My own favorite 10 posts from 2017!

I just posted my most-read posts from 2017. It’s a good list, and thorough. (I’m just gonna keep telling that joke until it’s funny.) My most popular posts are not always the ones I’m most glad I wrote, though, so here are my own top ten favorite from 2017.

The best news is, I have not gotten the slightest bit better at making the world’s most terrible graphics! And I don’t intend to quit! Because I enjoy it!!!

  1. My father’s Six Day War

An audio interview with my father on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War in Israel, which he witnessed while living in a kibbutz in Jerusalem.      


2. So your favorite blogger has gone insane

If I said, “The clouds are dripping blood and the very grass under our feet has become like unto knives, because of what has transpired regarding that greatest martyr of our times, Kim Davis!” you’re all like, “YES. Preach it! Our Lady of Constant Sobbing, intercede for us!” and you share it with all your friends.

But if I say, “I see some serious problems with Donald Trump,” you’re all, “Oh, you poor thing, do you have lots and lots of secret cancer? I’ll pray for you.”


3. Mom? Dad? I think I’m politiqueer

You can’t make me say I’m on one grotesque side or the other grotesque side, and you can’t make me say that if I’m not one, I must be the other. As currently presented, neither one of them is anything worth being. There’s more to me than an assemblage of cruelty, extremism, and reflexive ideological posturing. Show me something good, and maybe I’ll vote for it. I’m a citizen of the United States of America, and I reject all the monsters.


4. The hard way

The world gleams. But it is so untidy.


5. “Free on Craigslist,” and other words of doom

So off we crept, and O YE GODS AND O YE LITTLE FISHES, what a horrible noise it made. It was a noise to freeze the marrow in your bones, a grinding, scraping, clattering, screeching squeal that proclaimed to all ears within fifty miles, “Here indeed are people who should not have a boat!”


6. Juicero Delenda Est

Heck, I can remember when Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific was a product that normal people bought without shame. But when it’s a high end item that was in development for ten years, with millions of dollars in investment, for which they almost certainly employed a team of marketing and creative types to . . . you know, I once met a sedevacantist priest named Father Pulvermacher. I think that would have been a better name than “Juicero.” So that’s the first thing.


7. Say it again

She was once brilliant (quantum-physics-as-a-hobby brilliant) and startlingly witty, with no time for nonsense. But now she has Alzheimer’s, and all she has is time and nonsense. Now she says things like, “I can use that for a sunapat. Sunapat with a T. I don’t know, I’m falling out of a tree.” Her nonsense often has a desperate, frustrated air, as if she knows people don’t understand her and she needs to try even harder to get her message across.

But I did hear her, when she could speak. I did hear her, when I did not even realize I was listening. I heard her because she said the important things over and over again, muscling past bitter experience of being ignored, and saying what needed to be said.


8. Irrational fear doesn’t make us safer (even in Ikea)

I was so caught up in avoiding and outwitting irrational, unlikely dangers that I had no emotional energy left to tend to the actual, present needs of early childhood: the need for calm, the need for peace, the need for a little freedom, and the need to feel safe and secure, rather than embattled and in flight.

9. It’s a Valentine’s Day Vortex

This is . . . why you should support independent Catholic journalism? I dunno.


10. Homemade cake with a side of red herring

It’s a good thing to have standards. But it’s a bad thing to assume that “difficult” is the same as “virtuous.” Sometimes, we put obstacles in our own paths as way of proving our worth or our dedication. Difficulties, even unnecessary ones that we choose for ourselves, can make us stronger or keep us from sliding into apathy or mediocrity; but they can also be a wonderful red herring that distract us from pursuing our true vocations.

Image credits:
Juicero: Baldassare Franceschini [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Say it again: Photo via MaxPixel (public domain)
Fear: By Thomas.ZAPATA (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Herring: By Lupo [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

My top 10 posts of 2017!

Just over a year ago, I went independent. I launched this site, started writing weekly for The Catholic Weekly, and started producing weekly podcasts.  Just over six months ago, I started writing monthly for America Magazine. A few months ago, I started writing every other month for my diocesan magazine, Parable.

I expected the first year as an independent contractor to be rough. But I am starting to think . . .


Do you know how lucky I am to do this for a living? I do! Every single day of my life I am grateful to you, my readers and friends, for making this thing possible. For supporting me on Patreon and through PayPal, for going the extra mile to use my affiliate links, for sending encouraging notes and leaving witty and interesting comments, for surprising me with the most generous and thoughtful gifts, for giving me ideas, for sharing my work, for listening to my podcast and laughing at my stupid jokes, for coming back after I piss you off, for correcting me when I go off the rails, for helping out with technical problems, and of course for alerting me when I meant “cloud” but wrote “butt” again. For praying for me and my family.

I am grateful for your patience as I learn how to do stuff on the fly, and as I leave stuff on the to-do list month after month. You are my absolute favorite readers. Because of you, it has been a good year. And thorough!

To wrap things up, here are my top ten most-read posts from 2017, starting with the most popular.

  1. The privilege of saying “no thanks” to NFP

Oh my dear. Poverty isn’t beans and rice and and a sweet little hut.

 Poverty is dirty needles in your kid’s play space. It’s lead poisoning and cockroach-induced asthma. It’s windows you never open, even though it’s sweltering hot and you can’t afford AC, because your drunk neighbors are screaming obscenities at each other and you don’t want that to be your children’s lullaby at night. Poverty means you never have silence, ever, because someone’s always blasting their bass so hard your walls shake, shrieking, endlessly revving their engines, or beating the crap out of each other.


2. Guest post: I was the perfect Catholic wife. It didn’t fix my abusive marriage

Why write about this? Because I believe that Catholic culture creates a dangerously optimistic expectation for marriage, encouraging people to strive and not give up, as if their effort can make any marriage thrive. For many many people, that is the best advice; but some of us live (or lived) in situations where covert abuse masked the hidden truth that one of the spouses in the marriage is too disordered (by sin, mental illness, addiction or other issues) to function in a Sacramental Union. Very often the faithful spouse suffers in isolation, feeling compelled to endure more abuse to be faithful to their marriage, family, Church.


3. Hey doctors: Big families are not on trial

I’m talking about women with many children being treated as if their wombs are a pandora’s box from which all ills and troubles flow. I’m talking about doctors behaving as if we’re nothing but a walking, whimpering uterus, and there is no sense in even discussing any other medical issue until we figure out how to put a cork in it.


4. When you give a man money, you don’t own a share in his soul

Once you have given the money, it is no longer yours. That’s what it means to give. If you give but still want to hang on, then you haven’t really given; you’ve just tried to buy a share in another human being. Charity doesn’t come with a rubber band that you can twitch any time you feel like it, making the other fellow dance to your ideals. That’s not giving. That’s investing, and we’re not supposed to treat other people like investment property.


5. The lady of Medjugorje is not your mother

So yes, there are good fruits. But nobody gets to pretend to be my mother. There aren’t enough good fruits in the world to justify sitting back and letting that happen.

If you care to see it, there’s mountain upon mountain of evidence that the apparitions are false — either a hoax perpetrated by the seers, or something diabolical.


6. IVF jewelry and the scandal of sentimentality

And so the mother does the thing that makes the most sense to a pagan, when nature fails her: She bows to artifice, and finds a way to bring her children with her, clumsily, sentimentally, but grasping at something that seems true: We are made to be with the ones we love. We are supposed to be able to give them life, and to keep them safe.

She knows they are her children. But does she know what children are?

In order to turn embryos into jewelry, one must believe that all children, and all people, can be made safe. One must believe there is such a thing as safety in this world.


7. They said my kids don’t belong at Mass. Now what?

Incredibly, the complainer sought her out after Mass to double down and say it again: Your children don’t belong here. Do not bring them here.

Let’s be clear: This is a message straight from Hell. The Mass is humanity’s main source of grace and life, and if no one goes, then no one will have grace or life. Telling parents their kids don’t belong at Mass is like trampling down every seedling you find, then clucking your tongue over the poor harvest.


8. Unpopular opinion: That Boylan Catholic High prom dress code is actually fine

This dress code acknowledges that any modesty guidelines are going to have shortcomings, because of what a subjective thing modesty is, and it does girls and parents the favor of asking them to “not put school administrators in the difficult position of upholding school standards.”

In other words, it asks them to think about and uphold those standards themselves. To behave as adults, and not to throw a temper tantrum over their sacred civil right to have a cut-out heart on their ass. “We’re all in this together,” is the basic message, “So please help us have a nice time at the dance, rather than turning this into one more exhausting battle over stupid stuff.”

No dice, Boylan Catholic. The internet chooses temper tantrum every time.


9. Allegations of spiritual abuse and sexual misconduct throw Sick Pilgrim into turmoil and Sick Pilgrim Turmoil, Part 2: Donna Provencher’s story

Griffith says it’s incredibly painful to see the destruction of the book she worked on for years, the site she founded, and the community she fostered. But “the book makes him appear a trustworthy spiritual guide,” she says. People assumed he was reliable because she associated with him, she says.

“I hate to think he’d use that to groom someone else. I’m not going to provide a henhouse for him to raid.”


10. We’re on an LDS migration route, and it’s kind of awesome

I asked the younger missionary: “Doesn’t that worry you, at all?”

She paused. They talked a bit about good fruits. So I took a chance and told them about Father Maciel.


And there it is! Happy new year to all of you. I love youse all.
Up next: My ten favorite posts from 2017 . . .


(I have not included two posts that turned up in the top ten. One was the post where I shared the news of the death of Anthony Gallegos, and one was the post where I announced Amazon had terminated my affiliate account.)


Image credits:
Angry man: Crosa via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Man on string: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Embryos: by ZEISS microscopy via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Stained glass: Detail of window in Lansdowne Church in Glasgow; photo by Tom Donald via Flickr (Creative Commons)
LDS: Versageek via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Trump’s presidency is one big cliché. Run for your lives.

As wave after wave of bizarre news rolls in from the White House, some Americans may be tempted to think, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!” But that’s not so. The Trump presidency is actually one long string of tired ideas we’ve heard a million times.

But here’s the catch: tired ideas are somewhat more startling when someone actually acts on them.

You remember that scene in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where the ship picks up a passenger. and they discover that he’s come from the island where dreams come true. At first, the sailors can’t believe their luck, expecting to find loved ones alive again, or to be reunited with old flames.

Not so fast.


“Fools!” said the man, stamping his foot with rage. “That is the sort of talk that brought me here, and I’d better have been drowned or never born. Do you hear what I say? This is where dreams — dreams, do you understand — come to life, come real. Not daydreams: dreams.”

There was about half a minute’s silence and then, with a great clatter of armour, the whole crew were tumbling down the main hatch as quick as they could and flinging themselves on the oars to row as they had never rowed before; and Drinian was swinging round the tiller, and they boatswain was giving out the quickest stroke that had ever been heard at sea. For it had taken everyone just that half-minute to remember certain dreams they had had–dreams that make you afraid of going to sleep again–and to realize what it would mean to land on a country where dreams come true.

The voyage of the ship of state in 2017 comes to mind; only it’s the Island Where Commencement Addresses Come True. You’ve been to one or two of these snoozers in your lifetime, right? Your head droops, your tongue begins to loll out of your mouth as you hear the speaker drone on and on through platitude after platitude.

Well, say what you will about 2017, it hasn’t been boring. Here’s a few clichés that wake you right up when they come to life and start picking out new drapes for the Oval Office:

You can be anything you want to be if you believe in yourself. You can become head of the Department of Education even if you know less about the inside of a classroom than your average hornet could pick up before it got squashed by the janitor. You can get an appointment to almost any cabinet post, and the only qualification you’ll need is that you are completely untainted by experience with or knowledge of your post.

Don’t let other people tell you what to believe, as long as you hold your truth in your heart. Although it’s probably not wise to claim Your Truth was just a slip of the tongue when you you have already told the world Your Truth three separate times.

Don’t let anything divert you from pursuing your passion. Not marriage, not consent, not bodily autonomy. Just grab.

Never let anyone else define you or put artificial boundaries on what you can achieve. Separation of powers, schmeparation of powers. States’ right, schmates rights. Limited government . . . well, you get the schmidea.

Don’t sit back and let your friends shape the future. Be the change you (for some ungodly inexplicable reason) wish to see in the world.

But do lean on your friends. Lean hard.

Reject being limited by labels. People want to call you “pro-life,” that’s fine. You’ll take their vote. But you’ll go ahead and gleefully reject child refugees, gut legal protections for kids with special needs, openly mock the disabled, enthusiastically promote torture, and yank health insurance from the poor, including children and pregnant women.  And test out your awesome new military powers by killing an 8-year-old American girl. Let them label you “pro-life!”  You’re bigger than any label.

Reach for the stars. Or the Vatican. Or Russia. Or . . . just hang around in your bathrobe watching TV and leafing through drape fabric swatches.

And finally:

No matter what they take from you, they can’t take away your dignity. Nothing from nothing leaves nothing, updated several times daily.


Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr (Creative Commons)