've been there, thank you. I found it quite lovely," is of concern on many levels, but it doesn't sting the ears.

Taking God's name in vain, is right there in the second commandment. We're against it. So when Cher says, "Oh my God! I love Josh. I am majorly, crazy in love with Josh," unless she means that as a prayer, valley girl though she is, that's not cool. But we're so used to hearing it we hardly even notice.

So, the four-letter words that shock us in those eighties movies are, actually, not as bad, Catholic-wise, as plenty of other not-so-bad sounding language. And it's going to be close to impossible to find a movie to watch without any swearing, cursing, or taking of God's name in vain.

So what's a responsible parent to do? 

Well, that's going to have to be your call. A few of the movies on that list above, we have watched with our kids. But most of them, we've decided to skip. The husband and I are, at this point, 100% potty mouth-free. So are our close friends and family members. Most of my weird unsocialized homeschool kids have never EVER heard those words, and I really think that's sweet. As fun as those movies are, I don't think they are worth ripping away that little piece of innocence. 

And even if they ARE just bad manners . . . I want my kids to have good manners. I really don't want to be the mom of a kid dropping four letter bombs at the grocery store or during Mass. If he doesn't know the words, he can't say the words. And that's only addressing the language part of the movies, there is also plenty of surprisingly sexual content in some of those PG movies, plus complicated family situations like divorce and remarriage and kids out of wedlock that really aren't a part of my little kids' frames of reference at this point.

But. I cannot give up the movies of my youth entirely. And we don't want to give up on all movies entirely.

So, here are a few that I remember fondly and my kids have enjoyed . . . that, to the best of my recollection, won't get your kid's mouth washed out with soap. (Linked movie titles will take you to Netflix.) We watch movies as a whole family, so even though most of these are more appropriate for older kids, our little kids watch them too. Our kids aren't particularly sensitive to scariness, and we don't have a problem with them watching war-type or cartoonish violence. If you're worried about stuff like that, you might want to preview these.

My kids LOVED this movie (Frankie especially), and the husband and I were impressed with how well the goofiness holds up.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have The Princess Bride memorized, and those that do not. I can only hope my children will follow me onto the right path. (You've seen THESE, right?)

The NeverEnding Story
My sister and I used to "play" NeverEnding Story by sitting on the ground with long skirts spread out in a circle around us. Good times. My kids loved Falcor, obviously.

If you're looking for something to get the Frozen soundtrack out of your kids' heads. . . . Fair warning: there is some bad behavior by Miss Hannigan. She's a drunk and a, let's say, flirt in addition to being a liar, kidnapper, and all around terrible person. I find it not problematic, since she is CLEARLY a bad guy. But it might be too much for you. I'm pretty sure there isn't language though. :D

 If your kids have already seen and enjoyed Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, this is a good one.

Star Wars
If your kids haven't already seen and enjoyed Star Wars . . . what is your problem? Show them Star Wars for goodness sakes. The original ones, I mean. My kids love them. Unfortunately they also like the prequels.

And a few newer but still adventurous movies that big kids and parents can both enjoy . . .

Lord of the Rings
Very violent. And gory. And scary. But an extraordinary story of sacrifice and friendship and courage. Also very long and complicated. But in nine hours and eighteens minutes worth of movie there's not a single bad word.

 Reminiscent of the pack of kids movies from the eighties, but smarter and less profane.

If Goonies and E.T. had a baby, it would be this movie. We watched it a couple weekends ago and really loved it. There are a couple double entendre type moments, but it felt acceptable to me.

My favorite resource these days for vetting family movies (and books) is Common Sense Media. I appreciate how detailed the reviews are, so even if they've given a blanket recommendation for or caution about a movie, I can look at the specifics and decide if their problem with the movie would be a problem for me.

Share your favorite hits and misses in the comments!

And that's my honest opinion. But this is a sponsored post.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Where Do Pets Go When They Die?

Mailbag time!

The Question:
Hello, my name is Mollie and I am a big fan of your blog. I lost my pet of 17 years this weekend and I am struggling with the thought of breaking the news to my seven year old son this afternoon. We have been preparing him for her passing as she has been showing signs that her end was near but I want to be sure we honor any questions our son has on "where do pets go when they die" in a good Catholic way. How do you explain the passing of pets to your children?

Image from the St. Joseph First Communion Catechism, with smart alecky additions by me.

 The Answer:

Mollie, I'm sorry for your loss.

First step, I think, is to not rush into answering questions your son doesn't ask. But, you are right to be prepared, just in case, of course. I would give him the facts about the where and when and how of the death, and comfort him and allow him to grieve and he can ask questions if he wants to.

I just listened to an autobiography with the kids, called Little Britches, about a boy growing up on a Colorado ranch. In the book the boy's dad says we only have to be sad about creatures who die without having fulfilled their purpose. Your pet was loved and taken care of and gave love and companionship for seventeen years. That certainly sounds like a purposeful life.

That might be enough for your son.

As for what the Catholic Church teaches, there isn't an official Church doctrine as to whether there are animals in heaven. Individual animals have an animating soul, but are not capable of choosing God in the way that humans are. The traditional teaching is that animals do not have an immortal soul and therefore, when they die, nothing remains of them. They just go out of existence.

St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, taught that . . .  
Thesis XIV.  Souls of the vegetative [plant] and sensitive [animal] order, properly speaking, do not subsist and are not produced, but merely exist and are produced as a principle whereby the living thing exists and lives. Since they depend entirely on matter, at the dissolution of the compound, they are indirectly destroyed.
Thesis XV.  On the contrary, the human soul subsists by itself, and is created by God when it can be infused into a sufficiently disposed subject, and is incorruptible and immortal by nature.
The news headlines a year or so back saying that Pope Francis had said animals go to heaven were a complete fabrication. The pope simply stated that the entire universe will be renewed, echoing a statement by St. Paul (Rom 8:21).

However, some people, including C.S. Lewis (not Catholic, but very very close, theologically), do think that animals could be in heaven. Not by their own merits, but because of their relationship with humans, just as humans can be in heaven through our relationship with God.
If, nevertheless, the strong conviction which we have of a real,
though doubtless rudimentary, selfhood in the higher animals, and
specially in those we tame, is not an illusion, their destiny demands
a somewhat deeper consideration. The error we must avoid is that
of considering them in themselves. Man is to be understood only in
his relation to God. The beasts are to be understood only in their
relation to man and, through man, to God. . . .

Man was appointed by
God to have dominion over the beasts, and everything a man does
to an animal is either a lawful exercise, or a sacrilegious abuse, of
an authority by divine right. The tame animal is therefore, in the
deepest sense, the only "natural" animal - the only one we see
occupying the place it was made to occupy, and it is on the tame
animal that we must base all our doctrine of beasts. . . .

And in this way it seems to me
possible that certain animals may have an immortality, not in
themselves, but in the immortality of their masters. . . .

It makes God the centre of the universe and
man the subordinate centre of terrestrial nature: the beasts are not
co-ordinate with man, but subordinate to him, and their destiny is
through and through related to his. And the derivative immortality
suggested for them is not a mere amende or compensation: it is part
and parcel of the new heaven and new earth, organically related to
the whole suffering process of the world's fall and redemption.
chapter nine  The Problem of Pain
But no matter what . . . 

There wouldn't be any problem in saying that IF it would make his happiness in heaven complete, certainly your son would see his pet again, because that's true. 

We would each have complete happiness in heaven, so anything that his happiness requires will be there. But most theologians would argue that the beatific vision of God and an understanding of the whole purpose of the universe and God's plan for our lives is all anyone would need for perfect happiness in heaven.

I like this way of looking at it, by Paul Thigpen:
God might choose to keep at least some animal “souls” from perishing after death, by granting them a privilege beyond their nature — what is known as a preternatural gift.

In any case, we know this much: Because animals can’t have sanctifying grace in their souls to receive the beatific vision, then if any of them do go to heaven, it wouldn’t be for the same reason that humans are in heaven.

What other reasons might there be? Perhaps it’s possible that God will allow the animals we’ve loved on earth to take part somehow in our heavenly life as part of our eternal happiness.

In fact, since God himself takes delight in all the good creatures he’s made, he might give at least some animals a life in heaven for the sake of his own pleasure.

We can only speculate; we won’t know for sure until, God-willing, we arrive in heaven ourselves.

Whatever the case may be, we can be assured that God loves every creature he makes. He loves them even more than we do.

That can be a comforting thought when we’re saddened to lose a dear pet or see some other living creature die. Because God loves them, we can entrust them to him.

Good luck!

P.S. The book Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers is an excellent read (or listen). It's like a more masculine Little House on the Prairie. My kids all really liked it. But be forewarned, it's a true story and in it there are some gruesome injuries to horses. And one mild swear word. And people die. My kids handled it fine, even the little ones, but it's probably one of the more intense books we've read together.

P.P.S. What ever you do . . .  do NOT watch the movie All Dogs Go to Heaven with your children.
60 reasons 'All Dogs Go to Heaven' is the most disturbing kids' movie ever made

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.

p.s. I am WAY behind on my mailbag. Like, a month behind. Maybe two. Between keeping up the blog, writing for Blessed is She (about the devil), the printables and custom work at the Etsy shop, the mugs and t-shirts and pint glasses at the Cafepress shop, the fixing up of the house we bought, and the general care, feeding, and education of my children . . . I am fresh out of time to respond to emails. But if you wrote to me to ask a question, please know that I got it. I read it. I composed an answer to you in my head. But I haven't typed it up yet. It is my sincere intention to do so sometime in the near future.