Mollie Wilson O'Reilly
By this author
Does it sometimes seem like the path from papacy to canonization is a little too smooth these days? If so you will be glad to be reminded that not every pope is a promising candidate (and compared to some past bishops of Rome, the last five or ten were most certainly saintly). At the Toast, Josh Fruhlinger has compiled rejection letters from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to a few applicants whose cases are less than convincing. Stephen VI, for example:
If you've read the Last Word essay by Liam Callanan, in the current issue, about his adventures trying to find a Catholic church in Shanghai, you may also be interested in this longer essay he wrote about the primary reason for his trip:
My two-year-old has become very interested in what I call "We Don'ts." He likes to articulate all the rules of our household, even those he has so far honored only in the breach. "We don't climb the bookcase," he will intone solemnly. "We don't take off our diaper." "We don't throw food on the floor."
Dominic has already mentioned Agnes R. Howard's article "Comforting Rachel" as a highlight of the November 15 issue, but I want to call attention to it again, and recommend another piece on the same subject at Christianity Today's "Her.meneutics" blog (I love it).
Howard's piece begins with a powerful personal story and goes on to discuss the need for, and challenges to, ministry to parents who lose children before birth. "Many churches teach women to value the life inside the womb from its earliest stages, and to view the developing fetus as a child God made," she writes, "but offer very little in the way of comfort, explanation, or even acknowledgement when that child dies through no act or intent of the parent." Having experienced pregnancy loss personally, she can attest to the confusion that accompanies the grief:
With the loss of a child in the womb, questions come up and stay unanswered at every point. Why did this happen? Was it my fault, a mother might ask, or something I failed to prevent, or did it happen in me but outside my control? Is it a baby or not? If a baby, do I name him, bury him, tell people, mourn in public? This last is not obvious. The loss of a child is worth public sorrow, but if others did not know of the pregnancy in the first place, revealing it after its end can produce a sort of emotional whiplash. Those who did know have to be told, but this is hard, too.
At Christianity Today, Caitlin Seccombe Lubinski touches on that same experience of awkwardness and loneliness in her post "The Miscarriage Secret."
Which of the following is not an actual quotation from Pope Francis about women?
A. "It pleases me to think that the Church is not ‘il Chiesa,’ it is ‘la Chiesa.’ The Church is a woman! The Church is a mother! And that’s beautiful, eh?"
B. "The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops."
C. "We will also talk about the role of women in the Church. Remember the Church is feminine."
D. "Oh, women, women, they are so important. The church herself is a woman, yes? And that is why women are really so much better than men, forgive me if I speak plainly! Without its women the church is like a bumblebee at the post office, as we say in Argentina."
Which is why I was surprised to see this:
Milwaukee-area readers, take note: tomorrow (Wednesday, October 30) at 7 p.m. you have the chance to hear not one but two Commonweal contributors talking fiction at Boswell Book Company.
Sometimes he woke in the morning and heard rain drumming on the roof. That meant he and Father might go fishing.
He didn’t dare speak to Father about fishing, because it was wrong to waste time in idleness. Even on rainy days there was plenty to do. Father might mend harness, or sharpen tools, or shave shingles. Silently Almanzo ate breakfast, knowing that Father was struggling against temptation. He was afraid Father’s conscience would win.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy
In my review of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, I didn’t have much room to talk about Farmer Boy, her second novel, which is about her husband Almanzo’s childhood on an upstate New York farm. Farmer Boy is independent from the rest of the series, although it does fill out the character of Almanzo (who returns as an adult in By the Shores of Silver Lake) and his sister Eliza Jane, who grew up to be Laura’s hapless schoolteacher.
Pa had tuned his fiddle and now he set it against his shoulder. Overhead the wind went wailing lonely in the cold dark. But in the dugout everything was snug and cosy.
Bits of firelight came through the seams of the stove and twinkled on Ma's steel knitting-needles and tried to catch Pa's elbow. In the shadows the bow was dancing, on the floor Pa's toe was tapping, and the merry music hid the lonely crying of the wind.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder, On the Banks of Plum Creek
In the latest, "Fall Books" issue of Commonweal, I review Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House Books" -- recently published in a new, two-volume edition from the Library of America. This was a perfect excuse for me to revisit Wilder's series, which I loved as a girl, and try to separate it from my memories of the television series Little House on the Prairie (which I watched in reruns after school). The project left me with a lot more notes than I could fit into one essay, but hey, that's what the blog is for.
The main "argument" of the new edition, at least as I see it, is that Wilder is a real writer -- a fiction writer, an artist, and not just a glorified diarist -- and that her books are literature, not just amusements for children. I didn't need convincing, but I was still impressed as I read with just how talented a writer Laura Ingalls Wilder was. Passages like the one I quoted above took me by surprise with their homespun beauty: "Overhead the wind went wailing lonely in the cold dark" is as lovely a sentence as I hope to read in any book this year.
I note in my essay that "Wilder’s books are now historical documents twice over; today we are further removed from the time in which she wrote them than she was from the era she wrote about. " That means they've gone through several generations of readers, and parents today are revisiting them with their own children. The Little House books are a great choice for reading aloud, not least because one of Wilder's motivations in writing them was to pass along the captivating stories her father told her when she was a girl. So I want to hear your experiences with the books: did you read them as a kid, or as an adult, or both? Have you read them with your own children?
Jumping off of Michael Garvey's post, below, about the devil's popping up in the zeitgeist: I was frustrated at the response to Scalia's interview among progressives, because so many people took the trollbait ("The devil! What a nut!") and overlooked the portions of the interview that were, in my opinion, more revealing and alarming.
Yesterday, as the final episode of Breaking Bad approached, Samantha Bee (of The Daily Show) raised a good question:
Now that #BreakingBad is ending, are there any other shows I can make people feel bad about not watching?
— Samantha Bee (@iamsambee) September 29, 2013
I'm sure we'll think of something. If you are among those who never caught up, now you can feel free to do so on your own time. And to help you in your journey I'll keep all the spoilers in our discussion of the finale after the jump...