Our [Imperfect] Family Rosary

“Continue to pray the Rosary every day.”
(Our Lady of Fatima to Sister Lucia)

I don’t think there’s any practicing Catholic out there who would deny the importance of daily recitation of the rosary.  The saints, the Popes, and even the Blessed Mother herself invites us to pray it on a regular basis, promising great spiritual wealth and growth as a result of it.  And, I have no doubt at all that that is true.

childs+hands+holding+rosaryBut, for the vast majority of us, praying the Rosary daily is actually rather challenging.  Or, maybe that’s just me.  I am not sure if it’s that I lack focus or the ability to sit still that long, but when I am attempting to pray it alone (which, let me tell you, happens about 0.1% of the time of my life) or when I am driving (which is more realistic), I easily get distracted.  I do much better when I pray it aloud with other people.

But, the only people I am with on a regular daily basis are these tiny human beings that I call my children.   Which, hey, is GREAT!  Because, praying the FAMILY rosary is possibly an even more beneficial and spiritually efficacious type of prayer than praying it alone.

Maybe efficacious isn’t the right word.  Perhaps saying it’s a source of “great sanctification” is more appropriate.  Especially when your prayer partners are 5, 3, and 20 months old.

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The Morning After: An Important Lesson

I’ve always been a quick learner.  I was the kid in elementary school who could read the spelling words through twice and ace the test.  Throughout high school and college, I was the student who managed to get high marks without studying for a test.  I wrote lengthy papers at the last minute, with no editing or proofreading and pulled an A.  I’m not proud of these things – mostly because I did nothing to deserve my good grades.  Good memory genes – fluke of nature, gift from God – nothing I can take credit for.

That awkward moment when you ruin the grading curve.

Also because I ruined a few grading curves…never a good moment for a nerdy kid.

Married life has increased the learning curve for me a little bit.  For example, it took me all of 3 years of marriage to learn that “Love” is not a feeling that you fall into.  No, Love is a choice.  It’s the choice to act kind, loving and intimate all the time – on the days when I like my husband, the days when he’s being romantic, and the days when he remembers to take out the garbage…but even more importantly, it’s choosing to love him on the days when I really don’t like him, when he’s being a doofus, and when he’s eating chips two inches from my ear and I want to punch him in the face through the bag.

Take another handful of those chips, I dare you!

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The Baby Name Game

Choosing the name for a child is, in my opinion, sort of a big deal.  When we were thinking about what we wanted to name our son (our first), I got really stressed about it. What if we choose the wrong name?  What if it seems fine, but then once we get home and start using it, we hate it?

This is how your child who then becomes a youth then a teen, young adult, and then adult will be identified FOREVER.

FOR.EV.ER.

I want to be friends with this person.

A name can say so much about you and can end up defining parts of your life based on how it is used or nicknamed.  You’re stuck with it (at least until your 18) and you can’t do anything about it.



Yeah, no pressure.



Yet, here we are, playing the name game again with our 2nd child, a little girl.

In my family, we have a tradition unintentionally started by my sister who had the first grandbaby to not reveal the name we choose until the baby is born.  This is a good thing for a couple of reasons. Read More

How Romance Novels Almost Ruined My Marriage…In Bed

Yesterday, I blogged about one of my main frustrations with romance novels – the unrealistic expectations they foster about who men are supposed to be once they fall in love.  My second huge problem with romance novels – and one of the reasons I stopped reading them – is the unrealistic expectations they set up about sex.

Disclaimer:  Some folks are going to be uncomfortable with the discussion that follows because it’s about sex – and I’m talking about it in public (though I don’t think it’s quite as scandalous as the Fifty Shades of Grey discussion).  If you have slightly more puritanical sensibilities, I recommend you skip this blog and read this one by my friend Rebecca instead.

Let’s talk about Sex, baby

Just a one sentence theology lesson apparently

I’m not going to get into a whole theology lesson on how these romance novels fail to uphold our Catholic understanding of sex as a sacramental experience of grace that reflects and imitates the Divine Love of the Trinity when it is expressed within the context of a marriage and is free, total, fruitful, and faithful.

No, my big beef with the sex in these novels isn’t that it often takes place outside the marriage bed and with contraception making an often intrusive appearance.  No, my beef is that as soon as the male lead falls for his lady, the sex becomes incredibly unrealistic.

Suddenly they are having marathons in bed with multiple orgasms on everyone’s part and never a single question about physical needs (food, shower, sleep) or even stamina.  The man will never, EVER think about reaching his physical peak before she has – at least 2 or 3 times – and she will never, EVER think about turning him away if he indicates he’s interested.

Let’s not forget THE moment.

If words paint pictures for the mind, this is the picture of a woman’s climax that’s painted by the romance author.

The woman’s physical peak (which again, comes 2 or 3 times every time) is described with some of the following phrases:

  • dizzying explosion of feeling
  • erupted in dazzling undulations
  • frenzied explosion of exquisite sensation
  • frenzy of simultaneous explosions
  • glorious waves of splendor
  • riding on a wave of frenzy
  • wave after wave of rapture

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How Romance Novels Almost Ruined My Marriage

Everyone who knows me – even a little bit – knows that I love to read.  My first word was “book” and I take a book with me wherever I go.  So, what surprises people is not when they discover how much I read, but often when they learn what I read.

I’m a college educated English literature major whose favorite authors are so classic they’re known by initials and last names only:  Dante, Milton, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Shakespeare.  But there has been a seedy underbelly to my reading habits as well: authors whose books are found in the checkout line at the grocery store instead of the college bookstore.  Authors who aren’t really a part of the classic lit canon:  Nora Roberts, Stephanie Laurens, Jude Devereaux, and Johanna Lindsey.

Yes, it’s true – I have a history as a voracious romance novel reader.  Harlequin romance novels.  You know the ones: with the cover featuring a scantily clad lady and a Greek god slowly tearing her dress off her shoulder.  At one point, I had 2 whole bookshelves (not 2 shelves of a bookshelf, 2 whole bookshelves) filled with romance novels.

Romance Novel Cover

I own this book… {hangs head in shame}

When I first got hooked on romance novels in high school, I loved them because they were quick, easy reads – a nice break from the Chaucer, Stephen Crane, and Mary Shelley I was plowing through in my literature classes.  Unfortunately, like most people with a slightly obsessive compulsive personality, I let things get out of hand, and what started as a vague enjoyment became a compulsive habit.

My husband will tell you that the problem was not in what I was reading, but that I was reading compulsively – all the time – and he would be partially right.  I have a tendency to compulsively read an entire novel in one sitting and ignore everything around me including my needs (eating, sleeping, etc) and the needs of my family.  But what he didn’t know is that those romance novels were causing a bigger problem.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised – after all, you are what you read, and what I was reading set up some pretty unrealistic expectations about what “true love” should really be like.

Let’s blame the men.

The male leads in these books are everything a man should be.  That’s not to say they’re perfect – there’s usually a sordid past or some emotional (or physical) scarring going on – after all, we want these characters to be believable! Usually they have a problem being a little too demanding, bossy, heavy handed, etc with the leading lady as well.  And then BAM!  They fall in love, and suddenly this guy is falling all over himself to change all the negative parts of his personality to accommodate his beloved.

If he was domineering, he’s suddenly trying to loosen up and let out the reigns a little.  If he was a workaholic, he’s trying to spend less time at work and more time with his lady. If he hated everything that the word “family” stood for, he’s reaching out and rebuilding broken family relationships.

You get the picture.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with these male characters – and they’ve come a long way since the romance novels of the 70s and 80s where the man would rape and kidnap a woman and then somehow win the heart of his passive, innocent lady.

The problem is that when I’m escaping into worlds where the men are constantly trying to prove their love by trying to change, I end up looking at my own husband and wondering why he isn’t quite so malleable.  Suddenly, my unconditional love and acceptance of him as a man created in the image and likeness of God slowly shifts into frustration that he’s not the man I’ve created in the image and likeness of the romance novel character.

You know, if I shave this guy bald, he actually does kind of look like my husband 🙂

These changes in thought process were gradual and it took me a really long time to even notice them, but they were there.  Every time I finished a romance novel I found myself a little irritated with my husband – even if he hadn’t done anything wrong.  I found myself thinking of all the things I wish he would do or be that he wasn’t instead of appreciating the things he does and the person he is.

So, I gave up romance novels – or at least seriously, seriously cut back – so that I could learn to appreciate the man my husband is instead wishing (even subconsciously) that he would be more like the men I was reading about in the romance novels.

These unrealistic expectations followed me right into the bedroom…leading to my second huge problem with romance novels…but that’s a blog for another day.

Fifty Shades of Grey…A Second Opinion

In my first opinion, I wrote about my initial reactions to the popular Fifty Shades of Grey books and attempted to open a discussion about their morality.

The opinions poured in!  Unfortunately, most of these opinions were not shared in the comment section on the blog itself, but rather through Facebook and other social media.

Many of the comments argued with me on whether or not these books would be considered pornography by the Church.  In my original post, I wanted to get away from the plethora of Christian bloggers who are deeming these books inherently sinful.  I acknowledge that there’s a danger in these books leading to sin, but I made the argument that I don’t think they constitute a grave wrong in and of themselves.

I was wrong

Tell my husband to mark it on the calendar – these are not words I often say!

I spent days searching to try to find an answer about whether or not erotic literature was considered pornography in the eyes of the Church…in vain.  I couldn’t get a clear cut answer from any of the sources I looked to, and so went about trying to interpret the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s comments on pornography to see if they applied to books like these.

One of the things I did was a Google search for “Catholic erotica” (a potentially dangerous proposition).  Surprisingly, it was not inappropriate stories about Catholic school girls that showed up, it was news reports from Germany about some German bishops who owned a stake in a publishing company that sold erotic books.  A German newspaper reported that the Catholic Church was selling porn, and the bishop’s threatened to sue saying that erotica is not porn.  Chalk one up to me, I thought…even the German bishops agree with me!

A few months later, Pope Benedict addressed a letter to the Church of Germany that covered a variety of topics, but included a line or two in reference to the publishing company scandal.  Here’s what he said (emphasis mine): Read More

One Catholic’s Opinion on Fifty Shades of Grey

NOTE:  I’ve revised and amended my opinion of these books based on conversations and a quote from Pope Benedict I found.  Feel free to read through this post, but then go check out my second opinion.

***********************

Well, I did it.  I read Fifty Shades of Grey .

I had been hearing a lot about it.  I saw an SNL skit about it and heard The Today Show talk about “mommy porn.”  I’ve encountered Twitter debates about the morality of the book, and seen my Facebook friends post all about it.

As a high school youth minister I’ve found myself reading and watching things I never would have chosen myself just because I want to be able to talk to teenagers about their faith using stories and examples from things they love.  That’s why I read Twilight and Harry Potter, it’s why I watched Glee (though I only made it through 3 episodes) and Jersey Shore (not even one full episode with that one).

Then, my husband sealed the deal when he came home one night begging me to read this book.  I love to read and I can be a bit compulsive and addicted to it – sacrificing things like making dinner or doing housework in favor of a good book.  My husband is not a fan of my reading addiction – he even has a special eye roll and sigh that he pulls out when he sees me sitting in the recliner with a book – so when he came home asking me to read something, I jumped at the chance for some uninterrupted and non-badgered reading time.

I knew very little about the book before I read it – just that it was a modern romance novel with some pretty explicit sex scenes in it.

The New York Times describes the content of the book saying, “The books, which were released in the last year, center on the lives (and affection for whips, chains and handcuffs) of Christian Grey, a rich, handsome tycoon, and Anastasia Steele, an innocent college student, who enter into a dominant-submissive relationship.”

That’s putting it mildly.

The sex scenes certainly are beyond steamy – some of them are pretty kinky and a few are downright freaky.  Let’s just say items like riding crops, rulers, floggers (whatever those are!), and the like are not within my comfort zone – they’re not within a lot of people’s comfort zones.  So why are these books (they’re a trilogy) sitting atop the NYT’s Bestseller List and showing up on SNL?

The Times says quotes one married woman who says:

“It’s relighting a fire under a lot of marriages,” said Lyss Stern. “I think it makes you feel sexy again, reading the books.”

It certainly worked for one friend of mine.  Her husband texted my husband telling him that he had to get me to read this book because his wife read it and they were definitely “relighting a fire” in their marriage (now I know why my husband was so eager for me to read it).

For the record, they do a lot more talking about tortuous sex than actually doing it. And yes, the writing is really that bad.

On the other hand, the book has quite a few critics.  It’s slow moving plot and overblown prose won’t win it any literary awards.  Then there are those who object to the bondage and dominant/submissive content of some of the scenes saying its degrading to women.  There’s some weird stuff in the female main character’s head about her “inner goddess” and her “subconscious” who play basically play the role of her id and superego respectively.  But the criticism that’s engaged me the most is from the Christians I know who are warning their friends off of them saying that it’s basically pornography and is would be sinful to read it.

I’m not sure I agree… Read More

The “Modern” Family

The Cast of “Modern Family”

I admit it.  I’m a bit of a TV junkie.  I am.  I just really like TV.  There’s so many interesting and entertaining shows to choose from.

Though I probably know more about what’s on HGTV, Food Network, Travel Channel, and Nick Jr. than a normal person should, I don’t just enjoy shows that are on the science and learning (or kids!) channels.  I also enjoy a lot of the sitcoms and a few dramas on network television.  One of the shows we enjoy in our house is Modern Family. Read More

Nope, That’s NOT Why I’m Catholic (Part 2: Love is in the air)

In my part one, I mentioned that the firestorm of debate that the HHS Mandate has created encouraged a number of conversations with people who are not Catholic or Christian…with atheists, with Satanists, with agnostics…with those who outright hate organized religion and those who are just suspicious of it.

Some of those conversations have been openly hostile, others have been vaguely mocking, and a few have been even curious, but there’s one thing they all have in common.  They all have made (faulty) assumptions about why I am a Catholic.

So, I’m here to set the record straight…

You’re Only Catholic Because You’re Afraid You’re Going to Hell

Going to HellThis is a pretty common argument from those who reject religion outright.  Here is one example from a discussion with an old college coworker (who at least at that time was a self-professed Satanist) on his blog:

The Catholic Church holds itself as the moral standard bearer for the world because it gains its authority from the divine. These rules are not up for a vote or appeal. If its rules are not followed, the sinner is punished in the afterlife. This is coercion not unlike someone giving orders at gunpoint. It negates the possibility of free will.

Or this comment on one of my Facebook posts by a really close friend.  We usually avoid religious discussions, and though he likes to poke fun and provoke me, it’s all in respect and love (I hope).

Well I was going to get a vasectomy but knowing the Church is against it and that Jesus won’t let me into the kingdom of heaven if I do, I’m just going to abstain going forward!

It’s a pretty common argument that assumes that the reason I follow the Church’s teachings or even believe at all is based on my fear of eternal consequences if I don’t.

Just like the “You’re Only Catholic Because You Were Raised That Way” argument, this assumption has some basis in truth, but is missing a much bigger picture.  In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s an analogy that explains that bigger picture…

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Real Life Romance

Romantic movie poster

Recently, a few of the girls in my youth group were talking about how they were planning to see the new movie The Vow which is coming out this weekend.  As they were all agreeing on how romantic the concept of the movie is and how much they are going to cry when they watch it, one of the girls said, “I wish things like that happened in real life.”

I proceeded to tell them that the story of “The Vow” is, in fact, based on a real life couple, and that there are people who actually are committed to their wedding vows.

It saddens me to think that many teens and young adults (and, heck, even adults!) live under the assumption that people can’t or don’t have marriages that are good, happy, beautiful, and romantic.  They see and experience unhappiness, broken marriages, relationships with no commitment that never lead to marriage and eventually fall apart, etc.  They find it hard to believe that someone could actually live the vows they make at a wedding. Read More