Catechisms Cannot Teach Your Children to Love God

All parents have the primary responsibility to educate their children. This is a duty that parents cannot in good conscience shirk off or place on others. They are obliged to find a good school for their children or educate them at home. For Catholics the duty of education especially includes teaching their children the precepts of the Catholic faith and showing them how to live as faithful Christians. But religious education from a textbook, as it has been traditionally done, has a danger of becoming either completely shallow and soppy, or at the other extreme of becoming entirely cerebral. A true religious education is that of the whole person — the heart, mind, soul, strength, and even the body — but primarily the heart.

Yet, how does one go about educating their children in the faith?

The easy answer is to send them to a Catholic school where they will have religion or catechism class, sign them up for CCD if they go to a non-Catholic school, or teach them their catechism at home from a curriculum. These days there are a wide variety of books for educating our children in faith.

Still, studies show that young Catholics are leaving the Church as teenagers. A diocese I worked for had a problem of families coming to Mass only on the Sundays when their religious education program required it for their children to receive the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation. And the one hour per week that catechists spent with the children was spent reading a religious text that neither delved into actually explaining the faith nor taught them how to talk to God in prayer. Everything was superficial. My husband, who teaches philosophy at a university in the Catholic tradition, has had students who were raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools, but who never learned that one could use reason to come to the knowledge of God’s existence. Sadly, this poor state of catechesis is one that the Church has been striving to remedy for decades.

As a parent who is raising children in the Catholic faith and as one raised in a family where all four children are devout, practicing Catholics as adults, I hold that learning one’s catechism from a book or going through an unsystematic, light religious textbook is not enough. My experience in home schooling shows me that children need more.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register.

Women and Men are Equal in Nature and in Grace

There has been a lot of discussion in the online world of “Catholic Twitter,” podcasts, and in the blogosphere about men and women — their complementarity, whether or not they are equal, and how they are different. Podcaster Timothy Gordon stated on The Matt Fradd Show that the Church has taught against married women working, and he said that the New Testament and natural law point to the idea that “men and women are utterly unequal,” though equal in dignity. He did not, however, go on to explain how they are “utterly unequal,” except to state that men are “bigger, stronger” and have a “different forebrain.” He holds that natural law proves, and Christian tradition supports, that a husband is the boss of his wife. Yet, the only argument he gave for this is that in all of human history this has been the case, and only since the feminist movements has the trend of men having authority over women and of men being seen as higher than women been questioned.

The problem with these statements about the inequality of men and women is that they overlook that, since they are human beings, members of the same species, men and women have all of the same powers. Thus, one cannot say that they are “utterly unequal.”

Women and men are first of all rational animals, human beings, made in the image of God. All humans have an intellectual power to reason, learn, understand and know God. Both men and women have wills where they can freely choose good or evil. They have passions and appetites that influence these choices and must be ruled over by reason. These abilities to do things are called their powers. Men and women have the power to love God, love others, see, speak, eat, walk, have conversations, make plans, teach others, use and create tools, and so many other things. They are the same in all of these things.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register.

Life These Days

Somehow we have hit a rhythm that is working this semester. Maybe it is working for me because I get to sleep until my Lyme diseased body is ready to wake up, and the professor is doing the work of getting the children up for the day. But I think that perhaps he is okay with things as well, especially since we put our feet down earlier this year and made all the children ages 5 and up responsible for getting themselves ready and fed in the morning.

I have been waking up around 8 am most days to the sound of my children laughing and playing outside my door. By the time I am dressed and out of my room, the school aged children are hard at work at the dining room table, and the professor is working beside them. His sabbatical has become a semester of studious contemplation for us all. Once I am able to manage the school and teach the subjects that need teaching (about half of their work is independent requiring very little one on one instruction), the professor disappears to do his work away from the chaos of four children.

I guide the children through school until lunchtime at 12:30pm. We have fourth grader, second grader, kindergartner, and a three year old bundle of energy this year. Mostly the younger two entertain themselves with continual reminders to play somewhere else when they intrude upon school space. I do make time to work on math, reading, and handwriting with my kindergartner, and my preschooler is gleaning all sorts of things like counting, colors, playing blocks, building duplos, coloring, from his older sister.

We have found our rhythm in the elementary school level as well. I am used to our curriculum for each subject now (though fourth grade singapore math is getting intimidating–I can’t remember at what grade level I learned the order of operations…but we just covered it!), so teaching is going smoothly.

Lunchtime has become super easy as well since we instituted the “make your own lunch” rule. To clarify, we have guidelines about this for them–they choose from a small variety of healthy options. The older children then move the dishwasher along after lunch while listening to a fairy story from the Andrew Lang Fairy Books (which we learned recently were actually compiled by his wife and some of her friends!).

After lunch is nap time for the three year old and quiet time for the rest of us. The girls and I start of each quiet time with a short prayer time where I read the daily Mass readings to them and then we reflect quietly (or look through saint books or children’s Bibles) for ten minutes. They go off to their quiet time spots for an hour and I settled into reading theology for about an hour (trying to get through St. Gregory the Great’s Morals on the Book of Job before Christmas), and then whatever writing or editing work I need to do for that day.

We have streamlined dinner meals to be shorter an easier these last few years, so I can usually get away with working until 4:30 or so before I cook dinner (which I have been able to do these past two weeks…this Lyme will be beaten!).

At dinner we will often have a discussion topic. We cover one painting and one work of music a week. Lately, we have been reading through the Constitution and discussing it. About once a week we watch Ken Burn’s National Park’s documentary with dinner, and that sparks discussion as well–our kids are turning into environmentalists! Sometimes we will discuss a question from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae. Then the professor reads to us from the Bible–a chapter of the Old Testament and a chapter of the New Testament in order. We have been doing this for over three years and it is so great to hear it, and for the children to learn salvation history in a family setting.

After dinner, I take my crazy amount of meds (had a morning dose as well), and help the professor clean the kitchen.

We get the kids to bed in a leisurely way with family prayers, stories, and lots of “last drinks” and visits to the bathroom. The professor reads to the older kids from a chapter book. They just finished Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, and are reading The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle. It is the second time through for King Arthur, but the younger kids do not remember it.

Once everyone is in bed, the professor and I have been indulging in Star Trek: Enterprise. We were both into Star Trek in high school, gave it up in college, and tapped back into it our first years of marriage. This series is new to us, and has been a good way to enjoy the evening quiet while I have been sick. We usually have time for reading as well. I just finished Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray, and am now plowing through my second reading of Framely Parsonage by Anthony Trollope.

So, despite the annoyance of being sick since we got back from our wonderful trip Out West, I am finding a peaceful enjoyment in the studiousness of our life these days. I think it is good for the kids and for us to spend our days in study, even if my two afternoon hours does not seem like that much, it does wonders for me. This is the home school life I dreamed of, and I wish the professor’s sabbatical would last forever…and maybe we could avoid all the extra curricular activities that have not yet started…

NCRegister Blog: The Benefits of Living in a Small House with a Family

It has taken me a long time to get to the point of being comfortable with intentionally living in a smaller house with our potentially large family. There is that point after having a baby, when I start thinking about if/when the next one might come along, and if/when he or she does come along, what we are going to do about bedrooms. I spend hours planning and rearrange mentally where we are going to put which person. Then I start to wonder, how much space does each of my children really need? At what point would it make sense to get a bigger house? Can we just get by with the space we have?

Often in the midst of my anxiety about house size, I have had to be reminded that these material things are passing and what really matters is that we grow in holiness. My own experience of growing up in a smaller house in a family of six, realizing how others have lived in the past, talking to friends who grew up in bigger families, and considering creative, economical uses of home space has all contributed to my husband and my decision to choose purposefully to live in our smaller house with our four children and potentially with any future ones.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…

How I Find Time to Exercise as a Mom

6 week old G napping in the jogger at Delaware Park in Buffalo, NY.

Yesterday, for the first time since something like 2011, I ran 3 miles straight. The last time was between babies number 2 and 3. I had trained for a 5k mud-run, and it was quite fun. I have been running regularly whenever my childbearing has allowed me to, but I have never extended my mileage up to three miles again until now. So, I had to blog about it. Because it is very exciting for me to hit a “mile”stone like that. I would have gotten here sooner had it not been for my concussion last February which set me back to zero miles.

I am what I call an extremely casual runner. I am not fast (11 minute miles give or take), and I run about three times a week on a limited amount of time. I have to fit my exercise and shower into about 90 minutes, so I only have so long to run for. Actually, I am a little obsessive about running at least three times a week (and showering three times a week accordingly).

I became a runner in college after three things happened: my asthma was properly diagnosed, I had good orthotics for my flat feet, and my sister who was in physical therapy school at the time trained me how to run “correctly”. All of the factors explained why I hated sports like soccer when I was in elementary school or “the mile” we ran each school year. It was torture on my feet and ankles. Yet, I persisted to learn how to run, mostly for the sake of being healthy.

I like running as exercise because it requires very little equipment, I can do it alone, I don’t have to go to a gym, I can fit it into my daily life, and it helps my postpartum body discover its former shape (in as much as it is able).

I also dislike running. It is a struggle to get through my runs, one could say it is a mortification. I count down the minutes and count up the miles throughout it. I find it pleasurable during the first four minutes or so, and awful after that. Though sometimes I get to the end of my planned running time and feel good enough to go an extra minute or two, so I do. And that is how I increase my miles. But I always feel good after I have done it, so I continue to push myself to do it.

I started to fit regular exercise into my life at the end of high school and during the beginning of college. I decided on how many times a week I was going to do it, planned when I was going to do it and stuck to it. In college I often would wake up for 6:30am Mass, exercise, shower, and then go to breakfast. That routine worked really well for sticking with it. Once I became a mother, I had to adjust things.

After G (my first) was born, since I already had a habit of regular exercise, I got back into it at about 6 weeks postpartum. I had a jogging stroller and that was one of regular activities together. Having two babies through a wrench in my system. I did not want to jog with two, so the professor and I created a system of me going out for runs during the kids afternoon nap time. And we have had they system ever since. Nap times for all but the baby are nonexistent, but the older ones take a quiet time during the baby’s nap. So, with the professor available, on days he does not work on campus, for all of the children’s urgent needs, I can take 90 minutes in the afternoon to run and shower. They play and he works. That has been our system for 6 years now, and a very good one I might add. 

The main thing that has kept me exercising has been to make a plan and stick with it, and not checking the internet when I am supposed to be exercising. Every semester, the professor and I talk over his schedule. He tells me what days that he will be on campus, and then we plan when I am going to exercise. Some semesters I run on Mon, Wed, Fri. In others it is Tues, Thurs, and Sat. With my three times a week schedule, I also have plenty of physical energy for whatever outings, walks, and games the kids want to play as well.

And now for my confession: two things that keep me motivated to run are 1) my treadmill and 2) audiobooks. I used to run outside all types of weather, but I hated planning my routes and running in public. I am more introverted than extroverted, so I like to just go and run and be alone. The treadmill solves that problem. I will run outside in a pinch, and I do enjoy it when I do, but it is often easier for us, for me just to run at home… plus, hot Minnesota summers and cold Minnesota winters make it easier to stay inside. I love our local library’s subscription to an audiobook app. I can borrow audiobooks through the free app and listen to novel after novel while I run. I “read” Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles last year, and am currently on a George Elliot kick. It is a great break for me to run and read at the same time. My mother used to demand I stop reading to play outside in the summer, and now I read and get my exercise at the same time!

At the NCRegister: St. Benedict’s Rule, the Little Silence, and Family Life

The first time I that read the Holy Rule of St. Benedict, I was particularly struck by the adaptability of the Rule to family life. This is not to say that a family should follow the Rule to a T. Rather, in our home life we should emulate the virtues that are needed for the particular roles in a monastery. Also, a structured routine of prayer, work, and planned relaxation is key for the formation of holiness. I have found that our whole family is happier when we have a routine, and that our routine helps us all learn the discipline required for forming virtuous habits.

One of our good college friends will soon be joining a monastery, and in discussing his future life, I asked him about the daily routine at the monastery. He described his day of waking early to pray, to eat breakfast, to pray, to work, to pray again, to pray more, to eat the afternoon meal, and then what they call “the Little Silence” (as opposed to “the Great Silence” at night)…

Read the rest at the Register…

Country Roads: Our Big Summer Roadtrip


We spent two weeks of July doing one of those massive road trips that we are wont to do; the kind that make we wonder if we are insane. We parred it back a bit from our Christmas trip, from three weeks down to two. And since the night weaning of T was so effective, we actually slept pretty well until he gave into his slowly emerging molars and woke several times the last night in MI. (The molars are still the cause of a 5-6ish morning wake up which requires me to feed the poor, teething baby; but this, too, shall pass.)

Here is what we did on our trip:

St. Paul to Michigan to Buffalo to the mountains of West Virgina with a stop in Pittsburgh to drop a friend off and an impulse swing by Steubenville (Hail, Alma Mater! Let your glories here be told!) back to Michigan over to Grand Rapids for a wedding back to Ypsilanti for Sunday Mass with a priest friend home from Germany and finally, finally, home again, home again…

And the best part is that for all those hours on the car, 13 month old T only was really inconsolably upset about it for the four hours between Steubenville and Ypsi.

Our first trek of our trip brought us for two nights to stay with the professor’s parents and his sister. We spent a quick 36 hours with them before shuffling off to Buffalo, NY, where we lived for four years while the professor earned his PhD. My grandparents live on the west side of Cleveland and we stopped there for a couple of hours and lunch; it was wonderful to see them and visit with them and my aunt and my two-year-old first cousin.

As we drove through Cleveland, east on down I-90, through the snow belt of Ohio, into Pennsylvania, and into New York, so many memories of our time in Buffalo came back to us. We talked to our eldest of parts of the road she always screamed through as an overtired infant at the end of long road trips, reminisced about the intense snow storms we plowed through for out Christmas visits to family, and pointed out our favorite places to stop for gas. All the emotions we felt in the instability of grad school life came back to us. We remembered our first drive up to Buffalo together to hunt for apartments. We admired the still beautiful vineyards of Western New York and admired the view of Lake Erie from the bluff that I-90 runs across.

In Buffalo, we stayed with some of our good friends from our years there who always seem to have at least twice as many kids as we do. We had none when they had three; we had two when then had four; we had our third when they had six, and now we have four and they have eight. They also live in a large, beautiful custom built five bedroom house (which is always spotless) with plenty of land for playing and exploring. In addition to hosting us for two nights, they graciously held a gathering with most of our friends that we were close to in Buffalo. It was awesome to see everyone, and we were all about the same as always with just a few more kids. I don’t think I saw my older children the whole time we were there since they just were absorbed into the playing.

After two nights we drove to a resort in the mountains of West Virginia where we all felt awfully car sick rented a seven bedroom vacation home to house 11 adults and 12 children. We vacationed with these college friends three summers ago, and I wish we could do it every summer (or that we all lived in the same town). They are all so dear to us; these were the people with whom we formed a foundation of faith in our early adulthood and the kind that I can’t wait to spend eternity with because they are so wonderful. (But we have also found wonderful friends everywhere that we have lived, and we love you all!)


The view from the porch of our house.



After our week of West Virgina we went back to Michigan for a cousin’s wedding, and to see our dear friend who was ordained a priest for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priests last summer and was on a home visit. He has a beautiful hand carved wooden travel altar on which he said a traditional Latin low Mass in a house (just like the old days…) at which we were thrilled to assist. G requested the front row and knelt inches away from Canon (the title for priests of the institute), which was so special for her.

Between West Virginia and Michigan we made an impromptu stop in Steubenville. The campus was all set up for a youth conference, but we found a visitor parking spot and did a walk around campus. It was weird being there in some ways. We showed the kids where we had met, the courtyard between our old dorms where we had fallen in love, took them to the Port to pray, and spotted a young couple having an emotional conversation probably similar to those we used to have. It was nice to stop by and see the place.



The Marian (R) and Trinity (L) Hall courtyard that we often rendezvoused in before walks (like the one during which we confessed our like for each other).
The poured cement steeple of Christ the King Chapel next to which we met for the first time.
Where we met nearly 12 years ago.
The Portiuncula Chapel where there is perpetual adoration during the semester.
G and The Port.
The bridge between Steubenville and Weirton, WV.

We had a lovely trip, but are now savoring these warm months, easing back into school days (1-2 subjects a week), and eating all the in season foods… It is good to be home.

Join Me in a Novena for Marriages to Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin

It is that time of year again! I love, love to pray to Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin for help in anything in family life and especially in my marriage. I read their published letters this past year, and love them even more. Marriage and marriages need so many prayers for graces.

I am inviting you (and your spouse if he or she desires) to join me and my husband in a novena to Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin (from the site ““Saints Louis and Zelie Martin: The Parents of St. Therese of Lisieux” run by a very nice lady Maureen O’Riordan) leading up to their Feast day on July 12. The novena will begin on Monday, July 4 and end on Tuesday, July 12. On the 12th itself, we will also pray a litany to the holy couple. The novena itself has an imprimatur, so it is even Church approved!

Since the Novena was written before their canonization, it asks for them to be canonized. Feel free to mentally substitute a thanksgiving for their canonization.

If you would like to follow along with me in the novena, I will be posting reminders on this blog, Living With Lady Philosophy. You can sign up to receive emails with the reminders by following my blog by email in the left hand column, or follow the blog in a RSS feed. I will post reminders to Facebook daily.

Here you may also leave your intentions for your marriage or for someone else’s in the comments or you may email me your intention to livingwithladyphilosophy at gmail dot com (skip the spaces and use the actual punctuation), and I will add you to my list. If you wish to remain anonymous just give your first initials (ex. M&S) or your last initial (Mr. &Mrs. S) or even make up initials.

I am so excited to share this powerful novena with you my readers and to have this opportunity to pray for your marriages!


Finding my Normal

There is that day after each pregnancy (well, besides the first one), that I have felt “normal” again. My mind is clear again; I feel like I have emerged from the fog that I was in since the beginning of pregnancy. And my old jeans fit again (the ones I got after baby #2).

It has been 11 months since T was born, and 11 weeks since my concussion, and the past few days I have felt myself again. I can’t remember exactly when it happened after the other babies. I think with my third it took over a year. With my second, I am not sure, maybe 10 months? I ran a 5k when she was that age. And with my first, it was not until my second was 10 months, because, you can never go back to your pre-first-baby self.

Another thing about this post-baby time is that this is the first time we have lived three years in one home since we were married. This is the first time we are coming to the end of four school years in one place and we are not moving somewhere else.

We are here, in Minnesota. The roots we make here are not going to be taken up, if life continues as it has been going. The friends we have made we are not about to leave. We are here, and it is a little strange, but it is also good.

Life is moving forward, but we also have stability. The school year is coming to an end. The professor is on campus more than normal, but the end is in sight with last week being the last week of classes. It will probably be the last week of home school classes as well. Math and English are wrapping up.

And I feel like a normal human being (as normal as I can be when I my values seem to be radically different from most of the rest of the people in my country). I have had a four-plus hour stretch of sleep in the middle of the wake ups at night for the past week. I am functioning above baseline this week.

And despite all the things going on the world, I feel that life is good. It is good that we are here, and we are so blessed.

Seven Quick Takes: Easter Week

1. Happy Easter! We had a lovely Triduum, not pushing our limits with four kids. M and G went to Holy Thursday. I made it out to the altar of repose at our territorial parish once they came home from St. Agnes. On Good Friday we all went to the afternoon Mass of the Presanctified (that is the traditional name for it, the Eucharist is already consecrated, hence “presanctified”). I had a wrestling match stood in back with T for most of it. Saturday we stayed home. It was a good idea all around. M and I like to do the 12 readings from the old, old Easter vigil on the Holy Saturdays that we don’t get to go. So we did that, and it was nice. We went to Sunday morning mass and then spent the day at the farm in Wisconsin with M’s aunt, uncle, and cousins. We had a lovely time there as usual.

2. Secondly, thank you all for your prayers for my dad and I a couple of weeks ago. Dad had another scan, and will be seeing his doctor next week to hear about his options. As for my concussion, I am going to be going to physical therapy for about a month to help me become more tolerant of visual stimulation (too much of which has been causing me to be lightheaded, dizzy, and nauseated).

3. Today did not turn out at all like I expected. We were planning on going to our home school co-op only to have the baby wake up sick. The poor little guy had to have two baths this morning from various effects of his illness and has been running a fever all day. Instead we stayed home, and did things like plant some seeds. I think everyone enjoyed it. We had four little starter sets from Easter baskets, but they came with so many seeds that we planted 7 more basil plants, and two strawberry plants from another starter kit. I am hoping the light from the AeroGarden will give our plants the help they need to get a head start on summer.

4. I got around to some things I have been wanting to do for awhile, like put the Easter grass away and organize this school supply cabinet. I have been meaning to organize it since September, but never got around to buying the paper organizing racks. So, these stacks of paper have been laying in a messy stack with other things scattered about. I do not have before pictures for you. At any rate, my dad had some extra office organizing supplies and brought them when he came to visit it. A sick day for baby and canceled outing was the perfect time to get started!

5. I meant to write in the afternoon, but the girls asked me to help them build their Lego pizzaria. This set was mine as a little girl. So, instead of writing I spent 45 minutes digging through Legos and building with my kids. I think it was worth it. And I have discovered that most Lego sets have directions online.

6. Spring is springing even though we were in the 30s today. I am thinking about buying seeds this weekend and planting cold crops outside soon. Our tulip bulbs are well on their way to flowering. And these daffodils are on their third spring and finally look established. In the past we have gotten a few straggler in May. It looks like we will have an abundance this year! I love daffodils!

7. We have been a little delayed in our indoor plant traditions this year, so instead of an Easter lily, we have an Easter Amaryllis…

We were also late in that we planted the Resurrection garden grass thing on Good Friday, so our grass is just starting to come in. I suppose it is a good thing Easter lasts 7 weeks–maybe this little lawn in symbolic in that the joy of Easter does not happen all at once, but we grow closer to God slowly over the Eastertide so that we are more spiritually ready to receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

I am linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum. Head on over for more quick takes!