Caitlin Kennell Kim, seminary grad, baby wrangler, ordinary radical, writes about the life of a convert in the Catholic Church and explores how faith and everyday life intersect.
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December 2nd, 2013
A Ukrainian-made angel adorns the Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Having emerged from your tryptophan-induced stupor, you awoke on Friday to the triumphant proclamation that it is Christmas. The TV says so. Every big box retailer in your neighborhood says so. The lights and wreathes and inflatable Santas that appeared like magic overnight say so. To this I say, bah. Humbug!
Ok, here’s the deal: I love Christmas. I love everything about Christmas. But it’s not Christmas yet! It’s Advent. Advent is the liturgical season of preparation that proceeds Christmas. New to observing Advent? Your favorite convert gives you the basics to this beautiful season of hope.
A — Advent wreath: Every Catholic church and many Catholic homes display an Advent wreath. This wreath consists of an evergreen wreath, three purple candles, and one rose candle. The candles are lit one by one on the Sundays of Advent and are meant to symbolize Jesus, the Light of the world, coming to dwell among us. The evergreens in a circle represent eternal life. Pine cones or other seed-bearing decorations symbolize resurrection. The purple candles represent prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and the rose candle, lit on …
November 19th, 2013
Picture a 22-year-old Catholic college student. She is studying electrical and mechanical engineering. She has a loving family and many friends. She is pretty and full of life. She wonders hopefully about her future. She is like your friends, classmates, sisters, cousins. She is like you.
Can you see her?
Now picture her forced to hide in a three-by-four-foot bathroom with seven other women. Picture her healthy 115 pound frame whither to a skeletal 65 pounds. Picture her cringe in silent agony and terror as she hears her family, friends, and neighbors brutally murdered outside the bathroom’s thin walls. Picture her breathlessly cling to a rosary as she hears her name called over and over again by the same machete-wielding men who mowed down those she loved most.
Her name is Immaculée Ilibagiza. She is a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide. From April to July of 1994, nearly a million Tutsis — one of the two prominent ethnic groups in the African nation of Rwanda — were killed after the Hutu (the other prominent ethnic group) president was assassinated. The genocide was a fierce campaign of retribution originated by the presidential guard and other military and political officials …
October 31st, 2013
A woman stands near the grave of a relative in Mexico City to celebrate the “Day of the Dead.” (CNS photo)
In the last two years I lost both of my grandmothers. It is a strange and disconcerting reality being grandmotherless in this world. I feel their absence sharp and deep. As I sit with my grocery list planning meals for a family of six on a budget, I think of my Grammy Mary Louise who had a particular gift of making something out of nothing. When I am running all over the house like a madwoman trying to get ready for company, I think of my Grandma Pat and her effortless, artful hospitality. I think of how for so many years they were a simple phone call away and now — now that I am older, now that I am beginning to understand what it means to be the matriarch of my own little clan, now that I have swallowed my pride and realized that I have so much to learn about, well, everything — they are gone.
Throughout Latin America, in many parts of Europe, and in small pockets across the U.S., this week brings Dia de Los …
October 21st, 2013
Young adults gathering in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)
Well, it’s that time of year again. The leaves are falling, everything is suddenly pumpkin-flavored, and the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) is starting in parishes all over the world. Whether you’re an inquirer (a person interested in learning more about the Catholic faith), a catechumen (an unbaptized person seeking to receive the sacraments), or a candidate (a baptized person seeking full communion with the Church), here’s a bit of advice from yours truly — a former RCIA participant and Adult Faith Formation parish minister.
1. Invest: Let’s talk about some tools it would be helpful to have on hand as you begin your journey. First, I highly recommend having access to a Catholic edition of the Bible. What’s that, you ask? Don’t all Christians read the SAME Bible? Great questions, you brilliant almost-convert! The short answer is: The Catholic Bible is the Bible that was used exclusively for the first 1,500 years of the Church. In addition to all that you would find in a standard Bible, Catholic editions contain books and chapters of books the …
September 30th, 2013
Or, Everything I know about Adoration I learned from my 2-year-old
This year, for the first time ever in Kim family history, the two biggest pickles are in school. (Ok, I’m getting a little verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves.) So, Thursday mornings the two littlest pickles and I have a standing “praydate.” With Jesus. Yep, that’s right. We go to Adoration.
What is Adoration, you ask? Adoration (short for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament) is an opportunity for prayer that happens at almost every parish throughout the world. After each Mass, any consecrated host remaining after the faithful have received the Eucharist is placed in the tabernacle (the gold box on an altar in the sanctuary usually accompanied by a lit candle). During Adoration, the consecrated host (the Body of Christ!) is taken from the tabernacle and placed in a monstrance (a gold case) on the main altar and the community is welcome to come spend time with the Lord in prayer. Some parishes even have a chapel where Adoration happens around the clock!
Adoration is new to me… at least as a weekly spiritual discipline. Here are some important things I’ve learned about Adoration from our second youngest — the 2-year-old — the one who, thanks to her …
September 17th, 2013
A painting of Mary breast feeding the infant Jesus is seen at the Milk Grotto chapel in Bethlehem. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)
I was waiting to see my doctor for my final post-natal appointment. And, because my doctor is kind of an awesome big deal obstetrical rock-star, I was waiting a long time. A woman and her mother sat down across from me. The mother began to chat with her daughter about a news story she had read about a woman in China who had been issued a warning for breastfeeding while riding a scooter. (I know it’s not polite to eavesdrop. Shame on me. I couldn’t help myself. I had read all of the magazines and I couldn’t watch another minute of early afternoon network television without causing myself serious psychiatric harm.) The daughter laughed. The mother remarked that the worst part of the whole story was that the baby was 18 months old. This, she assured her daughter, was disgusting. Breastfeeding a one and a half year old was the objectionable part of that story … not, you know, racing along on a scooter steering with one hand while holding an infant who was not properly secured.
As a …
September 3rd, 2013
Dear Miley Cyrus (and women in their late-teens/early 20s and the me of several years ago),
Hi. It’s me. At the ripe old age of 30-something, I consider myself to be somewhat of an elder stateswoman in the realm of young adult womanhood. After the debacle that was your performance at last Sunday’s MTV VMA’s (which inundated my Facebook feed on Monday morning, which we didn’t see live because 1) we’re old and don’t watch “the MTV” and 2) we have a gaggle of little people for whom that channel is — part and parcel — utterly inappropriate), I think we need to talk. Like right now.
I know you didn’t ask for my advice. Too bad.
Listen … I get it. You want to be seen as a grown woman. Fair enough. The thing is that I’ve learned some stuff over the past decade or so that might be helpful to you. Some of this knowledge was hard won. I’m trying to give you a leg up, sister. I care about you. And, seeing as how we’re both sojourners on the road to figuring out what it means to be a woman in this world, I want to help …
August 26th, 2013
I want to tell you a story. It’s a story contained in the pages of one of our children’s favorite picture books. It’s a true story. It goes something like this:
Once upon a time (c. 1200 A.D.) in a land far, far away (Italy) there was a town called Gubbio that was plagued by a ravenous wolf. The wolf attacked and devoured not only the animals residing in the town, but also the humans. The people of Gubbio lived in constant fear of the beast and all of their attempts to catch or kill it resulted in more villagers succumbing to the insatiable and terrible jaws of the wolf. One day Francis (St. Francis to you and me), a man renowned for his holiness and kindness, came to stay in the town. He saw that the villagers were held captive within Gubbio’s walls for fear of the wolf. Filled with compassion for them, Francis set out to find the wolf.
The good people of Gubbio begged and pleaded with the friar to stay safe within the walls of the village, but he set out on his way. As Francis left the safety of the village the wolf came bounding …
August 19th, 2013
The August 12 issue of TIME Magazine features a cover story entitled, “The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children.” Before this convert explores the values championed in this article relative to a Catholic worldview, she’ll endeavor to give you a brief summary of Lauren Sandler’s exposition on why more and more adults (and, in particular, women) are choosing to remain childfree.
Here we go: “The Childfree Life” examines the rise in the number of American women opting out of motherhood in pursuit of what Sandler calls “a new female archetype, one for whom having it all doesn’t mean having a baby.” The women she interviews express frustration with the constant questions from well-meaning friends and family about why they don’t have kids (a pressure, Sandler posits, that has become exponentially more intense with the advance and increased availability of reproductive technology). They lament the disappearance of their friends with kids into their respective small domestic spheres. They enjoy a life, as one woman puts it, “free from all the contingencies that come with children.” They treasure the opportunity to throw themselves completely into their careers, to travel frequently and on a whim, to spend money on …
August 5th, 2013
There is a healthy, beautiful newborn baby girl at our house. Glory Alleluia, y’all!
That being said …
Did you know that newborns sleep an average of 16-18 hours a day? Furthermore, have you been apprised of the fact that very few of these hours are consecutive? In addition, are you aware that newborns need to be fed approximately every two hours? (They’re kind of like adorable, significantly less hairy Hobbits in this regard.) Let’s do the math. That’s a lot of getting up at weird hours of the night for the person with the milk (read: me).
I love to sleep. I am (if I may be so bold as to brag) an awesome sleeper. When our first baby was born, the sleeplessness that comes with caring for an infant was a total shock to me … not because no one had ever told me about this delightful aspect of motherhood, but because I had absolutely no practice. I have never had insomnia. I don’t like to stay up late. For all I know a nocturnal tap-dancing mariachi band could have lived in the apartment above mine during my entire graduate school career and I would have been none …
July 2nd, 2013
Four Ways to Freedom this Fourth of July
Hamburgers, hot dogs, sparklers, fireworks, fun with family and friends … that’s what the Fourth of July is all about, right? Well … kind of.
July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence. This document declared the independence of a fledgling democracy from imperial rule. It declared that the people living on this continent were claiming the freedom to forge their own destiny as a sovereign nation. Every year Americans gather in backyards, national parks, and other places throughout the country to barbecue, watch fireworks, and celebrate this freedom anew.
In the Catholic Church we have a pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world called Gaudium et Spes. This document, like the great American document we celebrate July 4, declares the necessity of freedom. All human persons must have freedom. Freedom from oppression, slavery, war, poverty, sexism, and all forms of discrimination. In addition to all of the evils from which we must have freedom, the great theological, pastoral, and philosophical thinkers at the helm of the Church advocated that we also must have freedom for excellence — meaning we need to be free (really free) to choose the good with ease and pleasure. …
June 24th, 2013
Thoughts on bodies and liberation this swimsuit season
This summer marks a Kim Family first. We have a pool membership. So we go to the pool. A LOT.
All of this lathering sunblock on squirmy little bodies and finding a swimsuit that works for my nine-month pregnant body and keeping a wary eye on the aforementioned little bodies as they dare closer and closer to deep water and navigating a veritable sea of bodies in pursuit of the good spot under the big tree has got me thinking. About (surprise) bodies.
Our bodies are vulnerable. They unabashedly announce our fragility and dependence and glory all over the place. They are truth tellers. Like the slightly drunken family member at every Thanksgiving table everywhere, they tell pointedly personal stories about us. Our bodies are us. Really us. And our bodies are more than just skin and sinew and bone and fat animated by our souls. We are whole persons made part and parcel in the image of God. And we are — all of us — fearfully and wonderfully made.
As I watch our soon-to-be born daughter roll and hiccup and kick under the thin veil of my stretched skin, I am reminded that God chose to have a …
June 10th, 2013
A convert’s guide to the month of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Church dedicates the month of June to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, one of the most popular Catholic devotions throughout the world. So what is the Sacred Heart, anyway? When Catholics talk about the Sacred Heart we’re referring to the physical (yes, blood and ventricles and valves … this is an unabashedly embodied faith, y’all) Heart of Jesus as a representation of his Divine Love for humanity. Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus’ Heart was moved by compassion for the poor, the sick, the forgotten, and the grieving. Pierced by a sword on the Cross as an act of self-giving love and enthroned in Heaven for eternity, this same Heart still beats for us and yearns for us and overflows with mercy for us and aches in solidarity with us. Come along with your favorite convert and start your summer off right(eous) with a few ideas to celebrate the month of the Sacred Heart:
1. Begin at the Beginning. During June, make an effort to begin your day with prayer. If this is a new practice for you, start out simply. If you have a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, use it to focus as you pray. Try …
June 3rd, 2013
Swollen Feet and the Kingdom of God
Last Friday, amidst early morning preparations to get The Dude (i.e. our 5-year-old son who, to this point, has been known to Convert-sation readers as Sassy McSasspants) ready for preschool, it occurred to me that I couldn’t tie my shoes.
OK. That’s not completely accurate. It occurred to me that tying my shoes would involve balancing my enormously pregnant self against the footboard of the bed and hoisting my legs onto the bookshelf all while making a series of loud and unbecoming noises. I glanced at my sandals knowing full well that succumbing to their beaded and completely impractical siren song would cause my feet to swell beyond recognition. I glanced at my sleeping husband knowing full well that this was the first day off the hardest working man in theology (which is kind of like being the hardest working man in show business … you know, except with significantly less sweating and significantly more Latin) had been able to take in months.
So I woke him up.
To his credit, he was not cranky. He tied my shoes just the way I like, gave me a kiss on the belly, and cuddled back up to our 2-year-old and …
May 19th, 2013
A Convert’s Guide to Celebrating Pentecost … Today and Every Day
A scene from Pentecost at St. Therese of Lisieux Church in Montauk, New York. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)
It will always be Pentecost in the church,
provided the church lets the beauty of the Holy Spirit
shine forth from her countenance.
When the church ceases to let her strength
rest on the power from above –
which Christ promised her
and which he gave her on that day –
and when the church leans rather on the weak forces
of the power or wealth of this earth,
then the church ceases to be newsworthy.
The church will be fair to see,
attractive in every age,
as long as she is faithful to the Spirit that floods her
and she reflects that Spirit
through her communities,
through her pastors,
through her very life.
May 14, 1978
Archbishop Oscar Romero from “The Violence of Love”
The Church is alive. We — you and me and all of us who dare to call Jesus “Lord” — are the living Body of Christ on earth. We are the hands of Christ reaching out to comfort, to heal, to feed, to sacrifice for those in bondage. We are the feet …
May 6th, 2013
Thoughts on abortion in light of the Kermit Gosnell trial
Women’s Medical Society clinic in West Philadelphia.
(This post includes some graphic details from a current criminal case. It’s a bit heavier than what I usually write about for Convert-sation … but I think it’s important.)
Let’s engage in a thought experiment.
Picture two men. Both have been convicted of a crime they did not commit. They are innocent. Can you imagine them?
The first man is stripped naked. Amidst shouts and jeers, he is dragged into a public square. An angry mob surrounds him and he is caught in a terrible and unceasing deluge of stones and bricks. After an hour, his body lies broken, bloody, and lifeless. The crowd disperses. His body is thrown into a shallow, unmarked grave. He has been executed.
The second man is given a new pair of denim pants and a new blue work shirt. He meets with a licensed physician to receive a comprehensive medical exam, to give a complete medical history, and to hear an explanation of the medical procedure involved in a lethal injection. He receives a final meal of his choosing. He is offered a Valium. He is led to a sterile chamber and strapped to a gurney. A …
April 29th, 2013
Thoughts on mindfulness in the wake of tragedy
I hate washing dishes. H-A-T-E.
About two weeks ago, our dishwasher made a horrid gasping, gurgling sound and ceased to work. I cursed, begged, and prayed. I may have kicked it (read: I did kick it … mercilessly, I’m afraid … while my children looked on in silent bemusement. Parenting fail.). I sent the extraordinarily handy moral theologian to the hardware store for a star-shaped Allen wrench. He took it apart. He put it back together. It was a lost cause.
For the few days between the untimely incapacitation of our dishwasher and the next available service call from our local appliance repair guy, the dishes required hand washing. I know there are probably a billion people who do this every day. I know — in the grand scheme of all tasks domestic and menial –hand washing a few days’ worth of dishes is hardly the end of the world. I’m not sure why I find this task so utterly loathsome … but, in the interest of keeping it real, I must confess that I do. I really do.
Whilst scrubbing my umpteenth tiny plastic cup, I remembered something I had read for a class at seminary. Thich Nhat Hanh, …
April 4th, 2013
Thoughts on the Octave of Easter
[+] Click image or here to view larger version.
The tomb is empty. The stone has been rolled away. Jesus is not there. A vacant grave in the dim light of morning. This is the height and summit of the story of Jesus the Nazorean.
Except it’s not.
This year’s Easter reading from the Gospel of John gives us the account of a grief-stricken Mary Magdalene seeking the tomb of her Rabbi, Master and friend. It is early. The sun has yet to rise. She finds the tomb empty and — with anguish and horror — runs to tell the disciples that someone has taken the body of her Lord. This Jesus (her Jesus), who was all mercy, all truth, all gentle and fierce and holy power, must he suffer the indignity of being stolen in the night? Was not the pain and humiliation of the cross enough? Where have they taken him? Simon Peter and John tear through the quiet streets of Jerusalem and arrive at the tomb. It is just as Mary has reported. Empty. They are left with questions and vague hope.
Jesus did not come to give us vague hope. The empty tomb is not the …
March 19th, 2013
Pope Francis greets a boy after celebrating Mass at St. Anne’s Parish within the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms;
I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him close in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. (from an ancient prayer to St. Joseph)
I want to talk about fathers. I want to talk about fathers because — despite what one might garner from nearly every aspect of popular culture — they matter. They matter profoundly. I want to talk about fathers today because it is the Feast of St. Joseph and the day in which our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, will celebrate his installation. So, in honor of these two humble and loving fathers and in honor of all humble and loving fathers, we need to talk.
One day early last week as our alarm clock radio started blaring at 6:30 a.m., the voice of a woman tore me from my sleep. “Top 10 reasons why your husband is just another one of your kids,” she chortled. …
March 11th, 2013
A Lenten Call to Action for Catholic Institutions
This is a call to action. Catholic institutions, I’m talking to you.
January 1, 2006, 31-year-old Lori Stodghill was admitted to the emergency room at St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City, Colorado. She was complaining of nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath. Lori Stodghill was seven months pregnant with twin boys. As she was being wheeled into an exam room, she lost consciousness. ER staff desperately attempted to page her obstetrician. He never answered. She passed away a mere hour after arriving at the emergency room. The Stodghill twins died in their mother’s womb. It was later discovered that Lori Stodghill had suffered a pulmonary embolism.
Jeremy Stodghill lost his wife and two children that New Year’s Day. Believing that an emergency C-section could have saved the lives of his unborn sons, he filed a Wrongful Death Suit. Lawyers for Catholic Health Initiatives, the hospital group that owns St. Thomas More, argued that the claims relating to the twins must be dismissed because unborn children cannot legally be defined as persons and, therefore, they have no legal status. The trial court agreed and dismissed the claims. Mr. Stodghill has appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court. To date, he is …