New book: A Pope Francis Lexicon (including my chapter!)

Now ready for pre-order: A Pope Francis Lexicon — and guess what? I somehow have a chapter in it!

My chapter deals with the word “embrace,” and while I did regretfully excise the passage where I compare Francis to the Sta Puft Marshmallow Man, I attempt to answer the thorny question: Does our pope really think huggy togetherness is an adequate substitute for orthodoxy? I try to answer the question sincerely, based on his writing and his actions, and from the perspective of someone who is sometimes frustrated by his approach.

This book has an impressive line-up of fifty illustrious contributors who each

explore the Pope’s use of words like joyclericalismmoneyfamily, and tears. Together, they reveal what Francis’s use of these words says about him, his ministry and priorities, and their significance to the church, the world, and the lives of individual Christians. The entire collection is introduced by a foreword by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians worldwide, and a preface by one of Francis’s closest advisors, Cardinal Seán O’Malley.  

Here’s a full list of the chapter themes and contributors:

Volume foreword   Patriarch Bartholomew
Volume preface    Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap
Baptism              Cardinal Donald Wuerl
Benedict XVI        David Gibson
Capitalism           Bishop Robert McElroy
Careerism           Cardinal Joseph Tobin, C.Ss.R.
Church                Elizabeth Bruenig
Clerical abuse      Francis Sullivan
Clericalism          Archbishop Paul-André Durocher
Collegiality          Archbishop Mark Coleridge
Conscience         Austen Ivereigh
Creation              Orthodox Fr. John Chryssavgis
Curia                  Massimo Faggioli
Dialogue             Archbishop Roberto González Nieves, OFM
Dignity                Tina Beattie
Discernment        Fr. James Martin, SJ
Devil/Satan          Greg Hillis
Ecumenism         Nontando Hadebe
Embrace             Simcha Fisher
Encounter/Encuentro      Archbishop Victor Fernández
Episcopal Accountability  Katie Grimes
Family                Julie Hanlon Rubio
Field Hospital      Cardinal Blase Cupich
Flesh                  Msgr. Dario Viganò
Gossip                Kaya Oakes
Grandparents       Bill Dodds
Hacer lio             Fr. Manuel Dorantes
Hope                  Natalia Imperatori-Lee
Immigrant           Sr. Norma Seni Pimentel, MJ
Indifference         Sr. Carmen Sammut, MSOLA
Jesus                 Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, SJ
Joy                    Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, OP
Judgment           Michael O’Loughlin
Justice               Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS
Leadership          Kerry Robinson
Legalism            Sr. Teresa Forcades i Vila, OSB
Martyrdom          Bishop Borys Gudziak
Mercy                Archbishop Donald Bolen
Miracles             John Thavis
Money                Andrea Tornielli
Periphery            Carolyn Woo
Prayer                Bishop Daniel Flores
Reform               Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, SDB
Refugee              Rhonda Miska
Second Vatican Council   Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
Service               Phyllis Zagano
Sheep                Archbishop Justin Welby
Sourpuss            Fr James Corkery, SJ
St. Francis          Fr. Michael Perry, OFM
Tears                  Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle
Throwaway culture Sr. Pat Farrell, OSF
Worldliness         Mollie Wilson O’Reilly
Women               Astrid Gajiwala
Youth                 Jordan Denari Duffner

Speaking of books, have I mentioned lately that I have a book of my own, and that I’ve contributed chapters to two other books besides A Pope Francis Lexicon? Here they are:

***

The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning

The chapters are divided into three groups:

  • NFP and Your Spiritual Life
  • NFP and the Rest of the World
  • NFP in the Trenches.

Some of the most popular chapters have proven to be “The Golden Box,” which deals with how our decisions work with God’s will, in matters of family planning and in general; and “Groping Toward Chastity,” a title which, if there were any justice in the world, would have won me a Nobel Prize in literature.

***

Style, Sex, and Substance: 10 Catholic Women Consider the Things That Really Matter

My chapter is “Receiving, Creating, and Letting Go: Motherhood in Body and Soul.”

***
Catholic and Married: Leaning Into Love

My chapter, “Mirrors Around a Flame,” explores the idea that children are a gift. This book kind of got lost in the shuffle while there were some logistical issues, but it includes many excellent essays, including Jenny Uebbing’s great chapter on NFP.

***

As always, the links above are Amazon Associate links. If you buy these books using the links I provide (or if you buy anything on Amazon after getting to the site through one of my links), I earn a small percentage of each sale. Anytime you shop on Amazon, please consider using my link!

Simcha’s Amazon Link!

Sometimes people tell me they’re not sure if it’s “working” or not. Thanks for asking! It should look like a normal Amazon page when you click through. If you look up in the URL or address box at the top of the screen, it should have a long string of letters and symbols after Amazon.com, including “ihavtositdo03-20” somewhere in there. That’s me! Here’s a sample of what it will look like when you shop on Amazon using my link:

***

I also now have accounts with Amazon Canada and Amazon UK, hooray! Thanks so much. I know it’s one more thing to think about.

Official Vatican Commission: Current Medjugorje apparitions doubtful

The vast majority of phenomena at Medjugorje can not be said to be of supernatural origin, according to most votes cast this week by the official commission on Medjugorje.

The Commission, established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, was asked to evaluate separately the first seven apparitions, which allegedly occurred in the summer of 1981, and the tens of thousands of subsequent apparitions, which allegedly continue to this day. The commission includes five cardinals, two psychologists, four theologians, a Mariologist, anthropologist, a canonist, and an official of the Doctrine of the Faith. According to La Stampa, the commission

met 17 times and screened all documents filed in the Vatican, the parish of Medjugorje and the archives of the secret services of the former Yugoslavia. The commission heard all the seers and witnesses involved, and in April 2012, they carried out an inspection in the village of Herzegovina.

Most members of the commission voted that the first seven apparitions were supernatural in nature, and not a hoax or demonic [note that the quotations from La Stampa have been translated from Italian, which accounts for the somewhat clumsy language]:

Members and experts came out with 13 votes in favor of recognizing the supernatural nature of the first visions. A member voted against and an expert expressed a suspensive vote. The committee argues that the six young seers were psychically normal and were caught by surprise by the apparition, and that nothing of what they had seen was influenced by either the Franciscans of the parish or any other subjects. They showed resistance in telling what happened despite the police arrested them and death threating [sic] them. The commission also rejected the hypothesis of a demonic origin of the apparitions.

The commission was much more doubtful about the supernatural origin of subsequent apparitions, though. Regarding the circumstances and nature of the subsequent apparitions themselves,

the commission took note of the heavy interference caused by the conflict between the bishop and the Franciscans of the parish, as well as the fact that the apparitions, pre-announced and programmed individually for each seer continued with repetitive messages. These visions continued despite the youngsters had said they would end, however that actually has never happened. There is then the issue of the “secrets” of the somewhat apocalyptic flavor that the seers claim to have been revealed from the apparition.

Based on the “behavior of the seers,” the commission reports

eight members and four experts believe that an opinion cannot be expressed, while two other members have voted against the supernatural nature of the phenomenon.

Regarding the much-touted “spiritual fruits” of the phenomena, “but leaving aside the behaviors of the seers,” La Stampa reports

3 members and 3 experts say there are positive outcomes, 4 members and 3 experts say they are mixed, with a majority of positive, effects and the remaining 3 experts claim there are mixed positive and negative effects.

Thirteen of the fourteen commission members have voted to put Medjugorje directly under the authority of the Vatican. The establishment of an authority that answers to the Vatican “would not imply the recognition of the supernatural nature of the apparitions,” but would aid the Church in overseeing the pastoral care of the millions of pilgrims who visit the region every year.

These pastoral developments would also provide “clarity on economic issues.” Commerce related to Medjugorje has become a global industry, producing steady income for some of the alleged visionaries.

On his way home from Fatima, Pope Francis told reporters Saturday that he had “worse” than doubts about the authenticity of the phenomena at Medjugorje. The Pope said:

The report has its doubts, but personally, I am a little worse. I prefer Our Lady as mother, our mother, and not Our Lady as head of the post office who sends a message at a stated time.

This isn’t Jesus’ mother. And these alleged apparitions don’t have much value. I say this as a personal opinion, but it is clear. Who thinks that Our Lady says, ‘Come, because tomorrow at this time I will give a message to that seer?’ No!

For an extensive explanation of the many concerns and alarms surrounding the alleged apparitions, see my essay in The Catholic Weekly, The Lady of Medjugorje Is Not Your Mother.

________
NOTE: This post was edited at 10:55 AM eastern on 5/17/17. The first sentence originally read: “The vast majority of phenomena at Medjugorje are not of supernatural origin, according to most votes cast this week by the official commission on Medjugorje.” I do not believe this statement is inaccurate, but the edited version is more clear. 

***
Image of a cross at Medjugorje by Miran Rijavec via Flickr

An uninvited Pope and the power of words

pope-francis-707390_1920

A normal friend knocks at your door. An Argentinean friend opens the door and happily yells, “I’m here!”

It’s a funny list, but there’s something real going on here, which describes Pope Francis to a T, whether we like that T or not:

To the Pope, everything is personal.

Read the rest at the Register. 

Everybody knows the Church will change. (Everybody is wrong.)

Rom,_Vatikan,_Petersdom_-_Silhouette_bei_Sonnenuntergang_3

 

Many Catholics believe the Synod on the Family will drive home the final nail in the coffin of orthodoxy. They believe that, when the Synod is over, from that coffin will emerge some hideous new zombie Church, which progressive Pope Francis will envelop in one of his famous Marxist hugs. Together, Frankie and Zombie will personally cater all the gay weddings they can find, and couples who have three or more annulments under their belts can claim a discount on renting the Sistine Chapel for their next few weddings.

Many Catholics look at the Synod, and they know that the Church is going to change. They know it.

Are they right? Let’s step back a few decades, to the last time everybody knew what would happen in the Church.

In 1963, Pope John XXIII called a Pontifical Commission to examine the Church’s ban on artificial birth control. After he died, Pope Paul VI expanded the commission to include doctors, theologians, lay women, bishops and cardinals.

The members of this committee were chosen by the Pope, and everybody knew what that meant: the Church was obviously revving up for something big, something new. The commission members debated, studied, and solicited testimony for several years; and then in 1966, they came out with a report that concluded exactly what everyone was expecting: It said that the Church should do a 180 and allow artificial birth control. The official report said that birth control was not intrinsically evil, and that the Church’s ban on it should be lifted.

There was rejoicing in some quarters, wringing of hands in others, as everyone assumed that the Pope would agree. Everyone assumed that life as a married Catholic would be dramatically different from then on, in keeping with the times. Laymen thought so. Priests thought so. Everyone thought, “This is it. This is the big change we’ve all been [hoping for/dreading].”

And what happened?

Humanae Vitae happened. BOOM. Rather than assenting to the Commission’s recommendation, Paul VI issued the glorious encyclical which firmly and passionately reasserts the Church’s constant teaching on human sexuality, almost miraculously predicting the societal ills that would follow if the world embraced artificial contraception. The encyclical thrilled some, enraged others, and immediately began sowing the seeds for John Paul II’s flourishing Theology of the Body, which is only now beginning to take root in the hearts of many Catholics.

In 1968, everyone knew the Church was going to change.

Everyone was wrong.

I expect — no, I believe with all my heart — that the same will happen in the next few years regarding the issues of divorce and civil remarriage, and same sex marriage. The Pope has reaffirmed countless times that he is a “son of the Church” and will uphold and defend her doctrine, no matter what the rumors imply (and Cardinal Kasper — CARDINAL KASPER — says so, too).

Now, this is not to say that everything will be fine. Most Catholics, including those present when Humanae Vitae first came out, ignored and continue to blithely ignore the Church’s teaching on contraception. It’s likely that Catholics who are in favor of same sex marriage will continue to be in favor of same sex marriage, no matter what happens at the synod, and no matter what the Pope says, infallibly or otherwise.

But will the Church change her teachings on marriage? No, she will not. I would bet my life on it. Sometimes when everyone knows something, everyone is wrong.

So, listen to rumors if you like. Debate about the ins and outs of various meetings and interviews, and feel free to wince, as any normal human being would do, as we witness sausage being made. Above all, pray — pray for the pope, pray for the bishops, pray for a change of heart for those in dissent, and pray for courage for those who are faithful. Pray for the Church. Pray for all of us. Prayer is always the appropriate response. But as you pray, don’t panic.

Remember, everybody knew what was definitely going to happen in 1968.  Everybody was wrong.

***
***
***

Off to Philadelphia!

World Meeting of Families-SM

Hope to see you there!

My speech is Friday at 11:45. The official title is “Go Forth: Evangelization and the Global Community” but the title of the talk I’m actually giving is: “Swimming in the Dark: Spreading the Good News When You’re Feeling So Bad.”

Here’s a nice eyewitness account from my sister Devra, who was at Mass with the Pope in DC yesterday. And if you haven’t heard it yet, he stopped in to visit the Little Sisters of the Poor. A nice counterpoint to Obama’s classless choice of dissident Catholic guests as a welcoming committee.

Okay, wish us luck! It’s going to be a long drive with an angry baby, but I know it’s going to be wonderful once we get there. If you’ve written to me and haven’t heard back, I’ve been kind of hung up on preparations and sick kids, so I hope to get caught up on correspondence next week. Thanks for your patience.

Blessed Are the Useless

homeless-845752_1280

This is the connection that we need to hear over and over again: we’re not here, in this world, to get ahead. We’re not here to prove how useful we are, and we’re not here to use other people. We’re not beloved by God because of how useful we are to Him! We’re useless. We’re beloved in our uselessness, because God is too big to fit into a simple equation of cost and benefit, debits and credits, loss and gain. We’re beloved because we exist, and that’s it. And if we want to meet God, we will find Him in service to others who can do nothing for us, because He came here in service to us, who can do nothing for Him.

Read the rest at the Register. 

***

Why Pope Francis should be canonized RIGHT NOW.

Because he didn’t smack this guy right across his smirking puss:

(If the video doesn’t show up, you can see a similar one here.)

I don’t care what else you think about the Pope: that’s heroic virtue right there.

Big Families Say “Laudato Si!”

Just doing our part to save the world, one or two babies at a time.

Doing our part to save the world, one (or two) babies at a time.

 

Got a big family? Then you already know that you’re crazy, a traitor to feminism, and a slave to the patriarchy; you’re neglecting most of your kids and robbing the rest of their childhood; you’re a burden on the system in general, and you probably don’t own a TV.

But wait, there’s more! Don’t forget, you’re also destroying the earth.

It’s become fashionable, in the name of the planet, to denounce large families as irresponsible, even selfish. Some politicians and a good many combox blabbermouths even say that it should be illegal for people to have more than one or two “replacement” children. Illegal!

And yet, if we can get beyond the inflammatory rhetoric, do radical environmentalists have a point? Should we slow down a little? It almost seems like common sense, especially when you’re having one of those days when you do feel a little crowded by the swarms of ravening locusts — uh, I mean, treasured offspring who share your last name.

After all, aren’t Catholics supposed to be good stewards of the earth? Isn’t it true that we “lotsas” are using more than our share of natural resources, burning more than our share of carbon, and just plain taking up too much space?

Probably not. Moms of many already know that the work of caring for, for instance, seven children is not the same as caring for one child times seven. In some ways, it’s easier. In the same way, many large families actually have a smaller carbon footprint than a typical family with one or two kids. A household of nine is not like a household of three times three. It just doesn’t work that way.

Moreover, when larger families do have an environmentally friendly profile, it often occurs naturally as a result of the family’s large size, not despite it. It’s not the numbers that count; it’s the lifestyle.

As Pope Francis says in Laudato Si,

To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption. Besides, we know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded, and “whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor.”

By necessity or for convenience, big families tend to naturally fall into patterns of behavior that would make Pope Francis proud.

How? Here are a few ways:

Cars Count
Let’s start with that enormous van we drive — could it be eco-friendly? Sure. It’s certainly not fuel efficient; it’s just that it’s usually parked in the driveway. With ten kids in tow, I leave the house as close to zero times as possible, bringing our weekly mileage to far less than the national average (and if you’re calculating PMPG or “people miles per gallon” – that is, how many people get moved per gallon of gas — large families look even greener). My husband has a smaller, more fuel-efficient car, which we use if only a few kids are on board.
And how often do we fly? Well, the stewardess is still in therapy from the last time our family boarded a plane together, about twelve years ago. We’d rather get our kicks at the beach down the road than go through the agony of air travel, which the New York Times called the “biggest carbon sin.” 

Economy Size
How about electricity? Do twelve people use more than three or four? Not necessarily. Six kids playing Dinosaur Wedding do it by the light of a single light bulb, just like one or two kids would. Two or three kids fit in a bathtub at a time, and there aren’t enough hours in the day for all of us to shower daily. The oven stays on 350 degrees for 45 minutes, no matter how big the meatloaf.

Cozy Quarters
Most large families I know don’t live in energy-hogging giganto-mansions. They live in normal houses, they’re a little crowded, and they have lots of bunk beds. (They do, however, tend to go for big yards, lots of trees, and gardens. Natural wildlife preserves, you might say.)

Reduce and Re-use
Many large families also live with tight budgets. We happily trade a second or third income for another armful of babies. The quick and easy methods of saving the environment that make the news daily are hardly news to cash-strapped families: Turn down the heat, insulate, avoid anything disposable, buy in bulk, cook from scratch, breastfeed, don’t eat out, don’t waste this, don’t buy that. Turn out the light, close the door, unplug it, wash in cold water, make it do or do without. And if it does not get eaten for dinner, we serve it for lunch.
Even if we have plenty of money, the sheer clutter forces us to try and live simply and learn to do without excess stuff.
What a revelation! And so good for the earth.

Make Do
How about consumption of goods? My family and many Catholic families I know are almost complete failures as consumers. Our house is mostly furnished, from the couch to the car to the pots and pans and coffee cups, with used goods. We are not, for the most part, consuming new products, with all their attendant carbon costs in manufacture and transport. By taking in used things, we’re also preventing an entire houseful of stuff from clogging up the landfills.

Pregnancy is green 
Babies perform a service to the world before they’re even born: they excuse their moms from using (and sending to landfills) pads and tampons for nine months — longer, if they breastfeed enough for lactational amenorrhea.  And what about birth control pills? Catholics who refuse to use them are also refusing to excrete endocrine-disrupting hormones into the water supply.

Pass It On
Large families tend to buy used clothes, books, and toys, and we hang onto them, passing them down from child to child, even to the next generation. The thermal onesie on my baby last winter? It started life keeping my oldest nephew warm, then went on to clothe every one of my ten kids so far.

Not convinced? Still feeling some eco-guilt as you survey all the little consumers you’ve produced? Go ahead and plug your own family’s stats into one of the many carbon calculators available online (try SafeClimate.net). You may be surprised at how “be fruitful and multiply” translates quite naturally into treading lightly on mother earth.

Last time I took my family’s numbers and plugged them into the first three carbon calculators that Google turned up, we consumed and emitted less than the national average  for a family of three. And we were just trying to get through the week.

But what about the future?
This is all very well, some will say, as long as your many children all live with you in your little green shoe. You may be very thrifty today, but what about when they all grow up and move out? More people is more people, no matter how you slice it.

For this argument, I have two answers.

First is that grown children of large families tend to be what you might call natural conservationists. Children who grow up as one of many are likely to have learned that they’ll survive without buying stuff, that it’s okay to share, that material things come and go, and that, like it or not, we all depend on each other for survival.

So who will I be sending out into the world? A small crowd of perfect environmentalists.

Second, children of families that are open to life also know something much more important, something that rabidly utilitarian environmentalists still don’t seem to realize: A human soul is more than the sum of how many kilowatts he consumes. This is what it comes down to. Human beings are a gift to the world.

What can we say to people who do not realize that the human family is the very seat of love, and that procreation is the ultimate human imitation of the action of the Holy Trinity? What can you say to people who somehow truly believe that everything humanity does is something to be apologized for — that the only good human is a human who was never born?

There is nothing you can say. Satisfy yourself that you’re not being wasteful, and then answer not the fool according to his folly. Love your children, and teach them to love each other; and if you and your brood feel like a sign of contradiction, then that’s a good sign.

The call of Laudato Si is nothing new. The Catholic Church has been teaching this lifestyle for thousands of years: a lifestyle of welcoming children while being careful and generous with the way we live. There is no contradiction between loving and caring for the earth and supplying it with inhabitants: We are commanded to do both.

Was it short-sighted when God the Father explained these things to Adam? Was it hyperbole when Christ asked, “What does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?”

‘A Great Big Yes’
Our beloved Benedict XVI said of big families:

“Their Yes to one another in the patience of the journey and in the strength of the sacrament with which Christ had bound them together, had become a great Yes to themselves, their children, to God the Creator and to the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Thus, from the witness of these families a wave of joy reached us, not a superficial and scant gaiety that is all too soon dispelled, but a joy that developed also in suffering, a joy that reaches down to the depths and truly redeems man.”

Of course it’s Catholic to be an environmentalist. Of course it’s our job to care for the earth. But even more, it’s our job to remember, and to teach our children, that this world will not last, and to live accordingly.

“All flesh is as grass, and all its glory as the flower of grass; the grass withered, and the flower has fallen — but the word of the Lord endures forever” (Isaiah 40:6).

How will it endure, if there is no one to hear it? Let us answer the “No” of child-fearing radicals with a joyful and ancient “Yes.” The world needs big families.

***

Related reading

Ignatius Press: Fr . Fessio, Vivian Dudro, Mark Brumley, and John Herreid discuss Laudato Si
Jen Fitz: The Terrible Problem with Laudato Si
Epic Pew: You won’t hear this from the mainstream media
Elizabeth Scalia: All Our Sin, All of Our Hatred On Trial
Tom McDonald Tweeting as he reads
Kathy Schiffer: This is completely Catholic
John Allen: The Pedigree of Laudato Si
George Weigel: It’s about us
Mark Shea: Chesterton on Laudato Si
Lisa HendeyLaudato Si and me
Stream: 11 Good Take-aways
Joseph Susanka: Advice as you prepare to read
CWR Encyclical focuses on Heart of Man
LarryD: Brace yourself…
Phil Lawler: It’s more provocative and less political than expected
Gregory Popcak: Something Fishy: Why is THIS missing from the encyclical?
Rebecca Hamilton: Fourteen Things Laudato Si Says. Nine Things It Does Not Say.
Laudato Si in hardcover from Ignatius Press
***
***
This article originally ran, in a slightly different form in Faith and Family magazine in 2010.

Should you read Laudato Si? A quiz

pope francis

Laudato Si is here, and not a moment too soon. Any day now, all the pundits and politicians and armchair theologians were going to start feeling ashamed for going so berserk over an encyclical that hadn’t been released yet. Any day, I’m sure of it!.

Now that it’s here, should you read it? It is kind of long, and there aren’t any pictures or gifs to break it up. Here’s a short quiz to help you determine whether or not you should invest the time and effort. The more points you get, the more urgent it is that you read the encyclical.

Take the quiz at the Register.

***

Hot showers for the homeless, courtesy of St. Peter

St._Peters_Square_Fountain

Not one of the free showers offered. Don’t ask how I know, but bathing here is frowned upon.

It’s been many years since I was in Rome, but I remember my first impression of the city: it’s extremely beautiful, and it smells like poop. Part of that smell comes because Italians tend to have dogs, rather than children. And part of the smell comes because, at least when I was there, public bathrooms are few and far between, and they are coin operated. The phrase “eternal city” takes on a whole new meaning when you are penniless, on foot, and have nowhere to go for hour upon hour.

For a college sophomore spending a semester abroad, this discomfort had its exotic charm. For the thousands of homeless men and women who live in Rome, having nowhere to relieve themselves — and nowhere to shower after a day in city of grit and Mediterranean sunshine– is a daily reality which means nothing but more humiliation.

Read the rest at the Register.