National Book Festival – Sept. 24

nbf-home-animated-banner-2016Something of interest to book readers in the area or perhaps even in general, the Library of Congress’s National Book Festival is happening here in Washington DC on Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Washington Convention Center.

Stephen King will be speaking, and Marilynne Robinson will speak and receive an award. My good friend and fellow reader, among other honors, Meg, had this to say about the latter:

“Marilynne Robinson wrote Gilead, a really beautiful book.  It won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, and was notable for prominently featuring faith as its theme.  It is written from the perspective of a Midwestern pastor. She once said that authors today are afraid of writing about faith, but she finds that writing about it, authentically, produces some of the best writing there is.”

The book festival is free, features dozens of authors and will have children’s activities and appearances by children’s writers.

There will be also be poetry readings and poets. 😀

http://www.loc.gov/bookfest/

#natbookfest

So I’m thinking of going! Are you?

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3 Principles for Pro-Faith Education (From T&C)

A recent piece of mine from the Truth and Charity Forum, “3 Principles for a Pro-Faith Education in the Modern Age,” in which I reflected on the most basic of basics of what I think kids need to learn in order to grow into thoughtful, curious, decent adults.

Where do they learn about reality? Their heritage? God’s love? In Nature, Art and each other, of course.

To see the elaborations; visit here

“As the social environment becomes more polarized, a need develops for education grounded firmly in the truths about life, its goodness and the human person. Catholic schools go a long way to meeting this need, but the foundations of learning are still worth considering as parents, the first educators of children and also for the sake of continual growth and reform in existing schools.”

Nature:

“The first step is going outside in the natural world, observing plant and animal life as well as geological phenomena, and learning about how it works. This comes innately to small children and adults, I think, and inspires wonder.

natureLater this serves as a foundation for hard sciences and math and also as an introduction to the wonder of God and creation.”

Art:

“Over time, the introduction of culture through poems, songs, prayers and art provides the foundation for all the humanities: literature, philosophy, history, languages etc. I even think that the love of one culture inspires not hatred for others, but curiosity because one has glimpsed the transformative and shaping power of language, beauty and thought.”

Love:

“Love of neighbor is much simpler; it is concern for others as equally worthy of love as we are. And it requires appropriate love of self because if we have no concept of our own lovableness before God despite our woundedness, we will be unable to see the lovableness of others despite their woundedness.”

http://www.truthandcharityforum.org/3-principles-for-pro-faith-education-in-the-modern-age/

What did you think of this? What would/did you share with your children? Where did they/do you want them to go to school?

Local Report: Lay Women Take Up the Cause of Mom Ministry

It’s Friday morning and there is coffee brewing in an unused classroom at St. Philip’s Parish in Falls Church, VA. Christina Landauer sets out donuts and stirring sticks while her two year old son plays with a Lightening McQueen riding car. Her infant is asleep in his stroller, and the two older children are in school. She is setting up for the moms group, which she founded.

I attend this group, and I’ll admit, it can be terrifyingly isolating to embark on the path of stay-at-home mother, particularly for those among us who did not grow up with sizeable experiences with young children. The endless, sleepless nights and the stresses of finicky napers and picky eaters can be enough to set anyone on edge. In these times, a welcoming home of women who are traveling the same road or who have traveled it is a comfort unlike any other, akin to the ugly duckling reuniting with her family of swans.

As Mass ends, other mothers slowly trickle in, some holding the hands of preschool aged little ones, some wearing infants or carrying them in a car seat. Some moms have both with them. There is an option for babysitting in the next room so that the women gathered can relax. A few kids go over to play, a few stay with their mothers.

As the group settles in, everyone introduces themselves: newcomers and old friends alike. They begin in prayer and Landauer shares a reflection on growing in holiness as a mother. There is an option for Confession and the chance to share, bond and grow as mothers.

I for one have been tremendously impressed by the kindness and warmth of the women in the St. Philip’s moms group. This is not a high school clique, but a community of folks who care, who are earnestly striving to follow Christ and are who are grateful both to help and to be helped along the way. Continue reading

Local Bookstore #3: One More Page in Falls Church, VA

Last weekend, I visited One More Page with my two kids and I was immeasurably delighted by the welcoming kids section, the hand chosen and recommended adult books and the wine and chocolate selection. One More Page is a store that hosts author events, book club meetings and lots of fun ways to get involved with people who like reading.

Here are some pictures of books there and the store’s offerings. Had so much fun, and I will be going back!

Question: What do you look for in a bookstore? Got any recommendations for me either here in the DC area or if I happen to be in a different area?

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Bookstore visit: Top Picks from Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble gets knocked sometimes for being too corporate. And that’s true enough; they are a big corporation.

But often B&N is the only book store in town, if there even is one, and they have a great kids section, cool gifts and host author events and book parties. (I have no affiliation with Barnes and Noble at all; this is all my unsolicited personal opinion). And I love to visit with my kids in the winter.

So, here are some picks from our last visit. Since I bring children, and I don’t want to buy the whole store, we take pictures of the titles that interest us.

This time I was really impressed with the local history section, which I had never paid attention to before. There’s a tree house book in there to help guide me to my dream home, some books of poems and legends that I want to teach to the kids, some classics that I enjoy, some gift picks and a toy pick from my son.

What would you browse for?

Here we go:

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To inspire my lifestyle. Continue reading

My essay, 2 places: The Desert Spirituality of Motherhood

This essay was first published on my usual home, The Truth and Charity Forum of HLI. Then the editors at Ethika Politika liked it and requested a few revisions and to republish. Here are links to both.

The Desert Spirituality of Motherhood on the Truth and Charity Forum:

“When St. Anthony of the Desert went out to the Egyptian wilderness to be alone with God, he probably didn’t think that he was setting an example for mothers. But I believe that he did. St. Anthony gave up the comforts of society in order to face himself and let God purify him. Perhaps this is not so different from the path of mothers and families and, by extension, all people striving to live in accord with truth and God.”

The Desert Spirituality of Motherhood on Ethika Politika

“And for what good? To be at the service of life, the greatest earthly good, and also at the service of the Lord, who created life. To bind oneself to a family, to a spouse and to children is really like a religious vow: It gives up a great many goods in order to grow in the good of commitment and formation. To do it well, it will take everything we have, and then some. It will lead us into the desert of our souls and present the furnace of solitude. It is here that we will stare darkness in the face and fall back onto Christ.”

-Finding our true vocation is a lifelong process I think. What has your journey been like?

New Book: Spiritually Able – Teaching The Faith to Kids With Special Needs

I actually won something! Spiritually Able: A Parent’s Guide to Teaching the Faith to Children with Special Needs by David and Mercedes Rizzo.

Confession, I haven’t read it all, but I did read through the Introduction and it gave me some things to think about: it shares the experiences of a family raising a severely autistic child, and it takes seriously the need to bring the Faith to all people, using whatever means necessary.

As St Francis said, “Preach the Gospel at all times; use words if necessary.”

I don’t doubt that many of the techniques could be very helpful in general for Catechists and Religious Education teachers; the main idea is keep trying, try different tactics and adapt to the level and abilities of the child.

When I think about my own year teaching Religious Education to seventh grade boys, this could have really helped. They weren’t special needs, but and after a full day of regular school, another hour session of book learning was a tall order. As you know may have guessed from my blog and articles, book learning is sort of my thing. So that’s what I focused on, but it only suited about two of the students.

I really could have adapted the curriculum more; the Bible really is exciting, it is the story of our human family in faith.

Anyway, so if you know anyone with special needs, or if you have a kid, or you teach the faith at all or are considering it, this book would definitely widen your perspective.

And the pro-life message underlying all this, that these kids are valuable both in themselves, to their families and to God, permeates the text. It is the inherent worth of all human beings, no matter how different, that gives teaching its worth.

Book Review: The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

3690This is a good, terrifying, tragic book. It is good because it takes sin very, very seriously and portrays with painful realism a society suffering from both material and spiritual poverty in revolutionary Mexico. It takes place in the early 20th century when the Communists had taken power and the Church had been reduced to less than a handful of wandering, rogue priests.

The main character, an unnamed such priest with an alcohol problem is one of the most captivating characters in literature, a broken man who clings still to holiness and is therefore able to bring little pieces of goodness to others.

But this is not a novel to read lightly. This is a book for people who need to feel pain, real human pain. If life has become numb, if you have forgotten your blessings and need to read about hardship, sacrifice and endurance against all powers of hell, this book is for you.

Like the Brothers Karamozov by Dostoevsky, the hope offered amid the tragedy is slight, but it is there. And sometimes it is the only thing in the world left to hold onto.

Greene writes with all the flair of the early 20th century Oxford-trained writers such as T.H. White, Evelyn Waugh, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

“There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.” (Part I, Chapter 1).

“The world was in her heart already, like the small spot of decay in a fruit.” (This refers to the priests reflections on his own illegitimate child)

“Oh,’ the priest said, ‘that’s another thing altogether – God is love. I don’t say the heart doesn’t feel a taste of it, but what a taste. The smallest glass of love mixed with a pint pot of ditch-water. We wouldn’t recognize that love. It might even look like hate. It would be enough to scare us – God’s love. It set fire to a bush in the desert, didn’t it, and smashed open graves and set the dead walking in the dark. Oh, a man like me would run a mile to get away if he felt that love around.”

This is a good description of how frightening and painful the love of God can be. It’s not some sappy syrup, it’s more a purifying fire, and it is hard not to run from.

So, do I recommend this book? Maybe. It’s for adults; it has weighty themes and did not mean much to my sister who was assigned in high school. But if you are at the point where you’d rather hurt than feel nothing at all, then read this book. If you want a laugh, pick up something else.

[Confession: I did not read this entire book, but I did read most of it and I read all the sparknotes.]

Advent: The Reason The Traditions We Hand Down Matter

My latest article from the Truth and Charity Forum is about Advent and why the traditions we institute with our kids matter so much. It’s not about feeling guilty for not doing a million things; it’s the opposite actually. Sometimes we need to do less but with more heart. Are we teaching consumerism or faith? What do we say Christmas is about? All this has been closer to home than ever for me as my oldest is three years old and fully able to absorb what we teach this year.

“in families, we transmit an understanding of reality, of good and evil, of values and truth. It is so abstract sounding that words often fall short, but it is real. So the arrival of our children and the role of parenthood, which we inherit, are immensely transformative, and they should be for both us and our little ones. As parents, we will build the framework that forms their entire lives, even if we cannot always see it.

AdventCandles“In the new book “The Choice of the Family,” which is an interview with Bishop Jean Laffitte, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, the interviewer quotes him a passage from Karl Wojtyla’s (who became Pope John Paul II) play The Jeweler Shop:

When they [children] grow up under our eyes, they seem to have become inaccessible, like impermeable soil, but they have already absorbed us. And though outwardly they shut themselves off, inwardly we remain in them and–a frightful thought–their lives somehow test our own creation, our own suffering (p. 167).

“This captures it so well; because children first encounter the world through the lens of their families, it is true that they “absorb” us, in a sense. And their lives then become tests of us. It’s not that the outcome of our children is our fault or responsibility, it’s that the tools and habits we consciously or unconsciously teach them as they grow will come to manifest in their adult lives, just as the lessons from our parents came to manifest in ours. We will have to take responsibility for the tools we transmit, and they will have to reckon with the tools they receive.”

And “Advent is the time of preparation, of waiting for the coming of our Lord, of God made flesh who made the world and desires to draw us back to himself. It is this God who bestowed our life, who bestowed the lives of all children, who came into physical reality within a family himself. It is his introduction to this family that we await in Advent. He who authored all families, broken or whole, came like us, into a family himself in order to restore wholeness to us all, who are all at varying levels of brokenness without him. And he encounters us to the extent that we let him, for God forces no one. This is what we believe, and this is what we have the opportunity to joyfully share.”

Full article here.

http://www.truthandcharityforum.org/advent-in-the-family-a-transmission-of-values/

So what do you do with your kids? What did your parents do with you? Did you change the traditions that you grew up with or hand on the same ones?

The Metaphysical Good of Children

girl-199x300From the Truth and Charity Forum: The Metaphysical Good of Children

“Too often we think children have value based on how the parents feel about them. Melissa Harris-Perry, host on MSNBC said in 2013, “When does life begin? I submit the answer depends an awful lot on the feeling of the parents. A powerful feeling – but not science.” That answer is trouble because it ignores actual reality in favor of feelings, granting to some humans’ feelings the status of ontological truth while simultaneously and incoherently denying value to other humans and their feelings. Feelings do matter, but they do not determine reality.

“Harris-Perry added that “An unwanted pregnancy can be biologically the same as a wanted one. But the experience can be entirely different.” This statement is true in itself. However, the reality of the child’s life and goodness is determined by the biology, not the experience of the parents. Granted, we ought to be very sensitive to the feelings of such women and seek to provide as much non-judgmental support as possible. However, the requirement of support stems precisely from the reality and goodness of the child who is already in existence and growing to maturity.

“I take this view from the classical metaphysics. Metaphysically speaking, everything that exists is good in the sense that it is willed and loved by God and expresses a perfection of being. Martin Vaske, S.J. explains in his Introduction to Metaphysics, “Unity, truth, and goodness are called transcendental properties because they are true of every being as being” (179). That means that everything that exists is good in so far as it exists, and this goodness, this desirability or lovableness is intrinsic to the being itself and not dependent on the perceptions of humans. He continues, “Beings have metaphysical, or ontological, truth independently of human knowledge; so also beings have metaphysical goodness independently of our willing them” (192).”

***

“It is, of course, true that there are real difficulties of raising children, such as sleep deprivation and potential financial strain. But these are simply part of the reality of life. If we can accept that, instead of viewing this as a massive injustice, we can start to enjoy the goodness that is before our eyes instead of looking around it to view only our inconvenience. Our happiness is served when we embrace reality and work with it, instead of trying to fight against it.”

Full article here.

http://www.truthandcharityforum.org/children-are-good-regardless-of-our-feelings/