Fides et Ratio

"Faith without reason is blind, but reason without faith is empty"- Immanuel Kant

My son has recently demonstrated remarkable proficiency in Gregorian chant. So far, he knows at least the Sanctus and Agnus Dei.

He’s only 2.5 years old, and his Latin pronunciation is no worse than the average adult attending masses at the Pittsburgh Oratory.

That startling fact has sparked a thought in my mind.

I may never again take someone seriously when they complain about Latin spoken or chanted in the mass because it’s “too hard”. If my toddler can learn it, very few adults have a reasonable excuse for not being able to learn it!


“I envy ppl who find themselves in a rut & make huge life changes just to ‘shake things up.’ How great would it be to have that luxury?!” – @DaddyFiles

I don’t mean to single out Aaron (@DaddyFiles) for criticism or scorn by highlighting this tweet. Rather, I present it as an example of a problem we all have.

We often talk a good game about improving ourselves.We make resolutions about it. We read books about it. Catholics even have an entire liturgical season dedicated to it (Lent). We rarely walk the walk – at least not for long.  We all say we want to change this or that, but there’s always a “but”, an excuse, a rationalization, an escape clause.

In short, we curse the darkness instead of lighting candles. Worse yet, we moan about the world’s problems without making an effort to find out how we contribute to them or how we can make a difference.

Secular and religious writings are replete with references to this phenomenon.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

“You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:5

“We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

“Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

“Search thine own heart. What paineth thee/In others in thyself may be;/All dust is frail, all flesh is weak;/Be thou the true man thou dost seek!” – from “Chapel of the Hermits” by John Greenleaf Whittier

“I’m talking to the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make that change.” – from “Man in the Mirror” by Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett (performed by Michael Jackson)

“I am.” – G.K. Chesterton’s response to the question, “What’s wrong with the world?”

“The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” – Mark 14:38b

I think there’s a nice way to summarize this folk wisdom – this natural law, if you will – and it’s become a sort of maxim I’m trying to live by. To wit:

“If you really want obtain or achieve something, be it concrete or abstract, you’ll find a way to do it. If you haven’t already, odds are you have yourself to blame.” – Eric Williams

Your resources – time, talent, money, whatever – are currently spent the way they are because at the core of your being their ends reflect what you really want. Your priorities betray you. Actions speak louder than words, and by your fruits you are known. Anything good you have failed to attain and any end you have failed to achieve is, ceteris paribus, your own fault; you obviously didn’t want it badly enough.

The next time you’re start to think or to say, “I’d love to do/have X, but…”, stop and consider your priorities. What do you make time for and what do you spend your money on each day, week, month, year? I’m confident you’ll find that your unattained goals are reflected in the priority you didn’t give them in your life, and the priorities implicit in your daily living reflect what really matters to you.

The first step to really reaching our goals is admitting that we didn’t honestly seek them in the first place. Otherwise, we would have already met them.

slutty stereotype as Halloween costume

My husband and I accidentally went to the parish school’s mass for Ash Wednesday this morning. It was the most convenient for us, and it is open to the public. It’s just full of lots of squirmy children from kindergarten to 8th grade wearing uniforms that look strikingly similar to the ones I wore in elementary school at a different Catholic school. It wasn’t just the uniforms that reminded me of my own elementary school masses, but the sermon that was geared towards children, the students participating in the mass by acting as lectors and bringing up the gifts, the audible sound of children shifting in their seats.

But there was one noticeable difference. The girls sitting near me in the 8th grade class were wearing  makeup. Not all of them, but a good number. It was visible makeup: eye shadow, lip gloss, sparkly eye liner, heavy mascara. I saw at least one girl wearing bright blue eye shadow. (Let’s be honest, ladies: blue eyeshadow is a sin unto itself. No one at any age should wear it.)

The girl with the bright blue eye shadow caught my attention the most. That alone is a problem. If she caught my eye, surely she caught others’ eyes. The blue eyeshadow was a shade of blueberry I don’t think has been seen since the 80’s, accented with blue sparkly eyeliner. She had on heavy mascara, and her lashes were likely curled that morning with a device that has always frightened me. Her hair was perfectly smoothed back into a pony tail, errant hair clipped in place with barrettes. She was a very pretty girl, although I think she would have been prettier with a less severe hair style and a bare face. The makeup, which surely was used to garner attention to her looks, ended up hiding what was naturally a pretty face. It’s hard to look past blue eyeshadow and see the pretty brown eyes underneath.

Worse, it’s hard to look past the war paint and see the girl underneath. My first impression of her was that she looked like a tramp. A tramp in a Catholic school uniform. Modern times have scripted Catholic school girls as being naughty, sexy, with a repressed sexuality just under the surface of the plaid skirt and cardigan sweater, desperate to be unleashed. Most actual Catholic school girls don’t fit that bill, and it’s a shame that it exists at all. Unfortunately, this girl was promoting that, and degrading not only herself but the rest of her peers in the process. I don’t know if she’s even aware of what she’s saying by wearing all that makeup. She’s young and hopefully innocent. That’s what the adults around her ought to be doing: providing boundaries so she doesn’t send a message she doesn’t intend to, just because she’s too young to understand what she’s saying.

Surely this wasn’t a case of a girl pushing boundaries, or an unobservant teacher not noticing. They wouldn’t be that bold with their makeup, nor would there be that many of them, if they were highly likely to get in trouble for it. When I was in Catholic elementary school, only 11 years ago, even the hint of mascara or clear nail polish would have earned me a demerit and some face wash or nail polish remover. Here is where I feel like I should have a rake and be shouting about IN MY DAY. But I’ll spare you.

Regardless of my own Catholic school experience, I don’t think that makeup on a 12 or 13 year old girl is appropriate, especially not in public, especially not in school, and especially especially not at mass. 12 year olds have no wrinkles, no under-eye circles, nothing that needs to be covered up except for maybe some acne. Any dermatologist worth anything will tell you that putting makeup on acne is the opposite thing to do to get it to clear up. Those girls have no business wearing makeup. They are little girls, even if they are pretending not to be.

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I don’t think there’s any dispute that the Catholic Church’s teachings regarding the regulation of births are greatly misunderstood by many people, both within and without the Church. Most Americans and most media outlets seem to think natural family planning (NFP) is just the flawed old “rhythm method”. To them, the Church seems antiquated and harshly restrictive in its prohibition against artificial contraception. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those in the Church who think NFP might be too permissive and its use prone to the same contraceptive mentality as artificial methods.

Having asked a lot of questions and doubts about using NFP to space the births of my own children, I thought it might be helpful to share my findings with others. To that end, I will be posting a series of analyses. The first will focus on the thoughts of Popes Pius XI, and second on Pius XII. The third will be dedicated to Paul VI’s landmark encyclical Humane Vitae. The fourth will look at the teachings of Pope John Paul II. The fifth and final installment will examine the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the USCCB, and various lay organizations.

This series is adapted from one I started on my old blog, but never finished. Let’s hope I finish this time. 😉

Without further ado, it’s time to get our hands dirty by digging into the writings of recent popes to find out what they had to say about contraceptive issues. We’ll start with Pius XI’s 1930 Casti Connubii, which was written in response to the Anglican Communion’s decision that year to permit artificial contraception within marriage (general acceptance came later).

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A big Catholic family I found via Google image search.

A concerned Catholic friend recently sent me an article about how to solve the vocations crisis in the Church. I haven’t had a chance to read the whole thing, but it seemed good when I skimmed it. If an in-depth read lives up the skim, I might blog about it. One sentence in particular caught my eye, though, and inspired me to write right away.

“If the root of our vocation problem is a lack of discipleship, then the remedy is to make more disciples, just as Jesus commanded.”

The author makes good points about spiritually begetting more disciples through authentic witness. I think there’s something to be said for physically begetting more disciples, too. I’ve long believed that much of the current priest and religious shortage has a sociological dimension.

When families have many children, their parents can “afford” to “lose” them to celibate vocations. That is, when families have few children, parents are more reluctant to see them as priests or consecrated religious (and therefore encourage them to answer those calls), because they wish to have grandchildren. With people marrying later, having fewer kids, and their kids doing likewise, the odds of having even a handful of grandchildren can be rather low.

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