Frank discussions, advice, and opinions from a Catholic Director of Religious Education.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (December 26, 2011)

Kenosis: The voluntary renunciation by Christ of his divine privilege. In accepting his life as a man, Jesus emptied himself and rejected even those rights which were naturally due to him as God. (Etymology: (Greek) Kenosis, an emptying)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 13)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 154)

1. I am going to be SOOOOOO tired... As I write this at about 8:46 PM, my wife and I still need to pack, load the car and do some last minute cleaning and dishes before we leave for North Carolina. As I wrote in an earlier post, we are surprising my mother for Christmas (see number 7), but we have to leave the house at about 3:00 AM with a sleepy, and most likely unhappy, infant. Grumpy infants generally lead to annoyed mamas and annoyed mamas often cause disgruntled dadas. So prayers are appreciated for the long day of travel ahead.

2. My wife and I have been saying the rosary each night as part of our Advent observances. It gets so hard to find time to pray together during the year that I think we should try to continue this practice now that we are in the habit. I don't know if it will last, but I'd at least like to try. At this point I think the key will be just sheer will.

3. I've been watching Grimm on Hulu. My wife hates it, but I think it is pretty decent. It isn't... well it isn't very original or bright, but it's entertaining enough to help me lose myself in a fantasy world.

4. Speaking of fantasy worlds, why do we still have so many GOP contenders? It seems like some of them ought to be dropping off pretty soon. I don't know who we will get after the next election, but I don't foresee a great future in any scenario.

5. We recently had two events at our parish that didn't fare well (attendance was very low for one and we had to practically get on our knees, beg and offer our first born children to get volunteers for the other). I don't know what it is, but participation is sorely lacking. Parents just don't seem to care. I would attribute this to the holidays, but this has been a problem for some time now. On top of it all, I can't stop thinking about fig trees...  weird... 

6. This is Eddie's first Christmas (and he probably isn't going to "get" the whole present thing yet) so we will see what happens. My bet? While we all open gifts he will see something shiny in the other room and bolt for it.

7. I hope all of you have a very merry Christmas and blessed New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Of Saints and Santas

I don't think I like this...Mama?
My wife and I have been talking a lot about how to celebrate Christmas now that we have our son. We both reject the commercialized hallmark holiday formerly known as Christmas, but I think it's going to be harder than we think to actually separate ourselves from that secular vision. For example, take Santa.

Santa means saint and Santa Clause is based off St. Nicholas, a real saint who was Bishop of Myra (part of modern day Turkey). He was famous for surprise gifts and one legend, at least, presents him with some real "Santa" characteristics. As the legend goes, a poor man had three daughters who were coming of age. Without the money for a dowry, the daughters would almost certainly be unable to find a husband and therefore be forced into prostitution. The bishop learned of this and, on the eve of each daughters coming of age, he threw a bag of money over the roof and into the chimney. The bag fell all the way down and into the stockings below (which were hanging to dry over the embers). 

Now, that is a great story of charity about a real saint. It gives a great reason to hang stockings and even to leave little treats in them, yet how many kids will learn instead about flying reindeer? And that, my friends, is the problem. The fictional, elf enslaving, flying reindeer traveling, "Santa" has become so crucial to children's experience of Christmas that it's going to be very difficult explaining to those around us that we appreciate their desire to give our child a happy memory, but we would rather teach the truth (which is much more amazing, by the way) and focus on the real meaning of Christmas.

Case in point: All my mother wanted for Christmas was a picture of little Eddie with Santa. Now, this seems fine (although Santa has quite a racket by forcing you to buy his overpriced pictures), so long as we emphasize the "St. Nick" part, but this is just one example of a "oh, but you HAVE to" moment that I can see getting out of hand if we don't stay vigilant. I guess what I am saying is that it's OK to indulge in fun Christmas traditions to a point, but the secular, commercial version of Christmas is like a giant black hole that sucks you in. If you don't stay on top of things, I could see it getting out of hand really fast.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (Christmas Edition)

Incarnation: God become man. Through this teaching the Church maintains that God became, truly and completely, a human being. His life was not a symbol. He did not fool us by an illusion. He did not work another human being like a puppet. The creator of the universe, who lived a life of pure love and joy, never experiencing lonliness, pain or fear, actually became a man in every way but sin in order to save us. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 12)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 154)

1. My wife and I stumbled on this and it was just too good not to pass on. Isn't history fun?

oh! and this...

2. Speaking of cool history, Fr. Z posted on the possible discovery of Sodom and Gomorrah. How do the archaeologists think the city was destroyed? A "heat event".
3. Is it just me, or does anyone else despise "Mary did you know?" Well, I found this the other day.

4. Christmas is right around the corner, and that means hundreds of parishes will be having their Christmas pageants during the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass. Now, I am not a liturgist, so maybe there is some allowance here that I am not aware of. If you know anything about this please instruct me, but I am pretty sure that these little plays aren't supposed to be held during Mass. I don't know about the rest of you, but I find them terribly distracting. This is the point where we are all supposed to be worshipping God, focused completely on Him, and yet we have this strange "creation" bleating at us, practically screaming, "Look at us!" The focus is, inevitably, on the cute children. Parents snap photos. Grandparents look on warmly and dirty looks are thrown at the naysayers like myself. Still, I persist. Why not just have the pageant BEFORE Mass?

5. The Anchoress linked to a great piece on Ten Myths About Introverts.  My favorite is number 1: Introverts don't like to talk. I LOVE to talk, just not as an end in and of itself. You can also find a link there for a personality test. I am an INTJ: The Mastermind. Coincidentally, so is my wife. What are you?

6. We had our second round of evaluations for the second grade classes on Wednesday. They are being tested for their first confession. I was very pleased with the results. Several are still far from ready, but there has been improvement. Prayers are always appreciated.

7. Next week we fly to North Carolina to visit our parents. My mom still doesn't know we are coming (my Dad is sneaky like that). I can't wait for her to see us on the doorstep right before Christmas. It's going to be great!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 11)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 154)

1. YES! I know I've been gone almost a month, but I have good reason (plus I should be back to regular postings now). Essentially, I had a week long trip with my youth group to NCYC (where I got sick), then a week long trip back to North Carolina to visit my parents and in-laws, followed by a week of frantically catching up on both school work and Anyway, I should have some regular postings now that things are a little more calm.

Holy Mass at NCYC
2. Speaking of NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference), it was really good. I am hoping to have a whole post devoted to this topic soon, but what you need to know right now is that it is a gathering of about 25,000 Catholic teens and chaperones. It occurs every two years and it really gets the teens excited about their faith. If you use it right, it can be a good tool for building your youth group. If you use it poorly, it can be a great way to waste your funds giving a few kids an awesome party.

3. My wife and I are on a "negative news" fast for Advent. I think we both recognized that negative news was affecting our perspective a bit. I know for myself, a lot of the blogs and websites I was reading dealt with some pretty negative things. The sites and stories were not bad in and of themselves, but too much negativity starts to slant your world view and make you a little crabby. I confess that I have broken this fast a few times out of boredom, but generally I've held to it and I think it has been for the best. I'll try to let everyone know around Christmas how it ultimately went.  

4. I could use some prayers for someone I know who just found out she was pregnant (not my wife). She is a "high risk" pregnancy and it is still early so anything could happen. I just think this family has a lot of love to give and would do so well with another child. They could use some prayers for the mother and the safe delivery and health of the baby.

5. Speaking of babies, this latest news (quick take #4) has my wife thinking she has special fertility powers. Many women in our lives suddenly became pregnant in the time period surrounding my wife's pregnancy, including some very unexpected ones. Coincidence?   

6. I miss my family in North Carolina, but there are perks to living so far away. You say it's time to go Christmas shopping? OH! You mean it's time to send our moms a check for the presents they bought and wrapped for our siblings. Lazy? Yes. Ashamed? No.  

7. I hate cats. This Thanksgiving I spent several days in my in-law's house with my wife's old cat. I spent the first night wheezing (I'm allergic) and generally struggling to breath. Any recommendations for meds to help with a cat allergy?