Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Domestic Church: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae


Those who follow Catholic news know that the 40th anniversary of the publication of Pope Paul VI's extremely important encyclical, Humanae Vitae ("On Human Life"), just occurred a couple days ago. Published in 1968, this document is likely the most important Papal encyclical of the 20th century, as it reasserted Catholic teaching on a myriad of issues having to do with the sanctity of life and of God's design for human sexuality. What really set off a firestorm was the shock the media and the secular world received when learning that Pope Paul VI explicitly reaffirmed the immorality of contraception. Most observers had been expecting a change in this teaching, and even some bishops had advised the Pope in this regard. But, in an act that one can only attribute to the constant guidance given the teaching office of the Pope, Pope Paul VI went against all currents of the time and reaffirmed the truth, and praise God for it! Most strikingly, Pope Paul predicted a series of consequences to wide adoption of contraception that have disturbingly all come true, shedding light on the truth of this teaching. Among his predictions were that:
  • Widespread use of contraception would "lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality" i.e. divorce, abortion, infidelity, etc.
  • "The man" will lose respect for "the woman," and "no longer (care) for her physical and psychological equilibrium" and will come to "the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion."
  • Widespread acceptance of contraception would place a "dangerous weapon... in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies." i.e. that nations or public organizations would use contraception as a means of controlling populations and human procreation.
  • Contraception would lead men and women to think that they had unlimited dominion of their own bodies.
The correctness of these predictions are hard to argue with. These are the consequences of contraception, but of course contraception itself is immoral for it's own reasons (see CCC 2370).

For some interesting reading, check out very good article in the ecumenical Christian journal, "First Things": The Vindication of Humanae Vitae. Well worth 20 minutes of your time.

And interestingly (shockingly?), the New York Times has just today published an Op-Ed piece by John Allen that is also worth a read: The Pope vs. the Pill

Pope Paul VI

Friday, July 25, 2008

Design Updates: Volume 1


Well, we've been in the construction documents phase for some time now and have lots of little updates to the home design as a result. Updates often result from my brother finding a problem while doing the detailed design and needing a solution, or sometimes design updates have come from selecting interior materials and details. It would be way too painful for you readers to try and read a "Brendan-post" that tries to pack all of these updates into one loooooong commentary, so I think it's probably best to do it in bight-sized chunks. This is design update, volume 1.

Symmetrical exterior windows beget interior rearrangements

You probably all remember this rendering of the exterior of the home that my brother did some time back:
On the main facade, there are three sets of three windows on the bottom level (with the middle set including the front door). These three sets of windows align directly below the three windows on the upper level. Sounds great, but one problem: this doesn't exactly work well with the interior of the home. The symmetry is lost due to the placement of the rooms. See below (click to enlarge).
See how the set of windows in the dining room is off-center with the axis of the room? The set of windows in the school room is also off-center, but we all agreed this was not really a concern as much as the dining room. With the size of our family there will be a nice-sized dining table in that room that will be long and centered, and there should be a sightline straight through the room on both sides or it will seem a little weird. So, my brother set about finding a correction to this. Here's his solution (click to enlarge).
There's a bunch of things going on here. The biggest change is that the bathroom and closet have switched to the North side of the foyer instead of the South. No problem, it doesn't change anything functionally or aesthetically. Secondly, the windows have been shifted into different positions slightly on facade. Thirdly, the sets of windows have been more defined, with the center window being operable (a key requirement of mine so that we can take advantage of cross-ventilation in the summer) as a casement window, and it's also larger than the windows on either side in order to be more symmetric with respect to the front entrance (where the door is in the center). Here's how that looks on the exterior (windows on upper level not shown):
One item to note is that my brother showed the windows rotating inward, but we would change this to be outward. You don't want the windows rotated and sticking into the interior space of the home itself, that's just asking for Aidan to either A) hang off of them with his full weight, like some sort of primate, or B) run smack into them while running as fast as he can and looking backwards at the same time (a frequent occurrence with walls already).

The set of three windows in the school room is still off-center (just in a different position) but, again, this doesn't bother us as much as it would have in the dining room. It might even be better for keeping the sun out of people's eyes while trying to do school work.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

It's our 1-year blog anniversary!


On July 9, 2007 I started off this blog with an "under construction" post, and followed the next day with our first official post (which is permanently linked in the upper right of the blog, under "New to this blog?"). We've been amazed at the readership our little blog has generated and have been blessed by the experience of sharing our thoughts online and getting feedback from others. Here's some numbers from our first year:

Number of posts: 126
Site Visits: 14,419
Page Views: 25,298
Number of U.S. states with visitors: 50
Number of countries with visitors: 105

It's that last one that blows me away. Here's a diagram of the countries with visitors to our blog, along with a list (the darker color is the majority of our visitors, the U.S.):

Antigua and Barbuda
Bosnia and Herzegovina
British Virgin Islands
Costa Rica
Czech Republic
Dominican Republic
El Salvador
Hong Kong
Ivory Coast
New Zealand
Palestinian Territory
Puerto Rico
Saint Helena
Saudi Arabia
Serbia and Montenegro
South Africa
South Korea
Sri Lanka
Trinidad and Tobago
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States

When I just try to imagine someone in the Palestinian Territories, or Iran, or Mozambique, or Yemen, or Ghana pulling up our blog on a computer screen, I just amazes me. Even the fact that we've had visitors from all 50 U.S. states is fantastic. Not too bad for a blog that, honestly, was started just to keep family and friends up to date on our home project.

Looking back over the past year, I tried to think of my favorite post, and decided on this one:

The Domestic Church: Are Large Families Harmful to the Environment?

This is one of the many ways that I feel that God has used this blog for the "new evangelization." Case in point, if you search in Google on a phrase such as "Large families environment" or "large families harmful environment" or the like, the post I linked above appears on the first page of the results, and in some cases at the very top. Praise the Lord! Knowing that someone researching this question has a decent chance of ending up at that post and reading it (amidst dozens of other sites claiming the world is "overpopulated" and that children are bad for the environment) gives me great satisfaction and hope that such a person would be led to the truth.

Molly's favorite post from the last year was:

The Domestic Church: To "Santa" or not to "Santa"...

This ended up being (just by a hair) the most commented post of the year. The fact that one commenter compared parts of the post to the "Byzantine iconoclastic heresy" was quite entertaining :-)

Just to close, on behalf of Molly and myself, thanks so much for participating in our blog and we hope you continue to read! By this time next year our house will be half-way through construction!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Family Formation: Keeping Our Promise


I remember vividly the moment when Father Steve asked Brendan and me to state our intentions to one another. “Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church?” Just then, the microphone Father was using made a blaring “screeeech!” He continued, “even when they scream like this thing just did?” I don’t think his improvisational words were meant to scare us from our commitment, but it gave those gathered to celebrate quite a good laugh. Brendan and I promptly answered “we will.”

One week after our first anniversary, we brought Clara Mary to that same place to receive the Sacrament of Baptism; we again promised to teach her the Faith and help her to live according to her Baptismal call. We have since presented three other children in these seven years for the same purpose.

For us, the commitment we made to one another, to our Lord, and to our children is not one we take lightly, but it isn’t one that necessarily comes easily. As products of a generation that wasn’t well-formed in the Faith, in many ways, we found ourselves taking what we were brought up to know and seeking more. And we wanted to surround ourselves with other families who were also seeking solid formation for themselves and for their children. That is when we found ourselves at the Church of Saint Paul in Ham Lake, Minnesota.

We knew that the parish had a reputation for its commitment to forming its parishioners in the Faith, and for its unwavering faithfulness and obedience to the Magisterium. And it wasn’t long after our membership began that we found ourselves in what seemed like a whirlwind of opportunities through a ministry called Family Formation.

Family Formation, a ministry developed at the Church of Saint Paul for Kindergarten through sixth grade, is driven by the principle that parents are the primary educators of their children in the Faith. Unlike the familiar CCD model where parents drop off their children on a weekly basis to “let the church do their work,” the majority of formation happens within the home. Families are given Home Lessons to complete together. The entire family focuses on the same topic and children are given age-appropriate materials including games, crafts, or other projects. The cover page of each lesson is written especially to equip parents to understand the material and to teach it to their children. There is also in each lesson a section entitled, “Hey, Dad!” meant to inspire fathers to take an important role in the process.

In addition to the participation in Home Lessons, the entire family gathers at the church on a monthly basis. Children meet in classrooms with other children their age to focus on a subject led by a volunteer catechist. Parents gather together to hear a speaker share on the same theme. Often at the end of the monthly session, the children will re-join their parents for a special prayer such as the Stations of the Cross. (Pre-school children, or Little Lambs, are also given Home Lessons with the same focus as the older children. They join with other kids monthly during Mass for Sunday Celebration. This format allows them to learn to participate fully with the community during Mass, but also gives them additional opportunities for growth in formation.)

We have found that Family Formation:
  • Brings the Faith alive through dynamic lessons, activities, and audio CD’s
  • Follows the three-year liturgical cycle and points families to what is happening in the Church year. Click here to see complete 3 year topic overview.
  • Is driven by Sacred Scripture
  • Is faithful to the teaching of the Magisterium
  • References the Catechism of the Catholic Church
  • Received the Imprimatur of Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2007
Our family has been eternally blessed (I mean that literally!) by this process of formation. We have especially benefited from the materials provided during the Advent and Lenten seasons. One of our favorite supplemental materials is the “Priest Paper Doll” which is a cut-out of our Pastor, Father John, complete with vestments that can be “worn” during the appropriate Liturgical Season.

I have been personally blessed as a member of the Family Formation Core Team which spends one hour per month in prayer together for the ministry of Family Formation. All lessons have been personally authored, edited, illustrated, and collated by members of the Church of Saint Paul and the ministry has grown to include parishes and families across the United States and Canada.

The Family Formation website is now up and running! Visit to read more about the history of Family Formation, to read inspiring testimonies from other families and parishes who have been blessed by this ministry, and to view the available materials.