A Reader Asks, I Answer

Recently a reader asked me some questions and I told her I would be glad to respond as long as I could do so on my blog. She obliged so here they are:

1. You named your blog after St Monica, would you ever consider naming a daughter after her?

 While I would, yes, my husband is not as fond of the name (I believe there may have been either a teacher or co-worker he did not like with the name plus he disliked the “Monica” character played by Courteney Cox on Friends.) Being that we are not pregnant now or know for sure we will have another daughter, we haven’t discussed it recently but never say never.

2. Are you a convert to Catholicism?

No, I am what is commonly referred to as a “cradle Catholic.” My mother is as well. My father converted when I was an infant. My husband is not Catholic, my children are.

3. Who are your favorite saints and why?

I have a few, so bear with me. This is also not intended to be a complete list. I do like St Monica, obviously. I like her because she never gave up on Augustine, no matter how he strayed. I am also a big fan of Sts Francis and Clare of Assisi. My daughter’s middle name is Clare after St Clare. I like the idea of finding God in every person, in every situation, in every living thing, which is probably why I am so close to Francis and Clare. I doubt there is a Catholic who is not a fan of St Jude. Many times in life I have come across what appeared to be hopeless situations only for the intercession of St Jude to pay off. I would like to add to that the reason I like St Jude is not because of his intercession as much the fact that he is there just for people in the most hopeless of times. A new favorite is St Frances of Rome who I feel is very unsung but her example of finding God in the call of wife and mother is inspiring to me.

4. You have advocated home school and public school, do you have a personal preference? How did you decide for you own family and what led you to that decision?

Ideally, homeschool, to me is the way to go. However, in reality, that just isn’t what will happen for our family. Shelby’s autism is the deciding factor in sending her to public school. Social development has been surprisingly fruitful for Shelby as a child with autism and I don’t believe keeping her home would do much to improve that. Being that Shelby has severe communication delays as well as sensory processing disorder and very delayed fine motor skills also mean she needs on-going speech and occupational therapy. These services are provided free of charge within the public school setting, which is excellent because our insurance doesn’t cover autism services. Our boys we have more freedom with and after observing their learning styles, we have come to the conclusion that they would benefit most in a classroom environment in a charter school setting. Specifically a charter school that focuses on inquiry based methods of learning. Joseph learns primarily by doing and William is already classified as advanced/gifted. The inquiry based method allows Joey to learn the way he does best while giving Will all the room he needs to advance and not feel bored. I am, quite honestly, not a very good academic teacher, so homeschool is just not a very logical choice for us. I was publically educated from kindergarten thru college and I turned out just fine. I also don’t think anything is wrong with parochial or other private schooling. Unfortunately many private schools in our area not only do not have speech and occupational therapists on staff but also do not allow outside therapists to come in. Part of Shelby’s success has been from the therapists not only doing one on one work with her, but working with her inside the classroom setting.

5. You have said you live in the South, do you encounter much prejudice as a Catholic there?

Most of while I was growing up in the South, Catholics made up only 2% of the population of the state I live in. Now that number is around 10%. The increase is largely due to population shifts south by retiring Northerners, the increased Hispanic population in our state and lots of conversions. I have no memory as a child of anyone saying anything negative about my Catholicism. And that’s when we made up a significantly smaller slice of the pie here. Most of what I see, hear and read about now is not so much due to the practices of the Catholic church but political and geographical issues. Case in point, a local talk show host recently lumped all Catholics together as “traitors” because one Catholic priest in the area is outspoken on the rights of immigrants, legal and/or otherwise. A lot of southerners where I live also dislike the influx of “Yankees” in recent years (not the major league baseball team but anyone from north of the Mason-Dixon line) and will sometimes misguide their anger over the changing way of life toward the Catholic church because many of the transplants are Catholic. Primarily what I encounter is misinformation about Catholicism and ignorance. I try to remember the words of Archbishop Fulton Sheen when I encounter this: There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church, which is of course, quite a different thing. And then I pray for the intercession of Archbishop Sheen in my response to these misguided souls.

6. Do you follow any dietary restrictions with your daughter related to her autism?

The short answer is no. No dietary regimen has been proven to resolve autism issues in all individuals with it. That’s not to say that certainly some children and adults on the autism spectrum do not benefit from eliminating or adding certain foods or items to or from their diets. I know many people who have eliminate gluten to help with behavioral elements of autism and had great success and others who tried it with no discernable difference. If you want to try eliminating gluten or red dye or soy or whatever from your child or family member with autism’s diet, try it. Make sure you are only eliminating one item at a time as if you eliminate too many things you won’t know what actually caused a change if you observe one. My reason for not even trying this at this point is two-fold. One, Shelby is a picky eater and I don’t want to do anything that will eliminate one of her staple foods. And two, any change would involve our whole family making the change and I have another picky eater who probably wouldn’t eat anything.

7. You have mentioned getting a degree in writing in college. Who are some of your favorite authors?

I like a pretty wide range of authors. I have enjoyed Michael Pollan’s writings on food. I also enjoy fiction including my former professor and thesis director in college Clyde Edgerton, Tim O’Brien, CS Lewis, John Steinbeck, Annie Proulx and Calvin Trillin. I also like poetry among my favorite poets are Beat poets Gary Snyder,Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso; and modern poets Billy Collins, Kate Daniels, Philip Levine, Carolyn Forche’ and Michael White (also a college professor).

8. What are some of your favorite prayers? Do you say the Rosary daily? How do you incorporate family prayer?

First the second question, no, I do not. That being said, I love the Rosary. Particularly the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows. I am trying to start saying The Divine Office daily and I do love the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Family prayer I believe should start simply. Grace before meals. Grace teaches our children how to pray. I know many families who say a family Rosary. I think this is something to build to. I think the Rosary is an excellent form of family prayer because it teaches young children the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be (aka the Doxology). However, with very young children with very little attention span, it can be difficult. If you would like to do a family rosary, my advice is to give children their own plastic rosaries (and made of rope if possible because otherwise you will be like me, perpetually repairing them) and use a large wooden bead chaplet to guide them how to use their rosaries. Also, start with one decade, as their attention span and understanding increases add decades. Young children also sometimes have difficulty grasping the Mysteries of the Rosary. And let’s face it, written descriptions are for adults not children. I think that is something to build to as well. Finally, I love Stations of the Cross. I think they are so helpful in illustrating to children and explaining the Passion and Crucifixion of our Lord.

Thank you to the reader who submitted me these questions, please always feel free to email me any questions you may have. I will probably ask to publish my answer here unless it is a question of particular personal sensitivity.