Parents as Catechists

Even if your parish is doing a good job, it’s still mainly your job!  And no, I am not above offering cash prizes to kids who memorize things.

Here are some of the books I recommended in my post.  As always, if you want to buy any of these books through Amazon, I would be most grateful if you would do it through these links!  I get a small percentage of each sale, which makes a huge difference in keeping our family afloat, especially during Birthday $ea$on.  (If you get to Amazon through one of these links and buy something else besides what I recommended, I still get credit for that purchase.)  Thank you!

St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism No. 1.  There are many editions of the Baltimore Catechism, but I have found that the St. Joseph ones are the most solid without being dry and pedantic.

Faith and Life series by Ignatius Press.  Our Heavenly Father is Book One; there are several in the series.

The Picture Bible – a cartoon version – by Iva Hoth

several by Tomie de Paola:  St. Benedict and Scholastica, St. Francis, St. Christopher, The Miracles of Jesus, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Bible Stories, etc.

57 Saints for Boys and Girls



My husband and I usually agree on movies.  We don’t have exactly the same tastes, but when we find a movie we both want to see, we generally agree on whether it was bad or good, and why.  Last night was an exception, though.  We watched Django Unchained (2012), and he liked it, but I sure didn’t.


Disclaimer:  I was only halfway paying attention for the first half of the movie.  But that was actually one of the problems we both thought the movie had: the first half was a thousandfold more entertaining, even while I wasn’t even watching some of it, than the second half, which I saw all of.  When King Schultz (Cristoph Waltz) died, the movie missed him sorely, and I think it lost any particular reason for going on, after that point.

I had a really, really hard time dealing with a hero who was indistinguishable from the villains:  he had no more mercy, conscience, or humanity than the bad guys.  When he got his revenge, was just as brutal and cruel as his captors, just as hungry to torture.  (And it’s not as this is just one of those conscienceless gore and action movies.  Schultz has clearly struggled, and has fashioned his own set of rules about what is and is not acceptable; and even still, he has those ghastly flashbacks.  Django, however, is just a machine.)

My husband says that this is entirely typical of a spaghetti western.  The hero is not expected to undergo any character development, or to have any evident interior life.  He says that all the “splut, splat, gloosh” bullet wounds are an affectionate mocking ofSam Peckinpah,* and I can see that; but I don’t know how you tell the difference, in a Tarantino movie, between making an homage and just hopping on someone else’s train and riding it like a fool.

I get that it’s just telling a story, and doing a gorgeous, stylish recreation of a particular American genre of movie.  Not my favorite kind of movie, but I am okay with that.  All right, so if that’s all it’s trying to be, then how are we supposed to think about the fact that it’s a slavery revenge fantasy?  How is it not racist and exploitative to take a black couple and drop them into a genre where they don’t belong?  It’s like, “Hey, I’m going to re-tell the Iliad, except in my movie, the Trojans are all cats!”   Why would you do that?  American slavery is one of those things that, if you’re going to make it a major theme in your story, you absolutely have to address some of the issues around it:  what does it mean to be free, what does it mean to be cruel, what does it mean to be something.  This movie doesn’t do any of that.  It simply takes the spaghetti western and jazzes it up by inserting black slaves into the narrative.

Tarantino did the same thing in Inglourious Basterds, which I reviewed here:  he had Jews exacting a bloody revenge on the Nazis, but none of the Jews were discernibly Jewish.  They didn’t look Jewish, they didn’t talk Jewish, they didn’t think Jewish, they didn’t respond Jewish.  They were just Jews plopped into a revenge fantasy.  I can’t decide if that’s offensive or just stupid.  Either way, it’s lazy.

There is another problem with Django which is similar to a problem in Basterds:  the lavish revenge fantasy is supposed to satisfy some deep desire in your soul for certain wrongs to be righted.  So we watch the black man whip the white, and the slaves wrench their freedom away from their cruel captors, and the husband and wife reunited, and you see foulness and corruption getting what’s coming to them.  But the whole time, I’m thinking, “And this is exactly the opposite of what happened.”  Even the pagan and petty part of your soul is not satisfied by the fantasy playing out on the screen, because it’s so thoroughly false.

I think the vengeance could have been satisfying (again, to some primitive part of your psyche, at least) if there had been some attempt to make Django and Hilda into actual characters, who had some sort of individual story.  But they don’t.  What is their future supposed to be?  They’re just going to ride off and buy a house in upstate New York or something, and everybody will just shrug off the burning rubble and heaps of torn up bodies?

That being said, there were some good scenes.  The part where the posse can’t see through their white hoods, even though one guy’s wife spent all day making them, was pretty funny — almost worthy of Mel Brooks.  I liked the fact that there was really no exploitation of women in the movie.  They could have eroticized slavery, but they didn’t.  And I enjoyed watching a movie where the man has to go rescue his wife, and he does, the end.  When’s the last time any movie allowed itself to tell that story?

Probably what this comes down to is that I just don’t get this movie.  I haven’t seen a lot of spaghetti westerns, and I suppose I wouldn’t get them, either.  And I don’t feel that my life is especially impoverished because of that.

I’m still waiting for Tarantino to get it together.  This movie didn’t have his pseud0-intellectual, tawdry, masturbatory quirks stinking the whole film up.  He had a slightly more coherent vision than usual, and just told the damn story, and clearly let someone edit it for him.  I guess I hope he still keeps making movies, because he’s getting closer to doing something great.  But he ain’t there yet.

*My introduction to Sam Peckinpah came when my husband and I were first married, back when people still had to drive to the store to rent a movie.  I was pregnant and queasy and way too tired to go out in the evening, so I asked my husband to go pick out something for us to watch.  I said that I really didn’t care what it was, as long as it wasn’t too violent.  He was gone a long, long time.  And then he came home with The Wild Bunch.

I’m not saying I’m still mad at my husband for this, but I don’t think I’ll ever forgive Sam Peckinpah.


Seven Quick Takes: The Thing and the Other Thing, and so on up to seven


1.  Scott Richert is raising funds for the Rockford Area Pregnancy Care Center with a walk for life.  You may know Scott for his yeoman’s work on About.com.  I consult his Catholicism page all the time, and am very grateful for his clear and thorough information about the Church!  His fundraiser is on fire right now, and he has blown past several goals already.  If you want to get in on sending a lovely big check to this very worth cause, check out the RAPCC fundraising page.

2.  A couple of days ago, I shared an illuminating article, “The Sin of Adoption,” by Brianna Heldt.  It explores the ins and outs of international adoption, and how Catholics, evangelicals, and non-religious people respond to the insanely complicated nuances and, well, complications of the issue.  It was responding to a rather nasty article in called “Orphan Fever” published in Mother Jones.  Darwin Catholic has posted a response by another Catholic, who does a good job of “poking some holes” in the Mother Jones article.  Very interesting stuff!  I can’t help feeling grateful that it’s extremely unlikely our family ever has to make our way through a minefield like international adoption.  These articles raise my esteem even higher for couples who do manage to fight their way through.

3.  Today is the feast day of one of my favorite saints (and one of my husband’s patrons), Fr. Damien of Molokai.


His feast day is not on the day of his death, as is traditional — apparently so that it wouldn’t fall during Lent.  Here’s a short introduction to this wonderful saint, who volunteered, as a young priest, to minister to the lepers who were quarantined on a squalid island and living like animals.  I have heard that no one else dared to come to the island, because leprosy is so contagious; so when Fr. Damien wanted to go to confession, he had to shout across the water to another priest who was safely in a rowboat.  I always imagined the conversation like this:

Fr. Damien:  Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.  I lost my temper, and was impatient . . .

Confessor:  What?

Fr. Damien:  I said I lost my temper, and I was impatient!

Confessor:  What?


4.  Have I ever told you about the joys of raising little girls?  The ones at home are 17 months, 4, and 5.  I usually do my writing in the morning, and they pal around together, doing the things that little girls do — you know, dress up in princess dresses, quietly swipe my camera, lie down in the driveway and pretend to be dead, quietly put my camera back . . .


5.  My husband stopped working for a certain newspaper back in January.  If you have any experience with a newspaper office, you may realize that they are not necessarily on the cutting edge of technology.


They had this system, for instance, where they would print out a draft of the paper and then pass from the editorial office to the production office through a hole in the floor.  Sometimes it would get stuck, so they had a special stick just for poking it through.  So, the other day, they called him up out of the blue, asking him to mail him the key to the office, which they claim he never returned.  He suggested that they just make a copy of their existing key.  They said, “You can’t just do that!” And they’re right, you can’t.  There’s no such thing as Home Depot.  No such thing!!!!  (They also said, when he suggested putting video clips on their website, that if people wanted to see video, they’d watch TV.  So there you are.)  Mamas, don’t let your children grow up to be journalists.  Unless your children are jerks and have it coming.

6.  I now have two bumper stickers on my car!  One is for my kids’ school (and I can’t tell you how moved I was when one of the board members suggested I put one on.  I always assumed they’d rather keep that affiliation quiet.)  The other one is this one:


Well, this is the cropped version I can manage to upload, because I am a technological moron today.  The actual bumper sticker is the entire word “COEXIST,” with the little baby in the O.  I got it as a gift from Arina Grossu, and I love it.  I can’t figure out who’s selling them, though.  On the sticker, it says “Isa-Life Productions.”  Anyone know anything about them?  And yes, now that I have a pro-life bumper sticker on my car, I’ve been a little more careful not to drive like such an ass.  In fact, I was formerly in the habit of driving with my ass.  And they gave me a ticket for it!  Now what am I supposed to do?  Say, “I’m sorry, your honor, I’m not as limber as I used to be?”

7.  This week, I’ve lost more friends on Facebook than I can ever remember doing, and I’m not even sure why.  I guess I’ve been pretty rude and pushy, suspicious and nasty, and have taken things in the worst possible way.  To anyone I’ve offended with my words this week, please consider this my apology to you: