Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, May 28, 2018

No Refuge In This World

Over the last few days I've read a number of reactions to the overwhelming Irish vote to strip protections of unborn children from their constitution. This morning I read another, by Irish writer John Waters, on the sad spectacle of crowds celebrating the legalization of the killing of children with carnival like celebrations.

In reading the reactions of many Americans of Irish ancestry, reactions which can best be summed up as "how could Ireland of all places do this?" I've been reminded a great deal of my paternal grandmother. Grandma Blanche died fifteen years ago, at the ripe age of ninety-two. Descended from Irish immigrants who fled the potato famine, she'd never been to Ireland herself, but it had a deep hold on her mind as a last refuge from the world's evils. In her more pessimistic moments (to which she was prone, in what she described as her Irish temperament) she would worry out loud that things would get too bad in the US and we'd need to flee. "You should all get passports," she'd warn. "Then you can go to Ireland. It'll always be safe there."

It wasn't possible to convince someone whose stolid anti-communism had carried her from JFK supporter to Reagan supporter that her chief fear, socialism, was actually much more entrenched in Ireland than in the US. But in a sense, Ireland wasn't a country to her, with a specific post-1840s history and political parties with platforms that had no bearing on the Irish-American experience of the diaspora here, but an idea, a place where Good Catholic People still lived, unsullied by what her Democratic Party here in the US had become and freed from the British boot across the throat which had resulted in about five times as many people of Irish descent living in the US as there are people in Ireland today.

There's a deep draw, I think, to the idea that somewhere in this world there's a place that does things just right, a place where our ideas of living and acting rightly are lived out. Because of both religious and ideological ties, pro-life Catholics have oft pointed to Ireland and Poland as countries where things are done right, where abortion is illegal and far from resulting in some sort of women's health hellscape maternal mortality is much lower than in the US or indeed in Western European countries where abortion is legal.

Other people, with other ideals and backgrounds, point to other countries. Witness, for instance, the people on the left forever warning that they will move to Canada if the next election doesn't go their way, or others who point to Nordic democratic socialism as the be-all and end-all of how the polis ought to be organized.

And yet, the fact is, there's no country on this earth which is particularly protected from error or infused with virtue. Ireland is not an idea, but a country, populated by people as prone to error as anywhere else. At one time, some accidents of their history made them a country with particular ties between the Catholic Church and general opinion, and from that history came one of the few constitutional protections of the unborn in the world. But in the thirty-five years since, other accidents of their history (some of them the result of institutional sin and hubris within the Church itself) have make the Catholic Church particularly radioactive in the country which once exported priests to countries all over the world and now imports them from elsewhere because so few Irishmen are following the call.

The desire for a place, a homeland of ancestry or of the heart, where things are good and won't turn bad, where people have a permanent connection to the good and the beautiful, is at root a desire for heaven. It's a desire for something which fundamentally will not happen in this world. We'll never get it permanently right. Neither will anyone else. We'll resolve one injustice and create another one. We'll scorn the vices of the past while being blind to our own. We'll justify the wrongs that we're attached to.

This doesn't mean we should not love our own countries or our ancestral ones or the ones which we think are doing things particularly well, but at the same time we have to recall that no one, no place is specially protected and favored. Yes, this can happen in Ireland. Yes it could happen in Poland. No one is protected from evil by anything other than continuing to do good. And we'll never find the place of permanent rest and goodness until we die.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Rise and Shiner

So I slogged into the bathroom this morning, as I do of an A.M., and there, confronting me in the mirror, was a terrific shiner.

I was a bit taken aback, not so much by the bruise as by the bags under my eyes. Can you get bruising from sheer puffiness? A sort of internal injury? Maybe from sinus pressure, because there's a lot of that going on too? But the other eye was puffy without looking pugilistic. My dreams last night were uncomfortable, but of the driving-through-a-postapocalytic-city sort, not the being-beaten-about-the-head sort. There was a sort of nightmarish quality to how aged I looked, but otherwise it had been a normal night.

Of course, both puffiness and black eyes are the sorts of things you might expect from having your horizontal hours supplemented by a ten-month-old and then a seven-year-old with long limbs. I spent a good deal of the night wedged between the two, for all I kept muttering to the 7yo, "Go get in your own bed." (She eventually did, maybe an hour or so before my alarm went off, so that was nice.) The 10mo has a habit of throwing himself around when he kinda wakes up and he's not immediately popped on to nurse, and will crawl around the bed and bang himself on the headboard and hurl himself over me.

"MrsDarwin!" you say. "Put that kid to sleep in the crib and get some rest." People. Do you think I do this for my health? No. I would actually like this child to sleep in a crib. Indeed, at the beginning of the night I place him there, and listen to him scream determinedly for a Very Long Time, and then I come back into the room and find his face bloody because he bangs his mouth on the rail. I'm no monster, so I nurse him and walk him and get him to sleep, and then I try to transfer him to the crib again, and every time I fail and he wakes up. Every night, friends. Every afternoon too, when I try to put him down sleeping. He even knows when I'm walking toward the crib. Are you thinking about sleep training your child? Do it at six months, like I should have done, so you're not faced with a willful ten-month-old.

The baby was snoozing adorably in my bed when I discovered my eye. I don't say it was his fault. I don't remember being hit in the face last night. There was some point in the recent past when I did see stars as the result of something contacting my face, but blamed if I can remember what it was. Was I nursing and the child kicked me or hit me with a toy? Was it the four-year-old climbing on my head in order to agitate his little brother? People roust on my head so often that I don't pay it much mind anymore, but it seems like I ought to have a clear memory of blunt force trauma to my eye socket.

It was while I was a Vacation Bible School meeting that morning that I suddenly became self-conscious about the fact that I'd left my wedding ring on the holder in my bathroom when I took my shower, I had sunglasses pushed up on my head, and I had a black eye. No one asked me when my husband had stopped beating me, or actually took any notice at all, but I spent the rest of the hour with my left hand tucked casually under the table. As soon as things adjourned I skulked out to the car and examined my eye. The puffiness had gone down, but the bruise was more noticeable. I drove home very carefully so no officer would pull me over and question me about my domestic life. Darwin, out doing yard work on a sunny Saturday with his earbuds in, waved at me as I rolled down the driveway. His eye was not black because he sleeps with his back to me in the twelve inches of space baby leaves him. Also, baby has no cause to pound him because he gives no milk.

This was developing into a prize bruise, one of those pure prismatic beauties with no hint of brown to spoil the true violet shading into blue and green. Between the swelling and the color, concealer was not an option. I was going to have to brazen it out. My observant children were, as ever, a consolation to me. Each of them informed me that I had a black eye, and a few kind souls poked my face and asked if it hurt. It did not, actually, but I wasn't about to tell them that.

Most weekends of the year I do absolutely nothing, but on this bad face day I had to make several outings. My friend at lunch was good enough to just come out and ask me about my eye. Everywhere else I tried to walk confidently, like someone who knows she has a black eye but she's cool because there's a perfectly innocent explanation. This was easy enough because it was true, but that evening as Darwin and I strolled through the grocery store with baby, I was acutely aware of my phiz in a way I hadn't been since I had open poison ivy sores oozing on my forehead two years ago. In the checkout line, I put my nice Memorial Day bouquet on the conveyor belt. Then I wondered how it looked to have a husband and a wife with a bruised eye buying flowers. Then I thought, screw it, because I want a bouquet for our Sunday cookout.

After we got the kids to bed (guess who screamed in the crib for twenty minutes while everyone else was being tucked in?), we came downstairs.
"I think I'll make some tea," I said.
"Maybe I'll make some coffee," said Darwin.
"Why don't you just do that?" I said.
"You want me to give you another black eye?" said Darwin.
And then we laughed ourselves stupid, as we do.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Yes, Making Something Illegal Makes It Less Common

In the wake of the Irish referendum abolishing their constitutional protection of unborn children, some of have attempted to roll out the old: "Oh, don't worry. Banning abortion doesn't reduce abortions, it just makes people go elsewhere to get them."

This "banning something doesn't reduce it" argument is deployed by various people for various causes: Banning abortion doesn't reduce abortion. Banning drugs doesn't reduce drug use. Banning guns doesn't reduce the number of guns available. Banning gambling doesn't reduce gambling.

All of these are false. Making something illegal of course makes that thing less common. Honestly, if we believed that making something illegal had no effect on whether or not people did it, why would we make anything illegal? Why would we ban things like homicide and burglary if we thought that illegality had no effect on whether people do something.

Think of something you might have an attachment to. Would you do that thing less if you knew that, you had to travel out of the jurisdiction or do business with a criminal in order to do that thing?

Often people point to alcohol prohibition in the US to "prove" that making something illegal does not reduce it. The legend goes that alcohol consumption increased during prohibition, and so people gave it up as a bad idea. Of course, it's hard to know exactly how much alcohol was produced and consumed during Prohibition, because it was not being registered and taxed by the government. However, secondary factors would definitely suggest that alcohol consumption went down during Prohibition:
[A]lcohol consumption declined dramatically during Prohibition. Cirrhosis death rates for men were 29.5 per 100,000 in 1911 and 10.7 in 1929. Admissions to state mental hospitals for alcoholic psychosis declined from 10.1 per 100,000 in 1919 to 4.7 in 1928.

Arrests for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct declined 50 percent between 1916 and 1922. For the population as a whole, the best estimates are that consumption of alcohol declined by 30 percent to 50 percent.
Perhaps the speak easy culture made certain kinds of social drinking more visible to certain sectors of society than before, but Prohibition does seem to have cut down on the heavy drinking (and domestic violence that went with it) which was such a social blight in the US.

Legalizing abortion in Ireland will mean that more Irish women get abortions. There is no rational way to doubt that expectation. Similarly, legalizing drugs will mean more people use drugs. Legalizing gambling will mean that more people gamble. And banning guns would mean that fewer people would own guns.

None of these effects is absolute. Many people buy drugs illegally. If guns were banned, many people would refuse to turn theirs in. When abortion is illegal, some doctors provide them anyway. If you believe that the thing being banned is not always and everywhere wrong, you might well formulate arguments around who would abide by the law and who would not, and thus whether it is overall positive. For instance, someone who think drug use is fine might argue that the more destructive drug users already buy drugs in violation of the law, and it's only law abiding recreational users who are inconvenienced. But what you can't do is argue that banning something has no effect on how common it is.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Parenting Across the Age Gap

The summer musical is in rehearsal now, and since I'm the non-musical member of the family that means I'm spending a lot of evenings home while MrsDarwin and all the older children are off at rehearsal. I'm joined in this by the two youngest boys, ages 11 months and 4 years. It's also a bit of a trip back in time. It's been twelve years since all our kids were four and under. Obviously, with seven children, we've always had young ones. But spending a lot of time with only the younger ones has been highlighting for me how used I've become to having older children.

Back when our oldest kids were four and under, I was up to date on videos that appealed to the age group. Veggie Tales was a go to. I was practiced in reading picture books and had my favorites, still holding together in their bindings though already well loved. And we had only toys aimed at younger kids.

Now the Veggie Tales DVDs are all long worn out and forgotten. The four year old can sing bits of Newsies and tell you about Spiderman. It never would have occurred to me to show those movies to the kids when the oldest were that age, but now the calculation has shifted and I'm instead trying to decide: Is it worth dragging the unwilling four year old away, or making the older kids wait till late at night to watch, or can he just watch this big kid movie with them without harm.

Books that were loved by the older kids have worn to pieces, and while some have been replaced others have not. There's a copy of The Cat In The Hat Comes Back which I'm often asked to read now because the original far superior book wore out, leaving us with the one I don't like much.

There's less time now than when the first kids were this age. When I might have been settling down to read bedtime stories to young children, I may now be shuttling people to innumerable activities, or being asked to help with big kids' homework, or be listening to the fourteen year old who really wants to talk about her doings with her friends. And I'll fall into thinking that I've already read a lot of the children's books I loved with the kids. I did, of course. But if that was eight years ago, the kids under ten don't remember it. And the ones I read now won't be remembered by the youngest, who will be looking for these sames books and movies and games and activities while the oldest ones are off at college.

You grow up with your kids a bit as a parent, starting out with baby activities and moving up to those for toddlers and preschoolers and grade schoolers and on up the chain. I'm learning German together with my oldest, setting history and literature and science reading lists for the oldest three, discussing movies with them according to their various tastes. There's something really exhilarating about ones children growing up into people with opinions and interests you can relate to increasingly as another adult.

And yet here are these little children too, needing to be grown up with as well eight, ten, fifteen years behind the earlier waves of children.

It seems like these differences fade a bit when the kids are all around. The four year old plays with the seven and nine year olds, he listens into the stories read to the whole group. He may be getting less Dr. Suess than the oldest kids did, but he's hearing Middlemarch with them as MrsDarwin reads it during school read alouds. The baby is held and played with by older siblings. But perhaps it's good too that at times like these the older ones are all gone and I'm reminded that the smallest children also want their focused time on things appropriate to their own ages.

Last night we spent a while looking for the latest dinosaur documentaries. It's been a long while since we've had someone deep into dinosaurs, and it seemed sure that there were shows with more recent science (and better CGI) and the ones I knew from ten or more years ago. We built with duplos, much to the four year old's exasperation, but what can you do when your brother is crawling around wanting to eat the smaller legos. That duplo set is old, and various pieces have died over the years. Should we get more? There's still the youngest yet to come. Right now he can't do much more than break (or eat) the towers we make for him. But in another year he'll be building with them. Am I really not past the duplo buying stage? It seems like I should have grown out of it, after sixteen years of parenting. But here are these little boys, and they don't want to play less for having much older siblings.

I feel old and tired. I'm sure it's tiring too for those who are having their first kids at about our age. But having only young children is different. There's a lot to do, but no one entering your space as an adult. That you have along with your spouse. Now there are teenagers who read our books and watch our movies and tell us their opinions and want to stay up even later than we do some nights. The youngest kids stay up later than their siblings did at this age, because it's harder to get up the energy to put everyone to bed when you know that at the end of it you still won't get to be alone together with the woman you married because you wanted to spend more time with here. Get the first round of kids to bed and the older ones will gather round and ask you what "the plan" is.

Don't get me wrong. Lots of things are easier with a wide range of ages. We often find ourselves getting out the door faster than families that only have young kids. There's a huge freedom to being able to delegate: You, get the four year old dressed. You, make sure the diaper bag is packed. You, start the dishes. I make full use of these conveniences, and while my introverted side wishes at times to be able to retreat away from everyone but my spouse, there's really little better than the congenial company of grown children.

But parenting across this gap is something challenging at times, trying to make sure that no one's current age and needs are forgotten.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Holy Spirit Novena, Day Seven

Again, a day late with the novena. A day late posting it, that is; the family is praying it faithfully every night. Faithfulness in prayer, and unconcern with documenting it publicly -- this is a good thing, I hope?

Join us in our prayer intentions: for baby Wendy, 25 weeks in utero, with no amniotic fluid in the sac; and for Jacob Willig, an old youth-group pal of mine, who is being ordained for the Diocese of Cincinnati this weekend. We're traveling to celebrate with him.

Day 7 – Novena to the Holy Spirit

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate.

Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Gentleness within us.

Despite the gravity of our sins, oh Lord you treat us with Gentleness. Dear Holy Spirit, give us your power to treat all in our lives with the Gentleness of the Saints.


Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord,


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Holy Spirit Novena, Day Six

Thinking about today's virtue of faithfulness, I keep coming back to this post by Devra Torres at The Personalist Project, about her new fitness regime:
When Uncle Larry's going over ground rules for newcomers, he'll give this speech: "'I can't do a pushup,' you say? OK, but don't just tell me you can't do a pushup. Prove it! Show me you can't do a pushup!" The idea is, instead of cementing yourself in your "limiting belief" that pushups are not a thing you do, you're attempting, maybe, a knees-down pushup, or a half-pushup crowned by a pathetic collapse on the pavement. Each time you do that, you get a little stronger. You might get strong enough to do a real pushup one day. But if you refuse to try, you just stagnate. 
This works in the non-physical world, too. Don't just say you can't pray a novena, or write a book, or homeschool a kid--prove it! Try it (unless, of course, there's some genuine reason not to) and see what happens. Go ahead--prove what a loser you are.
This is the approach I'm trying to take in regards to writing this textbook. Yes, there's a lot of work to be put into it, but I might as well prove that I can't do. And a good deal of that proving will involve faithfulness -- rear-in-the-chair, keyboard-plonking faithfulness even when inspiration seems low.

Day 6 – Novena to the Holy Spirit

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate.

Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Faithfulness within us.

You, oh Lord, are ever faithful. You are faithful until the end. Though we are weak and distracted, please give us the grace to be faithful to You as you are to us!


Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord,


The War of the Ring and World War II

I've been re-reading Lord of the Rings via audiobook, having just finished The Fellowship of the Ring this afternoon while planting the vegetable garden. At the end of Fellowship it provides the author's forward, in which Tolkien disavows any allegorical meaning in the novel relating to the world war during which he wrote much of LotR, sending installments to his son Christopher Tolkien who was overseas with the RAF. I'd remembered the disavowal of allegorical meaning, but what I'd forgotten is that Tolkien provides a brief sketch of what the story might have been like had it in fact been an allegory for the second world war. This is particularly interesting, since it provides a view into how Tolkien (a Great War veteran with children fighting in the second war) thought about World War II and its aftermath.

Here is the section in question:
As for any inner meaning or 'message', it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical. As the story grew it put down roots (into the past) and threw out unexpected branches: but its main theme was settled from the outset by the inevitable choice of the Ring as the link between it and The Hobbit. The crucial chapter, 'The Shadow of the Past', is one of the oldest parts of the tale. It was written long before the foreshadow of 1939 had yet become a threat of inevitable disaster, and from that point the story would have developed along essentially the same lines, if the disaster had been averted. Its sources are things long before in mind, or in some cases already written, and little or nothing in it was modified by the war that began in 1939 or its sequels.

The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion. If it had inspired or directed the development of the legend, then certainly the Ring would have been seized and used against Sauron; he would not have been annihilated but enslaved, and Barad-dur would not have been destroyed but occupied. Saruman, failing to get possession of the ring, would in the confusion and treacheries of the time have found in Mordor the missing links in his own researches in Ring-lore, and before long he would have made a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth. In that conflict both sides would have held hobbits in hatred and contempt: they would not have survived even as slaves.

Holy Spirit Novena, Day Five

No posting last night because I spent until 11:30 trying to coax baby to fall asleep in his crib. In the end it was unsuccessful because he ended up in bed with me anyway; on the other hand, he did spend an hour and a half in his crib playing quietly, every so often laying down his head as I patted him gently. Then he'd pop back up and drive his Duplo car or bang his toys with a wooden train track piece. Never has he spent so long in his crib without crying. On that level it was a success, and yet to duplicate it tonight am I going to have to stand by the crib again for 90 minutes?

So, in lieu of any great insight, here's a link to Guideposts, where the always-wise Julia Attaway quotes a prayer I wrote.

Day 5 – Novena to the Holy Spirit

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate.

Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Kindness within us.

Jesus approached sinners with immense kindness. Holy Paraclete, please treat us humble sinners with the same kindness and give us the ability to treat all others with that kindness as well.


Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord,


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Loss of Trust

I had a chance recently to attend a presentation by someone involved in the Edelman Trust Baromer annual studies. (You can read a version of the presentation from their website here.) It's a global study in which they ask samples of people in many countries around the world whether they trust various groups and institutions. Trust is defined as answering positively the question, "Do you expect [X] to do the right thing?" with X being filled with various people and groups: Government, regulators, business, NGOs, your employer, journalists, people like you, technical experts, etc.

They use the results of this survey to advice organizations on how to reach people through trusted channels: Should you try to be endorsed by academic experts or get social media personalities to endorse your product?

One of the things that apparently stood out in their research this year, however, was a massive collapse in trust among respondents in the US. They divide their sample into two groups: general population and "informed opinion", the latter group defined as meeting the following four criteria:
Ages 25-64

College educated

In top 25% of household income per age group in each market

Report significant media consumption and engagement in business news
What they found is that this "informed" group within the US saw a 23 point decline in their trust index, taking the US to being the country in which this fairly elite internal group has the least trust. In what? In everything. The index is compiled based on trust scores across all sorts of institutions: business, experts, the media, academics, the government, friends, etc.
Among the general population in the US there was also a decline in trust, but it was only nine points, and interestingly the trust that group had was already fairly low, so while the decline in trust among the "informed opinion" group was much larger, they still have slightly more trust than the general population does.

You can imagine how this would be the case, what with an unusually contentious election followed by a cultural meltdown, particularly among the various sectors of more elite opinion who never believed that someone like Trump could win.

Another interesting detail related to politics: trust in government fell 22% among Hillary Clinton supporters since the election. However, this doesn't mean that they now trust the government less than Trump supporters. It means that now the two groups are tied: 35% of Hillary voters now trust the government, which is exactly the same low number of Trump voters who trust the government. (slide 12 of the above linked presentation)

One final thing that interested me in the presentation (which doesn't appear in the version on their website) had to do with how people define "people like me", which is a group that most people say they trust a fair amount. People were asked what characteristics defined someone as being "like me".

The most often cited elements of being "like me" were:

- Shares my beliefs and vales: 63%
- Shares my interests or passions: 55%
- Shares a relationship with me (relative, friend, etc.): 46%

At the bottom of the list were:

- Lives in my neighborhood: 23%
- Shares my age, gender, race: 22%

The speaker said that the divergence between those top and bottom forms of identification had been widening in recent years, with people putting more weight on shared beliefs and interests and less on where they live and shared demographics. That struck me as fitting with the seeming increase in polarization in society. I'm certainly no different. I have a greater immediate sense of affinity with someone a thousand miles away who I talk to online and learn shares my beliefs than I do with someone at my own parish who may not.

Holy Spirit Novena, Day 4

My 7yo is a sensitive child, and one who ought to go to bed several hours before the rest of the family rolls upstairs. Every night she weeps and moans and clings to me as I try to extricate myself from bedtime cuddles. I love my children, and I love to snuggle with them, but I hate being pawed and moaned at, and I know that if I just walk away, she'll fall asleep within moments. Every night, I pray for patience to get me through this part of the bedtime routine, and every night God sends me the bedtime routine again, so I suppose the lesson is clear.

Day 4 – Novena to the Holy Spirit

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate.

Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Patience within us.

Oh Holy Spirit, you give lavishly to those who ask. Please give us the patience of the Saints who are now with you in heaven. Help us to endure everything with an eternal patience that is only possible with your help.


Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord,


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Holy Spirit Novena, Day Three

We say the novena as our evening prayer, which is why I don't post it earlier in the day, but by putting it off until nighttime, I become distracted by bedtime and baby (or in the case of tonight, by watching the new Little Women series and then reading the book). Then I forget about writing it up until late, and have to shuffle downstairs in my pajamas to sit in front of the computer. This kind of haphazard process doesn't seem all that much like the work of the Holy Spirit, now that I type it up. Ah, well. Come, Holy Spirit.

Day 3 – Novena to the Holy Spirit

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate.

Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Peace within us.

The Saints were tempted, attacked and accused by the devil who is the destroyer of peace. When we are accused by the devil, come to our aid as our Advocate and give us Peace that lasts through all trials!


Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord,


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Holy Spirit Novena, Day Two

Today was dance recital, hours and hours of prep and dance and waiting and second recital. It's not my favorite day of the year because it takes up so much time, but when I'm sitting in the darkened theater watching each class go through its routine, I'm always strangely moved. Somehow, in certain moments, the veil slips, and every child, even the untalented and unattractive, is lovable. At other times, I check the time on my phone. Good thing. We would always be weeping if we fully realized how beautiful people are.

Day 2 – Novena to the Holy Spirit

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate.

Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Joy within us.

All of the Saints are marked with an uncompromisable Joy in times of trial, difficulty and pain. Give us, Oh Holy Spirit, the Joy that surpasses all understanding that we may live as a witness to Your love and fidelity!


Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord,


Friday, May 11, 2018

Holy Spirit Novena, Day One

I'm using the time of the Holy Spirit novena to pray over the projects I'll be working on over the summer, and I'd be glad if you'd join me, or if you have intentions you'd like me to pray for.

This version of the novena is taken from Pray More Novenas, natch.

Day 1 – Novena to the Holy Spirit

Let us bow down in humility at the power and grandeur of the Holy Spirit. Let us worship the Holy Trinity and give glory today to the Paraclete, our Advocate.
Oh Holy Spirit, by Your power, Christ was raised from the dead to save us all. By Your grace, miracles are performed in Jesus’ name. By Your love, we are protected from evil. And so, we ask with humility and a beggar’s heart for Your gift of Charity within us.
The great charity of all the the host of Saints is only made possible by your power, Oh Divine Spirit. Increase in me, the virtue of charity that I may love as God loves with the selflessness of the Saints.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord,

Thursday, May 10, 2018


Today our oldest turns 16. It's not that hard to believe we have a 16-year-old, since a) we don't feel all that young, and b) we're already used to having a 15-year-old (and will have another one again in September). Still, memento mori and all that.

My dad sent me this photo (developed from film, it's that old) of a pair of babies 15.5 years ago.

The oldest now has that sweatshirt and wears it despite, and perhaps because of, its totally rattiness now.

Here's another baby, the latest model. You can compare the two and see for yourself that we only have one mold here in Darwin-land.

This past Saturday our 7yo made her First Communion, wearing the dress that Darwin's mother made for the second-oldest. (We have four girls and two communion dresses, so each has been worn twice.)

Everyone in the family cleaned up for the occasion, and we even managed to get a photo in which the 9yo was not making a dopey face.

Speaking of the 9yo and dopey faces, he's recently been experimenting with the art form known as the selfie, which results in me finding a lot of oddness on my phone. On First Communion Day he was wearing a suit and had his hair slicked back, so this is what turned up.

The Smoulder!
 Darwin put in a lot of effort over the fall/winter building a new retaining wall and planting a plethora of bulbs. Everything's in bloom now -- what a mercy to be able to see the results of hard work, and to find it good.

It's hard to see, but there are two apple saplings planted in the big open space. One day they'll help pollinate our espaliered apple tree, just out of the photo on the left side of the house.

The 14yo and 12yo just finished up a run in The Seussification of a Midsummer Night's Dream. One was the narrator Thing 1, and the other was one of Titania's fairies. It was all pretty zany.

Speaking of drama, we're about to start our rehearsals for Big River. It will surprise no one to learn that I will be playing the Strange Woman. Art imitates Life.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Quoting the Greeks to the Athenians

Today's first reading is Acts 17:15, 22-18:1, Paul speaking to the Athenians. In his speech, he quotes ancient poets twice: 'In him we live and move and have our being,' and 'For we too are his offspring.'

Brandon Watson wrote a series two years ago about St. Paul's pagan quotations, in which he covered both of these quotes. The first quote seems to come from Epimenides, but the source, the Cretica, is lost. However, Brandon, referencing an account about Epimenides offering a sacrifice of sheep to save Athens from the plague, says:
So there were altars in Athens that were "without names" that came about because Epimenides, reputed for prophecy, let sheep go in the Areopagus to determine where they should be placed ; and we have Paul mentioning altars to the unknown God, and quoting Epimenides in a speech in the Areopagus. This seems like considerably more than coincidence.
The second quote is from the introduction to Phaenomena, by Aratus of Soli, a book of descriptions of the night sky and constellations, and signs to predict the weather. Brandon provides the quote:

From Zeus let us begin; him do we mortals never leave unnamed; full of Zeus are all the streets and all the market-places of men; full is the sea and the havens thereof; always we all have need of Zeus. For we are also his offspring; and he in his kindness unto men giveth favourable signs and wakeneth the people to work, reminding them of livelihood. He tells what time the soil is best for the labour of the ox and for the mattock, and what time the seasons are favourable both for the planting of trees and for casting all manner of seeds. For himself it was who set the signs in heaven, and marked out the constellations, and for the year devised what stars chiefly should give to men right signs of the seasons, to the end that all things might grow unfailingly. Wherefore him do men ever worship first and last. Hail, O Father, mighty marvel, mighty blessing unto men. Hail to thee and to the Elder Race! Hail, ye Muses, right kindly, every one! But for me, too, in answer to my prayer direct all my lay, even as is meet, to tell the stars.

(Aratus's weather information also attests to the antiquity of the saying: Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

But if without a cloud he dip in the western ocean, and as he is sinking, or still when he is gone, the clouds stand near him blushing red, neither on the morrow nor in the night needst thou be over-fearful of rain. But fear the coming rain when on a sudden the Sun’s rays seem to thin and pale – just as they often fade when the Moon overshadows them, what time she stands straight between the earth and Sun; nor are the fields unwetted on that day, when before the dawn, as the Sun delays to shine, reddish clouds appear here or there. )

Monday, May 07, 2018

Third Ways on Gun Control and the Problem of Distrust

Several weeks ago, after a post of mine on Facebook dealing with guns had devolved into argument, an old friend emailed me to lay out some thoughts and questions of his. The resulting conversation showed some interesting dynamics about the debate, and he agreed it might be interesting to turn the exchange into a post.

I wanted to work through a few thoughts and decided that perhaps I could just try a more direct discussion with you over email, if you’re up for it.

You know me, I’ve shot guns in Scouts and such. I’m not opposed, just trying to academically figure out this big issue we struggle with.

[Another friend] asked a fair question… why do you need a gun like this? I heard several answers about why *this* gun (as in, why is this one better than a different gun) but much less focus on why a gun is needed in the first place. The fact that it is easy to use, modify, etc. doesn’t really address why you need one at all.

When people answered in the form of “It’s fun” or “because the second amendment says I can” I can only assume that the question was misunderstood. Not why *this* gun, specifically, but why *any* gun which would serve this general purpose.

I see four reasons for a civilian to own a gun:
1.) In case of a total failure of government, in a very strict response to the Second Amendment
2.) Personal safety
3.) Hunting
4.) Shooting sports

Am I missing anything? Are those the answers for a reasonable person to have a gun?

I said I was basically in agreement those were the reasons a civilian right to own guns was considered important.

Okay, cool, so let's go with these options:

1.) In case of a total failure of government, in a very strict response to the Second Amendment
This, to me is the most important item on the list for obvious reasons that it was created in the first place. I mean... it's also a joke, in that if it were the Federal armed forces against the whole US citizenry with their guns, the citizens would still be terribly outmatched in a variety of ways. Even so, the founders were absolutely right on this.

2.) Personal safety
This, to me is the hardest to work with. There's a lot of contradicting information here. I'll use italics and underline to identify opposing views. For example, on the one hand is the quip When seconds count, police are only minutes away" Well, that's true, however there are easily twice as many accidental deaths from guns at home as their are justified homicides. But what about gun ownership a deterrent, those number aren't easily quantified, but must help! Besides the logical response that anecdotes aren't don't equal "data" this could be replied to that in order to be ready for these moments, you must have a gun in easy access at all times, which study's show is the most dangerous place / way to keep a gun. There are lots of similar examples, but my point is that this one has a lot of data on both sides of the question.

3.) Hunting
Let's scope this down. For this you need a rifle with one shot at a time. Rapid firing isn't needed or appropriate here. Or a shotgun, again one or two shells at a time. It doesn't need to be small, it doesn't need to break down into something easy to hide... for example.

4.) Shooting sports
Not only can this, but it almost has to, be accomplished at some sort of proper range.

I had two responses on this section which I'll show, since I think they would come up from most gun advocates:
1) I agree that the idea of some sort of crazy situation in which people are resisting the US Army is pretty much impossible to imagine in our current world (unlike in 1790) but I'd put under this header the rather more likely set of scenarios where government temporarily ceases to be a source for order and people need to impose their own. Examples that come to mind would include the two rounds of LA riots when I was young, disaster scenarios such as New Orleans post Katrina, and more recent massive riots in places like Baltimore and St. Louis. I think it's totally legit for someone to want to have a weapon applicable to that kind of situation and we know that those situations actually occur. I'd also throw in situations that haven't happened much in the US but have happened more in other countries, where government for some reason fails to intervene in an intentionally mass killing or political terror event carried out by some part of the population against another. Examples would include white supremacist terror against blacks in the Reconstruction through Civil Rights Era South and more extensive breakdowns such as countries like Somalia, Nigeria, the start of the Spanish Civil War, and various central American countries have seen. This seems less likely in the US than in some other countries, though given the escallating levels of political hatred in the US, maybe not as much so as we'd like to think.

2) I'd propose that justifiable homicides is the wrong metric to use here, in that a lot of defensive gun usage might not involve killing anyone or even firing the gun. Most defensive gun use stories I've read involve the gun owner simply producing the gun and the intruder or assailant high tailing it out at that point. So the frequency with which guns are used in self defense may be orders of magnitude higher than the number of justifiable homicides. We'd also have to look at whether most gun accidents could be avoided by not having guns kept at home as much. If they're mostly accidents that occur through unsafe usage, cleaning, and hunting accidents, then not having guns stored at home wouldn't help much. The classic case that people think of is a little kid finding a loaded gun and shooting someone, but only arounds sixty of the accidental gun deaths per year involve children under 15.

Quickly, I'll note, as far as 1 goes, I agree. This is the main and most important need for citizens to have access to weapons. For 2, I was really saying that both sides have many arguments, each of which the other side feels they can refute.
Then he laid out his proposal for a third way approach to balance these needs against a desire for more regulation:
Okay, so where I go from here is that is seems like there are only two points of view here. Either TAKE ALL THE GUNS (or as close to that as we can get) or THERE CAN'T BE ANY RESTRICTION ON GUNS AT ALL. This leaves me thinking... can't we talk about something in the middle? Isn't there a way to address this that respects both sides? Perhaps allows for both somehow, or requires each to give a little and meet somewhere in the middle based on these important concerns.

Let's start by admitting that what we have right now is not perfect. Clearly, guns are used inappropriately sometimes and it's in our best interest to address that. The position that any gun ownership is illegal is clearly imperfect (see above for some examples). The position that everyone should be able to get access to any gun whenever they want is also imperfect (again, see above for some examples). So, we currently HAVE an imperfect solution to this. The polar positions right now are also imperfect. So, as a society we accept that imperfect is okay, but really we need to be aiming for the least imperfect solution.

What gets me is, why aren't there new ideas being suggested? I'm not necessarily in favor of all of the following, but have to ask, why aren't new creative solutions being discussed?

- What if, instead of taking away guns, we required every school child to be trained in gun safety?
- What if anyone could buy a gun, but it must be stored at a gun range, not at home?
- What if you needed a license, much like a drivers license, to own a gun, with similar requirements of knowing applicable laws, passing a test, no medical restrictions, etc.
- What if that license were a default, and revoked as needed?
- How about requiring gun manufacturers and sellers to register all guns in to ballistics database before they are sold.
- Tax gun and ammo to help fund these things

What if we took some parts of each of these to make a story that respects all of the concerns here? For example passing a suite of laws that require:

- All public school systems to make available a high school and continuing education level class on gun safety.
- You made a comparison to cars, which got me thinking about that. We license for driving already, so there's something there. As long as the default is "basically, yes, you have access" this might be useful. What if every new DL included an indicator regarding health (physical and mental) for both driving and gun usage (they would be different, as different levels of concern apply to each, but perhaps indicated on the one DL). This way it isn't a government tracked list of who owns a gun, but instead a list of who can't, with the basic assumption that everyone can, more or less.
- You don't need a special background check to buy a gun, you simply need your DL / ID to indicate you are healthy enough to do so, no additional work on the sellers, especially gun show sales, etc., Just check the ID
- Perhaps there are several levels of allowed, i.e.

"Permanently disallowed from gun ownership / usage", I'm thinking serious medical issues like Parkinsons where you don't have muscle control, severe clinical depression, etc.

"OK with oversight" would indicate someone who could use a gun at a range or under the direction of someone else, but not own one themselves (because, for example, one of those classes on gun safety is required first). In this case you could go shoot at a range, take a class, etc. Maybe even buy a gun, but would have to keep it at a gun ran

"OK for hunting" would indicate that you can own a hunting gun, like a rifle that doesn't auto load, but nothing with quick reloading or a handgun

"OK for all" would indicate that any legal guns are allowed to be owned on personal property by this person

"Concealed Carry" obvious

The default, when you get your DL would be that you get "OK with oversight" or "OK for all" if you've taken that class that every public school has to over I mentioned above. Moving up to the others depending on training you've taken. You can lose this access if a doctor or similar mental / physical health professional indicates so, as they would be required by law to do so, either permanently or temporarily.

Since most people would default into "OK with oversight" a new business comes up for gun ranges, both indoor and out, to rent out locker space to you for your guns. These would be owned and operated by citizens, not government. Should there be a need to act on the second amendment as it was designed (defending against your own government) you would have access to your guns if needed, not have to go through the government.

No list goes to the government of who is buying what. As long as you have an "OK with oversight" indication, you are allowed to buy anything, though in some cases you can't keep it at your own home yet without some training.

No waiting period.

Background checks would be done as you get your license.

Medical checks would be enforced before license renewals, both for this and DL health and safety.

The way I see it, this supports citizens having guns available to themselves, not a "take them all away". On the flip side we're pushing to make sure that if you really want a gun in your home, you have to take a class or two to get it, and be cleared of a violent history or medical issues.

At the very least, it's an attempt to put some new ideas out there, instead of the common polarized refrains we tend to see these days.


I had a number of practical quibbles with whether this would successfully deal with the main issues and how it could be carried out. However, why wrap up was essentially: The concept of a two tier system in which nearly everyone can access guns in restricted circumstances such as club use, but you need to jump through a few hoops in order to be able to have a full range of types and be able to keep them at home is perhaps interesting at some level. Lots of gun owners have no problems with the legal process of extra scrutiny for getting a concealed carry permit. But I don't think anyone would have a reason to advocate for this kind of system because it would just make it easier for the anti-gun side to drop their promises and use the mechanisms to try to confiscate or regulate guns further.

Interestingly, he told me that the number one when response he got when sharing the same idea with a few acquaintances who were strongly anti-gun was: This might be a reasonable compromise, but I don't trust the pro-gun people to work with us on it.

So regardless of the merits of this particular approach, one clear issue with any attempt at changing the status quo is that the two groups that care most about the issue trust each other so little (arguably with good reason) that any attempt at a third way solution gets looked at primarily through the lens of: How with the other side use this to hurt me?

Friday, May 04, 2018

Fertility Blaming

I was out at a conference during the middle of this week, and one evening I found myself at a beer hall lifting one liter mugs of German-style beer with a couple of other attendees.

The fact that I have seven children came up, and one of the guys I was talking to (it was an all male group) choked on his beer. "Seven kids? Are you serious? I've got two, and that is enough. My wife asked about having more, but I told her: I've got a lawyer on speed dial. No more kids or I am out of here."

Now, one should take words after a liter or more of beer with a grain of salt, perhaps nice large salt crystals on a warm soft pretzel. One hopes that this fellow does not literally keep a divorce lawyer on speed dial. But the mentality, even if spoke of more boldly due to the alcohol, is worth thinking about.

One of the complaints that I've often heard about the use of NFP to space pregnancies among Catholics is that NFP ends up being "all the woman's job". The wife is left to track her signs and deny her husband sex if they want to avoid pregnancy, while the husband blames her for denying him and complains that it's all too hard.

As we've written on various occasions: if that's how NFP plays out, it highlights much deeper problems in the marriage. A wife is not simply a tool for her husband's sexual satisfaction, nor should decisions about any important topic in marriage me made and lived out in that kind of lopsided way.

It often seems that the grass is greener on the other side, and that if only Catholics could ease their way out of the Church's moral objections to artificial birth control, everything could be easy and happy. But as this conversation (hardly the only time I've heard these kind of sentiments expressed) blaming a wife for her fertility and making it explicitly her problem is hardly a vice which is peculiar to the practice of NFP. It's a wider human problem, which the use of birth control to some degree allows people to paper over.

However much the existence of birth control may allow people to imagine otherwise, having children is a natural result of having sex. (And goodness knows, over the years I've had plenty of work acquaintances whose children have been the result of getting pregnant even while using birth control.) If a man chooses to have sex, he's choosing to engage in an act which may (however unlikely it may be under current conditions) result in a child. When he gets married he's entering a relationship that could well result in children, and to pretend that this is somehow all the women's fault or responsibility is both hiding from reality and engaging in a selfish relationship dynamic.