Thursday, February 15, 2018

Our Homeschooling Adventure

I'm dusting off the trusty old blog to attempt to give a brief but sincere answer to those who have asked me for homeschooling advice. A lot of you don't know about my rule: I don't give parenting advice. Why? Well, when people ask for parenting advice, they are usually really wanting to vent, express frustration, or seek confirmation of what they already plan to do. The hard observations are usually not welcome. So it's awkward when (mostly) mom friends ask me why I chose to homeschool and if I recommend that THEY homeschool.  That might be beyond my scope, and it's definitely beyond my role in their lives. So: I'll give a couple of insights, and not much more than that. 

1. I've been kicked out of some homeschooling conversations because I'm not technically, it seems, a true homeschooler in some folks' minds. My kids technically attend an online charter school. I think complete homeschooling with your own curriculum or one you've purchased is valid, but I did not feel qualified to do that, not at this point. True, I am a teacher by trade, and I have a Masters degree, but that degree is in English, and outside of my facility for language and my theological studies, I don't really have enough of a background in any other discipline to teach anyone else. At least that is how I perceive myself for now, and that is the ideal, so if I had to do it all myself, could I? Yes, but to me, that wouldn't be the ideal. An online school is free [to me] (paid for by my taxes, the money that would and has been going to my public school district, the one I've never used), supplies computers, phones, and curriculum, and gives us access to several degreed and certified teachers with content knowledge across the spectrum. We still have the flexibility of homeschooling, but we have the structure of a brick and mortar school curriculum, and my kids aren't engaging with only me all day every day. Choosing an online school involves a LOT of research. Recently one of Ohio's online schools, eCot, had to close down midyear  and THAT is a bummer for the students who were nearing graduation, and a huge headache for their parents. Look for an online school that pays its teachers well, offers flexibility of schedule, is transparent about curriculum, has been around for a few years, and has a proven record of playing nice with the government. That will matter. 

2. To find out about homeschooling, don't *just* ask homeschoolers. But DO at least ask *some* homeschoolers! Homeschoolers are a wonderful bunch; I can tell you that without reservation. And they are very diverse! More and more people are getting turned on to alternative education systems, whether it's because of a child being bullied, an unsafe school, concerns about indoctrination, or simply a desire to give their kids a "free-er" childhood. 

3. This one is important: when you ask for advice about homeschooling/unschooling/online schooling, or any alternative to traditional brick and mortal public or parochial school, please please PLEASE gently filter out people who do not share your essential goals and values. I'm nonplussed by mamas who fret about advice and criticism coming from folks who have an entirely dissimilar idea of what childhood should look like and entirely different goals for what kind of adults they want their kids to be! These are not the people to ask about educational choices: you can ask them about finances, food, clothing, vacation spots, skincare, or the price of tea in China, but WHY on earth would you ask someone for parenting advice whose basic core values and goals for their family are opposed to yours? Don't do that. Also, filter out the reasons that are eliminated by the most rudimentary research into homeschooling. These emotional and uninformed responses will be three. Ready? a. your kid will turn out to be a __________. b. #socialization!!! and c. how does this get them ready for the "real world?" (whatever that is). When you hear these, smile and nod like someone is giving you an intriguing potato salad recipe. Then move on to someone else. 

4. Two benefits I've seen already from homeschooling (and mind you, I haven't even been doing this for a full academic year yet!) are the closer and better observation of the material my kids are studying and a closer and better observation of MY KIDS. Truly. I thought I knew my kids pretty well; I'm a stay at home mom, and I don't have many interests and obligations that take me away from my kids, never have. So I thought I knew a bunch about them, and I did, but there is a whole other layer that I have only gotten to see and know by being around them while they are "doing school." 

5. Homeschooling is not about you. What I mean to say is that it's not a panacea for your problems or your kids' problems, for that matter, but especially not for yours. I waited a few years after my initial epiphany about homeschooling to actually implement it because I didn't want to do it for the wrong reasons, like missing them during the day, or being afraid my son's asthma would flare up while he was at school.  Those could be factors, but I don't like to decide things from a place of emotion.  That's never a good idea. Don't do that. I'll give you an example from my own life: I have had some anxiety issues since about 2005 when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Now, some would think that my anxiety and worries about my kids would decrease by having them home under my watchful eye. But it doesn't work that way. It's not about me. The fact is that now I can listen to every cough and worry about it! So if I had started my homeschooling adventure laboring under the belief that this would be a partial solution to my anxiety, I would be disappointed and THAT would come through to my "students," my kids. 

6. Sometimes you need to ask yourself not WHY should I do this, but WHY NOT? Really. And that's all there is to point number six.  

7. Before I started my research into alternative educational plans for my kids, I had to orient myself with a mission statement of sorts.  I suggest you do the same. What do you want your kids to learn? What are the priorities? After reading the book How to Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers by Dr. Gordon Neufeld and Dr. Gabor Mate, it all started crystallizing for me. But it took me three years after that to really know this was the right move, and it took *really* answering the question above. I want my kids to learn about the triune God and His Church. I want my kids to learn how to think. I want my kids to question axioms, popular culture  and people. I want my kids to look at what works empirically and through the lens of the natural law, but also look at the supernatural. I want my kids to be qualified to recognize, resist, and refute logical fallacies in written form, in the media, from a journalist, or from a friend. I want my kids to be confident in their identity as a child of God. I want my kids to pursue Jesus, pursue their personal goals, be good stewards of their gifts and talents, be kind to others, and be close to each other. I want my kids to mature at a healthy pace. I want my kids to be willing and able to express themselves freely and WELL. I want my kids to be saints. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Don't Get Mad; Get Even

Have you felt anger today? If it’s early in the day when you’re reading this, did you actually wake up with anger? I know people who live their entire lives like this, with anger and resentment as constant companions.  They can’t really enjoy the company of this awful emotion, but they get so accustomed to their “friend,” that they begin to perpetuate that mad feeling by feeding into it.  Like all of our emotions, what we feed grows, and what we starve dies.

Modern life is generous in handing out reasons to feel angry.  The news is on the television, blaring tragedy and injustice, stupidity and emptiness.  Your bills are piling up, and yet some folks you know seem to be swimming in the big bucks.  You can't get your weight under control.  You can't get your kids under control.  You can't get your self under control. 

If nothing makes you angry today, you can conveniently dip into your past for old reasons to get angry.  They're always ready to serve, aren't they? Your parents fell far below the ideal.  Your ex-spouse or ex-girlfriend gutted you and left you on the side of the road for dead, emotionally and financially speaking. You were bullied throughout all twelve years of school, and no one did a thing to intervene. 

How can we starve our anger? Well, if it’s righteous anger, the kind the saints addressed, then we should turn it into action, fighting against the evils of the world. There are many ways to do this that don’t involve sinning in thought, word, or deed. We are, after all, the Church militant! Find other Christians who are angry about the same evils that you are. Find ministries that are solving problems, not just fomenting rage around them. Donate to organizations that provide ways to alleviate  the social ills that make you angry. Educate and increase awareness of unjust situations. Find a Saint who got (righteously) angry and then proceeded to get things done! Anger is natural, and can even be a gift if it's anger at an insult to our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the Church. But you must DO something with it -- channel it.  Or it simply becomes bubble gum for your mind and useless emotionalism for your spirit. 

If it’s a personal anger, a simmering feeling of rage bubbling just below the surface, then we have to regain our equanimity.  We have to get “even.” Even tempered, that is.

“I’m not even tempered by nature!”, you respond.  Lucky for you, then, that we have a God who can make all things new! He can change your very heart! But you have to bring him your anger in prayer, leave it at the foot of the cross like you would any pain, and let Him turn it into something new, something He can use for the betterment of The Kingdom. When was the last time you sat in front of the Blessed Sacrament? Now there is a place to vent some sinful (or bordering on sinful) anger.  Jesus will tell you just what to do with that emotion, and He will also melt your ice while He is at it. 

Jesus did turn over the tables at the Temple.  And He wept.  He was like us in every way but sin. He understands your anger, and He knows (because He made you) that your anger is probably a veil covering your sadness, your worry, your fear, your weakness, your vulnerability, your frustration, your inadequacy.  Jesus can and will help you make progress with ALL of these root causes of anger. Don't let your anger develop into a pattern of emotion - tantrum - guilt - distance from Jesus.  When our emotions are spinning out of control, and threatening our obedience and our reason, the FIRST thing we need is super close proximity to Jesus, and that right soon. Amen? 

Friday, September 9, 2016


A frustration I hear a lot from my friends and blog readers is that people can’t seem to get deeper into their prayer lives. When pressed for reasons, most commonly cited is lack of time or energy and focus, but in reality, fear of intimacy with Christ may actually be at the root of this problem.

Did you know there are actually NINE stages of prayer? Yes, NINE! And liturgical prayer, along with our other written or spoken prayers, private or public, is only the first level! By the seventh level, the saints would sometimes fall into ecstasies.  Many of us feel that this kind of prayer life is simply out of reach for us. We give up on the idea before we even begin, seeing ourselves as somehow unworthy. Perhaps, too, we fear surrendering and laying open that much of ourselves to God.  But He knows every inch and thought and hair of us anyway, does He not?

The biggest hurdle for most people is getting past level four, which involves the “prayer of simple gaze.” A full, silent, meditating and concentrated attentiveness to God and the truths of the Faith requires vulnerability and purification, and often no immediate consolation from the Holy Spirit!

The good news, the “Gospel” of this process, is that Jesus is there, at the other side of that dark night, to initiate the next level of prayer, infused contemplation.  This yields a sweetness and delight that will be positively addictive to any Catholic soul! Think of it as a foretaste of the Beatific Vision.  What could be more desirable on earth than this? And certainly, my friends, nothing to fear.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Seven People to Pray for Today

It's easy to fall into the habit of praying in too small a circle.  We pray for our personal intentions, for our families and closest friends, our parish, but we sometimes forget to open the lens a bit and commit to intercessory prayer for those who may have no one praying for them at all. Here are a handful of suggestions to get you started!

1. Your enemy. Yes, I'm opening with a tough one! It's so essential to the faith to pray for those who have wronged us.  It aids in the forgiveness and healing processes and it's commanded by God.  If you have no enemy per se, then simply pray for someone who irritates or challenges you.  Do not pray a self-serving prayer like "Lord, please help this person not be so annoying!" Instead, pray for the soul of that person, for health and joy to dwell in him or her, and for God to root out anything in YOU that may be provoking this "enemy" or preventing a better relationship between the two of you. 

2. Your priest. And all priests! Friends, who on earth has a tougher job than our priests? In this fallen world, they are hated, second guessed, and often in straight up peril.  Even a young, vital priest in a relatively good parish likely faces spiritual battles daily.  Think of what he sees.  Think of what he hears. His job takes him to hospital rooms, prisons, deathbeds, and into the confessional.  Pray for the fortitude, peace, and salvation of all priests, especially your own.

3. The falling away and fallen away. At any given time, I'm watching at least two or three people gradually drift away from The Church.  It's tragic.  I know you must see the same, and I know you likely have family members who have fallen away and seem very unlikely to return to Christ.  We cannot simply sit there and wring our hands; we are called to pray fervently for these people whose eternal lives are on the line.  It is no small thing to walk away from the graces offered by The Church! What has pulled or is pulling this person away? Pray for the grave sway of sin to release these people pronto!

4. Police, firefighters, military personnel, and corrections officers. I don't think there is a population more taken for granted, more unappreciated, than those who dedicate their lives to protecting our lives. Materially underpaid, constantly under scrutiny, and certainly in physical danger every single day, our police officers, firefighters, soldiers, corrections officers, and any and all first responders have truly died to self in a manifest way.  Pray for their life and limb.  Pray for their souls, as they do risk their lives daily, and pray that they feel the gratitude of those they serve. 

5. Your parents. If there is one thing that has come as a surprise to me as I've gotten older it's how many people do NOT have good and peaceful relations with their parents.  I'm sure you know an example or are perhaps living in this situation yourself.  We all know that we are commanded by God to honor our parents, but the dynamic between parents and their adult children can be so very complicated, and often honoring by tolerating is the sad result. So, whether you are fortunate enough to be on good terms with your parents or if your interactions are strained, please, pray for your parents.  If you still have them with you, pray for their health, their souls, and that your communications with them can be fruitful.  If you have lost your parents to death, pray for their souls.  

6. The souls in Purgatory. Much could be and has been written on this topic.  The bottom line is that it is our Christian duty to pray for the release of the souls in Purgatory, as we desire the Church on earth to pray for our souls after our death. When I think of all the souls who are completely neglected and unrepresented in Purgatory, I get the chills.  What a sobering thought this is! And so easy to remedy!  Pray for these souls today, for you may be among them tomorrow. 

7. The addicted. The bulk of the prayer requests I receive from people are for help, rescue, and comfort in a personal crisis, the catalyst of which is most often some sort of an addiction. Whether the addiction is to alcohol, pornography, or drugs, this monster completely and brutally takes over the lives of those it visits. Addiction devastates and divides families.  Addiction turns the addict into a stranger to his or her loved ones, a liar, a victimizer, and a source of stress for everyone he or she encounters. Much anger is directed at the addict, and this anger fuels feelings of hopelessness and isolation.  These feelings lead to an increased reliance on the object of addiction.  Please pray for these folks and their families. Pray that the cycle can be broken for them, that they seek and find the solid help they need, and that they return to a healthy and abundant life without reliance on what has enslaved them. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Who Wouldn't Want This?

Has Lent got you feeling grumpy? Deprived? Hungry? Has politics got you acting like a real bear? Are you snapping at people? Is the long wait for the first buds of springtime transforming you into someone from whom people walk away? Your heart, soul, body, and mind all need something. But what? If only The Church had something, something you could access daily if you really wanted to, that yielded miraculous graces! If only  . . . 

I give you today, friends, some straight up Catechism.  Section 1391 and thereabouts, called "The Fruits of Holy Communion." Take a gander at this: 

The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. 

Growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death.

As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life, and this living charity wipes away venial sins.

By giving Himself to us Christ enables us to break our disordered attachments and root ourselves in Him. 

The more we share the life of Christ and progress in His friendship, the more difficult it is to break away from Him by mortal sin. 

Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. 

The Eucharist commits us to the poor. 

There is no surer pledge or clearer sign of this great hope in the new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness dwells than the Eucharist. 

We break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live forever in Jesus Christ. 

Friends, if you have fallen away from The Church, if you have spotty Mass participation, if you do not believe in The Real Presence, if you are a Protestant, if you are an agnostic, if you are an atheist, if you are able to read these words, I beseech you to consider availing yourself of this Heavenly gift.  There is no better time than RIGHT NOW.  As Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade said, "The present moment is the ambassador of God." You are reading this for a reason.  Maybe it's for you; maybe it's to pass on to a lukewarm friend or a family member who is no longer a member of the pre-denominational, Jesus-origninated, blessed and daily guided Catholic Church.  Soon enough it will be Easter Sunday, and new life will be shattering the walls of death.  Taste and see what this upcoming Passion week is all about. Begin to imagine how close you can be to Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, the Living God -- so close that He is literally right there in front of you and entering your body. It's a weighty thing, and it's a miracle, and it's here for you every single day, in every Catholic Church around the entire world. Amen? 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Beware the Devangelization

The accepted dictionary definition of "evangelize" is:

1. To preach the gospel to.
2. To convert to Christianity.
3. To promulgate or promote (a doctrine or idea, for example) enthusiastically.

Now, we know that a large part of our job as Catholics is to evangelize, that is, to bring others to Christ.  The ways and means are up for discussion, often passionate discussion over the course of our Church's history. If you have ever read this blog before, you know the big three evangelization techniques I have seen succeed: evangelize by example, evangelize by service, and evangelize by education.  Unfortunately, something I have seen succeed in recent years is a reverse evangelization -- well-meaning but perhaps not well-catechized Christians, and here I address Catholics in particular, are attempting to evangelize the fallen away of their friends or even family, and instead of preaching the Gospel and converting to Christianity, they end up as the object of a secular evangelization practiced by the person whom THEY were trying to help in the first place! 

The person who is particularly vulnerable to this "devangelization" is typically the one who has an emotional attachment to the person whom (s)he is trying to convert. Parents are possibly most likely to fall into this category when attempting to reconcile their fallen away or lukewarm children back with The Church. They may find themselves ill prepared to counter the slick and aggressive anti-Catholic arguments their child now has at at the ready, and as a sad result, they find themselves compromising, first a little, then a little more, and before they realize a wholesale defeat has taken place, they are the object of definition number three above . . . their teenage or adult child has "enthusiastically promulgated or promoted" the doctrines of secularism, or worse.  

Often, in a noble but destined to fail go at retaining the title of Catholic, the parent will perform a series of incredibly complicated mental and verbal gymnastics to retrofit the newly discovered 
SBNR (spiritual but not religious) or progressive ideas into the 2000 year old teachings of The Church.  It is, of course, unsuccessful, but a lot of damage has been done.  Instead of researching answers to the anti-Catholic challenges and talking to a family priest, the parent simply folds.  It is the easier and quicker path to a superficial family peace, and that feeling of relief is frequently mistaken for the warm fuzzies of finding common ground between two polar opposites.

The truth is this: evangelizing anyone requires that YOU know your stuff.  But evangelizing someone whom you love and whose love you are afraid of losing requires that you beg God for some graces, you have the help of a priest, and you are armed with the weapons of the Holy Spirit.  You have to steel yourself for the inevitable: that the beloved person you are evangelizing is going to present his or her "side" as being superior to Catholicism, or, worse and more insidious, as "different, new, loving" but totally compatible with Catholicism. 

Now we don't to look at this as a battle for the upper hand; this is not a contest for who can be the better fisher of men.  But we are given a divine commission to instruct the ignorant, and that applies full force to family members, especially children whose spiritual formation was entrusted to us from the day of their birth.

How NOT to fall for devangelization? It's analogous to dealing with an addict in the family.  Realize that if you are discussing religion with a loved one who is rebelling against Catholicism, this person may have enthusiasm for her new beliefs that seems TO HER to outweigh yours.  She will also try to use the argument that what is new is better -- that your ideas are antiquated, that this "new way" of following Christ is more loving, more merciful, more in tune with our souls and our changing world.  Educate yourself with knowledge of the history of The Church and the words of the Church Fathers, the great saints, and our holy Popes,so that you are immune to these arguments.  If the addict's mouth is moving, he is lying, and if the fallen away's mouth is moving, she is justifying, equivocating, and is quite likely very personally invested in covering up a secret sin. 

As painful as it is, you also need to recognize that your loved one may utilize some emotional blackmail.  Suddenly their love may seem conditional on YOU accepting their new identity as something other than YOUR definition (read the Church's definition!) of a Catholic.  You shouldn't engage in emotional manipulation, nor should you fall for it.  The truths of The Church speak for themselves, today more than ever before.  Those who stray from The Church rely heavily on pointing to the evils of the modern world as evidence that there either is "no God," or "many roads," when in fact, the evils of this age are a point for the side of the one True Church.  The practical and concrete examples are replete that demonstrate this: in every way that humanity strays from the teachings of Christ as guarded by The Church, economically, familially, sexually, humanity has failed miserably.  

Work on your own faith life.  That is the answer to nine out of ten, no -- make that ten out of ten conundrums faced by the Catholic evangelizer.  Study Scripture and the Catechism and know with every fiber of your being that the truths outlined therein are immutable and unchanging, not to be contradicted nor negotiated down.  If you find yourself backed into a corner and you can't discuss your way out, remember that there is only really one teaching that you must know,  and that is the teaching about authority.  Jesus Christ is all in all.  He is the one and only true Savior of our world, and He is God Himself. And Jesus Christ gave teaching authority to Peter, our first Pope, and He continues to guide the Church today.  If we do not believe this, if we do not KNOW this, then we shouldn't accept the Bible, or any of the teachings or examples of Christ! Either He is King or He isn't.  Either He guides The Church or He doesn't.  So if you are asked a question by an argumentative son or daughter that you don't feel prepared to answer in detail, you can say with confidence: "Because The Church teaches it." No further explanation is required, at least not in the heat of argument. Your confidence (particularly if you can keep your composure and not resort to yelling or emotionalism) will make an impression with your loved one, whether he admits it or not. 

Remember, never stop praying.  Pray over your loved one, pray with your loved one, and if at all possible, try to get that loved one to  Adoration.  Sitting in the presence of Jesus makes it much more difficult to disobey Him! His love is irresistible! 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Only Good Catholic

Driving my kids home from school on one of our faster moving country roads, I was stopped short by a dog wandering stupidly around the yellow lines.  I couldn't get out of the car to help because my son has a life-threatening allergy, so my frustration mounted as I realized that until someone else came along, I was now responsible for this creature's safety simply because I happened upon him at this moment in time.  I rolled down my window and attempted conversation, to no avail.  "Go away, boy! Get off the road!" I honked my horn.  I couldn't even inch my own vehicle up to try to demonstrate that this is what cars DO around here, because a good part of the time he was in my blind spot or right near my tires. "Dopey dog! I'm trying to save your life!" I felt tears threatening.  Finally a truck came in the opposite direction.  I beseeched the other driver to help and explained why my son's allergy precluded me from doing so.  The driver looked indifferent, and almost annoyed by the burden I was attempting to foist on to him.  My voice and probably my face became more pleading.  I hoped my emotion would show through.  "I have to get somewhere . . . " he started rolling ahead a bit.  "Please! Just get the dog off the road; bring him up to the man walking a ways back . . . anything.  I can't.  He'll get hit!" The driver knew it was true.  The road isn't very trafficked, nor policed, so it's a fast way to get where you need to go. 

I don't know what happened after I drove away.  My kids reassured Mom, as they are wont to do, that I had done everything possible under the circumstances.  Still, I felt the familiar pangs of conscience.  "What I have done, and what I have failed to do." Out loud, to them, I merely said, "It's the owner's fault.  A dog belongs on a leash. A beautiful animal like that." I trailed off.  I wasn't making sense anymore, even to myself.  This wasn't Queens.  This is rural Ohio, and farm people let their dogs and cats run amok.  

All my life I've encountered creatures run amok, it seems, and all hungry for something or someone.  I collect stray animals and stray people. I listen to strangers in the store. I keep a vault of secrets. I lend an ear, I lend money, I lend my heart.  I'm so often left with the question: "Did I do enough?" And the burning hot frustration that I had while evangelizing the dog on that country road is an all too familiar sensation as well.  "Why won't you listen to me? I'm trying to help you! I'm trying to save your life, dummy! Stop what you're doing and do what I tell you to do!" 

Is that reaction making helping others all about me? Is my heart so selfish? Maybe.  I have to learn to trust God to do the heavy lifting.  I have to learn to trust others in the same way I trusted the other driver that afternoon.  "He'll help the dog; he seemed like a nice man."  It's what I told my kids, but I only half believed the words as they came out of my mouth.  They were half whistling in the dark.  

The thing that's tempting as a Catholic is getting ahead of yourself.  We want to get everyone to Heaven, and we know that The Church is the way, so we want to get them in there pronto, and by any means necessary.  Time may be short.  There is an urgency, especially in these secular times, in a country so materially wealthy and educated but in such loathsome and egregious spiritual poverty.  We tend to raise our voices a little frantically, don't we? "Hey, dopey! I'm trying to save your soul! Get out of the mess you're in and do what I'm doing!" But the immediate hunger that the person we encounter may be one for food, or cash, or a punching bag.  Do we take care of the physical needs, those lowest on Maslow's hierarchy, before we address what WE know to be the "only thing that is needed?" 

"Society", for want of a less hackneyed term, may be answering that question for us.  It's telling us to shut up and hand over the material aid, just be quiet about it. In 2015 America, the only good Catholic is a bad Catholic.  They want our money, our hospitals, our foster homes, even our Pope.  What they DON'T want is our doctrine. Hey, even a broad swath of self-identifying Catholics don't want the doctrine -- they want the baptism, the First Holy Communion, and the big wedding. Every other day is a secular day, and you better keep your sappy, judgmental, archaic religious ya ya out of it. Sound familiar?  If you've been evangelizing anywhere in "real life" or online or even in your own neighborhood, it should.  But listen, this secularized society is just people.  They all need hope and they all need healing and they all need Heaven. 

Knowing that truth puts us ahead of the game. The dog might think that a romp on the double yellow line looks good right now, or he may just be confused and thirsty.  His immediate need was to get off the road, and I had to work with someone else, and have a little faith, and suffer a little, to help get him there. At the end of the day, I had to be satisfied with an unknown outcome.  Sometimes in evangelization we have to settle for the unknown outcome.  It's a lot like being a classroom teacher, or a parent.  We in the business of the human services may not see results for literally decades, if ever.  

What we can't afford is to let an opportunity for encounter go by without speaking the Truth, even if it seems to fall on willfully deaf ears.  No one will cross my path without knowing what I am and WHY.  Sure, I'll help you out, but you're going to remember that it was a Catholic who did the helping, not to give me credit or for me to look holy, or for me to FEEL holy, and not even for me to fulfill the Great Commission! You're going to remember I'm Catholic so someday when you are hungry for hope and healing and you're ready to get out of the road and come to safety, you will REMEMBER where the source of all real help is: the Church, WHO the source of all real help and hope is: JESUS, and why your hunger still isn't satiated, because you still haven't filled it with surrender, obedience, and the Eucharist.  

"There's a difference between being a nice person and being a doormat," someone once cautioned me.  Now I repeat that maxim to my kids, as they collect strays and give away what is dear to them, and pray for others, and shake their heads at the badness they see in the world around them.  I want them to tread carefully, to not get taken advantage of, but I have to teach them to help the hungry, no matter how obstinate or nasty or in denial the hungry are.  

I'm a bad Catholic, because I'm too comfortable.  Jesus told me to be perfect, and I'm not.  Jesus told me to be a fisher of men, but my bait doesn't always work.  Still, I'm driving down that untrafficked road, fast, so fast,  yelling at the deaf, trying to set aside my pride to trust my fellow drivers, trying to keep my kids and my husband safe, and always asking, "Did I do enough, Lord?" 

Why does the question haunt so? Because I know the only good Catholic is a saint.