Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Q&A on the "Broken" Series by Mandi of Catholic Newlywed

This month on Reading Catholic, I am determined to share some of the great recent resoures on human sexuality out there.  This will include blogs, podcasts, and other resources I’ve encountered as I reviewed for this month’s column on two great new books, Adam & Eve After the Pill:  Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution by Mary Eberstadt and My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints by Dawn Eden.

Today, I’m honored to get a chance to introduce readers of Reading Catholic and The Catholic Post to Mandi, who writes a charming blog called, “Catholic Newlywed.”  Mandi began a series on her blog this year called “Broken,” that I want to share with The Catholic Post readers.  Mandi, thanks for your willingness to share, and for your great series that I hope even more people will discover.  Here's Mandi, her husband and daughter:

Q.  Tell Reading Catholic readers a little bit about yourself, your family, and how you began blogging.

I started my blog in late 2010, shortly after marrying my husband.  We had a long distance relationship, so when we married, I moved far away from my family and friends and was craving friendship with like-minded Catholic women.  Since then, we welcomed our first child, Lucia, last December and my blog is now a combination of faith, family life, keeping house, and the everyday musings of a Catholic wife and mother.

Q.  How did you get the idea for the “Broken” series?

I was in a “broken” relationship myself several years ago and continue to feel the scars it has left behind.  During the two and a half years that it lasted, I felt very alone and ashamed, without anyone to confide in.  In the time since then, I have realized that my experiences were not nearly as rare as I thought they were.  Slowly, I came to learn that many of the women I had daily contact with had been in similar damaging relationships, but we all felt isolated and alone.  “Broken” is an attempt to provide a channel for speaking out about these relationships.

Q.   What do you hope that women will take away from the “Broken” series?  

I started “Broken” in hopes that it would be a resource for women to gain knowledge, advice, and strength from others who have been in similar damaging relationships.  I believe that had I had more access to “real life” stories from other women, I would have been able to identify my relationship as abusive before it had gone too far and hopefully would have had the strength to get out early.  Discussing and reading about others’ experiences have also helped me to view mine more critically and finally heal some of those wounds.  I thought that if this has helped me, perhaps it will help other women.  My ultimate goal is that perhaps just one young woman will read these stories and be able to completely avoid damaging relationships because of them.

Q.   The series is primarily about women’s experiences.  Have you had any feedback from men, and what do you hope men reading the series will “get” from it?

This is a great question! I originally started this series for women and still tend to think of it as geared toward them; however, women are not the only victims of damaging relationships.  I recently received an email from a woman who shared that her son is in an abusive relationship.  I would love the opportunity to share stories of broken relationships from the male perspective, although I think that men are still a little more reticent about discussing those experiences (but all the more reason they need to be shared).  If there are any men that would like to write a piece, please don’t hesitate to contact me - your voice is important and I do publish pieces anonymously upon request!  

This series can benefit all men in that it gives them a window into the lives of women who have endured damaging relationships.  Since so many women will be in an abusive relationship of some kind in their lifetime, there is a high probability that a man will marry a woman who retains the scars of a past abusive relationship.  It’s important that they are able to understand and identify the scars that their loved ones carry.  Fathers also need to be aware of the kind of relationships that they need to prepare their daughters for and warn them against.  

Q.  Do you have a “favorite” or most-important to read in the series?  I read through each of the selections, and all were so important, well-written and handle tough topics sensitively.   In particular, the post titled, “He didn't really love me and want to protect me. He wanted to control me” was especially well-done.  Do you have one you consider a must-read?

I think they all discuss different important aspects of damaging relationships.  Each woman’s experience is different, so I think it is important to get as many stories as possible out there.  I’m hesitant to say that one is better than the other because each person will be affected by each one differently.  The ones that have been most healing for me based on my past experiences may not have the same meaning for someone else.  I think all the women who have shared have been extremely courageous in telling their story.

Q.  Do you see this as an ongoing series, or do you plan to wrap it up at some time in the future?

As long as there are people willing to share, I will be open to continuing the series.  I think there are many aspects that still need to be addressed.  Particularly, I would be interested in pieces from friends and family of those in damaging relationships.  I would also like pieces that are more advice-based in nature, for example, “how to identify warning signs of a damaging relationship,” or “what to do if someone you know was in an abusive relationship.”  

Q.   Is there anything else you would like to add, or wish I would have asked?

Many of the pieces that have been written so far have dealt with physical or sexual abuse; however, I envisioned the series to include all relationships that are “damaging”.  Many women (and men) have been in relationships  that have left them feeling broken even though their relationships may not meet the definition of abusive.  Relationships in which one person is constantly belittled, in which infidelity is a factor, or which left one (or both) members scarred is a broken relationship.  These stories have a place in the series as well. 

Although I have already addressed this in several questions above, I would like to add that I am always taking new pieces.  If someone reading this feel like he/she has something to contribute, even if it isn’t on a topic I’ve specific addressed interest in, please contact me at catholicnewlywed@gmail.com.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sharing Resources--Men and Sexual Abuse

As often happens when you are focused on something, you see it everywhere.  And this was definitely the case with sexuality and a healthy, integrated life, after I reviewed for this month’s column two important books: Adam & Eve After the Pill:  Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution by Mary Eberstadt and  My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints by Dawn Eden.  I've encountered many resources and sources of information over the past month that I plan to share with readers here.  I also hope to have a number of guest posts.

One of the podcasts I subscribe to is Focus on the Family's daily broadcast.   While I don't love every single podcast, I do find it more often than not an interesting listen.  The resource from Focus on the Family that I use most often, though, is its media review site, Plugged In Online (though strangely, I don't listen to the Plugged In podcast very often).

At the end of last month, I listened to a tremendous two-part series from Focus on the Family, "Men and Sexual Abuse: Hope for Wounded Hearts," a long interview with Dr. Dan Allendar about the long-term effects of sexual abuse on men.  It covers a lot of the same themes that Dawn Eden does in her book, My Peace I Give You.  Well worth a listen.

You can listen to the first part of the interview here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Meet a Reader: Peg Gardner

"Meet a Reader" is a feature of the book page of the print Catholic Post each month, highlighting someone in the diocese of Peoria who loves reading.  This month's reader is a mom and grandmother, who has developed a passion for sharing the faith.

How we know you:  I’ve been a member of Epiphany Catholic Church in Normal, for more than 20 years.  I’ve been active as an Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister, member of Altar and Rosary, Servants of the Shepherd, volunteer for lunchroom duty at the grade school and team lead for the cleaning of the Sanctuary. My husband Gregg and I have three children and two grandchildren.

Why I love reading:  For many years after school, I read only a smattering of books.  But some years ago, I began to crave more knowledge of our Church, and my reading was focused on the Church and her saints.  As they say when you’re courting, the more you know about someone the more readily you may fall in love with them.  All my time reading helped me to love our God and His Holy Catholic Church much more.

What I am reading now:  A recent passion of my is learning why young people lose their faith at college, and helping them stay true to the Faith.  To be aware of and be knowledgeable enough to answer these “newly educated” students and graduates, I sought the advice of our pastor, Monsignor Eric Powell. One book he suggested is The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief  by noted genome scientist Francis Collins.  So far, I love this book and feel it will give me a good base of knowledge when completed.    I’m also reading Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues by Father Robert Spitzer, S.J. 

My favorite book:  I would have to say that The Story of a Soul, St. Therese of Lisieux’s autobiography, is one of my favorites, and the other is The Cure of Ars by Father Bartholomew O’Brien.  Both books have touched my heart so much, I am forever changed and will never be the same.

Friday, July 6, 2012

After the Revolution, Rotten Fruit, Discouragement--And Hope: July 2012 Column

During my college years in the 1980s, I was a (nominal) cradle Catholic, and fairly immersed in the college culture of the time.  I was especially drawn to various trendy, or what we called back in the day “politically correct,” ideas and philosophies.

Exhibit A: I thought Gloria Steinem, who spoke at our campus, was glamorous and made terrific sense.

All joking about Gloria Steinem aside, by far the most memorable speaker was a beautiful young woman, a former porn film worker, who gave a speech  (from a feminist perspective) on the evils of pornography.

It gave me--to this day--an implacable hatred of porn as something bad for women and corrosive to society.

I’m incredibly grateful for that speaker, who opened my eyes at such an early age of the high cost of “anything goes.”  But it was awful to sit through and to hear.

Mary Eberstadt’s Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution reminds me of hearing that speech.  This book is not enjoyable –in fact, reading it can be downright discouraging.  But it is a must-read in understanding, “the moral core of the sexual revolution (is) the abundant evidence that its fruits have been rottenest for women and children.”

Every single essay-chapter is important and stands alone.  It’s hard to pick out a best chapter, but “The Will to Disbelieve” is crucial in setting up the notion that society at large is largely ignoring the clear results of the sexual revolution, much the same way the “the moral facts about the Cord War remained disputed at the highest intellectual levels, especially on American campuses, until about two seconds before the Berlin Wall came down.”

Perhaps the only hopeful chapter of Adam and Eve After the Pill is “‘Pedophia Chic’ Then and Now” which outlines how just a few short decades ago, pedophilia was more in vogue and even defended in the public square such as mainstream magazine articles.  Ebertstadt writes that it is “a small case of small but real moral progress that bodes a little better for the youngest and most innocent among us, even as it confirms that the sexual revolution has made the world a more dangerous place for them.” 

Hope may be hard to come by when reading Adam and Eve After the Pill, but hope and peace suffuse My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints by Catholic convert Dawn Eden.

In many ways, My Peace I Give You is a personal testimonial to the rotten fruits documented in Adam and Eve After the Pill.  As a child of divorce, Eden experienced sexual abuse in various settings, then as a young adult lived promiscuously to “take control” of her sexuality.  But wholeness and true happiness remained elusive.

In Eden’s 2006 international bestseller, The Thrill of the Chaste, Eden wrote about discovering the appeal that modesty and sexual restraint offer, but had not yet come to terms with the legacy of abuse in her life.
During and after her conversion to Catholicism, Eden sees that healing from those sexual wounds is ongoing and a work of the Holy Spirit, through specific saints who provide solace on the journey.

As she writes to the many who are childhood sexual abuse victim, “I want you to know you are not alone, you are not forgotten, and you have more friends in heaven than you realize.”

My Peace I Give You is part memoir and part meditations on what the saints can teach us about wholeness of body, mind and spirit, even in the face of searing memories and experiences. 

Some of the saints in My Peace I Give You are victims of sexual abuse; some are not; but in Eden’s heartfelt and careful reflection, all have something to offer those who have undergone abuse, or those whose hearts breaks for them.

This column appears on the book page of the print Catholic Post this weekend.  It's an interesting, I would venture to say providential, "coincidence," that this review appears here on the feast day of St. Maria Goretti.  Eden in particular has an insightful chapter in her book My Peace I Give You on this much-known but little-understood saint. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Another American Saint--Soon? Archbishop Fulton Sheen now Venerable

Independence Day seems a great time to highlight Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who seems likely to be the next American saint.  Just last week, the Vatican announced that Sheen has been named venerable because he lived a life of "heroic virtues."  You can read about the Vatican announcement here.

The exciting news for those of us here in the Peoria area is that the alleged miracle for Sheen's cause is that of James Fulton Sheen, son of prolific (and personally delightful) blogger Bonnie Engstrom and her husband Travis.  James was born in distress and without a heartbeat for 61 minutes, and family members and friends stormed heaven to ask for Archbishop's Sheen intercession to heal him.  I love this photo of part of their family, taken for the Chicago Tribune by a freelance photographer, that Bonnie shared on her blog the other day.

It's such a great story, and if you are not familiar with it, please head on over to Bonnie's blog to read all about it.
A strange, journalist aside from me: one of the oddest things I thought when I read (and reviewed last month) Alberto Salazar's 14 Minutes (incidentally, a great, well-written memoir),  was: how can I work in James' 61 minutes into my interview with Salazar?  

It didn't seem polite to be all like, well, 14 minutes (how long Salazar was without a heartbeat after a massive heart attack in 2007) isn't really that long, because James Fulton was without one for 61 minutes.  

But I really wanted to do was somehow draw a parallel between James' miraculous healing, and the miraculous running (pun intended) throughout Salazar's great story of his faith and running life, and his several near-death experiences.  And truly, isn't life itself a wonderful miracle?  But it didn't make it into my final questions.

Anyhow, Bonnie writes here about James Fulton's healing being the alleged miracle for his beatification here.  The great Catholic Post article about the beatification here, which describes and links to the festivities around a Sunday, September 9 Mass to celebrate Sheen being named venerable.

Treasure in Clay, Sheen's excellent autobiography, was the first book I ever reviewed for the Catholic Post Book Group.  And while the blog is under the patronage of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists, with the current news I believe I will adopt Sheen as our local patron here at the Catholic Post Book Group.  

Bonnie has a great tab on her blog that describes and links to tons of articles about Sheen and the (alleged, it seems so strange to write that!) miracle, so you should visit that for more information if you are interested.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"Without Preaching or Apology": Q&A with Alberto Salazar, author of "14 Minutes"

Here is my Catholic Post interview with legendary runner Alberto Salazar about his memoir 14 Minutes.  I reviewed 14 Minutes here.  Alberto, thank you for being willing to answer all my questions.  I'll be watching the Olympics (along with the rest of the world) and see how your runners do.

Q.  I really enjoyed reading 14 Minutes.  Why did you want to write a book at this point in your life and career?

This certainly isn't a quiet or contemplative period of my life. In fact, with the continuing success of the Oregon Project, and the London Olympics coming up, I'm busier than ever. Nonetheless, I felt called to write this book as a way to explore the meaning of my near death experience. Why was I spared? What is God's plan for me? I don't think you can grapple with those questions at your own convenience. Also, as my "14 minutes" dramatically showed me, next year, or even tomorrow, is never guaranteed.

Q.  You write how you are wary of being held up as a Catholic role model, but I appreciate how you share your Catholic faith (and its ups and downs) openly.  In fact, I read part of the book to my husband, who is a Catholic theologian, and he said approvingly, “He’s using technical language there!”

In particular, the prayer you say as a child (“Please, Mother, when I die, don’t let me be afraid.  Bring me straight to heaven to your son Jesus”) runs as a theme throughout your various experiences.  How would you say that your faith has matured over the years, while still retaining that child-like confidence?

My Catholic faith has definitely grown and matured over the years, but the progress of my faith has hardly followed a straight line. There have been peaks and valleys, cycles and seasons. For instance, as I write in the book, I don't pray today with the same intensity and frequency that I did during periods of crisis in my younger life, but that doesn't mean my faith has lessened, or that another intense cycle of prayer doesn't await me in the future. I think following the faith of my father, mother, and forebears--the Roman Catholic Church as part of Cuban-American history--has helped me maintain some core of child-like confidence.

Q.  You were without a heartbeat for 14 minutes after a massive heart attack in 2007.  After that experience, are you afraid of death?

I don't think it's possible to completely lose your fear of death. I think my experiences have helped me somewhat in understanding death, and if you understand something you tend to fear it less.

Q.  You write about coaching Olympic hopefuls, especially Galen Rupp.  What’s the status of that, and will you be in London this summer for the Olympics?

 We are lucky to have some of the finest distance runners in the world as members of the Nike Oregon Project. They include Mo Farah, a citizen of Great Britain, who joined our team two years ago, and Galen Rupp, a native of Portland, Oregon, who I have been coaching for more than a decade. Besides being ideal training partners, they are also great friends. Mo and Galen will both be running the 10,000 meters at the London Olympics, where they will be competitors rather than teammates. It will be very interesting to see how that plays out. Dathan Ritzenhein, another outstanding Oregon Project athlete, will also be running the Olympic 10,000 for the U.S.

Q.  Tell us a little more about the Nike Oregon Project and where you see it going in the future.

The Nike Oregon Project started in 2001 with the goal of developing a select group of world-class U.S. distance runners. Over the last year we've added Mo Farah and one or two other non-U.S. athletes. I see that international reach continuing into the future, and U.S. distance runners--both from the Oregon Project and other training groups--continuing to reduce the gap between them and the great runners from the East African nations.

Q.  You, and those you coach, are in a different category than non-competitive runners (like me).  I ran a marathon, but my goal was finishing, as opposed to a time, and I’m grateful to live in a time when people like me are cheered when we finish.  I was annoyed to read a New York Times article recently about how some fast runners resent or don’t consider the rest of us “real runners,” yet I recognize that different runners will have different goals.  Any thoughts on that, or do you have any words of wisdom for non-competitive runners?

Well, now I'm just a regular, non-competitive runner myself, but the sport is still crucially important to me. I still consider myself a "real" runner, and any real runner knows that the mark of legitimacy is effort, not results. Also, as I write in the book, "real" runners depend on their daily workout as a time of prayer or meditation--it doesn't matter if you run the marathon in 2:08 or 5:08.

Q.  You worked with gifted sportswriter John Brant on this book.  What was that process like, and do you think he was able to incorporate your voice fully into the book?

John and I had a great time working together on this book. He asked good questions, and we had some memorable conversations.

Q.  Is there anything else you would like to add, or wish I that I would have asked?

Thanks for these insightful questions, and for your interest in 14 Minutes. I'm especially gratified by your focus on the faith journey portrayed in the book. I tried to talk about my spiritual life without preaching or apology.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

First, What Are You Reading? Volume 23, July 2012

Updated:  I've added back in the link I made many moons ago, but haven't used in also many moons, since Bonnie was gracious enough to write her own here on her blog, Learning to be a Newlywed.

Here are my answers to the four questions I ask on the first of each month:
first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what's next on your list to read?

As always, I hope you'll consider your current reads on your blog and/or sharing here in the comments or on Facebook.  Happy reading!

First, what are you reading?  

All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending by Laura Vanderkam.

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen.

What do you like best about them? 

Vanderkam is a kindred spirit; she’s one of those writers I read (surprisingly rare) who I wish I could go out for coffee with and just gab.  She seems like an interesting person who would make a good friend.  I really enjoy her writing style and her general take on things.

Last year, I read Vanderkam’s first book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think and reviewed it in a prior “first, what are you reading?”    I liked that book pretty well, but I really  enjoyed All the Money in the World.

All the Money in the World explores the ways people spend money and how we can be more intentional about spending, saving and giving.  Every chapter offers very specific ideas and conversation starters.  Like 168 Hours, Vanderkam offers outside-the -box ideas for tackling the specifics.  For instance, she recommends people think of how life would change if you had all the money in the world, or at least all the money you needed.  Would you quit your job? Travel more? Give more to charity?  Then she challenges .  She also recommends people keep a

Vanderkam has a great chapter on dreaming big when it comes to charitable giving.  I hate when books about finance don’t stress this.  She points out that being intentional and thinking creatively about giving to charity can be great for both the charity and one's own happiness.

This marks the umpteenth time that I have read Pride & Prejudice.    It may seem wrong for me, who has so much new to read, to revisit this book, but it makes me happy, so there.

The ostensible reason for reading P&P again is that last month, my daughters and I saw an excellent theater production of “Pride & Prejudice" at the Lifeline Theater in Chicago. I wrote about that here. It was a terrific production, and I highly recommend if you live in the area and love Jane Austen, you consider going to it.  We loved it!  It’s been extended until July 8, with good reason.  I wrote more about that here in my “literary pilgrimage.”

So after we saw it, I was determined to again re-read the novel and see how “lesser” lines from the play compare.  The play was remarkably true to the book, except in the play at several points, the character Elizabeth Bennet talked directly to the audience.   It was utterly charming and funny, and I loved that touch about the play.

What do you like least about them?

Really, I liked just a bout everything about All the Money in the World, except I wish I had more time to discuss it in our family and talk over financial literacy, and in particular passing that on to our children.

Last month, I wrote about how I found Michael Hyatt’s Platform helpful, but not as applicable to a busy mom.  I find both of Vanderkam’s books really helpful right now in my life, with a mix of work and family.

What’s next on your list to read?

I wish I could start reading Sense & Sensibility to keep reading Jane Austen, but I really need to branch out next month.

I’ve started to read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien with our 9-year-old.  We are having a great time, and I hope to work through the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy after finishing The Hobbit.  I’m not sure if anyone in our family will be going to see the forthcoming Hobbit movie this winter, but at least we will have read the book ahead of time if we decide to see it.

So, what are you reading these days?  Any books you would like to share?