Saturday, August 27, 2011

Tiber River Review: The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins

Don't be misled by the title of this book.  The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins is not written for people who want to get around the teachings of the Church.   It's funny, but not irreverent.  This book does not mock the Church in any way, but inspires and instructs the readers through hilarious anecdotes and examples from history.
You'll find some of the world's greatest saints and sinners featured in this book by John Zmirak.  But this is not a light read.  It's definitely a challenge to the reader.  Even the "Cosmo-style quizzes" on ethical problems are more Philosophy 102 than Trashy Magazine.  Each set of two chapters ends with hints on how to turn a vice into a virtue:
  • Lust can be turned toward Chastity
  • Wrath can be turned toward Patience
  • Gluttony can be turned toward Temperance
  • Greed can be turned toward Generosity
  • Sloth can be turned toward Diligence
  • Vainglory can be turned toward Humility
  • Envy can be turned toward Magnanimity
Learn through the mistakes and successes of such people as Francis of Assisi, Betty Friedan, Aristotle, Margaret Sanger, Catherine of Aragon, John Henry Cardinal Newman, Josef Stalin, Solzhenitsyn, Mitterrand, Chesterton, St. Benedict, Julia Child, Sarah Palin, Tolkien, Andy Warhol and Mao-Tse Tung.

If you're a fan of literature, references to Dante, 1984, Oscar Wilde, C.S. Lewis, Dr. Faustus, and Flannery O'Connor abound.  Movie buffs will find everything from the sublime to the ridiculous, including The Godfather, The Third Man and Nighmare on Elm Street 4!  Even Harry Chapin gets a mention.

And don't miss the hilarious illustrations.  You'll learn plenty just by looking at the pictures.

The Fine Print:
I wrote this review of The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

A review copy of the book was provided to me. I did not receive other compensation for this review.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Productivity On the Go

...because when you're a Soccer Mom and a Stage Mom, sometimes you just have no choice.

After-dinner hours around here used to include washing dishes, hanging around, reading a book and having ice cream before presiding over showers, tooth-brushing and other going-to-sleep rituals. Now the kids are older and busier. And while Middle Sister, as a high-school sophomore, can be dropped off at sports practices and play rehearsals, the same is not true for nine-year-old Little Brother. Someone's got to stay with him. More often than not, that someone is Mom.

7 PM is my slow time of day, when I'm just concentrating on staying awake long enough to make sure that Little Brother brushes ALL his teeth. Not anymore. Now I'm headed for rehearsals that last until 10 or later! The director had dangled the carrot of "sensitivity to his bedtime when school starts" but what neither she (nor I) realized when she asked him to audition was that this was affecting my bedtime too.

I'm trying to get some stuff done when I'm sitting in a straight chair in a small rehearsal space for 3 hours on end. The other day I had a stack of the "Personal Journal" sections from The Wall Street Journal. I love to read those but don't always get the chance, and they pile up in a corner. It's not like most of them have time-sensitive articles. I got through a whole month's worth on Tuesday night.

Tonight I'm bringing my copy of Apocalypse Chow and my shopping list; a hurricane is on the way here and I want to have some ideas of how to cook and otherwise prepare in case we lose power. If I finish that, I've got Michele Buckman's Death Panels with me too--although that book is downright terrifying.

It's pretty impressive what I can get done, even without Wi-Fi.

But no matter how productive I manage to be at rehearsal, I'm still going to walk out of there with "Mame" stuck in my head.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Who's In There?

Lisa Hendey of has a new book coming out soon!  Titled A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms, this book highlights "52 companions for your heart, mind, body and soul."

But who's among the 52?  I can think of lots of possibilities.  Not having seen this book before, I don't know if Lisa Hendey chose to discuss only female saints, only saints who were moms, only modern saints...there are so many ways to go here.

I'm hoping, though, that she included a chapter on that go-to patroness of homemakers, St. Martha.  I've got a soft spot for St. Martha, and I imagine that many moms feel the same.  (I think Jesus did, too--or he wouldn't have told her to get over it when her sister wasn't helping with the dishes.)

This book will be published by Ave Maria Press on November 1 of this year.  I'm looking forward to it!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hail, Holy Queen

In honor of today's celebration of the Queenship of Mary, here's a how-to for my favorite variation of the Rosary:  the Franciscan Crown.

It's got that name because, according to legend, the Blessed Mother asked an aspiring Franciscan friar to weave her a crown of prayers.

The Franciscan Crown is a 7-decade Rosary.  If you don't have a 7-decade set, use your regular Rosary and just backtrack a bit.  Unlike the regular Rosary, you start at the medal and end at the cross.

For each decade, pray 1 Our Father, 10 Hail Marys and 1 Gloria.

Here are the meditations for each decade:

  1. The first Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Annunciation.  "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Your word."  May I become your humble servant, Lord.
  2. The second Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Visitation.  "Rising up, Mary went into the hill country and saluted her cousin Elizabeth."  Grant us true love of neighbor, Lord.
  3. The third Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Birth of Jesus and the Adoration of the Magi.  "She brought forth her first-born son...and laid him in a manger."  Give us true poverty of spirit, Lord.
  4. The fourth Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Presentation and Purification.  "They carried him to Jerusalem to present him to the it is written in the law of the Lord."  Help me obey all just laws.
  5. The fifth Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Finding of Jesus in the Temple.  "Not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem seeking him."  May I never lose you through serious sin, Lord.
  6. The sixth Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Resurrection of Jesus.  "The Lord is not here; He is risen."  May we share your glory, Lord.
  7. The seventh Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at her Assumption into Heaven and her Coronation.  "A woman clothed with the sun; upon her head a crown of twelve stars."  Mary, may we share your crown of eternal life.
After you have prayed the seven decades, pray two more Hail Marys to make a total of 72--honoring the 72 years of Mary's life (according to legend).  Then, for the intentions of the Holy Father, pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Gloria.

Friar Charles has some more details on the Franciscan Crown.  You don't have to be a Franciscan to pray this beautiful devotion.  Join me today, in honor of the Queenship of Mary.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Another Altar-Server Debut

Adventure Boy showed up at my house 2 hours before we leave for church (don't panic--we go to noon Mass, so he wasn't here at the crack of dawn...THIS time).  His hair was (mostly) combed.  He was, for him, formally dressed in a golf shirt and cargo pants and basketball sneakers--a step up from flip-flops.  And he announced that he was coming to church with us.

A couple of hours earlier, Little Brother had woken up, and he came downstairs announcing that he wasn't going to be an altar server anymore.  Last time he served, it was VERY hot in church, and our altar robes are made of a fabric that's closer to burlap than it is to seersucker.  It was his first day flying solo as a server, there was a baptism of twins during the Mass, and he passed out right before the Lamb of God.

I couldn't even go over to help him out, since half our folk group was on vacation and I was leading the band.  But at least 5 others came to his rescue and got TheDad, who didn't have Little Brother in his line of sight.  Once he was hydrated and out of that hot robe, he was fine.  (A Slurpee helped.)

Anyway, Little Brother was pretty nervous about getting back on the horse.  And apparently on the way to church, he and Adventure Boy cooked up a plan.

When I got to church (I leave earlier than the non-musicians in the family) Father asked me how Little Brother was.  I explained that he was fine, but nervous; I hoped that there would be a pre-Mass pep talk in the sacristy.  I saw Little Brother and Adventure Boy arrive, and both headed into the sacristy.  The next thing I knew, the two of them were wearing their robes and marching up to get the candles off the altar so they could carry them in the procession.

I'm not sure what Father was thinking, letting those two carry LIT candles.  There was some during-the-Mass coaching going on (Adventure Boy wasn't holding the finger towel the right way, apparently) and quite a bit of fidgeting by the boys.  Little Brother noticed me watching him and would occasionally flash me a thumbs-up to let me know that he was feeling fine.

Two very proud altar servers carried LIT candles off the altar after Mass and (a little too quickly) led the procession out.  TheDad and I are very proud parents--and godparents.

And after Mass, Father asked TheDad (AKA The Cubmaster) to encourage the other Cub Scouts who are old enough to consider being altar servers.

Friday, August 12, 2011

You Go, Girl!

It's time to give credit where credit is overdue.  I'm proud of my daughter and what she has made of this summer.  While she has had plenty of time to hang out with friends, eat pizza, swim, and stay up late watching movies, she has also made time to get involved in a couple of interesting activities.

After discovering that field hockey is not her thing (she was good at the sport but didn't like the team atmosphere--very sorority-like), she decided to pursue soccer this fall.  The last time Middle Sister played soccer, she was 6.  Our town is big on soccer; we produced a player on the most recent women's Olympic soccer team.  And apparently soccer parents in this town are big on how much playing time their kids get, because there were only two extra kids per team.  6-year-olds play on full-size fields, and with very few substitutes, 6-year-olds get tired pretty quickly.  Middle Sister didn't want to sign up for soccer the next year, and we didn't push it.

But now, as a sophomore in high school, she wants to try it.  So we invested in the cleats and the shin guards and the soccer ball and the week of soccer camp--and we'll see how it goes once practices start.  She seems to like it, and I have to give her credit for starting a new sport at 15 when most kids her age have been playing for 10 years already.  She says she's made some "newbie mistakes," even some funny ones, but she has been eager to try, working to improve, and trying to make up for her lack of technique and finesse with heart and determination.

And she hasn't gotten a lot of rest this week after spending 6 hours a day in the hot sun playing soccer--because she's been spending her evenings at the community theatre with her brother.  They're both in the theatre's Intern Company, a summer program of about 40 teens that produces a play.  The kids write, direct, compose music, build sets, design special effects, advertise, sell tickets--they do it all, and have been working hard since June.  Middle Sister is running the light boards for the play, which ends its run tomorrow night, and she also helped build and paint sets.  She's been having a great time.

Finally, she spent a week pet-sitting for our neighbor.  They have a lizard (that required live insects for food), a guinea pig, and a dog.  The dog spent most of the week here, and she really did a good job caring for him.  He was very sad without his family, and Middle Sister tried everything short of feeding him from the table (she was super-strict about that) to make him happy.  Sometimes her pet-sitting responsibilities interfered with her social life, but she didn't complain or beg someone else to do her job.

No, she hasn't yet completed (or even started, for that matter) her math packet or her summer-reading book. But I don't think she's wasted her time this summer.  She's still got a couple of weeks to buckle down and get the schoolwork done.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

A VBS Letdown

Our parish participates in a community Vacation Bible School with 3 other churches:  Lutheran, Moravian and Episcopal.  They've been doing this for years.  And for years (probably 15 years, give or take a couple) my kids have participated.

We're done now.  Little Brother, at 9, has pretty much aged out of VBS.   He grudgingly decided to sign up this year because a few of his friends would be there.  But he persevered through the whole week.

I can't say enough about the hard work by all the volunteers (ranging from older tweens to senior citizens).  The decorations were amazing, though that panda is pretty creepy.  The four churches got together to donate materials for crafts and food for snacks.  And the music was pretty fun.  I didn't receive any reports about snacks that represented the plague of boils or leprosy, which is an improvement from previous years, though there were complaints the day the snack contained copious amounts of Cheese in a Can.

Yesterday Middle Sister and I attended the "finale show" of VBS.  As usual, it was Hot and Crowded, and you have to sit in certain places in the Very Tiny Church or the VBS police will make you move (though the seats are not marked; one year I had to try 3 different locations before I sat somewhere acceptable).  The VBS kids did a good job of singing the songs and waiting patiently during a few Technical Difficulties.

The audience, however, was another matter.  The little boy in the pew directly in front of us spent the entire hour kicking, punching, smacking and pushing his mother/grandmother (I'm not sure which).  This child was no more than 3 1/2 (and he was a little, wiry guy), and the grown woman with him was actually cringing as he beat on her.  Middle Sister was horrified.  The little boy directly behind me spent most of the hour kicking the back of my pew.  3 adults were with him.  Nobody stopped  him.

After the show, the kids trooped off to pick up the craft projects they made during the week, and Middle Sister and I waited in the parking lot with our neighbor.  I mentioned the behavior of the little boy in front of us.  She responded that her kids had come home every day reporting bad behavior on the part of the VBS participants, so she wasn't surprised.

What is that child going to be like when he's 8, 12, 16, 20 if before the age of 4 he is beating on his adult caregiver?  In church, no less.


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Today's Weirdness is Brought to you by Twitter

When you've only got 140 characters to play with, it's hard to express things.

And when you're a newspaper, using your Twitter feed to share headlines for story after story after story, you might wind up with the following CONSECUTIVE posts:

Pair charged with stealing wire in Medford
Missing Medford man found safe and unharmed

If you're reading that newspaper's Twitter feed, you might very easily (and probably wrongly) conclude that there was some connection between those 2 stories.  You might even imagine a very interesting story behind the story.  I'm sure it was much more interesting than what actually happened.

Book Review: Seamus O'Flynn

It's the coming-of-age story of an Irish-Catholic New York City boy during the Great Depression and World War II.  It could be your great-uncle or grandfather telling the story, if you're Irish.  It's a young boy's version of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Bill Tobin's book Seamus O'Flynn is an engaging story that reads like a memoir.  Subtitled "New York Diaries of an Immigrant Son 1931-1945," this book chronicles young Seamus' adventures, from the first day of school to pickup baseball games.  Bill Tobin eloquently describes all of Seamus' haunts:  his apartment building, a few wooded areas in the Bronx, his favorite swimming spots.

Life is not easy for a child of immigrant parents during the Depression and war, and the reader learns of Seamus' struggles with hunger as well as his technique for avoiding subway turnstiles.  There are funny moments, sad moments, and a seemingly-gratuitious moment of abuse by a priest (I really felt that the story could have done without that one--it just feeds into stereotypes).

Overall, it's a good novel that feels like a biography.  I had to keep reminding myself that it's fiction.  If you liked Angela's Ashes, you'll like this book.