Thursday, March 30, 2017

Is Rural Catholic Life Possible?

There's a lot of talk surrounding the Benedict Option these days. At its most general, the idea of the Benedict Option promotes a concerted effort on the part of Catholics and Christians to form like-minded communities to support each other and keep the faith alive. As the idea of forming intentional and authentic Catholic communities that strive for orthodoxy gains a foothold in Catholic parlance, I've been thinking about how I feel that this has already happened to some degree organically when it comes to where Catholics live.

As someone who has lived the majority of her life in rural areas I want to sometimes shout from the rooftops that the Benedict Option of sorts has already happened; because most of Catholic community is found in enclaves of urban cities.  

We all know the reasons why; the increasing urbanization of our populations in general, the lack of priests to serve rural communities and small towns, the shrinking of cultural Catholicism, the complete absence of Generation X and younger at Mass.

If you think you feel the reverberations of these problems in the Church in your city that has a population of more than 10,000 people, imagine how keenly felt this must be in small communities?

Let me give you a peek at what Catholic life in a small town looks like. It looks like sharing one priest with 3 other parishes spread over 100 miles. It looks like no daily Mass or standing confession times. There is ONE option for Mass each weekend. There are no ministries. There is no religious education for children or adults alike. There is no other family with young children who attend weekly at our parish. There is a Catholic school the next town over.

There are no plethoras of religious orders of which to affiliate. There are no small groups for men or women. There are no ministries to moms, divorced people, those struggling with addiction or same sex attraction, or grief. There are no dinners or fundraisers. There are no options when it comes to finding a liturgy you prefer. There are no other Catholics your age in which to build local community.

In other words, I want you to imagine a Catholic life where there is only the Sacraments, a parish that is barely scraping by, and the constant threat that your parish may be shut down by the diocese due to lack of attendance, financial support, or both.

I think most of us believe that in order to live a fully Catholic life we've got to have some form of Catholic community. We all are striving for authentic local connections. We know how difficult it is to remain faithful to the teachings of the Church in our culture when we are without any support from real people in our lives. We've seen on a parish level how hard it is to evangelize and bring people in when there are hardly any faithful in the pews to begin with. All these difficulties come to a head in a small community where there are hardly any Catholics to begin with, with even fewer attending weekly Mass, and where there are in turn little to no outreach and ministries to the community.

Vibrant, vital, and orthodox parishes are out there but finding them in a small town is the exception to the rule, and doesn’t even approach a fraction of the parishes that serve rural areas. Parishes with resources, both in parishioners and cold hard cash, are found in cities. If you're looking for good, life-giving ministries you may have to search your city to find one, you may have to drive across town, but they will exist. There are no ministry options in small towns. As we see orthodox parishes with a focus on beautiful liturgy grow, it is within a city that offers options when it comes to liturgy and the few who know it's value to support it.

We know our families are the domestic church, and that the beauty of family life is a great gift as we lead and guide our children in faith. But it is increasingly difficult in today's world to bring up children in a religious vacuum so to speak, where there is so little evidence of faith in their hometown and home parish. Small towns are not just drained of Catholics, they’re drained of believers of all denominations as increasingly our society of “nones” erodes cultural faith. As it seems to be increasingly difficult to even become friends with our neighbours, it's even more challenging to find friends who share the faith at a local level.

I don't think there are easy answers to the problem of rural Catholic life just as the Benedict Option isn't an easy answer to our troubled Church as a whole. As Catholics we value the land, the connection with the land that we live on, the ability to provide for ourselves, to nurture that connection with creation, but as more and more people move to cities, rural towns are emptied of faith. How can we preserve a connection to the land, agriculture, self-sufficiency, and still be part of authentic Catholic community? Is the answer that the Ben-opters start communes in small rural towns? Are there economic opportunities enough for them? Does everyone become farmers?

I can't help but feel that many rural Catholics are faced with the difficult call to live an almost heroic level of faith based on their isolation from vital Catholic community. Unfortunately in many cases people are in the position between choosing the land and lifestyle they know and love or moving to a more urban environment that provides even a slightly better opportunity for Catholic community.

Whether the Benedict Option takes off or not, there’s no denying that the light of orthodoxy in the North American Church shines from urban enclaves and that rural Catholics are going it alone.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Seven Quick Takes vol. 157

Don't give Kelly up for Lent.

I know, I should be blogging about Lenten things, but how many complaining posts about all the things can you really read?? I thought I'd just do a quick rundown of stuff I've been watching. It's Fluff Friday, if you will.



This is a dark Icelandic detective series that was completely atmospheric and moody and everything I needed to watch in February/March. If you need to make yourself feel better about your endless winter and craptastic weather, you should watch a television show that takes place in weather that is WORSE than yours! I didn't believe it was possible, but this show had the worst weather, and we relished that it was worse than ours. Which is sort of proof that bad weather really warps your mind in dark ways...hence the popularity of the Scandinavian crime series these days.

But the actual series, Christy! An unidentified torso turns up in the waters outside a small town in Iceland. The extremely tiny police force consisting of three people and their giant, teddy bear-like chief with a complicated family, must try and solve the murder without any outside help because of the ensuing horrific weather. It's very well crafted, with great performances from most of the actors (some are poor and stick out like sore thumbs), and does a great job of making you feel like you're part of this small town. You know me and small town mysteries - a total sucker! But if you don't mind subtitles and like being riveted by the Icelandic language this is worth your time.


Jane the Virgin

Finally on Canadian Netflix, Jane the Virgin offers the perfect mix of soap opera dramatics and tongue in cheek humour that makes for compelling binge watching. I had pretty low expectations but the characters are really great. The humour and way it pokes fun at the telenovela genre are spot on. The second season was so good that it will inevitably go downhill. I'm only beginning the third season and it's more than evident it's on the downswing. I'm not endorsing any of the lack of various morality in the show, and if you have no sense of humour about soap operas this isn't for you, (I, of course, have NO experience with soap operas - she said sarcastically) but if you want some easy entertainment give it a shot. 

And Rogelio for life!


Hell of High Water

We do not watch a lot of movies. There seems to be nothing that appeals to both me and my husband when we are gifted with enough time to actually watch a movie together. But because Julie so wholeheartedly recommend this Oscar-nominated movie we gave it a shot. An almost modern day western, Hell or High Water tells the story of two bank robbing brothers in Western Texas. It's well written, well acted (Hello, Jeff Bridges!), and has a lot going on that makes you understand the characters much more than you thought. 


Life in Pieces

Sometimes you just feel like a funny sitcom and there's nothing wrong with that! This series is pretty hilarious and well written. It doesn't smack of disingenuousness like Modern Family but retains many characteristics of people you know. The writing is really well done as it combines four different short stories in each episode, that's like writing four different episodes each episode when you think of how much time and dialogue is usually wasted in sitcoms. The second season is airing now, but the first season is on Netflix (up here anyways!)


The Bridge

Since we got roped into Scandinavian crime series with Trapped we thought we'd try an older series called The Bridge which was really popular a few years ago. It's almost the exact opposite of Trapped in that it takes place in an urban setting, involves a complete psychopathic serial killer, and has a very unique detective at the centre of the investigation. It's a mystery that begins with a body found on the border of a huge bridge joining Denmark and Sweden and a detective from each country must work together to solve the increasingly bizarre crimes. It was well-paced and well done, but I just didn't like it as much as Trapped. And I didn't become conversational in Swedish. 



Such a good movie! I still don't understand how an alien movie can so deftly rip out my mother's heart, cut it into a million pieces, then put it back together. I don't want to give any of it away really. But go watch it and try not to cry, I dare you!
And Jeremy Renner. The only problem I had with this movie is that Jeremy Renner would never do anything wrong!! Never!



We also finally watched Moana. And I watched the entire thing and didn't want that hour and a half of my life back, so basically it was an animated movie win. I'm not saying it's life changing or a classic, and the demigod stuff I didn't even begin to hash out with my kids, but the music and characters were perfectly entertaining. 

As usual, I will be eternally grateful for your recommendations dear readers with better taste than I! 

Happy Weekend!

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately

I've got a good mix of books this week! Some great fiction, nonfiction, even parenting! I love hearing if you've read them too and what you thought.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This beautiful novel tells the stories of the descendants of two sisters in Africa, some of whom are taken as slaves to America, and those that remain on the continent. They are such varied stories told with such an honesty through beautiful prose that I can't think of anyone I wouldn't recommend this book to. It was one of the best books I read last year, even if it is oftentimes difficult to read, it's beauty stays with you and the characters remain very much alive in your mind.

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

This book was great in that it basically reaffirms my parenting style/philsophy. I felt supported in the different reasons simplicity is so important and foundational to our kids, but I mostly skimmed it. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good parenting book, and even if you too end up skimming it, it really can't hurt and you might pick up some more good ideas!

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

It's a book about dysfunctional families growing up and living their lives, but Ann Patchett's eye for story and ability to create such believable worlds and characters even when you're not sure if you should be believing them, makes for an interesting read. I wonder how much is autobiographical, and I truly hope some of the traumatic moments aren't, but I felt this book had the honesty about family life and how the choices of parents impact their children that wasn't in The Nest. If not my favourite Ann Patchett novel, I still felt that Commonwealth had a lot to say.

On the Other Side of Fear: How I Found Peace by Hallie Lord

Hallie's honest writing brings to life so vividly the fears and anxieties we all experience and how God speaks to those fears in our lives in a concrete way. It really is foundational to our experience of faith no matter where you are in your relationship with God; life involves these fears in one way or another and it's really the place where faith makes a tangible difference to our lives. Hallie shares her personal stories in a way that is so accessible to the reader that this book can really speak to anyone no matter where they are spiritually. There is so much richness to understanding God's love in our lives when it comes to peace and fear that we all need to be reminded to see and experience God in our lives. A great book to read yourself, or to give as a gift!

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

The fifth Armand Gamache book in the series involves the murder of a virtual hermit in the town of Three Pines. The regular cast of townspeople continues to be entertaining, and the twists of this one are at times a bit far fetched but still engrossing. I thought the ending left the reader hanging, but it does make a lot more sense once you read the sixth instalment!

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy for Quick Lit

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Seven Quick Takes vol. 156

Happy St. Patricks Day to Kelly who clearly has the luck of the Irish without being Irish...


Well hellllooo. It's been weeks since I blogged. Again. It's just crazy how I start out my day with the greatest of intentions to get so much done, to write, to blog, to plan, and for there to never to be time to carry out all these good intentions! I really feel kinda snowed under lately just by the sheer amount of things I need to get done in a day and have no spare minutes. And then when I do have spare minutes I'm interrupted every two minutes. Or I'm just so fried I really do need to rest, read, watch Netflix. I'm trying not to feel hopeless about this situation but it's feeling like only giant lifestyle changes are going to solve this problem. I don't know, I'm praying about it. And trying not to be my completely regimented, allergic to change self.


The reaaaallly big news was we got away for a really quick trip to Texas sans kiddos and kiddets! All the jazz hands!! I always stress about leaving, have anxiety over leaving the kids for so long, wonder if it's worth all the work, effort, coordination, and money to go away with just my husband for such a short time and then am always completely convinced and proven wrong; that it is completely worth it to get away even if it's for a short time. It always surprises me. Because leaving 5 kids, even when it's in the cushiest situation we've got going, is always so much work before hand. But then we go and relax and do what we want and hardly even end up talking about the kids. It's a really good break and just the change of pace is so good. I'm really grateful for it!


The highlight of the trip was seeing Haley! Haley and her family drove down to San Antonio to meet us and it was so much fun to see her again and to meet her family in person after all these years of just knowing them through the internet! We went out for Mexican food at the greatest place, drank huge margaritas, saw the wonderful light show on the San Fernando Cathedral, then got to go to Mass together the next morning at the beautiful San Jose Mission. It was just so lovely! Our husbands met each other. It was completely bonkers! I mean, they got along of course, it just felt so surreal but awesome.


We really loved San Antonio. It's a great mix of history and culture that's unique to us, as well as having some fun touristy things, fabulous food (which is one of the primary reasons we travel it seems), and beautiful weather for March! We ate barbecue, walked the beautiful river walk at our leisure without worrying kids were going to fall in (because I had that thought often), drank a lot of margaritas, toured the Alamo. Basically, had such a wonderful time!


We were so glad to have even a slight reprieve from the weather because March weather has really stunk around here. And the last two weeks of February. Only the last couple days have been above freezing -- finally! I just think I'm hitting the winter wall and desperately need some sunshine and no more snow. The kids have been cooped up and I swear each day they do crazier things. Yesterday a boy ate half a slice of uncooked bacon which he later confessed to me at bedtime. Why?!?! Whhhhhyyyyyy?!?! Winter's gotta end.


Since I haven't been blogging lately I just wanted to mention our newest podcast episode with the wonderful Lisa Hendey. She shared her new books the Chime Travellers as well as some great words of wisdom for moms who still want to pursue their passions and why it's so important. I really appreciated hearing from her and felt a bit star-struck talking to her! She was lovely! 

It's also #trypod month! If you know someone who might enjoy our podcast but has no idea what podcasts are - let them know about it, and maybe install a helpful podcast app for them. And if they're your mother you'll probably have to teach them how to search and subscribe for them too. I keep meaning to teach my mom how to listen to podcasts come to think about it...


It's been a rough week for me. Mostly just parenting wise. Or job wise. Or life wise. It's all related in the SAHM game. I think that's sometimes part of the trouble trying to work things out. It's hard to see what's parenting, what's down to a particular kid or phase, what could be something that's bothering you, if it's a time issue, if it's just a bad week. It's hard to figure out when your one job, place of work, and people you work with are all your own offspring to figure out what the problem is when it's not easy to spot. Should you make changes or is it something the kid will work out? Do you need to just continue with what you're doing and consistency will help fix things or do you need to change directions? Are things just hard because it's just a tough week and you don't need to rethink things? I guess I just wish that in tough weeks that there was a more objective checklist I could work and analyze somehow that could tell me exactly what I need to change or fix. I do sometimes wish that my place of work was outside that home and if that were bad I could place blame on that job without guilt. Or if things were frustrating at home that at least time at the ol' job would give me some time doing something completely different and get some mental break. It's just tough when it's an all consuming, full time deal yo. 

I'm sure most of you dear readers get this. Whether you're full time at home or not, you know where I'm coming from mamas! 

Hope your weekend isn't full of leftover green beer...or maybe I do??

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