“We’re all the abnormal children of God.”

First Things just published a short essay from my friend J.D. Flynn, who comments on a disturbing NPR story and his experience raising “abnormal children.”

I’m not naïve about the challenges parents face when children have a disability. My children are significantly delayed. They undergo programs of extensive physical and occupational therapy. My daughter was born just a year ago, and is already facing her second bout with leukemia. Parenting disabled children is hard, and anyone who says otherwise is dishonest.

Yet children like mine spread a kind of joy that begins with their own unflappable optimism. I don’t know why children with Down syndrome, and other profound medical conditions, are this way. But I know that they are. And that we’re in danger of losing their joy because we’ve largely replaced moral reasoning with technocratic idealism.

… Abnormal people are not the exception to the rule, or the flaw in the system. Abnormal people are the norm. We’re all the abnormal children of God. If we can rejoice in our own abnormality, we might just save those who point the way to Paradise.

Follow this link to read his important reflection in full.

Related post: On Birth Defects & Loving Better


Reading Recommendations for Lent

Thank you for the insights you shared with us in response to our post seeking reading recommendations for Lent. Here’s a short compilation of the response, including suggestions from priests, brothers, and lay friends. Most were submitted to CatholicHow via Facebook and blog comments and email submissions, so thank you again for your input.

Have you read any of these books? Why do you think they make good picks for Lent? What books are missing from this list? Post a comment below or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Interest That Does Not Accrue


“God created humankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”*  Much of the theological/political tumult caused by our fellow citizens in Arizona, one could say, comes right back to this passage.  Is it a statement about the uniqueness of heterosexual marriage?  Is it rallying cry for all offenses against human dignity?  This striking phrase, historic in the annals of world literature, one that rightly belongs in the above-mentioned conversations, has nevertheless been reduced to a polemical instrument.  As a piece in an our ideological puzzles, it has ceased to affect the way we live, and only come to shape the way we argue.

Perhaps, when we reflect on our day-to-day behavior and vision of the world we are quite willing to entertain Gospel paradigms such as “Do unto others…” or “Love thy neighbor…” or “Be a Good Samaritan.”  These are radical statements about discipleship and ethics, ones we would be foolish to forget and wise to live by.  But without added grounding I think these all have the potential not to fall short of virtue, but to fall short of conversion.

Continue reading Interest That Does Not Accrue

SB 1062 and the Great Vizzini

Yesterday morning, Claire Bordelon posted a series of links pertaining to the passage, the possible (now actual) veto, and reaction therein about SB 1062: which has, the Twitters tell me, been alternatively likened to Jim Crow Laws on one hand, and a staunch defense of First Amendment Rights on the other.

Now that Janet Brewer has vetoed the bill, we can let the commentary commence.  For an even take, I’d recommend the always measure Chris Cillizza of the WaPost’s The Fix blog.

I admit that I haven’t read enough about the measure to offer an opinion on the particular legal arguments  one way or another: I am, however, able to admit that my personal political and religious predilections leave me largely sympathetic to what I believe are very cogent legal arguments on both sides of the issue.  (That ought anger everyone, so there.)

Continue reading SB 1062 and the Great Vizzini

Serving On Our Hands and Knees

Via Flickr User Johnragai through Creative Commons License

Via Flickr User Johnragai through Creative Commons License

As I’m sure you’ve realized by now, this winter has been COLD. This is what I was thinking about a few weeks ago as I knelt on the ground in a Baltimore neighborhood, picking up little bits of paper and plastic and tossing them into a big black trash bag. I could feel the cold penetrating straight through the multiple layers I was wearing as the amount of trash waiting to be picked up seemed to be multiplying. I was leading a group of students from Mount St. Mary’s in a Saturday service trip to work with The Sixth Branch, a fantastic organization made up of members of the US military who use their leadership skills gained from military experience for community development. This week, we were assisting The Sixth Branch and several representatives from the local community in restoring a park. My co-leader and I were responsible for facilitating a group of students throughout the day, and leading them in a discussion afterward to reflect on the work we had accomplished.

Continue reading Serving On Our Hands and Knees

The Best Thing We’ve Read All Day: Pope Francis Edition

From Catholic News Service:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Never hesitate to call a priest to bless and anoint sick or elderly family members, Pope Francis said.

Some people worry receiving the sacrament of the anointing of the sick “brings bad luck” and “the hearse will come next,” the pope said. “This is not true!”

The sacrament brings Jesus closer to those in need, strengthening their faith and hope, he said Feb. 26 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

The pope thanked the estimated 50,000 people who attended the outdoor audience despite weather forecasts of rain. “You came anyway; you’re courageous. Way to go!” he said, as the wind blew big gray storm clouds overhead.

Read it all here.

Being Martha & Mary

“Christianity does not ask the modern woman to be exclusively a Martha or a Mary; the choice is not between a professional career and contemplation, for the Church reads the Gospel of Martha and Mary…to symbolize that she combines both the speculative and the practical, the serving of the Lord and the sitting at His Feet.”

— Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God

[Insert “Let Them Eat Cake” Joke Here]

The past few days have seen another Christian v. Christian throwdown online, this time over Arizona’s proposed bill that would allow members of the service industry to refuse service to same-sex couples on the basis of moral and religious objections.

The real fun began when Kristen Powers compared the bill to homosexual Jim Crow laws. And the internet exploded.

To help you make sense of and develop your own views on the tenuous balance between many states’ changing stance on marriage laws and the rights of individuals to follow their religious or moral conscience, we’ve gathered together a few logical, reasonable commentaries that deal with a variety of sides to the issue.  Peruse at your leisure, but there is one quote by Michael F. Bird that seems especially pertinent:

Christians live in the market place and think in the public square, we cannot retreat because we are surrounded by non-Christian culture, so there is literally nowhere to go. Our escape route is cut off, there is no cavalry coming to save us, there are no wagons to circle. So its time to set up shop, get busy as tinkers, tailors, and candle stick makers or  get on as journalists, academics, and pastors in the place where God has put us!

Proceeding alphabetically, chronologically, or geographically, Elizabeth Scalia’s consideration that Powers’ Jim Crow comparison is “a rhetorical bridge too far” is a good starting point.

Since much of this issue revolves around the ever disintegrating meaning of the word “tolerance,” Edward Morrissey discusses the growing intolerance of toleration.

For a good, general read on some of the the issues that have arisen from this argument, check out Tod Worner’s “‘Living Within the Truth’: Vaclav Havel and ‘The Power of the Powerless.'”

Is money doing the talking here? Rebecca Hamilton looks at the economics behind the issue. 

Michael Bird reminds us how to be a Christian in (but not of) our world.

Denny Burk provides some excellent commentary on the rather disappointing ways that the current argument has been conducted, especially between Christians.

Read, think, pray, decide.

A Dispatch from the Field: Presenting the Sacraments at Confirmation Class (Part 2)

Tom Palanza’s guest post continues today.  Read part one here.

The theme of our previous meeting was on rituals, who participates in them and what they accomplish, which was a nice segue into discussing sacraments.  The Sacraments (in the proper sense of the Seven Sacraments) are the rituals of the Church.  This leads to our two basic concepts, posed as questions to the catechumens, “What are sacraments and why do we do them?”  Since our faith is an intelligible mystery, knowable but never completely grasped, the best way to answer these two questions is through analogy.  The discussion developed off of three analogies: 1 – Learning a Language, 2 – Marriage Proposals, 3 – Sports Fandom.

A language analogy helps concretize the nature and function of a sacrament.  What is a fourteen year old catechumen going to learn from a definition like “a sacrament is an outpouring of God’s grace,” or “a sacrament is a physical manifestation of an invisible reality?”  Language, however, is something they are very familiar with.  To tell them the Sacraments are a language, specifically the language that the Church and God use to speak to each other, now that might mean something.  The image of a child learning to speak exemplifies this.  Children must learn the language of their parents in order to know what their parents are trying to tell them and in order to express themselves to their parents.  The Sacraments are the language we use to speak with God.  As children learn a language from their parents, so do we learn God’s language from God.  The Scriptures are the history of humanity learning God’s language and through it learning about God and speaking back to God.  The more we learn this language the more God can say to us and the more we can say back to him.  The Sacraments are the most mature form of language with God given to us by Jesus (God himself) and made our own in the Church.

Continue reading A Dispatch from the Field: Presenting the Sacraments at Confirmation Class (Part 2)