Fonticulus Fides

Friday, June 27, 2003

Pardon me while I get political for a minute.

I was just over at the Fox News website, reading about the "Windshield Killer." I guess her testimony has amounted to "I didn't want my parents to find out," "I was on drugs when it happened," "I didn't mean to," and "I didn't know what to do."

I don't know why anybody should be surprised that she would consider such statements an adequate defense. Millions of American women have showed up at abortion clinics with the same reasons.

Fox has a poll up asking people how they thought this woman should be punished for her refusal to call 911 and give her victim a chance to live. When I was there, 86% of the voters said they thought she should get life in prison. 86% are outraged that she should choose her own life over the poor homeless man, one of our society's "unwanted" masses.

I wonder if our society will ever get to the point where 86% of us are outraged that thousands and thousands of women every year choose their own lifes over the children the carry?


Well, we're gearing up for a weekend visit from my parents.

I think I've mentioned before that I don't come from a very close family. We all live in different states now. My eldest sister actually lives in another country if she can (her husband is in the military). I talk to my siblings each about twice a year -- I call them on their birthdays, and they call me on mine. Or at least try to. Sometimes we only speak with answering machines.

I see my parents typcially once a year. It used to be twice, but travelling 9 hours by car with small children isn't exactly fun. If you travel while they're sleeping, then you're left bleary-eyed and exhausted and trying to keep track of them while they run amuck after being strapped into unyielding car seats for so long. If you travel while they are awake, you have to stop more frequently and they are so easily bored. I know a lot of people get those nifty dvd players to install in their cars, but I've got a little girl facing backwards still, and a boy who really needs to be physical, so that sort of thing wouldn't work for long.

I wish my relationships with my biological family members were better. Healthier maybe. In all honesty, it's just easier not to talk to them because conversations take so much effort. There are all these unwritten rules about what you can say, when you can say it, how you should deliver it, blah, blah, blah. I never feel like I can be myself with my family, and that's a real shame.

I'm sure they all feel the same way about me, too. Some of them think I'm pretty heartless, because the things that devastate them don't bother me at all. And I've been the "wacky religious" member of the family for quite some time now. I didn't bother to inform any of them about our conversion to Catholicism at Easter, because I was pretty sure none of them would really care. Every one of them has a different approach to religion. My mom was raised Catholic and my dad converted in order to marry her, but they don't practice, not even a little. Well, they do participate in Mass when it's somebody's funeral or something like that. Otherwise, they have their own ideas about God and Jesus and reincarnation and all that, and they're quite comfortable with them.

When I was a brand-new born-again Christian, I shared a lot of what was going on in my life at the time with my parents via telephone. I didn't necessarily try to convert them -- I was just so excited and enthusiastic, it was all I could talk about. My dad finally got ticked off enough to tell me I could never talk to them about religious things again.

It's lightened up in the last 14-15 years or so. Sometimes on the phone, my mom will offer to pray for me about something I may be concerned about, like whether or not I'll get a good deal on some kid's clothing. I always feel awkward at these requests -- it's not that I think Mom will "pray wrong" or pray to somebody other than God or that her prayers aren't valid. It's just that religion is so NOT a part of our relationship, that it feels strange to join her in prayer. And somehow, I think that shouldn't be.

Another factor that makes visiting with my parents difficult is that they don't really like my husband all that much, and he doesn't really like them. They all got off on a wrong foot. I tried to bring my husband home to meet them for Christmas, shortly after we started dating & knew we were going to get married. My mother balked and said I couldn't bring "strangers" home for the holidays. My husband-to-be said, fine, he would take me to meet his family instead. And that's pretty much been the whole of their relationship. My parents clearly don't want to get to know my husband, and my husband would rather spend time with just about anybody else. I can't blame him for that -- I feel the same way. Isn't that awful?

It's not that I don't love my family. If any of them needed a kidney, I'd offer mine up gladly. If I had money to spare and one of them was destitute, I'd give every dime I could. But it's not the cuddly, good-to-see-you kind of love. And I'm like 99% sure that they all feel exactly the same way. It's just how we are.

I often worry about this lack of relationship with my family, though I can't think of any reason why I should fret over it when the situation really is mutual. I guess I haven't seen any Scriptural or Church teaching that tells me I have to be emotionally attached to my biological relatives. Just seems sort of strange that I'm not.

Anyway, I'll be away for a few days while my folks are in town. See you soon!


Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Today, I’m struggling with what to write on a sympathy card to Janet, an old friend of the family.

Last week, as her father was breathing his last, she got a phone call from her doctor’s office, urging her to set up surgery and an appointment with a nuclear oncologist right away. That’s how she was told she has a nasty form of breast cancer. It’s early enough, the nurse said, but she’ll lose a lot of tissue and some lymph nodes in surgery, and the chemotherapy will be extensive. You have to act quickly, she was told.

She had to put it off because her dad was dying. His funeral was yesterday; her surgery will be this coming Monday.

It’s always difficult to find the right words to say when a person is facing such trials. But I’m finding it especially hard this time because of the change of my understanding about suffering.

I first met Janet when I was a new Christian, at the evangelical-charismatic church where I first learned about Jesus. I was roommates with her older daughter before she was married, and since Janet was also on staff at the church, we worked together for a while. My husband has known the family even longer – he was in a band with Janet’s younger daughter, and his parents are pretty good friends with Janet and her husband.

Janet is a woman of great faith, in the evangelical tradition. Her understanding of suffering is pretty much that it’s either a) an attack from Satan or b) the result of sin in her life. There is some lip-service given to "Refiner’s fire" in these evangelical circles (they sing a worship song about it once in a while) but that’s in the form of an abstract concept, or at best in reference to the responsibilities and pressures of leadership. Even Romans 8:28 is interpreted to mean that God will put an early end to suffering if you really, really believe in Him.

The idea of "needless physical suffering" being a gift from God, an opportunity to answer the call to share in Christ’s physical suffering, seems much more merciful to me now. But it is completely foreign to people like Janet.

So, I am having trouble coming up with appropriate words of encouragement. I have no doubt that as she proceeds through this painful journey, God will reveal His perfect will to her, and that will be that there is a purpose to her pain. But one can’t expect a person to entertain entirely "new" theology during their darkest hours of grief and fear. I guess I can only offer her my sincere prayers and sympathy at this point, miniscule as that sounds. Unless you have a suggestion for me, which I will be more than happy to accept at sparki777 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

I hope you will take a moment to pray for Janet and her family.


St. Blog's own Steven Riddle has posted some intriguing thoughts on becoming a saint. Please go read it!


Monday, June 23, 2003

Please excuse me while I indulge in a quiz that any Jane Austen fan like me couldn't possibly ignore!

I am Anne Elliot!

Take the Quiz here!

Fond as I am of Anne Elliot, I always pictured myself more the Elinor Dashwood type. Unfortunately, I don't have the same strong family ties the Dashwoods enjoy, so I've been skewed to the Elliots. Siiiigh. Well, you can't choose the family you're born into.

Thanks to Two Sleepy Mommies for cluing me in on this fun quiz!


Friday, June 20, 2003

Some of you may be wondering why I've been so silent. Well, it's due to a lot of things. It actually took me four days to write the post below. Partially because I'm a windbag (it's long!) and partially because I've had a lot going on lately. Anyway, sorry for the delay.


My paternal granddad was a huge baseball fan. I think he really believed that everything you needed to know in life, you could learn from baseball. So if you’ll bear with me, I’m going to give that theory a try today.

We have a nice little minor league baseball team in my town, the SaltDogs. What’s a saltdog? Well, it has something to do with the fact that the natural saltwater creeks around here were our first claim to fame – back in the 1860s, when salt was crucial to survival. And the team owners really wanted a doggie mascot, so the two concepts were merged together into one bad idea.

But that’s not what I meant to talk about.

Our Saltdogs have a new manager this year, the third one in three years. The first guy left after something like six games because he got caught beating his wife. The second guy, who had originally been the star pitcher, was a good manager who led our fledgling team to the play-offs in their second season. He was unceremoniously booted during the winter break because "his values were not in keeping with the morals of the team owners and players." That sounds ominous, doesn’t it?

You might be surprised to learn that what that meant was the manager was a strict disciplinarian. For example, a player would be admonished for showing up late to practice. And he would fine the players for cussing in the dugout, on the field or in the locker room.

Apparently, the players complained to the owners that "baseball isn’t fun enough" when you have to obey such "silly rules," and the owners agreed. They axed the strict manager…and hired a guy who had just been dismissed from his previous position because he’d lied on his resume and to the players, telling them he was a Viet Nam war veteran and using phony war stories to motivate the team.

Got that straight now? They fired the manager who wanted people to show up on time and use polite/acceptable language and hired a liar. And they’re probably scratching their heads now, trying to figure out why the team isn’t doing as well this year as last.

Discipline is not a bad thing. In fact, any person who believes in Christ should understand that we are called to a life of discipline. One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is self-control – it’s something that we should not only desire, but seek out and cherish.

But that’s a really strange thing in our society. We Americans are heartily committed to the "live and let live" and "if it feels right, it is right" philosophies. And if a person dare speak out against those ideas, he or she is quickly labeled "intolerant" or "legalistic" or "self-righteous."

When our Bishop was newly arrived in our community back in 1992, he caused a great controversy by instructing priests to deny the Eucharist to any Catholic person whom they knew for a fact was part of anti-Catholic groups. You know, Planned Parenthood, Catholics for Choice, and other groups that are organized to promote or protect societal policies that are in direct opposition to the Church.

I wasn’t even remotely Catholic when all this happened, but I was interested. The media was quick to portray the Bishop as a hard-nosed, unyielding, self-righteous jerk. From my then-evangelical perspective, I had a measure of appreciation for the Bishop. I mean, what’s the point of having an official policy if the leaders of the Church aren’t going to do everything they can to uphold it?

It’s been a while, and the details are a little foggy, but I seem to recall a quote in the paper from one of the Catholics for Choice folks. He said he was going to "start going to Mass every Sunday and just see if the priest would really dare deny me the Eucharist."

I never heard any follow-up of what happened with that particular gentleman. But now that I’m Catholic, I find it so strange that he had been comfortably ignoring his Sunday Mass obligation and was only going to start going to see if the priest would uphold the Bishop’s attempt to uphold the real teaching of the Church. I mean, honestly, what is the point of being Catholic at all if you aren’t going to follow the Church’s instructions? Why would a person who dissents so strongly even want to identify himself as Catholic?

But maybe, just maybe, the situation is broader than that. Maybe this fellow had never had instruction on the importance of discipline. Maybe his Catholic parents and godparents and priests and schoolteachers had taught him – openly or inadvertently by their own lack of example -- that disobeying the Church was an okay thing, that the Church’s definition of "morality" was entirely optional. I don’t know – somewhere along the line, the man came to believe that breaking the rules was the best thing he could do.

I’ve run into people on the web who say their whole parish is like that. The priests just sort of wink at the Vatican and it’s "silly rules." These priests ignore the fact that the young couple they are marrying have been living together, they shrug off the use of artificial birth control. Some folks have told me their priests even say that abortion is "acceptable in certain circumstances."

I don’t get that. Maybe because I come from Protestant circles, where if you disagreed with the basic stuff, you just found yourself another denomination – or founded one, if you had the chutzpah. When I became Catholic, I accepted all the "silly rules" and understood that I was obligated to live by them, whether I agreed with them or not. And I find myself very grateful to be in a Diocese where that’s expected and encouraged. There’s no winking at abortion or what have you around here.

And funny thing, I’ve met the Bishop (briefly), and he’s a really affable and joyful guy. Not the hard-nosed, unyielding jerk the media would have us believe. His enthusiastic leadership is felt throughout the diocese, I’m sure. In fact, the pastor of our home parish wears a similar mantle of joy. He practically sparkles with it when he preaches on holy living.

I have to tell you, I think it’s easier to follow leaders who take such pleasure in the Catholic disciplines – it’s encouraging. I not so foolish as to believe I have Catholicism down pat, but with our Bishop and our priests as an example, I believe with all my heart that I will always find a measure of joy in obedience. And as you read this, know that I pray you will experience that, too.


Monday, June 16, 2003

A nice big, loving and belated "Happy Father's Day!" to my husband and all the dads out there in St. Blog's.

I wish I could say we celebrated in a way that was appropriate for my husband, who really is a great dad. Unfortunately, I hadn't really been paying attention to the calander all week -- I thought Father's Day was the week after -- and then I've been ill, so I didn't have the wherewithall to do something special for the man. Shame on me -- he really deserves it. I couldn't have asked for a better parenting partner. My husband is very attune to our kids, kind and patient and loving as a parent can be.

Anyway, he had a busy day himself. He played guitar for the baptism service of a casual friend's newborn, then returned home so we could all go to Mass together. We went out to a favorite restaurant for a late lunch, and then shortly after that, he was off to a gig, playing in a band for a friend of ours.

My husband hasn't gigged near as much as he used to before we had kids. Part of it is the time commitment, part of it is simply that gigging locally has lost a lot of the allure it used to hold. Every time, it's the same collection of frustrations. (Note to bands of all music styles and ages: rehearse ahead of time so you don't hog the whole sound check running through your entire set list, leaving the other bands without their sound checks. Also, if other bands follow your set, it's common courtesy to stay and watch them perform, just like they watched you.)

Much to my chagrin, the fathers among them compared Father's Day gifts, and I had unfortunately not come through this time. When asked, my husband truthfully said that I'd given him the credit card and told him to go to his favorite parody site to buy himself a fun souvenier. They all laughed. My husband says it was jealous laughter, if there is such a thing. Anyway, I'm sorry, dearest, and I'll make it up to you soon.


Thursday, June 12, 2003

Please, again, I beg you to pray for a 17-year-old girl who is out there somewhere. She goes by the name Harmony. She has scheduled an abortion for 6/13, and so far as I know is still on the fence with her decision. She needs practical assistance for her pregnancy, and I've tried to point her in the right direction. I don't know if she's told her parents or not, so I don't know how they would react to the news. She is a Catholic girl and is very confused about which choise (abortion/adoption/keeping the baby) would cause her family the least amount of pain and trouble. Pray, pray, please pray!


Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Well, I might as well just admit it: my baby is growing up, and I’m going to have to quit calling her "The Baby."

I know I always refer to her like that on the blog, but I do it at home, too. She has a nice name and I like it, but I pretty much only call her "The Baby" or refer to her as "The Baby," as in "Where’s The Baby?" or "Can you watch the Baby for a second?" and so on.

Three weeks from today, she’ll turn one. That should have been my first clue. She’s cruising furniture. She’s mastered the staircase (up, anyway). She’s eating table foods.

On Sunday, I put her in her Easter dress for Mass and was chagrinned to see that it’s already too short! The hem covered knees at Easter. It’s well above them now. I know babies can get away with shorter skirts, and it actually helps her crawl a little better now that her knees are free. But it’s still a little too baring for my tastes. Time to hit the consignment shops to look for a replacement. Or I may just haul out my old sewing machine and stitch something up.

All her overalls are too short in the leg now, too. They still fit her in the body part, but the cuffs are clearing her ankles. Good thing it’s getting to be warm. Actually, I should chop off a couple inches and re-hem those overalls so that she has enough shorts to wear the next three or four months. At least they’d be long enough. Silly clothing manufactures make baby girl shorts with a 2" inseam, neglecting the fact that our kids have to ride in carseats with 2.5" straps. It’s really uncomfortable for a child to have a strap pulled tight across bare thighs.

The other thing I have to admit is, she really has weaned herself completely. About two months ago, she cut back to one or two nursing sessions a day, by her own choice. That’s dwindled quite a bit. Three weeks ago, she was only nursing every third day or so. And now it’s been a week and a half since she was even remotely interested.

I had it in my head that she’d nurse a year at least, probably longer, so this hasn’t been entirely easy for me to take. Funny that such a "liberating" thing would be difficult, but it is. On the other hand, when you believe in child-led weaning, which I do, that means you have to follow the child’s lead, and she has given it up. So there you go.

Along with weaning has come sleeping through the night, every night. It was the same with my son – the last nursing session to go was the one in the wee hours, still groggy. I must say, I’m enjoying the uninterrupted sleep, such as it is. I probably will never be able to sleep so soundly I won’t rouse myself to check on the children at least once in the middle of the night.

So. No more baby. At least, I need to mentally get to that point & start referring to my "little girl" and calling her by her name. I need to do a little better about encouraging her to do things on her own. She wants to – most of the time, anyway. I just get in the way, or let her big brother get in the way. I have to get it into my skull that she’s big enough for me to follow her lead and let her try the stuff she wants to try.

Siiiiiiigh. Why is it so much harder than it sounds?


Monday, June 09, 2003

Karen blogged some great stuff about St. Columba (also known as St. Columcille, my husband's patron) today, in honor of his feast day. Go read it!


We went to the late (12:30 p.m.) Mass yesterday. For the last time, I think.

My husband and I painted the dining room on Saturday, finally using paint purchased many moons ago. It looks so great, I can't believe we put it off. Anyway, he was up late finishing everything up, so I just wasn't in a big hurry on Sunday morning because I knew he'd want to (and deserved to) sleep in a bit. At 9:15, when we're usually packing the kids into the truck and heading over to church, I was still in my jammies, just heading for the shower. We were planning on 11 a.m. Mass, but then my father-in-law called, and we decided to wait until 12:30. That was better anyway, because we figured it would probably be the last time we heard Fr. K. preach, and it was his turn for the 12:30.

I'm really very fond of Fr. K. By sheer coincidence (or something), he's been the only priest to hear my confessions so far. I know this because he has a very characteristic voice that you simply can't mistake behind the muffling. He's been so compassionate and encouraging while he challenges me to pursue holiness, he's made it an easy and relieving Sacrament for me.

Anyway, the Bishop is transferring dear Fr. K to the university parish. It's an ideal move for Fr. K. He will be the pastor instead of the assistant. And he's such a dynamic person, I think he will do great things on campus. My husband goes to late-night Mass there sometimes, just for a mid-week boost, and he notes that the students are all very sincere and enthusiastic. They maintain two daily Masses at the campus parish -- 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. -- must be a lot of devout Catholic students to keep that schedule going. But Fr. K is also responsible for all the other students who are not attending Mass or expressing faith in any way. I remember how I was in college, rethinking everything. Seems like everybody else on campus was going through the same sort of thing. A priest like Fr. K is well-suited for such a challenge.

Anyway, Fr. K delivered a wonderful homily and Mass was as moving and inspiring and awe-striking as it usually is. But the baby fell asleep on the way over, and Zooey slumped over on DH's lap, snoozing before the first reading was complete. The baby woke up as Fr. K's voice boomed out at the end of his homily, and Zooey woke up during Eucharist, so neither one of them had a decent nap...and then neither one of them were able to sleep during their usual afternoon nap times. So that just messed up our whole Sunday. We won't be doing that again.

Although we may shoot for 11 a.m. next Sunday, on the assumption that it might just be Fr. K's last Mass at our parish. Like I said, the man encourages me to holiness in a really great way. If you think of it, please ask God to bless Fr. K and his new campus ministry, which starts one week from today.


St. Columcille, pray for us!


Friday, June 06, 2003

I (along with eleven other local citizens) sent a man to the state penitentiary yesterday.

I was sitting in the jury deliberation room, writing "guilty" in tiny block letters on a slip of paper, and it was rather intimidating to think how much this could change the defendant’s life.

I was pretty darn confident that he was guilty, of course, or I wouldn’t have voted the way I did. But if you’ve ever heard a trial, I think you might know what I mean. It’s sort of like being told to build a foundation with Swiss cheese. You only get so much information, and you have to make your determination based on that alone. You can’t speculate. You can’t ask questions that the lawyers didn’t ask. You’re given only what they give you, and it’s never 100% of the facts.

Like, for example, we knew the fellow had had his driving license revoked prior to the incident in question. We didn’t know why. It could have been revoked because of a medical condition like epilepsy, or it could have been revoked because of misuse, like drunk driving. We didn’t know.

However, the rest of the jury and I felt we had enough facts to convict the fellow on both counts, beyond a reasonable doubt. It didn’t even take long – only a half hour. But then you start to think, man, you’re taking another person’s life into your hands. You’d better be right about it. So I felt this pit in my stomach. I wholly believed I was doing the right thing…I just didn’t like having the power of being able to do it (even if I was sharing it with eleven others who were equally convinced).

After we delivered our verdict, we returned to the jury room to await our final dismissal. The judge came in and thanked us for doing our duty to society and giving up our time for so many days. And then he said, "I know that giving a guilty verdict is not always an easy thing to do, so I thought you all might rest easier if I gave you some additional facts."

The defendant is a chronic repeat offender. He lost his license almost 10 years ago for driving under the influence multiple times. He was informed at the time that driving without a license thus constituted a felony, but he kept doing it. He had been arrested multiple times before and had served time in jail twice already for it (once for 18 months, once for 3 years, once for 4 years). In fact, yesterday at 1:45, he was supposed to be sentenced for the same crime in a previous incident. They held off on that one, though, because we were deliberating two additional charges.

This time, he was charged not only with driving without a license but also for operating a motor vehicle with intent to flee. He did some really dangerous stuff, trying to escape the deputy sheriff, then a state trooper, then local police. He cut off a semi on the interstate at 75 mph. He almost cause a collision on a state highway. And he raced into downtown just as the university football game was getting out, endangering literally thousands of people. He almost ran over two foot patrol cops who were directing traffic, was rammed by a state trooper vehicle in order to stop the flee, damaged public property, and then tried to flee on foot. Many people could have been hurt or killed by his recklessness.

What do you do with a person who shows such blatant disregard for society’s rules and regulations? Over the last ten years, he has spent eight and a half of them in custody in three separate runs, but every time he gets out, he quickly breaks the same laws and is quickly apprehended, tried and convicted once again.

The judge, of course, is limited by statute as to how much prison time he can impose upon this man. I kind of hope he can require each count (3 of them, now) to be served consecutively. That ought to at least get our society through 2018 before he’s out on the streets again. But I don’t know what the judge can or will do.

Still…the defendant is a man. He has (or had) a mother and a father, and maybe some siblings. Maybe he has a wife and children. He has friends and other relatives. Maybe he believes in God. Maybe he’s Catholic, like me, but nobody ever taught him what that means. I don’t know why he makes such stupid choices, I only know that we as a society must stop him before he hurts somebody.

I have mixed feelings about social reform programs used by prisons. I think they work sometimes on the right people, but not everybody. I think there are a lot of people doing time who aren’t getting the help they need…or who are rejecting it because they’d rather "be their own gods" so to speak and pooh-pooh anything society asks of them.

On the other hand, I believe 100% in the power of God to reach into a person’s soul and drive out the evil, replacing it with holiness. So I am going to pray that such a thing will happen to this man, that the power of God will reform him. I hope you’ll join me in this. His name is Christopher.

Also, please pray for a girl I ran into on cyberspace. Her handle is "Harmony Tiger" and she is 17, pregnant, and considering abortion.


Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Sorry I've been absent. First the kids had roseola -- at least, I think they did. My son just had the rash and my daughter so far has just had the cranky cranky CRANKY baby and fever part. She may get rashy any second, though.

Plus, I've been called to serve on a jury. So I'm not going to be around for the rest of the week while I take care of that. Sorry -- check in on Monday if you like. I should be around then.

Hey, nine years of wedded bliss for my husband and I today! I wish you all could meet him, because he is a really great guy, and I've been enormously blessed to be his wife & parenting partner. I'm just nuts about the man, even after all this time. :-)