Warning: Missing argument 2 for wpdb::prepare(), called in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/25090/domains/catholic.nowealthbutlife.com/html/wp-content/themes/canvas/functions/admin-functions.php on line 692 and defined in /nfs/c02/h01/mnt/25090/domains/catholic.nowealthbutlife.com/html/wp-includes/wp-db.php on line 1210
Catholic Life | Category Archive | Life
Archive | Life RSS feed for this section

Babies and Money

Are babies expensive? My parents would say no. After all, the cost of pregnancy is the food (you do not really need doctors appointments or tests!) and the food isn’t really that much. Six months worth of a slice of wholewheat bread and peanut butter per day is, um, ::pretends to do the math:: pretty cheap.

Medical supplies for a home-birth are easily available for less than $50.00. Things get a little more expensive once the baby is born. You can get hand-me-downs for just about everything other than the breast-milk. That will cost up to three slices of wholewheat bread with peanut butter.

So, conception through first birthday may be $200.00. Which is a lot of money, but still quite reasonable if you make sure to ask for peanut butter for Christmas and birthdays.

Are babies expensive? Obviously not!

The funny thing though, is that most people think of responsible parenting as far more than wholewheat bread, peanut butter, and a home-birth kit. This is not a problem in itself, but it becomes one when we assume that others share our blessings and judge them for not acting as we imagine that we would in their situation.

Is health insurance necessary for responsible parenthood? Only the couple can judge.

Many people who take the “accept babies and let God take care of the money” perspective seem to either have plenty of money without realizing it (and imagine that everyone else shares their resources!) or else have no problem with relying on the generosity of others (and again imagines that everyone else has parents ready and willing to provide anything a child might actually need).

I am past the far left in my views of what society as a whole should provide for children and I do not think that anyone should ever have to postpone pregnancy for financial reasons. But this is not reality, and most people are not my parents. Thus I cannot understand why anyone would want to pressure others into having children when they do not have the financial resources to pay for green leafy vegetables for the pregnant mother, safe car seats for the baby, and dentist-visits for the toddler.

If you think automatically assume that financial reasons for avoiding pregnancy are never legitimate then perhaps you should take a deeper look at your own life. It is likely that you are the one with extra resources to spare, and maybe you can find a way to give your $200 in coffee-money to someone who is willing to turn it into a healthy baby.

Because babies may not be expensive, but they certainty are not free.

Read full storyComments { 4 }

CT Fertility Center Error

Boston.com reports on an “error” that is a good reminder of an ongoing bioethics tragedy in the United States.

A noted Connecticut fertility center has been reprimanded and fined by state regulators after it accidentally transferred a patient’s embryos to another woman with the same last name.

The Center for Advanced Reproductive Services at the University of Connecticut Health Center signed a consent order last week agreeing to pay a $3,000 fine, but did not admit wrongdoing.

The patient who received the embryos was informed of the error within an hour of the transfer procedure and decided to take the “morning-after’’ pill to prevent the pregnancy, according to state records. Source

The whole thing is horrifying.

  • This would not have happened if embryos were not being frozen and left for years. I do not expect the government to accept that IVF is wrong and stop the procedure entirely, but we should be able to follow the example set by Italy and Germany and ban embryo-freezing.
  • It is painfully obvious how fertility “treatments” such as IVF are focused on passing on one’s genes rather than on the chance to love a child. It is tragic that the automatic response to this mistake was for the new mother to take the morning after pill in order to insure the death of the embryos.
  • Considering the cost of IVF, the $3,000.00 fine is simply pathetic.

I came across this story rather randomly while browsing Boston.com’s health section. I am surprised that I did not encounter it elsewhere. Is this really just to be expected, so no one else cares?

Read full storyComments { 4 }

Fertility Awareness in the Archdiocese of Boston

Cardinal Seán announced on his blog that Boston’s new marriage preparation program will include training in fertility awareness.

“Transformed in Love” is a 16-hour program that consists of presentations, reflections, prayer, and Mass, and discusses various aspects of marriage like communications skills, fertility awareness, finances, and decision-making.

The Archdiocese of Boston already has a solid NFP program, so I have no doubt that they will do a great job of incorporating fertility awareness into their marriage preparation materials. Teaching fertility awareness is a very good approach for reaching those who know little about the practical side of the Church’s teaching on birth control. This is great news for those who will be getting married in the Archdiocese of Boston!

Read full storyComments { 1 }

Wounded and Healthy

O night that guides my flight!
O night that was more loving htan the sun!
O night that would unite
the Lover and loved one,
beloved changed to Lover–unison!

Upon my blossoming breast–
I guarded it for only him, no less–
there he remained at rest,
I gave him my caress,
our love the fanning cedars’ breeze would bless.

The breeze blew from the tower,
my fingers now began to part his hair,
with his hand’s gentle power
he wounded my neck where
my senses, stricken, faded unaware.

I lost, forgot my being,
my face reclined upon my Lover there;
all ceased, my spirit freeing,
and leaving all my care
behind, forgotten, midst the lilies fair.

A few days ago I sat in the crypt church at the national shrine and read from Loren G. Smith’s translations of poems by Saint John of the Cross. I sat rather than knelt because if I knelt the physical pain would have prevented me from thinking. Pain calls my thoughts back to God, but when it becomes too much there are no thoughts at all.

So I sat, and I thought about John’s pain. What are we to think of this Lover who wounds? It is at once true and problematic. This Lover who both heals and wounds matches with reality, but at the same time there is such a danger of using religion to mask profound psychological problems.

Not long ago I spoke with a friend whose spiritual director sent her for psychiatric care. She was doing her best to work with the secular model for mental health, but pointed out to me that there seemed no right path since all of the Saints seem to have had psychiatric issues.

I agreed with her, but I tried to offer the “you’re doing the right thing in getting help, take care of yourself, indulge your body a bit more, don’t stress about serving others and finding God in all things so much” support of a healthy friend. I secretly wondered whether her spiritual director was simply sending her for psychiatric help because that is what he must do in any case at this point. Even if he thought that she was struggling with the problems of a Saint on earth he would have to see whether secular psychiatric help could remove the incessant desire to be like Christ in all things.

While I knew that my friend needed to find moderation, I wondered whether I was not, in some way, avoiding my God in my quest for “balance.” How is one supposed to both be healthy, and have God?

For now I choose less God and more health. I do not have a spiritual director to moderate my excess, and it is not fair to place such a burden on my husband. So I avoid extremes, even when that appears to mean looking my savior in the eye and saying “not yet.”

Read full storyComments { 3 }

Thoughts on Conscience and the E-Magisterium

Catholics online hate conscience. We really do. It does not matter how much the Church tells us that conscience is important, we want to make up our own absolute rules for ourselves and each other!

My husband speculates that perhaps 25% of people should be affiliated with a religious order. That way they could have the order and strictness which they need imposed upon them through their religious order without feeling the need to impose it upon others. Since this is not the case, we have something like 24% of the population walking around without the structure that they need. And so they (we?) cope by sacrificing conscience in the name of truth, unity, fidelity to the Magisterium or many other seemingly good causes.

I am certainly one of those who suffers from a natural aversion from conscience and a strong inclination to have one universally applicable, fundamentalist truth.

And so I remind myself of Vatican II:

In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged. Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths. In a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor. In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals from social relationships. Hence the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality. Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin.

In the past I have been accused of being overly scrupulous for posting about areas in which I am convicted of my need to more fully follow Christ. I was quite surprised because it was quite clear to me that my tendency was much more toward laziness than toward scrupulosity. But when my conscience directs me differently than another’s, it is quite natural for them to assume that my conscience must be in overdrive.

When faced with online debates among Catholics who differ on questions of conscience I try to recall the words of the catechism:

It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience. This requirement of interiority is all the more necessary as life often distracts us from any reflection, self-examination or introspection:

If I am confused about the practical application of Catholic teaching in my daily life, it is most likely because I am spending too much time listening to others. Confusion and uneasiness are best dealt with by closing out the online pseudo-bishops and spending time in silence by myself. There is no point in me trying to convince others that it really is okay for them to space their children out a bit more for the sake of sanity, because I cannot know what only their conscience can tell them. And there is no point in me worrying about those who tell me to chill out and drink a Sprite, because they do not have access to my conscience.

What do you think? Have I just given up too soon in the quest to find that website filled with people who can give the absolute list of “just reasons” for using NFP?

Read full storyComments { 9 }


I have loved books for years and accumulated hundreds by the time I was in my mid-teens. When I went to college I started trying to reduce my collection, but I only managed to hold steady a bit above 1,000. Then I started dating Josh. Josh did not have quite as many books as I did, but his collection was rapidly expanding. And, if possible, he was even more attached to his books than I was to mine.

Before we were engaged we had a conversation that went something like this:
Me: May I have your car?
Josh: Ha! Yes.
Me: Hmmm… may I have your new computer?
Josh: Yes.
Me: May I have your books?
If you marry me.
Me: What?! You love your books more than you love me?!!!

Apparently I really wanted Josh’s books, because we got married. Procuring bookshelves was our furniture priority, second only to the mattress to put on the floor for sleeping. Our three bookcases were not enough, even though we also had small built-in bookshelves. So while we stacked books in the fireplace for storage, I worked on convincing Josh to get rid of most of our duplicate books. He mostly agreed, but insisted that we needed to keep two of the three copies of John Paul II’s theology of the body. Considering the fact that Josh is the only person I know who has actually read both English translations I did not fight, but tried even harder to find less sacred books to eliminate.

Despite our pathetic best efforts, we still had far too many books by the time we really needed to simplify. So we sold some more books, and gave others to friends, and to the local adoration chapel, and to the library. We drove to my parents’ house and gave my youngest siblings many books that we thought they could enjoy. And we still ended up with four large boxes of books that could not fit in the car.

Four months later I find myself periodically running to the bookshelf to see whether I kept a certain book. I am happy to have gotten down to a reasonable amount of books, but I am sometimes slightly confused over what I chose to keep (or not). There were many books that I loved, but knew I would not reread for years while a friend might enjoy them soon. There were other books that I valued quite highly… but not more highly than their current resale value. As I often told Josh, we could always buy them again later. And then there is a stack of Latin books that I chose to keep. I have not spent more than an hour working on learning Latin so far this year, but seeing all of the books stacked together made me realize how much I must have wanted to learn it only a few months ago.

So, for the sake of tracking my rapidly changing values through books, here is a record of the books I1 owned on October 15, 2009.

Later I will post about each of the books and why I chose to keep it. But I am really curious as to which books readers can identify by their covers in such a small picture, and any stories/thoughts you may have about them. Extra points if it is anything other than Vatican Council II. 😉

1. This is the story of “my books” according to Rae. Josh might think that some of these books are “his” or that some of what I think are his are really mine. But I am right. And this is my blog. And we are not getting divorced any time soon, so you really do not need to worry about whether Josh insists that all John of the Cross belongs to him.

Read full storyComments { 15 }


Today I struggle to be thankful because my thoughts are clouded by guilt. It is the guilt of squandered privilege that distracts me from thanking God for my blessings. It is not simply that I have what others have not. The problem is that while I have resources to improve the lives of others, and with a few small exceptions, I have done nothing.

I do not believe that one should ruin one’s life by feeling guilty about one’s blessings. But I am glad to embrace this opportunity to change my direction and absorb just a bit of concern for others’ well-being.

And so I am thankful for the chance to grow and change and learn to see beyond myself, even if I have yet to do anything with what I have been given. I am thankful that I am not important enough to make my failure decisive. There is yet time to change, and I am willing to be patient while I adjust to being slightly less self-centered.

Read full storyComments { 3 }

Deadly Error

Please pardon the title’s poor attempt at a pun. But Jenna’s comment on my last post about original sin made me realize that I should have at least explained my understanding of sin before I started talking “original”. So, here goes. And if it all sound boringly familiar, good. That means I did a reasonable job of regurgitating traditional Christian doctrine.

Sin is: nothing.

Sin is not. Sin is simply an expression of evil, and evil is not something in itself. Evil is the absence of God.

God is Good. Sin is not good.

God is Truth. Sin is not truth.

God is Beauty. Sin is not beauty.

Sin does not require deliberate action to exist because it is not something. In a sense, sin does not really exist. The classic illustration is of a garment with a tear. The garment is God’s good creation, and sin is the tear. The tear is nothing in itself, it is simply the area where the garment is no longer what it was meant to be.

Now for two personal examples of sin. Hopefully this will do a better job of explaining what I mean by “original sin.”

Once I got married I became aware of how much of an individual I really am. This is good in many ways, but it also means that there is much that I must ultimately experience in isolation. Experiencing marriage as the greatest intimacy possible made me aware of exactly how much there is of me that cannot simply be blended with another person in some form of Vulcan mind meld.

Babies reveal something similar. Babies represent the height of purity, innocence, and positive potential. But if one contemplates this long enough, one may be struck by the vague feeling that something is not quite perfect. No matter how wonderful the baby is in the moment, we know that she or he will not have a perfect life.  All is not as well as it should be. Even if we wish to imagine that we hold essential perfection in our arms, it is only a matter of time before it is glaringly clear that essential perfection escapes all of us. This un-wellness we call original sin.

I find it odd that I care a lot about this issue in some ways, but not at all in others. I really do not care what terms others use and whether they happen to like or dislike the word “sin.” It just seems so obvious to me that, whatever term you prefer, sin exists. The thing that really bothers me is that I do so little to counter sin. From the raspy droning of my air conditioner injecting carbon into the atmosphere, to the very location of my home in a racially divided area, I breathe sin. And I do so very little to make things better. My theology may be pessimistic (realistic!) in the short-term, but I still believe that I must do what I can to be (and do!) better.

What do you do to increase good? I would love practical suggestions.

Read full storyComments { 2 }


This is a short clip from last week’s Tenebrae service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Forgive all quality issues, I was trying to pay attention to the service.

Even though Tenebrae is an ancient tradition, I only learned about it a few years ago. My current parish does not have Tenebrae so I was quite happy that I do not live far from the cathedral.

Tenebrae is about entering into darkness. You can check out the Sisters of Carmel for a longer explanation if you like. The service I attended was held after dark on Holy Wednesday; it can also be held very early in the morning, especially on Holy Saturday. It consists of sung or chanted prayers which are taken from sad Psalms, Lamentations etc. The church is gradually darkened after each section. Candles are extingushed until the last candle is hidden and church is entirely dark. It is amazingly sad, dark, and lonely.

I suspect that to some of you it must seem like beautiful heresy. Why seemlingly celebrate darkness when Jesus came as light?

The celebrant’s homily provided a suscint answer: Tenebrae gets at the essence of Christianity through rememberance. It stands against a culture of amnesis (forgetting) which insists on pretending that everything must be happy to be valuable. Jesus Christ did not live victoriously by this world’s standards. He suffered greatly, not only on the cross, but also alone in a garden at night.

The Catholic Church does not require her children to observe Tenebrae, or even Good Friday services. We are expected to take part in Mass on Easter Sunday  to celebrate the Resurection (this is required every Sunday), but the only specific requirment for observing the suffering of Christ is to fast on Good Friday. And even that is pretty minor compared to other religions’ fasting requirements.

Even though the Catholic Church does not require participation in services which mark the sadness of Christ’s suffering, I am increadably greatful that she offers them as an opportunity for people like me who need help with suffering with Christ so that we may also be glorified with Christ (Romans 8:17).

It is good to have an innocent faith. I have friends who can happily trust God as an almost overprotective father who gives them every good thing and wipes away every tear. I am happy for them as it is good to have childlike faith and innocent entitlement. But God has not seen fit to protect me from trial. As many times I tried to simply “have more faith” the result was the same: God does not protect me from suffering. God lets me bleed. God allows me to suffer physically. God allows me to suffer in relationships. God allows me to suffer financially. God allows me to struggle with no support from friends. God allows me to feel as though there is no child who is protected from abuse. Thankfully God has not required me to suffer from those simultanously! But there is enough to make me so very greatful for a God who does not simply offer us a happy Easter story. Jesus did not merely die and rise again for us. He suffered for us, and in his suffering he offers us Life.

My plan is to cultivate this lesson during Easter (we Catholics celebrate Easter until Pentecost, so Easter lasts for 50 days!) by memorizing 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.
For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow.
If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement.

I would be thrilled to read any thoughts you have on Christ’s suffering, Easter, etc!

Read full storyComments { 9 }

Palm Sunday by the Ocean

My husband and I went to the ocean on Palm Sunday. A bit non-traditional, I suppose, but it actually fit in quite well with the celebratory feel of the day.


It was both cool and windy, but the bright sun made me quite happy.


In the spirit of Paula’s being real, I realized that anonymity does not really provide an excuse for not posting a picture of me walking along the beach. I don’t have a lot of full-length pictures of myself so it is rather odd for me to see myself.

By the ocean

Odd, yes. But maybe good for documenting progress. I say maybe because this isn’t exactly what I think of as a “before” beach picture! In any case, I always think that it is fun to see pictures, so here you go!

Oh, and in case you are wondering, we went to Church after the ocean. I just don’t have any pictures.

Read full storyComments { 5 }