Monday afternoon

Although our fruit orchard is only two years old, we were surprised with a decent crop of peaches this year. By decent, I mean perhaps a few hundred peaches altogether. Unfortunately at least half of these were worm infested, and so it was my job to cut out the wormy parts before LeXuan did the peeling and processing. We spent several late evenings in the kitchen together working on the peaches, talking, laughing, joking. I took great pride in removing the wormy areas while saving a maximum amount of peach. She took great pride in screaming at the worms I missed and pointing them out to me. I soon discovered that it was to my advantage to remove the maximum amount of worm even if it meant wasting a little more peach. It was an enjoyable activity which I highly recommend to married couples. Good marital bonding: no television required! And husbands will find it considerably more civilized than frightening their wives with spiders or frogs or snakes (but just as much fun).


Henry Dietrich of A Plumbline in the Wind comments on the new secular religion:

“In a way the health care establishment occupies the place in society the Church occupied in the Middle Ages. If you study a medieval city, you bump into a Church-related person or institution at every turn—not merely the clergy or houses of religious orders, but courts, tithe collectors, and a host of miscellanous employees. Consider the Canterbury Tales: not only is there a parson and a prioress, but a clerk of Oxenford, a summoner, and a pardoner, all of them part of the Church’s establishment. Likewise the Church provided a set of values and moral standards, which, while not always followed, were more or less universally recognized. In modern America, you can live your life without running into the Church, but you can’t avoid the health care establishment. There are doctors and nurses and hospitals; there are also the related bureaucracies, insurance companies, and firms that supply the health care system in ways great and small. As the Church collected tithes on all sorts of property, so health care takes its toll from every company’s revenue and every worker’s paycheck. And the religion of health provides the set of moral standards that are unanswerable.”


Drew Campbell of Running River Latin School tells us why he loves small towns.


The Yeoman Farmer, meanwhile, illustrates one of the many blessings of rural living: good neighbors.


Thanks to my referrer stats, a couple of interesting blogs have recently come to my attention. Meigs Return chronicles the development of a new family homestead (and an old family homecoming) in the gentle hills of Meigs County, Ohio – a worthy addition to the unlikely but growing genre of “homestead blogs”. Climbing Montserrat is a fine Catholic blog from Omaha, Nebraska, with a decidedly local and traditionalist flavor. Both blogs might constitute evidence that a new Christian regionalism is emerging throughout the land …


Mary Alexander of Against All Heresies had the great honor of watching her two sons serve the traditional Latin Mass with Bishop Salvatore Matano on the Feast of the Assumption. I have yet to see a complete text of the homily, but all reports have been extremely positive. The good bishop is reported to have said “If this is what it takes to fill our churches, then so be it!” He also told the traditionalists gathered in the co-cathedral – words that I find so astonishing it is hard to type them without tearing up a little – “This is your home. This is your home. THIS is your home!” It’s good to be home, Your Excellency! Mary is quoted in the Burlington Free Press article, and a beautiful audio slideshow can be viewed here.

A happy childhood

Jim Curley of Bethune Catholic is thinking about childhood:

“The memories are all good. I had a happy childhood. I loved my parents. Yes my Dad had a temper and was a dominating figure-but I loved spending time with him and listening to his stories and to his views-and of course, he could do anything! I loved (and still do love) my Mom. She was (and still is) always there to listen to her children’s troubles-and lend any helping hand she can. She had a firm hand, but I thank God for it even til today. My Mom and Dad’s devotion to the truth and to the Faith-even in the adversity that society was laying on-were inspiring and something to strive for. For me there was a peaceful security at home. God was there …

So it saddens me to the heart when, by the venom I hear in someone’s voice or in their writing, that I can recognize that they had an unhappy childhood.

I don’t know what makes a childhood happy or unhappy. Oh sure, the environment is part of it, but even that can vary. They say kids are pretty resilient and get over things fast-but not all.

You can talk to two children from the same family (after they’ve grown up of course) and get two diametrically opposed views of the family they grew up in. Barring abuse or tragedy, how one veiws their childhood must have a lot to do with a person’s own choices and attitudes, as well as the events and environment.”

There is certainly much to chew on here. Mr. Curley covers all bases. Sometimes an unhappy childhood is due to circumstances beyond one’s control; sometimes it is due to one’s own choices and attitudes. In many cases (perhaps most) both factors are at work. Even children are, to some degree, responsible for their own happiness.

I suspect that most children today are unhappy, many without even knowing what real happiness is.

There must be many things that contribute to a happy childhood. The chief thing is for the child to be demonstrably loved and wanted by both parents. If love covers a multitude of sins, we might also say that parental love “covers” a multitude of parental mistakes. But today there are 24 million American children living in homes without fathers. At some point in their lives, between 55 and 60 percent of children will live in a single parent home. For a child, the willing absence of one parent – or the choice of one parent to remove the other parent – can be more psychologically damaging than if the absent parent had died. Such a child has been abandoned, and we can expect that child to experience all of the anxieties and insecurities associated with abandonment.

There are nuances and complexities here, to be sure. Many dads are able to compensate somewhat by making heroic efforts to be present for their children, often having to overcome tremendous obstacles imposed by courts and ex-wives or ex-girlfriends. And sometimes the personality of the divorced or separated parent is so destructive that being present with the children actually does more harm than good, in which case the custodial parent must restrict access for the children’s sake. Sin makes things complicated. But the bottom line is that we have a culture of selfishness, promiscuity and divorce which deprives record numbers of children of loving two-parent homes.

Brothers and sisters can also be major contributors to a child’s happiness. Mr. Curely writes:

“I loved my eleven brothers and sisters. Yes, there may have been times of quarrelling or an older sibling picking on me (I guess I did my share of picking too), but overall, home was the place to be. I didn’t need anyone else. The games we played at home were always more fun than those played at a friend’s house. I loved my house-I loved the whole growing up experience. I absolutely loved the dinner table with us all sitting around. Every night was something to look forward to (even when we had baked carrots.)”

And yet, most of today’s parents – even those who are otherwise conservative and religious – deliberately choose to have very few children. What is more, these same parents come from small families themselves. That means that not only are their own children deprived of brothers and sisters, but they are also deprived of cousins, aunts, and uncles. As if that weren’t enough, today’s highly mobile society means that their children’s cousins, aunts, and uncles – already too few in number – probably don’t attend the same schools or even live in the same city. Hence the happiness and security of having a nearby extended family is unavailable to them.

About those schools … one of the many negative effects of modern public education, which is necessarily age-segregated, is that it can drive a social wedge between siblings. Children often end up having more in common with their peers at school than with their own brothers or sisters. Siblings end up having nothing to say to each other, preferring the transient companionship of strangers to the permanent bonds of family. For many, school has replaced family as a primary source of friendship and identity.

Happiness also requires a transcendent sense of purpose in life – a mission and meaning derived from something beyond the temporal demands of one’s immediate surroundings. As the old catechism taught: “Why did God create us?” “God created us that we might know Him, love Him, and serve Him and be happy with Him in heaven for all eternity.” One could spend a lifetime learning and teaching one’s children how to do this. But I daresay that even most normal families today, with two loving and married parents, nevertheless do not provide a spiritual or religious foundation for their children’s lives. Such families, while intact and functioning well, are lost in transient and worldly pursuits. Conversations around the house concern popular music, movies, recreation, fame, wealth, or the latest fashions – but seldom the Permanent Things. There is no “reason for living” imparted to the children other than “having a good time” and “making it in the world”. Children from such homes are destined to shallow, empty lives deprived of true happiness.

More Camp Sacred Heart

The evenings were spent around the campfire singing, performing skits, and otherwise making merry. Judging by the look on Mr. O’Neil’s face, they must be singing “Danny Boy”.

Swimming after a long hike in the Sierras.

The week came to a close with a Sacred Heart procession followed by solemn high Mass in the chapel.

My thanks to Ken for directing me to Flickr.

Camp Sacred Heart – June, 2007

Aside from daily Mass, rosary, and catechism, the boys of Camp Sacred Heart were kept pretty busy. Here’s Christopher taking archery lessons.


No one – and I mean no one – plays dodgeball with the enthusiasm (some would say fanaticism) of St. Stephen’s boys.


By the looks on their faces, these young men are undoubtedly singing Four Green Fields, a campfire favorite.


For the Iron Man contest, participants ran laps while carrying an uprooted fencepost still attached to its concrete base.


But that was nothing compared to the mattress races! This mattress had been soaked in the creek.


I intended to post a wonderful photo of the boys at prayer, but my image upload quota has been used up. Maybe I’ll get it on here later. I don’t think there is anything like Camp Sacred Heart anywhere else in California. The FSSP priests and seminarians provided a marvelous example of Catholic manhood for the boys. These photos are the result of a good friend’s hard work and generosity. Thank you, Gary!

Clerical dress

“We order, therefore, that every priest shall wear the Roman collar not only when he exercises the sacred ministry, but at all times, so that he may be known by all to be a priest. We decree also that the usage of Rome be observed by all ecclesiastics – that is, of not wearing the hair either on the cheeks or as a beard.

And if any priest shall wear the clerical dress so changed – save in the rarest case to be approved by the Ordinary – that he cannot be known by all to be a priest belonging to the clergy of this Province, or so as to fall under the suspicion of the faithful or notoriously give them scandal, let them not be admitted to say Mass, nor in assisting at the divine offices, into the sanctuary.

Our forefathers, assembled in the Council of London in the year 1248, declared that to put off the clerical dress is a very grave and wanton abuse, by which God is said to be mocked, the honour of the Church obscured, the dignity of the clerical order degraded; Christ, when His soldiers wear other uniforms, is deserted; the honour and dignity of the Church is stained when the beholder cannot distinguish a cleric from a laic at a glance, and so the priest becomes a scandal and despised by all who are truly faithful.”

– Council of Trent

The Jolly Pocket Postman

A few years ago I came to the conclusion that The Jolly Pocket Postman is the perfect children’s book. What a delightful read. The text is lyrical, the imagery is thoroughly traditional, and the story is steeped in the best of Anglo-American culture. If the humor, idiom, metaphor, and literary allusion contained in this book come naturally to you, then you are a culturally grounded individual and were not cheated of an education. If these do not come naturally to you, then, well, you have a lot of catching up to do. I put myself in the latter category, but never tire of reading this book to my kids. They never tire of it either.

The postman is something of an American icon. At least he was before “going postal” became part of the national vocabulary. In the old days a postman made a good family wage. He knew everyone in the neighborhood. He knew the names of their children and their pets and the relatives who sent them letters. He knew everyone’s business, in fact, but was good at keeping it to himself. He was part of the glue that held communities together, at a time when someone was always at home during the day, and not only home, but likely to be outside in the garden or chatting with a neighbor rather than indoors watching television. His job was tedious and a bit lonely, but not overly technical – the perfect job for someone like me. The tediousness was compensated for by frequent, though brief, social interaction with the people on his route.

Ah, the glory days of the postman! If we can’t bring them back, we can still celebrate their memory by reading the best modern children’s book around.

Liberalism and deceit

No one has done more than Mr. Jim Kalb to dissect and understand modern Liberalism. We have our differences, and I myself could be said to have “liberal” tendencies, but I have frequently drawn from his arguments and have always admired his intellectual rigor. Mr. Kalb has summed up the deceitful reign of Liberalism very nicely in his latest post:

“What’s going on is very odd indeed. Liberalism presents us with sordid idealism, bigoted tolerance, mindless expertise, moralistic permissiveness, dogmatic agnosticism, mainstream extremism, rigidly uniform diversity, radically elitist equality, totally administered freedom and compulsory established rebellion. It promises moderation but gives us overreaching. It prizes freedom of thought but insists on correct attitudes and suppresses contrary opinion as ignorant, irrational, oppressive and dangerous. In the name of autonomy, it makes the state control everything. Rather than popular rule, it promotes distrust of the people and reliance on elites answerable to no one, and instead of benefits for women, minorities and children, it delivers family collapse, children with no fathers, feminized poverty, and one in eight young black men in prison.”