Christian Community and the Loss of Penance

In a private forum, someone asked why Catholics don't talk about acts of penance so much anymore.  Why so little discussion of fasting, self-denial, self-mortification, and the like?  It's out of vogue.I floated a thought or two (summary: I'm Exhibit A for Poor Penitential Performance), and someone came back with the observation that penance is something we're expected to do all on our own. It's not communal.I replied: I think that's true. We have all kinds of self-chosen suffering tha … [Read more...]

What Makes a Good Penance? 3 Tips for Mid-Lent Adjustments

Good news: If your Lent needs some improvement, there's no law that you can't adjust your personal penance mid-stream. Here are a few things I've found helpful for ordinary Catholics to consider when figuring out whether a chosen penance is realistic or not: 1.  Is it consistent with my state in life? A lot of spiritual writing is done by people who aren't, say, on call 24/7 caring for young children.  While it is good to examine your responsibilities and ask whether you need to adjust your pr … [Read more...]

Atheism, Beauty, and the Loss of Penance

My young daughter, whose cuteness makes her look even younger, sat on the stool at the jewelry store, stone still, waiting for the two gloved salesladies to punch holes through her earlobes on the count of three.  Stoic child, but if you can read her you knew she was nervous.  This was something she wanted, very much wanted.  She knew it would hurt, because we all reminded her of that fact, repeatedly.  She also knew two other things: Her older sister had done it and she was just fine now, and th … [Read more...]

Hating the Holidays as the Precursor to Happiness

You're supposed to be happy now, because it's the holidays.  The rest of the year, a civil disposition generally suffices.  But for the next eight weeks, if you aren't madly in love with every gift, every canape, every delightful holiday fete . . . you aren't just an ungrateful wretch, you're a menace to society. There are Good Reasons to Hate the Holidays The thing about the modern holiday season is that it's come unmoored.  We don't celebrate Thanksgiving, we celebrate Thanks-Getting -- he … [Read more...]

In Favor of Incompetent Housewives

 Your must-read column for today is Calah Alexander's essay on what it's like being part of the current generation of incompetents, "Those Pathetic Millenial Moms.". . .  I was raised by a loving, attentive mother who stayed home until I was in high school. But culture is pervasive. Kids learn it through osmosis, and unless you lock them in a fortress, they’re gonna pick up on it. “Stay-at-home-mom” had a negative connotation for me from the time I began hearing “mom” qualified as su … [Read more...]

Catholic Website Advises Parents: Obsession with the Occult is No Big Deal

The recently launched online Catholic magazine Crux has an advice column up, in which a parent is told that her child's obsession with the occult is probably no big deal:How would you feel if she were immersed in the Narnia books, written by the Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, or in the dark and fantastical worlds imagined by J.R.R. Tolkein – a Catholic — in “The Lord of the Rings” novels? Many children in their pre-teen years find escape in fantasy.Yes, escape into fantasy is lovely.   … [Read more...]

A Right Relationship with Sister Death

The media is gushing over another high-profile suicide, which is of course high-profile precisely because the media chooses to gush over it.  What sane people do, when they learn that someone is contemplating killing themselves, is gently suggest a chat with the doctor about pain management.  Or they come over and help with the laundry. Dear Reporters, You are allowed to use both your brain and your moral sense when choosing how to cover a story.  When someone calls you with a big Suicide Sc … [Read more...]


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