Brain tumors, basketball, suicide, and freedom

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This morning, I noticed a story in my newsfeed about a woman with an inoperable brain tumor. The diagnosis meant the young woman would certainly die after first losing control of her body as well as her mind. Such a death would undoubtedly be difficult for the woman as well as her loved ones. This story wasn’t about Brittany Maynard, however, but Lauren Hill, a 19-year-old college student at Mount Saint Joseph in Cincinnati. Lauren also happens to be the basketball player who scored the first basket of the NCAA season. The obvious similarities between Brittany Maynard and Lauren Hill are striking. Both were young women diagnosed with terminal brain tumors. Both were given the similar … [Read more...]

Thou shalt not kill the undead? What the Catechism says about zombies.

Night of the Living Dead. These guys are definitely dead.

Most zombie fiction, at some point, deals with the moral question of killing the living dead. This dilemma is often highlighted when a main character is forced to “kill” a close relative or friend who has zombified. The protagonist must answer the question, “What is this thing?” Is this still my child or is it just a lumbering piece of flesh that bears my child’s image? Do my parents’ memories lie hidden in the skull of this dead-eyed walker? Usually, the protagonist comes to terms with the difficult task at the last second, dispatching the former loved one with gusto and a smattering of brains. For those of us planning for the zombie apocalypse, we have the privilege of time to think … [Read more...]

Even the Mercy of the Lord Burns: Prophecy in The Violent Bear It Away

Isaiah with a burning coal.

“Even the mercy of the Lord burns.” - Mason Tarwater One of the main characters in Flannery O’Connor’s novel, The Violent Bear It Away, is the self-proclaimed prophet, Mason Tarwater. A fat, ornery recluse, Old Tarwater lives in the scrubby woods of Georgia, subsisting on corn (in the form of grits and whiskey). He thinks of himself as Elijah, filled with the Lord’s Word and strength, shunned by others, persecuted for his message. As enthusiastic as he is about his role as prophet, Old Tarwater actually does very little prophesying. Miles from civilization, the only person around to hear his prophecies is his grand-nephew, Francis Tarwater. Mason performs most of these from memory, … [Read more...]

What I learned in the garden this season

Bounty! Look at this happy guy!

“But wait!” you must be thinking, “Your season can't be over. Can’t you keep your garden going much longer in North Florida?” Well, yes. We don’t really have a single “season” down here. We can start things like tomatoes in late February/early March. But, in the hottest part of the summer, most vegetables start to struggle while weeds thrive in our heavy rains. And let me tell you, when I say “weeds,” I don’t mean a few stray dandelions. I mean crazy jungle plants that grow up to my chest and choke out everything else.   Florida! So, a lot of gardeners around here just stop in July, tear everything up, and plant again in late August or early September. Then, we can still get in … [Read more...]

Marriage, Sermon Anecdotes, and a Giveaway

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One benefit to growing up Baptist is that you get to hear years of sermon anecdotes. One of my favorites growing up was a joke I heard several preachers use when talking about marriage. It went something like this: A woman went to her pastor to complain about her husband. "I just don't think he loves me any more," she sobbed, "He's so aloof, never affectionate, and never says he loves me. Do you think the marriage is over?" The pastor went to the woman's house and found her husband sitting there in his armchair watching TV. "Your wife is worried about you," the pastor told him, "She feels like you don't love her anymore." The husband responded grudgingly, "I told her I loved her when we got … [Read more...]

My very late list of 10 books

Me in my study.

So, people have been talkin' on the internet about the 10 books that have influenced them. That was, like, 2 weeks ago which is basically a hundred years on the internet. Well, I'm going to do mine anyway. Here it is:   1. JRR Tolkien - Lord of the Rings Let's get the obvious out of the way. The first time I read LotR was when I was a high school senior. The first movie had just come out and I was done with school. I don’t mean school was over, I mean I was just no longer interested in anything going on there. So I went to class and read Lord of the Rings. I finished the trilogy in about 6 weeks and was in love. Tolkien invigorated me in a way no author had done before. He … [Read more...]

Hunting, gathering, and living to be 100: What we actually know about food and health

Hadza people in Tanzania

A recent article in National Geographic examined the eating habits of the world’s last hunter-gatherers. Influenced by the rise of the “paleo diet,” the author sought to explore what that diet actually might have looked like and whether or not “modern man” ought to adopt it. The first thing that struck me was just how much the different diets varied. The Inuit people get over 90% of their calories from fish, whales, and seals (that’s not just a lot of meat, it’s a lot of incredibly fatty meat). The Tsimane of Bolivia eat copious amounts of fruit supplemented by bush meat. The Hadza of Tanzania eat what we might call a “balanced diet” of bush meat, fruit, nuts, starchy tubers, and lots of … [Read more...]

Fixing the pamphlet about kids at Mass

This is not the pamphlet I'm talking about.

In our parish foyer’s collection of magazines, envelopes, handouts, and holy cards, there’s a pamphlet called “How to take young children to Mass.” A lot of the tips inside are helpful. But, more than the advice it gives, I’m glad the pamphlet is there to make it clear to parents that their kids are welcome at our parish. But, recently, I realized there was something missing from it. When Haley was out of town a few weekends ago and I had to take the kids to Mass by myself, I was convinced it would be a disaster. These days, Gwen is very “vocal” in Mass so we usually have to take her out by the end of the homily. And our two older children are sometimes… “active.” But there was … [Read more...]

Flannery O’Connor and the violence of Christianity

The Violent Bear It Away

Recently, I read a TERRIBLE article warning readers against Flannery O’Connor. Specifically, the author was apprehensive about the prevalence of violence in her work. Like many others who dislike Flannery, this critic seemed to believe that she uses violence to get her point across, as if violence were merely a shocking tool wielded by a heavy handed novelist. But this understanding of O’Connor’s writing is, quite simply, wrong. Violence isn’t a tool used to deliver a message, Violence IS the message. But how could this be for a Catholic author who is supposed to be writing about Catholic things? Isn’t the Gospel about love and life, not violence and death? Well, not quite. Flannery’s … [Read more...]

Commander Riker can’t make an omelet and that’s terrifying

Don't be fooled by the uniform. This man does NOT know how to cook ANYTHING.

One summer, I watched every single episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Why I did this is not relevant right now. What is relevant is the horrifying scene in the second season where Commander William T. Riker tries to make an omelet. But can’t. The scene isn’t crucial to the plot and was meant only as a humorous opener but it still reveals something rather disconcerting about the view of the future Gene Roddenberry loved so much. Commander Riker invites several other officers to his quarters for the occasion. They’re all rather confused since no one actually cooks on the Enterprise. In fact, Riker actually had to commission engineer Geordi LaForge to make a hot plate so he would … [Read more...]