Feverish gratitude (20 years late?)

17 Dec

In honor of the way my 31st year has begun, I give you my thoughts from Monday, written in the middle of the flu.

For a moment you feel okay, and you think maybe you aren’t really as sick as you thought you were. Then the chills come, and you brace yourself for the pain they bring as they run up and down and up your body like Rachmaninoff playing scales.

And you want your mom.

There’s something about a mom that nothing else can replace. My friends are wonderful– picking up my prescription and getting me chicken soup. But a mom…

Right now I’m alone and the remote control is so far away. That wouldn’t have happened twenty years ago. It would be next to me. It’s so hard to lift my head to drink fluids. Twenty years ago, Mom would have somehow produced a straw from the kitchen cabinet.

I don’t know what I would do if I had children. I can barely move, much less take care of another living being. While my friends may lament not being married with kids… Right now I lament not being 11.

Culinary Adventures

30 Nov

Food is not a new topic for this blog – just check out the category cloud at the bottom of the page. But I’m usually just eating other people’s creations.  Last week I had the most tender chicken I think I’ve ever tasted at Josephine’s- a relatively-new-ish restaurant, although they come so quickly around here it’s hard to keep up.

But this blog post is different.  Rather than talking about other people’s creations and adventures, I’m here to talk about my own.

Let’s start with beverages.

Everyone knows that Pumpkin Spice Lattes are the fad drink.  If Starbucks and their incorrect Italian lingo didn’t already bother me, they started calling an incorrectly-named drink (it should be caffe latte, if you want more than milk in the drink) by an acronym.  PSL?  Brother.

But more than just annoying, Starbucks’ pumpkin spice lattes don’t contain any pumpkin. And that’s slightly alarming.  I love me some pumpkin, though, so when Bobby Flay tweeted a recipe for making your own pumpkin spice syrup, I thought it would be worth a try.

It was.

I don’t have any pictures, but you can find the recipe here.  So far I’ve only had it in coffee, but once I finish this post I intend to put it in ice cream and celebrate the first Sunday of Advent with a pumpkin shake.

The second adventure was making cranberry simple sauce for a thanksgiving cocktail.  It was delightful – cranberry simple syrup, rye whiskey, and bitters.  You can find the cocktail (and the simple syrup) recipe here. I think it was a hit.

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Which brings me to my final and greatest culinary adventure of the week. Thanksgiving.  I didn’t get the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off, so it was going to be hard to go to Virginia like usual.  I think this was the first time in five or six years I didn’t spend the holiday with my sister and her family, and I definitely missed them all weekend.  But when I realized I was going to be staying here, I decided to host dinner for any of my friends staying in town.

I offered to make the turkey, and everyone graciously chipped in the side dishes.  We tried to make sure everyone’s traditions were covered, and even though it was a pretty laid-back day, it was a lot of fun.  The added treat for me was that I went over to the Motherhouse for morning Mass and I got to sit with Sr. Mary Grace at Mass!  So that was an unexpected gift.

I was worried about the turkey … mostly just because it’s a lot of pressure.  The main dish is something you only make once a year (or… have never made…) and it’s not just the main dish, it’s sort of the center of the entire holiday. I suppose some people have Thanksgiving without turkey, but I can’t imagine it.  So there’s just a lot of pressure around a single dish.  But I figured if people do it every year, it couldn’t be that hard… right?

I read a lot of food blogs and tweets from Alton Brown and gathered tips and tricks … so by Thursday, I was feeling pretty good.  I combined two tactics — this recipe for apple-bourbon gravy and then Alton Brown’s advice from his Good Eats episode.  It ended up turning out pretty well!

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I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!  Happy Advent!

 

Politics and the Church

21 Nov

At their biannual general assembly last week, the US bishops were given an update by a group of bishops who are exploring the way the Church communicates with the average person in the pew.  Since my job is in service of just those people – the average person in the pew – I listened to the report with interest.  When the report wasn’t easily found online, I listened to it again and took notes.

They surveyed a number of different groups of people in the Church, including Hispanics and young parents and singles.  They interviewed both “engaged Catholics” (those who go to Mass at least 3x a month) and “fervent Catholics” (those who go to Mass 4x or more a month and who indentify themselves as having a personal relationship with Jesus), but also those consider themselves Catholic but are not active.

None of the data shocked me, but it was good to have it verified. A few common themes ran through all of the responses from all of the groups- things like “we want to know the why behind the Church teaching” — which helped validate my position in my own mind.

One of the most common recommendations- from almost every single group- was “stay away from politics.”  The “engaged” Catholics said they had concerns over the Church getting into “politics,” which really translated into  any divisive social issue – abortion, redefinition of marriage, etc.

I think the two are related:  the response that they don’t know the why behind Church teaching, and the concern with the Church being involed in politics.  Let me explain.

Should the Church, strictly speaking, “get into politics?”  No.  Canon law prohibits clergy running for office.  The role of the Church is not to run governments.   But does that mean the Church has nothing to say in the sphere of politics?  Of course not.  If this interests you, I highly recommend the writings of Pope Benedict, particularly his work with Marcello Pera, an atheist Italian senator who writes beautifully about the role of Christianity in the West.

“The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply.”
(Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 28)

It is not the role of the Church’s hierarchy to run the government.  It is the role of the Church- the Body of Christ, the people in the pew – to run the government.  That’s precisely our role as laity: to be the leaven in society to work for the common good and the kingdom of God.

What does this require?  That our intellects, wills, and consciences be shaped by the Church – the Magisterium – so that we can go into the world, into Parliaments and Congress and the public square – and promote true human flourishing.

I think when the people in the pew say they want their priests to “stay out of politics,” it is because they actually don’t know the why behind Church teaching.  They see the Church’s concern over social issues – particulary divisive ones – as meddling in politics because they have never been shown that these issues have roots (and effects) far deeper than at the political level.

If a priest rants about a prochoice politican and I like that politican, my brain is going to shut off and I’m going to label him judgmental.  But if we begin the conversation back at the beginning — what is the role of politics, what is a just society, what are the actual effects of the disregard of the sancity of life in a society — I can then begin to understand why I should vote a certain way.  If someone rants about homosexual unions, it might be tempting to tune them out and wonder why they hate my homosexual cousin. But if we start at the beginning, about how we were created and why we were created and the purpose of sexuality, maybe I can come a little farther in undersatnding why the Church teaches marriage is between and man and a woman.

(Interestingly enough, when parish priests were surveyed, they admitted that they feared involvement in politics would contaminate the mission, yet recommended they be encouraged to teach the moral principles that parishioners need to hear.)

Every day, we are called to work for the reign of Christ the King.  Will we see that reign on this earth in our lifetime?  No. But does that mean its naive or romantic to work for it?  No — it’s our vocation as Christians.  Whether we are priest or religious, married or single, we have a role to play in making this society more just, more holy, more fitting for Christ our King.

So for any bishops reading this blog (ha), when the people in the pew say “stay at out of politics,” see that as a challenge… a challenge to help them understand everyone’s proper role in politics, to help them understand the whys behind Church teaching, and to examine your own actions.  As the Church hierarchy, you should be worried more about the laity knowing the teaching of Christ, and then please… step back and let the laity work in the government to figure out how that teaching is best brought to public policy. (because things like this and this do nothing but further divide and anger those people in the pews.)

Viva Christo Rey. And keep voting.

Another Roman feast day

18 Nov

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you might remember these from a few months ago:

So today, on this feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul, I thought I’d make the grand announcement.  …Okay, I’ll stop being so dramatic.  It’s not too engimatic, really.  I’m going to Rome.

Don’t worry- just for a week.  Not to live.  It hasn’t really sunk in yet, but it should, because we leave in less than three weeks.

If you want to celebrate the feast by educating yourself about one of my favorite parts of the St. Peter’s Basilica, hop on over to joanmwatson.com.

(Maybe I’ll be better about blogging about this trip than I was about the one last year. I never finished…)

 

The situation we face

3 Nov

“But the biggest failure, the biggest sadness, of so many people of my generation, including parents, educators and leaders in the Church, is our failure to pass along our faith in a compelling way to the generation now taking our place.

We can blame this on the confusion of the times.
We can blame it on our own mistakes in pedagogy.
But the real reason faith doesn’t matter to so many of our young adults and teens is that — too often — it didn’t really matter to us.
Not enough to shape our lives. Not enough for us to really suffer for it.”

Archbishop Chaput, 2014 Eramus Lecture: Strangers in a Strange Land

The whole thing deserves reading– too many fantastic points to quote here.

Watch it here.

Or read it here.

Back Home Again

26 Oct

Some things are worth sacrifices.  But when the sacrifice is over, you don’t sit around thinking, “Gee, I wish I was still sacrificing.”  It doesn’t mean that you would change anything about the past, or even that you hated every minute of the sacrifice.  It was worth it, but now there’s a new phase of life and you’re okay with that.

For the past six years, I had the joy and honor to teach almost every Saturday from mid-February to mid-May and mid-August to mid-November.  It was worth sacrificing my Saturdays (and about half of my Fridays) to have the opportunity to preach the Gospel and share the joy of Jesus Christ with over a thousand people.

It was a joy, but it’s also a joy to have my Saturdays back.  One of the first things I planned?  A road trip to Notre Dame.

Two weeks ago, three guys and I piled in my friend Matt’s Jeep early Friday morning to make the trip to the beautiful state of Indiana.  It was harvest time, the trees were changing, and I was goin’ back to Indiana.

It was fun to show Mario and Father my old stomping grounds —  our first stop was my home parish, St. Boniface.  The church was unlocked and it was just good to be home again. As we were leaving, my pastor was driving into the parking lot– such a gift! So we got to chat with him and then I had the guts to ask him a question about the church that I had wondered since middle school… and he must be turning soft, because he showed me the answer – a secret I didn’t think I would ever be told.  I would be more transparent about it if I didn’t think my middle school classmates would hunt me down and make me tell them, too.  Suffice to say, it was pretty awesome.

Then we went over to the perpetual adoration chapel, which I saw with new eyes, taking guests there.  I had always known it was beautiful, but I think walking into it realizing that most people probably expect a little room tucked in the corner of the hospital… and then you walk into a gorgeous Gothic chapel with incredible statues and beautiful stained glass windows — well, we’re pretty blessed in Lafayette.

steI stole this picture off the internet.  And it doesn’t do the chapel justice.

We didn’t have much time before dinner, so we finished the tour of Lafayette with a stop at the taproom at People’s Brewery.  People’s is an addition to Lafayette after I left home, but I had enjoyed their beer when Mom and Dad bought it, and they usually bring me a six-pack when they visit. So I was looking forward to checking out the taproom.   So that we didn’t have to make decisions, we decided to get two flights, which would include samples of everything they had on tap, and split them.

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The nice guy bringing us our flights described them all, then recommended drinking them from low IBUs to high, so that the hops wouldn’t wreck our palate.  I think my favorite was Belgian Stout, which we couldn’t take home because it’s made with nitrogen and they can’t bottle it.  But we ended up bringing  home the regular IPA and the Red Ale (which I liked because it was named for our local Irish pub).  I was hoping to like their Oktoberfest, because it’s brewed especially for my home parish’s Germanfest, but it just wasn’t my favorite.

IMG_9885Twelve beers.  Enjoy them, but make sure you’re home in time for dinner.

We returned to the homestead for a delicious dinner (thanks, Mom!), and another good friend of mine, Father David, joined us because he knew Father Kevin from seminary.  My nieces were staying with my parents, so it was an extra treat to get to spend time with them, too.  I feel like the guys got a little taste of the family craziness, which is always good.  After dinner we played a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit.  (Dad and the priests won.)

The next morning we woke up bright and early to continue our grand adventure. Father celebrated Mass, Mom made breakfast, and then we hit the Hoosier Heartland to trek up to Notre Dame.  My awesome brother not only got us tickets but also a parking pass, so we parked south of campus and headed to the bookstore.  Since we were parked so close to campus, we could even take our loot back to the car before exploring the rest of campus. It’s the little things that count, you know?

It was fun to show the guys the way my family always celebrated game days.  Steak sandwiches from the Knights of Columbus, prayers at the Basilica and the Grotto, and a fairly new tradition, the trumpets under the Dome.  But it was my first game back on campus since my sister-in-law’s father had passed away, and it was sad not to see him at his tailgate.  I’m sure St. Peter frequents his Notre Dame tailgates these days.

The game was a too much a nail-biter — it made it fun, but I would rather have been bored. : )  But we pulled it off in the end.

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We celebrated the win with another Watson tradition … Bruno’s for dinner after the game!   We didn’t have to wait as long as I thought we would (and I even saw one of my brother’s old friends at the bar).  Then we hit the road to head back to Lafayette, and we all fell asleep in the car. Except Matt. I’m so grateful to Matt and Mario for for driving all weekend.

Sunday we headed back to Tennessee.  A short trip, but packed with old memories and new inside jokes.  So many of my childhood Saturdays were spent on that campus, and it was good to return – and actually witness an Irish win.  (the last game I went to, we lost to Air Force… and the two people I took to the game ended up breaking up a few days later…Eek.  Needless to say, better memories this time around…)

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Hypocrisy at its finest

24 Oct

I almost wrecked my car the other day.  I was driving through a nice Nashville neighborhood, my eyes occasionally wandering to the yard signs that pop up everywhere in the fall, and I saw one urging people to vote against Amendment 1 here in Tennessee.

“Vote No on 1: Stop Government Interference”

I had to try to regain control of my passions and continue driving.  Stop Government Interference?  So now that’s your mantra?  Are you kidding me?

Let me explain, especially to all of you non-Tennesseans, what Amendment 1 is all about.  We have four Amendments on the ballot this fall, and Amendment 1 pertains to abortion.  Does it outlaw abortion?  No.  Does it actually pass any law restricting abortion?  No.  You know what it does?  It returns the right to pass laws to the people of Tennessee and their elected representatives.  Currently, the right to abortion in Tennessee is broader than in the US Constitution.

In 2000, the Supreme Court of Tennessee declared that there was a fundamental right to abortion in the Tennessee Constitution. What that has translated to in the last 14 years is that we can’t pass laws on things like waiting periods, informed consent, or even enforce health standards for abortion clinics.  What happened to making abortion “safe, legal, and rare”?  We are currently not allowed to pass laws that ensure basic safety standards for abortion procedures.  What sense does this make?

The abortion clinic where I occasionally go to pray doesn’t even have a health license.   Is it too much to ask that a “clinic” where major invasive surgery is taking place actually be inspected by the health department?  It seems that even pro-abortion activists should agree that health standards are important.  And what about telling the woman about the procedure?  As this blogger points out, that’s customary before getting a cavity filled.  But yet it is not required that the staff at the clinic tell the women anything before the abortion. And this is pro-woman?

As a woman, I’m insulted that the “No on 1″ crowd doesn’t want to pass laws protecting my health and safety.  If I wanted to get an abortion, I would want to be educated about what was happening and I would want to do so in a clean, licensed facility. 

Some facts to think about, women of Tennessee:

-A Nashville abortion clinic actually went to court to prove they no longer had to have a license from the Department of Health and be inspected

-Tattoo parlors in Tennessee are inspected four times a year. They have stricter health requirements than abortion clinics.

Let’s go back to when I almost wrecked my car.  “Stop Government Intervention”

Honestly?  It’s okay for the federal government to force religious groups to act against their conscience.  It’s okay for the government to force Christians to perform same-sex weddings.  But it’s not okay to force an abortion clinic to be inspected by the health department.

The hypocrisy is unbelievable.

They have rhetoric like this gem from a Knoxville news report“What this amendment does is it imposes a rather extreme position of the government inserting itself into people’s personal lives,” Rovetti said.

A rather extreme position.  All the Amemdment does is say that the “right to abortion” is not in the Constitution and that we the people have the right to make laws about abortion.

Yes, that sounds extreme.  How dare we ask for the right to make laws. Sounds like government intervention to me.

If you live in Tennessee: go vote. Remember: due to the way the amendments are passed, if you leave Amendment 1 blank, it is as if you are voting against it. 

Everyone reading this: Pray for us.  They have been working for this for the past fourteen years. It is the Rubicon. We need this to pass.

Happy Feast Day!

22 Oct

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The various tempting extremes

20 Oct

We don’t have the official translation of the Pope’s closing remarks to the Synod (after which he received a five-minute standing ovation), but from the provisional translation, I wanted to share this:

And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

- One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

- The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

- The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

- The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

- The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing!

Read entire address here.

My thoughts on the Synod

16 Oct

There has been much ink spilled — good and bad, astute and sloppy — on the Synod these days.  Part of me feels like we’re back in 1963 and relying on Xavier Rynne to tell us what the Church teaches. But I don’t remember 1963, so I can’t feel like that.  And with modern technology and the speed of communication, it’s Xavier Rynne on steroids.

I’ve spent some time over the past few days trying to read a variety of opinions from a variety of sources. I won’t share them all, but I’ll link to some of my favorites.  There are twenty more blog posts for every one of these I post. But no one can read everything.  Before I post links, I’ll tell you three things I know for sure about all of this, then I’ll add my opinion to the cacophony.  Here we go.

1. The Synod is not an official teaching body of the Church. It is a group of bishops coming together to discuss the issues that face the Church in society today.  No matter what some bishop says in a press conference or even whatever they might write in a document, they don’t have the power to change Church teaching.  Sorry.

2. This Synod is not going to produce any official document.  Even the document they’re going to publish at the end of this week is simply a working document to go into the Synod next year.  The Church is an ocean liner, not a speed boat.  Always has been.  Do you realize how long it took for us to put into words what we believe about the person of Christ?  Whatever the effect of this Synod, it isn’t going to happen overnight.

3. Everyone is going to ignore #1 and #2, and our dilemma as a Church is how to continue to function in 2014 like we did in the 15th century.  The Church has always refined Her teaching (not changed, but developed and figured out how to express the teaching of Christ adequately in limited human terms) through discussion and dispute.  It’s how we did it at Nicaea and it’s how we did it at Vatican II.  People argue.  People defend their beliefs.  People bring up points and get shot down. For Pete’s sake, St Thomas Aquinas argued with himself.  It all gets sorted out through the gift and protection of the Holy Spirit. That being said, in 2014, people don’t want to wait for the conclusion of arguments.  And in 2014, we have the ability to almost instantaneously hear every word of every argument.  I don’t think that’s a good thing.  But it looks like we have to figure out how to deal with 2014 the hard way.

My opinion (take it or leave it)… Full disclosure — my approach to some of the issues discussed by the Synod has changed in the past five years.  That may sound radical to some of you.  I don’t say my beliefs changed.  They haven’t.  I believe what the Church teaches in regards to marriage, sexuality, and family life. And I believe it with all my heart.  That being said, over the past six years I’ve worked with a lot of people.  I’ve encountered the human heart.  Fresh out of grad school, I was armed with the Catechism and the Summa and I was ready to beat Church teaching into every soul and mind.  Now I’m still armed with those treasures, but I’m ready to propose it.  Just as God does.  I’ve encountered a weak and frail humanity that needs love and care and healing.  It needs the Truth.  But it is too wounded to be beaten further.  It needs to be loved.

Does that mean we don’t preach the Truth?  No.  And one of the weaknesses of the relatio was its failure to preach the Truth and beauty of Church teaching with clarity.

Does that mean we change Church teaching to suit the needs of society?  No.  Church teaching is beautiful and wise and true.  We can’t change what Christ Himself taught.  As soon as we do, we cease to be the kingdom of heaven.

But does that mean we need to find ways to bring that Truth to the wounded people in our world?  To teach them in ways they can understand, that will not shut them down but open them up to the richness of the Word Incarnate- Who desires to love them in their brokenness?  Yes.

We are broken.  We are wounded.  All of us. And those who walk around and pretend like the human heart is understandable and that life is full of black and white situations are probably the most broken and wounded of all.

The only thing that will heal us is Truth. So how do we give that Truth?  How do we proclaim that Truth?  How do we live that Truth?

I have to admit, when I heard the Gospel yesterday, and heard the condemnation of the scribes by Jesus, I wondered how often I have been guilty of the same sin: “And he said, ‘Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.’”

All the times I have judged people- thought I knew their hearts, thought I knew the state of their souls, gossiped about their sins, judged their intentions, judged their desires and assumed the worst…  I have failed to love them in their brokenness, failed to help them carry their burdens. God, forgive me.

A quick link-up:

Reports of the Working Groups – if you read the relatio (and if you did, you’re probably in the 1%), you might want to read this — the feedback from the working groups about it.  This link wil take you directly to the three English groups and their thoughts

Having Patience for the Sausage-Making Synod – Father Barron is always a good read. Thank you for your measured response and sanity, Father.

The Great Catholic Cave-In that Wasn’t – George Weigel points out what we should all know by now – secular media usually gets it wrong

Synod report: Is there a seismic shift in Catholic approach to marriage? – Are we ignoring what Africa wants to share?

PewSpective: My Favorite Sins – a beautiful reflection from a lay woman about relatio and real, every day living

Synod of Bishops 2014: The Drama is Back – John Allen is my go-to, even though I don’t always agree with him.  but you shouldn’t just read people you always agree with…

Maronite Synod Delgate: Family Issues Facing Catholics are not all Universal – a good reminder that it’s not just all about the West

I’m sure there are several I missed — I read a lot yesterday. But there’s a start for you.

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