The Church is someone, not something

The internet will teach you how to turn a “no” into a “yes.” The phrase  appears in tutorials designed for salespeople, but also in more sinister contexts.  In militant men’s rights groups, there are forums and even study guides that teach men how to manipulate women and extract the sexual goodies they want from them.

They understand that, in these whacky times, women may pursue legal prosecution for rape or assault if you don’t listen to their “no;” so men who consider sex a right coach each other on how to pressure, manipulate, disorient, confuse, and guilt women into yielding a reluctant but legally watertight “yes.” Rather than being ashamed of this gross display of inhumanity, these men preen themselves on their skills. They know that, if they are challenged for their behavior, they can point to their victim’s coerced consent, and then she will be blamed for what happened to her.

Healthy men would vomit at the very idea of approaching a woman this way. No man enjoys rejection, but they do understand that women are human, and shouldn’t be treated like an object whose body and will can be forced into whatever position you like. No means no. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to accept it.

I’ve heard this approach before, in an entirely different context. I’ve heard this refrain of “I hear your ‘no,’ but I refuse to accept it, and I even feel proud of my persistence. So I’m going to keep chipping away at you with everything I’ve got in hopes that you’ll give in and let me have what I think I’m entitled to.”

Here’s what I hear:

“All the other churches go along with this stuff, so why won’t you? What’s wrong with you? Why are you so uptight?”

“Of course I love you, Catholicism! That’s why I want to see you change.”

“No one can possibly love you, you Catholic Church, if you keep on acting this way. I’m the only one who could put up with you, and you better give in, or I’ll leave, too.”

It’s the language of Catholic dissenters — including myself, at times, to my shame. It’s the language of people who have heard her say “no” very clearly — “no” to contraception, “no” to women priests, “no” to gay sex. But they love her, they say, so they just keep chipping away, threatening, negging, pressuring and wheedling, priding themselves on their persistence in trying to wear her defenses down, to turn her “no” into a “yes.”

When we hear pressure and threats from a would-be rapist who clearly despises women as much as he craves their companionship, it’s easy to see these tactics for what they are: Abuse. An abuser allows himself to speak this way because he doesn’t really recognize the humanity of his victim. He sees her primarily as something that could potentially deliver what he wants, if only she would know her place and cooperate with his demands. He sees her primarily as a thing, and not as a person.

I am here to tell you that the Catholic Church is a person. It is the Body of Christ. And the Body of Christ has a right to her bodily autonomy. She is not here to assume whatever position will satisfy our current appetites, whether they’re intellectual or spiritual or psychological or social. The Church is Someone, not something, and she has the right to say “no.”

Now let me make some disclaimers, because I know I’ve said something tough to hear.

When I talk about people pressuring the Church to change, I’m not talking about people who are sincerely struggling, even angrily struggling, bitterly struggling, fearfully struggling with some of the hard teachings of the faith. Healthy relationships have struggles. I struggle, sometimes angrily or bitterly or fearfully, with some fundamental teachings of the Church, just as my own beloved husband almost certainly struggles with some of the things that make me fundamentally me. It’s not always easy being in love. So I’m not saying that struggling with doctrine is abuse. Struggle is normal, and struggling with the Church does not make us abusers.

And more importantly, I’m not saying that the Church is not in need of change. God knows it is badly in need. Sometimes there are things about your beloved that ought to change, and insisting on that change sometimes truly is an act of love. Many loving spouses will eventually find occasion to hold their beloved to account for intolerable behaviors which must be changed if the marriage can survive; and so it it is with faithful Catholics and the Church. Wanting to reform what is wrong in the Church does not make us abusers.

Does the Church need reform? Oh literally sweet Jesus, yes. The hierarchy and much of its pastoral authority is deformed almost beyond recognition. They don’t even seem to realize that they have lost our trust and need to work to regain it. There are abusers in power. There are structures in place that make it impossible to hold abusers and their enablers to account. There are too many ways to keep horrible secrets; too many places for abusers to hide. God’s word is used to shout down victims and their defenders and to amplify hypocrites, opportunists, and predators. This is the state of the Church today. These are the things that must, please God, change.

But these grotesqueries, these deformations, are not who the Church herself is. They are like parasites living off the Body of Christ. They fight like mad to preserve their host, not because they love her, but because they need their daily feeds. They must be scoured away so that the body of Christ can be pure again. I don’t know how, but I see it must be done.

But there is change, and there is change. If we want to preserve our loving relationship with the Body of Christ and not unwittingly fall into patterns of abuse against her, we must learn to make the distinction between who the Church is, and what her members and her representatives do — what they have done, in fact, to her. The latter must often be changed; the former is inviolable.

We can learn who the Church is by what she teaches, what she says. And sometimes, what she says is “no.” This is inviolable. She is inviolable.

Lately, we have perhaps become used to thinking of the Church as the abuser. So many people have been maligned, mistreated, guilted, shamed, or literally raped by those who call themselves the Church. But we must see clearly. Those who abuse and enable abuse in the name of Christ are not the Church; they are to the Church as a pimp is to a sex slave. They will defend her, not because they love her, but because she brings them power and money. They are the ones who must repent and reform, not her. She is the victim. She is not the one who needs to change. The Church is a person, and she has the right to say “no,” both to those who abuse her outright, and to those who want to blame her for being abused.

We will not purify the Body of Christ by attacking what and who she is, and that includes what she says. No means no. Like anyone whose demands have been rejected, we don’t have to like it, but we do have to accept it, especially if we say you love the Church. She is someone, not something. When she says “no,” she means “no.”

 

Image: detail of photo by Stefano Merli via Flickr (Creative Commons)

What’s for supper? Vol. 146: Tutto il Formaggio

What did we eat this week? Oh, wait till I tell you.

Recipe cards at the end.

SATURDAY

On Friday and Saturday, l’uomo and I went away! We did! It’s our anniversary this month. Twenty-one years, my friends, and it gets better and better. We had three days and two nights at the beach — longer than we’ve ever been kidless together since the day we got married — and enjoyed ourselves immensely. But I’m only gonna tell you about the food.

First night, he had the surf and turf

and I had about a bathtub’s worth of lobster formaggio.

Sharp, creamy, and wonderful. We also had lobster-stuffed mushrooms and lobster rangoon. We, um, we like lobster. I only ate half and then of course accidentally left my leftover package in the restaurant, rather than bringing it to the hotel and then accidentally leaving it in the mini fridge.

We staggered back to our room, with its sweet little ocean view balcony and there were champagne and strawberries waiting for us, plus a lovely little plate of cheeses and fruits

I’m finding it hard to believe that we ate this that same night, to be honest, after all that lobster. Maybe we ate it the next day? I do recall having a hearty breakfast the next day, and then we spent a lot of time clambering around on rocks gawking at tide pools and snickering over the people waiting in line to get into the Social Distortion concert. Someone had written BRIANNA I WILL NEVER FORGET YOU on one of the shuttered souvenir shops. And then there was this:

This has been my approach, as well, and it’s worked well for me. Hey, it’s the off season. And then more tide pools! Tide pools are the best. Look at all those little baby mussels!

We weren’t ready for dinner, as such, but a little light snack sounded all right, so we had some cocktails with a dozen oysters with plenty of horseradish, and a charcuterie board. I didn’t know what that was, but food that comes on boards has never yet disappointed me. This one was exceptionally good, with various dried meats, roast beef, pickled vegetables, sharp and tender cheeses, hot crusty bread, honey, fig paste, and the most amazing mustard.

It seems silly, but I can’t say enough about this mustard. It just transformed everything. Tell me about fancy mustards that you know about! I don’t even know what to search for, but I have a food processor and I want to be a part of this.

I think maybe it was now that we brought the strawberries out? And the other cheeses? What I’m trying to say is, salt air really gives you an appetite. We didn’t drink the champagne, because we never drink the champagne. We now have three bottles of champagne in the refrigerator, left over from last Valentine’s Day and also our 20th anniversary. I honestly don’t know why we keep buying it. If you want it, you can come over and get it. The mustard is all gone, though, so don’t get your hopes up.

Anyway, we had a nice time. Such a nice time. I love that man.

SUNDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

Back to life! Back to sandwiches without even a little bit of lobster in them. These particular sandwiches are a favorite around here. Slices of roast chicken or turkey, slices of tart green apples, bacon, thick cheddar cheese, and honey mustard on ciabatta rolls.

You can toast the whole thing for a few minutes if you like. Yum yum.

MONDAY
Various antipasti; suppli; linguine with ragu; lemon ices; pizzelle cannoli

So, on some random Monday in early October, we have a day off school for no reason and eat Italian food. Fine, it was for Columbus Day. Fight me.

We start with suppli, also sometimes called arancini. These are breaded, deep-fried balls of risotto with a core of melted mozzarella. YEAH, SORRY ABOUT COLUMBUS DAY. I’m so glad you don’t celebrate Columbus Day, because then you don’t have to eat suppli. They’re really not very good. They aren’t the food of the gods or anything. You wouldn’t wet yourself because of how meltingly fabulous they are. Don’t be silly.

When they’re frying, you don’t have to physically restrain yourself from reaching into the hot oil to grab a wonderful golden ball of glory

They don’t rest on the plate, fragrant and smiling, inviting you to break through the tender, crisp shell into the creamy risotto within

and when you break it open you won’t whimper with delight as the mozzarella meltingly swoons across your plate

It’s just food. It can’t possibly be that good, my stars. Get ahold of yourself.

We also had an assortment of antipasti, into which I put very little effort, because making suppli is exhausting, man. I cut several Bosc pears into wedges and wrapped them with paper-thin prosciutto, and that was nice. We also had various olives and marinated vegetables, cheeses, salamis, breadsticks, artichoke hearts, pesto, sun dried tomato bruschetta, and whatnot. Very pretty.

I knew I shouldn’t eat another suppli, but I did it anyway.

The night before, Damien had made his magnificent ragu, which is a tomato-less meat sauce with ground pork and beef, celery and carrots, garlic, lots of red pepper flakes, and tons of anchovies that just sort of melt. We briefly considered grinding up some pancetta, but life suddenly seemed short, so we went with a mere two meats. I haven’t written up a recipe card yet, so I’ll just link to the Deadspin recipe for now. You must try this. It’s so simple and so amazingly good.

Does it look like much? No, it does not.

But it smells and tastes like if pasta went to heaven, and this is who it gets to spend eternity with: ragu. I don’t know where me eating it fits into this cosmology, but there you are.

I had made a desultory supermarket search for cannoli shells, but quickly gave up and bought those snowflake-shaped pizzelle cookies

(photo from Wikimedia Commons)

and topped them with a scoop of simple cheese filling (ricotta with confectioner’s sugar and a little almond extract), shaved dark chocolate, and a few maraschino cherries. Nobody complained! But I forgot to take a picture.

And! I just found out this minute that you can actually make cannoli shells using pizzelle cookies. You put them in the microwave on high for 30-40 seconds and quickly roll them around something round, like a broom handle. They harden right up, and then you can fill them. What do you know! Next year in Jerusalem or what have you.

TUESDAY
More ragu on spaghetti and garlic bread

We had so much leftover food, I didn’t even need to cook more pasta. I just boiled some water and dunked the cooked leftover linguine in for a minute, swished it around, and then drained it. Good enough for the likes of us. We even had leftover garlic bread, which is unheard of in these parts.

WEDNESDAY
Pork ramen and roasted Brussels sprouts

I’ve never had “real” ramen, but it’s on my list, and in the meantime, this is a happy little meal. In the morning, I sliced up a bunch of carrots on the wide blade of the cheese grater and put them in a bowl covered with vinegar and sugar. Then I soft boiled a dozen eggs, and then cooked up some boneless pork chops in olive oil until they were almost done, then sliced them thin and finished cooking them with soy sauce.

When it was dinner time, I re-heated the pork in the microwave and cooked up a big pot of ramen, and served it with the pork, the carrots, the eggs, plus some hot sauce (where did my sriracha sauce go? I don’t know) and sesame seeds and crunchy noodles. Good stuff. So many nice variations for Fancy Ramen Nite.

The Brussels sprouts were actually supposed to be part of the Italian meal, but the very idea of green vegetables had been forced vehemently out of my head by vengeful and jealous risotto god. I trimmed them and cut them in half, then mixed them up with plenty of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted them in a shallow pan. Oh gosh, the crisp little charred leaves on the outside. Magnificent.

Roasting is by far my favorite way to prepare Brussels sprouts. You could add bacon or balsamic vinegar or honey, but it doesn’t really need it.

THURSDAY
Beef barley soup and pumpkin date muffins

It suddenly got chilly and rainy after a weirdly hot and humid week, so I was glad I had put off making soup until Thursday. I do a nice, basic recipe: garlic, red onion, carrot, and beef, then beef broth, red wine, and diced tomatoes with the juice, then mushrooms and barley toward the end. You can make the whole thing in the Instant Pot pretty quickly, if you can’t leave it simmering on the stovetop.

 

I also made pumpkin muffins, the first of the season. These are so fast and reliable, with a cozy, spicy flavor, and you can add all kinds of friendly toppings — oats, almonds, wheat germ, or turbinado sugar. This time, I stirred some chopped dates that were lurking about in the cabinet for some reason.

These muffins always turn out wonderfully tender and moist. I got the original recipe from Allrecipes, but I use half the sugar it calls for, and they’re still quite sweet. We usually have these as a quick bread along with soups, or to put in lunches so I feel like a good mother, but you could increase the sugar (or not) and add cream cheese frosting for a pleasant dessert.

Of course you can use this recipe to make loaves, as well. We do muffins because it’s easier to keep track of carbs that way. Speaking of which: T1D kid has over six months under her belt and we haven’t killed her yet! High fives all around! She’s even running cross country now, the maniac.

FRIDAY
Pizza

We have a birthday! I have made some vague promises of a cake. We shall see.

5 from 1 vote
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Suppli (or Arancini)

Breaded, deep fried balls of risotto with a center of melted mozzarella. 
Make the risotto first and leave time to refrigerate the suppli before deep frying. 

Ingredients

  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 8 + 8 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups raw rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

To make suppli out of the risotto:

  • risotto
  • 1 beaten egg FOR EACH CUP OF RISOTTO
  • bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
  • plenty of oil for frying
  • mozzarella in one-inch cubes (I use about a pound of cheese per 24 suppli)

Instructions

  1. Makes enough risotto for 24+ suppli the size of goose eggs.


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

    In a large pan, melt 8 Tbs. of the butter, and cook onions slowly until soft but not brown.

    Stir in raw rice and cook 7-8 minutes or more, stirring, until the grains glisten and are opaque.

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

    Add 4 cups of simmering stock and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost absorbed.

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

    If the rice is not tender by this point, keep adding cups of stock until it is tender. You really want the rice to expand and become creamy.

    When rice is done, gently stir in the other 8 Tbs of butter and the grated cheese with a fork.

  2. This risotto is wonderful to eat on its own, but if you want to make suppli out of it, read on!

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


    Scoop up about 1/4 cup risotto mixture. Press a cube of mozzarella. Top with another 1/4 cup scoop of risotto. Roll and form an egg shape with your hands.


    Roll and coat each risotto ball in bread crumbs and lay in pan to refrigerate. 


    Chill for at least an hour to make the balls hold together when you fry them.


    Put enough oil in pan to submerge the suppli. Heat slowly until it's bubbling nicely, but not so hot that it's smoking. It's the right temperature when little bubbles form on a wooden spoon submerged in the oil. 


    Preheat the oven if you are making a large batch, and put a paper-lined pan in the oven.


    Carefully lower suppli into the oil. Don't crowd them! Just do a few at a time. Let them fry for a few minutes and gently dislodge them from the bottom. Turn once if necessary. They should be golden brown all over. 


    Carefully remove the suppli from the oil with a slotted spoon and eat immediately, or keep them warm in the oven. 

5 from 1 vote
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Vermonter sandwiches

Ingredients

  • ciabatta rolls
  • grilled chicken or turkey, sliced
  • crisp bacon
  • Granny smith apples, cored and sliced
  • cheddar cheese, sliced thickly
  • honey mustard sauce

Instructions

  1. Layer all sandwich elements on roll. If you like, toast the sandwich before adding the apple slices and honey mustard. 

5 from 1 vote
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Cannoli filling

Use to fill cannoli shells, or put a scoop on top of pizzelle cookies. Top with shaved chocolate, rainbow sprinkles, maraschino cherries, etc. 

Ingredients

  • 32 oz ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp almond extract or vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Mix ingredients together and refrigerate until you're ready to use it.

5 from 1 vote
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Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 lbs beef, cubed
  • 16 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 6 cups beef bouillon
  • 1 cup merlot or other red wine
  • 29 oz canned diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice) with juice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. If using Instant Pot, choose "saute." Add the minced garlic, diced onion, and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and carrots are softened. 


  2. Add the cubes of beef and cook until slightly browned.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, the beef broth, and the merlot, plus 3 cups of water. Stir and add the mushrooms and barley. 

  4. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for several hours. If using Instant Pot, close top, close valve, and set to high pressure for 30 minutes. 

  5. Before serving, add pepper to taste. Salt if necessary. 

5 from 1 vote
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Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

  • 15 oz canned pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup veg or canola oil
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • oats, wheat germ, turbinado sugar, chopped dates, almonds, raisins, etc. optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter two loaf pans or butter or line 18 muffin tins.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture and mix just to blend. 

  4. Optional: add toppings or stir-ins of your choice. 

  5. Spoon batter into pans or tins. Bake about 25 minutes for muffins, about 40 minutes for loaves. 

Parenting strategies I’ve changed … because I’ve changed

My children range in age from 20 to three – almost a big enough span to comprise two generations. Naturally, the older kids think the younger ones get away with murder. The love to talk about how strict I used to be, how inflexible, how unreasonable.

And they’re right. It’s not just that I had more energy to hold the reins tightly when I was a young mom; it’s that I had a very different idea of how kids should be treated. I was wrong about a lot of things, and much of that wrongness stemmed from wrong ideas I had about myself – about my self-worth, about my value, about my capabilities.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

How to Choose the Right Godparent: Baptisms can bring fallen away Catholics back to the faith

Ms. Nelson often has the unpleasant task of telling parents they cannot honor friends with the godparent role because they are not Catholic or because they are in an invalid marriage.

“No one gets involved in church ministry because they want to make people unhappy,” Ms. Nelson said. “It’s very difficult. If this person is taking tentative steps [toward the church] and is hit with obstacles, he’s going to say, ‘Why did I bother?’ and give up. And then I’ll think it’s my fault he’s turned away from Jesus.”

She tries to present the church’s teaching on godparents as a positive opportunity rather than a list of rules. “But sometimes the rules bring people back,” Ms. Nelson said.

Read the rest of my latest for America magazine.

Photo “Double Baptism” by Maria Eklind via Flickr (Creative Commons)

What’s for supper? Vol. 145: If you give a mouse prosciutto

Lots of variety this week! Rich tapestry of life and so on. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Hamburgers and chips

Saturday seems like so long ago. I think Damien bought and cooked the burgers while I . . . did something? You guys, he has this new job where he gets to do the work he likes, he gets paid more, and he’s home. He’s home for supper, home for track meets, home for bedtime. It’s fantastic. It’s the best thing that’s happened to our family in years and years, and I’m very happy!

SUNDAY
A CONFUSING FEAST

My daughter works at a deli. One afternoon, we had this exchange:

And that was all I knew. A present? Better than cheese? The suspense! It turns out that what she had was a pound of top quality prosciutto! But it was unsliced, as it was an end piece. $4 a pound for meat that goes for $14.99 a pound. Grocery bargains are my love language.

Prosciutto happens to be my other love language (I’m a bit of a polyglot, to be honest. Will also accept love via pork belly, steak, just about any variety of cheese, shrimp, pie, more cheese, crusty breads, soft breads, herbed butter, most fruits, all types of puddings, custards, and flans, creamy soups, clear soups, middle eastern food, Columbian food, Thai food, Greek food, anything with basil, anything with garlic, hot pretzels, fried pickles, cheese cake, smoked meats, raw oysters, sun dried tomatoes . . .

I’m sorry, I’ve lost my focus. We were talking about the prosciutto. I solicited recipes online, but eventually decided that just plain bruschetta would be best.

Bizarrely, two stores were out of baguettes, so I bought ready-made crostini with olive oil and flaky salt, and I sharpened my best knife and sliced the prosciutto as thin as I could, which was not very thin.

I had collected some creamy fresh mozzarella, and also some gouda, and huge clusters of juicy, dusky grapes. And we also needed fig paste. I had originally been planning to save this treat as an adults-only evening snack, but I had to admit that I had bought kind of a lot of food for two people, so I started planning a family meal around it.

It . . . kind of got out of control.

Oven roasts were still on sale, and as I previously mentioned, I scoff at rigid categories of cuts of meat. Someone had mentioned chimichurri, which I can’t believe I didn’t already know about. It turns out to be really easy to make. You just stuff the things in the food processor, run in a bunch of olive oil, and there it is.

So I sliced the meat into wide strips and threaded them accordion-style onto skewers for Damien to grill outside with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, to be dredged through the chimichurri.

And also a batch of pickled red onions in vinegar, sugar, and cilantro. There were also some lovely tender peas in pods looking for a home, so I set those out in a bowl just as they were. And some salami, and some herbed, braided mozzarella that I forgot I got. And a little bowl of just plain olive oil. And some wild grapes we found while we were gardening. And some more cheese that I forgot I got.

It may be the best meal I ever served. Technically this was a Mediterrani0-Argentinean Travesty with Cheddar and Peas, but it worked, my friends. It worked so well. The cheap meat with simple seasonings sizzling on their skewers with the lively, verdant chimichurri. The salty prosciutto with the creamy mozzarella on a bit of salty bread and a dab of dark fig paste. Cleanse the palate with a few fresh pea pods and grapes, then back for more meat, this time with pickled onions and cheddar. Oh, it was so good. Damien and I ate outside and shouted for the kids to bring us beer and napkins.

The only thing I have to add to this happy food story is that, when I type “chimichurri,” my phone thinks maybe I mean “chili horrible,” which I do not.

I also did a bit of gardening on Sunday, and we got sixty daffodil bulbs, forty irises, and a dozen fancy tulips into the ground. I always think gardening with children is going to be sweet and lovely and wholesome, and it always ends up being . . . not. There’s a lot of bitey ants and moldy mulch and falling on rakes and shouting. But we did get those bulbs in the ground, because I’m always willing to believe that spring will come again. Here is a pictorial version of how gardening starts and ends:

I also gave a kid a driving lesson, and we did not fall off the side of the mountain

and I bleached and kid’s hair and dyed it blue.

Child has SO MUCH HAIR. What a day!

MONDAY
Bagel sandwiches with fried eggs, pepper jack cheese, and ham.

I had in my arsenal two new cast iron skillets they had as a special at Aldi. Cooking in shifts to feed everyone is the bane of my existence, so I was pretty hyped at the idea of making everyone’s eggs all in one go.

Well, it turns out I’ve been spoiled by nonstick pans. I’ve completely lost the knack of cooking on cast iron. I’ll get it back! But these particular eggs were not top notch. Not top notch at all. I didn’t burn the bagels, anyway.

TUESDAY
Carnitas, beans and rice, tortilla chips, guacamole

My husband, who is from Los Angeles, raaaaved about this meal, which made me feel great! In the morning, I took a pork shoulder and put it in the slow cooker with a can of beer and let it go all day on low. At dinner time, I shredded it and sprinkled it liberally with cumin, chili powder, and salt, then spread it in a shallow pan and put it under the broiler.

My carnitas have always been bland in the past, and overly dependent on toppings, no matter what I cook the meat with. I like this method of deliberately cooking it bland and then seasoning it afterward. Works great.

For the beans and rice, I made rice in the Instant Pot, then added black beans, diced canned tomatoes and some juice, minced red onion, minced garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper, chili powder, and cumin, then reheated it. I meant to add some diced jalapenos, but I forgot. I wish I had written down the proportions, because it turned out so tasty and lively, which is not always the case.

For the guacamole: Four avocados, fresh tomato, diced fresh jalapeno, minced garlic, diced red onion, cilantro, salt and pepper, chili powder, and the juice of two limes. I usually mash half the avocados and chop the other half, but they were a little hard, so I sliced them very thin. Yum.

So then we had flour tortillas with sour cream, the seasoned meat, beans and rice, and guac all together. It was fantastic.

I’m very sad for my past self and my lackluster carnitas. Onward and upward.

WEDNESDAY
Salad with chicken, cranberries, cheese, and nuts

Not a thrilling meal, but decent. I cooked the chicken breasts in the Instant Pot on high pressure for eight minutes in just plain lemon juice. When it was cool, I sliced them and served them over salad greens, along with sliced almonds, dried cranberries, and crumbled feta cheese. I bought a bottle of “black garlic pepper vinaigrette,” whatever that is, but I forgot to try it. I also meant to add sliced Granny Smith apples, but didn’t even realize till this minute that I forgot that, too.

I seem to have forgotten to take a picture, as well. What was I doing all week? Not taking food pictures, I guess. Here’s an old pic of a similar meal:

My family will not eat salad greens as a side dish, but they eat tons of it if it’s part of a main course loaded salad. Works for me!

THURSDAY
English muffin pizzas, pepperoni and black olive

I again forgot to take a picture, but this is what sets me apart from other food bloggers, right? Other food bloggers would torture you with eleven photos of hand-pitted black olives and hand-cured pepperoni that they procured at the pepperoni ranch down the road, laid out artfully on a wooden trencher with lavender and quince hanging around for some reason, interspersed through seven paragraphs about how, on a jaunt to Iceland, they popped into out of the driving rain into an adorable little English muffin shop where the grandmother sat on a two-legged stool in the back, absolutely grinding the flour with her authentic gums while the patrons patiently hung around holding sacks under her jaw, and that’s why Icelandic kids don’t have ADHD.

Not me! I just wrote “pizza” and called it food blogging. In my defense, I did install a thingy so now you can pin images, if you’re into that. Flailing toward solvency, that’s my game.

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

Easy, cheesy, glutenful: Mac and cheese. I use an Instant Pot recipe. If I’m feeling fancy and I feel like everyone’s blood glucose can take it, I transfer it to a buttered pan and put buttered breadcrumbs on top.

And now it’s almost 12:30 and I haven’t had breakfast yet. I’m loading up all these food pictures and absolutely dying. Gonna go grab some lunch and then get back to you with the recipe cards!

Guess who’s sitting on the couch next to me? My husband. He’s working from home today. You guys.

Chimichurri

Dipping sauce, marinade, you name it

Ingredients

  • 2 cups curly parsley
  • 1 cup Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano (or fresh if you have it)
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients except olive oil in food processor. Whir until it's blended but a little chunky. 

  2. Slowly pour olive oil in while continuing to blend. 

Beef skewers

We used a cheap cut of oven roast and it turned out just great (but I'm sure steak would be good, too!). Serve with chimichurri and pickled onions for a wonderful treat. 

Ingredients

  • beef
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Soak wooden skewers in water for at least half an hour before skewering meat. 

  2. Slice beef across the grain into wide strips, trimming off fat if necessary. Thread them, accordion style, onto the skewers.

  3. Build the fire and let it die down to coals. 
    Just before cooking, drizzle the skewers with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then lay the skewers over the grill, turning occasionally, until they are sizzling. 

  4. Serve with chimichurri and pickled red onions. 

 

Pickled red onions

A nice side dish for beef skewers with chimichurri

Ingredients

  • 2 red onions, sliced thin
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup red wine or cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • water

Instructions

  1. Dissolve sugar into vinegar. Add onions and cilantro. Add water if necessary to cover onions. Cover and let sit for several hours before serving. 

 

Slow cooker carnitas

Serve on tortillas with sour cream, guacamole, beans and rice, salsa, cilantro, or whatever you like.

Ingredients

  • 1 pork shoulder
  • 1 can beer (or soda)
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Put pork shoulder in slow cooker with beer. Cook on low for five hours or more, until pork falls apart when poked. 

  2. Preheat broiler. 

  3. Shred meat, mix together with spices, and spread in a thin layer on a shallow pan. Broil for a few minutes until meat is slightly crisped.  

  4. Serve on tortillas with whatever additions you like. 

 

Beans and rice

A good side dish, a main course for meatless meals, or to serve inside carnitas, etc.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups uncooked white rice
  • 1 15-oz cans red or black beans, drained
  • 1 20-oz can diced tomatoes with some of the juice
  • 1 diced jalapeno
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook rice. Add rest of ingredients, adjusting spices to taste. If it's too dry, add more tomato juice. 

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

Instant Pot macaroni and cheese

Adapted from a CopyKat recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds raw macaroni
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2-3 pounds cheese of your choice
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1-2 cups buttered bread crumbs for topping (optional)

Instructions

  1. Put macaroni in Instant Pot with enough water to barely cover. Put hot sauce, and mustard on top and mix it well. Mixing may be superstitious; not sure. 

  2. Set IP to high pressure for six minutes. Do quick release. 

  3. Drain any excess water. Add milk, butter, and cheese, and mix until macaroni is coated. 

  4. Serve as is; or butter a pan and pour the macaroni into it, top with buttered bread crumbs, and heat in oven until breadcrumbs are toasted. 

Perfect means complete

And now let’s put things right.

That seems to be my daughter’s goal with every game she plays. Everything needs to end up right where it belongs: baby cheetah with mama cheetah, dragon husband with dragon wife, all back in bed together where they belong. Barbie needs Ken, and Ken must have his mate, that no four-year-old can deny.

We drove past the ravished corn fields with their crowds of Canada geese, busily taking what they needed from between the rows. I half-turned my head to the back seat, where my little girl was gazing out the window, and I said, “Those are geese. See all their long, black necks? They are eating the corn that is left on the ground, and then they will fly up together and go somewhere warmer to live for the winter.” It was as it should be. The geese knew where to go. She nodded her little corn-golden head, taking the information in and filing it away where it needed to go.

What an immense delight to pour out knowledge into the ear a willing child. It’s one of the few times you can think, “This is exactly what I need to be doing. I did it right. She wanted to know, and I told her.” Key in lock. Fill up the glass. A purely satisfying moment.

It’s not childishness that makes us delight in putting things to rights, in bringing them home where they belong. Even in the midst of turmoil, we find a primal if fleeting satisfaction in finishing a task, turning chaos into order, making a jumble come out even. The most “adult” of activities is terribly, terribly basic in this regard. It’s stunningly simple: This is made to go inside that. Ever ask yourself, “But why does it somehow seem good, true, or beautiful to fit one thing inside another? What does that even mean?”

It means that, for once, things are where they belong. And that’s not nothing. It’s actually everything. It’s what we’re made to long for. It’s what we were made to do.

For many years, I was hung up on the idea that Heaven would be boring. The only interesting things I’d ever encountered were wobbly, wounded, fascinatingly warped. It was hard enough to conceive of any state of being for eternity, but maddening to imagine that it would be a dull state of being. I thought, with my untidy brain, that perfection meant utter tidiness.

It’s the old Ned Flanders heresy: that the Lord God of Hosts took on flesh in a blaze of glory, shook Jerusalem to its foundations with his words, was torn apart by whips and nails and bled dry; that he harrowed the deadlands and then in the morning came shooting out of the grave like a geyser of light, upending the armies of Hell with a flick of His resurrected finger, striding forth to establish the Church and then to ascend with unspeakable joy to the right hand of his Father, and now He calls upon us, His children, saying “BE YE . . .

. . . tidy.” With a tucked-in shirt and a clean part in our hair. You know, perfect.

No. That can’t be it. He wants us to be perfect, but perfect means complete. Perfect means that everything is where it is supposed to be — not with mere tidiness, like a paperclip in a paperclip holder, but back where it was created to belong, like a lost child coming home, like the fulfillment of a lifelong promise, like the flesh of two made one. That kind of completion.

If that sounds boring to you, then you’re doing it wrong.

What we catch now, in rare moments of respite, is a reminder of who we are and for what we were made. A reminder, as we drive by the ravished fields, that we can glean what’s left between the rows of corn, but it’s only a stop along the way. We were made to go home. Find out what you were made to do, and go home.

***

A version of this post originally ran in 2016.

 

You are a cup

It’s a task like no other, this task of merely being present at the edge of a fathomless immensity of love. But that is what you were made for: You are a cup, and you are here to be filled.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

UPDATED: Ave Maria prof’s pattern of alleged sexual slander exposed

Updated Oct. 6, 2018:

We have taken down our article about Raiger and Ave Maria for now. We do not think the threat, below, has legal merit, but because it is a Saturday afternoon and we are currently at the beach celebrating our 21st anniversary and do not need this horseshit, we will return to this issue after we have had time to consider our legal options.

If you value the work that independent writers do, please consider supporting us through Patreon. Thank you!

Here’s the letter we received today from Ricardo Reyes on behalf of Ave Maria University:

Simcha Fisher and Damien Fisher:

Please be advised that that our law firm represent Ave Maria University, Inc. (“University”).  This correspondence is addressed to you as operators of the blog located at www.simchafisher.com and as the authors of the libelous article published on the blog entitled “Ave Maria prof’s pattern of sexual slander exposed”.  Demand is hereby made that the entire article be retracted and removed from the internet, and that you cease and desist from publishing any further libelous remarks.

While the article contains the self-serving claim that Michael Raiger did not “cooperate with the story”, it is obvious someone acting on Raiger’s behalf provided his prior statements to you, and the article is intended to disparage the University during the pending litigation.   Also, the reference to “sexual slander” is an irresponsible and outrageous attempt to sensationalize Raiger’s false claims.   We understand that Mrs. Raiger’s have been in communication with defrocked former priest Mark Gruber (a person known to have made similar assertions when accused of possessing child pornography) as part of their continued confrontation against the University.  We intend to investigate Gruber’s involvement in the publication of this libelous article.

In the article, you have republished several defamatory remarks made by Raiger against the University and professor Travis Curtright.  Even more troubling is that you have published a number of false claims as fact, beyond the quotes attributed to Raiger.  For example, your assertion that the University’s counsel acknowledged the claims against Curtright is false and a complete fabrication on your part.  As you are aware, Raiger’s allegations against professor Curtwright were never proven or corroborated (even though, under Florida law, to suggest someone may or may not be homosexual does not constitute slander).  By publishing Raiger’s false claims as your own factual statements, you are liable for defamation per se.

It is evident that you seek to assist Raiger in tortuously interfering with the University’s affairs.  Raiger’s false claims against Curtwright are part of a continuing effort to injure the University’s reputation because of Raiger’s long standing opposition to the University’s administration, in particular, President Jim Towey.  If you had actually undertaken any investigation, you would have discovered not only that Raiger’s self-serving claims against Curtright were never substantiated, but also that the professor who Raiger was supposedly protecting admitted to having inaccurate information on his CV, and had allowed a male student who stayed at his home to grade his exams.  Also, you would have learned that Raiger engaged in a series of overt acts of insubordination designed to undermine the administration before his employment ended with the University.    Moreover, the debt secured by the mortgage on Raiger’s home matured upon the termination of his employment and is properly due to the University.  There was no retaliation against him.  By omitting these facts from the article, and juxtaposing facts to create false impressions, you are also liable for defamation by implication.

Accordingly, if you fail to retract the libelous article or refuse to cease and desist from further conduct, will proceed to bring legal action against you for libel and tortious interference.  If such an action is brought, you may be liable for compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief.

GOVERN YOURSELVES ACCORDINGLY.

 

Ricardo A. Reyes

225 N.E. Mizner Boulevard

Mizner Park Office Tower, Suite 510

Boca Raton, Florida 33432

561 620 0656 office

561 620 0657 fax

561-416-1442 direct

561-716-6434 cell

 

 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 144: Chocolate garnicht

Welcome, again, to new readers! And also old readers, you old bats. Most Fridays, I write a food post, wherein I describe the meals I cooked over the past week. I have ten kids and not a giant budget, so if you’re here to find recipe ideas or just to gawk, please pull up a chair. That sounded rude. I didn’t mean it to be rude. I gawk at myself all the time.

Anyway, I haven’t written up the recipe cards for this week yet; will add them when I get back.

And my big kitchen revelation this week: I have needed a paella pan all my life. I got one on sale last week. I still haven’t made or ever eaten paella or fully understand what it is, but boy, is that a useful pan. It has a lot of hot surface area and high, sloped sides, which makes it ideal for cooking or heating large quantities of sloppy food for large quantities of sloppy people. Get you one!

Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Chicken basil cutlets, garlic bread, salad, chocolate cupcakes

Birthday! The birthday girl — or technically birthday adult. We now have three technically adults children. Gevalt — requested Damien’s world-stopping chicken cutlets with fresh basil and provolone with homemade red sauce. If there were no heaven but only food, this is what the saints would be served. He made it with panko crumbs, too, cranking the scrumptious fluffiness up to eleven, and the sauce was bright and sweet and a little spicy.

You pound the chicken, bread it, and fry it, then lay a basil leaf on top, cover that with provolone, and ladle the sauce over all to make the cheese melt.

It only takes about eleven hours to prepare, and the rest of us who don’t spend eleven hours preparing it think we should eat it every day! So freaking good, especially since he cooked it in the wonderful, dark olive oil he found for cheap in this weird, off-brand store that carries such things for cheap.

The Birthday One requested chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting for dessert, but I had just been diagnosed with bronchitis that morning and knew that my already feeble and pathetic baking skills would dialed down to be nil; so I got boxed mix and canned frosting, and concentrated my efforts on the garnish.

Speaking of garnish, in German, gar nicht means “not at all.” This doesn’t mean anything; I just can’t stop thinking about it, and maybe now that I’ve told you, I can move along.

So I — well, I didn’t look up a recipe for some reason, but texted my husband to pick up a bar of Baker’s chocolate and some confectioner’s sugar. These I melted in a double boiler until it was more or less smooth. Then we put the melted chocolate in a sandwich bag (we had a pastry bag once, but do we have one now? Gar nicht.), lined a pan with waxed paper, and piped the chocolate into different shapes. Here she is, doing her magic:

She just piped out whatever popped into her head.

I was afraid it wouldn’t set, so we put the finished designs in the freezer for a few hours. They came out great! They peeled right off the wax paper and held their shapes perfectly when we stuck them in the frosting. Here are a few. A chocolate fishie:

 

a chocolate pumpkin:

a chocolate rose:

and of course a chocolate duck:

Changes I will make next time: I will use bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. The sugar I added barely made a dent in the baker’s chocolate taste! I will maybe add a little shortening, to make the chocolate smoother and a little more viscous. Or do I mean less viscous? I mean squeezy. And I will let it cool a bit in the bag before squeezing it (ow). Other than that, this turned out great. It was quite easy, and I’m sure we’ll be using this technique in the future. One friend said she doesn’t have much artistic talent, so she prints out designs and puts them under the wax paper to trace in chocolate. Brilliant!

 

SUNDAY
Basil chicken on spaghetti

There was so much food left over, we ate it again. Damien cut up the chicken and heated it up in the sauce, then served it all over spaghetti. Scrumptious.

MONDAY
Aunt Rosie’s Thai steak salad

Steak was on sale and my husband’s sister texted him about a salad that sounded good, so I took a stab at it. We had mixed greens, chopped red, yellow, and orange peppers, chili lime cashews, chopped cilantro, and mandarin oranges

and sliced steak, which I cooked under the broiler with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then sliced thin. Okay, it was actually a roast, not steak. I realize there is a difference between different cuts of meat, but deep in the cheapness of my heart, I refuse to acknowledge that it really matters, especially if it’s the difference between pretending roast is steak and just buying pork again.

It was good. It was tasty and fun.

But here is where I went wrong: I made a dressing which would have been excellent as a marinade for the steak. But as a dressing, it was savage. I mean, I had seconds, but it was savage. The dressing was rice vinegar, sesame oil, fish sauce, minced garlic, and cilantro. I know, fish sauce. The children reminded me once again that it smells like cat frow-up, and once again, they were right.

Anyway, this meal is definitely going on the list, but next time I’ll marinate the meat in the sauce, and then we’ll just have a little vinaigrette to dress the salad. And I won’t open the cans of mandarin oranges until dinner is ready; or else I’ll buy five cans just for Corrie. Conversation we had about the mandarin oranges:

Me: No more, now. We have to save some for the others.
Corrie: Awwwwww!
Me: Okay, two more, but that’s all.
Corrie: Siddy Mama. [helps herself to six more]

And I let her get away with it, too, because I’m just so old. So old.

TUESDAY
Honey garlic chicken thighs with broccoli, potato, and squash

Sheet pan meals! They’re the best. This one is really easy, and susceptible to many adaptions, depending on what vegetables you have hanging around. I’ve somehow turned into the kind of person that gasps in delight to see squash on sale at the supermarket, so I snapped up a nice big one.

Butternut squash is about as easy to peel as a cinder block, but I know a trick! Cut both ends up and chuck it in the microwave for three minutes. Then you can peel it. It’s also helpful to have one of those horizontal peelers, rather than a vertical one.

So you put the vegetables on the pan, put the chicken on the pan, make the sauce and slop that over the chicken, and cook it most of the way. Then add broccoli and finish cooking, then lay on table next to decorative gourds.

Easy squeazy broccolisi, and if someone doesn’t like some part of it (squash), it’s easy to pick it out.

I like squash, though, and I love this meal. The honey sauce makes the chicken skin crisp and tasty, and the sweetness of it seeps into the vegetables in a lovely way. You don’t have to season the broccoli, even though it sits on top, gar nicht! It draws up the juice like a sponge.

WEDNESDAY
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas

Oh, the hosannas. I don’t know how many times I could produce this meal and still be considered a hero by my kids, but I haven’t hit that number yet. Behold the splendor of this meal above all other meals:

My meatloaf is nothing special. I used five pounds of ground beef and two pounds of ground turkey, seven eggs, four cups of bread crumbs, Worcestershire sauce, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and oregano. I form the loaves on a broiler pan with drainage, so it doesn’t get all soggy as it cooks.

Where I really shine, though, is in my mashed potatoes. I make them with potatoes, butter, and milk, and also salt and pepper, if you can believe it. For the peas, I used my special technique of grasping a bag between my fingers and then opening it. I also use a pot and some water, but I don’t want to overwhelm you, so I’ll tell you about that next week.

THURSDAY
Bacon, eggs, and Brussels sprouts in balsamic honey sauce

Another excellent sheet pan meal, very tasty and satisfying. We got home so freaking late because of a cross country meet, so I was glad I had halved four pounds of Brussels sprouts and chopped up three pounds of bacon earlier in the day. Then you just make up a quick sauce, mix it with the sprouts and the bacon, and spread it in a pan and cook. Once the Brussels sprouts are tender and the bacon is just about done, you crack a bunch of eggs over the food, sprinkle with parmesan and red pepper flakes, and let the eggs cook up. That’s it! It would be great with a crusty bread or maybe pita or even cinnamon buns.

It’s a shame the daylight was gone by the time we ate, because this doesn’t look nearly as good as it tasted (even though I did undercook the bacon and overcook the eggs).

FRIDAY
Pizza

And not a moment too soon.

Well nuts, I still haven’t put together those recipe cards. I’m not on trial here! This week, I’ve been to urgent care, my old therapist, my new therapist, adoration, and my new spiritual director. So this is basically me now:

However, I will get those recipe cards to you soon.

Thai Steak Salad

Ingredients

  • steak
  • mixed salad greens
  • cashews (chili lime are good)
  • bell peppers (red, green, yellow, or orange)
  • mandarin oranges, drained

marinade:

  • 3/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix together all marinade ingredients and marinate steak a few hours. 

  2. Grill or broil steak; slice thinly. 

  3. Put together salad, add steak on top. Dress with more wine vinegar if you like. 

One pan honey garlic chicken thighs with fall veg

Adapted from Damn Delicious 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 2 lbs broccoli in spears
  • 4-5 lbs potatoes in wedges, skin on if you like
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

sauce:

  • 6 tbsp honey
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp dijon or yellow mustard
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • olive oil for drizzing

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Prepare the sauce. 

  2. In a large, greased sheet pan, spread the potatoes and squash. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 

  3. Lay the chicken thighs on top of the potatoes and squash. Brush the sauce over the chicken skins. 

  4. Roast the chicken for thirty minutes or more until they are almost cooked.

  5. Add the broccoli, arranging it on top of the potatoes and in between the chicken. Return the pan to the oven and let it finish cooking another 10 -20 minutes so you don't die. The skins should be golden and the broccoli should be a little charred. 

You are not dead. You are waiting.

One winter vacation when I was in college, I went with my mother to a charismatic healing Mass. You could say that I had been “struggling” with depression, but that’s not really the word. I lived there.  I was being swallowed whole by it, day after day, and I could not get out. Wherever people led me, I would go, whether they liked or loved me, hated me, or just found me useful. So I went with her to ask for healing, not with hope, but just because it couldn’t hurt.

The service was emotional—tacky, to be honest— and while the priest was fervid, the scattered congregation sounded sheepish and forced as they softly hooted and called “Amen!” into the chilly air of the church.

We lined up and the priest recited some words of healing—I forget them utterly—over each of us.  Then he gave every forehead a firm shove, to put us off balance in case the Holy Spirit wanted to overcome anyone.  A few people crumpled and passed out, snow melting quietly off their boots onto the tiled floor.  Most of us just staggered a bit under the pressure, recovered, stepped around the fallen, and went back to our seats.

Well, I thought, another dead encounter with dead people in a dead world.  I slid into my pew.  Nothing had changed because nothing could change.  I was dead, and everyone else was allowed to be alive.  Why?  Who knows?  Someone had been sent for help, but help would not come.  Help was not for me.

And then I heard these words in my head, “You made Me wait.  Now you can wait for a while.”  They were not my words.  The tone was warm, a little sad, with a small vein of humor.  I think I was being teased, chided for taking so long to send for help.  You like games, talitha?  All right, I will play.  Now, wait.

Then I went home. Nothing happened, that I could see.

Years later, I thought of that day as I read Tomie dePaola’s The Miracles of Jesus with my four-year-old daughter.  She listened attentively, but I could see that most of the wonders didn’t impress her much.  In these short narratives, some kind of grown-up problem is introduced—and then poof, God solves it, The End.

I think she saw Jesus acting more or less like all adults act:  making good things appear arbitrarily, making sick people feel better, occasionally being cranky and strange, and wishing people would say “thank you” more often.  It was cool, but it didn’t mean much to her. They were miracles, not the kind of thing that happen in real life.

Jairus’ daughter, however, really got her attention—probably because it was about a child, and also because it was a full story, with suspense, despair, and a happy ending, plus the hint of a full life to come.

Jesus hears the news that the girl was sick, but He isn’t teleported to her bed. He walks, one foot in front of the other, on His way to her.  And when He gets there, it’s too late. Her family is weeping; the girl, the poor little thing who wanted to be healed, is already dead.

My daughter got very quiet at this point.  We read on:

“But Jesus said, ‘Do not weep.  She is not dead.  She is asleep.’
And the people only laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.

She looked at me with big eyes.  They laughed at Jesus!

Jesus took her by the hand and said, ‘Child, arise.’
And her spirit returned and she got up at once.  Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.”

At this point, my daughter hurled herself at me and gave me a big, squeezing hug. She got that part!  She knows about being sad, needing help, waiting far too long, being rescued, and then having something to eat, because all these ups and downs make you hungry.  And then life goes on, once you have been saved.  Here was a miracle she could appreciate—the kind that’s part of a story.

I got it, too, because I knew that story. I had been that girl. And I had heard that voice. It was a long time, and a lot of steps, before my slow rescue from the dead came up to the speed where it was recognizably healing, recognizably a wonder. But I never forgot the words I heard, telling me that help was on the way. That I wasn’t really dead; I was waiting.

If you have ever lived inside a black hole; if you have moved about the world enclosed in a dome of sound proof glass, with no voices but your own voice, which you hate above all other sounds in the world; if you have felt so bad for so long that you don’t even want life to get better, you just want it to be over—then you will understand that it was very, very good to hear this voice that simply said, “You are not dead. You are only sleeping. And I am on my way.”

I was not merely sitting in that cold pew, it told me. I was sitting and waiting.  Someone was with me; or at least, someone was on the way.  I was happy to wait.  I was happy!  This was new.

That was how I began to be healed, more than twenty years ago.  It was a long road of waiting, after I began to be healed.  It is a long road.  I’ve been in therapy for over three years, and now I’ve started spiritual direction. I don’t know what is next. The road keeps getting longer, to be honest, and every time I think I am finally healed, I see that I am not, not yet. But I can see Christ better and better as He approaches, step by step. My healing started when I asked Him, without hope, for healing.

That is what our breath is for: To call out for help. As long as we still have breath in us, we are not dead, we are only sleeping.  We are not alone; we are waiting for Christ to arrive.

Can you wait a little longer? You are not dead. You are waiting.

 

***
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Related reading: I thought good Catholics didn’t need therapy. Then I went.

Mindfulness, meet my bumper

Don’t shoot those helicopters down

Ten things about therapy

Passing through the moor

When you are sad, cry.

Don’t you realize comedy is a matter of life and death?

Faith, reason, depression, and help

A version of this essay originally ran in the National Catholic Register in 2011.