November 2006


. . . cardinals in the castle, lizards in lawn furniture.  I don’t know why the little animals are being so poetic these days, perhaps the gorgeous weather.  It’s hard to explain just how glorious these past few days have been.  Bright blue skies, leaves turning, the sun is still warm but the light is lower and softer; everywhere I turn there’s a view that begs to be photographed.   I walk around soaking it all in and sighing at how beautiful it is.

Suburban South Carolina is part of the middle-class of landscapes.  No abject misery here, but no purple mountain majesties either.  I like to travel, and I can vouch for the fact that many other places are much, much nicer.  But I’m confident you could do a lot worse. 

I’ve been contemplating St. Paul’s words to us earlier this week, "I know how to be rich, and I know how to be poor."  I think that here in the comfortable middle class — of both landscapes and incomes — the risk is that we don’t know how to be either.  My parish is in the process of both raising money for a new building, and at the same time pleading with parishioners to donate more in the weekly offering because we aren’t meeting our regular expenses.   It is a mirror of the way we tend to live in the wider world.

Lately there has been a push around our  house to live more accurately.   That is to say, to live in according to a clear understanding of both our riches and the limits of our resources.  This isn’t exactly holiness — the Gospels aren’t about striving to be good suburbanites — but it is sanity.  Which is a good starting point.


Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving
by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Greg Shed
Harcourt “Silver Whistle”, 2000.
ISBN 0-15-201817-4

In anticipation of Thanksgiving, I picked up a handful  of
children's books from the local library.  This is a good

The book tells the story of Squanto's life from
1614 to 1621.  Each major element of the story is told on one
page, with an accompanying painted illustration.  The perspective
is firmly Native American, but in a positive way that is respectful of
non-Indians.  Because the story ends at the time of the famous
first Thanksgiving, it is up to the parents to fill in the ensuing

In its precision and thoroughness, the book includes
Indian names that may be unfamiliar to those learning this history in
detail for the first time.  There is a glossary in the back, but
unfortunately it does not include a pronunciation guide.  So if
you are reading aloud, be prepared to have to do some sounding-out as
you go.  Also, because of the detailed nature of the account, it
will be helpfu to summarize what is happening as you go along, to keep
track of the story, especially for younger listeners.  As a
result, though, this book would be quite helpful to an older student
(junior high through college aged) that wanted an approachable summary
of these events.  The Author's Note at the end of the book gives
some interesting background on how the story was researched.

In all, just a lovely book.  It would make a nice jumping-off
point for students all of ages to study this part of American history.


A popular insult these days is to accuse someone of being a "single issue voter", as if this somehow proves said person is an unthinking drone, incapable of grasping the many complex issues that more sophisticated types take into consideration when voting.  This is an especially bizzare "insult" in our two-party system.  It is not as if multi-issue voters have more than two viable candidates to choose from, so the pratical result is the same — you either find in favor of a major-party candidate, or you vote third party.  I don’t see that it really matters whether your essential priorities are one issue, two issues, twenty issues — in all cases, it’s like the old multiple choice quiz instructions:  choose the "best" answer.  Not always the perfect answer, just the best one offered at this time.


But when it comes to voting pro-life, it isn’t so much a matter of voting "single" issue, as voting "the one non-negotiable issue".  Would you vote for a candidate who was strong on all the important stuff, except that he thought the right to lynchings ought to be protected?   How about a candidate with great foreign and domestic policy — and proven results! — but he thought rape ought to be legalized?  There are positions that simply cannot be tolerated. 


Here is a real-life example of what happens when "thinking" Catholics set aside pivotal moral issues in order to choose a candidate with better policies on other issues.  Unfortunately I don’t have my sources in front of me, and don’t have time to run to the library.  So I am going to tell this from memory, and if anyone needs citations I can dig them up later this week or so.


Anyhow, during the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, Catholic voters were divided.  There was another party — the Christian Democrats I think? — that was morally sound, but otherwise had a very weak program.  This was a time when Germany was still struggling from the after-effects of World War I, and a good domestic program to get the economy in order was very important.  The morally-acceptable party just wasn’t delivering.   So many Catholics voted for the Nazis.  They disagreed strongly with the Nazi’s position on moral issues*, but until the Nazi party came into full power, those things just weren’t as in-your-face.  (As we now know, once the Nazis came into power, it was too late to go back.) 


In other words, it is because some German Catholics — and other Germans of good will and good moral sense — were too "smart" to vote "single issue", the Nazis were able to ascend to power.  


The same has happened in the US — too many people who personally oppose abortion have nonetheless voted for pro-abortion candidates.  History has rightly judged that German voters made the wrong choice, and many people suffered and died as a result.  At the time, the choice wasn’t quite as evident — the evil of racism is not so clear when you aren’t the one experiencing it, and genocide is so contrary to all that is right and good that people have a difficult time mentally accepting its reality.  Right now we live in a time when abortion is treated this way.    It is an evil to which our wider culture shuts its eyes and mind. 


But human beings are not that stupid and morally insensitive.  There will come a time when reason again prevails on this issue, and people of the future will look back and see how barbaric our society has been — killing its own children and calling this murder a legal "right". 


Tommorrow we aren’t  being asked to risk life and limb in order to protect the innocent.  We are only being asked to risk that nonsense "insult" of being a "single-issue" voter.  Small price to pay in order to rescue our society from the savagery in which we are now engulfed.




*Some people like to pretend that the catholic position on racism is new or modern.  It is not.  We can of course cite the Bible itself to prove that point.  ("In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek . . .")  But we cannot pretend that somehow Catholics in the 1930’s simply "didn’t know better" because of some cloud over moral theology at that time.  The 2nd Edition of Religion Outlines for Colleges, Course I, first printed in 1935, opens its chapter on "Good-Will and Peace Among Nations" by saying:


The citizens of another nation and the members of another race are as truly my neighbors, children of God our Father and brothers of our Elder Brother Crist, as are my fellow-citzens and members of my own race.  . . . Their rights are as truly and strictly to be respected as are the rights of my own nation and race.

[Italics are from the original text].  This is what a textbook for college freshman in 1935 had to say.  Not some work of ground-breaking social justice theory.  Catholics who turned a blind eye to racism then are just as guilty as catholics who today turn a blind eye to abortion.  We cannot plead ignorance. 





As promised, here is the link to the NFPtalk forum at delphi:


On the start page there are a handful of useful links related to Natural Family Planning (scroll down past the forum rules to find them).  The participants are about 60% catholic I would guess.  Most of the conversation is not about NFP.  I have found this group of people to be interesting, helpful, and generally friendly.  I’ve also found that it helps to be around for a while and get to know the personalities.  I don’t participate as much as I used to, in part due to busy-ness, but primarily because delphi keeps crashing my computer.   My ancient freebie corporate-castoff computer let me clarify — other people don’t seem to have this problem.  Anyhow, I’m adding the link to my links section.  If you are looking for a place to discuss NFP, there it is.





In other breaking news: The sprouts are indeed sunflowers, I am 98% sure.  I found another patch just like the one under the bird feeder, and that patch of sprouts is just where I know I spilled some seeds a while ago.  Seed-wasters.  (All of us).  Hrmph. 


But all birds are forgiven on account of my discovery that they have planted a sassafrass tree for me.  This is my favorite kind of tree for two reasons: 1) The bark smells good.  2) It was the only kind of tree I learned to identify as a child.


I am hopeful for the sassafrass seedling, not so hopeful for the sunflower sprouts.  Meanwhile a good frost has finished off what was left of the lantana and the tomatoes, which means I have a lot of clearing away of dead plant debris in the days to come.  Less pressing are the autumn leaves  — yesterday I noticed one of the maples had blanketed the lawn with fallen leaves, and I remembered vaguely that some people rake those things.  Now that I think about it, I believe I told one of the children I would make a pile of leaves for jumping into.  So I suppose that gives shape to our PE curriculum for the coming week. 


Mt. Washmore and its twin peak Mt. Foldmore continue to loom in the background.  I was going to blog about how our French curriculum needs renovating, but for the moment I think I’ll push that off into the same do-not-think-about-it corner where Song of the Week is cowering.  Once again our parish is doing a beautfiul litany of the saints during Mass in November, and I would love to learn it.  I’m a little daunted though.  My brain is feeling mighty full already.  We’ll see.


One reason the brain is full: I’m reading Lies My Teacher Told Me.  Much better work than I had guessed it would be when I pulled it off the library shelf last week, mildly intrigued by the title but not expecting what I found.  I’ll review it when I finish it.



The baby is teething.  The first of our children to go to the doctor most certainly quite ill, and come home with a diagnosis of “fussy baby”.  Yes, that is what the good doctor wrote on the diagnosis form.  Insurance company is going to love that one.


For those more interested in the apologetics of purgatory than possible earthly paralells, Mr. Curly at Bethune Catholic has an excellent post up.  Goes through the biblical basis for this teaching in a quick summary, in his usual friendly and encouraging style.


I hadn't meant to post again, but this little article was too good not to mention.

 . . . reading!


Mr. Boy has been surprising me with his reading ability — I sort of knew he was learning to read, but since I spend our school time listening to him work painfully through “Did the dog see the cat?  Did the cat see the dog?  The dog ran at the cat. The cat ran.” etc etc., I get thrown for a loop everytime he uses reading for something useful — such as reading a book cover or a container label — and realize this is all starting to click with him.  Woohoo! 


And meanwhile, the reason for this title: On All Saint's Day we met some friends for Mass at their parish.  My friend surprised me with a loaner copy of The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria A. Trapp, which I have been wanting to read for ages.  Talk about a great book — it has everything.  Humor, suspense, drama, faith, family life, business, war, a rant against teenage dating . . . what more could a catholic homeschooling mother want?   Well written, hard to put down, edifying and enjoyable all at once.  Highly recommended.


Curiously, reading the book gave me more sympathy for the makers of The Sound of Music.  I hate it when filmakers change things when adapting a book or true story, and The Sound of Music changes a bunch.  I should hate that, right?  But what struck me in my reading is how well the film still managed to capture so many essential elements of the Trapp family.  For example the suspensful narrow escape from Austria in the film didn't happen in real life, but that fictional scene does capture the essence of the genuine fear and danger that existed for the family after the Nazi takeover.  The film is sort of the Lite version of the family story — no suprise given its genre.  It was a pleasure to discover much more depth to the person of Maria and especially her faith, in reading the book.    Excellent book to have been finishing up on All Soul's Day.


Wikipedia has a nice entry on Maria Von Trapp here, including some good links.   But for homeschoolers and history buffs, a fascinating link is this one, at the national archives.  It examines the Trapp family history from the perspective of an archivist, including samples of the family's immigration records.  There's a great unit study hiding in there.



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