Saturday, December 30, 2017

12 Vignettes: A Very Bader Christmas

My internal heretical dialogue began about the second week of Advent, when I realized the Fourth Sunday of Advent coincided with Christmas Vigil.

For anyone else, this simply means Christmas falls on Monday.

For Catholics, it means a family with five kids, ages seven and younger -- whose greatest struggle each week is one hour of Mass on Sunday -- must now attend two Masses in one day, around the father's work schedule, around the family's travel schedule, around the non-Catholic extended families' gatherings.

I wondered if our Church of the living God, this pillar and buttress of truth -- completely justified in telling us how to behave -- might just be more scrupulous than God himself.

Anyway, we did it. I'll spare you the details, so you can spare us the commentary on how we could have done it better.

My non-Catholic family member who unexpectedly joined us at Christmas Mass was so distracted by the comic sans font on our crucifix that the phenomenal homily and gorgeous music and timeless moments of consecration were completely lost. It's not her fault. I hold the artist fully responsible, possibly culpable.
A fun part of our Dallas trip was Game Day with Wally's family. It didn't even cross my careless mother's mind to worry about the murder theme in Clue. Be glad to know: Clue, Jr. (a gift for my 6- and 7-year-olds) challenges players to figure out who ate cake, with what drink, at what time, with no mention of murder.

Before all the Christmas craziness, I took the kids and out-of-town family visitors on a day trip to Galveston beach to ride the public ferry, because that's what we do when there's no school. (Wally would love to come too, but he works instead. 
Because kids + housing + food = $$$.)

It was cold. We saw dolphins!

There is a random, creepy, underground, free (on Thursdays) museum in Houston called the Buffalo Bayou Cistern. It's an old water storage system that the city retired in 2004, because repairs were more expensive than its worth. Now it's a cool tour at a cool park. 

We hung out at the back of the tour and got a sample of "Raindrops on Roses" with a 17-second echo from the docent.

If you're in Houston for a day, visit Hermann Park. If you're in Houston for two days, also visit Buffalo Bayou Park's Cistern

View from the perimeter walk around the underground cistern
Our f***ing dog killed my sister's pet rabbits while we were in town for the holidays. 

Because my parents -- who welcome my scraggly motley boy crew of destruction with open arms any day, all day, anytime, for as long as we may need -- also welcome anyone and anything that needs a place to stay. And this Christmas, it was a stray terrier wandering the neighborhood on the coldest day of the year, and it just had to belong to someone, because it was so d*mn cute. 

The dog's microchip paired it with a guy in Louisiana, getting married this weekend, whose fiance doesn't like it and gave it to her coworker's friend's kids, who left it with an aunt while they were out of town, who left it outside, because who wants somebody else's troublesome terrier in their house over Christmas (oh, right, us). 

So the terrier, named "Sky," moved into our dog's crate, because stray dogs are unpredictable. And then, our most genteel dog, Buckeye, who's never destroyed anything in his three-year-old life, killed my sister's rabbits. Or at least one of them. We still can't find the other.

Every few months, I try to take a photo with all the kids together. Someday, they will all look at the camera and smile, at the same time, so help me, God.

After our family's chaotic Christmas arrival at my in-laws, with kids going every direction at loudest volume, I accidentally walked in on a family member, alone in a back bedroom, breathing deep breaths, in what I interpreted to be a brief moment of emergency meditation. I understood completely. And wanted to join her. (Instead, I backed out as quickly as I came in, trying to give her a moment of peace. I don't think she noticed me.)

We saw "Star Wars!" Our dates are usually once or twice a year, in Dallas, the land of free family babysitting. It was fun to get out. 

I wore my Han Solo boots over jeans -- which I saw in a meme that all the cool kids are doing now -- and channeled my inner General Leia Organa. The strong female leads were awesome. 

A highlight from our Dallas visit was a trip to the zoo with my parents (while my dog killed my sister's rabbits). 

Each kid had one breakdown over the course of about two hours, which, really, is not bad for kids. But with so many kids, it averaged about one tantrum per animal exhibit. 

Thankfully, there weren't many people around to bother. And I got some fun grandparent pics. 
"I'm watching the chickens!" he told me.
We had snow! In Conroe! It was like a blizzard!

I arrived at Christmas Eve Mass as my usual grumpy self (at least of late). Sleep seemed much more appealing than liturgy, after too long a day, too long a week, and honestly, too long a year.

Even still, the beauty of everything helped warm the chilly sanctuary. 

Fr Michael looked out on a half-empty sanctuary, and noted, sincerely, that it was a good crowd. Sometimes a pastor will casually stroke the egos of those in attendance -- particularly on feast days with difficult schedules -- with a quip about the comfortable damned, relaxing at home, unaware that the sanctuary sags more heavily under the weight of our pride. Not this night.

He's never seen a human birth, Fr Michael mentions in his homily. But he's seen plenty of cows give birth, and surely, it's similar. I have no doubt, it is.

Divinity joins humanity in this painful, difficult, messy process of birth, and then, stays with us, all the way through the painful, difficult, messy process of death. It was an unusual Christmas message. 

There was some profound theology in there about what it all means, references to re-birth, new life, eternity, but those parts didn't stick to me and come back home, not this year at least. I heard that Jesus is in the painful, difficult, and messy.

"You're getting so many gray hairs!" -- greeting from my older sister.

Merry Christmas, dear friends. May the gray hairs of this coming year be signs of wisdom for a life lived deeply.

The top third of our tree doesn't light up, but whatever.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Employers: Get Out Of My Healthcare

The question isn’t whether employers should have the right to exclude certain medical care in health insurance plans, based on religious reservations, but why the fight over birth control, specifically?
Why is birth control the lynchpin of moral oversight on healthcare, as opposed to other medical coverage that might be morally objectionable, but doesn’t involve women and sexuality?
Most employers who exclude contraception from company health insurance plans fund its therapeutic use, with a prescriber’s prior authorization. Through this process, your doctor signs a form that confirms you will only use the prescribed birth control pills for acne or PCOS or to treat extreme PMS -- assuredly not as contraception -- and then insurance covers it.
But why this extra moral checkpoint for contraception? What about all of the other medicines that might enable behavior contrary to ideal Catholic morality?
In Christian thought, lust is accompanied by six other deadly sins, and a myriad of health-related sins. Should acne medicine not be covered, because it could contribute to the sin of pride or vanity? Should Cialis require prior authorization, including a note from one’s wife, confirming it won’t be used to commit adultery? Should hospitalization and recovery for attempted suicide not be covered? After all, it breaks the Sixth Commandment, and including it in coverage might communicate that an employer doesn’t take their faith seriously.
What if Viagra is used by a man who’s had a vasectomy? Should we require prior authorization? Can you imagine THAT conversation with your pharmacist?
“Well, it appears this is a restricted item by your employer's health insurance, and we’ll need to do a little more work to get it approved. I have your doctor on the line. He wants to know if you’re free this Thursday for a vasectomy reversal?”
Read the rest over at FemCatholic!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

10 Ways Physician-Assisted Suicide Targets Women

This is an issue that stirs me up with resigned depression more than passionate advocacy. 

I'm not saying that like it's a good thing. What can I say that hasn't already been said? Healthcare that values profits over people is a problem. Failure to listen to women's voices in healthcare is a problem. Lack of care and respect for the sick and elderly among us is a problem. 

If I were navigating our nation's healthcare minefield with a terminal illness, I might opt for physician-assisted suicide as my best choice too. 

We need to advocate for initiatives that give patients options and support: re-frame sickness as a natural part of life, better communicate palliative care and hospice options, mandate insurance companies cover medical treatment for any condition that's covered by physician-assisted suicide, build intergenerational communities, incorporate quality mental treatment into standard healthcare, better regulate nursing home and hospice standards, improve conditions for elderly in poverty, revise standards of feminine beauty to include aging and illness, properly frame self-sacrifice as a healthy virtue, not a death sentence, and challenge medical professionals to listen and respond to women's healthcare concerns. 

Without addressing these related issues of physician-assisted suicide, our society will unduly pressure those most sick among us, those with statistically less advocacy and fewer resources -- women in particular -- to accept expedited death as the only option in their most difficult hour.

Read the rest over at FemCatholic

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

99 Parish Issues More Important Than Dress Code At Mass

Does he know that heaven kisses earth in this sanctuary? 

Why is he distracting all of us with this disrespectful attire? 

He couldn't even take the time to get dressed properly for church. 

I don't know about you, but those are always my first thoughts when I see a priest start down the aisle in a too-short cassock and faded vestments. 

If you find yourself distracted by how someone else is dressed at Mass -- whether it's too casual, too worn, too short, too baggy, too tight, too bright, or too goth -- here's a brief list of alternate questions to consider, that might be more beneficial for both you and your parish than "Why are they wearing that?" 

1. When was the last time I invited our priest, deacon, or youth minister over for dinner? 

2. How often does our parish offer Reconciliation? 

3. Do any parishioners need a ride to Mass on Sundays? 

4. How can I support perpetual adoration at our parish? 

5. How well do we resource our religious education classrooms? 

6. Can children in the cry room see what's happening on the altar during Mass?

7. How difficult is it for parishioners to access the sacrament of Baptism for their children? 

8. Is our parish networked with the local police department to provide pastoral support for Catholic victims of crimes, if requested? 

9. How difficult is it for parishioners to access the sacrament of First Communion for their children? 

10. How difficult is it for parishioners to access the sacrament of Confirmation for their children? 

11. How can I support the St Vincent de Paul ministry at our parish?

12. Is our campus secure, to protect children during religious education classes?

13. What percentage of parishioners participate in faith formation at our parish, and how can we increase that number?

14. Are we caring for the spiritual development of our parish staff, including opportunities for sabbatical? 

15. How does a new parishioner learn about faith formation and volunteer opportunities at our parish? 

16. Does a representative from our parish visit local nursing homes during the week to bring Communion? 

17. Does our parish diversity match the diversity of our community? Why or why not? 

18. Is it possible to run a parish solely on tithes, without fundraisers? 

19. Does our parish have a bereavement ministry? 

20. Do our high school students have the resources they need through our parish to start a Catholic student group at their public school, if they want to? 

21. Could I help prepare and serve a meal after a funeral at our parish? 

22. Can kids or adults with special needs attend our parish’s religious education? 

23. Are all parts of our parish handicap accessible?

24. Does our parish have a presence on social media?

25. Would parishioners participate in church clean-up days or landscaping projects? 

26. Could a children’s group from our parish regularly visit local nursing homes? 

27. Are there any potholes that need to be repaired in the parking lot? 

28. Could I sign up to help clean vessels after Mass? 

29. Is our parish website maintained with accurate information about Mass times, and contact information for different ministries?

30. If our parish invests in the spiritual development of our parishioners, will a natural response be more faithful tithing? 

31. How does our parish budget reflect the values of our Church? 

32. Did I invite anyone to attend Mass with me this week? 

33. Does our parish have a food pantry, or support a local food pantry, for those who are hungry in our parish and community? 

34. Does our parish have an adjacent Catholic school that’s accessible and affordable to our parish families? 

35. Is there a shortage of volunteers at our parish?

36. Could our parish help resource a local crisis pregnancy center? 

37. How could a parish priest explain Mass in such a way that increases the reverence and appreciation of those attending? 

38. Are there religious formation and fellowship opportunities available for the elderly at our parish? 

39. What are the needs of elderly parishioners in our community, and how can we help meet them? 

40. Are there religious formation and fellowship opportunities, including childcare, available for parents of young children at our parish? 

41. Are there ushers at every door, welcoming people before Mass?

42. Is our parish welcoming to children and adults with special needs? 

43. How can our parish improve pre-marriage preparations? 

44. Does our parish have an outdoor prayer space or garden that could be open to the public? 

45. Do parish staff and ministry leaders return emails and phone calls? 

46. Does our parish have a Stephen ministry to support those who are hurting or grieving? 

47. How could I volunteer to help our local homeless families and individuals? 

48. Are religious education programs accessible to all parishioners, regardless of ability to pay? 

49. How can our parish better support families caring for members with special needs? 

50. What are parish community building events that could include everyone? 

51. How accessible are natural family planning classes for engaged and married couples at our parish? 

52. Is our parish paying a livable wage to all employees, including janitorial staff and youth ministers? 

53. Are parishioners aware of their personal spiritual gifts, and how they can serve the parish with these gifts? 

54. Does our parish council represent the socioeconomic diversity of our parish, including the views of youth, young families, singles, older families, the elderly, etc.? 

55. Could I donate a rocking chair to the cry room?

56. Is our parish physically accessible to the elderly or handicapped? 

57. Does our parish have a running project list for student volunteers, such as Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, youth groups, and Confirmation students? 

58. Could the music ministry use my help?  

59. Does our parish have a ministry for local young adults? 

60. How can I better show love to my family and extended family today? 

61. Do each of the classrooms have a working clock?

62. When we gather for meals as a parish, are we inclusive of those with food allergies? 

63. Who can I pray for at work this week? 

64. Does our parish regularly visit the local hospital? 

65. Could I prepare a home-cooked meal for someone in our parish this week? 

66. How can we invite more people in our community into our parish? 

67. Could I volunteer to help teach a religious education class? 

68. Are any of the plants poisonous that grow around our parish? 

69. Does our parish visit sick parishioners, and bring them Communion? 

70. How often does our parish offer retreat opportunities to parishioners? 

71. Does our parish have good communication protocols among staff, ministries, and parishioners? 

72. Could Catholic Charities use me as a volunteer during the week? 

73. Does our parish have a ministry for local community college or university students? 

74. Does our cry room have nice religious board books to help toddlers better understand Mass?

75. Are any of our parishioners trained in natural family planning? 

76. How am I helping to foster religious vocations in our parish and community? 

77. Could I bring good creamer for the coffee maker in the parish office? 

78. Does our parish have a dedicated nursery or classroom for childcare during adult formation activities? 

79. How can I be a better friend to my neighbors at home? 

80. How many times does the offering basket need to be passed during Mass? 

81. Could I be a foster parent for children in need through Catholic Charities or another local organization? 

82. Are parishioners held hostage from the final blessing at the end of Mass while unnecessary, long-winded announcements that are already in the bulletin, are made from the ambo? 

83. Is the parish cry room inviting for weary parents of young kids? 

84. Does the offering need to be passed again after Communion? 

85. How can our parish include high school students in ministry opportunities? 

86. Does the youth ministry offer scholarships for students to attend events and retreats? 

87. When is the last time someone from our parish visited the local prison? 

88. What kind of adult religious education topics might be relevant and formational for parishioners? 

89. When is the last time I thanked the musicians at Mass, even if I didn't like the music? 

90. Could I offer to wash the altar linens this week? 

91. How can I support our parish's pro-life ministry? 

92. Does our parish have resources to share with parishioners looking for professional counseling? 

93. Are there any maintenance projects I could take care of for the parish? 

94. How can our parish better support families affected by divorce? 

95. Could our parish pray the rosary together before Mass? 

96. How can I better support our parish school and Catholic education in general? 

97. Is it possible to print a handout of communal prayers and songs, or project them on screens, during Mass, so visitors can more easily follow along? 

98. When is the last time I wrote a thank you note to the bishop? 

99. How can I better prepare my heart for Mass, so I'm not so easily distracted by the dress of those around me?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Housewives Don't Talk Politics, And Other Nonsense

I’m told, as a housewife and stay-at-home mom, the contribution I make to our family is invaluable and irreplaceable. 
I’m told, as a housewife and stay-at-home mom, the market value of my in-home services  (accountant, chauffeur, tutor, housekeeper, nurse, personal shopper, general maintenance, etc.) is incalculable. 
Recently, I’ve also been told, as a housewife and stay-at-home mom, I shouldn’t speak on politics and should just post photos of my cute babies on Facebook instead.
How can a woman be so overwhelmingly qualified to manage a household and form the hearts of our next generation, and yet, simultaneously, disqualified from holding an informed political opinion?
Read the rest over at FemCatholic!

Photo Source

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Antemortem Directive: Politicize My Death

Should my death come unexpectedly, due to possibly preventable circumstances, please do not observe a waiting period before analyzing what went wrong. Politicize the hell out of it. 

This list of questions may help:

1. Did insurance refuse to cover a pre-existing condition? 

2. Did insurance turn down an expensive treatment?

3. Did government healthcare disconnect life support against my family's wishes?

4. Was I unable to afford health insurance, so unable to get a diagnosis for an entirely preventable disease?

5. Was I hit by a drunk driver? Did they have prior convictions?

6. Did someone have a gun who shouldn't have? How did they get it?

7. Did someone turn violent because they were in need of mental health treatment, without access to it? 

8. Did someone act out of some wrongly interpreted Christian or Muslim or other religious ideology that caused them to see themselves as more righteous than everyone else and kill recklessly?

9. Was I posing a threat to someone entirely in their right to shoot in self defense? Was I actually a threat?

10. Was there a danger at my workplace that my boss knew about, but I didn't?

11. Did my car have a known manufacturer defect that caused a fatal wreck?

12. Was someone on a government watch list, not being watched by the government?

13. Was I out too late at night, wearing leggings under a tunic, and pretty much asking to be killed?

14. Did I participate in a rally that offended counter protesters?

15. Did I do something stupid and unsafe that no one should ever attempt again?

Seriously, It will honor me in death, if you will talk about these things. Talk about what went wrong, and if it was preventable. And if something isn't right, please, take action to prevent it from happening to someone else.

And most of all, please pray for my eternal rest, and be assured, I'll pray for you too.