7 Quick Takes: Personal Edition

Regular readers know that I’m not really a confessional blogger. I don’t talk about my personal life or use this is space as a kind of public diary. So, in the interest of slightly correcting that, I’m using Jen’s 7 Quick Takes format to share 7 things about me, personally.


During the period when I was lapsed, I took part in a pagan naming ritual for a friend’s baby.

It was just like this.

It’s not something I’d do today (nor, I think, would the friend), but we entered into the spirit of the event and felt honored to be included. Well, honored and faintly embarrassed. I don’t know how pagans do even half of what they do without dissolving into giggles. Since I was functionally (though not actually) pagan myself at the point, it really wasn’t that much of a stretch.


I have had mystical experiences, and have spent much of my adult life trying to understand them. My time in the spiritual wilderness was an attempt to make sense of these experiences from outside the faith of my childhood. Only upon returning to the Church did I realize that the fullness of truth and the answers to my questions were here all along. I do not write about these experiences because they lay beyond words, and I feel they should stay there. They have, however, removed any doubt whatsoever about the existence of God and the invisible world of mystery and magnificence that surrounds us.


Yep, I wrote for this.

I do not regret my time in the wilderness immersed in (at various times) Neoplatonism, agnosticism, gnosticism, Jung, shamanism, and general New Agey foolishness. It broadened my perspective and gave me an infallible BS detector that serves me well in my role as a Catechist and Catholic writer.


My natural tendency is toward uncharity and nastiness. I made a career of it as a reviewer who was known for being cutting. (One author knocked me out of a chair at a convention of horror writers. Another sent me gay pornography in the mail. A company refused to pay one of my magazines $15,000 they owed for ads because of something I’d written. And so on.)

“Hated it.”

I know I hurt people under the cover of “Just being honest” or “Just doing my job.” Since I began blogging, I’ve made an effort not to do that, but it is a mighty struggle. I still read people and think, “What a frigging idiot.” That the person actually IS a frigging idiot isn’t the point. The point is: he’s also human, and thus deserving of at least a measure of charity. I’m not naturally inclined to dole out that kind of charity, so it’s a struggle to read certain people without drawing a bead on them and unleashing a stream of withering contempt. I’m still working on that one.


I consider myself a traditionalist and, indeed, a medievalist, but much of old-school Marian piety leaves me cold. I’ve made valiant attempts to fall in love with the Rosary, with middling results. My commitment to the 54-Day Rosary Novena seemed like a Herculean task at times. The first thing I had to do was strip away the cloying verbiage slathered all over the devotion like inch-thick icing on a cake made entirely of fondant:

Hail, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, my Mother Mary, hail! At thy feet I humbly kneel to offer thee a Crown of Roses, snow white buds to remind thee of thy joys!, each bud recalling to thee a holy mystery; each ten bound together with my petition for a particular grace. O Holy Queen, dispenser of God’s graces, and Mother of all who invoke thee! thou canst not look upon my gift and fail to see its binding. As thou receivest my gift, so wilt thou receive my petition; from thy bounty thou wilt give me the favor I so earnestly and trustingly seek. I despair of nothing that I ask of thee. Show thyself my Mother!

Who writes this stuff? Why does so much Marian art and devotion look and sound like it sprang from the mind of a fifteen-year-old 18th century French girl?

St Louis de Montfort makes my teeth hurt. I’ve never really cared about the dreaded secrets of Fatima, and I think Medjugorje was a hoax. My primary personal devotion is the Liturgy of the Hours and daily readings. This is not to downplay the role of the Blessed Mother in my prayer life (I pray the Angelus every day), but few of the devotions as they’ve developed really speak to me. I understand some of this is my own failing.


Those who have read me for some time know that I write about mental illness more than most Catholic bloggers. Yes, this is based on experience. No, I don’t intend to talk about it.


Call for the Priest, baby!

I still listen to 1970s/80s heavy metal music from time to time, and I’m not ashamed.

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Judas Priest predicted the age of drones and NSA overreach back in 1982. (I saw this show live.)

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • briest

    One should never be ashamed of metal. Unless it’s Manowar.

  • http://acatholicviewoftheworld.wordpress.com/ Roki

    To be a medievalist is to cease to be a “traditionalist” in the contemporary sense of the term. The medieval mind was far broader than the modern mind in almost every respect.

    Most Marian piety sounds treacly because it was exactly composed by moderns, often in French, with the primary goal of stirring up the emotions. It’s not bad or wrong, but it is a very specific cultural and artistic goal, and it would be surprising indeed if it was edifying to everybody.

    It has taken me a very long time to admit that my friends who made the total consecration weren’t off their rockers. It’s just that the deMontfort language really spoke to them even as it turned me off. Well, God is a big God, and his ways of relating to us are as varied as his saints. The problem arises when we try to say that one spirituality is the only way (as my Marian friends said to me) or that a licit spirituality is just wrong (as I tried to say to them).

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com/ Thomas L. McDonald

    Most people who identify as capital-T Traditionalists today are post-Tridentine, which is closer to a Renaissance than a medieval mindset. They’ve opted to idealize one stage of the Church’s development. A case can be made that the Tridentine liturgy is indeed the highest form of the Western liturgy, aesthetically. I’m sure any number of Uniates, however, can make an equally strong case that theirs is a superior liturgy. I meant less to identify with EF devotees than with people of a more traditional view of the faith.

    As for Marian issues, I realize we’re somewhat stuck with type of piety that reached its most widespread form during the Ancien Regime, and got stuck there. Hence, the “15-year-old French girl” issue. I don’t reject Marian devotion at all, but different things speak to different people.

  • http://lmpogoda.com/ Łukasz M. Pogoda

    Virgin Mary often spoken to children—maybe this is a reason why the message is sometimes just like the one you don’t like. But scapular or case of Bartolo Longo (related to 54-Day Rosary Novena) gives us a message nobody is excluded.

    Yes, rosary is like a Herculean task… but isn’t we here to do something for others? My perception is like that: The harder it is the more worth it may be. So, I keep trying ;)

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    #6 thank you. Far too many people don’t know how to talk about their own mental illness, and if you’re not prepared, you’re not prepared.

  • oregon nurse

    I like to pray the rosary by listening to a scriptural rosary recording. They’re scripture quotes (therefore not flowery) before each Hail Mary that keep me focused on the mystery being prayed and the audio helps keep my mind from wandering too much.
    You can find good ones here:
    Scroll down the page for the scriptural versions.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Hey we some things in common. I could be harsh too in criticism and I try to tone my cutting repsonses here on Patheos. Since I’ve been on the internet I’ve had to include some meanspirited response in just about all my confessions. I was never a pagan, but I was infatuated with Jung at one point. Today I find him just a step above Freud in credibility, which is pretty low. I struggle with the rosary too, but I’ve gotten better. I usually go online and pray with a website. I can do it if it’s a communal prayer, but all by myself it makes me drowsy and I typically fall asleep. I was never big into heavy metal but I was and still am a big Rolling Stones fan. I’m not ashame but i do squirm every so often when a particular line of a song is sung. Thanks for a great post!

  • jen

    #5: I concur. One of the things keeping me from swimming the Tiber is Marian devotion which can get a bit excessive to the tune of giving credence to the Protestant claim of it being idolatry. I’m a fan of Mary but I have limits.

  • http://www.parafool.com/ victor

    I don’t know if the Shaman Drum bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI, was ever affiliated with the magazine but ironically enough, it is now a Five Guys Burgers & Fries.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com/ Thomas L. McDonald

    Then it’s infinitely more useful now.

  • Mary E.

    I was relieved to read that someone else is as put off by the treacly language of certain Marian devotional prayers as I am. I’ve also noticed that some of the English translations date from the mid-to-late 19th century. In much writing of this period, especially poetry, ornate language was used to achieve (or maybe “attempt” is a better word) an elevated mood that can easily tumble over into sentimental excess. Much use of contractions, and archaic pronouns and verbs such as “thee,” “thou,” “canst,” “shalt,” and “wilt.” I blame the Pre-Raphaelites.