New Here?
     
Children

Gethsemane Hospital: Our Interview with Ray Barfield

Gethsemane Hospital: Our Interview with Ray Barfield

Another glimpse into the Love & Death Issue, our interview with pediatric palliative care oncologist, Ray Barfield. Ray also teaches philosophical theology at Duke Divinity School. Tissues at the ready…

When you think of modern healthcare, what comes to mind? White hallways, beeping monitors, lots of nervous energy, little laughter? Whether or not you’ve had positive experiences there, it’s hard to deny that the hospital often feels far from home. Part of this is unavoidable—CAT scans and physical exams will always be intrusive. But, as Atul Gawande noted in his groundbreaking bestseller, Being Mortal, much of what makes medicine scary is…

Read More > > >

Singing Down

Singing Down

There is a tendency to portray the bedtime of small children as something idyllic: warm milk, brief books read aloud from memory, the tucking in, the easy descent to slumber, the uninterrupted rest following, the sweet dreams. And there is without doubt a specific holiness in the quiet of a room where a child sleeps—once the child of a certain age is truly asleep and no longer occupied by fear-of-missing-out should she close her eyes.

I have come to know this time of night in toddlerhood as the managed period during which a myriad of things happen: the brushing of teeth,…

Read More > > >

Dirty Pump Parts: A Mama's Muck and Mire

Dirty Pump Parts: A Mama’s Muck and Mire

I wonder if there will ever again be a time when my sleep cycles extend beyond three hours at a time. Having weathered this newborn season once before with Baby #1, I of course realize that this too (really) shall pass, but I nevertheless lament the lack of a full eight-hour-sleep these days. Each night I cross my fingers, say a prayer, and kiss my eight-week-old daughter goodnight, hoping for a bit of a longer stretch than the night before. At present, Katherine King (we’ve been calling her KK) lies swaddled and asleep in her crib across her darkened nursery….

Read More > > >

"Bring Your Baby to Hospice Day," by Sarah Condon

“Bring Your Baby to Hospice Day,” by Sarah Condon

The following is an excerpt from one of Mockingbird’s best-selling books, Churchy: The Real Life Adventures of a Wife, Mom, and Priest, by Sarah Condon. If you haven’t bought your copy yet…what are you waiting for?! Now available on Kindle and in paperback.

Parents today are raising a bunch of ice monsters. At least, that’s what the endless stream of articles explaining how to “teach” compassion seems to suggest. We are told to talk to our kids at eye level or to let them speak at great length about their feelings. We worry that we must train them to be emotionally…

Read More > > >

Recovery – Czeslaw Milosz

As Milosz’s biographer, Andrzej Franaszek, says:

“In the spring of 1943, [Czeslaw Milosz] wrote a cycle of twenty short poems entitled The World: Naive Poems . . . a sequence of little cameos from childhood, images which would not be out of place if hung above a tiny bed, showing a guardian angel watching over a child and its night-time journeying. . . . Here we have the world, discovered with the eyes of a child and, at the same time, as it ought to be, given to human beings to live in – a world filled with sacred order, as if the poet raised a building of sense in spite of the nightmare surrounding him [ in occupied Poland], setting existence against nothingness.”

Here’s one from those twenty, entitled “Recovery” (ht KW).

“Here I am–why this senseless fear?
The night is over, the day will soon arise.
You hear. The shepherds’ horns already sound,
And stars grow pale over the rosy glow.

“The path is straight. We are at the edge.
Down in the village the little bell chimes.
Roosters on the fences greet the light
And the earth steams, fertile and happy.

“Here it is still dark. Fog like a river flood
Swaddles the black clumps of bilberries.
But the dawn on bright stilts wades in from the shore
And the ball of the sun, ringing, rolls.”

(Young) Woman at the Well

(Young) Woman at the Well

In the narthex of my parish church there is a beautiful monument of American religious art: two ceiling-high wooden tablets, both with gold lettering on a black background. One carries the text of the Ten Commandments. The Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer are on the other.

The Law, the Gospel, and the Church’s simplest roadmap of belief are contained here in little space and in one field of vision.

J. Kirk Richards

This is a frequent element of protestant Anglican church adornment, usually fixed on the eastern wall where all can see it: text-based, instructive, non-debatable, leveling of cleric and squire…

Read More > > >

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and the Motherhood Cure

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and the Motherhood Cure

I’ve recently started reading the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books to my 6-year-old. I picked them up because I remembered reading them when I was in elementary school, and because we could all use a little bit of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle in our lives. If you’re not familiar with the books, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle was created in the 1940s by Betty MacDonald. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle lives in an upside-down house, she might have pirate treasure buried in her back yard, and she loves children. She soon acquires a reputation in the neighborhood for being able to “cure” common childhood “ailments”: not flu…

Read More > > >

Gregory Boyle’s Touchstone Image of God

Another great excerpt from Gregory Boyle’s Tattoos on the Heart, about the Jesuit priest’s twenty years as director of Homeboy Industries in LA. Seriously, if we wouldn’t get in trouble for copying the entire book on the site, we’d do it.

God can get tiny, if we’re not careful. I’m certain we all have an image of God that becomes the touchstone, the controlling principle, to which we return when we stray.

My touchstone image of God comes by way of my friend and spiritual director, Bill Cain, S.J. Years ago, he took a break from his own ministry to care for his father as he died of cancer. His father had become a frail man, dependent on Bill to do everything for him. Though he was physically not what he had been, and the disease was wasting him away, his mind remained alert and lively. In the role reversal common to adult children who care for their dying parents, Bill would put his father to bed and then read him to sleep, exactly as his father had done for him in childhood. Bill would read from some novel, and his father would lie there, staring at his son, smiling. Bill was exhausted from the day’s care and work and would plead with his dad, “Look, here’s the idea. I read to you. You fall asleep.” Bill’s father would impishly apologize and dutifully close his eyes. But this wouldn’t last long. Soon enough, Bill’s father would pop one eye open and smile at his son. Bill would catch him and whine, “Now, come on.” The father would, again, oblige, until he couldn’t anymore, and the other eye would open to catch a glimpse of his son. This went on and on, and after his father’s death, Bill that this evening ritual was really a story of a father who just couldn’t take his eyes off his kid. How much more so God? Anthony De Mello writes, “Behold the One beholding you, and smiling.”…What’s true of Jesus is true for us, and so this voice breaks through the clouds and comes straight at us. “You are my Beloved, in whom I am wonderfully pleased.” There is not much “tiny” in that.

“Behold the One beholding you and smiling.” It is precisely because we have such an overactive disapproval gland ourselves that we tend to create God in our own image. It is truly hard for us to see the truth that disapproval does not seem to be part of God’s DNA. God is just too busy loving us to have any time left for disappointment.

Love of Children and Fear of the World

Love of Children and Fear of the World

Stephen Marche’s The Unmade Bed is the book I cannot stop recommending. He talks about the state of modern marriage with unflinching clarity. And in a bold literary move, his wife provides footnotes. It is like being at a dinner party with the funny, poignant couple who occasionally correct one another’s stories.

From a theological perspective, the book serves as the perfect, secular counterbalance to Robert Farrar Capon’s Bed and Board. In Capon’s era, it was women who made the bed, but in Marche’s modern take we learn that bed-making is an activity we all long to avoid. Seriously,…

Read More > > >

Party of Five and the God of Party Poopers

Party of Five and the God of Party Poopers

When life gets tough, I like to watch other people’s lives get tougher. In Germany or Avenue Q, this is called shadenfreude; in America, this is called haphazardly engaging in political discourse on social media, or watching just about any popular TV drama. Forgoing the Covfefe hoo-ha, I recently committed instead to a teen soap opera — a precious genre rife with death and tragedy and youth pregnancy scares.

Several episodes deep into a show like Party of Five (1994-2000) and my day-to-day seems pretty alright. The walls begin to lean blessedly outward instead of in. I can breathe, and I…

Read More > > >

The God of Seven Buses

The God of Seven Buses

I recently started reading Gregory Boyle’s excellent Tattoos on the Heart, a memoir of his powerful ministry in Pico-Aliso, a low-income area in L.A. dominated by gangs. So far, it’s full of incredible stories about the action of grace upon those who had spent years cultivating facades of toughness and independence, almost as a matter of survival. Boyle, a Jesuit, and the grace-brimming adults (predominantly women) of his community find, through the love they show, an inside look at the hearts of the ‘homies’ they befriend. My favorite vignette from the first chapter is below:

At Camp Paige, a county detention facility near Glendora, I was getting…

Read More > > >

How to Draw a Crowd on the Playground

How to Draw a Crowd on the Playground

On Fridays I mentor a fifth-grade boy at a local elementary school. The hour we spend together begins in a classroom where he eats his lunch and we work jigsaw puzzles, play board games, and build race cars out of Legos. But when lunch is over, this boy cannot wait to go outside.

You can learn a lot on an elementary school playground. Your hand-eye coordination improves as you learn to dodge the four-to-five basketballs that are always flying. I’ve discovered that the number one kind of football catch that every fifth-grade boy wants to make is the backwards, flying, three-finger catch immortalized…

Read More > > >