How many homeschoolers does it take to turn on a lightbulb?

Do you want the punchline in Latin or Greek?

Or to put the question another way:  How long until the Church recognizes that homeschoolers may have the answers to the Church’s dilemma regarding their school systems?

Our diocese has two Catholic high schools, and they’re both in the main metropolitan area.  If you don’t live near those two high schools and your kids have completed the grades at the local Catholic elementary school, then off they go to public school.

Homeschoolers, on the other hand, recognize the need to provide firm Catholic education through all grades, but especially those years beyond which the local Catholic schools provide.

Ever wonder why teenagers start to lose their faith focus?  Could attending public schools be a prime reason?

To be continued…

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A Child’s Introduction to Hell

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the video series Thomas the Tank Engine (based on the books by the Rev. W. Awdry).  Thomas and his friends inhabit the island of Sodor.  They are sentient, anthropomorphic combinations of train engine and various manifestations of people (like a literary concept of archetypes). In one of the episodes titled “Granpuff,” there is a story-within-the-story about an engine by the name of Smudger.  Smudger is a very bad engine who doesn’t like to do work and frequently throws himself off the tracks.  The station manager warns him to stop being bad, but Smudger ignores the warnings.  So the station manager takes Smudger’s wheels off and turns him into a generator.  As the narrator ominously concludes, “He’s still out there, behind our shed. He’ll never move again.”  The camera pulls away from Smudgers face, encaged behind a brick wall, his eyes wide and looking terrified.

I know this cartoon series well because both of my sons really enjoyed it when they were a bit younger.  But the episode I mention above was especially well-loved by my son Jasper, so I became very familiar with it.  The look on Smudger’s face at the end of the show always sent a chill up my spine.   At the time it reminded me of Edgar Allen Poe’s story, “The Cask of Amontillado.”  I can almost hear Smudger’s Sodorian-equivalent cries of “For the love of God, Montresor!”

Ever since my wife (the theology student) took a class called “The Last Four Things” (Death, Judgment, Hell, Heaven), taught by Dr. Regis Martin, we have had frequent conversations about the various aspects of those 4 things, but especially about hell.  The word invokes terrifying images of torments, searing fire, and pain.  All of those associations with hell are popular notions and depictions, sort of like the Cinerama Technicolor version of eternal damnation.

The Church, in the Catechism, explains it thus:  “Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom…. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of Hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1861).

And St. John of the Cross said, “In the evening of our lives, we shall be judged on love.”

Dr. Martin, along with a number of other theologians, elaborates a bit more on hell.  Hell, as the Church explains, is the absence of God.  Since God is pure love, hell is the absence of love: love of neighbor, love of self, love of anything or being loved by anyone.  The absence of love is: loneliness.  Not loneliness like missing your wife while she’s out shopping, or missing that turkey stuffing that your mom used to make.  It’s the utter annihilation of any possibility of even knowing anything like love.

Now, a few years later, I reflect on how Smudger’s predicament is a form of hell: unable to move and entirely alone.  The cartoon is a metaphor for hell, a child’s introduction to hell.  The chill going up my spine is still there and growing stronger.

 

 

 

“How Can You Say There Are Too Many Children?”

Can you be blunt and still tell the truth with love?

Can you be aghast and horrified and still love?

Can you be bewildered and ashamed and still love?

Yes, I’m talking about abortion.

There was a March for Life rally across America not long ago.  At least I think there was.  If the only news you read is on Internet news sites or NPR, you probably missed it.

On the morning of the first day of the March for Life, I turned on NPR news to check out their coverage.  They were playing a recording of a woman who was representing the March for Life.  She said that the committee in charge of the Women’s March, held the week previous (you no doubt heard about that!), told the March for Life folks that they could not participate in the Women’s March.  The recording was cut off and the host of the news show came on, who then asked his guest, one of the organizers of the Women’s March, if this statement was true.  The guest said that the March for Life woman was completely wrong, that nothing like this had happened, and that she obviously had her facts wrong.  The host then curtly mentioned that the “anti-abortion” march starts today, and that was the end of the story, and presumably about the only coverage they provided for the March for Life.

On MSN, Yahoo, the Star Tribune, SFGate and other popular sites, murder, mayhem, and Brad Pitt’s divorce were prominent.  If you wanted to find out about the March for Life you had to search for it.  News about the Women’s March was first and foremost during that event.

 

 

 

Summer, Winter, or anytime reading

Every year, at one season or another, some well-intentioned soul comes up with a list of books that they think everyone should read.

Being a well-intentioned soul myself (and a former librarian), I couldn’t resist adding my own list to the pile.

Last Spring my wife and I taught a literature class for the homeschool group we belong to, Regina Caeli.  The focus of our choices was the concept of divine mercy.

Jenna chose books in which divine mercy permeated the writing and fairly leapt off the page:  Corrie Ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place,” an amazing true story about her horrifying experience in World War II, and A.J. Cronin’s “Keys of the Kingdom,” about a priest setting up a mission in China and learning tolerance and compassion.

My choices, a little more off-beat, challenged the reader to find the concept of divine mercy.  These, and a few other titles, are my recommendations for anytime reading.

Shane, by Jack Schaefer – The second-best western I’ve ever read.  Very little gunplay, but with incredible dramatic tension, especially between two men and a stump!  The teens in my group loved this book.  They were especially impressed by Shane’s compassion in a key moment in the book.

War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells – Everybody knows the story, but have you ever read it?  “Rule Brittania!” comes crashing down, saved in the end by…  If you don’t know, then you haven’t read the book, so I’m not going to spill the microbes here (oops!).

A Canticle for Liebowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr. – An oddly reassuring book that shows that the Catholic church will endure, regardless of the megatonage of nuclear weapons that obliterate civilization.  The smartest and most Catholic science fiction book ever written.

The Smiling Country, by Elmer Kelton – My own personal favorite work of fiction.  A little rough around the edges, but the best western I’ve ever read.  An aging cowboy in the prettiest part of Texas dealing with the intrusion of internal combustion machines.  An amazing cast of characters (his best friend’s name is Snort Yarnell), a touching and realistic romance, and no gunplay.  Guys: the end will make you cry, and that’s a good thing.  Wives: buy this book for your husband.

Yeah, I used to be a librarian.  But that didn’t keep me from liking good books.

Extreme Star Wars trivia

After watching the new Star Wars movie (I forget the name.  Something like “Return of the Revenge of the Attack of the Strikes Back” or something.)  my 8-year old son mused “Y’know, you don’t see many people sleeping in Star Wars.”

Did I mention that my 8-year old son has a mind that randomly generates thoughts and comments?  One day I will write about his mulch joke.

And since I have a mind that enjoys and engages randomly generated thoughts and comments (like father like son) I immediately came back with “There’s that scene with Princess Leia in the 4th movie when she’s in that cell after being captured by Darth Vader and Luke, in a Storm Trooper outfit, wakes her up.”

With that my 11-year old son, who also has a mind that randomly generates thoughts and comments, rattled off several other “sleeping” scenes in other Star Wars movies.

So, as I will one day publish the mulch joke, I will also write about several instances where our family sits around the dinner table and our entire conversation is made up of quotes from “The Lord of the Rings.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Absolutely!

At what point in our swiftly tilting culture did the word “absolutely” replace the “Let your yes be yes?”

Regardless of the context in which “absolutely” is used, I am reminded of the great adventurer and philosopher I. Montoya who said “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

When I hear someone say “absolutely” I want to say in response, “Prepare to die,” another of Montoya’s quotable quotes.  But then there are people who would accuse me of using pop culture to battle pop culture, and the possibility of a climactic implosion and its resulting mess is almost too horrifying to imagine.  Yes Professor Barnhardt, “Such power exists.”

Absolutely means “with no qualification, restriction, or limitation; totally.”  As they say, “emphasis mine.”

So is “absolutely” the new “totally,” which harkens us back to the dark ages of our culture when Bill and Ted were our guides to the beginnings of our brave new world?  Shall we remake our world and say that our sixteenth president, a truly righteous dude, actually said “Fourscore and….seven minutes ago, we, your forefathers, were brought forth upon a most excellent adventure, conceived by our new friends: Bill and Ted. These two great gentlemen are dedicated to a proposition, which was true in my time, just as it’s true today. Be excellent to each other….and….PARTY ON, DUDES!”

No.  “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”

That’ll wake you up!