Monday, February 13, 2012

A very Catholic weekend

This picture just cracks me up. I have a priest friend on Facebook that uses this as his profile picture, and I just fell in love with the baby. And I so very much relate to it. *Finally* I too remember to say "with your spirit." And if I forget, I'm able to ad hoc my own special Tiffany response which is "And also with yoo.... *your spirit*."

I've also got the new "it is right and just" line down as well as the "not worthy to let you under my roof" thing almost perfected. Unfortunately, I've come to the conclusion that I may never have the Nicene Creed memorized ever again. I learned the Nicene Creed back in second grade, when preparing for my First Communion. It's so ingrained in my mind that chiseling away at any of the words is a pretty painful process. And it's not like it's totally different, which I think makes it even more difficult. The fact that it's mostly the same save for a couple handfuls of changed words and short phrases makes it even more unlikely that I'll be able to master it without having the pew card in front of me. Alas.

Speaking of Facebook, I've become downright unscrupulous with my defriending activities. I certainly don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but I've decided that my Facebook newsfeed is *my* experience, and it's not worth it to be friends with someone that posts insensitive things about my faith. I'll lower myself to become snarky for *just* a moment *Emotional Entitlement Alert*: it seems that these days, many people are enjoying posting "witty" and politically correct comments about how irrelevant the Catholic Church is these days, and how clearly the Church is more concerned with everyone's sex life and their own power to care about pressing issues like social justice and helping the poor. I saw a comment like that last night on my feed, and do you know what I did? I contemplated posting a response for maybe 30 seconds or so, decided against it (just not worth it to upset myself, and in that venue the person is not going to be open to hearing any other opinion) and simply clicked over to my friends list, found their name, and selected "defriend." I even felt giddy. They'll probably never notice that I've done this, which I suppose is good. But it's a personal victory, and so I feel empowered. .

And in this vein, my ears are constantly burning with the sounds of contraception, which I'm sure all of yours are too. I was a bit surprised at how much this news story took off, and at first I didn't know what to think about it. I hate to see the Church take yet another beating in the news media and in the square of public opinion, but I do believe in the wisdom of this particular unpopular teaching and sometimes we have to stand up for the unpopular parts of our faith. Otherwise, how much could it really mean to us if we're not willing to go to bat for Her when the going gets tough? And things are definitely very, very ugly right now in the discussion out in the public arena. I did a lot of thinking about this, and I'll just hit the highlights since I'm sure we're all pretty saturated in talking about it at this point:

(1) The fact that this is an unpopular teaching does not change the truth of it in any way, from the Church's perspective. Popular opinion has never dictated theology in the Catholic Church. Hence, articles like I read the other day which say that it makes no sense to even talk about contraception in this day in age because it's so widely accepted and revered miss the point.

(2) Obedience, or lack thereof, also does not change Church teaching. Do the majority of Catholics use contraception? I have no idea, but it doesn't matter. So, all of the comments and articles that have as their main argument "most Catholics use artificial birth control anyway, so Catholic employers should just provide it" also miss the point entirely.

(3) Can people use their own personal opinions and consciences to decide whether or not to use contraception? Well, of course. We do have free will, after all. But that has nothing to do with the fact that, in the Church's eyes, contraception is immoral and contrary to the culture of life. Hence, asking Catholic organizations to pay for and provide contraception (even to non-Catholics) goes against THEIR conscience. This seems to be what most commenters are missing. People who want to use birth control still can. They can obtain it in other ways besides from their employers' health insurance policy. But to force a Catholic organization to provide it leaves them no room to follow their conscience. They would either have to pay for something that they find immoral, or not provide health insurance at all, which would also go against what they feel is fair and just treatment of their employees.

And that's all I have to say on that, because really, I don't like talking about contraception. :) It's a personal matter. But I'm taking personally what I'm reading these days about the Church, and since I don't write about it on Facebook, you all have to suffer on here, ha!

And so, relatedly, I've been thinking a lot about what I'm passing on of my faith to my kids. Henry is definitely in the "I'm bored in church" place and so I've been really trying hard to make our faith alive and vibrant for him. Because it is to me, even in the everyday routine of the liturgy. I used to think Mass was boring too. Now, I find the liturgy serene and beautiful.

Thus, when I was preparing for my Children's Liturgy of the Word session for yesterday, the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, I really tried to jot down some things to discuss I thought the kids would find interesting. We talked about the current liturgical color of green, what Ordinary Time means, how close we are to the beginning of Lent, and what we can be thinking about now in the last full week before Ash Wednesday. The readings featured leprosy, which did seem to make them scrunch their eyebrows up a bit. But I was getting a lot of whispered conversations going on as we approached the end of our discussion of the Gospel of Jesus healing the leper. And our deacon was still very much enmeshed in his homily, so I did what has always served me well when I teach: I just relaxed and let myself talk about whatever inspiration seemed right at that very moment.

"Today, we talked about Jesus as healer, and I think that it's important to think about what Jesus means to us in our everyday lives. We go to school, we play sports, we interact with our brothers and sisters and our parents. Sometimes people hurt our feelings or we hurt someone elses feelings, like we saw today with the lepers that were cast out of society. How can Jesus help us deal with these things? Sometimes, he heals us physically, like he did the leper, but more often than that, he helps us just in the little things that bother us or upset us as we go about our day. We talked about how the leper in the Gospel had faith that Jesus could heal him, and so we have to have faith that Jesus knows each of us intimately and can help us even in the mundane choices and events in our lives.

When I was a little girl, something really bothered me in thinking about this. I wondered: 'there are so many people on this earth, billions and billions. How can God see what is going on with each of them? Is God even real?'"

When I looked up, whereas before little conversation gaggles had formed as the kids got restless from sitting for too long, suddenly every little eye in the sacristy was on me. *100% * complete, rapt attention. And I could practically see the little thought bubbles above their heads, saying "Yeah! I *have* wondered that! Does she know the answer?!" And I knew I had done the right thing. I just hoped that my answer was just as inspired.

"This really bothered me, but eventually I realized that yes, God IS real. We are so intricately and perfectly made, we have to have a Creator. (little St. Thomas Aquinas thrown in there for good measure). And I realized that God is not like us. We're human, God is not. We are limited in how many people we can interact with at one time. God is not. If God is powerful enough to create the world and us out of nothing, He's powerful enough to see what's going on with billions of people all at the same time."

We even had a brief discussion of "omnipotence." Lots of wide eyes followed my every word. And so, I at least had a big impact this week. :) It was the best I've felt after one of these sessions in quite awhile.

I just hope nobody goes back to their parents and says that Miss Tiffany talked about how she didn't know if God was real this week. You know how kids tend to leave out important parts of stories when they retell them. :)

I just think that it's very important not to take for granted that our children are going to want to retain and explore their Catholic faith just because we tell them they should. They need to see it as real and vital in their own lives. And addressing some doubts that they have makes it more relatable for them, more likely that they'll take notice of the faith of the adults in their lives if they realize that those adults wonder about the same things that they do.

This week, before I headed out to Mass, I had prayed for my session with the kids. And so I hope that I provided a good foundation for them. And a truly Catholic one.

After that, we all went to a birthday party for the little boy of some friends of ours. As I sipped some wine and watched Henry play with some other little boys, and Anne cavort happily around the room, admired everywhere she went (she even accumulated a little 2 year old boyfriend named Devin who was very attentive to her every need), and Mike have a beer while talking to some of his fellow philosopher friends (there was even a priest there, the party was at the home of the Catholic couple that introduced Mike and I), I thought:

life is good.

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