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Children

(Young) Woman at the Well

(Young) Woman at the Well

A wonderful little story from our friend Richard Mammana: 

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:…

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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…

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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,…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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Cringe-Watching Catastrophe

Cringe-Watching Catastrophe

For the last few weeks at bedtime, my youngest son has requested that I read him a story out of a book called “Farmyard Tales.” These are innocuous little stories of Apple Tree Farm, and the family who lives there. They are sweet and lovely, and also criminally boring. They are perfect bedtime stories for a tired little kid, though, and I send him off to dreamland with pleasant little stories about goats and pigs and their little farmyard antics galloping through his head.

By contrast, my husband and I then go downstairs to our living room to fold piles of…

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"Children Today Are Tyrants" (Or, God's Grace to Me)

“Children Today Are Tyrants” (Or, God’s Grace to Me)

This post comes to us from Eric Youngblood. 

Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers.

Do you live with anyone like that? Are the neighbor kids worthy of some iteration of Socrates’ description above? The ones in your den who bear so much resemblance to a younger you?

How about the crumb-snatchers you had in nursery the last time you were forced into that purgatorial role? Maybe a continuously sassy teenager in her pre-human hominid state?

Many of us (whether we have children or not!) have been tasked with the care of “tyrants” — but, of course,…

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Now Available! The Very Persistent Pirate, Mockingbird’s First Children’s Book!

We are very excited to announce Mockingbird’s first children’s book, The Very Persistent Pirate, a swashbuckling tale of good news for sinners and saints ages 3-8.

When most children are drifting to sleep,
one kid and his monkey are drifting at sea.

One day, they spy a treasure
that is not theirs…

Over the course of 34 beautifully illustrated pages, The Very Persistent Pirate winds its way across a rollicking sea and onto a mysterious island in hot pursuit of stolen booty. Playing with all of our favorite themes — law, gospel [marauding] and, of course, the stubbornness of grace — The Very Persistent Pirate will capture the imaginations of children and adults alike.

Click here to order your copy of The Very Persistent Pirate!

And of Thine Own Have We Given Thee

And of Thine Own Have We Given Thee

Recently, the Facebook page for my Wisconsin hometown’s history has exploded with photos. There are 19th century photos of the town, including charming photos of tree-lined streets and horse-drawn carriages, and also the town’s darker history, including an “Indian School,” where Native American children were taken to assimilate to white culture after being removed from their families. There are photos of the library, and the Main Street, and school board meetings. There are fierce debates about a potato cheese soup recipe that my dad brought into the town’s restaurant community. The debate, believe it or not, centers around whether the…

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Mama Holy Spotted At SeaWorld

Mama Holy Spotted At SeaWorld

This week, along with millions of other blue blooded, medium-hard-working Americans, my family went on Spring Break. And it was all pretty hard. This is a travel log of sorts. Loads of complaining. Some bright spots. And some dark spots when Jesus showed up.

Our kids are 2 and 6 years old. So we began every morning by ripping them away from the clutches of Disney Jr. so we could all head for the great tourist sites of San Antonio, Texas. 

We stood in line for tickets for the Tower of the Americas. Twice. The first time they…

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