Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What To Do When You Lose Faith in Politics






Last week I talked about how frustratingly hopeless it feels to be a Catholic citizen in the face of brazenly secular governments. This week I thought I'd try to look at what things we can do as Catholics to keep hope, and/or at least keep ourselves from falling into despair when it comes to the public square. And it will prove to be a big challenge especially with this upcoming American presidential season and the, ahem, dubious candidates in the fore. Critically fundamental issues like, abortion, immigration, religious freedom, a supreme court nomination are all part of the equation, but when our vote feels like it counts for little and our sanity begins to suffer it's helpful to take positive steps for helping ourselves, our families and communities, and our country.

We also may have to come to grips with the fact that politics and the public square as it currently exists probably will not be visibly changed by our efforts. But that doesn't mean we don't have a moral duty towards our country, our fellow citizens, our children, and our own consciences to pray, write, and work in the public square. Our efforts may go unseen and unheard by those in power and by our society, but our call as Catholics is not to abandon the world but to work for a better one in all aspects of life.


Here's a quick look at a few basic things that can help us stay sane while the political world crumbles:


Prayer is the Most Effective Means of Change

Obviously I've got to mention prayer first. But ironically this is usually the step that I ignore till last, so do I as I say, not as I fail to do!

As someone who has always been interested in politics and passionate about the issues, I've had plenty of opportunity for frustration, anxiety, and outrage over politics in my country over the last year. I remember election nights going to bed enraged at democracy and anxious over the future for my children. But can I change anything or help my anxiety more effectively than through prayer? In all honesty, no I can't.

I've started handing over whatever situation, issue, law, or government party causes me anxiety back over to the Lord. I know it sounds a bit simplistic, but honestly it's helped me avoid a lot of undue stress and worry. Just offering it all up to Christ at the foot of the cross, and begging his Divine Mercy is an important step.

Praying for peace for the world and my country is also something I've added to my daily petitions during morning prayer. And of course, this would be a great intention for your daily rosary or Divine Mercy chaplet. If you're the hardcore monastic type, prayer and fasting would probably be amazing to offer for the all the evil that goes down in politics today. Our Catholic faith offers a myriad of prayer varieties like adoration, holy hours, offering up the Mass, novenas, etc that we really only need to pick what we do most often to add a really effective means of prayer and grace into our lives and the world.


Don't Stick Your Head in the Sand

I don't want to point fingers, and I know we all hate politics to one degree or another, but we really can't afford to simply stick our heads in the sand when it comes to the news. We've got a real moral obligation to our communities and country to uphold our civic duties as best we can. This means that we need to speak out and do as much as we can when there are seriously bad political ideas being floated around, or debated in legislatures. I don't want to trot out the old "if good men do nothing" quote, but that really is the reality in the times we live in.

We can't afford to be ignorant of party policies, Church teachings, and what is happening on a local, national, and global level. As much as it would be great to just hang out in our local communities, never turn on a tv, and just head to church and back every week we're called to more as Catholics. We need to be educated in the issues, history, and how our governments work so that we can stand up and defend truth and morality. Because the power behind those who want to dismantle the moral fabric of our society know how to chisel and chip away at things little by little to erode once solid foundations of moral and democratic societies. We've already seen great damage done in recent years, we don't have the option of letting other people worry about these things.


Work on the Local Level

It can be downright scary, daunting, and hard to think about change on a national level. Even speaking to our elected representatives can feel useless since their political stripes may be openly hostile to our faith. By the time big issues reach the national forefront there has been a lot of local groundwork done, so when the local issues arise around you make sure you speak out.

If the local school boards are introducing new gender guidelines, know what's going on and make sure to speak out the Church's teaching. If you can help your town or city provide better services on a local level, be it through voting or campaigning for someone who values good leadership and integrity, or volunteering through local groups, that's where the biggest difference can be made.

If you have state or provincial issues that are important on a moral level then write letters and make calls. Even if you know you are part of the unpopular minority when it comes to a critical issue of morality, it is our moral obligation to at the very least, make our views known to our elected representatives. It can be a hassle, but calling and writing about issues like doctor-assisted suicide, educational guidelines, and others is really our duty in as citizens of a democracy and as Catholics.


Work for Peace in Your Own Heart and Family

It can feel pretty hopeless for us Catholics as elections go horribly awry, reprehensible ideas become popular, and governing parties become openly hostile to faith. There are already immoral laws in our country, and more will probably come. But we cannot let this disturb our peace. It's a difficult call, but many saints before us have proved that no matter how bad the government Christ's peace conquers all.

Begin by loving your own family. If we love those closest to us as best we can we're building peace, even if we can't see the difference it makes right now. If we teach our children the faith we are passing on a moral belief system that has built western civilization, democracy, and personal freedom. We are passing on values that matter, even if our culture say they don't.

It's often disheartening to think we're only impacting our own families, and hard to see the eternal value in loving those around us according to our vocations. But indeed our love has eternal consequences, and ripples out much farther in our world than is visible to our eyes. We know that the Body of Christ reaches every human heart and that as we offer our prayers and works we help spread God's mercy.

The biggest difference we make will always be within our own homes and our own hearts. We may lose heart in the human workings of our political systems, we may be anxious about upcoming elections and possible presidents, but we cannot let that rob us of the love, peace, and true joy that Christ and the Church calls us to live.




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Friday, April 22, 2016

Seven Quick Takes vol. 140


I'm just popping in with the quickest of boring takes because I am over this week - so if you too are over this week enjoy these takes extremely quickly, pour yourself some wine, then hit Kelly for the better takes!


{one}



It's really not spring until have my house is covered in mud, and the other half is full of dirty laundry -so I'm happy to say spring has arrived! Actually, this week we dried out a little around here, to the point where the boys had to turn on an outside faucet and haul water to their former puddles and then cover their little sister in mud. So tough times. It was legitimately warm for a few days this week and it felt glorious! Let's not talk about how it may snow this weekend...



{two}




I honestly feel like my life is approximately 67% dirty socks, 10% feeding children all the time, and 23% Hamilton. I'm obsessed a little bit. And I'm sure that's weird to pretty much all normal people, but I love musicals and Hamilton is so great it's become my life. Also, even if you aren't in to musicals just go watch this wedding video from Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda's wedding, it is the sweetest thing I've ever seen! 



{three}





You know your kids are Canadian when the temperature gets to 15C and they all start saying it's summer and they don't need to do school anymore!



{four}



I want to buy everything from Loft right now. Shopping confession! 



{five}



The older kids are in swimming lessons twice a week and the nearest pool is an hour away so I've been driving lots, but I thought I'd take advantage and snap some shots of the cool things along the country road that takes me there. There are about 7 little country churches along the way and just some pretty old farm buildings that always catch my eye so I thought I'd document them before they're all knocked down(I know, it's a depressing thought, but who knows!). It's on my Instagram if you haven't already seen it, and if you have already seen it, then....sorry? 




{six}



We had a great conversation about Thomas Merton on this week's new podcast episode. If you ever wanted to know what the deal on Thomas Merton was this is the perfect listen. 




{seven}

I'm feeling so ready for the weekend. Like I need to sleep for 12 hours, and drink some wine, and not be the sole parent around here. I'm adult-ed out. Let's hope I make it through the afternoon! 

Hope all your weekend feels like a child-free vacation. 


















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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What I've Been Reading Lately






Back with some quick reviews of some good books I've been reading lately! (Mostly because I had to stay home today with a sick baby instead of sitting at the pool during the big kids swimming lesson - so lemonade out of lemons and all that!)





 The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny

Yes, I'm on a Louise Penny kick, why do you ask? I just find her novels a lot of fun. You know, fun as in you've get to try and solve a grisly murder in a small village while trying to fight corruption in your own police force - tons of fun! This one had a bit of a weird plot line, but the characters and good prose more than make up for it. I still really appreciate Penny's attention to good mystery writing even while focusing so much on the characters. She does a great job juggling all the balls in the air.




 Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

I thought this was funnier than her first book. I'm a Mindy fan, and I felt that she has really gotten the knack for writing humour honestly, but also with a great deal of maturity. She doesn't hid behind her tv-star persona, not does she randomly interject with pretend wisdom (lookin at you Amy Poehler's disappointing book). It's really a delight to read and you can't read it and not want to be her best friend. Please tell me she has hundreds of best friends - because she's awesome.





Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

I love Bill Bryson. His name on a book is the only thing I need to want to read it and know that I will enjoy it. This book was no different. He chronicles his journey across Britain in the early 90's and it's fascinating to see Britain through his eyes. I'm a dedicated Anglophile so I enjoyed all his little tidbits from mentioning Coronation Street to bad heating. I still can't wrap my mind around the ability to simply walk from town to town, and I'm dying to go to England and spend a year or two exploring.





The Woman Who Was Chesterton by Nancy Carpentier Brown

Wow. I simply loved reading this biography of the wife of my favourite writer. I'm so glad that Nancy Brown devoted herself to researching Frances's fascinating life and bringing it to life through her careful, and thoughtful writing of this book. Frances was a complex woman who could stand on her own intelligent feet, battled depression and family tragedy, married a remarkable man and helped him achieve greatness, all the while loving him and God in an inspiring way. The chapter describing Frances's grief after Gilbert's death had me in tears and I'm still moved thinking about it. I really feel this is an important life to read because their marriage was beautiful and we just don't get to see inside marriages like this very often. Highly recommended.




Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

This book is incredibly well-written but as a tale of a marriage told from the husband's, then wife's perspectives it wasn't an enjoyable read to me. I found their perspectives interesting, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that the author just hated marriage and was out to write a deliberately damaging story of two people. I'm not sorry I read it, but I just am left feeling a bit sad that this is what marriage is seen as by the majority in our culture.



Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy and Quicklit! 





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Thursday, April 7, 2016

On Being a Catholic Under Bad Government





I've been writing letters to various government representatives for the last few weeks months about some important issues facing Canada and my province. Most pressingly the oncoming onslaught of highly unregulated doctor-assisted suicide across the country, and some high-handed education guidelines surrounding gender identity which present a very transformative moral impact in our province's education system.

I write the letters, I email and mail the letters, I occasionally received a highly patronizing reply from my government representative that implies I'm an idiot with whom no one agrees. I write again. It's not a fun hobby, but it seems that each successive issue becomes an even greater issue on which to speak out.

It's hard to continue to voice opinions that seem to be completely against the tide. It's hard to have governments in power that are openly hostile to your beliefs and see no value from your input. It's hard to see that the war has in many ways already been lost and that the tide will not turn on the larger stage.

As a Catholic my faith isn't put in a box in my life that only comes out on Sunday. The Catholic faith informs and impacts every aspect of my life, and as such it informs and impacts how I view public policy, laws, and how government itself functions. It's a moral lens that impacts how I see all of these things, but it also shapes my actions as a citizen.

Increasingly my country doesn't tolerate even the idea that religious beliefs should inform moral and political decisions. There's an open hostility to trying to "enforce your private beliefs" on an unsuspecting public, or even worse, a contempt for religion as it it must be in-of-itself intolerant and oppressive, bigoted and hateful.

This idea concerning religion has come about because there are entire generations of us who have no idea what having a faith even means. Our society has lost the idea that theology is an objective study that has almost 2000 years of intellectual history. Society has no concept that faith is formative and deeply connected to an individual's values and conscience, including how an individual makes political choices and how he views his country. Society has completely rejected the idea of a higher authority informing us about moral issues. Society has wholly committed to relativism to the point that we don't believe choices are moral at all, that we simple act on our feelings and that in consequence, must be good.

And now we are reaping these rewards with the destruction of children's innocence, handing over more control to the government in the name of tolerance, and completely abandoning moral and civil codes of conduct that are foundational to Western civilization.

Our Catholic faith is a beautiful seamless belief system that builds our political and social stances on a foundation of thoughtfully developed teachings based on natural law and God's revelation. As Catholics we uphold life, we value the dignity of the human person, that life must be respected from conception to natural death, and acknowledge the inherent and created differences of male and female and how that affects our humanity. These principles are not against the social order or social progress, these are the principles that have helped build the free and just societies of Western civilization.

These once commonly held values are now being turned on their heads, their basic truthfulness dismissed, and a Catholic position is seen as extreme and backward.

It all leaves me anxious and frustrated. Knowing that I, as a Catholic, can participate as much as possible as a private citizen, give my money to political organizations that are the least abhorrent to my values, write as much as possible to my government representatives, and yet still be part of the minority and have no power to stop the coming detrimental changes to my country.

I can see and imagine the toxic consequences for my children and grandchildren by what is happening in the public sphere now, and all I will be able to tell them is I, along with a small number of others, tried to speak in contradiction to the mob mentality that is our society. I already fear that I'm not doing enough. That as time passes history will look upon our lifetime as the hinge between civilization and a relativistic/fascist dystopia.

As I Catholic I know that Christ is the Lord of History. His ultimate victory is real and we just await it. But that doesn't take away from the fact that it is legitimately painful to watch your own country take drastic steps towards eradicating the moral fabric of society. I want the best for my country and for the people who live in it, and I know that a country who willfully promotes laws and principles contrary to God's laws will inevitably suffer.


Coming soon - What to do when politics feels hopeless.



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Friday, April 1, 2016

Seven Quick Takes vol. 139


Happy April! Head over to Kelly's to catch up with the other great takers ;)

{one}


I meant to post a little Easter post this week and lo and behold it's Friday already. Good thing there's Quick Takes!








{two}



We had a lovely Easter weekend and actually made it to 2 out of 3 Triduum liturgies which has to count as a win. We went to a Byzantine rite liturgy for Good Friday and it turned out to be especially beautiful since the Byzantines/Ukrainians celebrated the Annunciation regardless on Good Friday as well. It really seemed special and I'm so glad we got to participate on such a holy day.

We made it through Easter Vigil without anyone starting on fire, although there were a few close calls. Since I was doing music(and there is  A LOT of music) the kids did well in the pews for my husband and parents. By the last five minutes of Mass though, Nora was going on a tear and knocked a brother to the floor, undid the back of Gemma's dress, and was licking her hands in her dad's face, before screaming for Mass to be over. By the time we got home and kid's in bed it was about 11:30. We thought the kids would all sleep in but of course the boys were up before 7.

Easter Sunday begins with a traditional chocolate egg hunt and Easter baskets in the house, then an egg hunt outside in the snow, then dinner with my family. It was a really nice day despite the snow and tired kids. I made carrot cake, ate all the mini-eggs I could, and turkey. It was great.




{three}



Nora's 3rd birthday was last Friday as well so we had a really packed weekend. Since this will be the only time in her lifetime her birthday will land on Good Friday we let her celebrate it in our traditional family style with decorations, cake, and presents. She was a very happy girl and I can hardly handle that she's three already. I know I say that with every child's birthday, but I really can't handle it. She's informed me she's no longer a baby, she's "a GUUURL." 
Tears.



{four}

I took this week off school and indulged myself by sleeping as long as the kids would let me, eating what I wanted for breakfast(it was usually cake), and trying to make the days feel different for me. It's hard to homeschool with a bunch of kids and not get burnt out from not having any days off. We've really got to make the days we're not "doing school" as different as possible. Or at least attempt it. Next week we're busy and back at activities and things so I'm soaking up a bit of a break. Although I wanted to write more and completely failed at that.



{five}

I've watched a couple movies lately! It's a big deal because who has uninterrupted time for movies anymore? Not me apparently. I'm always too tired to commit to a movie at night and fall back to Netflix. Btw, I finished Friday Night Lights and felt all the feels. I'm now catching up on House of Cards and as much as I love my political backstabbing, compared to this years election cycle House of Cards feels like I'm watching a cozy 50's sitcom of a bygone era. Scary stuff.





But back to the movies. My sisters and I watched all the girl movies we could over the long weekend. We watched Man Up with the hilarious Lake Bell and Simon Pegg and it was pretty good. Definitely some really enjoyable parts that you kill yourself laughing over. Then we watched Burnt which is a movie about a chef restarting his career in London and stars BRADLEY COOPER. I mean, if you need more to enjoy a movie I don't understand you. It wasn't the greatest movie ever, but obviously it was completely up my alley and I really enjoyed it.




{six}



Since I'm woefully behind in blogging I'll quickly mention our latest podcast was a book episode on All The Light We Cannot See. A truly great book that makes for really great discussion. It's also been really popular so you've probably read it and would enjoy listening to us dissect it, wouldn't you? 



{seven}



This week's weather has been wonderful! It's actually been melting! This is a huge deal since it snowed almost every day last week in truly Holy Week fashion. The kids have been out for hours each day and it feels so good. The babies are out playing on the deck right now, the boys our our exploring the humongous puddles in the fields around our house, and Gemma is chicken wrangling the chickens we let out to peck up some green grass. It's nice. Come on Spring!

Hope you all have a great weekend! It's still Easter!





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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Holy Week thoughts on the everyday cross





As usual Holy Week arrives and carries us towards the Triduum in unexpected ways...except with a kid getting sick, because a kid always gets sick in Holy Week. (Or I go into labor. Ok, that only happened once, but I stand by the "kid always getting sick in Holy Week" axiom.)

It's funny that I can't let go of expectations for Lent and Holy Week even though each year my expectations are drastically not met because God completely goes off my plans and throws in new things. God doesn't follow my plans? What? My expectations usually aren't too big and exciting either, but even my lowly ones are changed and that in of itself always is a suffering to me who hates to have plans disrupted.

Every year I want to walk through Holy Week like a monastic. With loads of prayer and fasting, Tenebrae and adoration, silence and observation. But without fail plans change, I can't even make it to each Triduum liturgy, I'm usually running around trying to find pants for kids 15 minutes before Mass begins, and I forgot to buy an extra something for the Easter baskets.

It's hard to realize and accept that the little sufferings we're given are our sufferings. What we want to do with God we often can't. What we think shouldn't be difficult is. What we're meant to offer up as we walk with Jesus through his Passion is often the things we ignore, dismiss, or don't consider something worthy enough to offer as suffering along with Christ's in this week.

That's been one of my revelations to me this Lent -- that I've got more crosses than I'd care to admit. Which feels like the opposite of a Lenten revelation, because I feel most people come out of Lent realizing they've got so darn much to be thankful for.

I'm not talking about giant crosses that are new to my life, I'm talking about small crosses that almost build up without me noticing but have added up to quite a burden I wasn't even aware of. But even these small sufferings, the sufferings we don't choose or even see at times, are meant to be offered along with Christ's sufferings. The problem is if you don't even know they're there and weighing you down, you can't offer them up.

In that regard it's good to acknowledge the little burdens, the constant ones. Because there's a lot of grace waiting for us, and a lot of good that can come from offering our sufferings.

That's my Holy Week takeaway this year, what I've gleaned from a Lent that trudged through in a pretty ordinary way. But I've got a lot of hope in the joy of Easter.





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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What I've Been Reading Lately






Checking in with some good reads I've read lately...or a couple months ago...I'm not behind or anything...



Dead Cold by Louise Penny

The second book of the Gamache series and I quite enjoyed it. The plot itself was pretty quirky and bordered on highly unbelievable, but there is just something I find really comforting about this series. I know, I'm weird that I find detective fiction comforting, but there is something about recurring characters, a cozy village, and an intelligent man of integrity solving mysteries that just makes me feel like I'm sitting by a warm fire under a soft blanket.




The Last September by Nina de Garmont

This novel is the tale of a marriage told by a wife after her husband has been found dead. It reads like a physiological thriller in a lot of ways, and the writing is quite good. I don't know if I would have enjoyed it more if the characters themselves were more likeable or not, but it was definitely a better book than Gone Girl which is sorta in the same bent. If you like books that provide that secret window into a marriage then you'd probably enjoy this one.



Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

For a really well reviewed, and what seems to be a very well-liked recent novel, this just didn't hit the mark for me. I love food books, food novels, foodie lit, and since this novel is about the life of an up and coming female chef named Eva and the lives of those around her I thought it would be right up my alley as a sure fire hit. But each chapter is about a different character in her life and for some reason although each chapter was original, I felt like it didn't actually move the story of Eva herself along enough. I wanted more plot, less character sketches. But it wasn't terrible!




Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr

I think I've talked about this book before, but if you missed me talking about it: I REALLY LOVED THIS BOOK. A memoir of Doerr's life in Rome for a year with his young family, including twin baby boys, this book is probably one of the best books about Rome, parenthood, and writing that I've ever read. Doerr has a beautiful honesty, yet a complete talent for writing incredible sentences. It's short, but poignant. I also liked seeing his view of St. John Paul II's funeral, a neat perspective.




The Lake House by Kate Morton

If you've ever read a book by Kate Morton, let alone two books by Kate Morton, you know she has a formula. Now, it's obviously a really successful formula - jumping back and forth in time from a few characters perspectives, a family mystery being involved, neatly wrapped up ending. Now, I criticize this, but I also have to say I usually enjoy reading her. This book I think I liked almost as much as The Secret Keeper which I think is her best work. I think where Morton has the most talent is when she writes characters who are older. I feel she just has a great knack for bringing the older person's viewpoint into vivid life. She does that again here in this novel which is probably what I enjoyed the most about it.


Checking in with Modern Mrs Darcy and Quick Lit and Ashley with Five Faves!








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