On St. Joseph’s femininity

The other day, Taylor Marshall tweeted, um, a bunch of things. But stay with me! This post isn’t really about him. I just don’t know how else to talk about what I want to talk about, except by starting with what he tweeted.
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First, apparently understandably distraught over an interview with McCarrick’s first victim, he tweeted some foul garbage about how gay it is that seminarians had a gingerbread house-building contest. Seriously, he did the f*ggy lisp and all, and included a name and photos of the men engaging in this “effeminate and puerile” activity, because that’s how you act when you’re a serious Catholic theologian and scholar.

It was wildly gross and offensive (and since he asked, can you imagine Basil and Gregory tweeting at each other?), and insanely insulting to gay people in direct contradiction of the catechism.
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But it also threw into high relief how poorly so many people understand what it means to be masculine. Many of his followers apparently believe that any time you’re not studying Latin or logic, building fires, chopping something, or shooting something, you’re a whisker away from of sliding into that dreaded horror, effeminacy.  In order to save the Church, we must stop having . . . gingerbread.
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His tweet was thoroughly trounced by many others, so I left it alone. But then he followed up with something that really nagged at me:

“The womb belonged to Joseph and he set it aside for Christ. The tomb belonged to another Joseph and he set it aside for Christ.”
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 I guess what happened is he read Fr. Longenecker’s tweet about wrapping Jesus’s body, and thought, “Whoa.  Joseph-Joseph . . .  womb-tomb!” and, despite not being Dylan Thomas, he went with it, rather than doing a quick heresy self-check. When readers responded to that phrase “The womb belonged to Joseph” with revulsion and dismay, he dug in with this:

He clarifies that Mary ruled over Joseph’s body, as well as vice versa: that there is mutual self-gift in marriage. He meant, apparently, that Joseph gave over his reasonable expectations that he’d be able to have sex with Mary, because he was willing to make a sacrifice to God of that privilege. And this is true enough.
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But the trouble is first in the way he phrased it. Saying Mary’s womb “belongs” to Joseph is just . . . gross. Things belong to us; people (including their organs) do not belong to us, not even if we’re married. If you want to hear how absurd and unseemly it is to phrase his idea as he did, say instead: “The penis belonged to Mary, so she went outside and peed with it.”
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I’m sincerely not trying to be crude. I’m trying to point out that a womb is an almost indescribably personal, intimate thing for a woman, and it’s bizarrely wrong to say it belongs to her husband. It doesn’t. It is hers. A woman rightly gives herself to her husband, over and over and over again, but he never owns her, no matter how much it may feel that way, no matter how many times she gives herself to him.
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And there we have the second, much more serious problem with Marshall’s thought. Joseph did not, in fact, consent to give Mary’s womb over to the Lord. How could he? It was hers to give, and she gave it at the Annunciation. Joseph only found out about her decision after the fact. He didn’t give anything, because there was nothing for him to give. The consent had already been given by the time he found out she was pregnant.
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Joseph’s choice wasn’t to give or not to give; his choice was either to get rid of her quietly, to get rid of her noisily, or to accept the situation with love, trust, and awe, because God told him not to be afraid to accept it.
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And that is what he did. There was no transfer, no consent, no free will offering originating from Joseph. Mary was never going to be “his,” because she had already given herself to God in a real, radical way.
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If Joseph gave Mary to God, then what did Mary’s “fiat” mean? Not a hell of a lot. More like when a child is allowed to sign a document that needs an adult’s signature to be official. No, it was Mary’s choice to make, and what she said to the Lord changed the course of . . . everything.
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But Joseph’s whole deal reminds me of the concept that “we are all feminine in relation to God.” I’ve been wrestling with this idea my whole adult life, and most days, the best I can do is set it aside and do whatever job’s in front of me.
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But so much of being a woman is being asked to accept things after they have already been decided, rather than being asked if you want them to happen or not. Yes, of course we decide many things, and make many choices. But women also very early confront the idea that things happen to them which they are not truly free to change or avoid. Ten times I have labored to give birth, and ten times, when the true agony set in, I have changed my mind. I decided I didn’t want to do it after all. Didn’t change a damn thing, thank God.
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It’s not that women are passive. It’s that humanity in general is far more helpless than it realizes. It’s mankind in general that’s the damsel in distress; mankind in general that sits weeping in a tower, waiting for the savior to come. Women’s lives show this reality in high relief, largely because of our biology, and so women tend to realize much sooner than men that none of us is really in control of their lives. On a good day, we’re in charge of slightly changing the trajectory of little chunks of life as they fly past us. Freedom very often consists not in choosing what will happen to us, but in choosing how to respond to what happens to us.
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And that sounds very much like what Joseph knew. He listened, a lot. He decided, out of love, not to fight things that had already come to pass. He worked with the system as long as he could, and when it wasn’t working, he gathered his family and ran away. He was willing to play a supporting role. He decided not to insist on taking what he could reasonably argue was rightfully his. And he was silent. In other words, Joseph’s behavior in the Gospels is like what we today normally think of as feminine — trusting, waiting, nurturing, self-sacrificial, chaste, modest, and quiet. This may account for how weirdly effeminate he looks in so much religious art, and it probably accounts in part for Marshall’s weird attempt to put Mary’s fiat in Joseph’s hands: Because he doesn’t behave in a way that checks off boxes in our modern understanding of masculinity.
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We get St. Joseph wrong because we grasp that he is not what we commonly think of as masculine; but correct our mistake by assigning to him what we wrongly think of as feminine, or by refusing to face how wrong we are about what it means to be feminine. Mary’s behavior is what we should think of as feminine; but it’s so hard to grasp that we saddle her with a simpering passivity, turning her into a virgin too fragile to deal with men, rather than a virgin strong enough to deal with God.
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Hell if I know what it all means, except that most of what we commonly think of as masculine and feminine is garbage, which probably accounts for why so many people think it doesn’t mean anything. In other context, my sister Abby Tardiff said this (and this was just part of a Facebook comment she dashed off, not some polished work of prose):
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[S] ex and gender have to be understood first as cosmic paradigms. So, “feminine” doesn’t mean “like a woman.” It’s the other way around. A woman is someone who embodies the eternal archetype of femininity. But she won’t do it completely, because she’s an instantiation [a representative of an actual example], not the archetype itself. She’s a particular, not a universal. Also, her instantiation of the feminine will filter itself through her personality, through tradition, through society, etc. For these two reasons, you can’t pin down any one characteristic that every woman has. Any time you try to say what characteristics women have, you’ll find exceptions (often me).

However, if you start from the archetype, and say (for example) that the feminine archetype involves the taking of the other into the self, then you can conclude that every woman is cosmically called to do this as well as and in whatever way she can. So the point is not to say what women are like, but what their vocation is.

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Taylor Marshall and his ilk are rightly angry that McCarrick and others have so smeared and ravaged human sexuality with their crimes and perversions. But Marshall’s brutal, puerile urge to squash all men and all women into small and clearly defined boxes of masculinity or femininity is, in its way, just as disastrous. More than one abused woman has told me that, early on in her marriage, before the beatings began, her pious Catholic husband railed at her for not being sufficiently archetypically feminine, as if any one woman could or should be. As if he had married womankind, rather than an actual person. This is the trap Marshall et al fall into: They want individual human beings to be the embodiment of all of their sex (“all seminarians must be masculine”); but since no one can or should achieve that, they reduce an archetypal reality to a few small, individualistic traits, and then rage at anyone who doesn’t reduce himself to those traits, as if they’ve failed at being human.
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It’s a way of making sense of the world, and it’s intensely depersonalizing. We do not love by making what is large small, and we do not love by railing at what is small for not being as large as the whole universe. But people who behave this way don’t think they’re being cruel to individual people; they think they’re being noble by upholding ontological truths. But first they have to squash those ontological truths into bite-sized pieces.
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Dressed up as respect for God’s creation, this way of thinking turns men and women away from our vocation, which is, in our particular ways, to be open to God: To be feminine in relation to God.
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Yes, that looks different for men and for women, and it looks different for for one particular women compared to another, and one particular man compared to another; but in some very broad way, this is the true feminine, what both Joseph and Mary did.
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I saw it myself yesterday, dozens of times, at Mass, at the Eucharist, men and women. They walked up to the front with all the burdens and glories of their particularities, and then opened up to receive God. How? Because He alone can take ontological truths and make them, as it were, bite-sized. He has made small what is larger than then universe, larger than masculine and feminine. Love makes itself small. Never to make others small.
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Our vocation is to be open like Mary and open like Joseph, and neither one of the two of them look like anything I’ve ever seen before on this earth, except in brief flashes like at the altar rail. Hell if I know what it means. My kids were asking me about the Second Coming today, and all I could say was everyone who thinks they know what they are talking about is in for a surprise.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 153: Hugs and knishes

This week, we ate like kings! Kings who should look around for a new menu planner.

SATURDAY
Brats and chips

Nothing to report. Brats are good.

SUNDAY
Grilled chicken on baby spinach with feta, green apples, and pecans; potato latkes with sour cream

So when I was planning the menu last weekend, I forgot that it was Hanukkah week, so I didn’t really plan meals around Jewish food. Planning a meal around Jewish food is like choosing knick knacks when the middle of your room looks like this:

You’re not complaining, but you will not have a lot of extra space to work with, either.

Hanukkah food, in particular, is supposed to involve oil, to recall the miracle of the lamp oil that lasted eight days. So, latkes! You can make matzoh meal latkes or potato latkes. If you have a food processor, I strongly suggest  potato. You shred them, mix it with a batter of egg, flour, salt and pepper, and fry them up in oil.

This recipe calls for making a pouch out of cheesecloth and letting it drain in a colander for half a hour, because potatoes give up a ton of water; but I was in a hurry, so I just gave each handful of potato batter a good squeeze before I put it in the oil, and they turned out lovely. I’ll write up a recipe card for the end.

We had them with sour cream and slices of apple.

Crisp and crunchy outside, tender and mealy inside. Perfect. I may make them again before Hanukkah is over. Can I just say, having no baby and not being pregnant is actually kind of exciting? I can, like, do things.

MONDAY
Grilled ham, cheese, and apple sandwiches

Always a favorite. I had two green apples left, so I sliced them nice and thin. Sourdough bread, cheddar cheese, ham, apples with the skin on, and more cheese, with mayo on the outside of the bread,

and grilled lightly in butter.

 

Listen, we’re bulking up for winter. Must stay warm. Pickles help, too.

TUESDAY
Kielbasa with roast red potatoes and cabbage

A super easy one-pan meal from Damn Delicious. Chop the potatoes, chop the kielbasa, slice the cabbage. Everything gets some olive oil, salt, and pepper, pop it in the oven, flip it once, back in the oven, and that’s it.

The balsamic mustard sauce recipe she gives is too oily for my tastes, so I used my own proportions, which the kids pronounced “too mustardy.”

WEDNESDAY
Carnitas, guacamole, beans and rice

I put a pork shoulder in the slow cooker with beer, salt and pepper, chili powder, and adobo peppers. When it was done, I pulled away the fat and shredded it, then browned it up under the broiler with some of the peppers, plus plenty of salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder.

The beans and rice and guac were a little bland, but it was a decent meal anyway. Recipe cards at the end.

THURSDAY
Um, fish tacos, shrimp tacos, and knishes; tortilla chips

Remember, I had forgotten it was Hanukkah when I planned the menu. Normally I make fish tacos with frozen fish, shredded cabbage, avocado, cilantro, and lime juice. I had all that, and Damien also said he would cook up some shrimp if it was on sale, which it was. He mixed up the shrimp with a tablespoon of garlic powder, a little chili powder, salt, and lime juice, and sautéed it in olive oil with red pepper flakes. Yuhm.

And then Dora decided she wanted to spend her day off making knishes (which are little sort of dense dumpling snacks with filling and dough. I’m most familiar with a sort of mashed potato and onion filling and a fried, crusty wrapper, but there are tons of variations). She’s at work at the moment, but I’ll get her recipe when she gets home.

I warned her that knishes are not to be undertaken lightly, either to cook or to eat. I can still taste the last knish I had, which was back in 2016.  Well, she did it anyway, and it took, like, seven hours. You have to make the filling, make the dough, roll the dough, fill it, roll it up, cut it up, wrap them, and then cook them. She used a baked knish recipe, which I had never heard of. And she made . . .  eighty four of them?

They were super (and yes, that is one of my alert children giving the knishes bunny ears for the camera). Quite different from knishes of my past, so a new kind of delicious. I had mine with the balsamic mustard sauce from the other night. L’chaim! I’m eating two more as I type.

FRIDAY
Pasta

The high school kids have the day off, and guess what Clara’s doing? Making mini apple pies. I think this is what they meant by “your children will rise up and bless you.”

Potato latkes

Serve with sour cream and/or apple sauce for Hanukkah or ANY TIME. Makes about 25+ latkes

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs potatoes, peeled
  • 6 eggs beaten
  • 6 Tbsp flour (substitute matzoh meal for Passover)
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Grate the potatoes. Let them sit in a colander for a while, if you can, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. 

  2. Mix together the eggs, salt and pepper, and flour. Stir into the potato mixture and mix well. 

  3. Turn the oven on to 350 and put a paper-lined pan in the oven to receive the latkes and keep them warm while you're frying. 

  4. Put 1/4 to 1/2 and inch of oil in your frying pan and heat it up until a drop of batter will bubble.  

  5. Take handfuls of potato mixture and squeeze out any excess moisture. Flatten mixture slightly and lay them in the pan, leaving room between latkes. Fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Eat right away or keep warm in oven. 

  6. Serve with sour cream and/or applesauce or apple slices. 

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. 

Catholics can’t afford careless anti-Semitism

It’s Advent. I’m very aware that it’s Advent. I don’t want things to be business as usual on the Catholic internet. So please believe me: I thought long and hard about how to approach this topic usefully, rather than just stirring up anger.

Last night, Catholic News Service tweeted out a “Happy Hanukkah” message “to those who celebrate.” Here’s a screenshot:

One problem: That’s an image of Roman soldiers carrying off loot from the Temple they desecrated. So yes, there is a menorah in the picture. No, that doesn’t make it appropriate for Hanukkah, any more than it would be appropriate to tweet out, “Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!” along with a photo of Herod slaughtering the innocents, or a lion mauling some martyrs, or maybe just a straight up crucifixion picture. It’s a depiction of one of the darkest moments in Jewish history.

One wag on Twitter had the same thought:

After several people immediately chastised CNS for their image choice, they deleted the tweet and posted this:

Which . . . was not great. It puts the onus on “many of our followers” for having been offended, rather than saying, “We posted something terrible, and we’re terribly sorry.” There was more backlash, and this morning, they posted this:

I do believe the original image choice was inadvertent. I do believe it’s possible that some overworked or lazy social media manager simply Googled “menorah” and thought, “ooh, that one looks classy” and went with it. Dumb stuff happens, and I’m willing to believe the photo choice was not a veiled threat against Jews, despite how it appeared.

The barely-an-apology apology is harder to get past. The follow-up apology is better, although it puts the blame a single person, even though the tweet went out under the CNS name; but I feel a dreary certainty that CNS learned the lesson “Jewish people are touchy” rather than the much more important lesson, which is this:

Antisemitism is in the Church.
Catholics who aren’t antisemites are obligated to reject even the smallest hint of it, whenever it turns up.

Even if it was unintentional; even if it seems minor; even if it seems to gentiles like an isolated, meaningless incident that can be explained away if everyone would just calm down. Even if the antisemite does other good things or is an effective fundraiser for Catholic causes.

If we don’t step up and say something every single time, then those who really are malicious become more bold, and ideas that once pushed the envelope become commonplace.

A few months ago, the Catholic News Agency published an article about Franciscan University’s response to allegations of mishandling sexual assault, which was uncovered by freelance journalist Jenn Morson and published in the National Catholic Reporter.

CNA named George Soros as the originator of the funding, and then devoted eight paragraphs of their article to the funding angle. But the funding was not, in fact, from George Soros, and even if it had been, Morson was unaware of the grant and did not receive it until after the story was published. Her editors clarified:

The grant was made eight years before Morson started writing her story. The putative connection to George Soros was, in short, imaginary. Moreover, even if it had existed, it would not have been newsworthy, much less deserving of eight paragraphs.

But Morson is a Catholic of Jewish origin, and “Soros” is shorthand in the United States for “evil Jewish influence.”

So, maybe the CNA reporter, and the editor who okayed the story, simply didn’t know the name “Soros” is an anti-semitic dogwhistle. That happens.

But after Morson and several others told them what “Soros” means to so many people, they defended their story. They added a paragraph noting that Morson was not aware of the origin of the funding; but they retained the eight paragraphs noting the alleged source of funding. It’s hard to understand why that information was relevant unless CNA wanted readers to believe the source of funding affected the reporting itself.

Well. Still. Why is this worth bringing up? Why can’t we just give the benefit of the doubt to Catholics who do good work otherwise? Why are Jews so damn touchy?

Because there are so many Catholics of bad will. Because anti-semitism is once again gaining ground in the Church, just as it is everywhere else. Anti-semitic attacks in the U.S. have surged 57% in the last year alone.  If you think those attacks only happen outside the Church, just ask any public person with a Jewish-sounding last name. Stroll by the wrong hornet’s nest, and the anti-semitism comes swarming out, sometimes disguised as piety, sometimes proudly acknowledging itself for what it is.

Does anti-semitism exist only in Catholic circles? Of course not. But when it does exist there, it’s every Catholic’s job to stamp it out in horror. Catholics of good will are obligated to be especially careful to utterly reject even the hint of antisemitism, before it gains strength.

But they’re not. They’re not stamping it out, and they’re not learning to be careful. And when they’re not careful, those without good will consistently amplify dogwhistles, whether they were originally intentional or not. The Catholic Crisis Magazine followed Catholic News Agency’s “I spy George Soros” cue and gleefully doubled down on the imaginary Soros-Morson connection with an article titled “The Soros-Funded Attacks on Orthodox Catholic Universities.” The word “attacks” is plural because the author, Austin Ruse, included my Christendom articles in this category of attack. It is common knowledge that I am Jewish.

My articles were, of course, in no way funded by George Soros, and were in no way part of a coordinated attack. But that’s not relevant, if you know your readership. And Crisis does.

The Remnant Magazine used a similar tactic in their strange, rambling article about me: They called my work “satanic” and then devoted two paragraphs to my Jewishness and how I convey it, even though my articles has nothing to do with Judaism.

In other words, they said: We are not antisemitic. But you should know that this evil article was written by a Jew.

Because this kind of thing is tolerated, because people want to pretend it’s not happening, the authors grow more bold. Austin Ruse, the author of the Crisis article fallaciously linking Morson to Soros, recently said this on Twitter of his nephew, who is an “Elder” in the Proud Boys.

Ruse, who has received numerous awards from mainstream Catholic organizations, including Franciscan University, has repeatedly insisted that Proud Boys are
mostly a men’s drinking club” and “not an extremist group nor or they even remotely white nationalist.” According to the ProudBoysUSA.com:

Men have tried being ashamed of themselves and accepting blame for slavery, the wage gap, ableism, and some fag-bashing that went on two generations ago, but it didn’t work. So they’re going with their gut and indulging in the natural pride that comes from being part of the greatest culture in the world. It’s very freeing to finally admit the West is the best. That’s because it’s the truth.

Jason Kessler was a member of the Proud Boys when he helped organize the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville where tiki torch-wielding marchers chanted “Jews will not replace us.”

This is the organization that brings Austin Ruse such familial pride.

Of course, it’s all about context and nuance, when you’re marching through the streets with torches.

John Zmirak in 2016 reissued his Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He’s gone on the record rejecting anti-semitism, which is bold. Was that before or after he worked for the white nationalist publication VDARE, including this Christmas essay, which is essentially a chattier version of the 14 words? Before or after he recorded at least one giggly interview, now mysteriously vanished, with neo-Nazi Richard Spencer? If he’s repented, the man has some public reparation to catch up on.

I don’t like guilt by association. I don’t like punishing people for failing to expunge every possible hint of unsavory connections from their public past. But I’m also no fool. I know that evildoers count on the cover given them by the naiveté, the timidity, the mistaken charitable intentions of decent people.

Jewish writers will tell you that anti-semitic insults and threats from people calling themselves “Catholic” are commonplace. Gentiles have told me they have no idea such a thing happens. So I’m telling you: It happens all the time. My family has received numerous explicitly anti-semitic threats of violence from people calling themselves Catholic. After years of writing for Catholic publications, it doesn’t even raise eyebrows anymore. It’s routine.

Guys, the Catholic people and publications I named are only ones I happened to have come into contact with recently, and so their names popped into my head. They are the tip of the iceberg.

I am exhausted. I am exhausted with extending good will where it is neither desired nor deserved. I am exhausted with taking the high road, telling myself people simply didn’t know any better, they simply travel in different circles, they simply don’t realize what it’s like to be Jewish. I am exhausted with arguing with myself over whether I’m overreacting or not, whether I’ll make things better or worse by saying something.

And I am exhausted with trying to persuade myself, “No one is listening to these fringe figures anyway, and I’m just boosting their signal if I respond.”

People are listening to these fringe figures. They’re becoming less fringe as people listen. My children walk through the halls of a public school where swastikas are scrawled by self-described “rednecks” who think “oven” jokes are just some snarky fun. Down the road from us is a traditionalist Catholic Church that has preserved the beautiful and reverent music and liturgy my family craves — and which teaches its children that the Jews are here to infiltrate and subvert the Church from within. It’s not dying out on its own. New generations are being raised on casual or even ardent antisemitism, and Catholics are letting it happen.

Jews ought to be able to count on Catholics to reject antisemitism with vigorous revulsion, because that is what Catholics are for: defending the vulnerable, defending the truth, defending our Faith which is inextricable from its Jewish roots.

Instead, we hear excuses: We didn’t realize. It was an honest mistake. We’re sorry you were offended. Let’s not jump to conclusions. But they do so much good otherwise. Just ignore them, and maybe they’ll go away.

Or: It’s Advent. Can’t we take a break from thinking about this stuff? It’s Advent!

And during Advent, Jewish Mary and her Jewish baby boy fled for their lives. During Advent, Jews all over the world are in danger, and their danger increases when Catholics pretend they don’t see antisemitism in their ranks. It is here. I, a Jew, a mother of Jews, am asking you, if you’re a writer, an editor, a social media manager; if you book speakers or hire teachers; if you’re in charge of choosing curriculum; if you are active on social media; if you are a priest, if you influence other people:

Please see this cancer on the Body of Christ for what it is. Name it as evil, every single time, and keep it from spreading.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 152: We put the rab in it

According to tradition, I skipped the Friday-After-the-Thursday-That-Is-Thanksgiving food post, because guess what we had? Turkey. Guess what it looked like? Turkey! Now you know.

Here’s what we had this week, including two meals with leftover turkey:

SATURDAY
Brats, sausages, and onions three ways

Damien made supper and it got away from him in the way that weekend suppers sometimes will. Everybody liked it, but there was no denying it was brats, sausages, raw onions, peppers and onions, and then other onions. And chicken tenders!

 

It was so much onions, the vampires were like, “You know what, close enough. We’ll just wait outside.”

SUNDAY
Turkey bacon Welsh rabbit

I’ve always been curious about Welsh rabbit. Turns out it’s basically just toast with a savory cheese sauce. We had sliced turkey, naturally, and I got some thick bacon, and I figured it couldn’t miss. I got some thick rye-pumpernickel swirl bread and made the cheese sauce using Alton Brown’s recipe, which calls for Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and beer.

Well, it was doomed from the start. Half the kids were upset because they thought there was rabbit in it, and the other half were upset because there wasn’t. The food itself was tasty, but . . . I don’t know, it’s possible I was still full from gorging myself like a monster over the weekend, and I just didn’t want a whole lot of savory cheese sauce.

Oh well. Oh Welsh.

MONDAY
Turkey enchiladas and tortilla chips

The last of the leftover turkey. I shredded the meat and mixed it up with plenty of chili powder, pepper, and cumin. We are always low on onions for enchiladas, so Dora prepped an avalanche of onions for me before she went to work. I cooked those down (to lazy to wait for them to caramelize, because it would have taken twelve years).

Normally I sort of dredge the tortillas in enchilada sauce, then add meat, onions, and cheese from separate bowls to each one, and roll them up. This time, I mixed the turkey and onions all together, threw in a few cans of drained diced roasted tomatoes, and heated it up together, then spooned the mixture onto the tortillas and added cheese. If this is wrong in some way, I don’t care.

I poured the rest of the enchilada sauce on top of the rolled enchiladas, threw the last of the cheese on, and chunked it in the oven. I had sour cream and some cilantro to top it. Scallions are better, but I lost them. I like the green sauce better than the red.

So, I have tried enchilada lasagna/casserole before, where you have all the same ingredients in there, but layered, rather than wrapped. It is easier, for sure, but I just didn’t enjoy eating it the same way. Maybe it’s some latent cannibalistic instinct, but I really like eating things that look like something’s sleeping inside.

Which is ironic, considering a really awful story involving a surprise dead mouse which I will not relate at this time.

They were pretty good enchiladas. I made a bunch with red sauce and a bunch with green. I felt like I could still detect a ghost of stuffing and yams under the chili powder and cumin, but I may have been imagining that. For one thing, we did not have yams this year.

I will make up a recipe card at some point, but when I’m not cutting corners, I basically follow Pioneer Woman.

TUESDAY
Mushroom bacon corn chowder

Completely fabulous soup. How could it possibly not taste good? Bacon, thinly-sliced red potatoes, diced onions, corn, sliced mushrooms, plenty of pepper, beef broth, and half-and-half. I basically followed this recipe from Damn Delicious, except with more bacon and with sliced potatoes instead of diced, but I’m too lazy to make it into my own recipe card.

Actually, I got confused and completely messed up the direction. I fried the bacon, then added flour to the bacon grease, then added the vegetables; and then I got confused and just threw everything else in together and cooked it until the potatoes were soft. Oh, and cream at the end. Tasted good to me.

The kids moaned and groaned as if I were serving them castor oil on sandpaper. I suggested that, if they didn’t like soup, there were plenty of leftover enchiladas. But they didn’t like the enchiladas, either. What a fwiggin shame. Look at me crying.

I had that soup for lunch the rest of the week. At one point, I opened the fridge and discovered that they had put the soup pot in the fridge, covered it loosely with plastic wrap, then put a small plate of enchiladas on top of the pot, and then A GALLON JUG OF MILK ON TOP OF THAT.

Savages. Savages. Barely even human. I fished the enchiladas out and ate the soup anyway. Savages.

WEDNESDAY
Hamburgers, potato salad, frozen mixed veg

I had forgotten to plan a side for this meal, so I threw the potato salad together in a hurry, and it was a little weird. I diced the potatoes before cooking them, to speed it up, and then I made a dressing with mayo, cider vinegar (why? We had white vinegar), pepper, and too much sugar. We were out of celery, and a bad child came in and persuaded me to use celery salt, even though I knew that was a bad idea. I also forgot to add eggs. I put in some diced red onions just to give it a little crunch. It was just kind of metallic-tasting, plus too sweet.  I added more mayo, so then it was gloppy and metallic. I can decent make potato salad, but this wasn’t it.

 

Then there was this.

THURSDAY
Cumin chicken and chickpeas with lemony onions, pita, yogurt sauce, and pomegranates 

A very fine meal. I set the chicken to marinate in the morning, sliced the onions, and made up the yogurt sauce. (More detailed instructions here.) My kitchen is so cold, I didn’t need to refrigerate anything [*feeble cheering sound*]. Then it was pretty quick to put the rest together an hour before supper. I had to practically grab my family by the lips and force them to say it was good, but they did say it.

It’s technically a one-pan meal,

but you do really want extra yogurt sauce, and you do want those lemony onions. And have mercy, you do want to make the marinade and give it a few hours, because look at that chicken skin:

I had a pretty good time with those pomegranates, too.

Ha cha cha!

FRIDAY
I guess bagels and eggs?

Why I ever cook anything more than this for these ungrateful crumbs, I don’t know.

 

 

50+ Gifts our ten kids loved: The 2018 list

It’s fina-lully here! My Christmas gift suggestion list for 2018. These are all (with a few exceptions, which are noted) gifts our own kids received and enjoyed. They are in no particular order, and they are almost all from Amazon. Hoping to get an Etsy/handmade list up soon.

I’ll add links to lists from previous years as soon as I can. I have to remove a bunch of defunct links, boo.

Okay, here we go!

Cosmic shock phaser light spinner

It has pulsing, multicolored lights and makes space laser noises. Everybody loves this gun, not just the three-year-old. Sometimes we sit around at night and talk about why it’s not more annoying than it is. It’s a space laser mystery!

Metallic paint markers

Satisfyin’. Paint markers draw on just about any surface, including shell, rock, glass, ceramic, and metal. These are bright and shiny and would be great for making ornaments or personalizing gifts.

Tales from Grimm book

Every household should have a copy. Wanda Ga’g’s storytelling and illustrations together are the fairy tales everyone should know. Includes a few head scratchers and all the classics.

Lightweight Brother sewing machine

A real sewing machine, not a toy, but lightweight and compact. Nice and simple for beginners. I’m a complete moron and I can use this machine.

Dragon wall decals

The instructions are kind of baffling, so we couldn’t figure out how to make them three-dimensional like in the picture, but they’re pretty neat as plain silhouettes. They stick well.

Animal print hoodies

If you are thirteen, this hoodie will give your life meaning. It’s a lightweight nylon, so not thick or warm, but look at that fricken lion!

Body board

A good board for the price. Lots more patterns available.

Galaxy skater dress

We’ve bought many CowCow dresses in the past, and this one may be the coolest. It flares wonderfully, and the colors hold up after years of washing. CowCow dresses come in a bewildering number of patterns, some of them truly bizarre. The material is a thick, stretchy synthetic fabric, almost like swim suit material.

Totoro crossbody coin/phone  purse

Just plain cute, and pretty sturdy. My kid uses it as a change purse. It has a good long strap.

Turntable with software for recording, editing and converting your vinyl Audio in MP3 format

Decent turntable for the price. Doesn’t need constant rekajiggering like some.

Flower headbands

More of a party favor than a present, but if you have a lot of daughters, won’t you please buy a set of these headbands and have them wear them to Christmas Mass? Do it for the little old ladies.

Spinner ring

An excellent ring for a fidgeter. The gold part spins noiselessly around the silver part. Sturdy!

Thor Ragnarok standup

Look, I dunno. Sometimes we just buy what’s on the wish list. It is life-sized, hooray!

Bricky blocks hat

I think this was on previous lists. We’ve bought more than one. Take your Legos with you!

cardboard screws for building

I bought a bag of these on a whim over the summer, but my kids did not actually end up using them, to my surprise. They are plastic screws designed for attaching cardboard together, so you can build all kinds of awesome things, with moving parts if you like. If you have a kid who’s always building stuff and getting frustrated with the limitations of tape, this could be awesome.

Sandart moving picture

Note “Wonderful Homelife” book in the background, so you know it’s good! Just a pretty thing to play with. Tilt the frame to change the landscape. It’s soothing and pleasant. Choice of several colors.

Hellboy

I guess we’re going to just keep buying these on request.  The art is fab and the story is good and weird. Hellboy seems to be Catholic, by the way.

King of Tokyo board game

Again, we haven’t gotten around to playing this yet, but I bought it because it was recommended by so many friends. It’s supposed to be easy to learn, suitable for people who aren’t super into gaming and fun for all ages, even little guys. We’ll crack it open over vacation and report back!

Archangel metal keepsake box

Good and heavy. This makes a nice First Communion present, too.

Animal Crossing

Cute, kinda weird. Easy enough for my six-year-old to play. You don’t absolutely have to know how to read, but it helps. Not terribly noisy, but the creatures make strange twittering noises instead of talking.

The Art of Spirited Away

Purty!

Lightning earrings

As advertised! Girls just wanna have pink lightening earrings.

Walkie talkies

Okay, we have bought a lot of walkie talkie sets in our day. A lot. These have held up the best. They are on the small side, but they are not toys. They’re easy to use, stand up to a lot of abuse, and don’t gobble batteries. We haven’t tested the limits of the range, but the reviews say 16 miles.

Mini arcade machine

*sigh* This is not a good toy. It’s a bad toy. But oh, do they love it. It has dozens, maybe hundreds of terrible, pointless little games with squalid little graphics and meandering, senseless tunes. THEY LOVE IT.

Godzilla t-shirt

SKREEEONK!

The Art of Over the Garden Wall

I feel REALLY OKAY about my kids being into Over the Garden Wall. One of the better additions to our family culture. And it is the prettiest damn thing I have ever seen on a TV screen.

Doodling tablet

This is not razzle dazzle, but for the price, it’s a fine little digital sketch pad. Press the button and the lines disappear in a wink, which is satisfying. Good for car trips, waiting rooms, etc. It feels very flimsy but is surprisingly long-lived.

Stuffed anteater

One of our kids got in an anteater groove, or whatever you’d call it, for a while. So we know our plush anteaters. This one is a fine specimen. Very plushy and huggable.

Crocheted mermaid tail blanket

Cozy and super soft. Comes in several colors, and it has a little mermaid charm on a chain as a bonus gift. For that one kid, it’s perfect.

Sacred Heart painted tin wall ornament

This is actually mine. I got it with my birfday money. It’s way bigger than I was expecting. It always makes me think of the Flannery O’Connor line: “she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away.”

Chronograph watch

A solid and handsome watch. Lights up.

Tea set in a basket

Cute and durable. Note: This is not a full-sized tea set. The cloth it’s sitting on is the size of a kerchief. The kid we got this for saw that as a bonus, luckily, because smaller is cuter; just know what you’re getting!

Moon shoes

YAAAASSSSS! YES YES YES! These are just as awesome as I remember from my childhood. Little trampolines for your feet.

Lace-up ballet shoes

Silky and pretty. They have little leather pads on the sole, and you can wind the ribbons around your ankles and tie bows, just like a real ballerina.

Stranger Things Eleven plushie

Wish list is wish list.

Butterfly flower tea set

So, this one is an actual full-sized tea set. It’s plastic, but not flimsy. Melissa and Doug really hits that sweet spot of bright and appealing without shading into, you know, Lisa Frank fever dream.

Celtic knot earrings

Just an attractive pair of earrings. This is from one of Amazon’s handmade shops, which I don’t fully understand, but there it is.

Koala and baby

Take if from parents who looked at an awful lot of plush koalas: this is a nice one. It’s not huge, but it’s soft and reasonably hefty.

Sculpey

Always a favorite. Every so often, all through the year, I find another little batch of tiny little octopuses, lollipops, and bowls of miniscule fruit and whatnot baking in the oven.

Pair it with:

sculpting tools

To make all kinds of details and textures in your clay. Real tools, not toys.

Bath fountain rocket

OH THE BABY. Ahem. This is a neat toy. Fill it up and it empties itself in a dome of water. Fascinating for the little guys. We’ve found that TOMY toys hold up very, very well to hard use, and don’t get moldy easily, either.

Oversized tiger plush

The time was finally right. The time for that kid to get a giant tiger to lounge on.

Betrayal at House on the Hill game

A cooperative strategy game, unpredictable and spooky. Kind of like Scooby Doo with better graphics. You gradually build the map of the house as you explore it, but can you really trust everyone? (NO.) Doesn’t drag on too, too long. Good party game.

Fairytale spinner game

This is the best game for little kids I’ve ever seen. Suitable for pre-readers. You spin the spinner to collect different elements of a story (a scene, a hero, a magical helper, a rival, a magical object, transportation, and a treasure), and the first one who collects them all gets to tell a story using them all. It’s adorable. The pieces are very stout and durable cardboard, and they are just lovely. Just lovely. Of all the games they want me to play, I’m least unwilling to play this one. 2-4 players

LOTR Boxed set

Not illustrated or luxurious, but a great price for the set. Nothing like a boxed set.

Wedding Traditions from Around the World coloring book

I hope you know about Dover coloring books. There is one for every conceivable interest, and they’re all done in that same blandly reassuring style, with tons of carefully-researched detail. Dover is awesome.

Hearts and Butterflies wooden beading set (two pack)

Can I just pause a moment and express my delight at the nice little wooden boxes that Melissa and Doug sets come in? They really hold up. You can’t depend on anyone, but you can depend on Melissa and Doug wooden boxes. *sniff* Anyway, these are pleasant wooden beads painted carefully with a good gloss for that kid who loves to string beads.

Avatar: The Last Airbender DVD set

My cabbages!!!

Sequin backpack

Most popular backpack in the whole school.

Hats By Charlotte

We actually have the Samus one. These are soft and strong and comfortable, and I enjoyed communicating with the knitter.

Be Not Afraid temporary tattoo in JPII’s handwriting

In JP II’s own handwriting. So much better than “mung bean” or whatever it is you planned to tattoo on your unsuspecting dermis, isn’t it?

Wall-mounted speed bag set

Pretty good. I don’t know how this would stand up to someone serious about boxing, but for a kid who just needs to hit stuff from time to time, it’s been doing the job.

 

And that’s it for this year! Hope you find something good.

Gratitude is vital, but can’t be imposed from the outside

By the end of the day, I was almost singing. It was one of the happiest days of my life. It was so good that I return to the memory of it from time to time, and come away refreshed, because I saw so clearly the truth of how much goodness and mercy surrounded me on that day and every day. Maybe I’ll even try it again someday!

But I guarantee you that it would not have worked if it had been foisted upon me by someone who thought I was defective because I thought my hard life was hard. The holiest people I know are strict with themselves, but merciful and sympathetic to others.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Advent resources cheat sheet!

Advent begins December 2 this year, this coming Sunday! Here is my basic list of Advent resources. These are all things you can do quickly and easily, if you stay calm. Remember, nobody does everything! It’s okay to say, “That looks nice, but I know I’ll make everyone miserable if I attempt it, so we’ll skip it this year.”

Advent chains to print out, designed by my sister, Abby Tardiff. Cut them out, make a paper chain, and cut one each day of Advent and read what’s inside. See the chains of sin and death getting shorter and shorter until Jesus comes! Kablammo! You can tape them to purple or pink strips of paper if you like. (This version starts on Dec. 1, so you’ll have to fudge a tiny bit. We never manage to do this every day anyway, so I figure it will even out.)

Jesse tree ornaments and scripture readings. This could be a very quick project if you have low ambitions and energy. Just cut out a bunch of cardboard discs and draw a simple picture on each one, then hang them with a paper clip.

This year, I was feeling more ambitious, so we used paint markers and capiz shells to make Jesse tree ornaments, and they turned out pretty good. Yeah, I splurged on something with pre-drilled holes, and that has made all the difference.

The only thing I haven’t figured out is where to hang them so the freaking cat doesn’t destroy them.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, words for all eight verses I don’t want to hear any grousing! It’s a good song. We start out singing two verses, then add two verses each week.

Sunday prayers for the Advent wreath

Advent candles.

Today is probably the last day to order, if you have Prime. You can sometimes find pink and purple candles just in the regular candle section of Walmart or whatever, not specifically packaged for Advent, of course.

If you don’t have colored candles, you can use regular candles and tie purple and pink ribbons on, or even make a colored cuff halfway up with construction paper. Do not attempt to dye white candles with melted crayons. I beg of you.

How to make a good-enough Advent wreath because it’s gonna be dark anyway:

Buy a cheapo twisted twig wreath at the dollar store, then use about forty yards of thread to strap evergreen branches down thoroughly. It’s hard to attach candles to they stand up, so you can find glass candle holders and the dollar store and set inside the wreath.  Put the whole thing on a pizza pan, so you can easily move it off the table and store it in a safe, unpunchable place when it’s not in direct use. Little berries and pinecones and bells and doves are nice, but so it just plain greenery: Green for hope, round for eternity.

You can also just sort of heap evergreens in a bundle or in a basket, but then you’ll miss the imagery of the circle. But green is good.

Another very easy Advent tradition that we manage to keep as a family most years: “fast” from dessert except on Sundays. I take what money I would have spent, and buy extra food for the church’s food pantry.

And finally: Get to confession. Here are a few different examinations of conscience. Do that during Advent, and you did Advent right. Ta dah!

Who’s got other resources to share? Feel free to leave links to anything relevant in the comments.

Magnificat Advent app winners!

I’ve chosen four winners and have sent the codes using the emails provided when you commented. Thanks to everyone who entered! If you didn’t win, the app and the booklet are only a few dollars, so you can still grab one before Advent.

2018 Magnificat Advent Companion app giveaway!

Advent is almost here! Some years, I have to persuade myself to get into the spirit of this season of penance, purification, and preparation, but right now I’m like YES PLEASE NOW PLEASE ALL THE ADVENT NOW PLEASE.

Happily, I have a little giveaway to get you going! Besides its excellent and gorgeous spiritual guide that comes out every month, Magnificat puts out an new Advent Companion every year, and I have four codes for the digital version to give away.

Here’s their description:

Welcome to the Advent Companion App, a perfect way to live Advent to the full this year.

Presented in a day-by-day format, the Advent Companion App contains:

– LITURGY – daily Mass prayers and Scripture readings
– PRAYERS – a cycle of prayers for morning, evening, and night inspired by the Liturgy of the Hours
– MEDITATION – daily original meditations on the Gospel reading by twenty-four gifted authors

Each issue of the Advent Companion contains these one-of-a-kind extras that you won’t find anywhere else:
– a variety of beautiful blessings and essays
– an Advent Penance Service
– specially-commissioned poetry
– a unique feature: the Advent Stations

Prepare your heart to welcome the Prince of Peace!

I’ll keep it simple: Just leave a comment here (not on social media!) saying if you would like the version for iOS (iPhone, iPad, or iPod) or Android (phone or tablet), and you’ll be entered. I’ll randomly choose two winners for each platform.

Of course, you can also buy the app yourself for $1.99, or buy the 96-page paper version, which is $3.95. Good luck! I like Magnificat a lot. It’s really helpful to have a concrete, day-by-day guide to set your day on the right track.

Have you ever thought of being a priest? An interview with Fr. Alan Tremblay

I’ve been interviewing pastors around the state for Parable, the magazine of the Diocese of Manchester, for a series called “Have You Ever Thought of Being a Priest?” This article was originally published in Parable. It is reprinted here in extended form.

****

Fr. Alan Tremblay grew up in the small, heavily French Canadian town of Biddeford, ME, the third of four children. His family was Catholic, but no one ever talked to him about becoming a priest, and so he never even considered it until he was 19 or 20 years old. Now at 41, six years after his ordination, he’s the pastor of the Parish of the Holy Spirit and Mary, Queen of Peace, which includes churches in Keene, Troy, Winchester, and Hinsdale.

In his rare free time, Fr. Alan likes to take in a baseball game, or, true to his rural upbringing, he will occasionally go hiking, kayaking or skiing. He recently travelled to Northern Quebec to go fly fishing for brook trout with his father and nephew, and he loves to have dinner or a cookout with family or friends. I asked him:

What would be your ideal meal?

I love lamb and lobster. Lamb is definitely a favorite when it’s done well. I cook. I do Blue Apron. I just finished cooking and eating chicken tandoori with cucumber yogurt, with potatoes with poblano peppers.

Who was your hero, when you were growing up?

John Paul II and Mother Teresa were huge in my life when they were alive. I had comic books of both of them. I miss them. I look back with fondness and wish they were still around.

What attracted you to them?

It was their visibility. You could see them, hear them, watch them, get a sense of their holiness. That’s why I fell in love with them. It’s not more deep than that.

When did you first hear the call to become a priest? How did you get from there to here?

I was 19 or 20, and had never thought about it before then. I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 18. I struggled through high school, not academically but motivationally. I didn’t want to be there. I was kind of shy, and wanted to get out. College was not something hot on my list right after high school.

I moved in with my best friend, and that lifestyle was leaving me not just unsatisfied, but kind of unhappy. I never questioned the Church, but I was not as faithful as I wanted to be. This contributed to depression and unhappiness and unease with my place in life.

I was watching Mother Angelica one night, and she was talking about how I was feeling. She said, “It sound like you have to go to confession!”  So I made an appointment with the parish priest. He was talking about the Life In the Spirit seminar. I had never heard of it. It was charismatic, which took some getting used to. But I was open to it. I went through the seminar, and by the end I kept hearing this question in my mind and heart: “Do you think you’re supposed to be a priest?”

It wasn’t earth-shattering; it was just a question, like Elijah and the whisper. I put it away for a while. I went to college, was in a relationship for a while. I started working, and found myself working at Catholic Medical Center [in Manchester, NH]. By then it was seven years later, and the question was still there.

I was loving my faith and practicing, wanting to serve God. The question was stronger than ever, and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I applied in April, went to seminary in August. Doors flew open once I turned and looked at it seriously.

How did people respond when you told them you were entering the seminary?

It’s a funny story: I hid it from my coworkers. I was relatively new there, and it would have meant leaving. I went through months without knowing if was accepted [to the seminary] yet. Everyone thought I was looking for a new job or had an illness, because I kept missing work to do interviews.

Then there was a computer glitch to print out my bio for the diocese, and I came back to work, and it had printed while I was away. My coworkers read it and found out. They were floored. It was foreign to them, but they were supportive.

 How about your family?

My mother’s old school French Canadian. She would never have asked that of God. She couldn’t imagine something like that happening. It was overwhelming in a good way.

Did anyone respond negatively?

Only a couple of people, both Catholic, both dissenters. One was a woman I worked with who had a crush on me. She said, “What a waste.” That made me angry. The other one was an older woman who had a chip on her shoulder. She said, “Why would you want to do that?” This was post-2005.

What was the most challenging thing you faced as a priest?

Probably something that isn’t unique to the priesthood: Self doubt and insecurity. Am I up to the task? What will people think? These are temptations you have to face. There’s strength and grace that comes through walking through that. Each time, it’s like the cross, and then there’s a resurrection, life after death. It gives me strength to pray through those interior places, when I have to look to God for help.

What is the most rewarding? What’s your favorite part of being a priest?

When someone who has been hungry or longed for something for a long time breaks open and you’re there to offer that to them, or walk with them through it. People melting, and finally receiving. It’s always happening in one form or another. You walk through it with lots of people, counsel them, direct them. I’m always walking with someone, always looking for it.

When’s the last time something about the priesthood really surprised you?

Every day. People are predictable and surprising at the same time. About my priesthood: I’m noting, especially within the last couple of years, losing myself in it more and more, and finding myself. It’s so who I am, but there’s still so much to discover. It’s a mystery. The closer we get to Christ, the greater the awareness of that mystery.

What advice do you have for those contemplating the priesthood today? 

Talk to people about it. Find someone you trust, and talk about it. Because it seems so strange and foreign, we don’t necessarily see ourselves that way. There’s the obvious answers, like prayer, but I think I went through it alone a lot; and no on in my life, no priest, no family member, no one ever approached me and told me they thought I should do this. It wasn’t until I came forward.

What advice do you have for their family and friends?

It’s about being supportive without expectations. Let the person figure it out on their own, but let them know you’re there with them.

****

This article was originally published in Parable, the magazine of the Diocese of Manchester. It is reprinted here in extended form.