Ever Upward, Caveman: On the Failing of Spiritual Mottos

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Once upon a time in spiritual direction, I struggled to come up with a motto for my life--a catchy slogan like "So easy, a caveman can do it," or "A little dab will do ya"--not so much to sell me on the essence of my vocation, but to remind me in five words or less what my vocation actually is, when, for instance, I'm overwhelmed because I can't control my husband, my kids, my dog, my house, the weather, my moods, or anything really, and I'd rather go to France and do the can-can.I found it … [Read more...]

Goats, Robo-Christians, and God-people

After I'd lived in England for six months, and had been on pilgrimage from there to Rome during Holy Week, and had climbed the Holy Steps on my knees, and had kissed the drops of Christ-blood still on them though covered by sheets of plexiglass, and had broken up with my boyfriend/fiance of three years, and had started attending Mass again regularly, I came back to the Midwest, back to the small liberal arts College, back to the frat houses and kegs and vats of vile mixed alcoholic beverages, … [Read more...]

Case Study in Controlled Violence

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This old post came up in a recent conversation (Thank you, Calah!). Thought I'd give it another run.  I have no idea how to make children behave, and when I read theories and hear stories of children forever changed into angels by a sharp word here, or a meaningful hug there, I instantly bristle. It defies thousands of years of lived experience for a child to be made perfect by a smart parent. It’s only happened once that I know of, and both the child and his parent were Go … [Read more...]

Somebody’s Got To Do It

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OK kids, time to clean the kitchen. You have ten minutes to wipe down the counters, load the dishes and sweep the floor, and then you can watch Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Oldest: I'll put away condiments.Girl: I'll wipe the table.Fourth child: My job is sweeping.Second child: My job is staring death in the face.Everybody: Lucky!  … [Read more...]

People Before Things in Life and in Death

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I live about 45 minutes outside of Indianapolis, so when I go into town for a meeting on Thursday mornings, I'm always tempted to go shopping afterwards. There's a Trader Joe's and a TJ Maxx right around the corner from where we hold our meeting, and I imagine, over the years, I've saved thousands of dollars by repeating the mantra to myself "people before things" and heading to my Mimi's house instead.There, I'd sit on the couch and flip through the knee high stacks of catalogs that Mimi … [Read more...]

Happy Fruits of the Papal Synod To Me!

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My birthday was this weekend. I'd been plucking at the petals of it, questioning whether I wanted to be alone or not to be alone, feeling selfish for wanting it, and stupid for doubting its possible benefits, and finally decided that it's just not a moral issue whether or not I spend a day alone. My husband was home from work to manage the kids, I don't care much for cake, and I knew there weren't any parties coming my way.So that's what I got for my birthday-- a day. I thought I might spend … [Read more...]

The Disembodied Life: When Spiritual Rewards Become a Vice.

I had a writing deadline today, and every time I sat down to write, the words I needed were not there. Thousands of other words were there, and they were fun to explore, so I started thinking that this deadlined writing job was maybe not for me. Maybe I should just clear my slate of any obligatory writing, so that I can do only the fun stuff.It's not as if the little freelance jobs are supporting our family, or propping up my spiritual life, or... I don't really know what they do, actually. … [Read more...]


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