Wednesday Witness: Stewards of Creation

God our Creator, we give thanks to you, who alone have the power to impart the breath of life as you form each of us in our mother’s womb; grant, we pray, that we, whom you have made stewards of creation, may remain faithful to this sacred trust and constant in safeguarding the dignity of every human life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

– Collect from this morning’s Mass

Today is the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, legalizing abortion in this country, and in the U.S. Catholic Church, it is the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. During his homily this morning, Fr. Richards referenced the prayer above, specifically, to the phrase “stewards of creation.” That phrase captured my attention, because it seems a common-sense way to begin to bridge the moral divide in this country, not only on abortion, but on other issues related to creation and life.

The creation story—which is more an account of why the universe came to be, rather than how—culminates with the creation of humanity, to whom God gives the following instructions: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). The Lord creates everything for us and entrusts it to our care. In the beginning, at least, this arrangement was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Continue reading

A Quiet Place, or the Unbearable Blessing of Parenthood

AQuietPlaceCoverScary movies are not our favorite, but last weekend, Jodi, Gabe and I finally watched A Quiet Place, the unexpected, critically acclaimed monster/thriller from director John Krasinski (best know as quick-witted paper salesman Jim Halpert on the U.S. version of The Office TV series). Rated PG-13, the movie stars Krasinski and his real-life wife Emily Blunt (of Thorp favorites The Adjustment Bureau, Looper and Mary Poppins Returns) as a husband and wife trying to protect their children in a frightful world in which the sounds of day-to-day life are deadly.

Most horror movies and thrillers (honestly, most movies overall) are too violent, profane, explicit and/or gory to garner my attention, but the trailer for this one caught my eye, followed by a number of positive reviews, including this one (with spoilers; don’t read past the first paragraph if you want to view it fresh!) by Bishop Robert Barron in which he called A Quiet Place “the most unexpectedly religious film of the year.” Finally, my son Brendan and his fiance Becky recommended it to us, and it all became too much: It had to be seen. Continue reading

More Friends and Good People

I’ve added a few new sites to my Friends and Good People blogroll (to the right and below) — take a minute and check them out!

  • The Art of Manliness. Fr. Tyler at Prairie Father introduced me to The Art of Manliness site some years ago. Whatever you’d like to delve into among the masculine and gentlemanly arts, it’s here — from grooming and dressing, to proper tool use and survival skills, to sandwich recipes and a killer series on the history of manly honor. Do yourself a favor, men — check it out, then bookmark it for your sons.
  • House Unseen. Two blogging friends (Laura the Crazy Mama and Andrea at Reconciling Remus and Rome) shared a brilliant post on Natural Family Planning from Dwija at House Unseen (which I myself passed on a few weeks back). I went there, and read this: “We bought a house in rural Michigan sight-unseen off the internet. My husband quit his job in California and we moved our kids across the country. Dogs. Goats. Chickens. Homeschooling. Crazy. I like my sacraments Catholic and my beer cold.” I think we could be friends.
  • Practical Catholic Junto. An orthodox Catholic take on Benjamin Franklin’s club, dedicated to solving practical problems in the community. The blog has more of a political and current events flavor, with occasional, more substantial articles about applied Catholic teaching and Catholic living
  • The Imaginative Conservative. If you’ve begun to despair that folks have forgotten there is such as thing as a conservative intellectual tradition, go here. They’ll make you want to read, write, and think again.
Hope to see you around the neighborhood — if you visit these sites, let me know what you think!

Advocating for Life-Giving Love

What can happen when you say “Yes”…

Blogger’s Note: The links below are to good stuff, but not necessarily kids’ stuff. Use discretion.

Probably the most transformation part of my conversion to Catholicism — not just going to church on Sunday, but full-tilt “this is who I am and how I try to live” conversion — has been the reorientation of my thinking on the topics of marriage, sexuality, and procreation. See, the Catholic Church is perhaps the one institution on Earth that has refused to divorce these three things from each other…and when Jodi and I were preparing for marriage, I was not entirely on board with that.

In the years since, my thinking has changed — and along with it, my life, my marriage, my family, my entire conception of who I’m called to be.

Now Jodi and I speak at retreats for engaged couples, sharing with frankness how we were, in fact, where they are — crazy in love, uncertain about parenthood, frightened by the Church’s teachings, and unready to “risk” a baby. (What an awful phrase, in retrospect.) We share the Truth we’ve come to know as best we can — but I’m always looking for new ways of going about it. And once in a while, I stumble across really good stuff.

So — if you’re struggling to understand or explain the Church’s teachings marriage and sexuality, check out these links:

  • NFP Doesn’t Work…You Have So Many Kids!: Read your Genesis: fertility is the original blessing from God — and if it ain’t broke, don’t “fix” it! This blog post hits the nail on the head with humor and truth to spare.
  • How Premarital Sex Rewires the Brain: a simple, biology-based explanation for why relationships that get too serious too quickly last too long, crash so hard, and hurt so bad.
  • After Steubenville: 25 Things Our Sons Need to Know About Manhood: a mother’s poetic and heart-wrenching response to the teen sexual assault that made national headlines.
Not long ago, an old friend asked if I still had big plans for my career, as a writer, or maybe running for office. He had known me years before when I used to daydream about such possibilities. I told him that these days, if I raise my sons to respect women and my daughters to respect themselves, I’ll have done alright. 
Some kids are too young to hear this sort of material — but as parents, when the time is right, we’ve got to share it. I firmly believe it’s the only way we can redeem the culture. I’m grateful that, judging from the links above, others feel the same.

Our Monsterpiece

The Eyes Have It: Lily at a fundraiser dinner, taking it all in. That’s not Jodi holding her…she sucked in countless others that evening to do her bidding. (Photo: Michelle LeMonds at Michelle LeMonds Photography)
monsterpiece – n. – a perfectly created monster;
the pinnacle of a monster-maker’s handiwork*

She drinks you with those eyes. Draws you near in dumb adoration, cute-struck, closer and closer. Her spit-shined pink lips part in an open-mouth smile, toothless except on bottom, and saliva pools on her dimpled chin. She’s close enough now you can smell her baby-ness; she’s reaching with her long little fingers for your clothes, your hair, whatever she can grasp, all giggles and gasping shrieks of delight.
She’s got you.

* * * * *

In earlier December, I made the following prediction: “[W]e are having our tomboy, an active girl of about 10 pounds (plus or minus two ounces; 9-15 like her daddy would be just fine), 21 inches long or so. She’s gonna sleep alright, but when she starts moving about, she’ll be our first climber. We shall have our hands full. She will have a Thorp head, of course, and Jodi’s hazel eyes that look green in the right light.”

Dad always cautioned me that when it comes to children, “you get what you expect.” Six days after the official prediction, we were blessed with Lily, who emerged a little lighter (9 pounds, 4 ounces) and a little longer (23-1/2 inches), but very much an active girl and every bit a handful, with a Thorp head and captivating eyes. She sleeps alright, by which I mean not great, and she is fickle, demanding, and persistent. Perhaps we didn’t get a tomboy, but a diva…

* * * * *

If she sees you, then loses sight, she cries. If you initiate eye contact or conversation, then look away or fall silent, she cries. If you pick her up only to put her down  whether in her car seat or among her toys she cries. If you hold her close and sit, she wants to stand; if you stand, she wants to move…and again, if you look her in the eye, don’t be the first to look away. She cries.

Until two weeks ago she refused to take bottle. She wanted to nurse, exclusively and often, and would accept no substitute. To give Jodi a moment’s peace, for the first time in five children, we decided to try a pacifier. She bit it and spit it out. 

Finally her insatiable appetite got the best of her; now she demands the bottle. And when she wants it she wants it: four ounces at a minimum, no matter how much she’s nursed. Sometimes she still screams when you give it to her, but just try to take it from her…she cannot get it to her face on her own, but lie her on her back and she will clasp it to her chest with both hands. Sometimes if you try to help, she gets agitated — but step away, and invariably she will drop it and scream.

She won’t swallow baby cereal. She’ll eat a little pureed green beans, grimacing and shuddering the whole way — as though she knows the adage, “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.”

Whereas Trevor often insisted, verbally and mentally, the world match his ideas about it, Lily makes it so. We’ve tried to wait her out when she gets owly. Thus far she appears to have more time than we do. She’s like a first-quality air-raid siren: made to be heard in the worst conditions, and just as loud an hour or more later.

* * * * *

And she knows what she likes. One night while pacing the kitchen, trying to get her to sleep, I found myself unable to keep from nuzzling the black fuzz on the back of her head. Our other kids would duck away when I do this  they couldn’t stand the prickliness of my clipped goatee. Lily, by contrast, moved her head slowly side to side against my whiskers, then pressed it deliberately into my chin. I turned away, then back to her; again she rubbed her head on my chin, then leaned hard against it. 

Over time, she began to put her bare cheek against my whiskers, then her open mouth, and now, her nose and rapidly blinking eyes. She can barely stand it, but she persists nonetheless. That which does not kill you…

* * * * *

Will she be a climber? Time will tell. She is strong; she rolls easily, quickly, and repeatedly, and as of last week, spins quickly on her belly to orient herself toward whatever she desires, then arm-crawls across any terrain. If she reaches her objective, she grasps and consumes it, first with her eyes, then with her gaping, smiling mouth, toothless except on the bottom.

She’s our monsterpiece. As I’ve said countless times now: “Good thing she’s cute…”

Daddy’s Girls: Y’all realize the only thing keeping Lily where she’s at is the friction of my whiskers on her fuzzy little head — that’s why my head is tilted to hers. Not snuggling…nosiree! (Photo: Katrina Nielsen at Spiritus Capere Photography)


*”Monsterpiece” was coined by Rose and me a few weeks back, specifically to describe Lily.