Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

The Litany of the Workers

For those who built this sacred ground, we pray.

For the workers who molded the bricks out of clay, laid each down by hand, one after another, after another. For the callouses that formed on their hands while they they spread the mortar, one day after another.

For the trees that laid down their life to become pews and pillars, to uphold after they have fallen down. For the birds who were once nested in their branches and for the forest animals whose bodies nourished the roots after their time was done.

For the artists who stained the glass with great care, and for the patient assistants who sweeped up the shards of their mistakes.

For those who worked masterpieces from the wood, intricate carvings and detailed sculptings. For those who painted the columns to mimic the marble in the cathedrals of Europe, knowing it would never be the same and trying none the less.

For those who who dug the stones out of the quary. The one who fell and broke his arm on the job, never to work again.

For the nuns whose long dark habits were covered in flour as they kneaded and kneaded and kneaded the bread into new life. For the farmer whose nose got sunburnt while he harvested the wheat, and for his grandaughter thrilled at her first trip out on the tractor.

For the stings on the hands of the beekeepers, who crafted the candles and lit the dark corridor aglow.

For the florist who wakes up early each week to finish the arrangements, making sure every detail was exactly right, knowing no one would notice and caring none the less.

For the woman who dug the beets out of the earth to create the perfect dye for the vestments, whose fingertips carried the signs of her work for weeks.

For the horses who carried the luggage across the country, fine paintings and golden chalises, and for his driver who never once complained when he had to stop to change his shoe. For the streams they stopped beside and the woven blankets which kept them warm.

For the miner who dug the coal to light the room when the beekeeper was no longer needed. For the long and dirty days in the mine where he suffered, died, and was buried.

For the light in the eyes of the couple who recited those promises on the same steps where their parents and their grandparents had stood before. For the mother who stayed up late the night before to finish working on the veil, and the teenage girl at the cafe who brewewd the cup of coffee needed to make this morning possible.

For the shoulders upon which the coffins have rested, and the shoulders upon which the weight remains, who have borne their load out of the doors and into the world.

For the woman who remembers to dust behind the radiators and pretends not to notice the homeless man who snuck in for a warm place to sober up.

For the vineyardist who would have cursed where his wine was going had he known, for he hasn’t forgotten the sting of the hurtful words spoke to him in a place not unlike this one, not long ago.

For the tears shed and for the elbows which found their way into their sisters sides, for the pages ripped out of the hymnals by impatient toddlers. For the cheerios spilled and the tired parents who pick them up.

For the pianist who stayed up late, night after night, trying to find a better way to rework that tricky bridge, and for her neighbor, who stayed up night after night as well.

For those who have wept here, slept here, prayed here, left here, shared here, and loved here, we pray.


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I’ve given myself a few days to cool off before I write about this issue, because on Sunday I was fuming over it. The problem is, I’m pretty mad at both parties over it. Who can tell me what to do with my body? Who can tell my Church what they can do?

Let’s back up. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Catholic Church’s teaching on birth control, artificial birth control such as condoms, contraceptive pills, etc. are considered immoral because they take the act of sex from being unitive and procreative to solely unitive. Since contraception discounts half the purpose of the act, it isn’t doing what it was meant to do. Now it doesn’t have to be procreative – it’s still OK to have sex when you wouldn’t get pregnant, i.e., not ovulating, infertile, post-menopausal. Additionally, it’s OK to use contraception for medically necessary purposes, that is taking the pill for painful periods or endometriosis, or using a condom to not give your partner HIV.

As I’m sure you all have guessed, seeing as how I’m Catholic and married for 1.5 years and have yet to pop a baby out, I’m on the pill. (Shock! Awe! Fainting! The smelling salts, please!) I know I usually only write about my bladder problems, but those are just the tip of the iceberg and some of the other issues I have mean birth control means my life is a whole lot easier. Discussion closed, please refrain from commenting on it.

Additionally, I have issues with how the Church came to the conclusion that birth control is immoral. The thought behind sexual ethics has evolved over time. Not to bore you but the gist of it is that Aquinas philosophy used to think sex was only procreative, even the rhythm method used to be banned, and the committee formed by the Vatican to assess the morality of the pill deemed that it did not go against Catholic teaching (source). Humanae Vitae, the letter which banned the pill for Catholics, was largely away to slow down the rapid progression of the Church which was becoming much more liberal.

The funny thing is though, even though I disagree with these interpretations of Catholic teaching, I don’t think I’d be using the pill if I didn’t have to. Not because of “scary side effects” that are pretty much common with any prescription, but because I appreciate my body and what it can do and don’t like the idea of artificially altering it. But I don’t think that using the pill means that sex is closed to the possibility of life either.

Back to the controversy.

Recently, Pres. Obama’s administration has required that all employers cover contraceptive medicines and procedures (not abortion though) under their insurance plans.  While this plan did include a religious exemption, it was limited to organizations whose primary purpose was faith instruction and primarily hires members of its own faith. That is, actual churches. The Catholic Church though is huge and has many organizations – universities and charities, that anyone can work for. The Catholic Church feels that this requirement to cover birth control violates their religious freedom. While the government’s response is that this mandate doesn’t require anyone to use it, the Catholic Church feels that allowing it is still going against God’s will.

Here’s why I’m conflicted.

Like I said, I need to be on birth control and it hurts that my Church wouldn’t want to support my health care needs. Now some people have said that they would still cover medically necessary contraception, I have yet to hear anything from the Church to support that claim. It’s not a sin for me to be on the pill, but this stance still leaves me feeling like a second class citizen, that I’m still not good enough, that they don’t care about the pain I’m going through. Okay, I realize that sounds dramatic, but it nevertheless hurts to feel that the Church things that they don’t have to be concerned with people who have problems like yours.

I don’t like the precedence this creates. While the Church doesn’t generally see contraception as “health care,” the rest of the medical world does.  So if they have the right to decide what kind of health care to cover, what other decisions can they make? They don’t need to cover pre-natal care for single moms? AIDS medicine for homosexuals? While I don’t think they would take it that far, the equation of health care and morality is troubling.

On the other hand…

While I disagree with how the teaching is interpreted by the Church, I agree with the philosophy behind it and respect it. It makes me uncomfortable with how this teaching is generally viewed by the rest of the world. It’s not necessarily backwards and oppressive, although it does ask for a tremendous sacrifice from women. I’m sure you have heard over the last few days that the vast majority of sexually active Catholics attempting to avoid pregnancy use birth control. But I don’t think that’s a reason to ignore the teaching. If the majority of Jews don’t observe the sabbath, can a federal employee still be forced to work on the Sabbath? Does overall adherence really determine the degree to which we respect religious freedom? Again, I feel this is a disturbing precedence. On a more political level, I feel this is a poor move of the Obama campaign, which had a chance at bringing more Catholics back to their traditional Democratic roots, especially those disgusted by Gingrich and Romney’s uncaring attitude to the poor.

The truth is, I don’t think that God will hold a Catholic paying into an insurance policy ultimately responsible for any babies that are unborn. And I don’t think that if I have to end up paying for my own birth control it will break the bank. If need be, I can always go to Planned Parenthood to get it for free (Shock! Awe! Fainting some more!). But I’m still disappointed. I’m disappointed the White House has treated the Church so flippantly, and I’m disappointed the Bishop here threatened to drop health care coverage for all employees in the Diocese if forced to cover birth control. I’m supremely disappointed that people at mass on Sunday clapped and cheered for that announcement.

I don’t know where to stand. It’s an issue that has been handled poorly by both sides. Yes, there are costs more expensive than birth control but there are also many worse infringes on religious freedom in the world. So let’s all take a big step back, a deep breath, and realize this is not the end of the world.

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I like to put a damper on exciting things, so while I’m just as pumped as anyone (okay, decidedly less pumped than anyone in the Northeast) to watch the Super Bowl this Sunday, I want to talk about a real problem with our nation’s favorite sporting event.

And it’s not concussions. It’s sex trafficking.

I didn’t know anything about sex trafficking until a few years ago when I watched an absolutely amazing movie called Trade. I can’t recommend it enough, even though it’s incredibly heavy and heartbreaking.  You can see for yourself:

The most striking thing about the film is that it brings sex trafficking home. Because while we would like to think of it as a far off problem affecting only places like Taiwan, Haiti or Mexico, the reality is that the US estimates there are 10,000 sex trafficking victims in this country. Some estimates are higher. Miami police estimated that in 2010 there was as many as 10,000 prostitutes from outside the area for the Super Bowl, considered one of the largest sex trafficking events in the country and possibly the world.

I can’t think about it without tearing up. Women, men, boys, girls being brought as an extra sideshow, extra entertainment.

If you think back to Econ 101, most every business operates on a simple premise: increase supply to meet the demand. So what do we need to do to stop sex trafficking? We need to stop the demand.

That’s not what we’ve been doing. According to a 2005 bill in Congress:

According to recent studies —

  • a) 11 females used in commercial sexual acts were arrested in Boston for every arrest of a male purchaser;
  • b) 9 females used in commercial sexual acts were arrested in Chicago for every arrest of a male purchaser;
  • c) 6 females used in commercial sexual acts were arrested in New York City for every arrest of a male purchaser.

There’s something not right here. And Indiana has been rushing through the legislator bills to crack down on sex trafficking. But what can we, as people probably not engaged in the sex trade or law enforcement do to stop the demand?

A group of Catholic nuns has reached out to local hotels training and educating them on how to recognize and prevent sex trafficking. 200 hotels in a 50 mile radius of the city have agreed to or had participated in training or receiving information on local safe houses and help lines. The nuns have enlisted local congregations to pray and take action for those engaged in sex trafficking.

The problem of sex trafficking is large and complicated. It’s not just evil men in back alleys, it’s a world where families are so impoverished selling oneself is sometimes the only option. It’s a culture that turns a blind eye to sex crimes, or even glamorizes it. We can think it’s not our culture all we want, but I go to a school that ignored rapes on campus. We hear about the Penn State scandal every day. Big scandals aside, we watch sexist TV commercials and laugh and them like they are funny. But there’s nothing funny about treating women like they are less than what God created them to be. There’s nothing okay about a culture that refuses to stop the demand.

I can’t rush in to Indianapolis and save everyone, as much as I would like to. But I can be a person who respects life, respects human dignity, and respects sex. I wish I knew how to take a bigger stand than just yelling at the internet. But I can tell you this, when I’m cheering on the Giants (or Patriots? Have we decided yet, John?) on Sunday, I’m going to be cheering on those nuns, and men and women all over the world who are taking a stand against sex trafficking.

Even if it’s just a small voice saying this needs to stop.

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The Catholic Candidates?

If you’ve been following the Republican Presidential Primary, you will notice that faith has played a prominent role in this campaign. And barring Ron Paul from being elected, it will be the first time in a while (ever?) that the Republican Party hasn’t nominated a Protestant. While Gov. Romney’s Mormon faith has been called into question repeatedly, it has forced the Republican Party to come to terms with Catholicism as maybe-not-that-crazy. While I am excited for the embrace of Catholicism, I worry that Senator Santorum and Speaker Gingrich are misrepresenting the faith of the Church.

I do not wish to call into question their faith lives – I cannot ever know what is in someone’s heart, and I would be wrong to attempt to judge them. But I am concerned over their claims that their faith informs their politics, when in reality, besides the issues of gay marriage and abortion, they often take very different stances than the Church. While it is not a requirement for a Catholic or for a candidate to run solely on their Church’s platform, it should give us pause before choosing a candidate because they are Catholic.

On issues such as climate change, the death penalty, illegal immigration, and even gay rights, Senator Santorum and Newt Gingrich have significantly different opinions than those that the U.S. Church encourages.

Here are the players stances on some significant issues in the 2012 campaign:


Everyone opposes.


Catholic Church: Opposes gay marriage.  Source: American Catholic 

Speaker Newt Gingrich: “I helped author DOMA; if it fails, amend Constitution.” (Jun 2011) Source: Issues 2000

Sen. Santorum: “Voted YES on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage.” (Jun 2006) Source: Issues 2000


Catholic Church: Being homosexual is not a choice or a sin, sex outside of marriage is.

On DADT: There isn’t a specific Catholic Church opinion. Cardinal Wuerl Source: WLTX  

– “Some persons find themselves through no fault of their own to have a homosexual orientation. Homosexuals, like everyone else, should not suffer from prejudice against their basic human rights. They have a right to respect, friendship, and justice. They should have an active role in the Christian community.… The Christian community should provide them a special degree of pastoral understanding and care” – To Live in Christ Jesus, 1976 Source: Dignity USA

Speaker Newt Gingrich: Would reinstate DADT. Source: CNN Debate

– Homosexuality is a choice. Source: Huffington Post

Sen. Santorum: Would Reinstate DADT. Source: CNN Debate Voted NO on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes.” (Jun 2002) Source: Issues 2000

– Homosexuality is a choice. Source: CBS News


Catholic Church: Believes evolution is compatible with Christianity. Source: Telegraph

Speaker Newt Gingrich: “Both [Evolution and Creationism] can be true. I don’t think there is necessarily a conflict between the two.” Source:  New York Magazine 

Sen. Santorum: “Expose kids to legitimate debate of evolution & creationism. (Mar 2005)” Source: Issues 2000


Catholic Church: Global warming, he said, “will impact first and foremost the poorest and weakest who, even if they are among the least responsible for global warming, are the most vulnerable because they have limited resources or live in areas at greater risk.” – Archbishop Migilore Source: Catholic  Online 

– “Care for the earth and for the environment is a moral issue. Protecting the land, water, and air we share is a religious duty of stewardship and reflects our responsibility to born and unborn children, who are most vulnerable to environmental assault.” Source: Forming Consciences for a Faithful Citizenship

Speaker Newt Gingrich: Doubts global warming. Source: Huffington Post 

– “Koto treaty is bad for the environment and bad for America.” (Dec 2006) Source: Issues 2000

Sen. Santorum: “There is no such thing as global warming.” Source: Huffington Post 

– “Voted NO on including oil & gas smokestacks in mercury regulations. (Sep 2005), Rated 0% by the League of Conservationist Voters, indicating anti-environment votes.” (Dec 2003) Source: Issues 2000


Catholic Church: “Comprehensive reform is urgently necessary to fix a broken immigration system and should include a temporary work program with worker protections and a path to permanent residency; family reunification policies; a broad and fair legalization program; access to legal protections, including due process and essential public programs; refuge for those fleeing persecution and exploitation; and policies to address the root causes of migration.” Source: Forming Consciences for a Faithful Citizenship

Speaker Newt Gingrich: “I voted for Reagan’s legal guest worker program.” (Sep 2011), Sue the federal government for every cent spent on illegals. (Nov 2011) Source: Issues 2000

Sen. Santorum: “Voted NO on establishing a Guest Worker program, giving guest workers citizenship.” (May 2006) Source: Issues 2000

– “Catholic bishops working for immigration reform are wrong to do so.” Source: Christian Post


Catholic Church: The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty in nearly all cases, and Pope John Paul II often speaks out against capital punishment” Source: American Catholic 

Speaker Newt Gingrich: “Voted NO on replacing death penalty with life imprisonment. (April 1994)” Source: Issues 2000

Sen. Santorum: “Voted YES on limiting death penalty appeals. (Apr 1996), Voted NO on replacing death penalty with life imprisonment. (Apr 1994)” Source: Issues 2000


Catholic Church: Affordable and accessible health care is an essential safeguard of human life and a fundamental human right. With an estimated 47 million Americans lacking health care coverage, it is also an urgent national priority.  Source: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citzenship

Speaker Newt Gingrich: “Repeal ObamaCare; sign tort reform instead. (Feb 2011)” Source: Issues 2000

Sen. Santorum: “ Liberal states won’t waive ObamaCare; we must repeal it. (Oct 2011)” Sources: Issues 2000

Catholic Church:  The Roman Catholic Church, led by Pope John Paul II, opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Source: American Catholic
Speaker Newt Gingrich: “Gingrich was a powerful advocate both for the idea of invading Iraq and for the botched way in which it was done.” Source:  Washington Post– “Goal was to liberate Iraq from Saddam, not to occupy.” (Dec 2007) Source: Issues 2000Sen. Santorum: “Voted YES on authorizing use of military force against Iraq. (Oct 2002), Voted NO on redeploying troops out of Iraq by July 2007. (Jun 2006)” Source: Issues 2000

While not all of the politicians’ stances are directly opposed to the Church’s, they are nonetheless concerning in many areas. Additionally, these are only issues where the Church has taken a direct opinion on. Others which are more unique to the United States, such as food stamps, there are not specific statements, however we know the Church has a record of favoring the poor, encouraging the rich to contribute to a better society, and protecting the least amongst us. Additionally, the Church believes that all we do must be done in love. Vitriolic lashing out and favoring donors over citizens is not in the spirit of Christianity.
There are many reasons to vote for a candidate and not to vote for them. The Catholic Church does not require it’s faithful to follow these positions, we are free to vote as we see morally fit. But let us let our faith inform our politics, not let our party dictate how we express our faith.

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I’m not going to apologize for being successful. – Mitt Romney

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” – Matthew 19:21

We’ve been watching a lot of HGTV lately. By “we” I mean I when I get the remote first. We’re moving sometime after we graduate, and I am more than ready for a new place. Two years in JVC, two years of grad school have meant living on our minimum. Not that I regret it – I’ll be 25, debt-free, and with a Master’s degree because of these decisions. But I’m ready for a salary,  for an apartment larger than 512 square feet.  I want a place with a second bathroom and a dishwasher and a washer and dryer. I want a house with an open floor plan, granite countertops, an outdoor fireplace, and a landscaped backyard.

I want to live a life that’s comfortable. I want that for about five minutes, and then I want more. I want a Subaru so we can get around in the winter. I want to buy a house. I want to travel to Europe, to Africa. I want to buy Merino wool and go out to fancy restaurants. It’s not going to happen any time soon, but I still want it.

Now I know all about needs vs wants and living within your means. We have no plans on going into debt getting stuff we don’t need. But my husband is going to be a lawyer, I will have a Master’s degree, and so by virtue of being a) married, b) having relatively little school debt and c) having advanced degrees – I know that we aren’t going to be living this close to the poverty line for much longer. We’ll do well, and while I doubt we’ll ever be fabulously wealthy, barring any unforeseen circumstances – one day we will be well off.

But are we ever supposed to be? I compare those two quotes above and wonder. This country has taught us that we are supposed to do well, supposed to be successful, supposed to be more than comfortable. We can justify it all we want – we want a great job to provide for our kids and send them to college. We make lots of money, but we give some to charity. We make a lot, but we earned it.

But that’s not what the statement below says. sell your possessions. give the money to poor.

I feel as if we are trying to create a middle ground that does not exist. Wealthy by this country’s standards or not, most of us are living in the top 5% of the world (don’t believe me?). I don’t know how much more comfortable I can expect life to get.

So what do I do? Justify our (not yet existent) wealth by saying we will one day have a family? Try to live without anything we don’t need? Volunteer our time and talents? Be sure to say how we have worked for what we have, or talk about how fortunate and blessed we are? Sell all we have?

Please tell me; I honestly don’t know.

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Today I was going to write a post on how Sen. Santorum and Speaker Gingrich’s insistence that their Catholic faith informs their politics upsets me as I believe it is inaccurate, but I got a little side-tracked.  One of the lies I here perpetuated over and over again by Catholics is that it is immoral and a sin to vote for a pro-choice candidate. It’s not. And that’s not just my personal opinion, but that of the Church’s US authority, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops.

So you know where I’m coming from on this: Am I pro-life? Yes Iam. But I don’t believe in most legal measures to address the issue. The Supreme Court has ruled it constitutional, and so voting for a candidate who happens to be pro-life isn’t going to change that. Even if everyone in in the House and Senate were pro-life, they would be unable to pass a law that outlaws abortion because the Supreme Court has decided that would be unconstitutional.

So instead, I think non-legislative avenues are the best for avoiding abortions. Promoting adoption. Providing childcare to single mothers. Not mocking teen moms. Empowering women. Better yet, these are things both sides of the aisle can generally agree on.

Doing some research for my Santorum-Gingrich article (which I will post at some point – stay tuned), I came upon this article on the Catholic TV station, EWTN website: http://www.ewtn.com/vote/brief_catechism.htm that suggested that under no circumstances Catholics may vote for a “pro-abortion” candidate.

In the USCCB’s “Forming Consciences for a Faithful Citizenship” it details the considerations US Catholics should make. While the article suggests that abortion is a trump-all issue, the USCCB says, ” Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture,4 war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act. These are not optional concerns which can be dismissed.” 

Furthermore, the USCCB says:

There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.While the article suggests that an candidates positions on other issues cannot outweigh their position on abortion, the USCCB says the opposite: 

It goes on to say:“When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely yo pursue other authentic human goods.”

You may wonder what is considered a “grave reason.”

According to the USCCB it includes:“It is important for our society to continue to combat discrimination based on race, religion, sex, ethnicity, disabling condition, or age, as these are grave injustices and affronts to human dignity.”

The author of the article states that “For this reason, moral evils such as abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are examples of a “disqualifying issue.” A disqualifying issue is one which is of such gravity and importance that it allows for no political maneuvering.” This is a misinterpretation of the USCCB’s teaching, which states that “a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.” I emphasize “may” because it is not an absolute as the author suggests.

Furthermore, it says that the issue may lead a voter to decide to not vote for them. It does not say that the Church requires it or considers that person ultimately unacceptable.It is damaging that the author suggests that it is necessary to vote only on a single issue when the USCCB urges the opposite: “As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support.” 

Most conclusively, the USCCB says that Catholics may only not vote for a pro-choice candidate if their attention is to advance that specific cause. They very clearly state that their opposition to abortion cannot outweigh or be used to justify other immoral actions (such as supporting wars, racism, injustices against the poor, sexism, death penalty, etc.):

“A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.”

This article as it is factually inaccurate, sites no sources other than the author’s personal opinion, goes against Catholic teaching, and is extremely misleading. It makes me sad that we still try to manipulate people to do something out of the fear that they are sinning rather than by following the Church’s teachings.

If you are not a Catholic and reading this, please know that despite what you might here in the media and the things people tell you, our Church at its core does not stand for bigotry, hate, manipulation, discrimination, racism, sexism, favoring the rich over the poor, or the destruction of our environment. Be skeptical when someone (inside or outside) of the Church tells you it does. We believe in a God who loves and forgives, who lifts up and protects. When you hear otherwise, please know that is not what we stand for.

*Sorry for all the wonky font changes on this post. WordPress baffles me.

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Merry Christmas everyone! Or should I say Mele Kalikimaka, but more on that later.

Jenna who writes at That Wife had the idea of having her readers document their Christmas Eves and Christmas days and share them. I liked the idea and thus decided to play along. Plus I’m laid up in bed with cramps that leave me with nothing to do but complain.

This was my first Christmas with my in laws so I will be sharing hat that was like as well as what Christmas is like for Catholics. I realize being Catholic isn’t incredibly unique but we do a few things differently that I thought would be fun to share.

In typical Jackie-fashion my camera broke and so we have instagram photos for you to enjoy of one megapixel or less. Welcome to 1999!

Christmas Eve

Most of the day we just took it easy. Shopping had been wrapped up weeks (okay days) before and the wrapping was well, also wrapped up.

We did crosswords, a weekend ritual at my in-laws.


“In-law” sounds so cold and formal, doesn’t it? I usually just say “John’s folks” but that’s longer to write out.

I got the hankering to bake, a Christmas eve ritual with my family (that is, family-of-origin family). We usually make spritz cookies but John, his sister and I made blondie bars.


The first caramel batch was a disaster which I think came from my suggestion to cook it on low heat. So I made butterscotch which was a bit on the rich side.


After our baking adventure, we went to Mass. Catholics always go to church on Christmas since it is one of the holiest days of the year. Catholic “days” work similarly to the Jewish calendar – they begin at sundown. So you have the option of going on the feast day itself or the night before, which is called the “vigil” mass. Traditionally, many people go to what is called the “Midnight Mass” which used to begin at midnight but now more commonly ends then. John’s family’s tradition is to go to the children’s mass at 4:30. Although churches may have five or six masses in the weekend, you still have to get there pretty early to find a seat. This is how full it was about 45 minutes before:


By the time mass started it was jam packed with tons of people in overflow seating.

In case you are wondering what midnight mass is like, it’s pretty similar to other Sunday masses with an extra element of festivity. We have spent the last month recognizing Advent, a season where we focus on waiting in hope, something we can all relate to no matter our religious beliefs. Christmas (which is actually a season which lasts 12 days) is the first time we sing carols or really celebrate since Advent is a bit more somber. The mass features readings on the arrival of God’s love and justice as well as, of course, the Christmas story. The children of the parish acted out the story dressed as angels and sheep and a couple of innkeepers who looked like Star Trek extras in their costumes.


At Christmas we are basically celebrating three things: the birth of Christ, his future return, and light in the darkness. The reason we celebrate in such a dark and desolate time of the year is to remember that even the tiniest bit of light, of hope can help get us through to the spring.

When we got back from Mass we decorated the tree:



Ate dinner.

And played games.


And went to bed.
Christmas Day

Our Christmas was also pretty laid back. Since we had gone to church the day before, we just woke up and unwrapped presents that morning.

Here’s the aftermath:


John gave me a beautiful tea pot from our favorite restaurant , Caffe Dolce and a necklace. I got him a Notre Dame hat and something that hasn’t arrived yet and I’m kinda p. o.’d about it.

After gifts we had breakfast, Eggs Benedict and a German apple pancake John and I made.

Again, the aftermath:


Then we left to drive to Helena to visit the rest of John’s family.


After dinner and more present opening, we came home. While I missed the traditions in my family, it was nice to see some new ones. And ultimately it’s not how we wrap the present, but what is at the heart of it.


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