Tag Archives: responsibility

Pop Quiz

Jay Leno often did a schtick on the Tonight Show where he would have someone go out into the streets, read something from the U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights, and tell people the government was thinking of implementing whatever it was. Most of the subjects would be outraged, or amazed, often remarking the excerpt was way too extreme.

I’ve seen more recent similar videos where interviewers have asked college students questions like “Which side won the Civil War?,” “Who is the Vice President?,” etc. with equally awful results.

I can’t help but wonder what kind of answers one would get if challenging Catholics with a similar pop quiz on the Bible and Catholic Catechism. My guess is that responses would be nearly if not more atrocious.

I’m not saying that to be insulting. In recent years, I’ve come to see that there is a great deal I do not know about Catholicism and what I’m supposed to believe or not believe. This is particularly distressing to me having attended Catholic school from first grade through graduate school, received instruction for five of the Seven Sacraments, trained as a Eucharistic Minister, written for a Catholic newspaper, read various books on Catholicism, attended numerous retreats and so on and so forth.

There always seems to be more to learn. Considering the many resources I’ve had over the course of my life, I wonder what Catholics who have not attended Catholic elementary, intermediate, secondary, college and graduate school do to learn about “being Catholic.” Although I must admit, I have a number of friends who are converts, who, much like naturalized Americans do about the U.S., know more about the history and rules than most lifelong Catholics I know.

While those believers out there who want to show us all how much they know about God and Catholicism would probably disagree, I don’t think it should surprise anyone that many, if not most, Catholics have more to learn about their faith. Unlike our Protestant friends, Catholics are less known to be big Bible readers. And if you’ve ever seen a print version of the Catholic Catechism, you might feel more comfortable picking up a copy of War & Peace.

The Bible, as one of my high school religion teachers liked to remind us, is far from boring reading. He loved picking out more risqué passages and asking an unsuspecting student to read them allowed. He particularly liked the story of Lot and his daughters after fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah. Also, David and Bathsheeba. Or Sampson and Delilah. You get the point. I’ve been reading my copy more these days. It comes in handy when people tell you “that’s not in the Bible.” Often, it is.

In recent years, when I lost two very special people to suicide, and was teetering on the brink of depression myself, I turned to the Catechism for clarity. I was comforted to know the Church recognizes mental health issues can indeed lead us to a type of distress that can only be quieted in death. I was under the impression that suicide was always mortal sin. Some may be surprised that in regard to homosexuals, the Catchism clearly states “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

We Catholics who are not theological or moral specialists might also want to consider reading and studying other Catjolic documents of importance – Humana Vite, anyone? How about Amoris Latetia? Do we know what the Church really says about infallibility? I used to think if the Pope said it, God said it. It’s much more complicated than that.

Catholicism is a living, breathing faith. Just like our relationships with people, we must attend to our relationship with God. What we hear and learn at Mass simply isn’t enough in a day and age when there is such challenge to our tradition and freedom to practice it. I forget this a lot. My children are learning more about Catholicism at Catholic school today than I believe I did as an elementary school student. They challenge me to know more and be more devout. And know the answers to their Catholic questions.

I challenge you, my fellow Catholics, to refresh your knowledge of our faith. It’s one thing to know the rules – yet we should know where our rules come from. We should recognize both the good and bad of our history, and realize that the humanity of Church leaders can lead them to sin just like the rest of us. We must know what conventional wisdom about Catholicism is correct, and what has been exaggerated to discredit our beliefs and values, should we be called on to defend God.

Catholicism is good and can be shared in love and with respect among lapsed and non- believers. Study up for those more and more frequent pop quizzes. Evangelize, don’t hide.

For Example…

My favorite superhero is my mother. I’ve told many people that if I’m lucky, I WILL turn into her someday. I’ve always known that, but I’m not sure if she knows that I’ve always felt that way. The way I hadn’t realized that my youngest daughter feels that way about me.

This weekend, we’ll celebrate moms everywhere, all over the place. Well make brunches, breakfasts in bed, do her chores, clean the house, bring her flowers of every color, shape and size, laud her at church services, shower her with jewelry and school-made crafts. And moms will love it all, because it comes from us.  You see, being a mom comes with a responsibility that is very personal. Because its responsibility for who WE are.

I was driving along in my truck today, a beautiful spring afternoon, enjoying a Tim McGraw song when I remembered my nine-year-old daughter had been singing it the previous night in the kitchen while emptying the dishwasher. She’s been wrestling emotions lately related to growing up, identifying friends, and working hard at being a good-hearted person. The friction that can arise from interpersonal interactions in fourth grade have her feeling rather alone and realizing that doing the right things isn’t always the road to popularity.

She tells me often, and because she’s always been “my girl,” has been declaring for some time now, that I am her best friend. Her mom. While I regularly tell her how much I love her, I’m not sure I myself realized the responsibilities that come with being a nine-year-old’s best friend.

BFF’s at that age like the same things, do the same things, and model one another’s behavior. I forgot that until Tim started singing “Meanwhile, Back at Momma’s” today on my radio. She’s never liked that song, but I’ve always loved it. And suddenly, a whole lot of my daughter’s recent behavior issues began to make sense. 

She seems confused when I’m angry that her room isn’t picked up. That’s because my house isn’t picked up. She never puts laundry away, and often, to my chagrin, folded clothes end up back in the hamper instead of on her body or in a drawer. Yet I leave full laundry baskets in the family room for days. 

She hates doing dishes, loves Star Wars, sings with Miranda Lambert, steals the covers, and won’t go to the basement without a companion. She stomps and bitches when she’s mad and talks incessantly when excited about anything. Guess who else does or once did all of these things?

Yep. Me. Being a parent comes with a responsibility we mom’s don’t often get the whole gist of because we’re busy worrying about how we feel about ourselves in the mommy role. Sure, we all know kids imitate. But those lovely little mirrors of ours often tell us what we don’t want to know. My older daughter may have inherited my old talent for drawing and my thick brown hair, but my youngest, my BFF, is picking up my bad habits by trying to emulate someone she loves the most. 

Flattering? Sure. But it’s also a wake up call. Being a worthy example to someone learning the ropes of life is not easy. But I owe her and her sister my best effort everyday. 

To help my child grow and succeed, it’s time that mommy/BFF gets her butt in gear. She’ll likely never clean her room if I don’t start tidying up our house. She’ll never do dishes unless she sees me do them. Telling her to find pants for school in the laundry basket next to the couch while I’m trying to hoist myself out of bed will never teach her the importance of organization, the need to let go of habits or how to respect others in her household.

This Mother’s Day, I’ll get a lot of accolades. My own mother will congratulate me for successfully juggling chronic illness with raising good kids. My husband will love me for guiding our two shining stars through weeks of cheerleading, gymnastics, music lessons, school work, meals, baths, bedtimes, chores and sibling rivalry without any trips to the ER. My childless brother will shake his head and smile at me with the kind of love that tells me “You’ve got this girl. Keep going.” And my father will delight in every moment he spends with the two girls who make him the happiest man alive.

But me, I’ll know there’s more work to be done. Not in the kitchen or the laundry or in the car, but in my own heart. I’ll be working to push myself harder – to become the best me I can be. Because when your looking for an example of how to act, or do something, your probably going to look to your BFF. 

God help me. Really.

Femi-not

A little over a week ago, retailer Lands End published a catalog that highlighted the legacy of feminist Gloria Steinem. That old wrinkly lady in the “I had an abortion” t-shirt.

I found this more than a little off putting. After all, I – and lots of others – have been purchasing their products for years to outfit children with uniforms for Catholic school. Lands End, which has been experiencing financial issues on and off for many years now, has in part been kept alive through scooter skirts, Oxford shirts, khakis and Peter Pan collars approved by priests and nuns across the country.

In the best light, this catalog was a publication of a struggling company that does not know or understand a large portion of its customer base. (In case Lands End didn’t know, most Catholics and Christians are pro-life.) In the worst, it was yet another attempt from a business leader trying to use unrelated products to push an agenda people would rather not discuss.  (The collision of social issues and business is starting too get out of hand on all sides of all issues – I’m talking to you Pepsi, Coke, Chik-Fil-A, Starbucks, Honey Maid, Campells Soup, Red Lobster, Burger King, etc., etc. )

Later that same week, after angry customers took to social media in droves to tell Lands End they wouldn’t be buying their button downs and dungarees anymore, someone in marketing had the sense to pull the campaign and catalog, and issue the all-too-familiar “Oops!” apology. 

Last night, I saw some of my more liberal feminist friends lamenting this move online. They say it’s bad for women’s issues and rights. I say it’s wrong to glorify a woman who’s life has been about making sure women can kill their babies legally.

As you might imagine, they probably think I’m anti-women’s health, anti-equality, anti-working woman and so on and so forth. They chastised me for benefitting from Ms. Steinem’s “work” while I criticized her ethics. 

I’ve never had an abortion. I also never enjoyed equal pay for equal work. But I have been forced from a job by childless, unmarried career women who don’t appreciate working mothers. I have had my personal health issues – infertility, post-partum depression, and heart disease (the biggest killer of women by the way) – belittled by other women. I once had a young female gynecologist tell me if I wanted to have a child so desperately, I should hang an Anne Gedes calendar in my office for motivation.

That’s not how empowering other women is supposed to work.

As women, God has given us the ultimate superpower. We, and only we, have the privilege and anatomy to create and grow life inside of us. To nurture humanity – to make our world better by building and educating generations of more complete and loving human beings through motherhood. Pro-life Catholics are not anti-woman. One of the most important figures of our faith is a woman. Mary, Jesus’s mother. Other honored women include Mary Magdelene (a prostitute), Mary and Martha (old maids) Ruth, Sarah and Eve. And don’t forget Joan of Arc, Maria Goretti, Mother Teresa, Bernadette, and St. Gianna.

I’m a diabetic – having children for me was a miracle. As a high-risk, doctors monitored my pregnancies almost ad nauseum for the entire nine months. I was alerted to every developmental milestone to keep my babies healthy. I knew when the spinal column was closing, about brain growth, shoulder and skeletal development. We monitored heart rates almost weekly, and I had more sonograms than I could count. If I could care for my baby before it was born, there is no doubt in my mind that from conception babies deserve the right to live.

Great power we often say, comes with great responsibility. If we women are the vehicle that sustains the human race, we should treat that ability accordingly. When are we more powerful than when we are bringing a new life into the world? Certainly not when we forsake that life to selfishly nurture our careers, bank accounts, dreams or sex lives instead. Life is the greatest contribution we can make to society. Those of us who choose to are indeed rich and blessed.

Gloria Steinem is not a role model. The modern feminist movement she helped to create aims to make women irresponsible to their greatest God-given gift while blaming everything they don’t like on men and religion.

Honoring someone who would encourage women to disrespect that which makes them special, powerful and beautiful so they can instead be more like men is just bad business in my opinion.

Teach Your Parents 

A few years back, before love, marriage and children rudely interrupted, I was working with my favorite client on a profile of her company. One afternoon, we were meeting with a freelance writer and the conversation turned to children and parenthood. 

The writer asked if I had kids. I was just newly married and still honeymooning. He remarked that I would understand the conversation better when I had some. I was incredibly offended. What could a child teach me about life? I was finally an official adult – on my own, a good man at my side, making my own choices. I knew how life worked.

I’d like to give that 20-something me a whack to the back of the head. Now, I do indeed get it.

Children. Change. Everything.

It’s not cliche. It’s truth.

Catholics often talk about the power of giving one’s life for another, as Jesus did. I’m never going to achieve that level of love-giving, but I think being a parent is as close to that as I may ever come. It’s not about death and dying for love. It’s about putting yourself last and someone else first -not in the same way you do with a man or woman you love, but in making someone else’s life your responsibility.

Parenting is one of the greatest opportunities God gives us to “die to self.” I think this is the reason many (not all) people today don’t want children. I personally never really understood this concept until I was faced with it directly. When you have a child, you decide if she lives or dies, thrives or struggles, eats or starves. If you truly love the child, you put its needs before all of yours – physical, emotional, spiritual, social.

I have wrestled with this and continue to fight demons of self-centeredness everyday. That’s another blog post. But my daughters have changed me in ways I never dreamed possible. For instance, if you’ve known me a long time, you might be surprised how conservative I’ve become. I know I am. Eight short years ago, I was lobbying friends to vote for Hillary Clinton. I thought she’d be a good president because she was a mother. Today, I wouldn’t vote for her for all the money in the world because I’m a mother. 

Two high-risk pregnancies that required sonograms every two weeks taught me to hate abortion. The horror of 9/11 taught me the fragility of our freedoms. Having had my career destroyed by office politics and watching my girls face bullies as early as preschool has me instilling a healthy caution about others’ motives.

My kids hear about American history more than they want to – I demand they understand how regular people sacrificed and struggled for what they take for granted. Recently, I beamed with pride when my daughter started her own petition for something she wanted to see happen in her school. My husband and I are what some people call strict – not because we’re mean, but because we care. We’re trying to raise respectful Catholic Americans.

Sunday morning, after the sting of ISIS’s attacks on Paris, my eyes welled talking to my Deacon after Mass. I told him I wasn’t sure I could explain the world away to my children any longer. I was angry that my younger daughter had been scared of ISIS even before Paris – now she doesn’t want to sleep. At Catholic school they’re taught to love others. What would they think if they knew some considered them “extremists” not unlike terrorists? My older daughter asked me why no one is protecting the people of the world. I had no answer. And she has no faith in our leaders.

I want ISIS dealt with. I want fiscal responsibility from my elected officials. I want people in my country to stop blaming other people for their problems. I want them to stop claiming ownership of what other people earn. I want respect for all life and all belief systems – even the ones I don’t like. But most of all, I want the ideals of America preserved for my children, so they may live free and safe. 

And should my girls decide in their teens or early 20s to eschew the more traditional values we are using to sustain them into adulthood, well, so be it. We all rebel as we grow – I know I did and my parents are why I survived.  I will no longer hold responsibility for the girls’ lives when they’re grown. It will hurt to see them struggle. They too will have their own experiences and will think they get it just fine, thank you.

Should they have children of their own, they may also find the need to step up their game, as I did. It’s our own experiences after all that teach us to be cautious when someone else’s life and future are in our unsteady hands. Loving another person more than yourself, wanting someone to have it better than you had, makes some of us, even the rebels, seek tradition, truth, and stability.